WordPress Photo Challenge Reflections: cactus, black oak and well cover

Here is my submission for the WordPress Photo Challenge – reflections, inspiration from Ben, whose beautiful photos are posted on his blog, Flights, Camera, Satisfaction.

My three reflection photos:

Saguaro Cactus Reflection r

Saguaro Cactus grown from seed, mirror reflection.  Saguaros can live up to 150 years, and at about 75 years old, will grow an arm (called a spear).  Click on the photo to view post.

Being open to appreciating new things, such as for plants I did not care for in the past, like cactus…which are actually amazing plants.

Springtime California Black Oak

To be in the moment to appreciate reflections of time.  Spring is my favorite time of the year, and a great time to photograph trees like the California Black Oak sprouting light green leaves…

Well-Cover-Detail-Larkin-House reflection

And reflection from the well water that shows off details of its metal cover (also used in the WordPress photo challenge, resolved to pay attention to — .and to capture more details in my photographs.)

And about that cactus on the photograph… It is now 18 years old and was grown from seed.  If you are curious to know how long cactus seeds keep (or are viable)…check out the comment section on Lolako.com’s “Contact” page, here.   Can you guess?

  • over 20 years?
  • over 200 years?
  • or for over 2,000 years?

Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

The words “why are Filipinos like chameleons” showed up on my blog’s search engine terms recently.

Chameleon definition

Mixed-Up-Chameleon by Eric CarleI did not write an article (until now) that connected the two words — Filipino and chameleon — but I do write often about Filipinos and the Philippines, wildlife, and about a particular chameleon, as in the Eric Carle book that I read to my grandchildren, The Mixed-Up Chameleon.

Initially I thought the search words were funny.  Chameleons — a special kind of lizard — are not native to the Philippines.  And then I wondered what information was sought…was this inquiry and the string of words derogatory?

And are Filipinos like chameleons? We Filipinos do tend to blend in, don’t we?   We all speak English (very well — and most with a clear American accent) and since English is one of the most popular language in the world, all that much easier to blend in, right?

Aside from language, is it also because most Filipinos are Christians?  A Pew Research demographics study on global religion found that Christians are the most evenly dispersed around the world and represent the largest percentage among the world’s religion  (2.2 billion or 32% of the world’s majority religion) .

20_religionCountryMap from Pew Research

Graphic on majority religions by country from Pew Research. The Philippine archipelago has the most Christians among countries in Southeast Asia,

I am pretty sure that Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world — around 10% of the total population, and 2.2 million contract or Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) — according to Philippine government data.

  • When I lived in Germany in the mid 1980′s, one of the first things our landlord, Klaus, wanted to do was to introduce me to the Filipina married to a local German, in our town of Dudeldorf.
  • When we first immigrated to the United States and living in Portland, Maine (of all places, right, and not exactly a hotbed for Filipinos in America) my mother quickly found another Filipina living nearby who befriended us.

So,  super chameleons?  Able to survive in any environment, no matter where on the globe?  Or rather, is it more because we don’t stick out?  The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, so most Filipinos have Spanish last names.  Is this another way we blend, since our names are not so unusual?

A friend theorized that because the Philippines is a nation of islands (over 7,000 in case you did not know), Filipinos are accustomed to traveling beyond their own island to the next…and the next, so what is another 5,000 more miles?  It’s in our DNA!  Hmmmn, interesting, and maybe!

Are Filipinos everywhere because they like adventure, because Filipinos like to travel? Is it by necessity, for survival? Because we must…as a sacrifice to contribute financially for the greater good of the family?

In 1980, the Philippines scored higher than China, Thailand and Brazil on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Indicators (HDI). The most recent UN HDI report show these three countries now have higher HDI scores than the Philippines.  And after World War II, the only other country in Asia richer than the Philippines was Japan.

So what happened?  Could it be because the Philippine population has more than DOUBLED in the last 3 decades?.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, and according to United Nations GDP / per capita income data, over 40% of Filipinos live on less than $2 per day.

These days, I think Filipinos are everywhere primarily because of over population and because the economy cannot support the population…so by necessity.

Every year, millions of Filipinos have no choice but to leave their homeland to find work elsewhere.  Many work in the shipping industries (notice that when cruise lines, or container ships are in the news, often, there are Filipino crew members?)

The Philippines export nurses all over the world.  And most recently, our teachers, too.

