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:

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

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

 

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.

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)

Gasoline Prices — countries paying the highest and lowest per gallon

I thought that gas prices were trending down….yeah, right.  Is it ever going to go down?

Gas Arm Leg Both sign at Moss Landing Antique Fair

Gas Arm Leg Both sign spotted at Moss Landing Antique Faire last year

Below is an example of gasoline price this week in the Monterey Bay area, California…

Monterey County California Gas Prices rd

I was curious to know how American gas prices compared to the rest of the world and found an interesting Bloomberg.com article on Highest and Cheapest Gas Prices by Country.

Note: The article is based on gas prices from Jan. 3 to 18, 2013 of select countries with a minimum income of $3.50 a day per person.

It  turns out, the top 5 highest price per gallon countries are more than DOUBLE what we pay here in the United States.  The top five:

  1. Turkey – $9.89 per gallon
  2. Norway $9.63 per gallon (and the only large oil-producing country with high gas cost, as they use oil profits for services to the population, e.g., free college for citizens)
  3. Netherlands – $9.09 per gallon (it is interesting that the Dutch has the most bicycles per capita in the world)
  4. Italy – $8.87 per gallon (it cost the same for Italians to fill up their tanks each week as it does to buy a weeks worth of food)
  5. Portugal – $8.82 per gallon (64% of this price goes towards taxes, which went up over 10 years ago to help protect the environment)

And the 5 countries that pay the least per gallon of gasoline?

  1. Venezuela – $0.06 per gallon, where according to the article, “the cost of filling up the 39-gallon tank of a Chevrolet Suburban in Venezuela is $2.34, compared with $128.31 in the U.S. and $385.71 in Turkey”.
  2. Saudi Arabia – $0.45 per gallon
  3. Kuwait – $0.81 per gallon
  4. Egypt – $1.14 per gallon
  5. United Arab Emirates – $1.77 per gallon

So…compared to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia…heck yeah we are paying a lot, but compared to Turkey and Italy, hello(!) it turns out that gas is quite cheap here in the U.S.

Then again, from a conservation and climate change standpoint, do you think gasoline should cost even more here — and everywhere else — to force us to conserve our resources and further reduce emissions (cars emit greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming).

I do wonder if a transition to alternative energy sources is happening way too slow, or worse, too late for our planet’s global warming problems?

If you are interested in seeing gasoline cost in countries like the Philippines, Canada, the United States and how 57 others rank, click here…

What is the gas pricing like where you live?  Too high, or too cheap in your opinion….

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme Escape…escaping into a human sized nest?

The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ESCAPE.

Many of us have an abundance of scenic photographs and of escaping out….

I also thought about escaping in, and remembered these photographs I took of a human sized nest made from tree branches at the Big Sur Spirit Garden, after a visit to the Big Sur Bakery.

Big Nest Escape rd

What do you think?  Would you want to have one in YOUR garden or backyard…lots of pillows, cozy blankets (they custom make these for one…or for two or more people).

Or is this type of structure just for birds?

Big Nest Escape outside rdI photographed this “fence” this morning during a walk.   A fence that is not very helpful in preventing an escape, or a break in…

Broken Fence rdk Sometimes the only escape you need is actually an escape into the present…it sounds counter intuitive, but maybe the best kind of escape from the mundane is to truly engage with someone, a family member, or an activity.

Aquarium Escape

My grandson Jun when he was about 4, at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Related links (click on the photo to link to the website)

FlycatcherHatchlings_Local-nomad.net_

Real birds in nest — see the Local Nomad’s new post Spring has Sprung, hereTwo Pacific Slope Flycatchers (I think of them as Fiona and Fritz)….”

Big Sur Spirit Garden NestBig Sur Spirit Garden’s Spirit Nest, here

treebones-nest big sur

You can rent a human nest for the evening (and yurts too!) at Treebones Resort in Big Sur

What grows in the rich soils of Monterey County

Note:  This is a follow-up to my earlier post, Monterey, Melons and more (that Monterey County is the only county in the United States with more than $1 BILLION annually in vegetable sales).

Sunset Seaside Monterey County California rd

Seaside Sunset in Monterey County, Central Coast of California – photo LolaKo.com

The coast, the beautiful landscape, the Monterey Jazz Festival, John Steinbeck country, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and Fisherman’s wharf, Pebble Beach (among the top Golf destinations in the world) and the spectacular Big Sur Coast are among what makes the Monterey County area well-known worldwide as a tourism spot.

