February 22, 2015

We’re As Cold As Ice

Good morning and greetings, deep freeze fans.  Last week, I wrote about our lovely February weather, which lasted on through the three day President’s weekend.  It made for perfect golf conditions for the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro Am National Golf Tournament.   Well, at least till the fog blew in on Sunday.
Or as it says on the wall at the DMV, “Living without faith is like driving in a fog.”  Don’t let the shroud surround you.
Yes, the weather was ideal, with the tournament play being televised on the Golf Channel.  When you tuned in, besides seeing the celebs, the beautiful fairways and landscape of the three golf courses on the Monterey Peninsula, you also had a chance to view the incredible coastline and overhead shots of dolphins, whales and corporate sponsors, along with the abundance of sea life that is Monterey Bay.
Now I don’t usually watch much golf, as I think it’s more enjoyable to listen on the radio, but recently retired anesthesiologist Dr. Michael Schur was heating up my phone lines, calling in from his waterfront estate in Satellite Beach, Florida.A couple years back, he had celebrated his 60th birthday playing on the course at Pebble Beach, calling it “a lifetime dream come true,” and he wanted me to experience the majesty and wonder of God’s most beautiful golf arena.
So I put down the Hardy Boys book I was reading, (“The Mystery of the Chinese Junk”) and turned on the tube, and watched in amazement.  And then the fog blew in and blew out on Sunday and Tiger Woods was nowhere to be found.  Game over.
The conditions couldn’t have been any better for the tournament, but as the golfers teed off, the east coast was being bombarded with an arctic blast and freezing conditions.  The blizzarding snow just kept on falling, so as soon as people dug themselves out, they were greeted with another large dose of the white stuff.  .
To this point, I believe it was either Oprah, Dr. Phil or the Dali Lama’s brother who once said, “Sex is like snow, you never know who many inches you’re going to get or how long it will last.”
It has been a nightmarish 2015 for residents in the northeast, as the storms just haven’t let up, as Boston set a record for the snowiest February in history.  It doesn’t seem like winning the Super Bowl came with any good weather karma.
It’s like the old Chinese proverb, “Three feet of ice does not result from one day of cold weather.” Or as the old Eskimo proverb says. “You never know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks.”  I’ve always said, if you’re going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance.

So as our week began, the skies went temporarily gray.  As we donned our sweatshirts, another winter blast of snow and ice swept into the midwest and into the south, burying some regions in more than a foot of snow while paralyzing transportation and cutting off power to a quarter of a million homes.  The eastern third of the country was locked in a deep freeze.

The bitter cold air was coming down from Siberia, where the the temperature was minus 50 below.  Southern states like Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and the Carolinas were frozen like popsicles.  You didn’t need to head to the local skating rink.  Just open your door and step outside, as admission was free and no skates were needed.

And reporting in on the weather carnage coming out of Nashville is field scout Nancy Mager, who’s the director of Sponsored Programs at Western Kentucky University.  As she reported, “It’s all ice and Syrian rebels.  We had an inch of ice on the trees, roads and power lines.   The schools have been closed all week.”

“The ice is beautiful and sparkling, but it’s dangerous as hell, as the roads haven’t been plowed or the sidewalks shoveled.” A New Jersey native, she added that with the wind chill factor at minus five degrees, “It’s never been this cold.”

I’ve also skated on thin ice and driven on icy roads and it’s a nightmare.  You hit the brakes but you just start sliding, with no control over your vehicle.

I had the pleasure of being in an accident like this years ago back in New Jersey, when a car had stopped ahead of me, but when I hit the brakes, I just went into a slide and rammed him.  And the ironic thing was, I was on my way to the gas station to put snow tires on the car, something we east coasters have the pleasure of doing.

So bitter cold temperatures shattered decades old records last week all across the Great Lakes region and in cities like Louisville, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Miami, just to name a few.  They’re shivering in Chicago as it’s been the coldest February since 1876.  Niagara Falls was turned into an ice spectacle and in Eastport, Maine, they’ve had 109 inches of snow in 23 days.  That’s brutal.
But the grand prize went to the city of Embarrass, Minnesota, where folks woke up to a thermometer reading Thursday morning of 41 below zero, without the wind chill factor.  I just have one word for them.   Brrrrrrrrr.
And finally, to put the cherry on top, on Friday, twenty one states had temperature in double digits below zero.  It was the coldest day in February history in Cleveland (minus 17), Flint, Michigan was a balmy minus 25, and in the blue grass state of Kentucky, it was the chilliest day in Lexington in 21 years (minus 18.)
And over the weekend more misery was headed their way, with another blizzard warning for the northeast,with more storms on the horizon .  While out here on the central coast, we’re struggling with temps in the mid 60′s, while in the Hawaiian Islands, they’re looking at a high of 82 degrees.  Somehow, it all doesn’t seem fair.
But as the late, great, Johnny Carson once quipped, “If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.”  Amen.
For our photo department, we are returning to the morning of Christmas Eve.  I was a fantastic sunrise, with vivid cloud colors, painted reflections and wild surf pounding in the background.  I was shooting from the sand at Its Beach, before making my way over to catch the sun coming up over the bay at Steamers Lane.  Just awesome beauty.
On to some late night humor. “Jeb Bush gave a speech yesterday. He had a pretty rough time. He accidentally said that ISIS has 200,000 men instead of 20,000, and then he mispronounced the name of the terrorist group Boko Haram. So if history has taught us anything, Jeb is well on his way to winning the White House.” – Jimmy Fallon  “Yesterday during a speech on national security, Jeb Bush mispronounced Boko Haram and got confused between Iran and Iraq. When reached for comment, his brother George W. said, “He sure sounds presidentiary to me.” – Conan O’Brien

“Starbucks has launched a home delivery service. It’s perfect for anyone too lazy to walk one block in any direction.  Little Caesars has introduced a giant, deep-dish pizza with a crust wrapped in three feet of bacon. Two hours ago Pizza Hut surrendered.  Here’s a new device that allows airline passengers to completely isolate themselves from their row mates. The device is called a baby.” – Conan O’Brien

“Gallup, the polling company, released its annual well-being index where they rank the health and happiness of residents of each of the 50 states. Alaska finished first and Hawaii was No. 2. It’s interesting that the top two happiest states are the ones that are farthest away from the rest of us.” – Jimmy Kimmel  I spent the past four days in Cuba shooting a special episode of this show.  I had an amazing experience in Cuba. People there are fantastic. But I do have to say it’s very nice to be back home in front of all of you capitalist pigs.” – Conan O’Brien

“The Westminster Kennel Club’s dog show is going on in Madison Square Garden.I want to tell you something about that dog show. If I want to see rolling over and playing dead at Madison Square Garden, I’ll go to a Knicks game.  At the NBA All-Star Game, the West beat the East 163-158, but the loss will be credited to the New York Knicks.” – David Letterman

So again, 60th birthday wishes go out to my brother Paul, who I celebrated the blessed occasion with on Friday along with his son, Josh and our old pal Doug Mackinnon, at the Oracle Arena, as the Warriors blew out the Spurs.  I just wish the game was as good as our seats.

