November 17, 2013

Feedings, Nothing More Than Feedings

Good morning and greetings, sea bird fans. As the millions, er thousands, er hundreds, er dozens of readers to this site know, last week I posted my 400th blog. The director from the Office of Sponsored Programs from a unnamed university (Western Kentucky) had asked me earlier in the week what I was going to do celebrate this blessed event. I told her I wasn’t doing much and was just hoping for dial tone when I woke up.

But then I thought to myself and was reminded by the Hollywood press corps that 400 postings is quite an accomplishment, if for nothing else than the consistency that goes into the making of the experience. I’ve come to realize that no man is an island. I’m much more of a peninsula.

As Mark Twain once tweeted, “Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to share it with.” Thus, that would be you, members of my cyber audience and NSA analysts. Or in the words of Albert Einstein, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is that nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Believe me, it’s an act of God that I’ve penned this many words without receiving one plugged nickel. lt can only mean one thing. Loneliness has no boundries.

Of course, I’m just kidding. Not everything in life has to have a price tag on it or be measured in dollars and cents. I’m getting something that’s much more valuable than money out this experience. And if someone could let me know what that is, I would really appreciate it.

So after launching four century marks worth of free flowing thoughts and photos into cyber space, I knew I had to do something special to mark the occasion. I thought, maybe purchase some new cologne, an expensive bottle of wine, preferably Manischewitz, or some fuzzy bedroom slippers. Or maybe just renew my AARP card.

Yes, I’m living large. Remember, it’s not about the breaths you take, it’s about the moments that take away your breath.

So I invited my birth mother, who I rarely have lunch with more than four or five times a week, to join me for a celebration down at our most visually favorite dining location, the Santa Cruz Wharf. I was in the mood for seafood, and just my luck, the panko breaded parmesan crusted chicken was featured as the catch of the day.

But food was not to be the highlight of this outing, as when we approached the entrance to the wharf, I could see swarms of pelicans and seabirds going wild, diving into the ocean after anchovies. The pelicans were coming up with a pouch fulls of fish while the gulls moved in screaming for leftovers. The action was non-stop, and as we ate lunch, I could barely concentrate on my meal, as the activity outside the window was dreamier than my double order of mashed potatoes.

Adding to the festivities, dozens and dozens of sea lions were herding the schools of anchovies so they could enjoy a meal on the go. They were swimming in battalions, and the activity was happening on both sides of the pier. These feeding frenzies went on all afternoon. The action was so outstanding that I passed on the praline chocolate mousse dessert with a dark chocolate cookie crumb base and just munched on some crispy kale chips, because that’s the way I roll.

It was an exhilarating experience, a celebration of nature for the ages. But then the day got a little better when I learned 19 killer whales had been spotted in Moss Landing at an all-you-can-eat sea lion buffet. This day was the culmination of perhaps the greatest two months in the history of Monterey Bay. We’re talking about miles long schools of anchovies, endless chains of pelicans, jacked up pods of sea lions, more humpbacks whales ever spotted in the bay, and for the grand finale, a large group of orcas going wild. This was the bay at its nature’s best.

I came back to the wharf on Thursday to check out the scene, and the gulls, pelicans and sea lions where still going anchovie wild. However, when I returned Friday, all the pelicans and flowers were gone, and the sea lions were sleeping on the pilings under the wharf, stuffed from the appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.

So for today’s photo menu I’m serving up a healthy portion of pelicans, sea gulls and sea lions. The bird action was from last week, and since size matters, I’m featuring the largest pod of sea lions I’ve ever observed from this spot. As interesting as these photos are, it doesn’t truly capture the outrageousness of the moment, which is more suited to video. But if you take a close look at the first two shots, you can see the pelicans were jammed in together like sardines, making these photos rich in vitamins, minerals and memories. It’s the magic at the edge.

