Thursday, September 25, 2008

Grab a Paddle

Just as I was leaving to go to the gym on Wednesday afternoon my wife called to say she had a meeting that would preempt dinner.

I decided to drop my plan to go to the gym in favor of paddling on Tomales Bay, a mid-week workout in the real world. It was first outing of the new fall season.

It was lovely out there on the water just before sunset. I saw no other boats while on the water for a little more than an hour.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Balanced Weekend

As is usual for this time of the year, I spent the first part of Saturday morning filling a slew of Soundabet orders and racing to get them off to the post office before they empty the big steel collection box in the lobby. Sarah got caught up at her office. We actually ran into each other at the post office along with a bunch of other Sebastopudlians trying to duck in under the wire.

Looking north along the Sonoma Coast. That's Peaked Hill in front of the fog.

In the afternoon we hiked along the southern portion of the Kortum Trail from Shell Beach to Wright's Beach. The weather was splendid, a dramatic mixture of sun, fog, and clouds that changed from moment to moment. At times the sea was really dark and it would seem almost wintry, then, moments later, a bright blue opening in the sky would appear and voila: summer again!

Here I am as we come around rocks that take us too close to the waves.

We stayed back from the water's edge on Wright's Beach which is among the most dangerous beaches on the whole California coastline. Sneaker waves, cold water, and a steep drop off make it particularly hazardous.

We intended to take a hike today as well, but got started on the boxes in the livingroom and next thing you know we're cleaning out the hardware drawers in the kitchen and straightening up the garage... and then it was time for me to go to a dharma study meeting hosted by Robin Cohen (the woman we met at Spirit Rock, Ted). I really liked the group and it looks like some of their members will join the Society of Friends meeting at our house. Yeah!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Goodbye, Ted!

Tuesday morning we got up early to take Ted to the airport for the first leg of his journey to Africa to serve in the Peace Corps. He dressed up in his dressy casuals for the flight to Philadelphia.

Ted forcing a smile for the camera at 5:50 AM

He'll be gone for 27 months (we're counting). It's painful to separate from those you love.

Each morning I take a moment to recall that I must be separated from all that I hold dear. I also remind myself that I'm not the only one who must be separated from all they hold dear; all must be separated from all they hold dear. These reminders serve to help me savor what is dear to me each day. They also help to soften (if only a little) the pain of separations and goodbyes.

We knew we had to do something to lift our spirits after the tearful goodbye, so we planned a hike at Point Reyes National Seashore. I'm really glad we did. The beautiful surroundings lifted our moods somewhat. But truth be told, we both had pretty heavy hearts.

Me, forcing a smile for the camera on Coast Trail.

We walked about 6 miles in all and had lunch at Coast Camp where Ted and his friend, Mitch, from college had gone backpacking last month.

We talked to Ted on the phone from his hotel this evening. He had a good first day in training and is feeling really excited about the adventure he's about to begin.

I'm feeling better already.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tomales Bay

All covered up from the bright sun


Got a chance to paddle with Ted on Tomales Bay this morning.

Very calm and quite warm for Tomales. We launched from a new spot along Highway One, a turnout a little ways south of Nick's Cove. We paddled down to Cypress Grove and then went across the Bay to Marshall Beach. We paddled along the western shore until almost Hog's Island before crossing back to the eastern shore.

Monday, September 1, 2008

For Future Generations...

In thinking about future generations, I cannot imagine anything more important than taking action to deal with climate change. It's a concern I carry with me a lot.

If we don't act now, I worry that the students I'm teaching kindergarten will face as adults problems much more severe than anything any generation has faced before. See the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" if you have not seen it already.

For my part, even though I live only about 10 km from my work, I carpool with the second grade teacher. It cuts in half the amount of CO2 spewing into the atmosphere from my getting to work.

My family manages to have at least one car-free day each week. We often manage more. Neither of our kids has a car or drives.

Still, as Americans, my family contributes far more to global warming than our share as citizens of the earth.

I try not to fly.

Did you know that when you fly in a commercial jetliner you are responsible for adding MORE CO2 if you were to drive a car to your destination?

Think of each jet aircraft in the sky as a giant caravan of RVs in the sky. One RV for each passenger. I've seen estimates that put the mileage per passenger on a jet from 2 miles per gallon per passenger to about 15 MPGPP.

I have no idea which estimate is right. But For the earth's sake, flying should be rationed. If you've ever flown, even once, you're among the 5% of the people on earth who have ever flown.

19 out of 20 people never have been in an airplane, and never will.

The story below appeared last Wednesday on the Yahoo! news site. Read below, or follow this LINK

By SETH BORENSTEIN and DAN JOLING, Associated Press Writers Wed Aug 27, 7:23 PM ET

WASHINGTON - More ominous signs Wednesday have scientists saying that a global warming "tipping point" in the Arctic seems to be happening before their eyes: Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is at its second lowest level in about 30 years.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea ice in the Arctic now covers about 2.03 million square miles. The lowest point since satellite measurements began in 1979 was 1.65 million square miles set last September.

With about three weeks left in the Arctic summer, this year could wind up breaking that previous record, scientists said.

Arctic ice always melts in summer and refreezes in winter. But over the years, more of the ice is lost to the sea with less of it recovered in winter. While ice reflects the sun's heat, the open ocean absorbs more heat and the melting accelerates warming in other parts of the world.

Sea ice also serves as primary habitat for threatened polar bears.

"We could very well be in that quick slide downward in terms of passing a tipping point," said senior scientist Mark Serreze at the data center in Boulder, Colo. "It's tipping now. We're seeing it happen now."

Within "five to less than 10 years," the Arctic could be free of sea ice in the summer, said NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally.

"It also means that climate warming is also coming larger and faster than the models are predicting and nobody's really taken into account that change yet," he said.

Five climate scientists, four of them specialists on the Arctic, told The Associated Press that it is fair to call what is happening in the Arctic a "tipping point." NASA scientist James Hansen, who sounded the alarm about global warming 20 years ago before Congress, said the sea ice melt "is the best current example" of that.

Last year was an unusual year when wind currents and other weather conditions coincided with global warming to worsen sea ice melt, Serreze said. Scientists wondered if last year was an unusual event or the start of a new and disturbing trend.

This year's results suggest the latter because the ice had recovered a bit more than usual thanks to a somewhat cooler winter, Serreze said. Then this month, when the melting rate usually slows, it sped up instead, he said.

The most recent ice retreat primarily reflects melt in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast and the East Siberian Sea off the coast of eastern Russia, according to the center.

The Chukchi Sea is home to one of two populations of Alaska polar bears.

Federal observers flying for a whale survey on Aug. 16 spotted nine polar bears swimming in open ocean in the Chukchi. The bears were 15 to 65 miles off the Alaska shore. Some were swimming north, apparently trying to reach the polar ice edge, which on that day was 400 miles away.

Polar bears are powerful swimmers and have been recorded on swims of 100 miles but the ordeal can leave them exhausted and susceptible to drowning.

And the melt in sea ice has kicked in another effect, long predicted, called "Arctic amplification," Serreze said.

That's when the warming up north is increased in a feedback mechanism and the effects spill southward starting in autumn, he said. Over the last few years, the bigger melt has meant more warm water that releases more heat into the air during fall cooling, making the atmosphere warmer than normal.

On top of that, researchers were investigating "alarming" reports in the last few days of the release of methane from long frozen Arctic waters, possibly from the warming of the sea, said Greenpeace climate scientist Bill Hare, who was attending a climate conference in Ghana. Giant burps of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, is a long feared effect of warming in the Arctic that would accelerate warming even more, according to scientists.

Overall, the picture of what's happening in the Arctic is getting worse, said Bob Corell, who headed a multinational scientific assessment of Arctic conditions a few years ago: "We're moving beyond a point of no return."


Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington and Dan Joling reported from Anchorage, Alaska. AP writer Arthur Max contributed from Accra, Ghana.

Hiking in the Redwoods

It's really important to refresh and recharge your energy.

For me one of the best ways is to take a walk in nature.

Today on Labor Day my wife and son went on a hike in Armstrong Redwoods State Park. As nice as the old growth redwoods on the valley floor are, we prefer the trails that take you up and away from the crowds. Fewer redwoods there, but it's much quieter.

Check out my t-shirt!

Very soon, Ted is heading to Africa for a 2+ year Peace Corps tour of duty, so he's been good enough to spend lots of time with his old folks. We're gonna miss him!

Our favorite resting spot on this hike is here under a bridge.
Even in this very dry year there's water in it.

Concentration on the Water

This weekend I went sailing in high winds on Tomales Bay on my 29 year-old Laser sailboat.

I actively sailed (and raced) Lasers when I was a much younger man, before I became a father. I thought that the duties of fatherhood would not be enough to tear me away from a sport I loved so much, but I was wrong. My Laser remained unused for most of the past 24 years.

This summer I've had it out three times and it's been a blast. It's really true what they say about muscle memory: it's stable. Although it had been almost a quarter century since I sailed my Laser my body more or less got right back into the boat. Although I feel older in many ways, I still feel youthful on my boat. I notice that it takes an unusual degree of concentration to sail a Laser.

To give you an idea of what it feels like to sail a Laser in high wind, here's a YouTube video of a guy sailing a Laser in Spain in really windy conditions. (Tomales Bay wasn't this windy on Saturday, but it felt this windy. This clip is about 2:25 long; the part that shows what it felt like for me on Tomales yesterday begins about 50 seconds into the video.)

I came home tired and smiling after three hours.