Big_Sur Wiki Photo by Calilover

Big Sur Coast, Monterey County, California photo via wiki commons by Calilover

Steinbeck Mural Salinas California

John Steinbeck mural, downtown old Salinas — Steinbeck was a native of Monterey County Photo: Lolako.com

From an economic standpoint though — tourism dollars aside — the Monterey County agricultural industry is what amazes me.

basket of heriloom tomatoesI wanted to know more.  What exactly do we grow here that produce such high dollar values?

The  website for the Monterey County Office of the Agricultural Commissioner and their Annual Crop Report provided exactly the information I was interested to know.

Here are the most recent numbers…

  • Leaf lettuce is in the number one spot with a value of $777.4 million
  • Strawberries accounted for  $713.9 million
  • Head lettuce was at $454.2 million
  • Broccoli at $297.3 million
  • Nursery production at $260.7 million

So there it is…lettuce is the top crop.

Makes sense…the weather is so mild here, and lettuce can be grown and harvested in such a short time!

Plus, companies in this region of California are pioneers in lettuce production and sales, having originated the ready to go salad — washed, bagged and ready to eat lettuce we now are accustomed to buying at the grocery store.

Nursery Field of Begonia Monterey County rd

Begonias growing in sandy, well draining fields of Marina, Monterey County, California – Photo LolaKo.com

What was also interesting, is that the 4th largest agriculture commodity in Monterey County is nursery production.

I knew about the orchid growing facilities here, but there are also many more types of flowers grown here!  From the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner website on nursery production…

…The local climate creates ideal conditions for raising a large variety of nursery stock including bedding and potted plants, cut flowers, poinsettias, vegetable transplants, woody ornamentals, propagative materials, turf and orchids.

Monterey County field of Yarrow flowers

Yarrow field — flowers growing in Monterey County, California – Photo LolaKo.com

It turns out, along with lots of spring greens, lettuce greens and heads of lettuce, Monterey County grows a lot of flowers like gerbera daisies, Asiatic lily, carnation, tulips and roses.

And so…Monterey County’s total crop values in the year 2011? A whopping  $3,853,004,200.  Again, Wow!

Here are related links:

body_2006_Oliver_hand-laborWebsite for the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner and Latest Monterey County Crop Report — living and working in Steinbeck Country (the 2012 report should be out soon)

nursery begonia field marina californiaBlog Begonias in the Mist – “We’re planting begonia seeds again.   We’ll drop over 2 million little begonia seeds and hope for the best….”

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Monterey County field of Lavenders

 

Creekside Farms in south Monterey County – grows flowers and makes gorgeous fresh and dried wreaths (see LolaKo post here, for more on Creekside Farms.

 

Lavender-Fields-creekside farms

Lavender Fields at Creekside Farms. Photo LolaKo.com

From USA Today, 25 years of “eureka” moments - #10 is Lettuce in a bag…

…Americans discovered there’s more to salad than iceberg lettuce drowning in bottled dressing after the rollout of mixed lettuce greens in a bag.  Fresh Express in Salinas, Calif., made that possible by inventing a high-tech plastic bag introduced nationwide in 1989. That helped ignite a whole consumer category of portion-controlled foods, such as bagged baby carrots.

Fresh Express productFeatureSalinas, Monterey County, California based Fresh Express Company - Fresh Express created the very first ready-to-eat packaged Garden Salad available in grocery stores nationwide in 1989.

Monterey, melons and more…

Did you know that Monterey County is the only county in the United States with more than $1 billion — yes, that is BILLION — in annual vegetable sales?  Wow!

Monterey County Fields

Monterey County, California farm field, near the Hwy 1 freeway. Photo www.Lolako.com

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most recent Census of Agriculture for the category of vegetables, potatoes and melons, the top five counties were:

  • Monterey County, California
  • Fresno County, California
  • Yuma County, Arizona
  • Palm Beach County, Florida
  • Kern County, California

Summer and Globe Squash Monterey County

Monterey County grew almost twice the sales value of the next largest county, Fresno… and produced almost 9% of total U.S. value of vegetable production.  Another, wow….and it is true that the Salinas Valley is the salad bowl capital of the U.S. (and the world?).
Monterey county artichokes
Most of what I see driving around Monterey County and neighboring counties are a whole lot salad green fields, and a lot of strawberry farms.  Not so much melons or potato fields.  This billion dollar number must mean mostly salad greens and artichokes, since strawberries are under another category for berries and tree nuts — an even bigger agriculture industry in California.
Textured MelonsIt is nearing summer time, and I am thinking of cherries and melons and luscious fruits to enjoy this summer, and places to take our grandchildren like “U-Pick” types of farms.    The melons pictured on this post are the Casaba melons, which originated from Kasaba, Turkey, and are in the “winter melon” group that includes honey dew melons.  “Winter” meaning they are hardy melons, since these melons are actually available in summer and fall.
Casaba Melons
I looked at the California Agricultural Tourism Directory website, clicked on the “U-Pick” category, and was surprised to find out there was only one listed for Monterey (The Farm – in the Salinas Valley). Surely there are more U-Pick farms in Monterey County? If you know of others, please comment.  Thank you!