It is easier to understand Filipino communities in neighboring countries like Australia, New Zealand, and especially Japan.  But Zambia?  ICELAND, The Isle of Mann?

Tropical Philippines web

Photo of banka (traditional Philippine outrigger boat) Lolako.com. From lush green tropics to….Scandinavia?

And how is it that Filipinos manage to survive, and even thrive in countries with climates and cultures so different from their homes?  And do we — the chameleons –  blend in no matter where we are  because it’s safer if others like us, accept us, include us in their, and what then becomes OUR community?  In Sweden alone, there are over 20 Filipino communities! (see Fincomlas Sweden)

I admire Filipino characteristics — our friendly, caring nature, resilience, our sense of humor, and strong commitment to family  — and yes, maybe the chameleon qualities in a positive sense.  But I do hope that in my lifetime, the majority of Filipinos who live and work overseas will be because of their own choice to do so, and not because they have no other choice.

This post was inspired by a search query on my blog, and turned emotional when I thought of families torn apart and separated for many years due to the economic needs of Filipinos.  I’ll continue to explore more on this topic, and of course to celebrate and remember our food and culture.

In the meantime, if you are a Filipino in a faraway place, please share your experience, or your family’s experience.  Do you think Filipinos are like chameleons?  If so, is this positive or a negative?

Related Lolako.com posts:

Which of California’s 15 coastal counties are tsunami ready?

Despite the 5,000 mile distance between the California coastline and Japan, our coastal community was affected by the March 2011 tsunami (and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.)

Moss Landing Beach

Photo Lolako.com

Between debris that washed up on the U.S. Western coastlines — and our worries of radiation contaminated items reaching our shores  —  to the bathtub effect that caused millions of dollars of damage to boats and property at the Santa Cruz harbor, the disaster originating thousands of miles away directly impacted us.  It was another reminder of  how small our world really is, and our interconnectedness …

March-11-Tsunami-Effects-in-Santa-Cruz-Photo-Larissa-Mueller

Sailboats in the Santa Cruz Harbor crash against each other Friday morning as a tsunami surge sucks out muddy, backwater from the upper harbor. Photo by Dan Coyro/Sentinel

My post 2 years ago (Is Monterey County ready for a Tsunami) listed Monterey County –  along with the California counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Orange as TsunamiReady™ — under a program administered by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS).

Tsunami-Hazard-Warning-Sign3

Tsunami Hazard Zone sign at Monterey County area beach.   Photo Lolako.com

The California counties designated as TsunamiReady™  met NWS criteria, including developing a safety plan, setting up alert systems and promoting tsunami safety through public outreach.

The addition of the counties of Marin, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Diego means there are now 8 counties listed as TsunamiReady™ in California.

The state of California is divided into 58 counties. The California coast covers 840 miles (1,350 km), and 15 of California’s 58 counties directly face the Pacific Ocean.  These counties are:

  • Del Norte County
  • Humboldt County
  • Los Angeles County
  • Marin County
  • Mendocino County
  • Monterey County
  • Orange County
  • San Diego County
  • San Francisco County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • San Mateo County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • Santa Cruz County
  • Sonoma County
  • Ventura County

Counties in bold are listed as TsunamiReady™.  We will follow-up again next year to see if all of California’s coastal counties receive the TsunamiReady™ designation.

Do you live in one of California’s coastal communities?  With this month marking the 3rd anniversary of the Japanese tsunami disaster, do you know — or care — if your community has a TsunamiReady™ designation?

Related LolaKo.com posts:

Another strange plane disappearance in Southeast Asia

The missing Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 passengers and crew has been on the news over the last few days.  It is hard to believe that a huge commercial airplane — in this day and age,  with our radars, satellites and modern technology — can just disappear without a trace.

In 1962, during clear weather and calm seas, a flight originating from a Northern California U.S. Air Force base and destined for Vietnam also went missing, while en route from Guam to the Philippines to refuel.   The 5-year-old Lockheed L-1049 (Flying Tiger Line)  plane carried 93 U.S. Army Rangers, 3 Vietnamese nationals, 11 civilians, and 3 military passengers.

KLM_L-1049C_Constellation_at_Santa_Maria_(Azores)

Photo of Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner plane by Greg and Cindy via Wikipedia Commons / Flickr

The Lockheed plane crew did not issue distress signals after it left Guam, headed for Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Philippines.  And despite a search by the U.S. military covering over 200,000 square miles (520,000 square km), it was never seen or heard from again, disappearing without a trace.