So we’ll catch you putting up big numbers and playing like the first pick in last year’s NBA draft.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Andrew Wiggins fans.

July 27, 2014

Sweet Home Santa Cruz

Good morning and greetings, large mammal fans. Well, the town was buzzing last week, as the humpbacks put on a show all around Monterey Bay. As the gulls were screeching, the humpbacks were breaching, along with tens of thousands of sooty shearwaters playing follow the leader on the upper level of the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

I feel a certain sort of kinship to the humpbacks as all the activity brought back memories of my entrance to this planet. I was breeching at my birth, as I came into the world butt first.

Yet, I have never been a fan of anchovies, as I’ve never been a fan of this oily, little baitfish, much less swallowed a mouthful of thousands in a single gulp.

But their presence brought the humpbacks to our lovely bay. The whales were first spotted over by Cowells Beach, as Tuesday’s lunch special on the wharf included a choice of soup or caesar salad and 80,000 pound mammals leaping out of the water for dessert. Or you could have substituted gelato.

According to my field scouts, the whales were entertaining the westside crowds at Lighthouse Point, Mitchell’s Cove, Natural Bridges and the CVS on Mission Street. I saw a few gliding by on my morning walks, but I supplemented that by lunge feeding while visiting the Facebook photo pages of Santa Cruz Waves.

Their photos of the humpbacks in breach moments have been fantastic. I haven’t taken any whale watching trips as of late, as I prefer paddle boarding around my bathtub.

So last’s week weather bordered on near perfection, as the days were warm and the coast and my mind were fog free. The air and warm water temperatures brought back memories of my youth, when an all-day trip to the beach was the summer highlight.

Despite the fact that we had to travel over the George Washington Bridge, then get onto the Cross Bronx Expressway, then over the Triboro Bridge before entering onto the Southern State Parkway, then the Meadowbrook Parkway and finally through the Khyber Pass before we finally reached our destination, it was always worth the drive.

I would arise at the crack of the dawn, hitting the bakery when they opened for our fresh sandwiches rolls. We always built up an appetite on a ride, so I made sure we had about eighty sandwiches for my brothers and friends.

We hit the parking lot at Jones Beach at 8am, and then had to wait for the umbrella stand to open so we could then drag it down the sand and park ourselves right at the water’s edge.

We then settled in and it was amazing, sitting oceanfront, while jumping the waves and choosing from a selection of steak, meatloaf, pot roast and vegan cream cheese and jelly sandwiches every fifteen minutes. It was a smorgasboard of delights, with enough fruit, cookies, chips and beverages to feed the Seal Team Six.

But my favorite part of the the day was when everyone left the beach and the sun started to sink in the sky. The golden hour was magnificent, and when we were kids my parents would take us over to another beach park to load up on hamburgers, fries and chocolate milk before setting off on the ride home. I couldn’t wait to get back and play with my sunburn.

So these thoughts leave me with a very good feeling about Santa Cruz, the place I call my home and try to avoid jury duty. I have lived in this cold water paradise for almost thirty years, and I’m still amazed at how beautiful it is.

My wife and I had dined twice in a gazebo last week, which has the fantastic view of the white water break at Natural Bridges Beach. Looking out, the mountains of Monterey were as clear as a bell and the ocean water an exotic blend of aqua blue. Allison peered out over the water and said, “It looks like Hawaii.” There is no greater a compliment.

So I am proud to call this cold water paradise where the redwoods meet the humpbacks my home. As I’ve always said, home is where your house is.

Which leads me to this. I received an email last week from a blog reader, who was hoping I could help getting some info out to others who would like to experience this central coast lifestyle and relocate to Santa Cruz. You can check it out at: http://www.propertyinsantacruz.com/relocating-to-santa-cruz/

Anything for my readers.

So for today’s photo funpack, we are going back to the evening of February 13. I was shooting from Stockton Avenue as a full moon was rising to the east. The clouds on this night were fantastic.

The photos really don’t do justice to the immense size and colors of these masses of frozen water crystals, but you get the picture. The sky was awash with 360 degrees of various shades of pink, as sunset watchers gathered in droves all along West Cliff Drive to take in the action.

Seinfeld’s George Costanza might have described the enormous clouds as having a “pinkish hue.” To me they were real and spectacular.

On to some late night humor. “NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is back in the news. He says the military at the NSA often shared nude photos that Americans had emailed to one another. So if your girlfriend won’t send you naked pictures, just tell her, do it for the troops. “You can tell this drought is getting really bad. Today at lunch, my waiter asked if I wanted a glass of water or a future for my children. I took the water.” –Conan O’Brien

“President Kennedy said let’s put a man on the moon, and by God, 10 years later we put a man on the moon. Yesterday was the 45th anniversary. Nowadays a big deal for us is we combined the croissant and the doughnut to get a cronut.” –David Letterman ” According to a new poll, two-thirds of people in Colorado think it should be illegal to smoke marijuana in public, while the other one-third are still laughing at the word ‘poll.’” –Seth Meyers

The summer is flying by. We’ll catch you playing the role of Ray Donovan,a professional “fixer” for the rich and famous in LA, who can make anyone’s problems disappear except those created by his own family. Aloha, mahalo and later, Liev Schreiber fans.

May 11, 2014

What A Bay For A Daydream

Good morning and greetings, warm-blooded mammal fans. A few months back, I wrote that more whales had been spotted people watching in the bay than had ever been recorded. Last Tuesday, I spotted four whales on my morning walk, as I saw a calf, her mother, a close friend, and perhaps the father or a body guard heading up the coast.

Well, our favorite bay is once again teeming with exotic marine life. In a recent article posted on sfgate.com, outdoor writer Tom Stienstra wrote, “In the past year, Monterey Bay has become the richest marine region on the Pacific Coast. In the past three weeks, it has reached a new peak with unbelievable hordes of anchovies, along with other baitfish, and with it, the highest numbers of salmon, marine birds, sea lions, gray whales, humpback whales and orcas anywhere.”

So with billions of tons of baitfish roaming the bay, the action has once again been spectacular in our front yard. I only wish I could make these whale watching trips a regular event, but I get sea sick watching Jacques Cousteau specials.

Which reminds me of a joke. A doctor, a dentist and an attorney were in a boat together when a wave came along and washed them all overboard. Unable to get back into the boat, they decided two would hold on to the boat and the third would swim to shore for help.

They noticed that there were hundreds of sharks between them and land. Without a word the lawyer took off! As he swam the sharks move aside. The dentist yelled, “it’s a miracle!”

“No”, said the doctor, “That’s professional courtesy!”

So what do we know about Monterey Bay? Back in 1602, or around the last time the Cubs won the World Series, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizciano discovered Monterey Bay while searching for a good location for the Capitola Mall. He was seeking a port along the California coast that would be a safe harbor for Spanish ships. He named the bay in honor of the Viceroy, the Conde de Monterey, which is I believe is the sandwich I ordered for lunch last week at Chili’s.

Vizciano reported that the bay was a safe harbor and sheltered from all winds, which didn’t turn out to be true. He also said that he didn’t think an aquarium would be succcesful in Monterey or the Warriors would make it into the playoffs two years in a row. But he did think Mark Jackson would be fired.

