Category Archives: Beaches

Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts Today

Today, June 1 marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

I realize for many people not living near the coast this fact does not hold much water.

But, for those people near the shore today marks the start of a six-month period of keeping their eyes on the skies and hoping for another year free from the devastation that a direct hit by a hurricane can cause.

When I lived in Florida I rode out many hurricanes from about 30 miles inland. That central location meant that by the time the storm reached me it was normally just a wind and rain maker.

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

The highlight of those storms being a water spout that picked up a school of catfish and deposited them in my parents’ yard.

I can still picture my mom running around trying to save all of the fish that were very much out of water.

Since leaving Florida I have had a few vacations cut short due to the pending arrival of storms that I have had to outrun in my car to reach the safety of home and avoid getting stuck. To that end I try to avoid travel during the peak of hurricane season now to minimize the chances of having a trip washed out.

Upon moving to Texas I came a little closer to the shore through my proximity to Galveston Bay. While still around 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico the Bay acts as a direct line for storm surge as demonstrated during Hurricane Ike.

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

In the little over a decade that I have lived in Texas I have evacuated ahead of the storm twice.

The first time included a 17 hour drive to Irving (a drive that normally would take five hours when not ensnared in bumper to bumper traffic) and a more reasonable seven hour drive to Gulfport, Mississippi during the aforementioned Hurricane Ike.

Hurricane Ike marked the closet I ever came to losing everything to a hurricane. Ike made landfall right at the mouth of the Bay which allowed the floodwater and storm surge to push well inland. When I returned back home I realized that the damaging floodwater stopped a mere two miles from my house.

While waiting out the storm in Gulfport I was glued to the television set watching the coverage of the pending storm. Ironically by evacuating east for the storm I actually experienced some of the outer bands of Ike in Gulfport before it made landfall in Texas.

Returning back home was like driving through a foreign land. There were still familiar sites but the parts of buildings strewn everywhere made it clear just how powerful the storm was.

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

One particular comment from the reporters on the seen was the proclamation that the Galveston Hooter’s restaurant was gone.

Truth be told, the Hooter’s was one of many buildings perched on stilts above the water that were picked up and tossed onto the seawall like Tinker Toys.

But for whatever reason the reporter on the scene felt that the most prudent way to help the viewers at home understand the scope of the damage was to focus on the loss of the Hooter’s. The singling out of the Hooter’s made me laugh for some reason which may have just been a coping mechanism since I did not know what I would be coming home to.

To this day when I am driving along the seawall I will stop at the spot where the Hooter’s once stood and in my best Anderson Cooper voice will proclaim that the Hooter’s is gone.

Much like the Hooter's restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter's has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore. Photo R. Anderson

Much like the Hooter’s restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter’s has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore.
Photo R. Anderson

After Ike the area around me rebuilt and for the most part there are few signs of the furry of the storm.

There are still pockets that have not come back and individuals still dealing with the loss but by and large a first time visitor to Galveston would not really be able to tell that a storm had flooded so much of the island.

The same is true in other places that have had storms hit. After the water recedes the cleanup begins and lives are slowly put back together.

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier. Photo R. Anderson

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier.
Photo R. Anderson

With the exception of Super Storm Sandy it has been a few years since a storm of the major category has made landfall in the United States.

Here’s to hoping for another year where the big storms stay away.

But if a storm does head this way this year I think I will most likely ride it out. It is not that I am being brave or foolish for that matter it is just that after seeing the worst that a storm can do from afar I would rather be up close and relatively safe than battling the thousands of people on the road heading north.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to check my hurricane supplies.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

The United States to Normalize Cuban Relations after Nearly 60 Years

The other day it was announced that after the United States would seek to normalize relations with Cuba after nearly 60 years of trade embargoes and other restrictions that have made it difficult for the average American to travel to the nation 90 miles south of Florida.

The closest I ever came to visiting Cuba was on a cruise ship in the late 80’s when the ship was heading back towards Miami from the U.S. Virgin Islands. As we approached the island the captain made an announcement along the lines of if you look out to our starboard side you will see Cuba.

I recall that the island was covered in a sort of rainy haze which made it both intriguing and beckoning at the same time. I also remember briefly thinking that I hoped the captain did not drift into Cuban waters by mistake and lead to an international incident.

Stories of the pre Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Cuba have always fascinated me. I was not alive during the tense days when the U.S. Naval blockade was in place to keep Russian ships from supplying missiles to the island so it is likely that my opinion towards Cuba may be different if I had lived through those tense days that almost led to World War III.

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Photo R. Anderson

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, for me Cuba represents a land where Earnest Hemingway and other figures spent their days fishing and their nights in smoke filled rooms, or crowded ballparks enjoying the freshest of Cuban cuisine and culture while getting from point A to point B in various cars from Detroit.

I guess one could say I want to experience the vision of Cuba that I have in my head. I want to sit and watch a baseball game played in a ballpark where the air and the accents are both thick and rich with history.

I want to sit in a road side cafe and eat my weight in Cuban pork and plantains while watching the hustle and bustle along the street.

I want to visit Finca Vigia, Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

I want to see those old cars that were on the road when Hemingway walked the streets and are still being driven today due to the ingenuity of the Cuban people to keep those cars roadworthy for all these years.

I had always held out hope that the embargo would be lifted during my lifetime so that I could visit all of the sights and sounds of the island mentioned above and now it appears to be the case.

