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.

November 6, 2011

Waiter, There’s A Butterfly In My Blog

Good morning and greetings, west coast fans. Last week, the magnificence of humpback whales took center stage on Monterey Bay . This unannounced show was due to an abundance of anchovies and fried calamari that brought these giant creatures close enough to Dinah shore where they could be seen breaching, exhaling through their blowholes and making dinner plans at the Crow’s Nest. They were engaging in lunge-feeding, which involves moving quickly with their mouths open and engulfing their prey, a technique that I also find to be very effective at all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets.

This feeding frenzy became a national story and was featured
twice last week on NBC News with Brian Williams. I drove out on the wharf in an attempt to capture a slice of nature gone wild,
but from my vantage point my lens was just not big enough to make the magic happen, and as we know, size does matter.

We’ll take a look down the road at what my camera did capture, but today we are heading up to the monarch butterflies that gather at Natural Bridges State Park. I wanted to take advantage of the warm weather to get more than just an overall tan, and these orange and black beauties don’t drive or fly if it’s not over 55 degrees. And since the clock on my calendar said November, I knew the cold weather
would be coming, so I drove the half mile from my highly desirable upper
west side abode in search of monarch madness.

Now fifteen years ago, back when milkweed plants were as plentiful as gossip websites, there were 150,000 monarchs making an appearance in this neck of the woods. Five years ago it as 10,000, and now the total has fallen off drastically, where we our now looking at 2,000 to 3,000. My newest best friend Chris, an Interpretive Naturalist at Natural Bridges, put last week’s total at 2,700, which is a far cry from the glory days but still, well worth the trip to this little fluttering Garden of Eden.

So why are there so few monarchs where there once where so many? Last year, violent winter storms and the drug cartels did a number on them in Mexico. But the bigger problem is herbicides, pesticides, habitat loss, the Tea Party and bioengineered corn and soy, because the last three contain pesticides. The pollen will blow to adjacent milkweed and the insecticides will kill the caterpillar. And the only thing these caterpillars, who turn into the butterflies, will eat is milkweed. Well, that and a little baked brie and breaded pork chops. No milkweed, no monarchs. It’s as simple as that, or Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan.

But let’s not focus on the numbers. When you walk down the newly rebuilt wooden path that was badly damaged by a winter storm last year, you enter a place that dazzles your vision and takes your breath away. With the deep blue sky above, the warm sun kissed my face without leaving any lipstick marks, and as I looked up and around, the monarchs were all over the place, flying, floating and fluttering, which I found very flattering. It gave me a certain feeling of peace and tranquility, like when I get a good parking space.

It’s moments like this (and they are few and far between) when I feel things are still right with the world. Moments like this make me forget the senseless wars, health problems, economic crisis and most importantly, the NBA lockout.

As I stood there posing like a runway model, these colorful creatures were flying all around me, landing just a few feet away to feed and chat. I was surrounded by joy. It was the most relaxed I’ve been since my last colonoscopy, and being able to photograph them up close and personal was, along with viewing the whales, the highlight of the
week. Well, that and waking up and getting dial tone.

So here’s a few more fun facts. Monarch butterflies spend the winter along the Pacific coast in places like Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove because the weather here is cold enough that they can go into
reproductive diapause (similar to hibernation and what I do each January) but not cold enough to freeze, something that would kill a butterfly and put a crimp in my active social life.

The monarchs come to this particular eucalyptus grove at Natural Bridges because it is located in a canyon with shelter from the wind and filters sunlight to keep their bodies from freezing. They park also waives the $10 entrance free which is important as monarchs have been hit hard by the economic crisis and never carry cash.

Monarchs like to cluster in the trees (photo #1). They do this to protect themselves from the wind, rain and crazed moths. Clustering also makes it easier to find a mate and is a lot better than having to go to dating service websites like singleinsects.com.

To get to Natural Bridges, these monarchs fly 60 to 100 miles a day against the wind. They live six to nine months, so very few make long term plans. They follow the milkweed patches north from Mexico as the weather grows warmer. Each generation flies a little further north to lay their eggs and then establishes a family trust before dying.

