Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Impressions of Katrina 

Between a busy week at work (like that's a new thing), and my post-sunburn recovery, I haven't had the chance to get as into the Katrina story as I would have liked.

I like New Orleans, even though I've never been there. I very much want to go, and this hurricane hasn't changed that. I've had a lifelong fascination with weather. When I was a kid, I could tell you the difference between a cumulus and nimbus cloud, and a cold front versus a warm front.

Last weekend Hurricane Katrina was a nasty storm that had just clipped South Florida and was headed for somewhere near Pensacola (sorry VW). By Sunday night, it was aimed at New Orleans instead and was looking very bad...Hurricane Andrew bad. On Monday, it seemed almost like fun and games: ha-ha, look at the silly/stupid/brave reporters broadcasting live while ducking flying debris.

By Tuesday, it was "New Orleans got lucky, the storm missed." Bullshit. This was the biggest missed call since a certain election in the Year 2000. Plus, don't tell the folks in Mississippi how much worse it could have been. By Wednesday, everyone realized that New Orleans too was in a world of pain, and that catastrophic flooding doesn't always take place immediately after the storm.

What is the scariest is the death toll has gone up by an order of magnitude the past few days. On Monday, it was dozens dead. On Tuesday, it was hundreds. Now, I come home on Wednesday night, and I'm greeted with a headline saying "thousands" may have drowned in New Orleans alone.

What can I say? What can anyone say? The worst tragedy in America since 9/11. A significant US city if not uninhabitable is instead permanently altered. Nothing like this since San Francisco in 1906.

Downgraded? New Orleans lucky again? There should be scores of newsroom editors hanging their heads in shame.

The post directly below is my small part to help the relief efforts, and meant to offer some ways to help, should you feel moved to do so.

Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts 

I don't mean to beat people over the head with this. If you feel moved to give, please do so.

First off, I'm joining NZ Bear's group blogging effort to raise funds for disaster relief. Thursday, September 1st is the designated Blog for Relief Day, but don't let that stop you if the date is later.

I've decided to recommend America's Second Harvest as a charity to send a donation to. They have done outstanding work for years the nation's largest food bank network. I've given to them in the past, and they do an excellent job of stretching their dollars to maximum benefit. Considering the state of sanitation through the affected areas, plus lack of refrigeration, getting food to hurricane victims will be a top priority.

Once you contribute, please go to NZ Bear's contribution logging page to record your efforts. Thanks in advance!

If you're interested in another charity, or are looking for the right charity to support, Glenn Reynolds has compiled an extensive list of worthy charities. Also, see the Katrina Help wiki page for more information.

It was mentioned on FoxNews during their hurricane coverage that the US government rated a catastrophic hurricane strike as the third most likely extreme natural disaster to strike America. It was mentioned that the single most likely event was a catastophic earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. Number two wasn't mentioned, but I would be good money that it was/is a similar catastrophic earthquake in Greater Los Angeles. It won't likely be too far off in the future when we in California will be dependant upon the generosity of people in places like New Orleans.

With the anniversary if 9/11 next week, when better to come together as Americans?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Next Time, Sunscreen 

Holy crap. A week since I posted? Oops. Oh well, blame work, a busy weekend and a cause of moderate sunburn. More on that in a minute.

This past weekend I did two major activities on the same day, Saturday. I'm not the highest energy person in the world, so I was expecting to be pretty well wiped out by Sunday. No surprises there.

College buddy Bill has been looking to head out to the (sort of) nearby Farallon Islands for some time. He read a book where the Islands were featured prominently, and wanted to see them for himself. If you ask him nicely, he should tell the name of the book, and I will post it (I'm curious myself). Plus, the Farallones gets a lot of great white sharks. Peak season is a few weeks off, but it couldn't hurt to try to see if we could spot any.

So, against the objections of my body, I set myself to wake up at 5am on Saturday, just like it was a day at work. After a breakfast of doughnuts, we were all set to take the boat out into the San Francisco morning gloom:

It's Saturday at 7am. Shouldn't I be in bed right now?Posted by Picasa

Oh well, at least San Francisco looks great even in a cold, nasty fog.

From the boat, looking back at the Marina District.Posted by Picasa

How many opportunities will I have to go under the Golden Gate Bridge? Even shrouded in fog, I thought it was worth it to snap plenty of pictures:

North tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.Posted by Picasa

A shot Alfred Hitchcock would love. Creepy.Posted by Picasa

The whale watching trip was a fundraiser for the American Cetacean Society, and as a bonus, extra passengers from the nearby Marine Mammal Center came along for the ride. These seals were well enough to be released from the hospital, and the Farallones were their destination.

