WPC Reward: The longevity of author John Steinbeck – photos from his hometown

Yesterday. February 27, was the author John Steinbeck’s birthday (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) — a good occasion to post my Oldtown Salinas photos and submit my 2nd WordPress Photo Challenge on the theme of Reward, for the reward of longevity.

Longevity: long life – the fact of living for many years – length of life – the length of time that something or someone lasts or continues (Definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Story of the whole valley web

Steinbeck’s words carved into stone at entrance of National Steinbeck Center

Among the rewards for a life well-lived is physical longevity and what is left, well after death.

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, Monterey County, California.  He wrote 27 books and won both a Pulitzer and the National Book Award for his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.  He also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 (controversial at the time) for “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”  and “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception”.

Salinas is the largest city in Monterey County, and the county seat.  It has a population of 155,000 and is located 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

The mild weather and rich valley soil is why the area is called “the salad bowl of the world”.  It is the only county in the United States that produces more than $1 billion annually in vegetable sales.

Salinas Valley Fields web

This was taken last week…really! The weather is so mild here, that there is something growing in the fields most of the time.


Much of Steinbeck’s writing is set in Southern and Central California, particularly the Salinas Valley and the Central California Coast.

The photos below are from “Old Town” Salinas, location of the National Steinbeck Center.  The house where John Steinbeck was born is a few blocks away from Oldtown. 

Steinbeck Center

Buildings in the Victorian style of architecture dot the old town Salinas downtown area.

Here are some examples of the buildings, walking out from the National Steinbeck Center…

Old Salinas buildings 5 web

Some of the building details in Oldtown…

And some interesting tile work on a few of the entryways…

And finally, some scenes from  the stores and restaurants in Oldtown…

Steinbeck Statue at Salinas Library web


The old town Salinas library is a few blocks away and is named after John Steinbeck.

There is another of the rock (like the one in front of the Steinbeck Center) carved with his quote, outside the library…


Books Best Friend Quote web

In addition to tips learned on the WordPress Photo Challenges, these series of photos were also inspired by Cardinal Guzman’s new photo challenge The Changing Seasons “to train your eye”.

This is my first attempt at taking a series of photos of one place, and it certainly made me look up/down and check out details, which I think in general makes me a better observer of what is around me…of life.

I’m inspired by photography that captures a sense of place and people, especially vibrant photos from The Third Eye Mom (see Lesson in Street Photography), and intricate nature photos, and great landscape photography from Just Another Nature Enthusiast (see the EcoRegion series).

In our digital era and through our blogs, we all have the opportunity for the “reward” of longevity — since our words and photos will be around long after we are gone, right?


To see interpretations from the WordPress blogging community or to join in the Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.

To participate in the new monthly photo challenge, The Changing Seasons, hosted by Cardinal Guzman, click here.  NOTE: I’m also including these photos as my first attempt and as practice 🙂 for this monthly challenge (though late, and more photos than suggested) since I like the idea of capturing sets of photos for different seasons — plus these photos are not archived, or published elsewhere, but taken last week. 

Seeing amazing photos from the WordPress blogging community is always inspiring, and tips are always appreciated from seasoned and professional photographers.

Purple blue jellyfish-like creatures (related to dangerous Portuguese man o’ war) stranded on Central California beaches

Earlier this week, we noticed these purplish blue jellyfish-like creatures stranded at the Moss Landing – Salinas River State Beach (Central California coast)…

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up on California beaches wb

My 9-year-old grandson, Jun standing next to a Velella — a sort of close cousin to jellyfish, and closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.  Photo Lolako.com

We have not seen these before, and they looked very interesting, with a blue, disc-shaped purplish bottom on one side and sliver of jelly-like material and flap on the other side.

Vellela jellie like closeup washed up on California beaches

Velella velella – photo by Lolako.com

At first we saw one or two every 5 to 10 feet….but then, as we walked further down the beach, we started to see hundreds of them.

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up California beaches wb

Velella velella stranded at Central California beaches. Photo by Lolako.com

We found out they are a close cousin to jellyfish and are called Velellas.

They are also known as sea raftby-the-wind sailorpurple sail, and little sail. They are found in most of the world’s oceans, and live on the surface of the water.

The top, jelly part acts like a sail and floats above the water, and the bottom blueish part is actually a colony of polyps with tentacles that catch prey like plankton, fish eggs and small shrimps.

Though quite small, these creatures are closely related to Portuguese man o’ wars.

But unlike Portuguese man o’ wars with tentacles of up to 160 feet (50 meters) that are venomous and dangerous to humans (even the ones washed up on the beach!) the much tinier Velellas’ are generally harmless to humans.  Still, the website Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) recommends not touching one’s face or eyes after handling Velellas.