If you get a chance on a warm day, head over to the Monarch Grove and check them out. You never know if they’ll be back next year, as life, much like my psyche, is a fragile as a butterfly.

On to the late night. “Remember Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida who
burned the Koran? That’s right; he is now a presidential candidate. You know what his platform is? Deporting every undocumented worker in America and imprisoning women who have abortions. Finally, the Republican Party has a moderate in the race.” –Bill Maher “Herman Cain told a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters to go home, get a
job, and get a life. That’s the Republican version of hope and change,
ladies and gentlemen. Michele Bachmann told reporters that she will lead the nation in prayer if she is elected president. You know if she is elected president, we all better be praying. She doesn’t have to lead us.” –Jay Leno

“A Libyan rebel has admitted to killing Moammar Gadhafi. He said he shot Gadhafi twice in the temple, to which Michele Bachmann said, ‘I didn’t even know the guy was Jewish.’ It seemed that after he was killed, Gadhafi’s body was stored at a commercial freezer at a shopping mall. It’s one thing to hunt a guy down and shoot him twice in the head, but then to drag him to the mall? Come on, guys hate that.” –Jay Leno

“Rick Perry has now accused Mitt Romney of hiring illegal aliens to work on his hair.” –David Letterman “President Obama is in Vegas for a fundraiser He spent the visit working on his new economic recovery plan, ‘Come on, seven!” –Jimmy Fallon “President Obama had his annual physical. Doctors say he is in excellent health, except his blood pressure. It’s 70 over 14 trillion.” –Jay Leno

“The United States government says it’s okay for British Petroleum to resume offshore drilling. Yeah! What could possibly go wrong? Just when I’m getting used to eating chowder without tar balls. I love the protests. And if you think about it, what better way to send a
message to Wall Street than by sitting in a pup tent banging on a
drum.” –David Letterman

“The New York Mets are planning to move the walls of Citi Field in order to increase the number of homeruns they hit. Call me old fashioned but isn’t that what steroids are for?” –Conan O’Brien “A lot of kids across the country got the day off from school because of Halloween. I’m pretty sure this is why we’re falling behind China. Not only did their kids not get the day off from school, they made all of our kids’ costumes.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So those are the first shock waves from November. I thought I had photographed my first sunrise of the fall last Saturday, but when I returned home, I discovered to my dismay and disbelief that my card wasn’t in my camera, thus no photos. In the words of Ralph Kramden, “You can’t put your arm around a memory.” And don’t even ask me about the unbelievably, all-time greatest double rainbow I thought I shot back in October. Trust me, it’s not pretty seeing a grown man cry.

So be glad we didn’t see any snow on the trees in October as last week the east coast was one big power outage. We’ll catch you throwing a deep crossing pattern. Aloha, mahalo and later, Eli Manning fans.

September 25, 2011

Pardon The Eruption

Good morning and greetings, fall equinox fans. That’s right, last Friday, Donna Summer left us and we are now autumn bound. That means the days, like my memory, are getting shorter, while the nights are stronger than moonshine. We’re talking later sunrises and earlier sunsets, which I will continue to monitor for the the hundreds of thousands, er, hundreds, er, many dozens of loyal readers of Sunrise Santa Cruz.

This week I want to talk big booms, not to be confused with big boobs, which would describe our current lawmakers. Last week there was a massive rumbling in the Himalayas, as a strong earthquake hit India, Nepal and Tibet. When Bob Seger heard about this, he said, “I’m think I’m going to Kathmandu, that’s really, really where I’m going to.” The world around us is a rockin’ and a shakin’ and that’s where we pick up today’s story.

When I think of massive explosions, the first things that come to mind are Mount St. Helens, the 2010 eruption of Eyjavjallajokull in Iceland and the berating of referees by former Indiana University basketball Coach Bobby Knight. But they don’t come close to being the world’s deadliest eruption.

Mount Tambora is on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, which is flanked to the north and south by the oceanic crust, which is not to be confused with what my mother cut off my sandwiches as a young child. In a story reported by Nasrullah Roa for the Associated Press, she reports that the mountain has been a rumblin’, causing families that live next to this live volcano to flee the area faster than Tricky Dick Nixon exited the White House in 1973 after proclaiming, “I am not a crook.”