Along for the ride.Posted by Picasa

After two hours and twentysome miles, we finally reached the first of the Carillons Islands. Not the most attractive place if you're a human. But everything else seems to like it here.

Southeast Farallone Island, the largest of the group.Posted by Picasa

This particular island is the one that was inhabited in the past, and it is the island where researchers do things like count the number of great white shark attacks on the seal population. At least the morning commute to work isn't heavy.

Houses on the island where research scientists live. A house like that would go for at least a million or two back on the mainland.Posted by Picasa

Here are some of the islands main residents:

Lots of seals and birds.Posted by Picasa

This was an unexpected sight: we noticed dozens and dozens of dead rockfish floating by the side of the boat. The captain of our boat reasoned that a mid-line trawler had dumped the fish. What happens is that a trawler drags a net through the water. The net gets just about everything, not only what the fisherman are after, but all other fishes ect. in the net's path.

In this case, the net likely scooped up the rockfish we saw. Since the fishing boat would have been in trouble if he came in with this incidental catch, called bycatch, it likely dumped the fish back into the water. Many fisheries have their nets regulated to cut down on bycatch, but apparently these mid-line trawlers have not been made subject to such regulations. And the only ones who benefits are the gulls who get an easy meal.

Dead rockfish.Posted by Picasa

After several hours, we finally saw what most of us on the boat came to see. Whales! We had the good fortune to be surrounded by a curious group of humpbacks.

A humpback whale briefly surfacing.Posted by Picasa

Somehow a migrating songbird ended up on the boat. A couple of passengers on the boat decided to hold on to the bird in order to release it back on dry land. There were a couple of near escapes, including one time where the bird got out to the stern of the boat. Bill wasn't expecting to turn around and see a bird perched on his foot!

Bill's shoe makes a convenient perch.Posted by Picasa

Off we went to the Northern Farallon Islands. On the way, we passed a huge pod (more like a crowd) of dolphins.

Dolphins.Posted by Picasa

Finally, we reached the Northern islands. Not too much to them.

One of the Northern Farallon Islands.Posted by Picasa

It had been a long day. We were over an hour late in getting back, so we high-tailed it back to land. All of a sudden, someone calls out "Orcas!" You wouldn't think a boat could do a 180 degree turn so fast.

Orcas!Posted by Picasa

Finally, we headed back to land. By this time I was pretty pooped, but it was good to see that the fog had lifted from the coast.

A now fog-free Golden Gate.Posted by Picasa

It was a long morning and afternoon. Later on, Bill and I headed to San Jose to meet up with fellow college friend Sandro, where we watched the LA Galaxy lose to the hometown San Jose Earthquakes. I took away a few lessons from the trip:

1.) Yes, you can get sunburn from a cold, foggy day.

2.) On long days, take a couple extra memory sticks and a backup battery for the camera. Bill was better prepared, and some of his photos are here. That's the main reason there are no pictures from the Galaxy game. I'll make it up when I travel down to LA to see a game in September.

3.) Highway 280 is the best way to get from SF to San Jose as quickly as possible. However, it takes at least as long just to get out of San Francisco.

This was a long post, but it was also a long day. Now if it weren't for the extra color in the face it would be ideal.

UPDATE: In the comments section, Bill says the title of the book is The Devil's Teeth by Susan Casey, which deals with the great white sharks that come to the Farallones. I wouldn't have minded seeing a few great white feed.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I Can Outquirky All of You 

I see that several different bloggers have decided to list some of their more quirky traits.

Amateurs. I can run quirky laps around all of you. Pity my possible future wife.

Yes, I too much sleep covered. But I think I take it one (or more) step(s) farther. Not only must I sleep covered, but it must be a heavy blanket. No exceptions for hot summer nights. Plus, when it does get hot, I must have a fan blowing air directly on my face. Positioning the fan in the exact position is a major part of my bedtime chores. I often listen to music when I sleep, which is not unusual in the least. My tastes vary, but the music I find most soothing is 2000's dance/club music. I find that the simple melodic structure and uncomplicated lyrics actually relax me. Go figure.