Everything else you would want to know about Velellas is on the EOL website, which is where we also found this terrific video.

Velella – Planktonic Vessels from Parafilms on Vimeo.

Colonies of polyps transported by prevailing winds, velella drift at the surface of warm seas.   Plankton Chronicles Project by Christian Sardet, CNRS / Noe Sardet and Sharif Mirshak, Parafilms.  See Plankton Chronicles interactive site: planktonchronicles.org

Because Velellas cannot propel themselves, they are at the mercy of prevailing winds, and explains why they can sometimes wash ashore, stranded on beaches by the thousands.

Shore birds did not seem interested in eating the washed up Velellas…so they’ll just decompose or get washed back to sea at next high tide.

Have you seen Velella before or know more about these creatures washing up and stranded near where you live?

More Moss Landing beach related post from Lolako.com:

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!


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/

Track this, track that, but not this…

This morning, I heard a disturbing radio report about the tragic Aurora, Colorado shootings.

The shooter had stockpiled a cache of ammunition for his weapons over the last few months — all legally purchased on-line.

With modern technology, every click, every move that we make on-line is tracked by so many entities, all for commercial purposes and to make money off of us.

Since our data is already sliced, diced, dissected to the smallest possible degree, should there have been a red flag for the type of purchases the shooter, James Holmes, made on-line?

I find it hard to believe that no one questioned all these orders of ammunition from one guy, all delivered to an apartment building…

As it is now, I get emails from Amazon recommending some book based on one I recently bought, but yet there is no system in place to question James Holmes’ unusual (?) on-line purchases.

As always, this is a complex topic, but I do wonder….when it comes to the safety of our citizens, do you think technology should be used not only to track our moves to sell us more stuff and make a profit — but also track potential dangers to the safety of our citizens?

Is that a slippery slope and scary big brother…or an apt and necessary use of modern technology?

From Jack Healy, New York Times:

With a few keystrokes, the suspect, James E. Holmes, ordered 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun — an amount of firepower that costs roughly $3,000 at the online sites — in the four months before the shooting, according to the police. It was pretty much as easy as ordering a book from Amazon.

He also bought bulletproof vests and other tactical gear, and a high-capacity “drum magazine” large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute — a purchase that would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year.  More of the article, here…

Some good news on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for 2015

Back in the year 2000, 189 nations promised to free people from extreme poverty and other deprivations.  This pledge  is the basis for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) — a blueprint agreed to by the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions — with a target for the year 2015.

The Eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 are:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Seaside Market, Philippines – photo Lolako.com

With less than 3 years left until the end of 2015, which of these goals have been achieved?

The good news…a report launched earlier this month by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated that important targets on poverty, slums and water have been met three years ahead of 2015.

As far as the remaining goals…here are highlights from the United Nations Development Programme’s article: With three MDG targets achieved, global partnership for development is key to 2015 success

  • Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible ─ but only if Governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.
  • In his foreword to the 2012 MDG Report, Mr. Ban says “The current economic crises besetting much of the developed world must not be allowed to decelerate or reverse the progress that has been made.  Let us build on the successes we have achieved so far, and let us not relent until all the MDGs have been attained”.

There is progress…

The MDG Report says that, for the first time since poverty trends began to be monitored, both the number of people living in extreme poverty and the poverty rates have fallen in every developing region—including sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are highest.

Preliminary estimates indicate that in 2010, the share of people living on less than a $1.25 a day dropped to less than half of its 1990 value. Essentially, this means that the MDG first target—cutting the extreme poverty rate to half its 1990 level—has been achieved at the global level, well ahead of 2015. 

The MDG Report also notes another success: reaching the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water by 2010. The proportion of people using improved water sources rose from 76 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2010, translating to more than two billion people currently with access to improved sources such as piped supplies or protected wells.

And the share of urban residents in the developing world living in slums has declined from 39 per cent in 2000 to 33 per cent in 2012.  More than 200 million have gained access to either improved water sources, improved sanitation facilities, or durable or less crowded housing. This achievement exceeds the target of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, also ahead of a 2020 deadline.

The MDG Report 2012 also points out that the world has achieved another milestone: parity in primary education between girls and boys. Driven by national and international efforts, many more of the world’s children are enrolled in school at the primary level, especially since 2000. Girls have benefited the most. There were 97 girls enrolled per 100 boys in 2010—up from 91 girls per 100 boys in 1999.

The report says that enrollment rates of primary school age children have increased markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, from 58 to 76 per cent between 1999 and 2010. Many countries in the region have succeeded in reducing their relatively high out-of-school rates even as their primary school age populations were growing.

At the end of 2010, 6.5 million people in developing regions were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV or AIDS, constituting the largest one-year increase ever. Since December 2009, more than 1.4 million people were being treated.