Indonesia is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, in an area known for its frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tasty waves to surf. We’re talking 130 active volcanoes and surf shops. Mount Tambora has the unfortunate honor for being ground zero for the world’s deadliest eruption. Back around the birth of John McCain on April 10, 1815, the mountain exploded and the blast left a crater than was 7 miles long and and a half a mile deep. It launched an estimated 400 million tons of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, leading to the worst famine of the 19th century and “the year without summer” in the United States and Europe, which had a very negative effect on the baseball pennant races.

Prior to the eruption, much like today’s Congress, Tambora had stood dormant for around 5,000 years. There have been only five blasts like this in recorded history, not counting 1973, when Barry Bonds set the Major League record with 73 home runs.

The death toll from this natural disaster was horrific, with estimates between 90,000 and 117,000 in Indonesia alone. 12,000 died immediately as a direct result of the eruption, while tens of thousands more were killed as a result of starvation and disease. Thick layers of ash from the volcanic fallout ruined crops as animals, rice fields and President Sukarno disappeared from the earth. Nobody was partying in Bali.

This Super Bowl of eruptions brought on 16-foot tsunamis along the coast of Indonesia. The resulting waves of hot lava reached speeds of 124 mph, killing everything in its path. Mount Tambora continued to erupt until July 15, 1815 when in the words of Alice Cooper, “enough’s enough.”

Then in the summer of 1816, the dense volcanic ash from Mount Tambora’s eruption blew into the skies over the Northern Hemisphere. It cut off much of the sun, and if you know me, I like my sunlight like my apple juice, unfiltered. Snow fell in the northeastern United States well into July, which really cut back the summer beach action. What resulted was unseasonably low temperatures, crop failure, a failure to communicate, famine, disease, death and a lousy TV season across Europe and North America. This is what historians and TV critics refer to as “the year without a summer.” Truly, a major, major bummer.

This all-time, most deadly explosion was 10 times more powerful than Indonesia’s much better-known Krakatoa blast of 1883, which is history’s second deadliest. But it doesn’t share the same claim to international fame, because back in 1815, the only way news spread across the world was by the slow boat, smoke signals and the lucky few who were able to get reception on the Weather Channel.

Much like the Chicago Cubs, Mount Tambora had been pretty quiet for the last 200 years, until there was a new rumbling that started back in April. In August, white smoke started shooting in the sky. Then in September, it was seismic city, with 12 to 16 earthquakes a day coming up on the radar screen. I don’t know about you, but any time earthquake totals hit double digits in a single day, I’m just not myself.

This new activity forced local residents along the mountain to high tail it to lower ground. When I asked Stevie Wonder what he would do in this situation, he replied that he was “Gonna keep on tryin’, till he reached the higher ground.” I don’t think he quite understands the gravity of the situation, as local authorities fear there will be toxic gas as a result of the seismic activity or even worse, they may be exposed to MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”

And just in case you thought all the action was in the South Pacific, volcanologists in our 49th state are concerned that an eruption could be forthcoming from Mount Cleveland, which is located 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. This volcano lies below a major flight path between North America and Asia, and an eruption could create havoc to airline travel and more importantly, put a big crimp in the nation’s longest-running regular season basketball tournament, the Great Alaskan Shootout, scheduled for late November. I don’t want to miss that opening round matchup between Dartmouth and the USF Hilltoppers.

And finally, if you think we had lousy weather here on the central coast in September, we’re not alone. The Great Lakes region is usually sunny and pleasant but this year has been the exact opposite. It’s been cloudy and rainy to go along with cool Northerly breezes. Meteorologists, weather nuts and Big 10 football fans can’t remember when they ever that had weather like this across the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley in September. It looks like it’s lining up to be another brutal winter, so I’ve already ordered my shorts from Tommy Bahama’s winter collection.