Of course normalizing relations with Cuba, and opening up a United States Embassy on the island, takes time and certain travel restrictions will still be in place for the foreseeable future so a trip to ring in the new year on Cuban soil is out of the question at this time. But it does seem closer to becoming a reality today than it did before the President’s announcement.

Cuban cigars that were once traded on the black market due to sanctions against Cuba will soon be available without fear of prosecution.  Photo R. Anderson. Photo R. Anderson

Cuban cigars that were once traded on the black market due to sanctions against Cuba will soon be available without fear of prosecution.
Photo R. Anderson.

Make no mistake there are serious issues that still need to be resolved in Cuba and lifting an embargo that was either effective, or ineffective, depending on what side of the fence you are on, is merely the first of many steps.

The news of normalized relations was met with both elation and protests within the Cuban American communities of Florida.

Throughout the embargo many people have risked their lives to escape Cuba and build a better life for themselves and their families in America. Countless more lost their lives making the journey or were intercepted and sent back to Cuba.

The issues that led to those harrowing water crossings will not change overnight and should not be forgotten. But, normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States could lead to grass roots changes that take shape in the decades to come.

Another huge issue with the announcement that has yet to be fully fleshed out as a result of the open relations with Cuba is the impact on Major League Baseball.

Shortly after the President announced the change in posture with Cuba, Major League Baseball issued a statement of its own stating in part that they were actively monitoring the situation and would respond when appropriate.

Just as I am sure there are regular citizens on both sides of the issue of opening relations with Cuba I am sure there are people in the ranks of baseball that are on both sides of the issue as well Cuban.

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team in 40 years to play a game in Cuba in 1999. With normalized relations with Cuba coming it is likely one will not need to wait another 40 years for another game in Cuba involving MLB teams. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team in 40 years to play a game in Cuba in 1999. With normalized relations with Cuba coming it is likely one will not need to wait another 40 years for another game in Cuba involving MLB teams.
Photo R. Anderson

For years baseball players from Cuba have risked their lives and left their families behind defecting in hope of finding greener pastures elsewhere. And while it has become easier for MLB teams to sign Cuban player over the past couple of years there are still hurdles that only impact Cuban players.

It is entirely possible with the normalized relations that Major League Baseball teams will set up academies in Cuba similar to the ones that are in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other countries to evaluate international talent.

Major League Baseball has a history in Cuba with the Giants, Dodgers and Pirates all having held their Spring Training camps in Havana at one time or another. Additionally, the Havana Sugar Kings were the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds from 1954 to 1960.

After a 40-year absence Major League Baseball made a brief return to Cuba in 1999 when the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team played an exhibition game in the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. The Orioles won 3-2 in 11 innings.

With many issues left to resolve it will likely be years before the floodgates open wide to Cuban players leading to additional competition to be one of only 1200 players to be on one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams’ roster.

Realistically in the near term, it will be far more likely that one will still need to travel to Cuba to see a roster filled with Cuban baseball players. A day will likely come though when almost every team in the Major Leagues has some sort of Cuban influence.

Of course the Cuban influence I would most like to see return to American Ballparks is some good quality Cuban pork. Are you listening Minute Maid Park?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try and find an authentic Cuban sandwich.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Even During a Sharknado there is Time for Baseball and Other Lessons Learned

Last week the world was treated to the cinematic classic in the making Sharknado 2: The Second One; which oddly enough is a sequel to last summer’s Twitter crashing craze Sharknado.

The sharkcentric movies from the Syfy network center around mankind’s response to a weather event that allows powerful offshore storms to pick up sharks from the ocean and carry them hundreds of miles away to wreak havoc on densely populated areas.

For Sharknado the sharks were Pacific Ocean based and attacked Los Angeles much to the dismay of Tara Reid and Ian Ziering. For the sequel the sharks were in a New York state of mind after being plucked from the Atlantic Ocean allowing Tara Reid and Ian Ziering to be dismayed from sea to shining sea.

While few can argue that a story about sharks falling from the sky and wreaking havoc on New York City has the cinematic bite of say Citizen Kane, there are times when a movie, where everyone is in on the joke, can just provide pure guilty cinematic pleasure without the need to over analyze the meaning of Rosebud.

I have long been a collector of shark teeth but despite my frequent proximity to the coast I do not fear a Sharknado. Photo R. Anderson

I have long been a collector of shark teeth but despite my frequent proximity to the coast I do not fear a Sharknado.
Photo R. Anderson

Years ago I had a movie critic who worked for me describe this type of guilty cinematic pleasure as popcorn cinema for the Johnny lunch pail crowd. While this particular critic  was raised on art house cinema and preferred an independent film to a summer blockbuster he agreed that sometimes a movie just needs to be downright fun with a crazy plot and over the top acting.

I lost touch with him years ago but I want to believe that even my old film critic got caught up in the Sharknado feeding frenzy.

There were certainly many popcorn cinema moments, and unexpected cameos, in the sharks take a bite out of the Big Apple movie but what struck me most during the film was how the poor New York Mets just can’t seem to get a break as their Ballpark fell victim to the falling sharks.

Someone really should have checked to see if the New York Yankees were behind the taunting of their cross town rival.

Aside from learning that the House that Ruth Built, Yankee Stadium, appears to be immune from shark attacks, another lesson that I learned from the film is that a chain saw is a good item to have when one needs to cut open a shark. That knowledge definitely could have helped me a few years back when I tried to extract a jaw from a deceased shark I found on the beach.