WordPress Photo Challenge – Patterns of colors in costumes

After a hiatus from participating in my favorite WordPress blogging challenge (actually …a hiatus from blogging in general) I am submitting the following photos for this week’s theme from Sara Rosso, Patterns.

I immediately thought of the photos I took at the Marina (Monterey County, California) farmers market this past Sunday, the 5th of May.

I enjoyed the lovely costumes with repeating patterns and colors from a group performing folk dances for Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco De Mayo Color Patterns

Family Cinco De Mayo Color Patterns 1

Huddling together in preparation for their performance — and for photo opportunities — were the cutest little girl and boy, who seem to enjoy the attention and cameras pointed at them…

Family Cinco De Mayo Color Patterns 2

Cinco De Mayo Color Patterns 1Cinco De Mayo dancer at market low res

More about Baile Folklorico – traditional Latin American dances here

Cinco de Mayo events in the United States celebrates Mexican culture and heritage, and are very popular.

And of course, as with anything that can be commercialized, the popularity of Cinco de Mayo celebrations can also be attributed to beer companies promoting the event.  From the website, Hispanic Culture On-Line, Cinco de Mayo history:

The commercialization of Cinco de Mayo started because Coors Brewing Company wanted to improve its image among Hispanics who used to boycott the brewing company for alleged discriminatory practices….click here to read the article

Related article…Cinco de Mayo now a mainstream holiday, from SF Gate / San Francisco Chronicle.

Are there Cinco de Mayo events and celebrations where YOU are?

May the Fourth Be With You – the staying power of Star Wars

So this month, there is the Cinco de Mayo celebration, Mother’s Day on Sunday, the 12th, and oh yes…Star Wars Day, celebrated by Star Wars fans on May 4th.

What…..Star Wars Day? There’s a Star Wars Day…as in Happy Star Wars Day?

star-wars-may-the-4th-be-with-you-HallmarkApparently, as Hallmark has official cards (conventional and e-cards) available for sale, with your favorite Star Wars character and just the right sentiment .

Star Wars Episode IV was released in the U.S. on May 25, 1977.  I saw the movie when I was a teenager living in the Philippines, and up to that point, it was different from any movie I’d seen.

The second installment, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, was released in U.S. theaters on May 21, 1980, and it was among the first movies  I saw in an American theater.

Ever wonder where George Lucas got the inspiration for Star Wars?  Here is an excerpt from Star Wars Wookieepedia…

Lucas had already written two drafts of Star Wars when he rediscovered Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces in 1975 (having read it years before in college). This blueprint for “The Hero’s Journey” gave Lucas the focus he needed to draw his sprawling imaginary universe into a single story. Campbell demonstrates in his book that all stories are expressions of the same story-pattern, which he named the Hero’s Journey or the monomyth.

Lucas has often cited The Lord of the Rings series as a major influence on Star Wars. Lucas learned from Tolkien how to handle the delicate stuff of myth. Tolkien wrote that myth and fairytale seem to be the best way to communicate morality – hints for choosing between right and wrong – and in fact that may be their primary purpose. Lucas has also acknowleged in interviews that the Gandalf and the Witch-king characters in the Lord of the Rings influenced the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader characters respectively.

Over 30 years later, the Star Wars franchise lives on and is today relevant to my  grandsons, age 8 and 6.  They love all things Star Wars (now brilliantly marketed in partnership with Lego products) and of course, there is the animated Star Wars – Clone Wars series.

Yoda May the Fourth be with you s

This Yoda — equipped with lightsaber came to us via a box of a Nintendo DS Lego game.

And so here’s to Star Wars Day…and from our household Yoda (he came in a box with a Nintendo DS Lego game), May the Force — or the Fourth — Be With You!

Did you know…Star Wars is the third highest-grossing film series of all time, after James Bond and Harry Potter?

If you are a grandparent — or grandparent age —  how many movies do you remember from our teen years that are now part of modern popular culture?  Certainly not many that we can enjoy with our grandchildren…not a remake, but in its original format.

Related Links:

2013 Salinas Asian Festival

 

Lola Jane and her apos (tagalog for grandchildren) at the Salinas Asian Festival, near the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) booth.