“These results”, said Mr. Ban “represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs. 

But, they are not a reason to relax.  Projections indicate that in 2015 more than 600 million people worldwide will still lack access to safe drinking water, almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day, mothers will continue to die needlessly in childbirth, and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases. 

Hunger remains a global challenge, and ensuring that all children are able to complete primary education remains a fundamental, but unfulfilled, target that has an impact on all the other goals. Lack of safe sanitation is hampering progress in health and nutrition … and greenhouse gas emissions continue to pose a major threat to people and ecosystems”.   MORE, here…

Related Links and Reports on Millennium Development Goals

Lola Jane’s post – GDP Poor Nations Per Capita Income

Millennium Development Goals Indicators – Official website for the United Nation’s Millennium Indicators.  Click here for country specific data, the Philippines, etc.

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012

Summary: Three important targets on poverty, slums and water have been met three years ahead of 2015, says this year’s Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible ─ but only if Governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago.  Click here to view this report.

REPORT: What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?  From the United Nations Development Programme, an international assessment, based on a review of 50 country studies.

Click here to view report in PDF Format



Report: Unlocking Progress: MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) lessons from pilot countries

Reviews of MDG progress in various countries have revealed many successes, but also the need for urgent, focused action. In the absence of enhanced efforts, many countries risk missing one or more of the targets by the deadline.This report shares the lessons from 10 pilot countries on efforts taken toward meeting the 2015 MDG deadline.  Click here to view report in PDF format.

The Pentagon’s Pacific Pivot

News regarding U.S. plans to shift a majority of its military presence to the Asia-Pacific area continues, following U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s trip to the region.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta opens the plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, with remarks on how the Department of Defense will implement a new strategy in Asia, June 2, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Mr. Panetta was in Vietnam several days ago and over the weekend, was in Singapore at the 11th Asia Security Summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Following is the American Forces Press Service news article by Jim Garamone —  “Panetta Discusses Defense Cooperation with Philippine Minister”, from the Shangri-La Dialogue.

From left: U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta meet with Voltaire Gazmin, defense minister of the Philippines, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo -

SINGAPORE, June 2, 2012 – Building on momentum from the U.S.-Philippine “Two-Plus-Two” talks held in Washington in April, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Philippine National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin held talks here today.

The two defense ministers discussed regional issues and ways the Philippine and U.S. military can exercise, train and operate together. The men were both attending the 11th annual Asia security summit known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The Philippines is one of America’s treaty allies in the region. The U.S. and Philippines signed a Mutual defense Treaty in 1951, and both men agreed the alliance is still critical to regional peace and security, said George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

“The meeting allowed the two leaders to reflect on the alliance and continue their discussion regarding possible ways to enhance the longstanding relationship and support the U.S. presence in the region in ways that are mutually beneficial,” Little said in a written statement.

The security challenge in the archipelago is diverse. There are more than 7,100 islands in the nation and many different ethnicities. The Abu Sayyaf is a terrorist group in the southern part of the country that has waged a terror campaign against the government for 20 years. The group is loosely affiliated with al-Qaida and early on received funding from Osama bin Laden.

With a population of around 100 million, the Philippines is the 12th largest country in the world. It is a crossroads of Asia, and, unfortunately, right on the series of fault lines called the Ring of Fire. There are about 125,000 members in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and another 130,000 reservists.

“The cornerstone of the existing and any future enhancements of our security relationship will be to assist with capacity building of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, safeguard stability in the region, and increase interoperability so that we can effectively provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction together,” Little said.

Panetta and Gazmin also discussed areas of mutual concern and future growth. They specifically spoke about further development of collective defense capabilities and communications infrastructure; enhancing maritime domain awareness capacity; continued cooperation on the protection of cyberspace; and expanding joint information sharing, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities.

The U.S. is improving Philippine maritime presence and capabilities with the transfer of a second high-endurance cutter later this year. The two militaries are also increasing interoperability through the annual Balikatan exercise that finished in April.

The status of the South China Sea also came up during the discussion, Little said. Several countries have claimed the area, through which roughly a third of the world’s shipping transits. The Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam claim portions of the sea.

“Both sides reiterated their respective national interests in the right to freedom of navigation and their support for a collaborative and multilateral diplomatic process to resolve any territorial disputes peacefully in accordance with international law,” the Pentagon spokesman said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta poses for an official photograph with Watanabe Shu, Japan’s senior vice minister of defense, and Kim Kwan-Jin, Republic of Korea’s minister of national defense, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Will this mean re-establishing U.S. military bases in the Philippines….Subic Bay, Clark Air Force Base…and increasing troop presence at bases in Japan and Korea?

What do you think about this shift…and the Pentagon’s Pacific Pivot?

Spring forward again – it’s Daylight Saving Time (DST)

It’s that time again, when we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) and move an hour of daylight from morning to evening, by turning our clocks forward an hour.

More daylight to enjoy sight-seeing (photo of picturesque Pacific Grove, California)

I posted an article about DST in November last year — click here to view “The Story of Daylight Saving Time”.

The site WebExhibits is a good place to learn more about DST and has this interesting spelling and grammar article:

The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Because of this, it would be more accurate to refer to DST as daylight-saving time. Similar examples would be a mind-expanding book or a man-eating tiger. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an ‘s’) flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, and Daylight Time Shifting more accurate, but neither is politically desirable.

How many clocks do you have to change today?  Just smile and remember, DST is all about saving energy.

Picturesque Pacific Grove, California

12 Minutes

Bag Photo from Save Our Shores

Twelve minutes is the average use time of a plastic bag…and by now, most of us know that these lightweight bags — even when placed in trash cans — can be blown into gutters and end up in creeks and storm drains, and eventually into the bay and our ocean.

So it is great to hear about city after city in California, continuing to ban the use of single-use plastic bags!

Bans at Bay Area cities will help keep plastic bags from ending up in our bay.

The plastic bag ban for the city of San José — largest city in the Bay Area and third largest in California — took effect on January, 1, 2012.

Kristin Giammona pulls out her reusable bag to pack her groceries at the Lunardi's market in San José, Calif. on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. Helping her at right is cashier, Chris Silva. San José's ban on the use of plastic bags goes into affect beginning on 2012. (Gary Reyes/ Mercury News)

San Jose residents are getting use to bringing their reusable bags for grocery shopping (and grumbling when they forget and have to pay for paper bags).

There are exemptions…and the San José plastic bag ban does not apply to restaurants, so you will still get plastic bags and Styrofoam containers when getting take out or food to go.

Which means, it is up to us – the individual consumers  — to change our habits to further cut plastic bag and Styrofoam box use.

Despite the exemptions, some restaurant owners are taking it upon themselves to use environment friendly food packaging.  If you are interested in ideas for a restaurant environmental policy, please view my post on California’s foam packaging ban and click on the link to Gayles Bakery & Rosticceria.

The city of Monterey’s plastic bag ban takes effect in June, 2012.

The challenge — for all of us really — is remembering to bring our reusable bags with us when shopping.

In Monterey, we spotted these signs at the Whole Foods parking lot at the Del Monte Center center last year.

More recently, we saw the same reminder signs now up at the Pharmaca / Trader Joe’s parking lot, in downtown, Old Monterey.

With the work that environment and conservation groups around the Bay Area — and beyond — are doing to clean up our shores and oceans, photos of wildlife entangled in plastic bags or other plastic material, will hopefully be a rare thing, or even better, forever in the past.Additional Plastic Pollution Resources and Related Links:

Save Our Shores website – Plastic Bag Ban Fact Sheet Over the last 30 years, Save Our Shores has been responsible for key accomplishments such as preventing offshore oil drilling in Central Coast waters, helping to establish the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, preventing local cruise ship pollution, and bringing together diverse stakeholders to find common solutions to ocean issues

Earth Resource FoundationI AM THE PROBLEM, I AM THE SOLUTION” – Founded in 1999, Earth Resource Foundation (ERF) is an environmental educational non-profit organization developed to empower the general public with the resources to make environmentally  sustainable choices and changes.

Save The Bay (San Francisco) is the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay.  Save the Bay was founded in 1961, as “Save San Francisco Bay Association” by three East Bay women who were watching the Bay disappear before their eyes.  Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Esther Gulick set out to stop the City of Berkeley’s plan to double in size by filling in the shallow Bay off-shore. They mobilized thousands to stop the project, and their resounding victory was repeated on Bay fill projects around the region.

Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF) Charles Moore founded AMRF in 1994 to focus on the “coastal ocean”, specifically on the restoration of disappearing giant kelp forests and the improvement of water quality through the preservation and re-construction of wetlands along the California coast.

The U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA’s) Marine Debris Program Marine debris is everyone’s problem. It is a global problem affecting everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales.

Marine debris also comes in many forms, from a cigarette butt to a 4,000-pound derelict fishing net.

World Watch Institute – Vision for a Sustainable WorldWorldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals and the environment.  With its work, Plastic Pollution seeks to put plastic pollution at the forefront of global social, environmental and political discourse.

Keep Monterey Clean – Litter is a problem in our community.  Monterey County is one of the most beautiful spots in California yet a trip on area roadways can reveal medians, roadsides, and parking lots strewn with litter. Litter is not only an eyesore, it poses health risks, impacts our coastal waters and is costly to cleanup.   The Monterey Regional Waste Management District has created this website to help solve the problem and to recognize the great work many businesses and civic groups are doing to help keep Monterey County clean.

Worst Maritime Disaster (and it was not the Titanic)

The reports coming in about Captain Francesco Schettino’s actions and the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia disaster are disturbing.  He is under house arrest and Italian authorities are accusing him of manslaughter for abandoning his ship — when there were still passengers and crew on the ship.  The death toll is at 11 and there are still 20 passengers and crew missing.   We often hear about heroic deeds during accidents and disasters, and then the opposite — cowardly actions as in the case of Captain Schettino.

The Costa Concordia was carrying over 4,200 people when the Captain made an unauthorized deviation from its normal course near a Tuscan island.  It then ran into the reef and aground.

Veering off the normal and approved course was not due to weather or some mechanical malfunction.  It was the Captain’s decision to take the ship closer to this Tuscan island, as a favor to the ship’s chief waiter, who is from the island.  Read more on this link to BBC News.

And on the topic of maritime disasters — what do you think the answer would be if you asked (just about anyone) the following question:

What is the worst (peacetime) maritime disaster in the world?

Most would answer the Titanic, right?  When the Titanic sank in 1912, 1,517 people died out of over 2,223 passengers.

But that answer would be wrong as sadly, a tragedy in Philippine waters has the unfortunate distinction of the worst peacetime maritime disaster record in the world.

On December 20, 1987, 4,375 passengers and crew lost their lives when the Sulpicio Lines-owned ship, the MV Dona Paz struck the oil tanker MT Vector, causing an explosion that set both ships on fire.

The MV Dona Paz was traveling from Tacloban, the capital of the island of Leyte to Manila.  The ship manifest listed just under 1500 passengers, so they allowed almost 3 times more passengers to board the ship.  There were only 26 survivors — 2 crew members from the MT Vector and 24 passengers from the MV Dona Paz.

In this day and age and with modern maritime navigation equipment and systems, it is perplexing that these accidents continue to happen.

Despite international safety regulations in place, most maritime tragedies still come down to an individual’s poor decision — not an act of God or the weather, not major mechanical malfunctions….but human error.

Related: Lola Jane’s blog post about the Filipino crew members praised for heroism on the Costa Concordia

Moss Landing Pier

This is a follow-up to my post “What low tide reveals” and the story behind the lost Moss Landing Pier.

Low tide reveals old pier posts at Moss Landing beach

I spent the afternoon in Moss Landing last Thursday, starting with a lovely lunch at The Haute Enchilada with my friends Jean and Joselyn.

We stopped at La Boutique, then the Moss Landing Post Office to look at historical photographs.

Moss Landing's Unique Post Office

This post office is unique and the walls in areas above the post office boxes are full of past photos (and news articles) of the town.  We spotted this photo of the old pier.

This is one of the photos of the old Moss Landing pier, located inside the Moss Landing Post Office. Photo courtesy of Mr. Nathan Sawyer

We hear about challenges facing the U.S. Post Office in these changing times and our modern world…so maybe a look back at other purposes that small town post offices provide (as a mini-museum in the case of Moss Landing or as a modern-day information hub) will keep these facilities going.

Next stop, a walk to the Captain’s Inn Bed and Breakfast to meet the Captain’s wife, and co-owner Melanie Gideon.

The Captain’s Inn building was originally built in 1906 by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, and fully renovated by Yohn and Melanie Gideon.

Melanie, pictured here, responded to my original blog post to answer my curiosity about the pier post remains at the beach, and offered to show me photos of the old pier.

Unfortunately, we came at a busy time as she was checking in guests staying at the B&B.

I will have to come back to learn more —  Melanie is a wealth of information about Moss Landing!

The photograph below is one of several located at the Captain’s Inn lobby stairway,  and is from the viewpoint of a tall sailing ship.

The pier was quite active during the days when it was owned by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company.

Photo of Moss Landing Pier, Courtesy of Captain's Inn

It is interesting to learn that the big 1906 San Francisco earthquake caused damage to the town of Moss Landing, and the final blow to this old pier was also caused by another big Bay Area earthquake — the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

So the next time I go for a beach walk near the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) building, I will imagine how it must have looked with these tall sailing ships and steamships coming in to dock.

The Rose Parade and the Occupy — or Anti-Wall Street Movement

I noticed something different on newspaper coverage of the occupy protestors march, following the Pasadena 2012 Tournament of Roses.

There was no “occupy” language on our local paper’s headline and sub-heading. The headline read Pageantry and protest, and the sub-heading read “ROSE PARADE FOLLOWED UP BY ANTI-WALL STREET MARCH”.

The Local Nomad’s blog post on The Occupy Movement in Small Towns (and topics not so local) delves into this “occupy” name and paradigm.  Perhaps the movement name is evolving.  “Anti-Wall Street” certainly sounds clearer and less aggressive than the “Occupy” terms.

What do you think?

This cartoon from Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes aim at the meaning of mess from occupy movement encampments…all a matter of perspective?

On Vaclav Havel…and what is wrong with this newspaper front page?

I’ve been meaning to post something about the death of Vaclav Havel.  It so happens that he died the same weekend as North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.

It bothered me that the news focused so much on Kim Jong-il instead of the life and leadership of Vaclav Havel.  Our own local newspaper is proof…

It doesn’t seem right that a person who caused suffering for so many should take top billing over a person who led a life of integrity and contributed positive ideas to our world.

I’m afraid to ask…but what does this say about our culture, about us?

Kim Jong-il – Over the last 17 years, known for leading a country with a depressing human rights record, and one of the world’s most closed and repressive governments.

According to Human Rights Watch, he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of North Koreans through widespread preventable starvation, horrendous prisons and forced labor camps, and public executions.

Further, “Kim Jong-Il will be remembered as the brutal overseer of massive and systematic oppression that included a willingness to let his people starve,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Vaclav Havel was a playwright, political dissident and past president of the Czech Republic.  He was the leader of the peaceful anti-communist “Velvet Revolution” and supporter of human rights.

The Clintons, who attended Havel’s funeral, called him a “towering figure in the world of human rights and a force for progress in Eastern Europe.”

Havel inspired his people, and millions more across eastern Europe, to stand up for democracy and fundamental human rights in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch.

More about Vaclav Havel on this article by Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist and CNN contributor Paul Begala.  Excerpt:

As the world struggles to make sense of the depressed and dark fiefdom that is North Korea in the wake of the death of its Dear Leader, let us pause to remember his polar opposite. If Kim Jong-il was dictatorial, sociopathic, and inhumane, Vaclav Havel was a freedom-loving, warm-hearted humanist…

…His life is testament to the power of politics at its best, a politics not of cynicism and power, but of truth and freedom. A politics that Havel described as “the art of the impossible.”

Click HERE to read Paul Begala’s article

Vaclav Havel – Photo from The Daily Beast – Petr David Josek

The Story of Daylight Saving Time

I hate having to change all our clocks again — this time back to standard time — because of Daylight Saving Time (DST).  What is the story behind DST and why do we do this?

It turns out over 70 countries observe DST.  There is an American law, called the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (though not requiring DST) that requires those who observe DST to do so uniformly.

While serving as an American delegate in France, Benjamin Franklin first suggested the idea of Daylight Saving Time in an essay titled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” The essay was first published in the Journal de Paris in April 1784.

In 1907, an Englishman, William Willett, suggested it again.  Recognizing that the nation could save energy, England put in place a form of DST during the first World War.

In 1918, the U.S. Congress also placed the country on Daylight Saving Time to conserve resources for the war effort.  However, the law was unpopular and later repealed.  Congress reinstated Daylight Saving Time during World War II.

If you really want to know more about the history of DST and why we use it, The California Energy Commission’s website has a detailed article by Bob Aldrich, Webmaster (retired).

The bottom line is that Daylight Saving Time is about saving energy consumption, and though very small for each household, it makes a difference in total.

And so yes….I’ll stop complaining now and change all our clocks knowing it is all about saving energy, and I will not complain when I do this again in the Spring, when we move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.


And if you want to know even more about Daylight Saving Time, here is a link to David Prerau’s book “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.

GDP – Poor Nations Per Capita Income

Using data from the World Bank, I was working on a GDP per capita, Poor Nations Quiz for this post (follow-up to Rich Nations Quiz as well as my post on the book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story).

It turns out 32 countries on our planet have a GDP per income capita of less than $1,000 per year.  This was surprising, at least to me — and way too depressing.  So…no quiz for this post, just information.

The country with the lowest per capita income is Burundi at $189 per year, population 8,518,862.  Other countries in this below $1,000 range — that you may have heard of:

  • Kenya – $769 per year, population 40,862,900
  • Bangladesh – $609 per year, population 164,425,491
  • Nepal – $526, population 29,852,682
  • Uganda – $503 per year, population 33,796,461
  • Mozambique – $410 per year, population 23,405,670
  • Ethiopia – $350 per year, population 84,975,606

Below is a world map showing population percentage living on less than $2 per day (annual income less than $730 per year).

Data is from United Nations estimates.  The Philippines falls in the red group — with 41% to 60% of the population living on less than $2 per day.

More poverty maps can be viewed on this link to Wikipedia’s List of countries by percentage of population living in poverty.

There are 21 countries with annual per capita under $2,000, including:

  • India – $1,477, population 1,170,438,000
  • Sudan – $1,425, population 43,551,941
  • Nigeria $1,224, population 158,258,197
  • Vietnam $1,172, population 88,361,983

And 16 countries with per capita incomes under $3,000 (the Philippines falls in this range, listed as $2,132, population 93,616,853).  Others in this range include:

  • Egypt – $2,591,  population 84,474,427
  • Iraq – $2,544, population 32,297,391
  • Sri Lanka – $2,423, population 20,451,826
  • Morocco – $2,771, population 32,381,283

A reminder, the World Bank’s tag line is Working for a World Free of Poverty.

  • The World Bank’s defines per capita as the “gross domestic product divided by mid year population. GDP is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

With all our modern technology, when we have so much information, and are connected in so many ways, is there still so much poverty in the world?  There must be a group of very smart people out there working on the answers…

What are your thoughts on why (updated as of May, 2014) we still cannot find the answer to address poverty worldwide?

Poverty-related Lola Jane post:

There is some good news!  See the blog post (here) on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for 2015. Excerpt:  Back in the year 2000, 189 nations promised to free people from extreme poverty and other deprivations.  This pledge  is the basis for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) — a blueprint agreed to by the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions — with a target for the year 2015.

Potato ABC’s

Product Ingredients lists: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Sunflower Cottonseed, Soybean and/or Canola), Yellow Corn Flour, Sea Salt, Dextrose, Methycellulose, Onion, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Natural Flavoring

I saw this potato product in the frozen aisle section.  I know…most of us are busy and look for convenient foods, but Potato ABC’s really?

Some may think…this is brilliant!  Gets kids to eat their potatoes and learn their alphabet too!

As for me….I think this is ridiculous.

Is it really necessary to take the humble and delicious potato and turn them into ABC’s?

After all, most homes with children already have ABC bath toys, ABC puzzles, ABC books….

In the process of looking up the ingredients “Methycellulose” and “Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate”, I found an excellent website called FoodFacts.com.

They have a food rating system based on the product ingredients (you can even look up products based on the UPC Code).  Especially helpful for those with food allergies.

Interested in how these ABC Tater Tots rate?  Click on to the website link here.

A simple way we prepare potatoes in our home is to chop in quarters or wedge shapes, toss in olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper and parmesan cheese.  Roast in the oven….EASY.

And no methycellulose or sodium acid pyrophoshate needed.  Our grandchildren love roasted sweet potatoes too…same method, just leave out oregano and cheese, or bake, mash like regular potatoes.

Most Populous Countries and by Continent

Can you guess where the Philippines ranks in terms of world population?

World Population by Continent and Top 10 most Populated Countries

Not quite in the top 10 but almost…Philippines is at #12 in the world population ranking, in between Mexico (#11) and Vietnam (#13).

South Korea’s recycling success

With most cities or municipalities providing receptacles for recyclables, I  still don’t understand why there are still those who do not recycle.  I suppose if the cost of trash containers (and garbage pick up) increased by 50%, that would get more attention for recycling.

Photo from scottchan's portfolio, www.freedigitalphotos.net

South Korea is now way into the “green” movement — but it was not so a few decades ago.   As the country got very rich, people had lots of money to buy lots of stuff, and as a result, lots of stuff needed to be thrown away.

But because the country had limited landfill space (which is not the case here in the USA), they pretty much had no choice but to institute strict recycling policies.

In South Korea,  it is free to recycle waste, and anything else that must be disposed of or headed to the landfill is charged a fee based on the quantity.

The country went from producing enormous amounts of trash to a culture of  recycling and a more “green” mindset.

Here is a link to an interesting and humorous article from a BBC correspondent’s experience with South Korea’s enthusiasm for recycling.

Gray Belt

4 year old Gabriel, white belt at Tae Kwon Do class


My grandsons (four-year-old Gabriel and six-year-old Jun-Jun) take Tae Kwon Do lessons, a Korean form of martial arts.

Gabriel just started —- he is a White Belt.

Jun started with Tae Kwon Do at age 5 and recently passed his Purple Belt promotion test.

6 Year Old Jun - Purple Belt



I guess the whole belt thing must be on their minds because when they saw Opa (Grandpa) with a gray robe and matching belt in the early morning, both said, “Opa!  You’re a Gray Belt!”

I don’t think the Gray Belt is  officially sanctioned by the World Tae Kwon Do Federation just yet.




Did you know that Tae Kwon Do is the national sport of South Korea?  It is also considered the most popular martial arts based on the number of practitioners world-wide (estimated at over 70 million in 190 countries),  and has been an Olympic event since 2000.

More information on Tae Kwon Do can be found by clicking on this link to Wikipidia.

Besides Taekwondo, there is only one other martial arts sport in the Olympics…can you guess what it is?  The answer…

Bizarro Modern World

The Bizarro cartoon today captures modern world headaches I encountered after what I thought would be a simple transfer of domain name registry, as well as the dot info blog site I was starting for Native Leaf.   I was in need of many aspirins, but perhaps antidepressants would have been better.

If you are a fan of Bizarro cartoons as I am, or just want to laugh, here is the link to the blog, www.bizarrocomics.com, with the tagline “A daily blog by Dan Piraro, creator of the syndicated newspaper cartoon, Bizarro. It has cartoons, art, photos, thoughts, vids, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. Please enjoy responsibly”.

Bizarro Cartoon 5-26-2011

Blogger Spammers

I heard someone say that if spammers cannot find your blog and articles, then no one else can.

I am enjoying this process and still learning about technical aspects for my blog site, but as far as spammers, well…I have been found.

Getting a comment on a post is SO NICE, except when you realize it is just SPAM.  For those of you new to blogging, here is how I check (and please let me know if you have other methods):

  • check the email address on Google — if it is a spammer, others would have reported it already and it will be obvious on the search results.
  • or check the website on Google…same thing
  • there are also sites focused on listing information from known spammers on forums and blogs, e.g., http://www.stopforumspam.com/faq
  • And oh joy, if the site or address has poker chips or cialis as part of it, it is probably a spammer.
  • Oh and for the obvious….if the comment is generic and has absolutely nothing to do with the post.  For example, I got one on my post about the ethnic food aisle that said “you saved me MUCH time”.  Really?  From going to the ethnic food aisle? And another who said “thank you for keeping up with the trends”….Lola and trends?  OK maybe I am a hip Lola after all (except the post had nothing to do with trends).

WordPress has a button to click for Spam…Sigh…

Luggage with A Special Kind of Stinky

Being a nation comprised of thousands of islands and where the ocean is never really far away from anyone or anywhere, it is easy to see why Filipinos are fond of seafood.

Also consumed in large quantities are dried fish and related fermented fish products, as these do not need refrigeration, are a source of protein, and brings flavor to plain old rice and vegetables.

“Tuyo” – Dried Fish for Sale at the Market

The word “tuyo” which means “dry” in Tagalog, is the same word for dried fish.

I do like using patis (Philippine fish sauce) in my cooking, as noted on my earlier post.  However, I am not as crazy about dried fish, though I know many bring back their favorite dried fish, squid or specialty fermented seafood after coming back from their visits to the Philippines.

Years ago, my Mom decided she had to bring several jars of a local Visayan “delicacy” called ginamos back to the California, and tucked several jars in her luggage.

Ginamos is a salted, fermented product made from tiny fish like silver fish, anchovies or sometimes bigger fish like sardines, as well as shrimp (the pinkish version on the photo below).  Sold in glass jars or in open buckets at the market, the sight of it is not exactly appetizing as most are cloudy to muddy gray in color.

Ginamos – Bagoong at Market. Photo Courtesy of Tsubibo

It does not get better once you open up the container, when the smell of fermented, decaying fish wafts out.  I swear the stinkier the variety,  the more my Mom lights up at how good it will be with her fresh steamed rice.  Many Filipinos also like to eat ginamos with bananas and sweet potatoes.

When walking through local markets where ginamos is sold, I have to hold my breath —and walk as fast as I can—for fear I may pass out from the smell…and I grew up familiar with this unique aroma.  So I can only imagine how those —whose olfactory senses are “new” to the odor would react to the smell because….it truly is a special kind of stinky.

So for this trip back,  Mom must have thought the ginamos batch was worth taking to the U.S., and brought back not just one, but several jars of it.  Unfortunately, Mom was not mindful of how to properly pack ginamos for a 7,000+ mile journey.

At the San Francisco International Airport’s baggage claim, I waited next to Mom and other tired passengers for her luggage.  At the same time, I noticed the area emitted a familiar fishy smell (familiar that is, to many Filipinos), and noticed too, others wrinkling their noses.

As you can guess, indeed, one of my Mom’s treasured jars of ginamos had shattered.  I was worried she would never get the odor off her clothes, and thought, oh well that luggage bag is history!  And then I thought..uh oh…..the poor folks who may have to smell that special stinky —maybe for weeks— around the luggage carousel.

For Mom though, she was more upset that she had lost a jar of her ginamos, especially after traveling so far.  After all, you can replace clothes and luggage, but you cannot buy that special gnamos just anywhere in San Francisco!

Enjoy your ginamos and bananas! Photo Courtesy of Karlhans.

Related: Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts: