Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Condor Express left a little late on July 26th, a calm Saturday morning. We waited about 10 minutes for the last pair of passengers that called ahead to say that they were running late. And run they did, across the parking lot of the Santa Barbara Marina to join the eager passengers already itching to get out to sea.
The water was calm and glassy as we left the harbor. It also seemed oddly empty. Besides the half a dozen California Sea Lions on the buoy, there were no bottlenose dolphins near the sand bar as have often sent us off on our deep channel voyages.
So we pressed on, heading straight towards Santa Cruz island and the famed Painted Cave.
Sure enough about 30 minutes into the trip with the continued glass calm waters were some common dolphins. It didn’t look like much of a group, perhaps 20 dolphins that appeared to be feeding. But as soon as we stopped, it became apparent that they were only a small part of a larger pod feeding in that area. About 300 or so, surfacing, milling about, diving and splashing. There were a few that we could spot zipping around near the boat, chasing fish up and out of the water on several occasions.
After delighting and interacting with them for at least a half an hour or literally running circles around them, we pushed on towards Santa Cruz Island.
As we could see the land off in the distance, I was talking to Bernardo Alps and we both turned to see a Minke Whale surfacing nearby. In my experience with Minkes (and one in nearly the same location last year) I figured that’d probably be the only look we’d get.
Instead this Minke surfaced again and again, in regular succession. Then turned back towards our boat, coming about thirty feet from us and turned upside down, pushed with its strong flukes and came up and out of the water for a moment. It looked a lot like those common dolphins chasing down bait fish earlier - only instead of being six feet long this one was about sixteen. (Still a very small specimen.) We got a good look at his white belly, striped flipper and even the narrow and pointy chin as he lifted it out when surfacing.
After a few more cycles another Minke surfaced nearby, much larger, and possibly the mother of our unusually exuberant one.
We pushed on to Santa Cruz Island to have a look at Painted Cave. It’s an interesting opportunity to look at the sea birds that skim the waters near the rocks and perch there.
Part of the reason for the early look at Painted Cave was the hope that the fog would burn off out in the Channel. Alas, little luck with that, so we pushed on, into the fog to see what we could see.
After putting a photographer on a research vessel from the University of Oregon, they told us of a blue whale in the area. Even though visibility was poor, probably not more than fifty feet, Captain Mat slowed the boat and ran in wide circles. Eventually someone heard one of the blows and there it was a huge blue whale. It was strong and much meatier/fatter than ones I’ve seen in past years.
For the next three or four hours the fog slowly fizzled away and we saw more and more blue whales. Most were in pairs and often we’d have four or five in view at any given moment. The UoO vessel was in sight most of the time as well, though we were rarely on the same whales.
Unfortunately I had a bout of motion sickness about the time we spotted the first whale which lasted for pretty much the whole afternoon. This leads to a lot of internal admonishments about bringing medicine or maybe just not going on the full day trips in the future. As the wind picked up though and the air cleared I felt much better and enjoyed our last few sightings. (Though I took fewer pictures towards the end.)
What’s become clear is that the Santa Barbara Channel has become host to a vigorous group of Blue Whales and the prospect of seeing other creatures like Minke and Humpback (none this time) and of course the many species of dolphins makes this a world class destination. Just 90 minutes from my house. Now I just need to conquer sea-sickness.
Monday, March 24, 2008
As is always the way after a major candy holiday, the emails have started.
Most are complaints or specific comments about products:
I don’t even know what that is!
I’m not a store, I’m not a factory. I’ll do my best to help you, but please be specific. (“Can I still get the coconut creme eggs?” is not specific enough when that’s the entire email.)
It’s not just me, there’s a good article at the Washington Post about the guy who owns donotreply.com.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:53 pm
Sunday, January 27, 2008
”Freestyle Snowmobile is like dressage with elephants.”
Photo: Trevor Brown, Jr. via X-Games
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I don’t know what sort of proof they want. Will they just take me at my word? Will I have to click something else later? How often will they check in with me.
If I check that, will facebook tell other people that I said that it was true?
This facebook world frightens and confused me .
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I’ve never actually talked much about the financing aspect of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I donate every year (even though I work for them, too), but I’ve never made an appeal on my blogs for others to donate.