Actually, Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo was the first European explorer to navigate the coast of California back in 1542, but he sailed right by the entrance of Monterey Bay, as he was concerned with the high cost of living in the area. And that is why they only named a junior college after him, instead of a four year university.

But it was not until 1769, around the golden age of television, that an outpost was established on Monterey Bay. It was called Del Taco and was open 24 hours a day with a drive thru for horses and covererd wagons.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1992, in an effort to preserve the ocean environment that’s currently being enjoyed and polluted by the population surrounding it. It includes the Pacific waters along the central California coast from Cambria to north of San Francisco, and extends out to sea an average of 30 miles, or the same distance I walk every two weeks to stay slim and trim as I ease into my summer wardrobe.

Monterey Bay actually comprises less than 1/15th of the entire sanctuary, which is all open water, as no land is included. It is the largest marine sanctuary in the U.S. and the second largest in the world after the Hawaiian Islands. Monterey Bay’s underwater canyon is larger than the Grand Canyon, and considered to be the Yankee Stadium of the Pacific.

The bay is a Camp Pendleton of marine life, with approximately 345 species of fish, 450 plus species of plants, 94 species of seabirds, 30 species of marine mammals, 4 species of turtles, two turtle doves and the Patridge family in a pear tree. It’s Atlantis gone wild.

From 1854 to the early 1900s, the Monterey Bay harbor was a major cargo and whaling port. Its sandy beaches were white with whalebone, which was also the name of my band in high school.

Grey whales make their biannual visits during migrations between Alaska and their breeding grounds in Baja California. Blue whales appear from late spring to late autumn, along with Minke whales, Fin whales, Humpback whales, the Prince of Wales, Pacific Right whales, Sperm whales, Howard Wales along with pods of Orcas, whose favorite item on their spring menu is young gray whales.

So a man in a movie theatre notices what looks like a whale sitting next to him. “Are you a whale?” asked the man, surprised. “Yes.” “What are you doing at the movies?” The whale replied, “Well, I liked the book.”

So throw in the frequent sightings of dolphins, porpoises and sea lions and there’s always action on the bay. There have also been 1,276 reported shipwrecks, which does not include the last twenty years of Oakland Raider football.

Giant kelp forests are underwater inhabitants of the bay. With the exception of the marijuana industry, it is the fastest growing plant on earth, growing up to 14 inches a day. Which does not explain why 90% of the brussel sprouts grown in the United States are from Santa Cruz County.

So what else to say about this playground of natural wonders? I believe former Beatle Ringo Starr summed it up best when he said, “I’d like to be, under the sea, in an octopus’s garden in the shade.” Life is good when you can sit by the dock of the bay watching time roll away.

Moving along to the photo department, back in January and February, the sunrises and sunsets were coming fast and furious. Today’s spread is from the evening of January 9. It wasn’t anything to tweet home about as the sky turned different shades of tangerine, but when I loaded up the zoom lens, I came up with a pretty good shot of some gulls amidst an orange sherbert sundae. Not a bad dessert.

On to a little late night humor. “Richard Branson has announced plans to develop a new type of plane that could fly from New York to Tokyo in one hour. Apparently the engines are powered by human screams.” – Seth Meyers “A new study found that a growing number of dog owners are giving their pets anti-anxiety medication as a way to calm them down and reduce unwanted stress in their lives. Then dogs said, “Or, you could just sell the vacuum cleaner.” – Jimmy Fallon

“For the second time in three days, the White House has gone into lockdown after someone threw an object over the fence. Finally today, President Obama took away Joe Biden’s Frisbee. Sony has invented a new kind of cassette tape that could store 47 million songs. They estimate that they’ll be ready to demonstrate the new cassette for the public sometime in the year 2267 when it finishes rewinding.” – Seth Meyers

So we’ll catch you being one of the top point guards in the league while leading your team to an amazing come-from-behind win on Mother’s Day. Aloha, mahalo and later, Chris Paul fans.

July 7, 2013

Here’s To The Red, White And Blue Whales

Good morning and greetings, marine life fans. Let’s face it, life is good if you live on Monterey Bay. When I walk along West Cliff Drive, I’m always fascinated by the waves, the changing skies and the people who pass by who don’t make eye contact. I see seals, dolphins, broncos, sea otters, sea lions, sea biscuits and the passing whales. I always stop in my tracks and watch them glide through the water, surface and then go back under as I await their next appearance. That’s the view you get from being a land bound creature. However, offshore is where the real action is, and that’s where we’re headed today.

You may have missed this story from back in mid June written by Jason Hoppin in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The description of the events in our front yard called Monterey Bay blew what little is left of my mind, as it described a kind of excitement unseen by yours truly.

It seems on this late spring day the bay was teeming with a lunch special for a variety of whales. This brought about a sight seen by a few but missed by the masses. The action was so spectacular that I wanted to bring it back into the July light.

The date was June 15, and giants of the deep were putting on an unbelievable show. Boat captains and calamari lovers estimated that at least 30 blue whales, which, next to the cast of “Baywatch,” are some of the most spectacular creatures ever to grace the ocean’s water, were involved in a feeding frenzy seven miles off shore in a place called Soquel Canyon. I have extensively researched these so-called “frenzies” at various all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. It’s a world where mu shu pancakes meets Animal Planet and anything can happen, especially if there’s any sweet and sour sauce lurking in the area.

Now on a good day, blue whales measure about 90 feet. If you are thinking in terms of sports, this is the length of a basketball court, or almost a third of a football field, which means you’d need three first downs to just go end to end with these giants. Their tails alone are as wide as a Greyhound bus. Just imagine the earth’s largest dinosaurs swimming in the ocean. Now imagine them all jacked up and feeding on krill like a Yom Kippur fast had just ended.

If you could find a scale big enough, these big boys and girls would weigh in between 100 and 150 tons. Don’t bother them with Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig as much like myself, they’re not interested. Their tongues are the size of a Buick and get better mileage. And I don’t want to say that whale calves are big, but after a year of formulating inside their mother’s womb, these cute little babies emerge weighing three tons and measuring 25 feet. Try fitting that into a car seat.

And if you think your baby was a big eater, listen to this. For the first year, a whale calf dines on nothing but mother’s milk and cookies and gains 200 pounds a day, which leads to body issues during the teenage years. And in case you were planning a vacation, you can fit about 100 people inside a blue whale’s mouth. And these mammals have no need for cell phones, as they can communicate with relatives and other whales over a thousand miles away.

So what happened on this day all came about because of the wind. The spring breezes shoved the warmer surface water aside, which allowed much cooler water, which was filled with more nutrients than a Jamba Juice Peach Pleasure smoothie, to come up from the ocean floor. This process is called upwelling, which is great for hungry whales but not so good for family members of the lower species like krill, squid or members of the NRA, because on this day, they were the “blue plate special,” with a pun definitely intended.

Let’s just say that blue whales have a large appetite. How large? At one meal they can down four tons of krill along with a dinner salad and small dessert. According to Ken Stagnaro of Stagnaro Charters, on this Saturday, the ruckus out at Soquel Canyon was put in play by the krill getting trapped against the canyon walls by the tides with no way out. This led to “side by side, dozens of blue and humpback whales continually surface lunging (which is also my favorite way of eating) at the massive schools of krill, sometimes swimming within yards of the boat. We sat nearly motionless for nearly 90 minutes as the largest animals in the world gorged on the sea surface for everyone to see.” And all meals include an 18% gratuity added to the total before any discounts.