For today’s photo rendezvous we are we opening up the archives and journeying back to a September’s past. We start out with sunrise over the water at Steamer’s Lane, before moving up to Lighthouse Point be finishing this mini-road trip at my favorite cypress tree along West Cliff Drive. When I contacted the Lovin’ Spoonfuls about these photos, John Sebastian said, “What a day for a day dream, custom made for a daydreamin’ boy.”

For the sunset portion of today’s program, we catch a beautiful late September low tide experience at Its Beach. We finish off the program with the prodigal sun shining through my favorite arch down at Its. Fittingly enough, on the first night of fall last Friday, a pretty sunset graced the western skies, so the wonderful world of color is on the way. Now I can just spend a day taking a walk in the sun, “dreaming ’bout my bundle of joy.”

On to the late night. “Gays are now allowed to serve openly in the military. So maybe our next war could be a musical. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that he is releasing the two American hikers from captivity in Iran on humanitarian grounds. Then he went back torturing dissidents. A satellite is now headed toward earth and the people at NASA have no idea where it will land. How would they know? It’s not like they’re rocket scientists.” –David Letterman

“Two new books about Sarah Palin came out today. All of a sudden, I’m feeling OK about Borders going out of business. “The military’s controversial ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was officially retired. This marks a new age of tolerance, acceptance, and awkward showering for everyone in the military.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is now over. Gay people can enlist, fight overseas, and then not be able to get married when they get back home.” –Jay

“Moammar Gadhafi released an audio message saying that he’s still in power, and just ‘temporarily’ going underground. Sure, just like my local Blockbuster is ‘temporarily’ closing its doors. “President Obama is speaking to the General Assembly tomorrow and he’s expected to urge the delegates to fight global warming, reduce poverty, and find out what the heck is happening at Netflix.” –Craig Ferguson

So that’s our last blast for September. I don’t know about you, but time is flying by faster than the NBA canceled their preseason games. It’s lockout city, baby. Get ready for Derek Jeter and the baseball playoffs and we’ll catch you coming off the mound. Aloha, mahalo and later, Justin Verlander fans.

September 4, 2011

Pardon Me, I’ve Got A Fog In My Throat

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:26 am

Good morning and greetings, Labor Day fans. The action really picked up last week during my morning walks along West Cliff, as a south swell hit the coast, bringing with it big waves, big rides and huge hopes that the dreary coastal fog might actually blow away before I start carving my vegan Thanksgiving turkey.

Personally, I don’t have anything against fog, which is defined as a gathering of water droplets that are partying in the air at the Earth’s surface. However, when it comes to pea soup, I prefer it in a cup instead of hovering along the coastline. Speaking for myself and I believe, a large percentage of sweatshirt-wearing folks on the central coast, now that it’s September, let’s hope the party is over.

But as we know, if it’s summertime, that means the Yankees and Red Sox will be going at it in the A.L East and a thick layer of home-grown coastal fog will be parked along Monterey Bay. In a story last month in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, writer Lily Drayton gave us the inside scoop of our moist summer friend that like some relatives and friends, just doesn’t know when to leave.

Fog plays a vital role in making sure that Monterey Bay lives up to its name on the beauty front. The fact that fog could disappear from the coast has caught the attention of scientists, waitresses and skimboarders, as these crystal droplets in the atmosphere play almost as an important role in our lives as my updated TiVo programming.

According to Emily Limm, the director of science at Save the Redwoods League, “what’s important about fog is timing — it occurs in the summer months when there is no rainfall in California.” The fog provides much-needed water to plants in a time of drought while keeping moisture in the ecosystem, much like putting a lid on an empty jar of Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce.

Fog thrives on the central coast because of the temperature difference between cool ocean water and warmer air. We get slammed here because Monterey Bay is a giant canyon, with deep cold water that is chillier than the look I got when I sauntered into my draft board back in 1970. When the summer breezes that gather over the Pacific hit the ice water in the Bay, the air chills and all of a sudden it’s condensation city and we’re
socked in.

For the folks that study fog for a living, the central coast is nirvana with a young Kurt Cobain. In the words of Daniel Fernandez of CSU Monterey Bay, “There is something almost magical about fog, as it’s variable and constantly changing. We have a great living laboratory for fog in Monterey along with a tremendous example of clam chowder in a bread bowl at Phil’s
Fish House in Moss Landing.”

Now there has been much talk about the depressing amount of this daily drizzle from this past August. According to the National Weather Service in Monterey, there were 24 days of fog in August 2010 and 25 in 2011. Now I will admit under oath that I was gone the first week of August. But according to my statistical estimations of my algorithmic calculations, there were two sunny mornings last month, which means it was one depressingly foggy month for beach goers. To this mild-annered reporter for a great metropolitan blog, it seems like it has been getting foggier every year. But lo and behold, this is not the case.

According to Professor Todd Dawson of UC Berkeley, word on the street and a recent study shows that coastal fog in California has declined since the 1950’s. Over the last 60 years, the fog and my hopes and dreams have dropped by more that 30 percent. Dawson says because the air temperatures are warming up, so are the oceans, and if that warm air is not hitting the cool ocean, then we’re not fogged in, we’re fogged out. But as the boys from Foghat would say, “Slow ride, take it easy.”

Moving along on the fog front, for you tree lovers, the redwoods gather 30 to 40 percent of their moisture from coastal fog. They are more dependent on this moisture than my parents are on me, who expect a gourmet dinner delivered every night from yours truly. And as Dawson adds ,”Redwoods trees wouldn’t achieve their great heights if they didn’t have the boost of a fog bank every summer.” And size does matter. But remember, only God can make a tree. And only you can prevent forest fires. And Forest Whitaker.

On today’s photo laugh track, we are not featuring fog, but instead some scenes that would be emotionally available to us if the coast weren’t socked in every morning like a wet gray blanket. We return to Kauai as the first two shots are a sunrise taken on the north shore skies above Hanalei. Next comes sunset on lovely Hanalei Bay. Photo credits go to my gluten-free brother Brad, who is chomping at the bit to be dropped off on top of a glacier in Alaska next winter so he can go heli-snowboarding down it. I was planning on going with him but recent blood tests revealed that I’m allergic to terror and prone to night sweats when I’m within 100 yards of a large persistent body of ice.

The final two shots are from a August sunrise over Poipu Beach on the south shore of the Garden Isle. And since I don’t want you to go completely cold turkey without some info from Hawaii, here’s a news flash. The future island of Loihi is being created 20 miles southeast of the Big Island. It’s still about 3,200 feet below the surface of the ocean, so hotel rooms, tropical lauas and sunset catamaran cruises are still available at bargain prices. Stay tuned for more details and savings coupons.

On to the late night. “Dick ‘Kaboom’ Cheney has written a book, and he says he wouldn’t change anything. He feels strongly about this. He’d still invade the wrong country.” –David Letterman “Dick Cheney’s new memoir contains some startling surprises. For example, he is still alive.” –Jay Leno

“Gadhafi is apparently on the run, though today he released a message congratulating Beyonce on her pregnancy. “Moammar Gadhafi had escape tunnels, gold plumbing fixtures, and pictures of Condoleezza Rice. It’s like I have a twin.” –David Letterman

“President Obama’s popularity is slipping while he’s on vacation. When he went for a walk on the beach, the tide went out.” –David Letterman “President Obama’s uncle has been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. “How sad is it for the uncle? He got thrown in jail and the only relative he could call for bail money is $14 trillion in debt.” –Jay Leno

“Our thoughts go out to everyone on the East Coast waiting for Hurricane Irene. In Washington, D.C., thousands of people have been left without power. They’re called Democrats.” –Craig Ferguson “John McCain turned 75 today. He thought Hurricane Irene was a flapper he had a crush on in the ’20s. On Friday the world’s oldest woman celebrated her 115th birthday in Georgia. John McCain said, ‘Irene!?’” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s my first jolt for the month of September. So enjoy what I hope will someday be the beginning of Indian summer, U.S Open Tennis and the start of the NFL season. And of course, the 90 minute season premier of the “Sons of Anarachy” on Tuesday. That’s feel-good TV at its best. We’ll catch you coming off the mound. Aloha, mahalo and later, Ivan Nova fans.

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