Thank you to Elmer Dolera for the photo, posted via the Asian American Community of the Monterey Bay Area Facebook page.

And for more on FANHS, visit their new blog / website, here.

Whalefest at Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey

The Whalefest at Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey — Whale Watching Capital of the World — continues today, starting with a 10:00AM Beach Clean Up with The Wahine Project.

Today, the Museum of Monterey (MoM) theater is the venue for lectures and documentaries from the 2012 BLUE Ocean Film Festival, beginning with a collection of shorts (Fish Tale: My Secret Life as a Plankton, Ocean Oases, Sea Jellies: A summer Swarm in Monterey, Oceans at the Tipping Point and Ocean Giants), and the film Planet Ocean at 2:30PM.

Looking over the lighthouse exhibit at Museum of Monterey

Yesterday, my grandsons and I watched the inspiring film Ocean Frontiers at the Museum of Monterey.

Learning and blogging about environmental issues often becomes DEPRESSING because there is so much going wrong and the problems seem overwhelming, and insurmountable.

The movie Ocean Frontiers focused on positive work that promotes better health for our oceans.  By working together, farmers from Iowa can directly impact the health of the Gulf waters by creating wetlands and reducing fertilizer use. Endangered whales are saved when a variety of organizations combine research and teamwork to re-route shipping traffic at a busy Boston Port.

A contingent of local environmental organizations and businesses lined the path from the Customs House Plaza to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  We visited a few booths yesterday.

The Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) booth, showing Jun and Gabriel shark teeth.

Exhibiting a shark fin at the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) booth.

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Booth

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth — great poster that shows different whale sizes… man at the bottom right by the elephant

What does whale baleen feel like?

Like a brush! Jun also compared it to his bristly polar bear Christmas ornament from Eco Carmel, made of buri palm.

Squid for Kids booth from the Hopkins Marine Station was a popular stop

Squid dissected – at the Squid for Kids booth, Hopkins Marine Station

For more on squid — see an earlier post, jumbo Humboldt squid washing up on central California beaches (and one trapped in the Monterey Aquarium’s tide pool).

Squid for Kids painting and stamping station — sometimes they use real squid ink!

Chalk Art during Whalefest at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf – Monterey

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Booth

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Booth – making ocean creatures

Among my grandsons favorite activity was the United States Coast Guard area, as they  were allowed to board their inflatable Search and Rescue Coast Guard motor life boat.

And of course, as much as this was learning all about the ocean and conservation, you cannot go home without first getting a specialty lollipop from the candy store at Old Fisherman’s Wharf.

The boys had a blast and yes, we plan to go again today.

What countries are in Southeast Asia?

Until the 20th century, the area we now call Southeast Asia was referred to as the East Indies.

Most of us have heard the geographic term Southeast Asia…and have a general idea of where this area is.

A comment from Myra (who blogs at Itaga sa Bato) on my The Ethnic Food Aisle blog post sent me on this path to find out exactly what countries are included in the term Southeast Asia.

The orange-colored countries on the UN map below are countries considered to be in Southeast Asia.

UN Map via Wikipedia

And it turns out there are two parts to Southeast Asia — Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia.  Here is the wiki definition:

Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia.

The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.

Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: Mainland Southeast Asia, also known as Indochina, comprises Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia, and Maritime Southeast Asia comprises Brunei, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines, Christmas Island, and Singapore.

These countries, with the exception of East Timor, are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Established in 1967, ASEAN was founded by the countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

And to date, there are still Sovereignty issues over some islands in this area. See my earlier post related to China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam each claiming competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea – UNCLOS and the China-Philippine Standoff over Scarborough Shoal).

Weekly WordPress Challenge: Resolved — to capture the details

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge from Sara Rosso:

Resolved. This is that time of year, isn’t it? Full of resolutions and good intentions… …Why not share a photo which represents one of your New Year’s resolutions? If you don’t make them, what about sharing a photo which represents something you’d like to get better at in photography this year?  Share a picture which means RESOLVED to you!

My first post for 2013 and what I resolve to do to get better at photography this year is to capture more details.

I love taking photographs and have photographed landscapes and people — mostly my family members, whether they liked it or not — since I had my first 110 Instamatic Kodak camera as a young teen.

These days, with our smart phones, we all always have a camera no matter where we go — capturing the world around us. The photos below were from my HTC phone camera the week of Christmas, during a visit to gardens of the adobe-and-wood Larkin House, built in 1835 in Monterey, California.

I liked the design of the iron water well cover…

This normally would have been enough detail, but this time, I came in closer.

The close up shot resulted in seeing an interesting reflection of the well cover design from the water below.