But that was over 50 years ago, and our technology makes the world a smaller place now.  It does not seem possible that in 2014, a plane can simply disappear…

An international search effort to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is ongoing, including help from the U.S. Navy and countries neighboring Malaysia (Southeast Asia).

Southeast-asia

Click on the map image to view Lolako.com post about countries in Southeast Asia

More mysterious aviation disappearances, here.

Drought and the 2014 official California shower

2014 California Shower

This is a somewhat funny graphic on showers during a drought — but it is actually a reality that we need to consider in light of California’s drought emergency.  (Graphic source – Save our Water website)

What do you think?  Skip a shower — shower every other day or two?  Super short showers?

Strigil used by Greeks and Romans web

Photo of ancient shower/bath tool called a strigil

Skipping a shower or two every week may be better for our skin and hair anyway.  There are parts of the world where taking a shower every other day is the norm.

Just as long as we don’t have to skip showers altogether!

Ancient Greeks and Romans used olive oil and this tool called a strigil to clean dirt off (first they rubbed olive oil on their skin, and then scraped away dirt and grime).  Hmmm…

It’s a good thing there are over 400 growers / producers of olive oil in California…oh wait, the drought can adversely affect olive oil production too!   The 2012 drought in Spain — the world’s top olive oil producer — resulted in a huge drop in Spain’s olive oil production, and increased olive oil prices in Europe.

So okay, we will continue to do our part to cut our water use, and hopefully we will not have to revert back to using olive oil and a strigil instead of modern showers.

Showering habits aside, and on a serious note, the drought here in California will affect not only our vegetable crops, but also olive oil, nut and fruit production.  Farmers are already having to pull out or let trees die and expect losses for many crops.

Less nuts and fruits to pick means less work for the agricultural sector, higher prices for everyone...

President Obama is in the Central Valley today with a promise of millions of dollars in aid to help California farmers due to the drought.  He also pledged to speed up federal help that threatens the agriculture industry.

Save Water link to Christian Science articleMore on Obama in California: a pledge of drought aid, climate change planning, from the CSMonitor’s website, here. 

“He’ll offer a message of hope and a message that the federal government will do all that it can to try to alleviate some of the stress connected with this drought,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Thursday night.

Lolako.com drought-related posts:

If you live in California, how has the drought affected you?  As a resident here, are you making changes to your routines or plan to?

Zero Waste…from the city of San Francsico to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Can you imagine a time when we recycle or compost everything in our household and send NOTHING to landfills or to incineration facilities?

The recycling rate for Americans has increased to 34% compared to less than 10% a few decades ago.  Although we are headed in the right direction, the latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on our municipal solid waste indicate there are still millions of tons of trash going to landfills.

Recycling-Bins-at-big conferences

For environmentally progressive cities and businesses, standard recycling programs are not enough.  Zero waste is the new goal and the next step towards protecting our environment and conserving resources for future inhabitants of our planet.

I posted a new article on Native Leaf’s blog about San Francisco — voted the greenest city in North America– and its zero waste goals including how they plan to recycle textiles (because we in the U.S. send 39 million pounds of textile products to landfills each year).  Click here or the photo below to view the blog post.

View of San Francisco from TI rd

Early evening panorama photo of picturesque and environmentally progressive city of San Francisco, California (population 825,863).

Recently, an organization called the U.S. Zero Waste Council awarded its first ever Platinum Certification to the Northern California-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.   Excerpt:

…The goal of businesses participating in the Zero Waste Certification program is to divert all end-use material from landfill, incineration and the environment, while achieving a minimum of 90 percent diversion based on the standards set by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is exceeding this by 9.8 percent.

Sierra Nevada logoSierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Chico facility received this platinum certification by reaching an amazing 99.8% trash diversion rate!

The sustainability culture at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is established  during the first day of work, when employees are given reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags.  What a terrific way to set the tone and culture of sustainability…and for how the company works.

In addition to this recognition, Sierra Nevada also received awards from the EPA (Green Business of the Year), PG&E (Clean and Green Award), the state of California’s Waste Reduction Award Program, among their many accolades.

This is one beverage that environmentalist can feel good about drinking!  For more on how Sierra Nevada achieved their 99.8% diversion rate, click here.

What if all major metropolitan cities and corporations set zero waste goals?  With the way things are going and the strange world climate patterns we are experiencing, we may not have a choice….that is, if we want our grandchildren to live in a planet similar to what we now have.

I do wonder if the Philippines’ biggest beer (and largest food company) company, San Miguel is setting sustainability programs…

Related Lolako.com post:

Informative graphic from the U.S. EPA below.  Click on the graphic or here for posters, facts and figures on municipal solid waste in the United States.

EPA Recycling Graphic

Some rain finally, but there is simply not enough to meet water demands in California

California is 2/3 into the wet season, the time of the year when we are supposed to get the most rain.

water drops cling to pine needles after rain

water clings to the tips of pine needles after Wednesday, February 6, 2014 rainstorm

Though we finally have rain — and rain is in the forecast for many parts of California this weekend — it would have to rain every other day until May of this year to get our water to normal levels (see press conference video from California Department of Water Resources at the bottom of this post).

Monterey County Field

Irrigated farm fields, Moss Landing – California Central Coast

With most of California’s water going towards irrigation needs for 10 million acres of farmland, and because California grows nearly half of all fruits, nuts and vegetables in the United States, our worst drought on record will surely have a ripple ffect for the rest of the U.S. in terms of the cost and availability of produce and nuts.

Droughts increase our wildfire and firestorm risks, and as of the end of January, 2014 there were already 400 fires across the state compared to ZERO fires in January of 2013.

And now for the first time in the 54 year history of the California State Water Project (SWP) – the largest state-built and operated multipurpose water and power system in the United States — no water will be released for urban and agricultural uses.  This means that water allocation to all 29 public water agencies in California is being cut from 5% to zero, except for human health and safety needs.

So even with the expected rain this weekend, our state still face severe water problems and California residents need to get serious and creative with water conservation efforts to continue to address our continuing drought emergency.

Water Saving Hero

Water Saving Hero graphic from an Urban Drought Guidebook prepared by the California Department of Water Resources in 2008 (note: website on this graphic is no longer operational)

Related:

Information on the latest in water-efficient technology from faucets to toilet fixtures available on the California Urban Water Conservation Council website

Most recent press conference posted on YouTube from California Department of Water Resources below:

Of interest:

  • California has approximately 100 million acres of land.  Of this total, 43 million acres are used for agriculture (16 million acres are grazing land and 27 million acres are cropland).

The California State Water Project, the largest state-built and operated multipurpose water and power system in the United States, includes 34 storage facilities, 20 pumping plants, four pumping-generating plants, five hydroelectric powerplants, and approximately 701 miles of canals, tunnels, and pipelines including the 444-mile California Aqueduct.  For more, visit the California Department of Water Resources website, here.

hot_topics_smoke-flames

California’s higher than normal temperatures, record driest year and now a drought emergency

Something is not quite right with our winter weather.

Frisbee and no frost here

Silhouette photo of our grandsons enjoying the late afternoon warm weather at the beach last week with their Frisbee.

Here in the Central Coast of California, most of us can’t remember the last time it rained, and are experiencing much warmer than normal temperatures.

According to the most recent State of the Climate report, published by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), our state had little rain (AGAIN) last year, resulting in a record driest year.

2013 National Precipitation ranking

Temperature-wise,California also had much warmer than normal temperatures last year.

2013 Statewide Ranks NOAA

Even without the official stats, we know the weather is certainly not normal and we were not surprised when California Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation last week declaring a drought emergency (to urge Californians to reduce their water use by 20% indoors and out).

From the website Saveourh2o.org:

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

...The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the first snow survey of the year on Jan. 3 and officials measured the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of average for this time of year.  According to DWR, the readings this month and in 2012 are the driest on record.

Not only is the snowpack dry, the state has suffered from a lack of rain, with many areas ending 2013 with the lowest rainfall amounts on record. 

According to DWR, Gasquet Ranger Station in Del Norte County—which is normally one of California’s wettest spots with an average annual rainfall of nearly 100 inches—only received 43.46 inches last year.  Sacramento ended the year with 5.74 inches of rain, vastly lower than the normal 18 inches the region usually receives.  Downtown Los Angeles set an all-time low with just 3.4 inches of rainfall.  The city’s average is 14.74 and the previous record low was 4.08 set in 1953.

Field ready for planting Monterey County

In a state (and especially here in Monterey county) where agriculture is a major industry, this creates serious problems for farmers and significantly increases wildfire / firestorm hazards.

We are in dire need of major rain storms to alleviate the drought situation…but so far, there is no rain in the immediate weather forecast.

seelings farm field monterey county

To learn more about what we can do to conserve water, visit the Save our Water website (I’ve added their widget to my website’s sidebar for an easy link, and to get daily water saving tips).

Did you know…California produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables across the nation?  American consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.  Production Statistics Source: California Department of Agriculture

Related:

KQED’s The California Report: How will drought affect California Agriculture?  Agriculture consumes about 80 percent of the water used in California

California Drought And The U.S. Food Supply – Tom Ashbrook’s On Point Program on the drought emergency in California, and what it may mean for the nation’s food supply.

Hundred Years of Dry: How California’s Drought Could Get Much, Much Worse (from Time Magazine Science and Space – scientist fear California’s long-ago era of mega-droughts could be back)

Field of strawberries rd2

Rows of strawberry plants Monterey County California

 

Lolako.com agriculture-related posts:

Biggest and Smallest Shark

I’ve posted several articles about sharks on my blog — originally because of my irrational fear of sharks.  When I think of sharks, I usually think of BIG sharks…like the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Q A book about Sharks by Ann McGovernMy older grandson read the Scholastic book Questions and Answers about SHARKS by Ann McGovern, and we learned more!  Note: The book is great for readers in Grade 3 to Grade 5.

So…we knew that there were 370 different types of sharks and about the whale shark — which at 60 feet long is the biggest shark, and the biggest fish in the world.

We didn’t know about the a tiny shark that fits in the palm of your hand.  Except:

The Japanese named it tsuranagakobitozame.  The word means “the dwarf shark with a long face.”

At about 5 inches long, the tsuranagakobitozame is one tiny shark (with a very long name)!

To learn more about whale sharks (which are listed as Vulnerable” on the IUCN Redlist. because of pressures from unregulated fisheries in China, India and the Philippines), please visit the Georgia Aquarium’s FAQ page, here.  The Georgia Aquarium and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Japan, are places to see whale sharks on exhibit.

Also visit the The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Ichthyology Department for a great FAQ page on shark basics, here…and if you are curious to know if sharks sleep, if sharks have bones, or how long sharks live.

Did you know….fossil records show that the ancestors of modern sharks swam in our oceans over 400 million years ago?  That makes them older than dinosaurs!  Turns out that sharks have changed very little over time.

Click here to view Lolako.com’s shark related posts

His religion?

The 56th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival is this weekend.

I walked behind this man while on the way to the weekly downtown Monterey Farmers market.  He was on his way there to play old jazz records along one of the market sidewalks….just because.

In tow, along with records, is an old record player.

jazz is my religion man at market

jazz is my religion man at market 2

A gramophone?  You don’t see these around anymore!

The 2014 Monterey Jazz Festival is set for September 19-21, 2014 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds.  About the Monterey Jazz Festival —  now going into its 57th year:

Over 500 artists will be performing nonstop on 8 stages for 3 nights and 2 days of the world’s best jazz.

Voted “World’s Best Jazz Festival” by the readers of JazzTimes Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008, the Monterey Jazz Festival offers 20 acres of magnificent oak-studded grounds for fans to enjoy, featuring films, conversations with the Festival’s stars, exhibitions, food and beverages, an international shopping bazaar, and 8 stages of live jazz entertainment spread throughout the grounds.

Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns (and about that face from the last post)

The face in the prior post is of a tree frog indigenous to California.  It was not in a tree, but by the spa, in a little crevice near the filter.

The treefrog’s patterns also works for this week’s WordPress photo challenge from Cheri Lucas Rowlands: From lines to patterns

Sierran Tree Frog profile

Unused for years, the spa must have provided frogs with a good source of water over the summer — though unlike bullfrogs and other kinds of frogs, tree frogs, as the name implies,  spend much of their lives outside of the water.

The dark stripe through the eyes made it fairly easy to identify this frog.

Sierran Tree Frog

Sierran Tree Frog in the spa filer are

Looking at the CaliforniaHerps.com website, I believe it is a Sierran Treefrog (Pseudacris sierra, formerly called Pacific Treefrog or Pacific Chorus Frog).

At first, I thought it was a Baja California Treefrog or perhaps the Northern Pacific treefrog. 

But since it lives here, in Monterey county, the only frog / habitat area match is that of the Sierran Treefrog.

You may have heard that frogs are considered indicator species, or animal sentinels, and a sort of planetary canary.

Frogs have thin skins that are permeable to water, and lay their eggs in bodies of water.  Perhaps because of this,  they are sensitive to pollutants and other problems with the environment.

Sierran Tree Frog in Monterey County rd

This Sierran treefrog is about 2 inches in lenght…striking patterns!

pregillamap3species2

Green part is approximate range of Sierran Tree Frog in California

 

It is comforting to know the little frogs survive in our backyard, despite the large presence of big business agriculture in our county (Monterey is the only county in the United States with more than 1 BILLION in annual vegetable sales).

Though these frogs are not endangered, frog populations can decline quite quickly.

For more, please visit California Herps – A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California

 

And for more on a previous post about Monterey County agriculture, click on the line / pattern photo of the strawberry fields below.

Strawberry Fields Forever

or to find out what grows in the rich soils of Monterey county, click on the lines of begonia photo below…

Nursery Field of Begonia Monterey County rd

 

Why the China communist party ban on extravagant banquets may save some sharks from extinction

Each year, millions of sharks are killed just for their fins, a practice called shark finning.  The fins — the most profitable part of the shark — are removed and the shark is returned to the sea alive, and eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean and suffocates.

Outside of Asia, the state of California and New York are among the largest market for shark fins.  A new law banning the sale of dried shark fins took effect in California in August of this year.  In New York, a new law banning the possession, distribution and sale of shark fins will also be in place next summer.

Shark fins NOAA photo

Photo of NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins via Wikipedia commons – http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag230.htm

Although U.S. bans will impact shark fin demands, the bans should also focus internationally, and on the worlds largest consumers of shark fin products, namely China, Japan and Thailand.

Last year, Chinese communist party officials banned extravagant items like expensive shark fin soups from official banquets.  This military action made a big difference in shark fin consumption in China.

Excerpt from an article posted on The Independent earlier this month:

A crackdown on extravagance and corruption within China’s ruling Communist Party is causing headaches for officials used to splashing the cash on banquets, but it’s proving a lifesaver for sharks.

Consumption of shark fin, the key ingredient in the pricey and extravagant banquet staple shark-fin soup, has dropped by 70 per cent since the end of last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

The party leadership launched a campaign in December, vowing to target extravagance and waste, and demanding austerity from cadres and military officials as a means of curbing graft (click here to read the article)

This move by Chinese military officials is similar to a Wal-Mart effect.  As the world’s largest retailer, manufacturing decisions by Wal-Mart — such as,making its vendors minimize plastic packaging — affects the environment simply because of Wal-Mart’s size.

So let’s hope this extravagant banquet ban in China will continue to lessen the demand on shark fins.  And that continued education from celebrity ambassadors (like the Yao Ming / Richard Branson pleas for Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins) puts a stop to this cruel practice and  give shark populations a chance to recover –especially in light of the improving Chinese wealth, making this once expensive restaurant item more affordable  for many more diners (scary thought!).

Richard Branson and Yao Ming Shark ban

Retired basketball star Yao Ming teamed up with British magnate Sir Richard Branson (founder and of Virgin Atlantic) to launch a campaign urging Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins soups.

Right now, 50 of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

I do wonder if the celebrity ambassador actions influenced military officials, and what impact it made, at least prior to these extravagant banquet bans.

I am less fearful of sharks now after learning about sharks on my post about the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez,

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS - NOAA)

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS – NOAA)

Related Lolako.com posts:

U.S. coast comparison of shark-attacks vs number of lightning fatalities

The man-eater label — shark attack or a shark-encounter

Links:

San Francisco based Wild Aid – Celebrity Ambassadors

Below video on shark finning

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV (and the very basic…placing my subject away from the middle)

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge from Cheri Lucas Rowlands is: Challenge yourself to rethink your ideas about what subjects are appropriate, and then challenge yourself again to find an unusual perspective on your subject.

I love this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge because this is exactly what I am trying to do…to change my point of view when taking photographs.

Right now, this point of view is just to shift my subject away from the middle.  The photo of my grandson, Gabriel below —hot chocolate in hand— is a good example.

Gabriel and hot cocoa As a (forever) amateur photographer, I tend to place my subject in the middle of the photograph.  It’s time to move on and actually work at techniques to take better pictures!

My daughter recently gave me the book “The BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Photography” by Jim Miotke and I am getting great tips. The most interesting chapter so far is on the rule of thirds when composing photographs.  So…I am rethinking my shots and allowing more of the background in my photos.

Digging at the Beach

I know this is so basic…especially as I see so many stunning photographs when I visit blogs during the WordPress Photo Challenges.  And it is not so unusual yet..but its a start of changing my POV.  What do you think?

A raft of sea otters

Sea Otter Group Moss Landing

Raft of sea otters at Moss Landing Harbor area, photo by Jun-Yong Brown

“Is this natural?” asked the tourist from Israel as he stood next to me and my grandsons, amazed at what he was seeing.

“I mean, are they wild–is this their natural habitat or some preserve?” he added.  I replied “Yes, they are wild, and this is where they live.”

Raft of sea  otters rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

We were at the Moss Landing State Beach earlier in the day, and my grandsons were excited to see  two sea otters swim past us, very close to the shoreline.

Then on the way home, we stopped to look across the inlet area facing Elkhorn Slough and were delighted to see a congregation of otters…much more excitement!

About 5 minutes after watching the raft of otters…they all swam away.  The conference over perhaps….or maybe it was time to forage for food.

Seeing the raft of otters was a nice way to end to our day at the beach, and I am again so happy to live in the Monterey Bay area, with so many opportunities to see wildlife.

White Face Sea Otter rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

During the early part of the 1700′s, the California sea otter population was estimated to number 150,000.

From the mid 1700′s until the early part of 1900, these otters were almost hunted to extinction for their fur.

Today, California sea otters remain endangered with a population of  less than 3,000.

Boys at Moss Landing beach rd

Earlier in the day, my grandsons spotted 2 sea otters swimming close to the shore at Moss Landing State Beach

Sea-otter-in-kelp-anchor-eye-open-close-up

Photo by Jeff Roth

For more on sea otters, visit related Lolako.com Post: The sea otter’s one-eyed peak  

Adorable Sea Otter video – on the rocks by Monterey Bay wildlife photographer Efren B. Adalem

and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website page Sea Otters as Risk

For more on Elkhorn Slough, visit  the Elkhorn Slough.org website here.  Excerpt:

Dunes and broad stretches of open sandy beach characterize the inner curve of Monterey Bay. The expansive beaches are interrupted only by the outlets of the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers, and the entrance to Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing Harbor. The protected waters of the slough and its associated mudflats, wetlands, and nearby dunes provide a haven for a wide variety of birds, fish and unusual marine life. This remarkable variety of habitats provides visitors a rare opportunity to explore and discover nature’s secrets.

And I thought we had algae problems…

Have you heard about the largest algal bloom in the world?  It is in China’s Yellow Sea…and has turned sections of the Yellow Sea green.

Two young tourists take photos on a beach

Photograph: Imaginechina /Rex Features via The Guardian News and Media

The Yellow Sea is located between the Korean Peninsula and mainland China.  This year, the Yellow Sea algal bloom covers 11,158 sq miles, which is twice as much as the previous big bloom in 2008!   The China algal bloom covers more area than the entire state of Maryland, which covers 9,775 square miles.

algae-carpet-2-moss-landing-elkhorn-slough-rd11

Algal bloom Moss Landing Monterey county. Photo Lolako.com

In my post, Algae Abundance, I found out that the growth of  some algal mats — at least locally, here in Elkhorn Slough and the Monterey Bay — are a result of excessive nutrient levels (e.g., from fertilizer runoff from agricultural fields) and limits on how much tidal water enters parts of our slough.

Without-Algae

Photo: Lolako.com

The photos  above and below is near Moss Landing harbor — free of algae and then covered in algae.

algae-carpet-at-moss-landing-near-elkhorn-slough

Photo Lolako.com

See more photos and videos on the Yellow Sea — biggest algal bloom to date — on this link here to The Guardian article.

Would YOU go in an algae filled sea or body of water for a swim?

Yellow Sea

Photo via Wikimedia commons

And link here to Lolako.com’s Algae Abundance post

Did you know….

  • The Yellow Sea gets its name from sand particles from Gobi Desert sand storms that turn the surface of the water golden-yellow.
  • It is also one of four seas named after common colors.  The others are the Black Sea, the Red Sea and the White Sea..

Books on bikes and pedalling to the people

We hear so much about the demise of newspapers and print media these days…which is why it was a delight to hear about the Seattle Public Library’s pilot program to bring books out to the community.  And not by the traditional bookmobile van, but by bicycle.

Seattle is one cool city!

crowd

Photo of books on bike at a farmers market via NPR – Gabriel Spitzer.  The trailer can hold 500 lbs and pops open to display books (and comes with an umbrella stand too!).  On the spot, they can also open up a library card for residents.

Read more or listen to the story here on NPR by Gabriel Spitzer.

Still…I wonder how libraries will look and operate 25 years from now.  Will we still check out actual printed books or will it be all digital media or whatever format is around he bend…

Related Lolako.com post: http://lolako.com/how-long-before-print-newspapers-completely-disappear/

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says…Sea Shells From Around the World (when it should say Soup, Nuts & Shells)

From a roadside store off of California Hwy 1 on the central coast,  the sign says…

Sea shells from around the world rdBut actually, the shells came mostly from ONE part of the world…the Philippines

pangasinan shell chimes and dried spiny fish
The sign says “wind chime Pangasinan w/ pink” but the wind chimes are bundled up in a plastic bag, while the eerie puff/spiny dried fish with big eyes are the prominent items on the shelf (Pangasinan is a province in the Philippines).  Look at the eye on the fish to the right, in the plastic bag.

Sea Shells detail

The sign also said ORGANICS but instead I found soup, baby food (??t?) nuts and, uh, no organics that day…

The shells for sale are on the lower shelf.

Soup to  Shells rd

Star Fish and Pineapple rings rd

So how about a star fish, and by the way, maybe some dried fruit, too?

sea shells, pasta and  lentils rd

A basket pack of mix shells from the Philippines, and oh yes, do we need pasta and lentils this week?

This is indeed a strange “Sea Shell” store!

Sea Shells detail 1

Beautiful patterns on these shells, I should have thought about these shell photos for the previous patterns challenge!

And here are photos of signs I found for sale at the Moss Landing Antique Faire last year.

Wine Classy

Gas Arm Leg Both sign at Moss Landing Antique Fair

I used the above gas sign photo for a recent post on which countries pay the highest and cheapest gas per gallon.  One never knows when a photo will come in handy for a blog post (these photos were from my phone camera).

Click here to see interpretations from the WordPress and blogging community for this week’s photo challenge theme from Sara Rosso  “The Sign Says”.

If not sit down rd

Lastly, do you know why this sign was above the toilet inside a stall at a Chinese / Vietnamese restaurant (spotted in San Jose, California)?

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Background

The WordPress Weekly Photo challenge is a tough one this week with Pick’s challenge to …

 share a picture that says In the Background.

This is the photo I got —-

Philippine Flower in the Background rd

though my intent was to take the photo below…

Philippine  Flopwer rd

Close up of flower from the Philippines

I’m not sure what happened, if it was a breeze that blew a leaf on top while I was photographing, or a double exposure.  Any thoughts from photographers – professionals or newbies (or perpetual beginners like me) –  out there in the WordPress community?

Click here to see interpretations of the theme and creative submissions from other bloggers…

Adorable sea otter

If you need to change your mood today — or for fun and lightheartedness — take a look at this adorable sea otter video found on Monterey Bay wildlife photographer Efren B. Adalem’s website (Ooh! Look! Photography)…

Efren’s otter pictures are used in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s newly remodeled sea otter exhibit.

To view Efren’s stunning wildlife photograph gallery, visit Ooh! Look! Photography, here:

From Efren… “I am enjoying documenting the birds and wildlife in the Monterey Bay area of California. We live in one of only three fresh water wetlands left in California.

This special place needs to be protected for all the migratory birds that need wetlands to survive. Ooh! Look! Photography donates a portion of its profits after taxes to The Watsonville Wetlands Watch.

And yes, I adore sea otters!

Related Links:

Lolako.com’s post, The Sea Otter’s One-Eyed Peak…

More on sea otters here (link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Web Cam)