What made this day even more remarkable was that the blues don’t usually make an appearance until the NFL preseason, making this open sea dining experience that much more remarkable. There are usually humpback whales in the bay, but the blues were an unexpected late spring treat. Also on display were the orcas, the killer whales who like to dine on seals, dolphins and baby gray whales, and who along with Japanese and Norwegian whalers and Sarah Palin are the only natural predators of the blues.

It was nature gone wild this June day on Monterey Bay, which was first discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo back in 1542 while searching for a junior college. And it was all made possible by the wind, which brought to the surface more culinary riches than could be found at all the Red Lobsters, Long John Silvers and Bubba Gump Shrimp Companies in America. Monterey Bay, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Stop by, admission is free.

For today’s photo entree, we are going back to March 15. This day started on a fabulous note, as I photographed a beautiful sunrise down at Lighthouse Point. And then that evening, color returned to the sky, as I started my photographic trek at Stockton Avenue before moving up to Natural Bridges to complete the daily double sunrise/sunset experience. Any time you can get two for the price of one is a good day on the photography front.

There’s no late night action this week so I’ll throw in a joke. A woman stormed up to the front desk of the library and said, “I have a complaint.” “Yes, ma’am?” “I borrowed a book and it was horrible!” “What was wrong with it?” “It had too many characters and there was no plot whatsoever.” The librarian nodded and said, ‘Ah. So you must be the person who took our phone book.”

So that’s our first blast for July. Hope you enjoyed the holiday week as now the summer of 2013 is in full swing.

We’ll catch you surprising the NBA world by turning down more money and signing a free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

April 28, 2013

It Takes A Village To Raise A Sunrise

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 9:58 am

Good morning and greetings, landscape fans. You know, it’s not easy being a sunrise photographer. It requires a strong commitment and immense dedication, as one must be ready to go to work close to one third of the year. It’s an unusual situation when your work day comes to an end before most people have separated themselves from their dreams.

It was Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, known to his friends as Buddha, who said, “Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart and soul’s inspiration give yourself to it.” Wise words from the holy sage, who was also a hell of a first baseman.

So in living the sunrise life, four months of the year become sacred times, when there’s the possibility of the sky lighting up like a Hanukah menorah. The early Aztecs said, right before they were massacred by the Conquistadors, “if you do something you love, then it’s not work.” Furthermore, Irish poet Oscar Wilde once quoted between sips that “I put all my genius into my life: I put only my talent into my works.” After consulting with Confucious, I still have no idea where he was going with that.

I don’t consider taking pictures of a sunrise, sunset or a baby porcupine hard work. It’s a labor of love having the privilege to photograph God’s magnificence. That is, when he isn’t slamming the coast with that damn marine layer. To shoot a good sunrise takes some preplanning, a little bit of luck, and most importantly, a camera which a charged battery.

Donald Kendall, the former CEO of Pepsi Cola, once said to his neighbor that “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” I can relate to those words, as there have been a few times in my life that I have decided to take the Pepsi Challenge. Later on, I regretted some of these actions. I would have been much better off sitting back and having a Coke and a smile.

So this being late April, I’ve been slowly weened from photographing the delightful action from above, as the spring skies have been duller than a Taliban group therapy session. I didn’t get into this business for the money, as much like Henny Youngman, “I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock.” No, photographing sunrises and sunsets has been like the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve never thought of it as work. Which is good, because who wants to let something so pure be tainted by money? I’ve never got caught up in the commercialization, which is why I would never mention that my photos are available for sale right now on my website, www.SunriseSantaCruz.com, and would make lovely Mother’s Day gifts. That would be way too tacky.

No, I just do it for the pure joy and the artistic integrity. I’m not competing with anyone, although my Rabbi has stated on the record that I could be the most prolific sunrise photographer in the country. Well, I’m not saying I am, (yes, I am), but I would be honored to just be considered a candidate for the Jewish sunrise photographers Hall of Fame. And from what I hear, entry into this exclusive club involves receiving is a five pack box of Yehuda Passover matzos, rated #1 best tasting matzo by the San Francisco Chronicle, as tested by culinary experts and chefs in a blind tasting panel. If that’s the case, how did they find their way to the building?

So these days, I’m just photographing flowers and bunnies and filling future blogs will glorious moments from the past. They say you can’t put your arm around a memory, but when I go to my computer and look over sunrises and sunsets past, I reexperience the joy of the moment and it is glorious. And then I sob uncontrollably for a while, but I’m working on that.

I love what I do and don’t believe it will ever get old. And the best part is there no deadlines, just headlines. In the words of ventroloquist Edgar Bergen, “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” Charlie McCarthy couldn’t have said it better, although I was always more of a Knucklehead Smith fan.

So for today’s photo fare, we are heading back to the morning of February 16, 2013. I had slept the night before in a toaster, so I woke up and popped out of bed to a fantastic sunrise. I was all over the terrain that morning, as I shot images of this dawn beauty from more locations than Jamba Juices on the central coast.

The morning color in the sky over Monterey Bay and Steamers Lane was just spectacular. This was one of those classic Santa Cruz mornings were everything was right in the digital world. After that my day was off and running.

So this is my philosophy. “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. I knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or gazelle…when this sun comes up, you better be running.” Or as big game hunter Groucho Marx once told Zeppo, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

On to some late night humor. “U.S. intelligence agencies have put together a psychological profile of Kim Jong Un. They say he’s a narcissist, and he is obsessed with Hollywood, obsessed with plastic surgery, and obsessed with the NBA. It’s a condition we know as ‘Kardashianism.’” –Jay Leno “You’re probably saying to yourselves, “What big American pointless cultural event is coming up in a couple of days?” The NFL Draft, of course. The New York Jets say they will take the best athlete possible in the draft. They’re going to take the best athlete available. It’s the same strategy the Kardashian sisters use.” – David Letterman

“You know what the worst job in America is? It’s newspaper reporter. I guess the pollsters forgot to ask the guy who cleans the toilets at Dodger Stadium how things are going for him. The Internet celebrated a major milestone yesterday. It’s the eighth anniversary of the very first video uploaded to YouTube. YouTube was founded in 2005 by a small group of visionaries who asked the question, “What if nobody in America ever got anything done ever again?” – Jimmy Kimmel.

So that’s our last blast for April 2013. The roses are exploding in my front yard so get ready for some May flower power. We’ll catch you scoring 34 points on Saturday while putting on one of the greatest fourth quarter playoff performances in NBA history. Aloha, mahalo and later, Nate Robinson fans.

March 31, 2013

Don’t Blame Me, I’m Just A Slow Lunar

Good morning and greetings, Final Four fans. This past March had a few memorable sunrise and sunset moments, which came as a surprise as last year at this time, there was less going on in the sky then what my resume shows from college graduation to the present. So I was happily surprised Tuesday night when I saw a cloud bank still open at sunset time. Unfortunately, my timing, like my answers decades ago on the SATs, were slightly off, and I arrived a few minutes too late to capture the prime time moments. It was then that I recalled the words of John Denver, “Sunshine, on the water, looks so lovely. Sunshine, almost always, make me cry.”