Chompers, as the shark was known, was about a foot or two long when I found him. While most people might see a dead shark on the beach and think, “eww, dead shark,” I saw things a little differently. To me the dead shark on the beach meant the chance to have a really cool shark jaw to display on my desk at work.

I can blame my aunt for this thought process. Many years earlier she and I stumbled upon a large shark that had washed up on the shore outside of Jacksonville Beach in Florida. We had been searching for shark teeth all morning and lo and behold here in front of us was a mouth full of pristine shark teeth ready for the picking.

Upon seeing the shark my aunt mentioned how much she wished she had brought a pair of pliers to pull the teeth out. Without any pliers we left the shark alone and continued our search for easier to grab shark teeth along the shore.

So decades later as I stared at Chompers the words of my aunt came to me once more and I thought I can do better than a pair of pliers, I can take the whole shark home and extract the jaw teeth and all.

Of course living in an apartment at the time I did not really think that my neighbors would appreciate me sitting on the patio with a shark carcass so I took Chompers to my parents’ house.

After failing at my own attempt at shark jaw removal I was given a professionally extracted draw by my parents following a trip they took to Hawaii. In hindsight it is always best to leave shark rendering to the professional unless one happens to have a chainsaw handy. Photo R. Anderson

After failing at my own attempt at shark jaw removal I was given a professionally extracted draw by my parents following a trip they took to Hawaii. In hindsight it is always best to leave shark rendering to the professional unless one happens to have a chainsaw handy.
Photo R. Anderson

Over the next week or so I tried various methods to extract the jaw but had little luck and only managed to attract flies as the tiny teeth fell out of the very much still inside the shark jaw.

In the end Chompers was given a proper burial in the front yard and I was given a shark jaw my parents found at a store the next time they went to Hawaii.

A third life lesson I learned from Sharknado is that the scientific community, or at least the one that posts on the internet, seem very divided over the actual chances of a real Sharknado occurring. I was amazed at the number of articles that stated that a Sharknado event could really occur.

To be perfectly clear a Sharknado, such as the one depicted in the movie, cannot really happen. For starters even if there was somehow enough force in a tornado to pick up a bunch of unsuspecting sharks who happened to be swimming by at that exact moment they would die shortly after being thrust in the air since, spoiler alert, sharks are fish and can’t breathe out of the water.

While a Sharknado is basically ruled out by the laws of physics, I did actually witness a Catfishnado once in Florida when a school of catfish was picked up in a storm and deposited on my parents’ lawn.

So the science of storms being able to pluck things out of the water is valid. But, to repeat again there is no scenario where hundreds of six to eight foot sharks can be thrust up into the clouds and dropped upon unsuspecting citizens along the coast.

By all means enjoy the escapism that movies such as Sharknado and Sharknado 2 can provide but certainly do not live with the fear of sharks falling from the sky. Getting hit on the head by a falling catfish though is an entirely plausible thing and just might encourage someone to wear a hat when walking outside in the rain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to try to figure out which Ballpark is going to get hit by Sharknado the third which will be coming to the small screen next summer. Fenway Park anyone?

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

D-Day Remembered 70 Years Later

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, which is the name given to the World War II battle involving over 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region in one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history.

Led by Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied forces stormed beaches at Normandy code named Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and Omaha.

The storming of the beaches was met by German machine gunners and artillery who tried to hold back the invasion force, almost succeeding at Omaha costing the Allies more than two thousand casualties in the opening hours.

For an idea of just how gruesome this type of frontal beach assault is one need only watch the opening of Saving Private Ryan. It is easy to forget in this era of drone attacks and smart bombs that war was once much more hand to hand leading to much higher casualty rates among its participants.

The guns on the USS Texas provided cover for the troops storming the beaches during D-Day. The flag that flew on the ship during the battle will be on public display starting today. Photo R. Anderson

The guns on the USS Texas provided cover for the troops storming the beaches during D-Day. The flag that flew on the ship during the battle will be on public display starting today.
Photo R. Anderson

In total, the Battle of Normandy lasted from June 1944 to August 1944 resulting in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control and has been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.

During the D-Day invasion all scheduled baseball games were canceled on June 6, 1944 which marked only the second time in history that games were cancelled league wide.

The first cancellation of baseball games happened on the day U.S. president Warren Harding died in 1923, and the third time was when Commissioner Bud Selig stopped play for six days from Sept. 11-16, 2001, following the terrorist attacks.

While baseball games were cancelled stateside on D-Day, two future Hall of Famers, Yogi Berra and Leon Day, were participating in the battle.

Shortly after being drafted by the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was drafted by Uncle Sam. Berra witnessed D-Day 70 years ago today as a member of the U.S. Navy. Photo R. Anderson

Shortly after being drafted by the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was drafted by Uncle Sam. Berra witnessed D-Day 70 years ago today as a member of the U.S. Navy.
Photo R. Anderson

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 35 Hall of Fame members and more than 500 Major League players served in World War II.

Many celebrations are planned today to mark the anniversary. In France various heads of state are visiting Normandy and closer to home the people of Houston, and the surrounding areas, will have their own chance to see a piece of D-Day history starting today.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will give the public an opportunity to see the 17-by-9 foot battle flag that was waving on the USS Texas during D-Day.

Although the USS Texas itself has been on static display for many years, the exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science marks the first time since World War II that the flag has been on public display.

