California

The Island Fox on Santa Cruz Island

Last weekend, Dave and Irene and Carol and I went to Santa Cruz Island to volunteer with the Friends of the Island Fox to help remove non-native, invasive plants from the island, specifically, the oyster plant. In addition to the super-fun weed picking experience, we got to see and experience and learn many new things. The day on the island exceeded our expectations, and as Huell Howser might say, it was amazing.

Update August 11, 2016: Island Fox Removed from Endangered Status!

Video: Meet the Tiny Foxes That Shouldn’t Be Alive – A decade ago the tiny island fox was on the brink of extinction. Now, thanks to a radical reordering of its California island ecosystem, the fox is coming off the Endangered Species List.

We landed at Scorpion Anchorage on the east end of Santa Cruz Island. The beach was wide and calm with crystal-clear water -- perfect for launching a kayak.
We landed at Scorpion Anchorage on the east end of Santa Cruz Island. The beach was wide and calm with crystal-clear water — perfect for launching a kayak.
Island Packers provided our transportation to and from the Island. They were awesome, even stopping each way so we could snap photos of humpback and gray whales, and countless dolphins.
Island Packers provided our transportation to and from the Island. They were awesome, even stopping each way so we could snap photos of humpback and gray whales, and countless dolphins.
The dock at Scorpion Harbor was damaged several years ago by large waves, so everyone was taken ashore on inflatable boats -- a somewhat cumbersome process.
The dock at Scorpion Harbor was damaged several years ago by large waves, so everyone was taken ashore on inflatable boats — a somewhat cumbersome process.
Carol poses for the obligatory photo-by-National-Park-sign photo.
Carol poses for the obligatory photo-by-National-Park-sign photo.
Walking up Scorpion Canyon, we encountered our first Island Fox resting under a tree, not far from the trail. The fox is about the size of a house cat, and was not overly-concerned with us humans.
Walking up Scorpion Canyon, we encountered our first Island Fox resting under a tree, not far from the trail. The fox is about the size of a house cat, the smallest North American canid, found only on the California Channel Islands. It was not concerned by our presence.
Santa Cruz has campgrounds providing water, a table and bear lockers - not to worry, there are no bears on the island. Charcoal and campfires are not allowed, and there is not trash service. You pack it in, you pack it out.
Santa Cruz has campgrounds providing water, a table and bear lockers — not to worry, there are no bears on the island. Charcoal and campfires are not allowed, and there is not trash service. You pack it in, you pack it out.
The windmill is part of the remaining infrastructure of the Scorpion Ranch -- an old sheep ranch until 1984. Today, the ranch's main building is a National Park Visitor Center.
The windmill is part of the remaining infrastructure of the Scorpion Ranch, an old sheep ranch until 1984. Today, the ranch’s main building is a National Park Visitor Center.
Near the top end of Scorpion Canyon, looking east.
Near the top end of Scorpion Canyon, looking east.

A photo sphere of the Friends of the Island Fox collecting the invasive oyster plant (Tragopogon porrifolius) along the Montañon Ridge Trail.

Looking east over non-native cypress trees to Anacapa Island - another island in the Channel Islands National Park.
Looking east over non-native cypress trees to Anacapa Island — another island in the Channel Islands National Park.
Legacy fence lines in various states of disrepair.
Legacy fence lines in various states of disrepair.
Little Scorpion Anchorage with Anacapa Island in the background.
Little Scorpion Anchorage with Anacapa Island in the background.
Kayakers take advantage of the island's clear waters and the many available sea caves. The island is home to one of the largest sea caves in the world.
Kayakers take advantage of the island’s clear waters and the many available sea caves. The island is home to one of the largest sea caves in the world.
Island Packers boats offshore at Scorpion Anchorage.
Island Packers boats offshore at Scorpion Anchorage.
Our last sighting of an Island Fox on the beach, just before boarding the boat for the return trip to Ventura.
Our last sighting of an Island Fox on the beach, just before boarding the boat for the return trip to Ventura.

Life in Venice

At first we heard the black and white LAPD helicopter circling over the office. Then we heard commands blaring over a loud speaker. In front of the office, on Abbot Kinney Blvd., the LAPD had pulled over six men, which we later learned, were allegedly driving a stolen car. The cops were professional, and all business. Just another day in Venice.

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The World That The Children Made

“The World That The Children Made,” a mural by Brian Farrell, is located on the east wall of Plant Food and Wine,

October 27, 2015
October 27, 2015
October 27, 2015
October 27, 2015
October 30, 2015
October 30, 2015
November 12, 2015
November 12, 2015
November 12, 2015
November 12, 2015
December 1, 2015
December 1, 2015
December 15, 2015
December 15, 2015
January 11, 2016
January 11, 2016
January 11, 2016
January 11, 2016
January 15, 2016
January 15, 2016 Brian Farrell Art.

Doing Time on The Rock, See?

With apologies to Edward G. Robinson.

Carol and I push off from Pier 33 in San Francisco for our first trip to Alcatraz Island. As it turned out, we used four modes of transportation that day: boat, car, train and airplane.
Carol and I push off from Pier 33 in San Francisco for our first visit to Alcatraz Island. As it turned out, we used four modes of transportation that day: boat, car, train and airplane.
Alcatraz is 1.5 miles into the San Francisco Bay first documented by Spanish explorers in 1775 who named the island "La Isla de los Alcatraces" (The Island of the Pelicans). It stands 135 feet out of the water and was a military garrison, then a military prison, then a federal penitentiary, and now part of the National Park System.
Alcatraz is 1.5 miles into the San Francisco Bay first documented by Spanish explorers in 1775 who named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces” (The Island of the Pelicans). It stands 135 feet out of the water and was a military garrison, then a military prison, then a federal penitentiary, and now part of the National Park System.
A lingering sign from the 1969–71 Native American occupation.
A lingering sign from the 1969–71 Native American occupation.
Apparently, Alcatraz was the only federal penitentiary which provided hot showers for its inmates.
Apparently, Alcatraz was the only federal penitentiary which provided hot showers for its inmates. The theory was, with the warm water, inmates could not get acclimated to cold water, aiding their chance of escape. Inmates were limited to 10-minute showers. Al Capone famously practiced the banjo in the shower block.
Living conditions were not plush at the prison. Cells came with a bed, sink, toilet, seat and table. Ceilings were 7' tall.
Living conditions were not plush at the prison. Cells came with a bed, sink, toilet, seat and table and were 9′ deep, 5′ wide and 7′ tall. Alcatraz housed some 1,576 of America’s most ruthless criminals including Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. “Doc” Barker, James “Whitey” Bulger, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (who served 26 years – more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate).
Alcatraz had four cell blocks, A-D, each with three stories.
Alcatraz had four cell blocks, A-D, each with three stories.
The Golden Gate Bridge in fog.
The Golden Gate Bridge in fog.
The exercise yard outside the cell blocks.
The exercise yard outside the cell blocks.
The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was built in 1852 and was the first lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast. The one that exists today was built in 1909 - it replaced the original which was fatally damaged in the 1906 earthquake.
The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was built in 1852 and was the first lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast. The one that exists today was built in 1909 – it replaced the original which was fatally damaged in the 1906 earthquake.
The basement of Alcatraz contained some showers and a dungeon (solitary confinement) accessed from A-Block. The green stairway to the basement is on the ride side of the photo
The basement of Alcatraz contained some showers and a dungeon (solitary confinement) accessed from A-Block, and was only used for a few years. The green stairway to the basement is on the ride side of the photo.
The Fog Gods were generally cooperative, but every so often, they would tease us.
The Fog Gods were generally cooperative, but every so often, they would tease us.
San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood.
San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.
Building 64 were residential apartments, first used by the military, then by the prison.
Building 64 were residential apartments, first used by the military, then by the prison.
Of the many guard towers which existed on Alcatraz, this is the only one remaining.
Of the many guard towers that were on Alcatraz, this is the only one remaining.
As a bonus while visiting The Rock, we got to see part of the Fleet Week San Francisco air show including the Blue Angels.
As a bonus while visiting The Rock, we got to see part of the Fleet Week San Francisco air show including the Blue Angels.
More Fleet Week movement under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Fleet Week movement under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Inside the Sriracha Factory

Carol, Eric, Steve and I recently visited Huy Fong Foods, the maker of the glowing-red bottles of Sriracha chili sauce. The visit coincided with their chili-grinding season, which only lasts about four months. This year marks the company’s 35th anniversary.

Huy Fong Foods
The new Huy Fong Foods facility is 650,000 square feet, located in Irwindale, CA.
Carol and David Tran
Carol poses with David Tran, founder and owner of Huy Fong Foods. Tran was a Vietnamese war refugee in the 60s who came to the United States with nothing to create his chili empire.
The tatoo is in place, it's time to wander
Carol’s seemingly indelible tattoo is in place; now it’s time to wander the Sriracha factory.
Two words: Christmas Card.
Two words: Christmas Card.
Mac is funy
Steve makes funny; Eric quickly sidles by.
trucks of peppers
During the pepper season, 30-to-40 truck loads of peppers are received almost daily. Each truck weighs about 21 tons.
dumped peppers
The trucks pull up next to hoppers, where their trailer-beds are hooked and lifted, easily unloading the peppers.
said peppers
Huy Fong uses only fresh red jalapeño hybrid peppers, which are grown exclusively by Underwood Ranches in Camarillo, CA. From pepper plant to factory only takes a few hours.
grinding the peppers
A couple of the pepper grinders at Huy Fong. After the peppers are ground, they’re piped to mixers where salt, vinegar, and two preservatives are added to create the chili base of their three sauces: Sriracha, Chili Garlic, and Sambal Oelek.
filling barrels
After grinding, the chili base is stored in blue, 55-gallon drums. A lot of drums. The chili base will be used to make Sriracha and other Huy Fong products throughout the year.
inside barrel
55 gallons of chili-based goodness.
sealing barrels
Blue barrels travel down the assembly line.
making bottles
Huy Fong makes its own bottles in-house using blow molding machines to heat and expand the plastic to the proper size. Sriracha labels are silk screened on the bottle. There are nine bottling lines, each capable of producing 18,000 bottles an hour.
inspection, boxing
Sriracha bottles travel down the assembly line for final inspection and boxing.
35 years!
A commemorative 35th anniversary Sriracha bottle with many more to come.

Extra-Credit Videos:

Seven Photos from the Alabama Hills

Memorial Day weekend in the Alabama Hills on the eastern side of the Sierras. And nowhere near Alabama. I’d call that a stout win-win.

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Rain at our elevation meant snow in the Sierras starting at 5,000 feet above us.
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Sunday morning, the day before Memorial Day.

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An overview of the Alabama Hills from Cocktail Point. Lone Pine Creek runs thru the green patch in the middle/left of the photo.

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Late afternoon sunlight, before it disappears behind the Sierras to the west.
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The cost of beer at the Whitney Portal Store — worth every nickle.

Video: B-17 Wings of Freedom Tour, Torrance

Dad went up in a B-17 for the first time in 70 years and 29 days, on the Wings of Freedom Tour, out of Torrance Airport. The last time he was on a B-17, he was carried off the aircraft in England after a piece of shrapnel went through the airplane, his helmet, then his foot (his foot was resting on his helmet). Today’s flight turned out much better; the flight was magnificent, and without shrapnel.

25 Pages From the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog

Radio Shack is slipping off the raft; it’s taking its final breaths. To eulogize, here are 25 pages from the 1985 Radio Shack catalog with all kinds of electronic, geeky goodies: Beta VCRs, open-reel and 8-track tape, computers and peripherals, and vacuum tubes. All branded Radio Shack, Realistic, Tandy or Archer, and all guaranteed to make you happy for a little while.

25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
The tradition continues for 1985 with more breakthroughs than we’ve ever introduced in a single year. New home/office multi-line phone system. New Pocket Vision TV. New compact disc player. New stereo hi-fi VCR. Incredible new Tandy 2000 MS-DOS personal computer. Over 200 new products in all, and every one of them exclusive at Radio Shack. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Only $500 gets you a digitally-synthesized radio, cassette player and equalizer, in a super-sexy, 17-pound enclosure. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
A CD player with pushbuttons for fast-forward and fast-reverse, stop/clear and pause, all indicated by a green fluorescent display. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Don’t be a loser – select a Betamax hi-fi VCR which outperforms open-reel and cassette! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
You didn’t decide to go Beta? This baby is has built-in moisture protection with automatic dryer! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Here’s a great way to share music with others. 10 “D” batteries are not included. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Can’t see your tape heads when cleaning them at night? Consider an illuminated head demagnetizer! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
You select: open reel or 8-track tape – up to 3600 feet of hi-fi happiness! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Each tape comes with a precision five-screw housing and hinged storage box. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Any of these Realistic car radios would sound great in the dash of your Buick LaSabre listening to Wham! perform “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
A 32 number memory dialer puts rotary (or tone) power in your hands, and for only $60. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Two tapes! One for your announcement and one for your incoming messages. Add the remote control for state-of-the-art worldwide connectivity! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Feel important like a bigshot doctor or lawyer with this pocket pager. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Breaker … breaker … watch Smokey and the Bandit, then buy a CB, 10-4 good buddy. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
So which is it? A TV or a monitor? And what the heck are “N” batteries? Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Before solid state electronics, there was no such thing as a space heater – instead, you just clicked on your TV or radio set. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Got Ohn’s Law problems? Radio Shack can help! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Archer antennas were designed by a joint venture between NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratories for the best picture reception ever! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
These DIY kits are pretty much the same educational experience as a Computer Science degree at UC Berkeley, Cal Poly SLO or UC Santa Barbara. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
A Radio Shack $350 drive to read (not write) a 5¼” floppy disk, holding a massive 156k of data. Disk #1, 2 or 3 requires Disk #0. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Why To Buy: Connect to CompuServe via this 300/1200 baud high-speed modem to send and receive, what the kids call, “electronic mail.” Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
This portable lightweight dot matrix printer works great with your MS-DOS IBM-compatible computer to print 8-bit graphics. Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
For $2750, get a great MS-DOS computer with two 5¼” floppy drives, or upgrade to a 10MB hard drive for only $1500 more. Expand with more memory (up to 768k), stunning high-resolution (640×400) monochrome or color graphics. Be decadent – the choice is yours! Click to embiggen.
25 Pages from the 1985 Radio Shack Catalog
Indulge yourself with a 15MB hard drive for only $2495 – think: “unlimited storage for a lifetime!” In 2015 dollars, that comes out to $5,419.14. Click to embiggen.

Nineteen Photos of Roads

Lubken Canyon Road, Owens Valley.
Lubken Canyon Road, Owens Valley.
Huntington, Indiana
Huntington, Indiana
Beartooth Pass, Montana in July, a little over 11,000' elevation.
Beartooth Pass, Montana in July, a little over 11,000′ elevation.
Highway 5 near El Huerfanito, Baja California.
Highway 5 near El Huerfanito, Baja California.
Road sign, Rye, Colorado.
Road sign, Rye, Colorado.
California Poppies near Highway 138 in Neenach, California.
California Poppies near Highway 138 in Neenach, California.
Mexico Highway 1, Baja California Sur.
Mexico Highway 1, Baja California Sur.
A pole line in Antelope Valley, California.
A pole line in Antelope Valley, California.
Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.
Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.
Monument Valley, Arizona.
Monument Valley, Arizona.
Goat Ranch Cutoff, near Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras.
Goat Ranch Cutoff, near Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras.
Eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.
Eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.
A real, non-Photoshopped sign in the Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction.
A real, non-Photoshopped sign in the Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction.
Cows, in no particular hurry, crossing Mexico Highway 1 near Ciudad Constitución, Baja California Sur.
Cows, in no particular hurry, crossing Mexico Highway 1 near Ciudad Constitución, Baja California Sur.
Wind turbines towering over Oak Creek Road, near Mojave, California.
Wind turbines towering over Oak Creek Road, near Mojave, California.
Highway 12 passing through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Highway 12 passing through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.
Mexico Highway 1, near San Agustin, Baja California.
Mexico Highway 1, near San Agustin, Baja California.
Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts
Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts.
Starting down the eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.
Starting down the eastbound lanes of Mexico Highway 2 near La Rumorosa.