So as I dried my tears, my interest and the sun started to disappear into the spring clouds, as I sensed there would be less color forthcoming than could be seen at a Tea Party “Bigger is Better” rally. I was about to hightail it back to the warm confines of my humble westside abode, when all of a sudden, in the words of Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise,” as a full moon appeared on the horizon. It was, much like finding out that I had made an overpayment on my 2012 taxes, a very pleasant feeling, as I had not been following the phases of the moon as closely as the playoff races in the NBA’s western conference.

So I decided to hang around and watch this beautiful orange sphere rise over my spirit and Monterey Bay. It had been a while since I had photographed a full moon, and it added a little extra skip to my step on a night when I really hadn’t gotten my money’s worth and had been left wanting more. Well, the full moon rising made up for it. It reminded me of the time I met the Buddha on the road. He told me, “Three things cannot be long hidden: The sun, the moon, and the truth. After that I didn’t want to kill him.

So as the moon is one of our constant companions in the sky, let’s take a look at some fun facts about our crater and cream-filled orbiting friend.

The moon is our closest neighbor in space. Much like a waiting room at a Greyhound bus station, it is a rocky, airless world that is the earth’s only natural satellite, unless you have Direct TV. My personal trainer and many astronomers believe the moon was formed after an object bigger than Bill O’Reilly’s ego smashed into our Mother Earth four and a half billion years, around the birth of John McCains’ parents. The material from the Earth and the colliding object eventually came together to form the moon and later the Big East Conference.

The surface of the moon, like a case of bad acne, is loaded with craters, which come from asteroids, comets and Ajax that have collided and colluted with the moon’s surface. Unlike the Shadowbrook Restaurant, the moon has no atmosphere, and with no weather, the lunar craters, like Dick Clark over the years, remains well preserved.

According to AAA, the moon is about 250,000 miles from Earth. To get there traveling by the speed of light would take 1.52 seconds. By rocket ship, we’re talking 13 hours, by car, 130 days with a few stops for gas, and by U.S. mail, ah, just forget it.

Since there is no atmosphere, wind or weather, footprints left on the moon by astronauts or martians will remain visible for at least ten millions years, which adds up to a whole lot of calendars. Water was discovered by the Arrowhead Company back in 2009, along with tiny ice cube trays strewn along the moon’s surface.

When astronaut Alan Sheppard was on the moon doing the broad jump for mankind, he hit a golf ball and drove it 2,400 feet, which is nearly half a mile by the way Sheryl Crow flies. He then choked and missed the putt for par.

When aboard our favorite satellite, you can jump six times further, carry objects six times heavier, but will still have trouble sneezing with your eyes open. And according to Weight Watchers, if you weigh 100 pounds on earth, you would weigh 16.6 pounds on the moon. The moon, “Where No Food is a Sin.”

Despite repeated pleas from Pink Floyd, there is no “Dark Side of the Moon.” The moon happily spends its day rotating around the earth, so all sides of the moon are hit by the Father, the Sun and the Gulf Coast at some point. Temperatures on the moon can drop to 250 degrees below zero, so if you go, you might want to bring a poncho.

In a survey conducted in 1998 by the You Got To Be Kidding Me Institute, 13% of those surveyed believed that the moon was made of cheese. The response was split evenly. 50% said Swiss, 50% went with Monterey Jack.

Canada was the third country to enter the space race. However, instead of sending astronauts, they sent their national hockey team along with a backup goalie from the Montreal Canadians.

Under the category of “I did not know that,” the honeymoon is a named after the full moon in June, as it fell between the planting and harvesting of crops and was traditionally the best month to get married. No word on what moon annulment is named after.

And finally, the Slovakian psychiatrist Eugen Jonas created a method of birth control and fertility based on the full moon. Thus, from his research came the term, “I’m going in for a moon landing.” And I believe it was either the Lennon Sisters or John Lennon who said, “Yeah we all shine on, like the moon, the stars and the sun.” That’s all good and well, but what I want to know is, if Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, who will be the first woman? I’m going with Madonna. Just a hunch.

On to the late night. “Bill Clinton now says he wishes he had supported gay marriage back when he was president. Clinton said at the time he was too busy campaigning for open marriage.” –Conan O’Brien “Last year there was some trouble at the White House’s Easter egg hunt. One kid looking for eggs turned up Obama’s birth certificate.” –David Letterman “Yesterday former CIA director David Petraeus apologized for having an affair with his biographer. He said he hopes this begins a new chapter in his life. It got awkward when he said, ‘Any of you ladies want to write it?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Happy birthday to retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She’s 83 years old today. And listen to this: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court wished her a happy birthday. Last night President Obama celebrated Passover by hosting a seder at the White House. There was an awkward moment when Sasha asked, ‘Hey, I thought we were Muslim.’ During its trip to the Middle East, President Obama helped restore Israel’s relationship with Turkey. Now, onto the final hurdle – restoring Israel’s relationship with pork.” –Conan O’Brien

“John Kerry visited Iraq and also Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Dennis Rodman.” –David Letterman
“Wal-Mart will test a new delivery method for customers who order online. They’re asking shoppers to drop stuff off for other shoppers on their way home. In exchange, Wal-Mart would give them a discount on their bill. So if you always wanted to work for Wal-Mart but didn’t want to get bogged down with the paycheck and healthcare, this is for you.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“North Korea is warning the U.S. that war with South Korea may break out at any minute. Or as Obama put it, “Can’t believe I’m doing this. Get me Dennis Rodman.” Yesterday President Obama told reporters that his NCAA tournament bracket is busted. Obama said they were the worst picks he’s ever made — then he looked at his economic advisers and said, “Ehh, maybe not.” A man in Pennsylvania was arrested for hunting deer in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. Or as Jeff Foxworthy put it, “Eh, too easy.” – Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our last lunar blast for March 2013. We’ll catch you hitting a clutch 3-pointer bomb from the outskirts of Dallas that sent the game into overtime and then your Michigan team into the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. As for the Kansas Jayhawks, “All they are is dust, or should I say, Russ Smith in the wind.” Aloha, mahlao and later, Trey Burke fans.

February 10, 2013

Does Anybody Really Know What Valentime It Is?

Good morning and greetings, Valentine’s Day fans. What a great day this has become for chocolate lovers, romantics and stalkers of the world. On this day, one can display his or her affections with a card that someone else wrote (“I never believed in miracles and then I found each day has turned into one because of you,”) some sugar that we probably don’t need, or some jewelry that we can always sell on eBay if the relationship doesn’t work out. Meanwhile, many folks not involved in a relationship get left out in the cold and hope this day passes as quickly as possible. Now that may be a little cynical, but I think I’m right on the Eddie Money without two tickets to paradise.

But being a hopeless romantic, I always get caught up in the holiday spirit. However, last year, when I presented my wife with a box a chocolate matzos, she seemed a tad disappointed. I’m not sure if chocolate covered unleavened bread conveyed the thought of thanks for loving me, always being there and sharing the same DVR taping system. So this year, I’m going to do it right and go with dark chocolate pretzels.

I was immediately smitten when I met my future bride. I remember early on, an offer I made when she was looking to move into the oceanfront house I was living in. “Come live in my heart and pay no rent.” She then asked if that included utilities. An hour later, I told her that a hundred hearts would be too few to carry all my love for her. She blushed and then went out and bought a dozen defibrillators.

So Valentine’s Day is always a special occasion for us. I remember last year as she told me between commercials, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” And then I held her closely and said, “If I could be anything in the world, I would want to be a teardrop, because I would be born in your eyes, live on your cheeks, and die on your lips.” And then I lobbed this winner, “When we met, it was not my ear you whispered into, but my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” Now that, my friends, is a Hallmark moment.

So in honor of this day of love and chocolate, here’s a joke that made me chuckle. A prince was put under a spell so that he could speak only one word each year. If he didn’t speak for two years, the following year he could speak two words and so on. One day, he fell in love with a beautiful lady. He refrained from speaking for two whole years so he could call her “my darling.” But then he wanted to tell her he loved her, so he waited three more years. At the end of these five years, he wanted to ask her to marry him, so he waited another four years. Finally, as the ninth year of silence ended, he led the lady to the most romantic place in the kingdom and said, “My darling, I love you! Will you marry me?” And the lady said, “Pardon?”

So it was a good week on the weather front, as we had sun, clouds, rain, light, darkness and some golf. Last Wednesday, on a crisp morning at Natural Bridges, frost was covering the sand as I observed nineteen snowy egrets lined up in a row like bowling pins. Of course, being a semi-professional photographer, I didn’t have my camera or passport with me, so I raced home, grabbed it and was back before you could say “Zero Dark Thirty.” Or in the words of Jessica Chastain to CIA chief Tony Soprano, “I’m the motherfu****** who found this place.”

By the way, last three flicks I’ve seen all been big-time winners, tremendously enjoyable cinematic experiences. We’re talking “Argo,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” I walked out of all three saying , “Wow, that was great at a matinee price.

So getting back to the beach, the snowys were still there when I returned but in a slightly rearranged order, so I headed down to the far end of the beach to shoot these birds of a feather huddled together in the cold weather (photo #1). Also included is a smaller group shot and one of a dynamic duo. Then it was on to photographing a group of pelicans that had gathered for their morning coffee and sardines on the remaining arch. It was a great way to start off a chilly day on Monterey Bay.

The final photo is my Valentine’s day shot, as a caught a group of lovebirds, er pigeons, perched on a telephone wire basking in the morning sun. Next week we’ll return to the fabulous winter sunrise and sunset experiences, as I have many sitting on the runway waiting for clearance. They range from good to classic fantastic, and all will be seen. Because that’s the way we roll at Sunrise Santa Cruz.

On to some late night humor. “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wants to become the first Iranian to go into outer space. He wants to study the effects of anti-gravity on anti-Semitism. Monopoly is getting a big makeover. They want to make the Monopoly game more modern and bring it up to date to reflect our current culture. Like, in the new version of Monopoly, the banker never goes to jail. This is kind of disturbing. The Justice Department has concluded that the president can order drone strikes on American citizens. And today, Rush Limbaugh came out in favor of Obamacare.” – Jay Leno

A Justice Department memo claims that President Obama has the right to order the assassination of an American anywhere in the world. Isn’t that crazy? In a related story, Donald Trump has gone into hiding. The justice department is saying that President Obama can order drone strikes on American citizens, that he can do that. In a related story, this is the last Obama joke I’m ever doing on this show. U.S. employers just added 157,000 jobs to the economy. Of course, most of those were for backup dancers for Beyoncé. During the Super Bowl there was a 35-minute blackout. Afterwards Lindsay Lohan said, “So that wasn’t just me.” – Conan O’Brien

“Pakistan is opening an amusement park and a zoo in the same town where the raid on Osama Bin Laden took place. The zoo is pretty cool, but I’ve heard you won’t be able to see the seals until it’s too late. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently got a smart phone. And you can tell it’s a smart phone because today it left North Korea. Last night runners from around the world competed in the annual race to the top of the Empire State Building. But there’s already a scandal brewing. It turns out one of the competitors tested positive for elevator.” – Jimmy Fallon

“A new report by economists lists the world’s most expensive cities. It turns out the most expensive city is Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo unveiled their new tourism slogan today. Their slogan is: “Tokyo: We’ll leave you brokeo.” – Craig Ferguson “This weekend a couple from Connecticut will have the longest marriage ever recorded in the U.S. They got married more than 80 years ago. They said the secret to their long-lasting marriage is love, compromise, and the fact that neither one of them has been able to hear a word the other one has said in more than 30 years.” – Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our Chinese New Year report. I think the Year of the Snake is going to be a good one for my cyber readers and burmese pythons. We’ll catch you showing NBA fans why you’re the top scoring point guard in the league and an all-star in just your second season. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kyrie Irving fans.

January 27, 2013

For Debris The Jolly Good Fellow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 11:33 am

Good morning and greetings, Super Bowl fans. Well, we’re less than a week away from when much of the nation turns their attention towards two teams beating the living daylight savings time out of each for the right to call themselves Super Bowl champions. Or as former Oakland Raider defensive end Dan Birdwell described the action, “You just have to play this game like somebody hit your mother with a two-by-four.”

At the same time, we know there’s two good reasons why people of every race, greed and color are converging on New Orleans. To party and gamble. And as a result, after football fans consume 140,500 millions tons of chips, 80 million pounds of guacamole, 900 million pounds of chicken wings and enough pizzas to cover the entire planet, hundreds of millions of dollars will have been won or lost on the outcome while the nation’s caloric intake will surpass the $16.432 trillion federal deficit mark. Because that’s how we roll.

For myself, I’ll spend the morning in deep meditation, and then just kick back and watch the action accompanied by with my usual array of healthy snacks, including animal crackers, tofu nuggets and fava bean pate. And if I win my wager on how long it will take Alicia Keys to belt out the national anthem, I’ll treat myself to a vegan steak and lobster dinner. Gluten-free, of course.

But really, it’s just another game. Someone will win, someone will lose, and the next day we’ll all be talking about Kate Upton and the commercials. Or in the words of former Dallas running back Duane Thomas, “If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?”

One place I would like to experience watching the Super Bowl is Hawaii, and that is where we are headed today. In a story by Stephanie Pappas for Yahoo News, there have been some unusual sightings on the beaches in Oahu and Kauai, and I don’t mean Charo in a bikini. No, we’re talking about refrigerators, oyster buoys and a four box set of the TV mini-series “Shogun” that have been rolling in with the tides and beaching themselves on the macadamia nut covered shores.

According to Richard Chamberlain, these items were from the giant tsunami that struck Japan back on March 11, 2011. The Japanese government has estimated that the tsunami, which was triggered by an underwater earthquake, swept about five million tons of debris out to sea. While 70 percent appears to have sunk offshore, the rest is floating like rubber ducks in the Pacific Ocean. The first item to make an appearance was a barnacled-covered seafood storage bin, which arrived last September and was last seen body surfing at Pipeline.