Whether one travels to see the beaches of Normandy, or the Stars and Stripes, it is important to remember the sacrifice of all of those veterans who stormed those beaches to help ensure the freedom that is enjoyed to this day.

After serving in World War I the USS Texas was called into action on D-Day. Seventy years after that battle the ship remains as a monument to the people who fought and died to help bring the freedoms we know and love. Photo R. Anderson

After serving in World War I the USS Texas was called into action on D-Day. Seventy years after that battle the ship remains as a monument to the people who fought and died to help bring the freedoms we know and love.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately the time to thank a World War II veteran in person is vanishing rapidly.

The United States Veteran’s Administration estimates that a World War II veteran dies around every two minutes. That translates to a rate of approximately 555 veterans dying each day.

By the year 2036, the VA estimates, there will no longer be any living World War II veterans.

For comparison purposes the last World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died in February 2011.

A reminder of the rapid passing of World War II veterans occurred Wednesday when, Chester Nez, died at age 93.

Nez was the last living member of the original 29 citizens of the Navajo Nation who were recruited by the Marine Corps to develop the legendary “unbreakable” code based on the Navajo language that was used for vital communications during battle.

Just as the sacrifice made on the beaches of Normandy saved countless lives by hastening the end of the war in Europe, the Code Talkers helped end the war on the Pacific front with their sacrifice.

There are countless other stories of bravery and sacrifice from the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” who served during World War II and each story goes towards the patchwork on which the nation is built.

It is likely, and hopeful, that the world will not see another war of the scale of World War II. While there will always be a need for a certain amount of boots on the ground advancements in technology have greatly reduced the number of boots required to conduct modern warfare.

But while the number of soldiers needed to protect freedom will continue to decline in the coming years that does not minimize the level of sacrifice made by each of the soldiers who wear the uniform.

So take some time before the start of the hustle and bustle of the weekend to remember the sacrifice and reflect on the high cost of freedom paid by each generation that has gone before.

And by all means if you happen to see a World War II veteran, or any other veteran for that matter, be sure to thank them for their service and their sacrifice.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to visit.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Something Smells Fishy in Seabrook

Over the past couple of weeks the city of Seabrook, TX , as well as other neighboring cities, have dealt with the lingering effects of a fish kill along the shores of Galveston Bay.

While there is always a certain sea faring odor associated with living along the water, it is usually a salty aroma that makes one want to read Ernest Hemingway novels in a smoking jacket wearing a captain’s hat while eating black licorice rope and sipping iced tea while Nat the lighthouse keeper helps guide the ships safely to port.

A recent fish kill along Galveston Bay has been a little less "Hemingway" and a lot more "Silence of the cod" lately. Photo R. Anderson

A recent fish kill along Galveston Bay has been a little less “Hemingway” and a lot more “Silence of the cod” lately.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course even Nat and Papa Joe himself would have turned their noses at the smell of thousands of dead bait fish washed upon the shore.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials the fish kill is likely being caused by low oxygen levels in the water which can be caused by many naturally occurring things such as algae blooms and other factors that make it hard for the fish to “breathe” under water.

In an official statement released by the city of Seabrook residents were notified that the region’s Kills and Spills Team (KAST) was on top of the situation and that fishing was discouraged in areas where fish carcasses have accumulated due to health concerns.

I can only speak for myself but usually the sight of thousands of dead fish “carcasses” in a given area is pretty much going to discourage me from fishing there without needing to have the city tell me.

Of course while there is never a good time for a fish kill, having one during Memorial Day weekend makes the fine folks at the local tourism office a little squeamish as they try to kick off the summer tourism season.

The waters of Galveston Bay are churning with more than just shrimp boats lately with the arrival of several thousand dead fish washing up on the shore. Photo R. Anderson

The waters of Galveston Bay are churning with more than just shrimp boats lately with the arrival of several thousand dead fish washing up on the shore.
Photo R. Anderson

With seaweed of biblical proportion washing up a bit further to the south there really are no odor free beaches and waterways for one to visit for the time being.

Of course in time nature will takes its course and the salty Hemingway smells will once again return to the shores as the numbers of dead fish and seaweed subside.

While the fish kill is currently limited to mostly smaller fish time will tell if larger fish in the food chain will start to die off with so many of their food sources killed off. As the animated lion and his friends taught me through song, it is all part of the circle of life.

Speaking of fish kills and singing lions, there is a similar circle of life within the ranks of professional baseball where each big fish club is only as strong has its minnows, err Minor League clubs.

Major League Baseball teams like the Tampa Bay Rays depend on a strong Farm system to survive. When the smaller clubs suffer the big club feels the pain which is similar to how the big fish feel during a fish kill ala the circle of life. Photo R. Anderson

Major League Baseball teams like the Tampa Bay Rays depend on a strong Farm system to survive. When the smaller clubs suffer the big club feels the pain which is similar to how the big fish feel during a fish kill ala the circle of life.
Photo R. Anderson

Teams with a healthy level of oxygen and prospects throughout the system tend to thrive while the clubs with a weaker farm system tend to flounder.

Much like seasonal fish kills the ebbs and flows of the haves and have nots in baseball also seem to be cyclical with each team rising and falling with the tides depending on how strong their farm systems are.

The good news for fans of teams such as the Astros, and others who are in rebuilding mode, is that while the product on the field at times may stink during the rebuilding years it never affects the noses of fans in the same way that thousands of dead bait fish will do.