On to some late night humor. “Yesterday at the White House, President Obama met with various leaders of the American Indian tribes. He promised them, ‘If you like your medicine man, you can keep your medicine man.’ A new record was set today in the 100 meters. It was set by Senate Democrats running away from Obamacare.” – Jay Leno

“As you may know, Thanksgiving began in 1621 when the Pilgrims feasted with the Indians and promised them, ‘If you like your land, you can keep your land.’” – Jay Leno “It turns out that a lot of children could lose their dental insurance under Obamacare. So kids might not be able to go to the dentist. Parents were really upset, while kids said, ‘Four more years! Four more years!’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Today a reporter asked Chris Christie, ‘What do you think of 2016?’ And Christie said, ‘I think it’s a good weight to get down to.’” –Jay Leno “In a new interview today, Sarah Palin refused to endorse Chris Christie. Afterward, Christie told Palin, ‘Thanks, I owe you one.’” –Conan O’Brien “’60 Minutes’ had a story that turned out not to be true about Benghazi. They had to apologize. And then today they were embarrassed again. It turns out the stopwatch on ’60 Minutes’ is not accurate.” –David Letterman

So that’s my pelican brief. We’ll catch you making the Warriors looking like early season title contenders with your all-around play. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

June 10, 2012

Swing Low Tide, Sweet Chariot

Good morning and greetings, French Open fans. The weather on the central coast recently, much like LeBron James 45 point outburst against the Celtics in game six, has been NBA fantastic. If you like thunder and lightning up the scoreboard, it’s a great time to be an NBA fan.

Last week on my morning strolls along West Cliff Drive, I noticed the tide was lower than my expectations of the Warriors making a good lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Low tide is always a treat, as it uncovers a plethora of the coastline’s hidden treasures. So last Tuesday, before you could say, “Sofia Vergara,” I headed down to Lighthouse Point to take in the green grass and low tide action. Forever.

As you can see in photo #1, the tide down at Its Beach was lower than my score on my math SAT’s. I was hoping to be able to walk through my favorite arch to photograph this classic structure from both sides, but I hadn’t brought along my snorkeling gear, so Samuel Gompers and I had to settle for the lovely view looking west. But if I had been able to Dwyane wade through, the view would have looked very much like photo #2.

I then headed back up the steps to catch the marine mammeled flavor of Seal Rock (photo #3.) There were a couple of pods of sea lions lounging in the water nearby, but my zoom wasn’t more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, so I wasn’t able to get a good shot.

But the swell was up and Steamer Lane was full of surfers trying to catch some wave action. Some nice sets were rolling in (photo #4) and at that moment, I reflected back on the words of The Rascals, “It’s a beautiful mornin’. I think I’ll go outside for a while. An jus’ smile. Just take in some clean fresh air boy. Ain’t no sense in stayin’ inside. If the weather’s fine an’ you got the time.” And boys and squirrels, luckily, one thing I do have, besides an almost clean driving record, is time.

By the way, not to date myself, but I saw The Rascals in concert iin New Jersey at Palisades Amusement Park in back in the mid 1960′s. I don’t want to say I’m getting old, but at the breakfast table I hear snap, crackle and pop, and I’m not eating cereal.

Anyway, today’s six pack of photos was brought on by the advent of low tide. And as we know, Tide gets out the stains that others leave behind. Dirt can’t hide from Tide.

So now you’re probably thinking to yourselves, I wonder what causes the tides to change? I thought you’d never ask. And remember, if it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide.

According to Jeff Spicoli and surfingsantacruz.com, tides are created because the Earth and the moon are attracted to each other, just like magnets are attracted to each other. These are known as lunar tides. The moon tries to pull at anything (except Rush Limbaugh) on the Earth to bring it closer. But, the Earth is able to hold onto everything except the water and sometimes Oprah.

Since the water is always moving, the Earth cannot hold onto it, and the moon is able to pull at it The moon is pulling upwards on the water while the earth is pulling downward. Slight advantage to the moon and thus we have tides. And as we know, tides go to the runner.

Each day, there are two high tides and two low tides. The ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, and then back to high tide. There is about 12 hours and 25 minutes between the two high tides, or about the same amount of time it will take me to catch up on the episodes I missed of the first three seaons of “Justified.”

When the sun and moon are aligned, there are exceptionally strong gravitational forces, causing very high and very low tides which are called spring tides, though they have nothing to do with the season. The gravitational force of the moon is one ten-millionth that of earth, or the same odds that I will one day be paid for writing this blog. But when you combine other forces such as the earth’s centrifugal force created by its spin, you get tides. Or as the Spin Doctor say, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”

The sun’s gravitational force on the earth is only 46 percent that of the moon. This makes the the moon the single most important factor for the creation of tides. And Tide knows fabric best. Since the moon moves around the Earth, it is not always in the same place at the same time each day. So, each day, the times for high and low tides change by 50 minutes. I believe it was either George Carlin or author Robert C. Gallagher who said, “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”

So to then complete my tidal wonderings, I kayaked over to the wharf to photograph some sea lions up on one of the boat landings. But Instead, much to my delight, there was a pod of around 60 lions lounging right off the pier. Rumor has it that earlier in the morning the crowd numbered 300, but I was happy to catch this group of rafting revelers.