Hawaii is a prime gathering spot for big wave surfers and floating garbage, as the islands are exposed to ocean currents on every side. Some of this ocean litter comes from the fishing industry, while the rest is consumer garbage including soda bottles, toys, plastic goods and adult novelty items. The tsunami debris will be an ongoing problem, but it’s part of a much bigger issue, as Hawaii is inundated with plastic trash from all over the world. Or in the words of Groucho Marx, “She got her good looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon.”

This island paradise in the South Pacific has as its neighbor the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a shameful site in the North Pacific Ocean where currents push masses of plastics into a suspended pyre of trash, like sections of North Hollywood. Now I only play a scientist in this blog, but I can tell you, this is no way to treat an ocean. I believe it was either David Hasselfhoff or Jacques Cousteau who once said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” And remember, no one ever drowned on ‘Baywatch.’

Henry David Thoreau said, “My life is like a stroll on the beach…as near to the edge as I can go.” I say, “I love going to the beach, but not being in water over my head.” It seems in the near future, when Hawaiians go to the beach, they’ll be greeted by more than golden sands and shrimp trucks. It’s kind of like a Cracker Jacks experience, a surprise in every wave.

However, Hawaii is still the land of fragrant plumerias, golden papayas and kalua pig wraps. Wherever I go, I carry the aloha spirit with me. There’s just a special feeling in the islands that blows through my mind like a warm trade wind. When on vacations, when I check out of my hotel room, I always try to give back and tell the front desk, “He lumi maika’i keia e ku pololei ana i ke kanaka peke.” That was a wonderful room for a dwarf. Mahalo and good night.

For today’s photo gallery we are headed back to November 15, 2012, a couple of months after the death of Manti Te’o non-existent girlfriend. I was shooting from above the cliffs at Cowells Beach. The clouds were in an unusual formation, creating an interesting canvas of color in the sky. I then proceeded to catch the sun rising over the mountains of Monterey as its beams shot out over the bay. Variety is the spice of life, and these clouds added some quality thyme and a nice dash of paprika to this early morning exercise of beauty in the sky with diamonds.

On to some late night. “It was reported that President Obama’s 2013 Inauguration Committee is receiving fewer donations than it did in 2009. The scaled-back event will feature fewer inaugural balls, a shorter parade, and a musical performance from the Black Eyed Pea. During an interview with Oprah Winfrey Thursday, Lance Armstrong admitted to using banned drugs and blood transfusions to get his seven Tour De France victories. Which explains why, during his last two races, he didn’t even need a bike. Firearms groups across the country have declared today the first annual Gun Appreciation Day. So don’t forget to set your clock back 100 years.” –Seth Meyers

“The NRA made an ad saying that Obama is elitist because his kids have armed guards. Yeah, that crazy Obama thinking his kids need special protection. I love the NRA accusing anyone of being paranoid. It’s like a septic tank saying, ‘You need a mint.’” –Bill Maher “The CEO of Whole Foods is criticizing Obamacare, once again calling it fascism. He did this before when he called it socialism. And he said the problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money. As opposed to shopping at Whole Foods, where you eventually run out of your own money. “The post office may sue Lance Armstrong for all of the money they spent sponsoring his team. In fact, after all these lawsuits, they say that Lance Armstrong could end up as broke as the post office.” –Jay Leno

“More than a million people gathered in our nation’s capital yesterday, and tens of millions more watched from home to celebrate the first lady’s new haircut.
Most people seem to like the hair style, though some Republicans are demanding further cuts. But bangs aren’t easy to pull off. As far as I know, the only other women who have done it successfully this decade are Jessica Biel and Justin Bieber.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our pre Super Bowl report. Enjoy the game and take a moment to remember the troops, who are fighting for us so that we can live in a country where anyone can grow up and one day host a Super Bowl party.

We’ll catch you putting up all-star numbers and being the best shooter in the NBA. Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

June 24, 2012

I Get By With A Little Kelp From My Friends

Good morning and greetings, summer solstice fans. Last Thursday, the change of seasons, much like my transformation from boyhood to a bloghood, came about quietly, and in a blink of a thigh, we sprang from spring into Donna summer.

And what an opening day it was. Torrential rains produced record flooding in parts of Minnesota, while in northeast, the thermometer spiraled into the high-90′s, which combined with unbearable humidity made folks from Washington D.C., to Maine feel like broasted chickens. I don’t want to say it was hot, but even the sun was looking for shade. As we locals say, “Lucky we live Santa Cruz.”

As I mentioned in a rambling, I’ll be heading to the Garden Isle at the end of a July, a thought I don’t think about more than ten billion times a day. Last week, after parking my car in the lot at Natural Bridges, I surveyed the kelp-filled beach and commented to my wife, who is also my soul mate and main beneficiary that “This is not what the beach is going to look like in Kauai.” We may have to step around some coral, but the only weed we’re going to see on the beach will be going up in smoke.

So when I saw this story written by Pete Fimrite in the San Francisco Chronicle, I knew I had it was my civic duty and moral responsibility to bring it to my cyber audience in Monterey Bay.

A highly invasive form of brown kelp native to Japan has spread throughout the San Francisco waterfront like garlic fries since it was discovered three years ago. Researchers say it could threaten native species and ecosystems if money, resources and more ketchup aren’t put into stopping its spread.

The seaweed, commonly known as Wakame, multiplies faster than the Octomom, and has driven out native kelp and drastically altered entire ecosystems in other places, including Argentina, New Zealand, parts of Europe, the Jersey shore and a Club Med in Jamaica.

This clever kelp, which is a common ingredient in miso soup and General Tso’s chicken, is known in scientific circles as Undaria pinnatifida or Inthegodadavita. It can attach itself to almost anything – pilings, boats, docks, nurses, chains, riprap and old girlfriends. Like a young Manute Bol, this algae can grow an inch a day, with individuals sometimes stretching 9 feet. And as they say in the hoops world, “You can’t teach nine feet.”

This seaweed, along with people who talk on their cell phones in restaurants, are recognized globally as two of the world’s top 100 invasive species. This Japanese import made its debut in California about 12 years ago, probably by a ship or Sony executive that moored in the Long Beach area.

It was discovered in Monterey in 2001 and later spotted having some clam chowder in a bread bowl at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing in 2002. These slimy blooms have since spread northward along the coast, most likely by hitching rides on boats, planes, trains and automobiles. In the classic words of Steve Martin, “Those aren’t pillows!”

Last year, researchers with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center found it clinging like peaches to piers and docks in several
more places along the San Francisco waterfront. According to Chela Zabin, a biologist for the Maryland-based research center and UC Davis. “In San Francisco Bay, it is now widespread enough, and on so many pier pilings that we can’t get to, that I don’t think we can remove it by hand. It’s a potentially very serious problem. And don’t even get me started on the Warriors.”

The removal effort faces several obstacles, not the least of which is that there is no money available for research or to pay for an
eradication effort, making it an all-volunteer affair. Even if there were enough workers and funding, total elimination would be a tricky proposition. The species shoots out thousands of microscopic spores that, like many members of Congress, can remain dormant for up to two years.