For those of you not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo challenges ordinary mortals to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. No experience necessary! Tens of thousands of writers have not only participated since 1999 but dozens have also been published. The goal isn’t necessarily to get a book out in front of the public, but to start by getting it out of your head. 2007 marks my seventh year participating and will be my seventh novel.
Why do I do it? It’s a great writing exercise. I’m always surprised at what I can come up with when an absurd deadline is put in front of me. I enjoy the socializing on the forums (which I moderate) and I love the thrill of watching other writers find out what they had inside them. I’ve also met some of my best friends through the website. Yes, those crazy internet people ended up being really nice in person!
Here it is ... my appeal:
You can donate by going to my fundraising page at FirstGiving, which operates as an intermediary to track donations made in my name. The money goes towards the program which is not only the website for adults to tackle that novel they’ve always wanted to write but also the Young Writers Project which creates in-school programs for students to tackle free-writing as part of their curriculum.
For every $5 you donate via my FirstGiving page, I’ll enter you in my Limited Edition Candy Drawing! Just leave a comment here and I’ll hook it up with that drawing.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Twenty years ago this month I bought my first computer. It was a Tandy, model 1420LT. It was a laptop. It cost $1,600. Which was a lot of money back in 1987. A lot for me ... considering that I lived on about $5,000 a year while in college.
It wasn’t a great computer, but it served me well for five or six years. I ran a bootlegged copy of WordStar and wrote at least fifteen plays on it and my graduate thesis.
It was supposedly a laptop, but it rarely left my desk. It weighed 14.7 pounds.
Since that time I’ve had two other computers that I’ve purchased for myself. My desktop, which was a refurb from Dell, and then five years ago I bought my second laptop, they one I’m typing this on right now.
Today I bought a new laptop online at Dell. The model? 1420. Yes, twenty years later and I’ve stumbled onto the same model number as my first laptop.
The biggest thing I did when purchasing this computer was opt for some style. My laptop has become an accessory, and since it is often found on my lap, I thought it should look good. I opted for an upgrade and chose a colored case ... “Espresso Brown”, which I’m hoping I can tell people is called “70% Cacao.”
Where my first laptop had 640K of ram (and only a dual disk drive, no hard drive), this one has 2 gigs of ram. These sorts of advances don’t make my writing any better, but it sure helps with the digital photos. And of course I’m not bootlegging my software any longer.
Oh, and the price this time ... $1,600 (give or take a few). The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Monday, July 30, 2007
This was a fabulous trip for several reasons. We had lots of company (The Man’s brother, nephew and his girlfriend from Florida plus two friends from LA joined us). And of course the weather cooperated and we got to see some whales!
First thing we saw were several small pods of Long Beaked Common Dolphins. What fun, they came along and swam with the boat for a while.
The morning was rather gray and I was hoping it would burn off quickly. It was certainly not as dim as the previous trip, but still, as we got out to the prime Blue Whale zone, visibility at times wasn’t more than 500 yards.
We did come upon a pair of blue whales though and this time in addition to taking photos, I tried for a little video (mostly because I think that’s the only way you can get the scale of these creatures).
Later Captain Mat excited threw on the boat brakes to have a look at this. It’s a Basking Shark. The sharks themselves are probably rather common, but seeing them off of Santa Barbara and close to the surface like this is quite rare. The video isn’t that impressive, really, the distance between the dorsal fin and the waggling tail fin is probably 6-8 feet, so the shark is probably only about 12-16 feet. (They can grow to be 30 feet.)
Most importantly we saw the blue whales so clearly, following along with the first pair for quite a while.
I was very, very tired when we were done, but of course I want to do it again. No new species to add to my list of cetaceans, but the basking shark was certainly special.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I haven’t been working very hard on coming up with something for Script Frenzy. I know I don’t usually work very hard at NaNoWriMo, but with plays I actually think A LOT about what it’s going to be ahead of time.
At first I was going to do my tornado/miracle play. (Don’t ask.) It’s not really a work in progress, as I’ve never typed any of it up, just a few notes I wrote to myself on an airplane a few years ago in a notebook I don’t think I have any longer.
