Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vector Control

Last week I got an email from BajaBabe asking me to send her some Bay Laurel Leaves-'They cost a fortune in the bottle here' she wrote.

It just happened that I was heading over to the SturgeUrge Compound anyway, so when I got there I told him I was going to snip a bough or two to send north. "Not to worry" says Urge, "I've got some I cut today, just a second. I'll grab some you can have" and out the door he went.

The SturgeUrge Compound sits on about an acre near the bottom of a northeast facing wooded canyon. A half dozen similar lots up the canyon all share the private road, and every lot has the mixed redwood, California bay laurel, and coast live oaks. The little enclave disfavors suntanning, but it's definitely an oasis when the mercury reaches into the 80s. The California Bay Laurels are a culinary extra...everywhere you look it's like a pantry...Bay Leaf City.

Urge came through the front door and thrust two huge branches of bay leaves at me and we sat down in the front room and chewed the fat for a beer or so. I grabbed the branches and said "Thanks and goodnight, I'll drop you a DVD of our day on the Bay with the USS Iowa next time I'm in the neighborhood". Out to the car I strode, I tossed the bay leaf branches in the back seat, and hit the road.

A day or two later, I grabbed the branches from the car and gazed on them for the first time in bona fide daylight. The leaves looked like they had Black Spot Rose Disease, like I battled in the summer of 2010 in the Ancestral Diggins. Into the green waste container they went. I phoned SturgeUrge this afternoon and asked about the spots. I remember that Urge lost an oak tree over his driveway a some years ago to the then newly discovered Sudden Oak Death Syndrome. I quizzed him about Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, and if the Bay Laurel was susceptible to the pathogen. Urge said the Bay trees are a carrier species..."Looks like Rose Black Spot Fungus" I replied. Urge said between his oak and the neighbors, they'd lost at least a half dozen Coastal Live Oaks in their little canyon hideaway in the last few years. We finished up by making some plans to get a fishing trip in this weekend...if the winds allow it...stay tuned...

This afternoon I had to go to the grocery store for a few staples...milk, OJ, grapefruit juice and another bunch of watercress. On my way to the store, I made a detour through Canyon, CA in search of bay leaves and to find an old feral Damson Plum tree that I remember from three plus decades ago. Those now wild plums were like candy, and they made incredible preserves.

The plum tree is MIA, the sunny wide spot at the canyon bottom didn't hold it's sweet surprise anymore. I pulled into several turnouts with bay trees...every one displayed the telltale spots. I thought better of sending any probably infected but asymptomatic bay leaves to BajaBabe's locale.

Back at the beginning of the Sudden Oak Death Syndrome epidemic, BajaBabe herself spent a summer on the front lines of the SODS war with the US Forest Service doing an inventory from south to north in California looking for SODS infected plots of forest. To hear her tell it, she earned every penny that summer! Bushwacking is the word that comes to mind...

I'm sure I can get a glassine envelope full of bay leaves next time I'm in a market with a Mexican Spice Section, for 99 cents.

That's all this afternoon...I've gotta get in a cold shower before the Giants game.

After Dinner Update:
OMG the Bitten Word's Beet Rhubarb and Orange Salad rocks when you remember the Feta Cheese!  ★★★★★

Friday, June 1, 2012


I'm's still almost 80°F in here at 1:23AM...

It's not like I didn't plan for this...I planned my day with the afternoon heating in mind.

In the last couple of days, I stumbled upon a great, new-to-me Food Blog, The Bitten Word. Therein I found a great looking recipe for a Beet, Rhubarb, and Orange Salad.

The new produce store downtown has these gorgeous Golden Beets, as well as the regular Detroit Improved classic red ones. Rhubarb is at the peak of the season, so hell yeah...I'm in.

So the beets are roasted in a 400°F oven for an hour...the perfect recipe to heat the kitchen and most of the rest of the I was preheating the oven at 10:30AM, and the beets were cooling by noon...I even poached the rhubarb early...the first time...oops, 30 seconds too long on the rhubarb,so it turned to mush instead of the desired "crisp tender"

Anyway, I picked up another pound of rhubarb and poached it to perfection, in time for everything to cool enough to cache in the reefer until dinnertime.

The salad was a hit, though six servings must be as the entree...I've got enough for dinner for four again tomorrow. (This time I'll remember the feta, so it'll be like it's not even leftovers!) Now that I think about it, I shoulda taken some pictures...This salad is nothing if not colorful!

Thursday Night Roundup:
The Giants had the day off...their first in 20 days!

I found out that you can watch the whole Indy500 online! It's the best 500  in a long time, and runs about 2 hours 45 minutes. Turbos are back, baby!

The forecast says Friday will be hot before the pattern turns cool over the weekend...there's even a chance of rain for Reno this weekend.

Wow, the Pacific Battleship Center posted a link to my USS Iowa Tow Video Blog, and more than 600 people visited CorduroyPlanet. Thank you all!

Don't forget to Like my CorduroyPlanet Facebook Page.

Thanks again everyone!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Head On a Swivel

OK, I feel all rested up from the busy weekend.

My Memorial Day Weekend was all about history...looking back if you will...WWII Battleship USS Iowa...70th Monaco Grand Prix...96th Indianapolis 500.

Even baseball brought the history. On Monday, San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera passed Willie Mays' 1958 record of 49 hits in the month of May. Wednesday night the Melk Man knocked his 51st hit, tieing the all-time-any-month Giants record that goes back to 1918.

When SturgeUrge and I were on San Francisco Bay Saturday, the boat traffic became so crazy that SturgeUrge's head looked like it was on a it Combat Boating. Well, Skipper 'Urge brought us back to dry land in one piece to float another day.

This evening, I feel like it's my head on the proverbial swivel. My world is all on the up and up tonight...after watching the Giants lose 4-1 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, my twitter feed was suddenly full of spaceflight tweets...

As I write, I'm keeping an ear on the SpaceX Dragon and the International Space Station's LIVE ungrapple and departure stream. The Dragon Capsule will leave the ISS tonight on it's way back to Earth. As it turns out, all this spaceflight stuff is history too...SpaceX's Dragon is the first commercial spacecraft to visit and dock to the ISS. The Dragon will shuttle people back and forth from the ISS after some more test flights and NASA approval.

SpaceX aren't the only private outfit building commercial spacecraft for the ISS delivery market either...

Orbital Sciences Corp. is developing their Antares rocket/ Cygnus capsule system to serve the ISS, too.

Another company, Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic received the necessary permits from the FAA to test their SpaceShip Two with full rocket motor power. Virgin who call themselves the "First Commercial Spaceline" (as opposed to airline), is going after the Space Tourist Trade...short sub-orbital rides into space, complete with the dramatic, firey atmospheric reentry.

I'm so grateful to these companies picking up NASA's slack. NASA seems to be dithering lately, and time is running out for me to see earthmen walk on Mars. When I was a kid watching NASA blast off into the New Frontier, it was a given that men would be on Mars sooner than it's been forty years since we last landed on the Moon! NASA gets it budget slashed every year while the Feds run up World Record deficits...

You know, all this internet/smartphone/Facebook/Twitter/iPad stuff is all the product of kids who were inspired by the Space Program and it's offshoots. Back in the day, we all felt like we were helping the astronauts...willing them higher, farther, the next unbelievable breakthrough, milestone after milestone, until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface in 1969. We all carried astronaut lunch boxes to school, scores of toys and commercial tie-ins exploited our space mania. Is Tang still on grocery store shelves?

Well, in the Internet Age, pandering is as easy as click, click, click, only in the 21st Century they're giving it away. Here's some SpaceX Dragon fun that's free save the price of printing it on your home printer:

Print and build your own paper Dragon Spacecraft

Have fun kids!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


That was one fun filled weekend!

The battleship USS Iowa is almost to Los Angeles now...spending the day with her on San Francisco Bay was a peak experience, and a high watermark so far this spring.