Zabin says if the spread of this foreign agent is not checked, it could eventually outcompete the native seaweeds, including giant kelp, the majestic floating seaweed species common to Monterey Bay whose limbs can reach 200 feet below the surface. Many fish and other aquatic animals depend on the giant kelp for food, shelter to lay eggs on, to escape from predators and hide from the IRS. These functions cannot be replaced by Undaria pinnatifida, which like my medulla oblongata, is more like a giant banana leaf that sinks below the surface and attaches itself to things in a co-dependent way.

In summation, although it’s not a major problem in Monterey Bay now, this seaweed has the potential to be more disruptive than the Tea Party. And that, my marine life-loving friends, is almost as scary as the Republicans taking over the White House in November.

Moving along, last Saturday night, while trying to connect with my higher self and TiVo guide, I glanced down and noticed that my foot was glowing red. I turned around and saw that the sky was lit up like it was the first night of Shavous. What a glorious sight for all the visitors who were in town for the UCSC graduations while taking in the gray essence that is the morning coastal fog.

So to make up for missing out on this menagerie of color and to remove the guilt and shame from my photogtraphic palate, I went back into the archives to see if there were any sunsets I had shot from past Junes.

Colorful displays in the sky in June occur about as often as I go on Facebook. My research revealed just one from the previous seven years. And just my Andrew luck, I had never featured this set of photos before. I took them from a little park above the arroyo near my house. It wasn’t McArthur Park, and although it wasn’t melting in the dark, I know I’ll never have that recipe for that sunset again. Oh, no!

On to some late night humor. “Last night on the premiere of a new reality show, Bristol Palin confronted a man in a bar and demanded to know why he hates her mother. In response, John McCain said ‘Leave me alone, I’m having a drink.’” –Conan O’Brien “For the first time in history, the number of Asian immigrants coming into America is larger than the number of Hispanic immigrants. Now even our immigrants are being made in China.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama is going to a fundraiser at Sarah Jessica Parker’s house. It will be a formal, sit-down dinner for 200 in her shoe closet.” –Conan O’Brien “Mitt Romney said Obama is ignoring the real issues with illegals, which is that they keep blowing the grass clippings into his pool.” –Bill Maher

“Guantanamo Bay is getting millions and millions of dollars of upgrades and renovations. In fact, they’re not even calling it a detention camp anymore. It’s now a gated community.” –Jay Leno “Happy Flag Day. Flag Day is the day in which we honor the symbol of our nation and the 8-year-old Chinese kids who make them for us for a nickel apiece.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our last gasp for June 2012. Happy anniversary wishes today go out to my mother and father, who celebrate their 162nd, er 62nd wedding anniversary. Unbelievable! As a wise guy once said, “Marriage is when a man and woman become as one; the trouble starts when they try to decide which one.”

And congratulations go out to their grandson, Jason, who was named as one of the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s All-County Athletes of the Year. If you can find one of those dictionaries the pioneers used and look up “scholar athlete”, you’ll see Jason’s picture.

We’ll catch you showing the entire planet why you’re the best player in the world. Aloha, mahalo and later, LeBron James fans.

December 4, 2011

It Just Dawned On Me

Good morning and greetings, December fans. Yes, time is flying by faster than Herman Cain could come up with denials for his extracurricular activities. I’m saddened to see the Godfather of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce withdraw from the Presidential race, but it was a nice slice of campaigning while it lasted.

So with Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, it’s full steam ahead into the season where families and shoppers shift their focus from food and warm feelings to the holiday tasks of giving, receiving and most
importantly, returning.

December is also the time of year where I wake up every morning and
immediately search the sky for signs of clouds, color and intelligent life.
If I think there’ll be any possibility of viewing a this menagerie of color, I get dressed faster than J-Lo during a costume change, grab my camera and pepper spray and head down to West Cliff. I then eagerly await the heavens lighting up, so I can snap away like Ansel Adams on methamphetamine without any film hesitation. With any luck, the skies over Monterey Bay will cooperate and I’ll walk away with a prize that few can claim that morning.

That’s the beauty of shooting sunrises along West Cliff Drive. 99% of the time, I’m shooting alone. I guess that makes me part of the 1%. It’s not like sunset, when the the cliff is loaded with strollers, gawkers
and stalkers armed with their cell phone cameras, taking in the twilight
action. Shooting sunrise, much like my daily bubble baths, is a much more solitary affair, and in the last seven years I can count on one hand the amount of people who have joined me on this early morning excursion into photographic splendor. Alone but together.

Like chocolate, it’s usually semi-dark with when I hit the cliff, and then the sky lightens up as I await the immersion and conversion of this cloud conversation. It’s quite a diversion. What I enjoy most, besides the intense colors, reflection and finding a good parking space, is that this particular sunrise shot I’m getting is mine alone. I know there are people shooting this same spectacular moment up and down the coast, but from this particular location, it’s usually all mine. At least until this posting.

The reason for this sentimental journey is to capture these incredible moments and share it with cyber readers throughout the world and the west side. Like my old days as a Navy Seal, it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. You do the hokey pokey and you turn your mind around, and that is what Sunrise Santa Cruz is all about.

So today’s photo montage showcases the first sunset I encountered this fall. We harken back to October 10th, where unlike my dreams and aspirations, everything fell into place that morning. I first shot the sky blowing up and the glowing reflection on the sand, before changing my location and moving back to Bird Rock to capture the full magnitude of this early morning convention of clouds.

I then continued photographing this happy gathering of cumulus at Four Mile Beach, where hundreds of gulls and a band of gypsys were waiting my arrival. For a sunrise shooter like myself, the dawning of clouds
is what it’s all about, and this was a fine way to start off the fall
festivities in this stage of Aquarius.

On to some late night humor. “Well, the inside talk is that Sarah Palin is going to endorse Newt Gingrich. If you think Newt is happy, you should see Mitt Romney.” –Jay Leno “Mitt Romney admitted in an interview, ‘I tasted a beer and tried a cigarette once as a wayward teenager and never did it again. This has the makings of the lamest ‘Behind the Music’ special yet. “If you think that’s bad, Jon Huntsman is now admitting that in college he experimented with parting his hair to the left.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Last week in New Hampshire, Herman Cain said that presidents don’t need to know every detail of every country in the world and he said he’s going to take that message across America to all 30 states.” –Jimmy Fallon “The star of the debate was Herman Cain. He didn’t talk much because the debate was about national defense and his area of expertise is pizza.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Tonight was the 14th republican presidential debate, or as Barack Obama has started calling them, campaign ads.” –Jimmy Fallon “It looks like the supercommittee chosen by President Obama to come up with
a plan to solve the deficit has failed. But don’t worry, he has announced a new plan. Next week, he’s appointing a super duper committee.” –Jay Leno “I just heard about a woman in Germany who just gave birth to a baby boy named ‘Jihad.’ Or as the TSA put it, ‘Hope you like Amtrak!’” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our first blast for the December. In case you missed it, it was a tad breezy here last week on the central coast. How windy was it? In the morning, I windsurfed from my bed to the bathroom. We’ll catch you throwing deep in the bayou. Aloha, mahalo and later, Drew Brees fans.

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