To get an idea of the well size, here is a photo of my sister and brother-in-law sitting at the edge of the well.  In the past, this would have been my only photo of the well…so, a big improvement so far!

Details, and a lot more up close photographs are my goals for my 2013 photographs!

Larkin House Fence

 

photo from www.HistoricMonterey.org

The Larkin House was built byThomas Oliver Larkin — the only U.S. consul to California under Mexican rule.  The home became the American consulate from 1844 to 1846, and  also used as military headquarters by Kearny, Mason, and Sherman.

Both a National and a California Historical Landmark, the Larkin House is reportedly the first two story house in all of California, and combined Spanish Colonial building methods with New England architectural features.  It also originated the popular Monterey Colonial style of architecture, which features two stories, porches, a hip roof, and adobe walls.

For more information on the Larkin House, visit HistoricMonterey.org or the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s Larkin House webpage here.

Jumbo Humboldt squid washing up on central California beaches (and one trapped at the Monterey Bay Aquarium tide pool)

Photo of Humboldt squid by Monikichi, via Wikipedia.  Caught off Viña del Mar, Chile.

This past Saturday, my daughter and grandson Gabriel found Humboldt squid stranded at the Moss Landing & Salinas River State Beach, and over the weekend, there were reports of hundreds of stranded and dead Humboldt squid in areas along the Central California coast.

Also known as jumbo squid, the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) are predatory and can grow up to 5 feet long.

Think squid for calamari steaks, and not the small  “market” squid — the calamari rings that many of us eat for appetizers.

Market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) only grow to about 11 (28cm) inches long.

Named after the Humboldt Current (and the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt) these squid are normally found at depths of 660 to 2,300 ft (200 to 700 m) — and in the Sea of Cortez, in Baja, Mexico.

On Sunday, we were at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we watched a Humboldt squid swimming in the aquarium’s tide pool.

According to a Monterey Bay Aquarium staff member, the Humboldt squid was trapped in their tide pool after high tide.  Apparently, this has not happened in 28 years at the Aquarium.  I checked the opening year of the Aquarium — 1984 — which means this has never happened before…

The Monterey Bay Aquarium building sits on the edge of Monterey Bay.  Photo above of outdoor deck and the tide pool behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium building.  Photo LolaKo.com

The Great Tide Pool at Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Photo Lolako.com

It was a rare opportunity to see a Humboldt squid swimming in an enclosed area…and all from the comfort and safety of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s deck overlooking the tide pool.

We found out that squid swim backwards by pumping water through valves near their heads.  It was odd to see the squid moving about with its tentacles and head behind, instead of in front of the movement.

A baby Humboldt squid trapped after high tide in the Monterey Bay Aquarium tide pool. Leaning over the deck area, we watched — and I photographed with my phone camera — the squid swimming around the tide pool.  Coral and cream color creatures to the left of the squid are starfish that live in the tide pool.

What a lucky day to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Really….how often do you get to watch a Humboldt squid swimming without having to actually be in the water?  It is probably one of those days my grandsons will remember.

Interesting information from Wikipedia on the Humboldt squid:

El Niño factors

Although Humboldt squid are generally found in the warm Pacific waters off of the Mexican coast, recent years have shown an increase in northern migration. The large 1997-98 El Niño event triggered the first sightings of Humboldt squid in Monterey Bay..

Then, during the minor El Niño event of 2002, they returned to Monterey Bay in higher numbers and have been seen there year-round since then. Similar trends have been shown off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and even Alaska, although there are no year-round Humboldt squid populations in these locations.

This change in migration is suggested to be due to warming waters during El Niño events, but other factors, such as a decrease in upper trophic level predators that would compete with the squid for food, could be impacting the migration shift, as well.

Ocean Acidification

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that by the end of this century, ocean acidification will lower the Humboldt squid’s metabolic rate by 31% and activity levels by 45%. This will lead the squid to have to retreat to shallower waters, where they can take up oxygen at higher levels.

Here is a video from local news reports…did these baby Humboldt squid eat toxic algae?

Related Links:

Illustration by Rena Ekmanis (www.renaekmanis.com)

From UCSC Science Notes 2012: The Sea Longs for Red Devils

Article by Daniela Hernandez dives into a giant marine mystery — and why the elusive Humboldt squid has abandoned a Mexican fishery in need.  With illustrations by Rena Ekmanis.

Image of market squid from www.fishwatch.gov

California Market Squid – from NOAA, FISH WATCH U.S. Seafood Facts

…California’s market squid fishery is unique for several reasons. Fishermen usually fish for market squid at night directly (more here)