OK, here's one I'm kind of embarrassed to admit: Going to the barbershop is a big deal. I don't have any fear of scissors or losing my hair. For me, it's the claustrophobic nature of the experience that makes me leery. I'm stuck in a chair for at least fifteen minutes, and I have to sit still and try to make decent conversation. Plus, I hate staring at myself in the mirror for extended periods of time. I have to work up the will to get my hair taken care of. Yes, I'm officially nuts.

Here's one: I eat the courses of my meal one at a time. If I get a burger and fries, I always finish the fries before I start on the burger. Or I eat all the mashed potatoes before I start in on the steak. Of all my quirks, this is the one that the widest variety of people has commented on.

Caltechgirl mentioned she cannot stand the sound of people chewing. I have something weirder; I cannot stand the sound of a beverage being poured in TV/radio commercials. If I hear a Coke commercial where the Coke is being poured, I get grossed out. I guess to me it sounds too much like the sound of Coke leaving the body.

I don't think I'm unique in this department: I have sports quirks. If I'm watching a game and my team does well, I have to sit, act, and/or eat the same way during the rest of the game. Because of this I feel I am personally responsible of at lest a couple of 80's Laker championships, and the 49ers come-from-behind playoff victory over the New York Giants a few years back.

A childhood holdover: When I walk down a sidewalk, I often, consciously avoid stepping on lines and cracks. I will not be responsible for breaking either my mother's back or spine.

I have a nasty fear of heights, but I love to look out the airplane window. I guess my subconscious can't process the faraway scenery as being really high up.

The TV must always be on. These days, I have it on mute more often than not, and I'm reading or on the computer. But I still feel weird if that TV isn't on.

As evident on this blog from time to time, I hate to review my own writing. This ends up with more spelling goofs than my IQ and education would allow for. This quirk would be a good one to change.

I've never had a committed romantic relationship, although there were a few dates, loves, and flings. I scored very high on the quirkyalone test, big surprise. Yet the majority of my friends since toddlerhood have been women. Even most of the bloggers I've gotten to know are women, go figure.

For some weird reason, if I'm on the freeway and I don't read the exit sign at an interchange, I'll often afterwards turn my head and read the same sign on the opposite direction of the highway. I guess my subconscious needs that reassurance that it really was Sixth Street I just passed.

My morning quirks are the stuff of legend. No conversation or bright lights allowed for at least forty-five minutes. When the alarm goes off, the TV or radio goes on, and I listen to it for at least half an hour before getting up. Coffee right away will usually make me feel worse. And I am not fully awake until I have loudly stretched a half dozen times, and most strangely, coughed like a chain-smoker. I do this even when I'm perfectly healthy.

One thing I do not do: insist the TP must go a certain way. When people bring up to me that they care about this, I look at them like they have a form of brain damage. But I think I usually end up with the TP on the outside, if you must know.

Vent of the Day 

OK, I know it's not much, but I've had it with trying to get %@#%#ing work shoes!

Since the job requires moving big, heavy stuff, the company chips in for a pair of work-quality shoes. There are a couple of companies that send shoemobiles around once a month. I missed the first couple, waited once because everyone said one brand was better than the other, and then when I finally went to get my shoes, I couldn't find the damn mobile because of construction on campus.


I decided to bite the bullet, and drive up to the company's store. I figured they would be open on Saturdays. Fortunately, I called in first. No weekends, drat.

Oh well, they stay open till 5:30 on weekdays. Plenty of time to get out of work and head over. I can take a half-hour lunch, leave at 3:30 and easily make it.


I lost nearly an hour and a half because the buffer we were preparing wasn't ready, and it was made in the wrong tank! D'oh! That meant I had to hook a line between the two tanks, pressurize the first one to push the liquid along, then wait. Bleegh!

Fortunately, I was able to hand off the last of the work, but by then it was 5pm. No way was I going to make it in the peak of rush hour traffic.

Hopefully, I can get the shoes tomorrow. Unless the lab is burning down, I'm getting out on time. By the way, I love that this is one of my top annoyances, as opposed to "Hmmm, how many more months can I survive unemployed before I run out of rent money?"

Ahh, perspective.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Of Penguins and Polar Bears 

A couple of marine bio stories of note:

This has to be the funniest story of the day: A penguin at a zoo in Scotland reviewing visiting Norwegian troops. Story via the Scotsman.

HE is the most decorated animal at Edinburgh Zoo.

Now, Nils Olav, the city's most powerful penguin, is to receive yet another promotion from the Norwegian Army.

And as if that wasn't enough, the Scandinavian military machine is paying the ultimate homage to the feathery mascot by unveiling a statue in his honour.

The king penguin is shooting through the ranks at such a rate, he could one day even become general.

The latest promotion will see Nils sport a new three-starred Norwegian military badge on his wing.

Apparently, king penguins have been mascots of the Norweigen King's Guard regiment since they first visited the Edinburgh Zoo back in the Sixties. The video of the penguin reviewing the troops is here*.

*Unfortunately, the video is stuck in the wretched NBC FeedRoom, the place where local NBC news stations have their video clips. You have to use Internet Explorer. To get the video, click on "search" on the right side, enter "penguin" into the search field, and then click on the subsequent link that appears. Not very user friendly at all. Curse you Microsoft!

I'm sure there are some vetrans of the armed forces out there who would rather have served under that penguin than their CO.

Next, polar bears!

File this under how NOT to conduct a scientific research expedition:

Researchers Rescued From Polar Bears
By DOUG MELLGREN, Associated Press Writer Wed Aug 17,10:40 PM ET

OSLO, Norway - Three unarmed Polish researchers stranded on a remote Arctic island were rescued by helicopter as polar bears were closing in on them, officials said Wednesday.

Sheesh. Too bad their research didn't involve a quiet Tahitian beach instead. Oh well, since they are scientists, they're pretty smart. That came in handy for their survival:

Braaten said the ship repeatedly tried to send in another small boat to pick them up, but conditions were too rough. The ship finally used a harpoon canon to fire a rope to land, so it could send the researchers food and water. Then it called for help.

"They managed to start a fire, to keep warm and keep the polar bears away," he said, explaining that the men used the spark plugs from their capsized craft's outboard motor to get the fire going. The island has some dried grass and scrubby plants.

"It was a bit like MacGyver," Braaten said, referring to the adventure television series featuring a character who relies on science and his wits to solve problems.

The three men got away with minimal injuries, and were eventually flown back to a research base. No mention of if they are all set to go back out on the ice.

Via the Marine Biology International Yahoo! group.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Dueling Auroras 

Sometime I just like to put a nice picture up. It's been awhile since I put up one of NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day...

Courtesy of NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Taken by Phil Hoffman.Posted by Picasa

This wa taken from Yukon Territory, Canada. It would be a nice vacation from the Bay Area commute.

Morning Person? Never! 

Monday was my first shift at work that began at 7am. So far, so good, but this was only the first day. Come Friday, let's see what state I'll be in. Although, I have to admit it’s nice to have the extra hour before most of the engineers and contractors get in. Plus, leaving an hour earlier is nice too.

I just expect my circadian rhythm to go into full rebellion in about two weeks. We'll see.

As if getting used to waking up an hour earlier wasn't enough, I have to deal with potential jury duty! I have to phone in from work during the day to see if I have to spend the afternoon in the courthouse. I understand it's my civic duty, but I'm rooting for not being called in.

Yes, I'm rooting to go to work. Go figure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Blogroll Dusting 

OK yes, I do let my blog get dusty from time to time. It ends up falling behind other priorities, like watching the insides of my eyelids. Lately, the blogroll has accumulated the most dust.

Time to get out that old dust mop...Whoosh!


Now that the dust had been knocked off, it's time to make a few changes, some additions, and some subtractions. First off, I'm changing the Blogs of the Month (on the 10th, no less). I'll try to do better in the future to change them out around the first of the month.

The newest selections:

* The Bay Area is Talking. This is the compilation weblog put together by the local station KRON-4, a legacy of the bloggers' meetup I attended in June. For the locals, or anyone interested in the comings and goings of Greater San Francisco, this is the place to hear bloggers rant about what is going on in their communities, lives, and/or heads. For some odd reason, it even features some of my stuff from time to time. Ahh, nepotism...

* Michael Yon. A newsblog from an independent reporter following the troops in Iraq. His accounts are memorable because it tells stories at the individual level. The blog mainly tells the stories of the US troops, but it speaks of good and bad news. You aren't likely going to get this kind of storytelling in newspapers.

* A Hamburger Today. Yummy! Not every blog needs to be a personal diary, a political or a newsblog. This is a blog devoted to that most American of pursuits: the perfect hamburger.

I've also added a few more blogs to the permanent blogroll listings. I've added FresBlog under the California Blogs. The Bull Moose Blog is under Liberal Wieners in the Politics Blogs section (IMHO, still the best blog of a liberal hawk, something I can relate to). Also, I've added Michelle Malkin under the Rightwing Nutjobs area of Politics; she's a conservative journalist who has top-notch writing and tons of links on the major stories of the day.

Plus, I have to send out some overdue linky love. VW's One Happy Dog Speaks is under Primary Blogs: Domestic, and Ith's Absinthe & Cookies is under Primary Blogs: California. A couple of additional female perspectives, with much wittiness served up.

Enough housekeeping. It's too warm in here. I feel like some ice cream....

Mmmm, Rock-Star Themed Dessert 

You scored 66% SWEET, 55% CHUNKY, and 70% UNIQUE!
cherry sweet cream base with cherries and fudge chunks are one of my personal favs: Cherry Garcia. You fall in
the middle on all measurements- sweet, wild, and unique, but not
overwhelmingly so on any of those. You make a good friend, able to
share your unique perspectives on things, and able to have fun without
winding up in jail or something. Good job.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 14% on SWEET
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 7% on CHUNKY
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 63% on UNIQUE
Link: The Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Flavor Test written by weered1 on Ok Cupid

Enough is enough. I'm gonna make a root beer float. Y'all eat your heart out.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Happiness Is... 

...waking up around 5:30, turning on the television, and the first thing I see is the Space Shuttle safely on the ground. Yaay!

It looks like the bad weather over Florida is going to cost NASA a extra million dollars or so; that being the cost to piggy-back fly the shuttle from its landing at California's Edwards Air Force Base back to the Kennedy Space Center.

I bet the local stations that sent their reporters down to Edwards are happy they did.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Peter Jennings, Last of the Big Three 

Wow. Peter Jennings died tonight. I knew he had cancer, but I didn't realize he was so sick.

First Tom Brokaw retired. Then Dan Rather,..ahem..., I guess the polite way to say it is he "left." Now Peter Jennings has died. With all due respect to NBC's Brian Williams, there is no Big Anchorman left on network TV.

For my mom, the evening news was as much a part of dinner as the food. Without all those viewings of the network news, I probably wouldn't care as much about world or local events, I wouldn't be politically knowledgeable, andI probably would have cared to read blogs or start one myself. Now all three of the men who anchored the evening news during those years have moved on. I feel quite a bit older tonight.

Rest in Peace, Peter Jennings.

Another Weekend 

Another weekend, another festival. This time, it was the local Fremont Festival of the Arts. Billing itself as "the largest free street-festival in California," it wound up its two-day run on Sunday. I like the fact that the festival is less than two miles from my front door.

It consists mainly of rows of cubicles where independent artists sell their wares. This year, I walked away with a few trinkets, including a few things that will end up as birthday or Christmas presents. Why not spend the money on mom-and-pop artists as opposed to Wal-Mart and Target?

Also, this was the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima. I'm not going to get into the debate of the whole thing; I just wanted to mention that the Discovery Channel did a fine show telling the story of the bombing. That stirred up my curiosity, so I went surfing online for World War II stuff.

Because I like to look up stuff I get curious about. As opposed to, say, blogging regularly. I'm a big Wikipedia addict, but I digress.

Anyway, I found out some neat facts about the war on the US West Coast. I knew that an oil refinery near Santa Barbara had been shelled by a Japanese sub. However, I did not know about some other events: the "Battle of Los Angeles," when antiaircraft gunners shot the hell out of the sky, thinking that enemy aircraft were conducting a raid; a couple of balloon bombs that fell on rural California, and an oil tanker sunk by a Japanese sub off Cayucos, on the California Central Coast.

I never realized that there was combat so close to places I'm familiar with. But then again, there were plenty of other states, like Florida and Oregon, that had warfare so near.

My weekend was the Festival, satisfying my inner history geek, and cleaning around the apartment. Coulda been worse.

And to close, happy late birthday Helen!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mid-Week Blahs 

Hump Day.

Nothing much to report on my end. Work has had its typical ups and downs. I will be a while longer until I'm comfortable there, but I like it. I'm starting to assist with writing our documentation, and learning how to operate the lab equipment. Or more accurately, helping the eingineers fix the malfunctioning lab equipment.

OK, since that's all I have, here's a sily quiz that has nothing to do with summer:

Official Survivor
Congratulations! You scored 65%!

Whether through ferocity or quickness, you made it out. You made the
right choice most of the time, but you probably screwed up somewhere.
Nobody's perfect, at least you're alive.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 20% on survivalpoints
Link: The Zombie Scenario Survivor Test written by ci8db4uok on Ok Cupid

OK, so I can survive a plague of the undead. I'm still working on surviving in the living world.