Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Gaddafi" the Movie


Muammar Gaddafi (1942 - 2011) is now gone.  But, isn't it just a matter of time before Hollywood starts to cash in with "Gaddafi" the Movie?  So, it got me to thinking-- What movie star should be cast to play the role of Gaddafi?  Here is my nominee for a Drama- Micky Rourke.

But, Hollywood might not stop there.  Recall the old movie "The Producers" with its opening song "Spring Time for Hitler"?  Or how about the recent movie, "Cowboys and Aliens"? 

So, here are my other nomiees:
Comedy-- John C. Reilly
American action hero gone bad-- Nick Nolte.
Science Fiction-- Gary Busey
Musical-- Gene Simmons
Western-- Richard Boone (deceased, but a good actor like him). 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"The Old Man And The Sea" of Cortez

What do Ernest Hemingway and I have in common?  We are both wearing the exact same style of fishing shorts in these two pictures.  Check out the shorts. That's Hemingway on a fishing boat some place in the Caribbean, and that's  me with the captain of a small fishing boat in the Sea of Cortez, just out of Cabo San Lucas. Or, could it have been in the Arctic Ocean, looking at the way the captain is dressed for cold weather? 

In June we went to Cabo San Lucas for a wedding.  Some of the groom's family made arrangements to go fishing and invited me.  I'd long thought about going "deep sea sport fishing" but never did.  This was a chance.  That, plus the romantic idea of joining the likes of writer and "tough guy" Ernest Hemingway. 

Cabo San Lucas is certainly beautiful and warm, with blue sky and water and lots of sport fishing.  Cabo San Lucas is located on the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, on the same latitude as Hawaii.  It's approximately 1,000 miles south of San Diego.  It is now definitely a tourist destination. 


Although the Sea of Cortez is named after Spaniard Captain  Hernan Cortez, his navigator Fancisco de Ulloa is credited with discovering Cabo San Lucas in 1537.  It has a history of pirates raiding Spanish ships taking treasures back to Spain.  A fort was established there and the area was opened up to further exploration.  In 1730 a Jesuit mission was built.  The biggest obstacle to development was lack of a steady water supply.

That's one of the things I wondered about when I got there-- Where does the fresh water come from?  I have since learned that the
Laguna Mountains to the north produce about 30 inches of rain each year from the clouds.  The rain feeds into the underground Rio San Jose and accumulates underground and in nearby estuaries.  The stored water is then treated for consumption.  At any rate, the fresh water problem has been solved in Cabo San Lucas.

Staring at the surf we noticed flying manta rays. There were quite a few of them close to shore.  For game, people fish for all types of marlin, sailfish, and sometimes sword fish.  There are also dorado (mahi mahi), yellowfin tuna and several types of shark.  We were going to fish for the tuna.

We were picked up on the beach by a couple of small boats and then we bought some live bait from another small boat anchored out.  You could see many local residents relied upon tourists fishing, just as many worked in the tourist hotels.

We started fishing for the yellowfin tuna, and we caught some before too long.  Apprently, that's not always the case.   While the water had a little bit of chop to it, particularly where the Sea of Cortez collided with the Pacific Ocean, it wasn't so bad that I got sick-- only pretty queasy. 

After catching a few tuna, the chop was getting to us gringos and we decided to turn back to town.  But, on the way the captain spotted a marlin and asked if "we" wanted to catch it.  We said okay.  This is the way it actually worked-- the captain got his engine running again (it had broken down and we had bobbed up and down in the waves for a while as he tried to fix it, breathing the gasoline fumes, which didn't help a whole lot), quickly got in front of the swimming marlin, got a stiff pole, and then baited a hook and threw it over in front of the marlin (while I steered the boat for him, thankful for having something to hold on to).  Sure enough, the marlin grabbed the bait and was hooked-- all thanks to el capitan.

Sam, the other adult in our small fishing party, had caught and reeled in marlins on other trips to Cabo, so he asked if I wanted to reel in this one.  Wanting to save face and act like Ernest Hemingway, I agreed.  That's when I started identifying with "The Old Man and the Sea."  It didn't take days to reel in the marlin, but it still seemed like a long time to this queasy, thristy (my mouth no longer had any spit in it) ol' man.  I never felt like giving up-- but maybe secretly hoped the marlin would break loose and free me

Hemingway's short story "The Old Man and the Sea" was written by Hemingway in Cuba in 1951 and published in 1952.  Apparently, it was his last major work of fiction produced and published in his lifetime.  Born in 1899, Hemingway commited suicide in Ketchum, Idaho in 1961, at the age of 61.  Anyway, "The Old Man and the Sea"  is one of Hemingway's most famous works.  It was made into a Hollywood movie starring Spencer Tracy in 1958, and into a television movie starring Anthony Quinn in 1990. 

"The Old Man and the Sea" centers upon Santiago, a Cuban fisherman who has had a string of bad luck.  One day he goes out and finally catches a fish, hooking a monster marlin.  Santiago respects the marlin and battles it for a couple of days in a test of wills, holding on while being pulled by the marlin out to sea.   Santiago finally wins and the too-big-to-get-into-the-boat marlin is tied to the side of the small fishing skiff as Santiago returns to shore.  Of course, sharks attack and eat the marlin, so Santiago returns to port with only the large skeleton tied to his small boat.  But, at least all the townspeople see that he his luck had returned and he had caught a very large fish.  He's not a "has-been" yet. 

In the Hollywood movie, Spencer Tracy at times almost looks possessed.  Note that in the pictures, Spencer Tracy and I are wearing almost the exact same shirt.  The similarities don't end there, however.  While there is no picture of me, battling the marlin for probably less than 20 minutes, with the exact same possessed expression of a desparate man who had been fighting a fish for days, I'm sure it was there on my face to be seen.  (Instead of a fishing line, imagine pulling on a five-mile long drinking straw with the other end in a tall, cool Diet Coke on ice.  That's what I was imagining). 

Would I do it again?  Well, probably not-- although later in the month a couple of friends and I went out on the Pacific Ocean off the Washington coast, fishing for salmon, which will be the subject of another post. 

Land Ho!

Monday, September 26, 2011

National Debt Made Real

A stockbroker sent me an email with a short illustration as to why the financial status of the US was recently downgraded.  I imagine the following is floating around the internet.  Yet, it's a perfect explanation in easily understood terms:

Why the US was downgraded...

U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000 
Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
New debt: $1,650,000,000,000
National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
Recent budget cut: $38,500,000,000

Let's remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:

Annual family income: $21,700
Money the family spent: $38,200
New debt on credit card: $16,500
Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
Total budget cuts: $385.

Does this clarify it?

Pretty enlightening, that example.  The complaint that we are indebting our children and grandchildren makes more sense.  The family debt must be paid off by future generations in some fashion-- whether by more taxes, printing of money (inflation), more borrowing (borrow from Peter to pay Paul), or transfer of assets to our creditors (China), or a combination of all.  While we have eliminated "debtors prison" in the United States, it can be seen that we are imprisoning future generations (i.e., we are taking away their choices and liberty) and leaving them to find a solution. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Camping in Capitol State Forest

A couple of weeks ago our family decided to spend a weekend camping together in the Capitol State Forest near Olympia, the capitol of Washington State.  It is multi-use Washington State Department of Natural Resources land open to the public since 1955.  It's a working forest with active timber harvests throughout the year.  There is hiking, camping and hunting.  The northern half of the forest is also open to motorized off-road vehicles, while the southern half is open to horseback riding.  800,000 people visit the forest each year. 
While not everybody could make the trip, there's something about getting family together to spend some time in the woods and sit around the campfire.  There are no televisions, no radios, no computers, no cell phones, no electricity.  It's a time to just be family and talk. 
There is a lot of logging in the forest, but those plats are re-planted.  The campsite we picked was nestled in the tall trees next to a little stream.  But, the stream must be pretty powerful during the winter-- look at the size of the root ball on that fallen tree by the stream. 

This is a picture of a crayfish found in the stream.  We put it in a potato chip bag long enough to take its picture, then we put it back in the stream.  One of its claws was just growing back.  The stream had some minnows, but no fish of catching size.

One of the things I wanted to do was make a pot of strew over an open fire, sort of a joint effort.  Check out the cutting board made of a cedar plank.  When my kids were little we'd go camping and use sticks to eat beans out of cans heated over the fire.  That was intended to be a lesson in resourcefulness.  Compared to that, this stew was top cuisine.  That's daughter Sheila cutting the potatoes

There's something comforting about putting logs on a campfire and staring at the flames and embers.  It must go back tens of thousands of years.  It can be soothing.  Some of the wood was damp.  Somebody once said "Whoever believes 'where there is smoke, there is fire' has never tried starting a campfire."  We bought a few dry logs back towards town and that made all the difference.

That's son Scott setting up the chess board.  Can you beat that arrangement?  Even the moths wanted to get into the game.

The Capitol State Forest is pretty big.  To the east out across the valley you could see the Cascade Mountains.  To the north you could see the Olympic Mountains on the peninsula.  (Click on the lower map above for detail).

While we may not camp every weekend, and not every year, to go camping once in a great while is good for the family and good for the soul.  It also creates memories.  That's granddaughter Dani using a spoon instead of a stick. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The "Potholes" Lakes

This is a picture of Blythe Lake in Eastern Washington as the sun is coming up.

I had a free day in the middle of the week, so I decided to go fishing in the “Potholes” in Eastern Washington. The eastern part of the state is high desert—very stark, uncluttered and peaceful. In the summer it’s warm and sunny.  At midnight I put the canoe on top of the car and drove 200 miles to Blythe Lake, arriving shortly before sunrise.

When I first got there it was still dark and the bull frogs all around the lake were croaking. It sounded like they were trying to get their cellos in tune-- very deep tones. But then a few started something that reminded me of the Australian Didgeridoo. And when I walked around the car I would hear splashing when the frogs and turtles jumped into the water. Different sounds than in the city.

About 15,000 years ago, towards the end of the last ice age, the Cordilleran Ice Sheet covered the northern parts of Washington, Idaho and Western Montana. The front edge of the ice sheet was about 2,000 feet high. That’s about three times the height of the Seattle Space Needle.

In what’s now Montana, there was a lot of water trapped behind ice dams, which were part of the ice sheet. That water is now referred to as Glacial Lake Missoula and may have been about half the size of Lake Michigan. Every 40 years or so during a 2000-year period, the ice dams would burst and all that water would rush across Eastern Washington at about 80 miles per hour. The water would scour the earth, pushing sediment and rocks out of the way and down into Oregon and beyond. The erosion was fierce. Enormous canyons and channels were formed in the volcanic rock almost instantly.

Dry Falls is an example of the vast erosion caused by the Missoula Floods (sometimes called the Spokane Floods). When water was flowing over Dry Falls, it was about twice as much as Niagara Falls. You can get all this information on the web.

Blythe Lake is near Moses Lake. The Moses Lake area has many lakes, commonly known as "potholes," which were initially carved out by  the floodwaters from Glacial Lake Missoula. Moses Lake feeds the Potholes Reservoir, which is part of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, a dam and irrigation project which raised the water table high enough to allow the potholes to become lakes. Blythe Lake is just south of the reservoir.  It's one of the little dots at the top left of this photo:

I don’t know if Blythe Lake is “officially” one of the potholes, but most people refer to all the lakes in the area as “The Potholes.” So, I went fishing in “The Potholes” (although there is an actual lake with that name). You know what I mean.

Anyway, I got there before sunrise and put the canoe in and paddled around the lake. I tried dragging a spinner behind as I paddled; I anchored and tried worms, both deep and shallow, and Power Bait, both deep and shallow. Never a bite or sight of a trout. This little guy got hooked on a worm, but I threw him back (along with the pliers shown in the picture).

While I didn’t catch any trout, it was six hours on the water well spent. The surroundings were beautiful. You could hear the air going through the feathers of the birds as they flew by. You could hear your own breathing. I was the only person at the lake—all day. That’s my car shown in the photo. It was great. After six hours on the lake, I drove back home.

The canoe worked well. The wind was really up coming home, and it was blowing sideways on the canoe. But, the canoe held up. That’s a picture of the back rest I made for it—you can lean against it or sit on top. I also learned that I can stretch out and fall asleep on the bottom of the canoe. That could work in a pinch.