The calm before the storm

On the way to Monterey, I often drive by a stretch of California Highway 1 where I get a good sense of the wind condition by looking at the waves and by how much white — and wave action — I see on top of the water.

Yesterday was the calmest I have ever seen these waters.  The ocean was so flat — and smooth like glass, almost like a lake instead of the Pacific Ocean.

Monterey Park Beach at Seaside

beach at Seaside, California

Normally, there are HUGE waves at this beach, and this is the sign posted at the entrance.

Danger sign at seaside beach

We do have a rainstorm today, and heavy rains are expected all weekend. So the saying we have all heard “the calm before the storm” is so true. And so strange.

The air was so still last night, and it was a beautiful evening, in contrast with this morning. It has been quite windy this morning, and one of our garbage cans just blew by the side of the house. Ah yes, hello winter weather!

Want to learn English — and on a budget?

How about studying English in the Philippines?  It turns out the Philippines is a great destination for students who want to learn how to speak English, and on a budget.

Skyline of the City of Manila, Philippines, seen from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, photo by Mike Gonzalez via Wikipedia

I have met several Koreans (from my grandsons’ Tae Kwon Do classes) who indeed took English classes in the Philippines.  While visiting Cebu, I was also surprised to see all the Korean restaurants and Korean signs, catering to the new population of English-learning students from Korea.

Photo from the Philippine Department of Tourism

Here is the excerpt from a BBC Philippines report from Kate McGeown:

The Philippines is fast becoming the world’s low-cost English language teacher – with rapid increases in overseas students coming to learn English or study in English-speaking universities.

There might be other countries that people think about as a classic place to learn English, such as the UK, the US or Australia.

But there is one key reason that they are switching to the Philippines. It’s much cheaper. And in the competitive market for language students, it means the Philippines is attracting people from countries such as Iran, Libya, Brazil and Russia.

“We have very competitive rates compared with other countries,” says English teacher, Jesy King, citing her school’s fees of $500 (£313) for a 60-hour class – about a third of the price of an equivalent course in the US or Canada.

Another major advantage is the accent.

Filipinos speak with a clear American accent – partly because the Philippines was a US colony for five decades, and partly because so many people here have spent time working in call centres that cater to a US market….

She adds…

The Philippines markets itself as being the third largest English-speaking nation – after the US and the UK – a fact proudly displayed on the Department of Tourism website. And in a way, that’s true. Most people speak at least rudimentary English, and the well-educated speak it fluently.

Yes indeed…here is that section from website:

Considered the third-largest English-speaking country in the world, the Philippines offers world-class facilities and services – excellent accommodations, fine restaurants, modern shopping centers and communication services, efficient congress and exhibition organizers and professional tour operators.

Photo from Philippine Department of Tourism

Click here to read Kate McGeown’s article, The Philippines: The world’s budget English teacher and video.

Common modes of transportation in more rural areas in the Philippines.

The Green Festival…and the use of coconut coir in Ford auto parts

I posted some photos from the San Francisco Green Festival, at’s blog.

The Ford Motor Company is a major sponsor of the festival.  Pictured below was an area with information on Ford’s new lightweight plastics.  It was most interesting to learn about the use of  natural fiber reinforced plastics –  coconut coir, wheat straw, hemp and cellulose in place of glass fibers for plastic reinforcements.

Here is an excerpt from an article on Ford’s media pages(Crazy for Coconuts)…Note, the article was from last year, and from the Festival information, the use of natural fibers in plastics used in Ford vehicles is now in place.

Coconuts are ingredients in plenty of items – pies, cakes and tropical drinks. Now, Ford is hoping to add cars to that list by working with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company to research how coconut coir, or husks, might be used as a plastic reinforcement.

“This is a win-win situation. We’re taking a material that is a waste stream from another industry and using it to increase the sustainability in our vehicles,” said Dr. Ellen Lee, technical expert for Plastics Research at Ford. “We continue to search for innovative renewable technologies that can both reduce our dependence on petroleum as well as improve fuel economy.”

Coconut coir is a natural fiber from the husk of a coconut. ScottsMiracle-Gro uses the material as a carrier for its soils and grass seed products, including Scotts® Turf Builder® EZ Seed® and Miracle-Gro® Expand ‘n Gro™ Concentrated Planting Mix. Both products use the coir’s natural fibers to hold 50 percent more water than basic potting soil and release it as plants need it – helping homeowners save water.

“ScottsMiracle-Gro uses more than 70 million pounds of coir a year in our consumer products,” said Dave Swihart, ScottsMiracle-Gro senior vice president of Global Supply Chain. “Teaming up with Ford to find a high-value use for our leftover coir material is very exciting for us as we continually work to make our products and operations more sustainable.”

Once the coconut coir comes to Ford, researchers combine it with plastic to deliver additional reinforcement to the part while eliminating the need for some petroleum. Along with making use of a renewable resource, the new part would be lighter in weight. The natural long fibers also are visible in the plastic and offer a more natural look than typical materials.  Read the rest of the article here…

Of course, my interest in this is the coconuts, having grown up in coconut land, the Philippines.  Several years ago, I also learned about research using abaca (musa textilis, the banana-like fiber native to the Philippines) with fiberglass technology.

Natural materials in plastics and new technology…what do you think?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful for Sand, Sunset and Silliness

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is an easy one…

From Sara Rosso, the theme is Thankful. In the United States, yesterday was Thanksgiving, a holiday where people spend time with family and friends and remember the things they’re thankful for.

 I think the idea of being thankful and reflecting back on good things in your life is something that naturally happens towards the end of a calendar year…more here

Almost everyday (almost because some days, I forget), I am thankful that we live in an area of the United States abundant with open space and natural beauty.

I am especially thankful that the weather here is so mild that we can take our grandchildren to the beach with their short sleeve shirts in November,  and they can play in the sand  well into sunset.

I took these photos earlier this week, the day before Thanksgiving…

Older brother gets to “bury” little brother in the sand…

And now it is little brother’s turn to “bury” big brother in the sand…

It takes some work to focus on being thankful and to focus on the positive — at least for me.

I’m so thankful for these silly little men — my sweet grandsons — who give us a great excuse to stop and to just be.  Here are some other favorite silly pics, when they were younger…

Jun’s first moustache, seaweed!

This one makes me smile because Gabriel loved his little toy “motorcycle” and was so serious about riding it

I’m outa here, don’t even think of following me! 🙂  Scoot, scoot, scoot, scoot…

There really is so much to be thankful for…I’m thankful for being here to enjoy the beauty of our landscape…and of course, thankful for my family.

And hopefully, when the little guys are grown men, they are always thankful to have one another, and look back and be thankful for the childhood moments they shared.