Of course is one ever happens to see a Kills and Spills Team visit their Ballpark odds are the situation is a bit more serious than first thought and it might be time for a fan to “fish” elsewhere for awhile.

Residents along Galveston Bay anxiously await a return to a more fragrant experience full of licorice and lighthouses. Photo R. Anderson

Residents along Galveston Bay anxiously await a return to a more fragrant experience full of licorice and lighthouses.
Photo R. Anderson

So while the residents along Galveston Bay will have to wait a little longer to don those smoking jackets and break into the licorice at least they know that the fish are sure to disappear one way or the other eventually.

Until then the birds will continue to swarm all over the free Golden Gill buffet while residents can stay indoors with the windows closed and watch some baseball.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check the seals on the windows since the direction of the wind just shifted.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Oil Spill Shows how Fragile Ecosystems Can be

This past weekend around 160,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into Galveston Bay following a collision between two ships.

High waves driven by wind made containing the spill impossible and oil reached some areas on shore and also lead to the closure of the Houston Ship Channel during the early phases of the cleanup effort.

Besides the container ships and tankers that were left waiting for the Ship Channel to reopen passengers aboard two cruise ships were delayed and the ferry linking Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula was closed as a result of the spill.

While 160,000 gallons of oil sounds like a lot of oil it is a mere drop in the bucket compared to some of the worst oil spills in history.

Pelicans like this one are especially susceptible to oil spills. Photo R. Anderson

Pelicans like this one are especially susceptible to oil spills.
Photo R. Anderson

Still, even a drop in the bucket can have long reaching implications. And when that drop of oil in the bucket occurs during prime bird migration season the sticky situation can be even worse.

Oil covered birds have already been discovered and there will likely be more found before the clean up is complete but there is more to the impacts of the spill then some oil covered birds and fish.

Impacts of crude oil will likely be felt all the way to the bottom of the food chain with the total impacts not known for years.

Few would argue that oil is an important part of life and is needed for everything from transportation to power generation and it is not realistic to say that society needs to be completely oil free.

Effects of oil spills are often felt all the way to the bottom of marine ecosystems which means finding the total impact can often take decades. Photo R. Anderson

Effects of oil spills are often felt all the way to the bottom of marine ecosystems which means finding the total impact can often take decades.
Photo R. Anderson

While there are alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power that can help reduce the amount of petroleum products society needs the simple fact is the industrialized world cannot function without fossil fuels.

As such every possible precaution is taken to ensure the safe manufacturing and transporting of oil from the time it leaves the ground until the final product is placed in the consumer’s hand.

Despite all of these precautions there are occasionally spills and other accidents such as the one that occurred over the weekend.

When things do go wrong in the oil manufacturing process and entire ecosystems are put at risk it becomes time to look at all sides of the argument and ensure that impacts are minimized and the oil is removed in the safest way possible.

Birds that land in oil require quick attention to prevent lasting effects and death. Photo R. Anderson

Birds that land in oil require quick attention to prevent lasting effects and death.
Photo R. Anderson

We are approaching the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon incident where the Gulf of Mexico was inundated over 87 days with an estimated total discharge at 4.9 million barrels  of oil, which is roughly 210 million gallons.

The 2010 spill, which is also referred to as the BP Oil Spill, was the largest oil spill to occur in the waters off of the United States.

Even now many groups are monitoring the Gulf of Mexico for signs of damage to the ecosystem. While trends such as a rise in dolphin fatality rates have been observed the total impacts related to the spill will not be known for decades.

It should be noted that there are ships and other modes or transport that travel safely through the waters and roads on a daily basis so oil spills are certainly the exception more than the rule but it is an exception with dire consequences.

Oil runs the boats in the marina and under most circumstances can coexist with marine life unless it it spilled directly into the environment such as was the case recently in Galveston Bay. Photo R. Anderson

Oil runs the boats in the marina and under most circumstances can coexist with marine life unless it it spilled directly into the environment such as was the case recently in Galveston Bay.
Photo R. Anderson

Generations of people have counted on the Gulf of Mexico for food and relaxation. And with the right steps now it should be available for generations to come.

The same is true of Galveston Bay which has large recreational and professional fishing communities that count on the wildlife within its waters to be free of contaminants and safe to eat.

There is certainly more to life than a stroll on the beach or a quiet day out on the fishing pier. But everybody deserves the option to stroll on that beach and fish from that pier oil free when the time to does come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about marine ecosystems has me craving some scallops with Old Bay Seasoning.

Copyright 2014 R Anderson

Every So Often Everyone Needs a Ferris Day

Yesterday was a Ferris Bueller kind of day.

No it wasn’t the type of day where anyone stole a Ferrari and sped down the streets of Chicago.

And it was not the type of day where “my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw me pass out at 31 Flavors.”

Instead it was a Ferris Bueller Day in that I took time to slow down since as Ferris would say, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

For me a nice Ferris day involves some waves and some birds. Photo R. Anderson

For me a nice Ferris day involves some waves and some birds.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course for anyone who has been under a rock where they do not have access to John Hughes films Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, is the central character in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” which is for many the definitive work on the subject of goofing off.

In the movie Ferris and his friends skip school and spend a day traveling through Chicago and having one adventure after another while being pursued by the high school principal Mr. Rooney.

Throughout my life I have taken the Ferris philosophy to heart time and time again.