The Monaco Grand Prix was in danger of becoming a procession when Mother Nature decided to mix things up with some sprinkles and a threat of genuine rain as the laps wore down. We have a sixth winner in six race weekends, but it's a repeat victory for Red Bull Racing, so there's five teams who've climbed the podium this season. I was rooting for six and six. Team Lotus and Team Sauber could be the 6th and 7th team to win this season...and any of their four drivers could be winners. It's gonna be an amazing Formula One season!

The Indy 500 was tell the truth, I was kinda out of it after getting up in the middle of the night (4:30AM) to watch Sunday's Formula One race after a long day bouncing around San Francisco Bay. I started paying close attention with 40 laps to go. My fave, Brazilian Tony Kanaan was out front with 16 to go...but yet another yellow flag bunched up the leaders, and Tony got jumped on the restart. Dario Franchitti's third Indy 500 victory suits me fine. Back in the 90s, I played a pay to play IndyCar Fantasy League. CART Rookie, Kanaan was one of my guys, as was Dario. I made $111.00 thanks to Dario one weekend.

In the afternoon I ignored the NASCAR race from Charlotte, NC. I was too busy tending to all the photos and video I shot Saturday

A Canadian, Ryder Hesjidal racing for an American team, Garmin-Barracuda won the Giro d'Italia, while I lead my fantasy bicycle racing league for the first week of the Giro, I finished dead last after all three I predicted.

The next Grand Tour is a month away. Le Tour de France rolls out of the gate Saturday June30th.

While downloading, editing my videos and burning DVDs, and managing my photos of the USS Iowa and the AMGEN Tour of California, I was struck by the stark difference in the weather this year versus last year...

This year it's all fun in the sun. While doing all the video, I realized I never downloaded the video I made on top of Mt Hamilton for last year's Stage 4 of the AMGEN ToC. My email entreaty to BajaBabe convinced me that I'd been remiss last year so I ran the gamut and got 'er done. Man it looked miserable up in the fog and clouds last year! A stark contrast to my day on Mt Diablo with KirkVallus that was marked by plenty of sunscreen applications. BajaBabe and I were all bundles up in parkas and ski hats last year.

Mt Diablo was a party in the sun with thousands of fans lining the course, Mt Hamilton was more like serving in a lonely outpost in the Aleutians during WW2.

Monday, May 28, 2012

USS Iowa Video Clip

From Saturday's tow on San Francisco Bay:

An extraordinary day on San Francisco Bay, sunny and calm winds. Mother Nature favored the Iowa and all her floating fans.

Thursday May 31st Update:
Thanks for linking me Pacific Battleship Center!
New visitors, if you like my video it would be great if you liked my CorduroyPlanet Facebook Page. Click and LIKE me, thanks!

I've got more USS Iowa posts and photos here as well. Click on CorduroyPlanet in the masthead above and scroll down, or click on USS Iowa in the tag cloud at the bottom of the right hand frame.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

USS Iowa Photos

SturgeUrge and I launched the F/V SturgeUrge from Richmond's Marina Bay Yacht Harbor around 0900 Saturday morning. The winds were around 5 kts out of the south, identical to the NWS forecast. We idled out of the No Wake zone and accelerated into the main channel.

We hung a right into Ford Channel where the Iowa was berthed. We were the only pleasure craft on the waterway. Iowa was attended by two tugs, one standing off while the Tractor Tug was alongside Iowa's bow passing lines and rigging for towing. I snapped some photos and we headed out to San Francisco Bay.

SturgeUrge and I were going halibut fishing. According to the schedule printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Iowa would leave Richmond at 1100, so we had time to do a couple of drifts on Southampton Shoal. An 11 pound halibut was caught at the south end of the Shoal Friday near the Berkeley Pier, and a 28 lb flatty across the Bay off Paradise mid-week. Though the tides weren't favorable for halibut, you can't catch halibut if you're not halibut fishing.

The Bay was a little lumpier than we expected for 9AM so we elected to forgo the trip all the way down the Shoal to avoid some pounding and to keep an eye on Iowa as the tow would begin after the bottom of the tide.