This play is inspired by this article in the NY Times: Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline by William Yardley.
But that’s just what inspired it. I have no idea what it’s going to be about, I just thought there was a whole play right here:
I’m planning on setting the play in another village that was just mentioned in the article called Shishmaref because it’s on the Chukchi sea, which is the summer ground of the Gray Whale. (See how all these things come together?)
I’m starting on Saturday!
Sunday, May 27, 2007
As tired as I’ve been from work the past few weeks, I still managed to get my butt up at 4:30 AM yesterday to get to Santa Barbara for an 8 AM cast off at Condor Express. The American Cetacean Society had their first full-day Humpback Whalewatching Trip of the year.
We tried something new, kind of geotagging the adventure. The photos aren’t precisely located on this map, but I don’t suppose anyone can argue with me since they’re within about a half a mile or so. (Maybe ... I have no clue.) You can see my whole set of photos grouped by where they were shot.
Here’s a brief chronlogy of our adventure.
4:30 AM - Wake, shower and make lunch.
I was fabulously tired and about five miles from shore we finally got some sun. But at least there wasn’t much wind or waves. Good trip. Good trip. I want to do it again later this summer.
We got good looks at about 12 whales and saw about 18 total (if you count distant blows). I can tick two species off my list - Dall’s Porpoise and Minke Whale (though I wouldn’t mind getting a better view).
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I’m planning on writing a play, start to finish next month.
This comes as no surprise to anyone, as I do this kind of stuff all the time.
But I’m asking you to join me.
Join ScriptFrenzy and write a screenplay or a stageplay in 30 days.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I can’t tell you what sort of bullshit this is, but I’m going to try:
MySpace has removed all hotlinked photos and slideshows (delivered in flash) hosted at Photobucket because they contain (sometimes) paid advertising. The advertising in question is a teaser campaign from Spiderman III. Here’s a bit of the story from PCWorld:
Basically, only MySpace can junk up its pages with gratuitious advertising. MySpacers aren’t allowed to advertise other things. Well, they’re allowed to solicit sex and promote their albums and movies ... but they’re not allowed to hotlink to other advertisements.
My issue is that MySpace has been letting its users abuse my site for years. Yes, I’ve contacted them. I’ve contacted them. I’ve emailed them. I’ve even talked to folks I’ve met socially that work there. They don’t give a crap. It’s my problem their users don’t understand hotlinking is like making collect calls.
It turns out that it is possible to selectively block hotlinks from one domain. Halleluiah!
But now I discover that all I’d need to do is employ some .htaccess magic and have those thousands of hotlinked photos (yes, last month was 230,000 hotlink hits, the majority from MySpace according to the IP addresses logged) into some sort of ad that MySpace would feel threatened by. See, all this time I was thinking I had to put P()rn up there. Turns out that’s not what would catch their attention. Ads for, I dunno, something owned by some other media conglomerate might work.
Only problem is I can’t afford to host whatever image that might be (230,000 hits even at 10K each is kind of sizeable).
Wait a second ... I think I’m onto something here ...
I can sell the adspace! I can find someone who’d like their ad served up to 230,000 impressions in one month all over the web (though pretty much on MySpace).
The sale of that might cover the extra bandwidth I’d have to buy on my hosting plan.
So either I get my domain banned and don’t have to worry about bandwidth drains in the future ... or I make money with the ad impressions!
Monday, April 09, 2007
I have a Google News alert set up for Whale (and one for Dolphins, but I get a lot of sports news on that one).
Here’s my favorite quote:
Yeah. So anyone else see anything wrong with the first sentence? It’s not like there are a lot of different kinds of Sperm Whales out there, like dolphins.
I’d say the second sentence is kind of funny, too. Yes, it’s very unusual to find whales up on the beach. Except, you know, when they beach themselves or wash ashore.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The battery on my little LG phone has been behaving poorly, and since the phone and the replacement batteries are no longer made, I decided to get a new one. It’s been three years since I signed up with Verizon, so I qualified for their “new every two” program. I picked out a new phone on their website. It was supposed to be $150 but they gave me a $100 credit plus an additional $50 instant rebate.
I put the phone into my cart and went to check out. The total was $0.00.