So being that it was low tide city in the morning all of last week, after Tuesday’s outing I headed up to Four Mile Beach on Wednesday and Natural Bridges on Thursday. Both trips, much like the NBA conference finals, had their magic moments, and I’ll blast out these photos along with my thoughts on Larry Bird in the upcoming weeks.

On to some late night. “According to a new book coming out by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, apparently when he was in high school, President Obama smoked large amounts of marijuana. You know what that means? He could be our first green president. Unemployment is still looking pretty bad. In fact, the White House has a new slogan on job creation: ‘Hope and change the subject.’ The unemployment numbers are higher than President Obama was in high school.” –Jay Leno

“On Friday, President Obama spent the night at his home in Chicago for the first time in over a year. It was nice – he even went down to the basement and dusted off some old campaign promises. Mitt Romney has been giving his volunteers a free sweatshirt for making phone calls on his behalf. The sweatshirts are just like Romney, 100 percent reversible.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A new survey found that Mitt Romney is ahead of Obama among those who make $36,000-$90,000. Or as Romney put it, ‘And they said I can’t
connect with the poor.’ Obama gave Bon Jovi a ride to New York City on Air Force One. Makes sense – Bon Jovi’s living on a prayer, while Obama’s campaigning on one.” –Jimmy Fallon “There’s a rumor that President Obama will stop by today’s L.A. Kings hockey game. He doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. He just wants to blend in with all the other black, Hawaiian hockey fans.” –Conan O’Brien

So that’s all I’m giving of myself this week. Try and take a moment to be grateful for all you have. We’ll catch you blowing the minds of NBA fans and reminding people why you’re the king. Aloha, mahalo and later, LeBron James fans

November 13, 2011

Those Sea Lion Eyes

Good morning and greetings, fall color fans. The wide variety of morning light was in full effect along the coast this past week, as I shot my first sunrise of the fall in true living color. The following day I awoke to dark clouds on the horizon, but an hour later the sun briefly broke through to cast out a glow that was simply brilliant. What makes it so special is that this light will shine for just a few magic moments, and then vanish faster than Herman Cain can say, “It simply did not happen.”

Santa Cruz once again made the national news last week, as NBC’s Brian Williams talked about the continuing whale activity in our area, although he led into the story with, “In the waters off of the Southern California coast…” We’ll given Brian a pass on that as he makes mistakes about as often as I leave my feet on defense. The story was in reference to paddlers, kayakers and Penn State alumni getting too close to the gigantic creatures. Much like myself at the Burning Man, they need their space for self-espression.

I had spent some time the previous week out on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, checking out the humpback whales that were feeding offshore. I had hoped to score a few photos for the blog, but unfortunately they were too far out for me to capture the true essence of the moment, as they were breaching while lunge feeding in the midst of a frenzy of anchovies activity. Despite being a product of a breeched birth, my breaching photos weren’t quite what I was hoping for, or to paraphrase the words of Mandy Pepperidge from “Animal House, “Otter, don’t flatter yourself. They weren’t that great.”

But you can see in today’s first photo a couple of humpbacks spouting off through their blowholes, while the gulls were screaming and the onlookers so close that they could could scrape the barnacles off the whale’s ipads. Compared to what’s been featured in the local and national press, this photo wasn’t quite worthy of Whales Illustrated or Humpback Monthly.

However, there was some good news as when you venture out onto the wharf you never know what you’ll see besides the daily specials at Gilda’s. Had the freshly caught tri tip and scalloped potatoes on Tuesday and they were spectacular. This deal also includes white clam chowder, which always reminds me of the way my mother never made it back in the old country.

Anyway, as I approached the end of the wharf in search of photographic greatness, I could see from the humpback’s location that there were not going to be any Moby Dick moments. But instead, to my delight and amazement, appearing right below me in the chilly Pacific waters were a colony of sea lions, just relaxing and floating on top of the water. There were at least 100 of these beautiful marine mammals, so I took advantage the moment and shot away like Ansel Adams at a bar mitzvah, because as I’ve mentioned before, this is another one of those events that happens only at the edge of the continent. It’s the magic at the edge, like when Darryl Hannah came ashore in “Splash.”

One of the more amazing things about the sea lions is that no matter where I am on the west side, I can hear them barking. Being that my hearing is not quite that of a mature fruit bat, I spend a good part of the day asking the question “What?” Yet, the sea lions will be barking from over two miles away, and I can hear them as clearly as the doctor telling my parents, “it’s a boy and he’s a spitting image of Clark Gable.”

Finally, for Ano Nuevo fans, I included a shot (#2) of the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas. Much like the sea lions that hang out under the wharf, any intrepid photographer can just drive up, park the car and snap away at these sleeping pinnipeds. You would think that you’d have to motor up to some exotic locale out of National Geographic or the Animal Planet, but these elephant seals are lounging and texting right off the Pacific Coast Highway.

No one is quite sure why back in 1990 these lovable marine mammals took up residence in this central coast location, but it certainly a great way for visitors to top off a drive through Big Sur. Well, either that or playing hide-and-go-seek at Hearst Castle. I’ve always felt a certain kinship with the elephant seals, as I too, was nearly hunted to extinction for my oil-rich blubber.

On to the late night. “One of the Herman Cain women was paid $35,000 and another was paid $45,000, so he’s saying it just proves he can create high-paying jobs for women. I’d like to see the women and find out what the $10,000 difference was. Turns out 999 was just his rating system: she’s a 9, she’s a 9, she’s a 9. Of course, Cain still doesn’t get it. Like he said he will address all these charges at a press conference tomorrow at Hooters.” –Jay Leno

“There’s a fifth woman that claims to have had a problem with Herman Cain. If this keeps up, it seems very unlikely he will be president, although it seems more and more likely he will become governor of California.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Herman Cain held a press conference to address the sexual harassment accusations coming out of the woodwork. Incidentally, his woodwork coming out is one of the things he’s accused of.” –Stephen Colbert

“Last night the Occupy Oakland protest got out of hand. Demonstrators broke windows, hurled Molotov cocktails and chunks of concrete. Police said it was the worst riot in Oakland since every Raiders home game. “There was some trouble last night in Oakland after the Occupy Oakland protests. They had trouble breaking the crowd up because every time they fired bean bags at them, they started playing hackey sack with them.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“According to a new poll, 42 percent of Americans say they are uncomfortable with the idea of having a Mormon president. When asked why, the people said, ‘We’re still getting used to having a Muslim president.’” –Conan O’Brien “Herman Cain is also taking some flack for saying that China was developing nuclear weapons, but they’ve had them since the 60′s. I don’t think he’s that well versed on foreign affairs. Today a reporter asked him how he would handle Greece and he said he would put an extra layer of wax paper under the pizza before you put it in the box.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our mid-November report. The NBA lockout is still in effect, so I’m able to focus my attention on more important things like college hoops. And if you’re a waterfowl fan, 5 million ducks, geese, shorebirds and Philadelphia eagles have just arrived in the greater Bay Area and Sacramento Valley for their annual convention. It should be quite the visual treat in wetland marshes at Thanksgiving time, especially if you don’t mind seeing 500,000 snow geese lift off at once. We’ll catch you running the quarterback draw. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tim Tebow fans.

May 1, 2011

From Sea To Shining Sea Lion

Good morning and greetings, Crimson Tide fans. I have been keeping my semi-loyal, subscription-free readers up-to-date about the tornadoes that have been ravaging the south and midwest. Now, you may be wondering, Geoff, (if I may call myself that), what is this obsession with tornadoes? Why not the Olds Toronado? With so much else going on in the world, why are you so interested in these twisters?

It’s a simple answer, my friends and compatriots. I love exotic weather. Much like the question and answer section of the Miss Universe Contest, severe weather conditions have always fascinated me. As I write this, it could be pounding snow in Lake Tahoe, pouring rain in Missouri, hot and humid in West Palm Beach and 82 degrees and perfect on the North Shore of Oahu. Or as my son Jason once said about island weather, “cloudy with a chance of paradise.”

So last week it was Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that felt the full brunt of the devastating effects of the most recent killer twisters. This has been the second deadliest tornado outbreak in history, as twisters a mile wide with 200 MPH winds wiped out neighborhoods in seconds on their killing path. These aren’t just your every day incredibly terrifying tornadoes, they’re super tornadoes that the boys and girls at the Weather Channel haven’t witnessed in years.

The atmosphere, much like Memphis Grizzly fans, have been in a frenzy as the jet stream keeps blasting along the country, as warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico keeps feeding these super cell thunderstorms that produce monster tornadoes. And here’s the kicker, sports fans. April is not the number one tornado month. The crown is held by Miss May.

What blows me away about tornadoes is the incredible quickness of its destructive powers. When a fire burns down your house, it’s a fairly slow process as the flames take their time in wreaking their havoc. With a tornado, it’s a couple of seconds and everything is gone. Your home, your memories, your sofa, gone before you could say “what happened to Katie Couric?” Tuscaloosa will not be the same for a long, long time as we’ve learned it’s not just the little towns that the twisters pick on.

Now let’s move on to today’s subject at hand. I’m a big fan of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Now, it’s not because the “Locals Only” parmesan crusted chicken in a bed of garlic mashed potatoes at the Firefish Grill or Gilda’s $8.95 Prime Rib Special, which is one of the best bargains in town. It’s because of the pelicans, gulls, boys, eels, seals, tiger shrimp and sea lions that can be found along this pier. Well, that and the crispy french bread that kicks off the Gilda experience.

I had lunch their last week, and while I was enjoying my vegetarian tri-tip plate, a whale surfaced in the bay, less than 200 yards off shore. It was spectacular, much like the scalloped potatoes and clam chowder that come with this Tuesday $9.95 special. Seeing this magnificent creature rising up out of the water reminded me that only at the edge of the continent does this kind of magic happen. And at Sea World when Shamu is in the mood.

When visiting this local landmark, one can always check out sea lions languishing on the pilings, sleeping atop of one another on the boat landings or swimming in small groups off the pier. But on this day, as you can see in photos one and two, I caught a group hundreds of sea lions rafting just twenty to thirty yards off the wharf. It was a spectacular sight, as most were just relaxing after a fish and chips lunch. What made it more even more interesting was the sound of their heavy breathing, the kind I hadn’t heard since my early telemarketing days.

I had never experienced a gathering this large. I returned the next three days but there was no sight of this massive sea lion colony. So once again, it’s all about capturing the moment, as my venturing to Gilda’s for the freshly caught prime rib paid off big-time. It was a day that came along with a choice of potato or rice that I will truly never forget.

Now here are a few fun facts about our friends the sea lions. They don’t drink water, lemonade or ice tea as they get all the water from the food they eat. Thus, you will never see a baby sea lion with a sippy cup. Much like many of my older relatives back east, they do not chew their food and just swallow their fish whole, which is easy when it’s gefilte.

Sea lions love to dine on fish, squid, pro quo, octopus, pasta, shellfish, insensitive, crustaceans, and lemon grass spring rolls. They are among the most vocal mammals, as the bark, bite, growl, roar, snore, grunt, chant, whisper, honk and give the middle finger salute. Even though I live over two miles from the wharf, I can hear them barking in the morning. Now if I could just hear my wife when she calls me from upstairs, I could get rid of that damn baby monitor.

Sea lions get very nervous when they are in the same room with sharks, killer whales and IRS agents. They can sleep both in and out of the water, but hear better under water. Like I tend to do at pool parties, when sea lions deep dive, they slow down their heart rate to allow them to remain underwater for ten minutes before resurfacing. But unlike these sleek, exotic mammals, I always like to have a big beach towel and a cocktail waiting for me when I resurface.

On to the late night. “The White House Easter egg roll was held yesterday. It was a great opportunity for kids from all over the country to come to the White House and look for the president’s birth certificate.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama hosted the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. It was a little awkward though. Donald Trump showed up and demanded to see each egg’s birth certificate.” –Jimmy Fallon “The good news is, President Obama was born in America. The bad news is, so was Donald Trump.”–Jay Leno

“Donald Trump is now attacking President Obama’s grades, suggesting that he was a poor student. First it was the birth certificate, and now the grades. Trump won’t be happy until he proves that Obama doesn’t exist. Donald Trump says he’s glad the focus is off President Obama’s birth certificate, and now he’s demanding to see President Lincoln’s death certificate.’–Jimmy Kimmel “Trump was in New Hampshire, where they have the presidential primaries, and he was testing the waters to see if the country Is ready for a buffoon.”–David Letterman

“A study found Americans spend $1.2 trillion every year on stuff they don’t need. Or as Republicans call it, health care. New York just passed a law that allows same-sex conjugal visits for prisoners. Isn’t that pretty much what prison is?” –Jimmy Fallon “New Jersey had a governor, married, who decided he was a homosexual, and he was having so much fun being a homosexual that he didn’t want to be governor any more, and now he wants to become a Catholic priest. I’m just going to leave the punchline up to you.” –David Letterman

“It’s my birthday. Sadly, the celebration was marred when Letterman demanded to see my birth certificate.”–Jay Leno “One of Charlie Sheen’s “goddesses” broke up with him because she wants to live in a less dangerous environment. The same day that Charlie Sheen loses a goddess, all of a sudden, Katie Couric announces that she’s leaving CBS News. Coincidence?”–Jimmy Kimmel “A new study found that students who use Facebook while studying have 20 percent lower grades than students who focus. When kids who use Facebook heard that they were like, “20 percent? Big deal. What’s that, like 10 percent?”–Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our first verbal barrage for May. The first eight series of the NBA playoffs concluded on Friday, and it’s the best opening round I can remember since Woodstock. Round two, like the feel of the trade winds blowing on the North Shore, should be fantastic. So enjoy the May flowers and we’ll catch you screening on the baseline. Aloha, mahalo and later, Zach Randolph fans.

June 6, 2010

The Oily Bird Catches The Worm

Good morning and greetings, Gulf Coast fans. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop thinking about all that oil gushing out into the ocean. Well, that and chocolate air. Just think, how many gallons flowed into the Gulf in the time that it took you to read that last sentence? So when I ran across this next story, written by Holbrook Mohr for the Associated Press, I had to share it with my cyber peeps, proving that sometimes co-dependence can be a wonderful thing.

The Gulf of Mexico is a superhighway for hurricanes that form over pools of hot water, then move north or west toward the coast. The site of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded on April 20 is along the general path of some of the worst storms ever recorded, including Hurricane Camille, which wiped out the Mississippi coast in 1969, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane George in 2000, which ravaged our military and nation’s economy.

My daughter’s softball practices and the hurricane season officially started last Tuesday, and while scientists and the Klu Klux Klan seem to agree that the sprawling slick isn’t likely to affect the formation of a storm, the real worry is that a hurricane might turn the millions of gallons of floating crude into a crashing black surf.

Some fear a horrific combination of damaging winds, large waves and BP accountants pushing the oil deeper into estuaries and wetlands and coating miles of debris-littered coastline in a pungent, sticky mess, which happens every time I attempt to make chop suey.

And the worst effects of an oil-soaked storm and my Asian cooking might not be felt for years: If oil is pushed deep into coastal marshes that act as a natural speed bump for storm surges, areas including New Orleans, the Florida panhandle and the frontcourt of the Miami Heat could be more vulnerable to bad storms for a long time.

Experts say there are few, if any, studies on such a scenario. In this “untreaded water … it’s tough to theorize about what would happen,” said Joe Bastardi, chief long-range hurricane forecaster and high hurdler with AccuWeather.com. My family goes way back with Joe, as I grew up with his cousin, that Rat Bastardi, back in Jersey. Sometimes it seems like these lines write themselves.

The lone precedent, experts agree, is the summer of 1979, when Hurricane Henri hampered efforts to contain a spill from a Mexican rig that eventually dumped 140 million gallons off the Yucatan Peninsula. This environmental disaster ruined my summer vacation, as we had to cancel all our deep-sea fishing excursions and instead spent the entire trip indoors sipping margaritas, eating quesadillas and bustin’ up pinatas at Senor Frogs. But on the plus side, my batting stroke improved tremendously for wiffle ball.

Still, while oil from that spill coated miles of beaches in Texas and Mexico, tropical storms, unseasonable cold fronts and guacamole, chips and salsa helped reverse offshore currents earlier than normal and drive oil away from the coast. “That’s what I think would happen this time,” he says. “I’m sure a hurricane would do a great deal of diluting the oil, spreading it out where the concentrations would be much less damaging. Of course, if I’m wrong, we’re all screwed”

Experts are predicting a busy hurricane season with powerful storms. Bastardi predicts seven named storms, two or three major hurricanes and overweight windbag named Rush Limbaugh will have an effect on land this year. Hurricane season began June 1 and runs through November. Early season storms, much like responses when I send out my resume, are uncommon. The busy part of the season is August through October as stronger storms typically form during this time, as the start of the NFL and new TV season approaches.

A hurricane like Katrina or having eight more years of the oil companies being in bed with the Bush family “would be a worst-case scenario” with oil pushed far ashore, says National Wildlife Federation scientist and pole vaulter Doug Inkley.

“It would suffocate the vegetation. You’d get oiled birds and other animals. It’s virtually impossible to clean up oil. It would be worse than the pajama parties the Bushes were having with the Saudi Royal family.”

By August 1, even under the best case scenario offered by federal scientists, there could be some 51 million gallons of oil that is spilled into the Gulf-five times the size of the Exxon Valdex disaster off Alaska’s coast in 1989. If all that oil were put into gallon milk jugs, the jugs could be lined up and span a round-trip between Salt Lake City and New York City. If you are including cookies to along with them, then think Las Vegas.

Here’s the bottom line, sports fans. This oil is going to continue to flow into the Gulf until at least August. It will have environmental repercussions for my children’s children and their pets. Because of our insatiable thirst for this bubbling crude, we’ve gone through all the readily accessible oil and are now searching for new fuel in places that only Flipper, Jacques Cousteau’s family and the cast from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” should be visiting.

So if you want to be outraged, listen to this. According to Mary Kate Cary in USNews.com, “Since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, the Obama Administration has granted at least 19 environmental waivers of gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits for deep water projects.” I’m screaming right now, Mr. President, can you hear me?

Here’s one more tidbit for you. Many people are wondering, will this disaster affect the price of oil this summer? Well, according to Brian Williams of NBC News, “the sad truth is, if you added up all the millions and millions of gallons of oil that has spilled out into the gulf, it equals only about an hour’s worth of our nation’s energy consumption.” In the words of the Ides of March, “I’m your vehicle, baby, I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”

Due to the Bush administration’s atmosphere of non-regulation and the corrupt federal Mineral Management Service, who enjoyed a much too cozy relationship with BP, we find ourselves playing catchup in the Gulf. Two months ago, President Obama was promoting offshore drilling, and his administration and BP were about as ready to handle a spill like this as I was for my math SAT.

My son asked me the other night, “Dad, why are we killing the earth? It seems like we go from one disaster to the next. Why is this happening and can I please have my allowance?”

These are difficult questions to answer but a believe the “g” word plays a big part. No, not gee, I don’t know, but greed. The final word today, my fellow Americans, comes from Robert Palmer, who says, “might as well face it, we’re addicted to oil.” There’s so much more I’d like to rant about on this subject, but the solar panels of my wind turbines are dusty so I’ve got to gas up my electric car because I’m down to my last liter of vegetable oil.

So in honor of our oceans, I’d thought we’d take a look at a few marine animals that inhabit the waters of our central coast. I headed down to the wharf on Friday to check out the action, and was greeted by the fog enshrouding the Boardwalk (photo #6). I then walked over to a boat landing on the wharf and was welcomed by this gang of sea lions (photos #4-5,) who were relaxing in the sun while discussing the adjustments the Celtics needed to make in game two of the NBA Finals.

I shot this seal in the sand (photo #3) last week at Natural Bridges. However, the first two images of the pelicans are probably the most meaningful. I photographed them on Thursday, right after seeing pictures of the brown pelicans drenched in oil in Louisiana. The sad thing is, even after they capture and clean off the birds, it takes ten days to rebuild their feather’s natural waterproofing and file insurance claims.

But here’s the big problem. Even when the birds are released in Florida where the oil hasn’t hit yet, because of their ability to follow their internal homing device, their compass brings them right back to Louisana. It’s no Mardi Gras in these marshlands. It’s migratory madness for millions of birds who don’t read the newspaper, watch the news and have never heard of anyone named Katrina.

Here’s a little late night action. “Today, President Obama flew to Louisiana to see the gulf cleanup effort firsthand. And it was just like President Bush’s trip to Louisiana, except Obama actually landed. A new poll found that 43 percent of Americans think President Obama is doing a good job at handling the BP oil spill. Of course, the same poll found that 43 percent of Americans hate pelicans.” -Jimmy Fallon

“In fact, President Obama fired the head of the Mineral Management Services, because of lack of oversight of offshore oil rigs. It’s got to be tough finding another job after that. It’s like, ‘I see you were head of the department in charge of preventing oil spills? And this was during the huge oil spill?’ ‘Yeah, that’s right.’ ‘You may not be Wendy’s material.’” This is a crazy story. An American adventurist strapped himself to a bunch of helium balloons and floated from England to France. Immediately afterward, people in Mexico asked, ‘Exactly how many balloons?’” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our environmental update. It’s been a tough time for wildlife fans and the families of the oil rig workers that were killed in the blast. But besides our oceans being poisoned, thus creating oxygen depletion zones where nothing thrives and BP’s use of 700,000 gallons of Corexit, a chemical oil dispersant that’s toxic to army, navy and marine life, it was a pretty good week, as I helped rescue a gopher snake, spotted a coyote in Pogonip and heard reports of porpoises in the kelp beds in the bay. So enjoy the warm June days , the NBA Finals and we’ll catch you at midcourt. Aloha, mahalo and later, Ray Allen fans.

July 17, 2008

Things Go Better With Coca

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — geoff @ 9:43 pm

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Good morning, music lovers. Today we head over to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, the site of Sunday’s Art On The Wharf Festival. I shot this series of photos back in June, as I never ceased to be amazed by sea lions in their “rafting” formation. The up close and personal shots are from the boat landing where you can walk up and be within a few feet of those barking beauties. The one thing you can’t experience through these images are the sounds of snorting and breathing as the lions of the sea relax in the bay. And it’s one of those things that one, or perhaps two can only experience at the edge of the continent.

On Wednesday we spilled the mustard about a hot dog war that is raging in the U.S. On another battle front, the U.S. has been waging a “war on drugs” for decades and here’s a news flash, we aren’t winning. In a recent United Nations study, it was reported that Colombian peasants devoted 27 percent more land to growing coca last year. The U.N called the increase “a surprise and a shock” given the intense efforts to eradicate cocaine’s raw ingredient. When President Bush was asked for his reaction, he said it was more of “shock and awe.” The thirst for the cold, crisp taste of coca knows no season.

The good new is that the estimated cocaine production increased only slightly in Colombia and other Andean nations to about 994 metric tons in 2007 from 984 metric tons the year before as cultivation has shifted to smaller, less-productive plots in more remote locations. Coca is on the highway to anywhere and always good to the last drop. I’m just glad they reported in under 1,000 metric tons. And by the way, who is venturing deep into jungles of guerilla territory and counting all this tonnage? The accounting firm of Whitney Houston and Robert Downey Jr.?

The net increase in 7Up and coca farmland came despite record U.S.-backed eradication efforts that disrupted the growing cycle, says General Oscar Naranjo, the chief of Colombia’s police. “These young crops are less productive, both in the number of leaves and in terms of the potency of the leaf.” Coca farmers in remote locations can’t get chemicals needed to process the leaves as easily and complain that it is really difficult to get any decent food to go. Coca is that ice cold sunshine and pure as sunlight.

Still, coca farmers are aggressively tearing down forests to make way for crops and laboratories, and the young plants will eventually produce much more coca if eradication efforts don’t keep up. So what they’re saying is no matter how much money and poison we spray on this country there’s really no way to stop the coca. Coca is the pause that refreshes.

“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” said Antonio Maria Costa, director of the U.N. Office on Drugs, Crime and Soft Drinks. Coca is around the corner from anywhere. You can’t beat the feeling.

In all, 382 square miles of coca cultivation were found in Colombia last year, up from 301 square miles in 2006. Total cultivation in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – the world’s three principal sources of coca – grew 16 percent to 181,600 hectares, or 701 square miles. Coca adds life and what you want is a coca.

Costa noted in his statement that “just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents, Frito banditos and real estate agents.” It’s Red, White and Blue You and good till the last drop.

Farmers are quickly replanting and minimizing the damage from aerial spraying by planting herbicide-resistant hybrids and coating plants with cane juice, said Bruce Bagley, an international studies professor at the University of Miami. “Areas that have been sprayed have then been brought back into production,” Bagley said. “It’s time for aerial spraying to give way to other programs.” I say, have a coca and a smile.

Washington has spent more than $5 billion to help Colombia combat its long-running insurgency and the world’s largest cocaine industry. That’s because it’s the real thing. About 80 percent goes to the military and 20 percent to social efforts to wean farmers off coca. If I read Professor Bagley’s analysis, the eradication program in Colombia has been a complete failure. Opium production is at an all-time record high in Afghanistan. Coca is the best friend thirst ever had.

Let me sum up the situation with a slogan from 1939. Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca Cola. I know I do. Enough said. Because of Art on the Wharf, no blog on Monday, but coming up on Wednesday, we’ll show you some colors you’re going to want to tell your friends about. So enjoy the sea lions, have a fabulous weekend and I hope to see you on Sunday. Aloha, cola fans.


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