After an hour or so I noticed Iowa beginning to move. They were backing her down Ford Channel. We ran south and east for another drift though our baits were completely unmolested. Iowa was approaching the main channel, and we could see her getting close to the Liberty Ship Red Oak Victory that's berthed across Ford Channel at Ferry Point. Even though we were a mile or so away, I snapped lots of know, history and all...

Ferry Point lay of the land: General Warehouse, Whirly Crane, Red Oak Victory, and Iowa ready to turn towards the Bay.11AM Saturday 5/26/2012
As Iowa began moving towards the Bay proper, I started rigging my camcorder and tripod.

Iowa was making way looking magnificent in her new paint with Point Richmond as a backdrop.  She looked stately as she approached the main Bay. I began rolling video.

I'd set up my tripod as a monopod so I could try to absorb the swells and keep the camera on the subject. As Iowa neared the end of the main channel, SturgeUrge noticed that the swell was laying down...exactly the opposite of the forecast, and the normal order of things on San Francisco Bay from Spring through Fall.

Iowa made the main Bay off Richmond. She was now a half mile to our northwest, and she was starting to draw a crowd. Curiously, Iowa began turning north between the Chevron Pier and Red Rock Island. We counted five tugs loitering near the Iowa, along with a Coast Card cutter, lots of sailboats and more fishing skiffs. We wondered what they were doing...was Iowa being hijacked to Stockton? Finally Iowa's 270° pirouette was completed and she was headed south towards San Francisco. The wind and swell had abated enough that SturgeUrge said "we can flank her until Angel Island"

Iowa and Potomac cross Raccoon Straits The Goldan Gate's north tower peaks over Angel Island
The flotilla was growing quickly now. As Iowa headed south, the USS Potomac, president Franklin D Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht passed the battleship heading north. Rounding Iowa at her stern, Potomac headed south to flank Iowa as she approached the central Bay. It was getting very busy as Iowa reached Raccoon Straits between the Tiburon Peninsula and Angel Island. An antique San Francisco Fire Boat took up a position behind Iowa and began blowing fountains of water into the air as tribute to the mighty battle wagon.

While I was watching through my camcorder's LCD screen, SturgeUgre's head was on a swivel. We took evasive action three or four times as Iowa passed Angel Island and turned west towards the Golden Gate. There was a new lump on the bay...not from wind or swell, but boat traffic was getting insane, and the criss-crossing wakes made the water confused. A pair of F18 fighter jets flew west high overhead, as private aircraft,  TV News helicopters, and the Hanger1 blimp joined the impromptu air show.

We followed Iowa around Point Blunt, the southeast corner of Angel Island. This was special stuff, rarely do we ever venture around Angel Island. The waters to the south of the island are directly in line with the Golden Gate, and the winds and swell are usually too much for the 17 ft F/V SturgeUrge...Saturday? The Gods were with us and the Iowa...had the large flotilla not been churning the waters, it would have been like a lake out there. We ran to the southwest corner and made a couple of drifts as the Iowa's parade headed west.

Twenty minutes into my second 63 minute MiniDV tape, the camcorder's battery died and the freshly charged extra battery wasn't working either...I pressed my digital camera into movie making, missing all the beauty shots of Iowa with San Francisco in the background.

We probably could have joined the parade and ventured west closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, but we were nearing the frontier of our comfort range on the Bay. The weather wasn't the issue, the crowed waters were. We demurred...discretion being the better part of valor and all that. The Golden Gate statistically is the second most dangerous inlet on the West Coast of the States after Cape Disappointment on the Columbia River.

When Iowa neared the famous span, they began another unexpected turn north. That's when we realized that these turns were planned photo opportunities! Bless the Pacific Battleship Center for honoring the battleship Iowa and photographers and enthusiasts!

As Iowa made her way under the bridge, we turned east and drifted the eastern beaches of Angel Island...the fish just weren't biting. With a mind to the clock, we decided to head to the south end of Southampton Shoals and drift fished home to Richmond. We drifted perfectly all the way to the Richmond Rockwall, the end of Richmond Harbor's main channel where we tracked Iowa from at the beginning of our day.

Mission accomplished...except for the halibut deal...