I confirmed my billing address as my shipping address, gave them a phone number (it’s a fedex delivery) and hit purchase.
Then I got another screen that wanted a credit card. It said that I owed $0.00, but still wanted my credit card. Say what?
And why my credit card anyway, I’ve been paying my bill for three years ... we have a business relationship, they can send me a bill and all that.
I was frustrated. I didn’t want to somehow be charged for something else, and I don’t like putting my credit card into websites for things like “guaranteeing a reservation” or “trial offers.”
So I clicked on the little icon to talk to a Verizon Sales Rep.
Here’s my little ditty (this is the actual transcript I cut and pasted ... all names are real, or at least the ones really assigned within the chat window).
Chat InformationPlease wait for a Verizon Wireless sales representative to assist you with your order. Thank you for your patience!
At the end of the chat, sure enough, a little feedback window popped up. I gave them my comments as Alexander suggested:
So, I get to the end of this tale to say that yes, California does charge sales tax for the RETAIL VALUE of the phone. They say that this phone sells for $288.99 (yeah, right, I wouldn’t pay that much for it!).
I ended up owing some $23.92 bucks in tax. Whatever. The point is, why couldn’t they calculate that BEFORE I had to input my credit card, and why didn’t they mention that’s why they were asking for a credit card on a null total on the ACTUAL PAGE.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
So I’m looking at my server stats this month (I’m close to my bandwidth max again). There are a few big bandwidth hogs on my site, one of the startling ones is search engine bots. At least three of them rack up over 1 gig in bandwidth every month. About 7 gigs total among them.
Another sobering thing in my stats are the number of hotlinks to Candy Blog. For March so far the tally is over 370,000 hotlink hits to typetive.com. Yeah, my site is popular, but I DO NOT have 370,000 visitors per month.
I do have an htaccess file that limits hotlinking, so the images don’t show up elsewhere (except for a few permitted sites like bloglines). But I know where my images are going ... they’re going to myspace and forum posts and other blogs.
I know how they get here too, they come via the Google Image Search. I tried a few different ways to foil this but still get the new traffic, but to no avail. Not only is it an issue of hotlinking, but the photos I’ve taken of candy are ending up in all sorts of places. It’s one thing to put a candy photo in your blog post on your site that gets a couple hundred hits a day. It’s another entirely to be an Amazon store or eBay auctioneer and take my photos to sell candy I’m not here for other people to make a profit. I’m not really interested in junking up my pretty photos with watermarks.
So, I’ve now forbidden Google Image Search. It took a while to get it going. I put in the appropriate info in my robots.txt file, but for three weeks I still saw the traffic (about 15-20% of those people who come to typetive.com come for the images). So yesterday I put in a prompt with Google to remove my site from the image search. As of this morning my site traffic is down by 15% and I haven’t noticed any referrers from Google Image Search.
I know it’s going to be a blow to my traffic. But I’m more interested in readers than traffic. I hope my readers feel the same way. I hope my advertisers feel the same way.
Monday, March 26, 2007
People say a lot of things about me. I write a blog and people talk about it sometimes on forums and chats and even other blogs. The say I have too much time on my hands.
It’s not like they say that just about the whole candy blogging thing. I see it in reference to many of the participants who write novels in November.
I see the same thing bandied about when people take on quirky challenges, like walking the full length of a street, like Sunset Blvd. or when they create new and wondrous expressions of art.
“That person looks like they have too much time on their hands!” They chortle, as if it’s an insult.
Of course I don’t have too much time on my hands. I have a full time job. And a couple of part time jobs. And volunteer gigs. And blogs. I still manage to watch the FDA recommended doses of television. I travel. I have friends. I brush my teeth and manage my personal hygiene. In fact, I have a huge list of things I want to do!
I don’t know if this statement of other people “having too much time on their hands” is somehow supposed to make that person feel better about their lack of productivity or to make us sit down and stop being active and provocative. Yes, some of the stuff I create with my productiveness is useless and probably even counterproductive. But I’m exploring my world. I’m living in it. I’m not sitting around commenting on the worthiness of other people’s pursuits. (Unless their pursuit happens to be going around declaring how much time on ones hands is too much.)
During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.