Whether it was skipping school to catch a baseball game, or skipping work to do pretty much anything other than work, I have long been a firm believer that one needs to take a personal wellness day now and then.

Unfortunately my scenic view was interrupted briefly by a "Rooney". Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately my scenic view was interrupted briefly by a “Rooney”.
Photo R. Anderson

With temperatures topping out around 70 yesterday the weather was not too hot and not too cold making it about as perfect as one could want for a Ferris Day.

With weather like that almost anyone in their right mind would blow off work and whatever else they had planned and just enjoy the day.

Unfortunately as I have gotten older I have become slightly more responsible with my Ferris days. So with items on my calendar that could not be moved I decided that a full Ferris day was impossible to pull off.

So when it came time for lunch I decided to take a drive down to a park along Galveston Bay and roll the windows down and enjoy the view for my Ferris day lunch.

The view included waves, birds and a very inconsiderate guy in a BMW.

When I first arrived at the park I was the only car there so I backed into a parking spot and enjoyed the sights and the sounds of having the place all to myself.

Views like this certainly make work hard to think about. Photo R. Anderson

Views like this certainly make work hard to think about.
Photo R. Anderson

About 10 minutes into my peace and quiet a green BMW pulled into the park. This was not an issue since the park is certainly big enough for several cars to fit in.

It became an issue when the driver of the BMW decided that the best place in the entire park was right in front of my car.

So my peace and quiet was temporarily interrupted by a “Mr. Rooney” that just had to park right in front of me while he took a picture of the scenery.

Thankfully the man in the BMW was gone almost as soon as he arrived and my uninterrupted view of the bay was restored.

Sadly the next interruption to my blissful Buellerness came when I realized that as much as I wanted to stay there all day I had other things that needed to be done.

So while my Bueller Day only lasted an hour or so it was certainly a perfect break in the day and reminded me that it is certainly important to take time to relax now and then.

And of course if one happens to have access to a classic Ferrari, it can make goofing off even better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning my next Bueller Day.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Hits the Century Mark

If you happen to be reading this right now, it means that you have arrived at the 100th column entry here at Triple B.

Now, 100 columns is certainly a milestone worth noting and as it got closer there were increased thoughts at the Triple B Gigaplex regarding the best way to celebrate it.

The first thought of how to celebrate the occasion was actually to not celebrate it at all.

Let’s call this the “act like you’ve been there before” approach.

In the act like you’ve been there approach one just continues doing what they have always done without drawing attention to reaching a particular milestone such as say the 100th entry made since January.

For example, instead of talking about it being the 100th column the space could be devoted to discussing the fact that the 2014 Major League Baseball schedule was released yesterday and includes the Houston Astros opening the season at home against the New York Yankees.

The 2014 Astros schedule also gives me the chance to see the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals from the air conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park.

Or instead of pointing out that this is the 100th column we could talk about the cheating scandal that is rocking NASCAR and has led to a shake-up in which teams get to compete for the coveted championship.

Another topic we could cover is the total disappointing effort put out by the Washington Redskins in Monday Night Football despite us going to the trouble of getting a special cookie cake for the occasion to go along with a tray of imported cheese, rosemary crackers and pinwheels.

Instead of tasting sweet like victory, this Washington Redskins chocolate chip cookie cake tasted bitter after a lackluster effort by the Redskins in Monday Night Football. But that is not what we are here to talk about. Photo R. Anderson

Instead of tasting sweet like victory, this Washington Redskins chocolate chip cookie cake tasted bitter after a lackluster effort by the Redskins in Monday Night Football. But that is not what we are here to talk about.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course as many on field celebrations show, the act like you have been there approach is often thrown out the window in favor of the “party like it’s 1999 approach.”

One particular example of the excessive celebration in baseball is the walk off win.

As the name implies a walk-off win occurs when the teams simply walk off the field after the home team has scored a decisive run in the bottom of the ninth inning that leads to a victory.

I have never really understood baseball teams that choreograph routines for walk off celebrations. I get the emotion of the moment and the fact that the victory is secured but when some teams have set roles for people to play during a walk off celebration such as who get to catch the batting helmet as the runner touches home things have gone too far.

With the act like you’ve been there approach ruled out thoughts on how to celebrate turned to the television clip show approach.

I am sure everyone has watched a television show at one time or another that was comprised of clips from previous shows as the actors on the show “looked back” at pivotal moments of the past year.

This approach usually involves a contrived set-up that allows for the seamless inclusion of remember when moments that serve as flashbacks for the viewer.

One of my favorite shows growing up, MacGyver, was notorious for the clip show approach. It would never fail that each season would include a look back at shows and events which sometimes happened as far back as the episode that preceded the clip show.

A MacGyver clip show would usually involve the main characters in some sort of a jam and then they would realize they had gotten out of worse scenarios in the past by saying something like, “Remember when MacGyver disarmed that thermonuclear device with a bottle cap and a whisker from a Russian Dwarf Hamster?”

And then a clip would be shown of MacGyver disarming said device earlier that season armed with a Swiss Army Knife, a bottle cap and of course that all important non conductive whisker from a Russian Dwarf Hamster.

Okay, to my knowledge Macgyver never disarmed a thermonuclear device with a hamster whisker. But if he did, and there was footage of that, I would certainly deem that to be clip show worthy.

So if we were to take the clip show approach here I would say something like remember when we talked about how bad the Astros are this year?

And of course that phrase would have been hyperlinked so that you could navigate back there to read the previous article about when we talked about how bad the Astros were.

Although I think many of the past 99 columns referred to how bad the Astros were this year so that would be a lot of hyperlinks to have to go back and add.

So instead of talking about the Astros we could say remember when we talked about (fill in the blank)? And of course the link would magically transport you back to reread that particular article.

I was never really a big fan of the clip show approach when MacGyver did it and I am definitely not going to do it now since it always struck me as a cheap way for the writers to not really have to work hard at coming up with new material.

So we aren’t taking any shortcuts here, although remember when we talked about…

With the act like you’ve been there before approach and the clip show approach being ruled out we had to think of a third way to celebrate the milestone of reaching 100 columns.

What better way to celebrate 100 columns than with some cake. Photo R. Anderson

What better way to celebrate 100 columns than with some cake.
Photo R. Anderson

That led us to the third way to mark the occasion of reaching our 100th column, we bought a cake and put some candles on it.

I mean who doesn’t love baked goods? After all, remember a few paragraphs up when we were talking about a Washington Redskins cookie cake?

And when the cake is filled with Boston Cream one really can’t go wrong. (By the way remember when we talked about Boston?)

So, there you have it, the 100th post here at Triple B.

Here’s to many more to come as we offer observations from the cheap seats, the beach seats and everywhere in between.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some cake to eat. Of course, if you had been here yesterday I could have offered you a slice.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Cuba Home to Old Cars and Pet Pelicans Among Other Things

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the idea of visiting Cuba.

Of course, with all of the travel restrictions and trade embargoes in place traveling to Cuba is not really an option for me at the moment.

The closest I ever came to visiting Cuba was on a cruise ship in the late 80’s when the ship was heading back towards Miami from the U.S. Virgin Islands. As we approached the island the captain made an announcement along the lines of if you look out to our starboard side you will see Cuba.

I recall that the island was covered in a sort of rainy haze which made it both intriguing and beckoning at the same time. I also remember briefly thinking that I hoped the captain did not drift into Cuban waters by mistake and lead to an international incident.

In the end we passed without incident and as Cuba got smaller and smaller on the horizon behind us I was even more convinced than ever that I wanted to one day step foot on that mysterious rock.

Stories of the pre Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Cuba have always fascinated me. I was not alive during the tense days when the U.S. Naval blockade was in place to keep Russian ships from supplying missiles to the island so it is likely that my opinion towards Cuba may be different if I had lived through those tense days that almost led to World War III.

Bell tolling books

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, to me Cuba represents a land where Earnest Hemingway and other figures spent their days fishing and their nights in smokey rooms, or crowded ballparks enjoying the freshest of Cuban cuisine and culture while getting from point A to point B in various cars from Detroit.

I guess one could say I want to experience the vision of Cuba that I have in my head. I want to sit and watch a baseball game played in a ballpark where the air and the accents are both thick and rich with history.

I want to sit in a road side cafe and eat my weight in Cuban pork and plantains while watching the hustle and bustle along the street.

I want to visit Finca Vigia, Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

I want to see those old cars that were on the road when Hemingway walked the streets and are still being driven today due to the ingenuity of the Cuban people to keep those cars roadworthy for all these years.

I want to tour a cigar factory and see people using the same hand rolling techniques that their great great great grandfathers used.

I want to do all of these things and more in Cuba but sadly under the current rules of travel that is not an option for me at the moment.

Our friends north of the border in Canada can come and go as they please to Havana but for those with America stamped on the cover page of their passports it is a different story.

Of course, I certainly hope to get to visit Cuba without having to become a Canadian citizen first and feel that I will get a chance in my lifetime to do so.

While I have many things on my list to see when I do get to Cuba, there was another item that I heard about that also seems worth checking out on the island 90 miles away from Florida.

I recently learned that there is a family in Cuba with a pet pelican named Pancho. When I saw the pelican above in St. Petersburg a few years back it never occurred to me that pelicans would make a good pet. Photo R. Anderson

I recently learned that there is a family in Cuba with a pet pelican named Pancho. When I saw the pelican above in St. Petersburg a few years back it never occurred to me that pelicans would make a good pet.
Photo R. Anderson

I am of course talking about Pancho the pet pelican.

There was a story in USA Today about Pancho, a pelican that wanders the streets of Havana with his owner who nursed him back to health.

Now, before I saw the story I had never even considered the idea of having a pelican as a pet.

I am a huge fan of pelicans and I love to watch them fly and do their pelican thing but never once in my wildest dreams would I have thought that a pelican would follow me around without me having to carry a fish to lure him.

So while conditions in Cuba and the surrounding political system may not be the best for individual freedoms I think that a country that allows its citizens to have pet pelicans cannot be all bad.

Okay, let me clarify before I get angry cards and letters that I am in no way endorsing communism as a preferred form of government over democracy. I am merely stating that I think it is pretty cool that there are people in Cuba with pet pelicans regardless of what form of government they live under.

When I lived in Florida I had many friends from Cuba who told me first hand of the atrocities that they had witnessed under Fidel Castro so I know that it is not all pet pelicans and sunshine.

These atrocities are one of the reasons why so many people continue to flee the island for a chance at a better life filled with more freedoms and other opportunities that they cannot have in Cuba.

But from a pure coolness factor of walking around with a pet pelican one has to give the nod to Havana.

And while we are giving people nods and shout outs one cannot forget Diana Nyad who at age 64 recently became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, hitting dry land on a Key West beach nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years.

While I am not a smoker I do collect cigar boxes and ones marked "Havana" always seem to be a bit more special. Photo R. Anderson

While I am not a smoker I do collect cigar boxes and ones marked “Havana” always seem to be a bit more special.
Photo R. Anderson

So I guess it was reading about that historic swim as well as Pancho that had me longing once more for a visit to Cuba. Of course, another reason for my renewed quest is the fact that I have been craving some really good Cuban food lately.

And it should not really shock anyone that Texas is not really a hotbed of Cuban Cuisine so the choices here are certainly limited.

So, I will continue to plan things to see and do in Cuba while I wait for the travel restrictions to be lifted and for the opportunity to present itself for me to be free to move about the country.

After all, why should the Canadians have all of the fun, eh?

Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about Cuban food has made me a bit hungry.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Silent Tropics are Good for Residents, Bad for Storm Chasers

This past week several of the local and national news sources that I follow have been filled with story after story bemoaning the fact that this year’s hurricane season has been a dud so far.

Personally, I would think that the fact that there have not been any storms that have turned into hurricanes by the midpoint of the season is a good thing.

But for news stations that make their livings providing continuing continuous coverage of breaking weather events like hurricanes, the lull can certainly hit their bottom line I suppose.

And each of the stories I read this week about the slow start to the season cautioned that with three months left in the season there is still time for a storm to hit so residents along the coast should still keep an eye to the clouds and of course stay tuned into those stations for the breaking news when the storm approaches.

The television news vans have been all gassed up but so far have not had any storms to chase during the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This has led to some news stations to complain about the lack of storms. Photo R. Anderson

The television news vans have been all gassed up but so far have not had any storms to chase during the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This has led to some news stations to complain about the lack of storms.
Photo R. Anderson

While I am certainly all for staying prepared in the event of a storm, and know that historically September is one of the more active months for storms, the sad for not having a storm to cover yet mentality really irritates me.

Ask people along the coast who are still recovering from past storms if they feel “cheated” by the lack of storms this year and I am sure they will tell you that they are enjoying the break from storms that have a name and winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

Also, despite the lack of named storms certain areas are still receiving record amounts of rain so the argument of needing a tropical storm or hurricane to blow through to bring rain quite frankly does not hold water either.

In Texas there are still drought conditions and more rain is certainly needed but I do not see anyone on the street corners shouting for the arrival of a hurricane to bring it to them.

The media meltdown over the lack of storms to cover is just one example this week of my growing displeasure with the state of media affairs.

I really don’t know who to blame for the lapses in media judgment.  I am in no way placing myself on a pedestal and saying that I am the poster child for what a journalist should be but the lack of fundamentals being shown by the mainstream press really has me concerned for the future of a field that many feel is already facing credibility challenges.

I understand that there are way more media sources now than in the golden age of media where a town would have one newspaper and three television stations to bring them their daily dose of news.

With the expansion of cable systems and the internet there are hundreds if not thousands of daily sources that a person with an internet connection can search to get their news fix.

Some of these sources are offshoots of traditional brick and mortar media outlets and others are part of the new media and citizen journalist movement.

Just as not all brick and mortar journalism sources are good, not all new media is bad. So I am definitely not saying that there is not a place for both in the information age, there just needs to be standards.

And when I see traditional media making lapses in judgment it really makes me wonder whether the fundamentals are still being taught to aspiring journalists before they leave those brick and mortar universities with their degrees in hand.

Aside from the biased weather coverage there was another headline that got my blood boiling this week.

Pete Rose spent just one year north of the border playing in Montreal but it was a memorable year as he hit his 4,000th hit in the Major Leagues. His reaction to another member of that club had some media outlets bending his words.

Pete Rose spent just one year north of the border playing in Montreal but it was a memorable year as he hit his 4,000th hit in the Major Leagues. His reaction to another member of that club had some media outlets bending his words.

Pete Rose, aka “Charlie Hustle”, has been in the news a lot the past few weeks. When the suspensions for the steroid abusers broke, Rose was contacted for his take on the length of suspensions since Rose himself has been a victim of the Major League Baseball disciplinary arm having received a lifetime ban for betting on games he was managing.

Then yesterday as the all-time leader in hits in Major League Baseball, Rose was once again sought out after Ichiro Suzuki hit his 4,000 hit Wednesday night. Now the 4,000 hits combine Ichiro’s time in both Japanese and American professional baseball (2,722 hits in Major League Baseball and 1,278 while playing in Japan’s top league). By contrast, all of Rose’s 4,256 hits were all done in Major League Baseball games.

So, Rose was asked if he felt that Ichiro should be considered the hits leader if he manages to get 257 more hits to surpass Rose’s mark. And Rose stated what many others have stated that only hits made in the Major Leagues should count for MLB stats. But instead of a headline stating that the headline writer for this particular article I read said, “Rose disses Ichiro.”

The article did include around five quotes of Rose saying how much he admired Ichiro by calling him a pure hitter and someone who plays the game the right way.  Those do not sound like “disses” to me.

So once again a misleading headline is put over a story to gain readers. This seems to be happening more and more and makes me wonder if the headline writers even read a story anymore before deciding on a headline.

I guess my rant about the state of media could fall under a headline of “columnist disses media” but it is really more of a call for a more responsible press. Time will tell whether the trends reverse or get worse.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see if the local meteorologists have gotten over their lack of storm depression yet.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson