I Voted… Two Weeks Ago

My ballot includes paragraphs like this: Vote NO on Measure W. It’s a fraud. Measure W is NOT a “term limits” measure. It is just the opposite. It is a TERM EXTENSION for the Mayor and City Council.

www.ocvote.com fileadmin user_upload elections gen2014 sbs BT239.pdfI voted. Actually, I voted by mail two weeks ago. That’s a first.

It was a ballot, but also a small book! There were four pages with check boxes, plus instructions, short bios from each candidate and statements for and against each ballot proposal. That’s 36 pages in all!

My ballot includes paragraphs like…

Vote NO on Measure W. It’s a fraud. Measure W is NOT a “term limits” measure. It is just the opposite. It is a TERM EXTENSION for the Mayor and City Council.

Speaking of mayor and city council, they are supposed to be elected in a non-partisan fashion. It’s still Democrats versus Republicans. You just have to dig a little deeper to know who is whom.

My cousin, Melissa, is running for Irvine City Council. I’d like to see her elected. She’s probably relieved the campaign is over. It’s been more than an additional full time job… a thankless full time job.

It is nearly impossible for any person to be familiar with everything being decided. Should I really be choosing Orange County Water District, Director District 5? Maybe some positions are better appointed than elected?

A mail-in ballot should encourage high voter turnout, but the complexity of the ballot probably does the opposite. It’s intimidating.

The most highly contested element of today’s election is a proposition which raises the maximum ‘pain and suffering’ payout in medical malpractice lawsuits from $250,000. The insurance industry has spent tens of millions trying to defeat it. The interest of insurance companies and me never seem aligned–especially in this.

I will not miss the political ads in TV. How can they get more objectionable every year?

Nearing The Peak

Climatologically we’re a day or two away from our highest temperature of the year.

Alas, we live weather not climate. The hottest day might have already happened. Maybe it’s still to come.


It’s hot today in Orange County. We made the decision early. AC on! We peaked around 93&#176. Upper 80s still.

Climatologically we’re a day or two from our highest temperature of the year.

Alas, we live weather not climate. The hottest day might have already happened. Maybe it’s still to come.

Our climate is very comfortable.

81&#176 highest mean daily high
66&#176 highest mean daily low
66&#176 lowest mean daily high
47&#176 lowest mean low

There are a few oddities on this chart (click the chart to see it full size) of averages and extremes. You don’t expect charts like this to have noticeable anomalies (seen as bumps), like the dip that signifies the June Gloom or the unexpected warmups in January and April/May.

Tomorrow promises to be 10-15&#176 cooler.

Where I Take Visiting Friends

I like Thalia Street Beach in Laguna Beach because there’s not much of it. Twisting stairs lead down from the street. The walk to the high water line can’t be more than thirty feet. I wade in to my calfs. Well, that’s my intent.


Jon and Mary Lyn Wolfert slipped in for a few days. They’re passing through from Alaska.

Tonight they’re Dallas bound. They were on-the-ground making a fuel stop at Cavern City Air Terminal in Carlsbad, NM a few minutes ago.

Their Mooney has been dodging storms, but should be good the rest of the way. The sky will be getting brighter when they land after 5:00 AM local time.

SoCal is a pretty area. Out-of-town guests get taken to see the sights.

I like Thalia Street Beach in Laguna Beach because there’s not much of it. Twisting stairs lead down from the street. The walk to the high water line can’t be more than thirty feet. I wade in to my calfs. Well, that’s my intent.

Perfect weather. Beach jammed. Lifeguard stands, not evident a few months ago, out of storage and in the sand.

Everything about this beach says Southern California!

We left and drove past homes somehow fastened to hillsides. We were heading up. Prices were going up. Views too. Up high you see a lot.

Civilization ended at the top of the hill. We walked into the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. One side faces the Pacific, the other the basin that holds much of Orange County and the mountains that define its border.

More people stop by now that we’re in California. People like coming here. I understand why.

Where We Live

I walked in the door and sighed. Helaine asked what was wrong. I said we’d found the house. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths, on two floors with around 1,900 square feet of living space.


This week marks a year since our hectic first week in Irvine. This is a totally different world. Nothing’s the same, right down to the side of the street that borders the ocean!

As the wheels began to turn and moving became more-and-more certain, we made a few house hunting trips to Orange County. Our cousins are nearby. That was a huge draw. Stef is close, but not too close. No winter.

Helaine likes new. For us that’s the right call. There’s lots new here.

Irvine is a rapidly growing suburb in Southern Orange County. We are inland from Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. To our north and east are foothills, then the Santa Ana Mountains, mainly wilderness.

This is unlike our former New England home in nearly every way. We lived in a town that grew organically. Our property line was not a rectangle.

Here, everything is by design. Each house is different, but in the same sense identical twins have differences. Irvine is a medley of your favorites in the beige family.

Housing developments pack the homes in then leave lots of common space with parks, pools and trails. That’s part of the deal for being allowed to build here. We have a city block sized common area with pool, basketball and tennis courts and large dog friendly lawn. It’s a minute’s walk away. There are kid playgrounds within a few blocks in every direction.

We saw a model and bought a house to-be-built. I walked in the door and sighed. Helaine asked what was wrong. I said we’d found the house. We were looking for this layout. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths, on two floors with around 1,900 square feet of living space.

We knew most, not all of what we were getting. Houses are different when they’re alongside their neighbors. As it turns out we chose well and got lucky. We’re very happy the way things turned out.

Our goal was a great kitchen for Helaine and great office for me. She is amazing in the kitchen, especially baking, and deserves to have a suitable space. My office is more about what’s in it than what it is. It began life as a third bedroom. It’s currently messy, but otherwise perfect.

We are very surprised by our utility bills. Because we have neighbors north and south we get morning and afternoon sun, but are shaded during the day. Our electric bill averages in the low $50 range. There’s also $15 for gas and $30 for water. All seem constant year round.

We seldom use the air conditioner. Low humidity is a big deal. We sleep with windows open 350 nights a year–maybe more. I leave a laptop on the patio and sit out there every night.

This is a community with lots of immigrants, most from Asia. Not all speak English. I often say hello and am met with a pleasant, but perplexed, smile.

I have a Chinese family on one side and a California raised Korean family on the other. I know one family well, the other not at all.

The Chinese family is multi-generational, living together. Some housing developments sell models specifically designed for that.

At Halloween one neighborhood father explained his young daughter didn’t speak English. She’d only been here a week. Welcome to America. Let’s go door-to-door and beg for candy.

I love this neighborhood because of the vitality I see. Young families on the move. If the American dream has disappeared, word hasn’t gotten to the people living here.

We got very lucky.

The View Down My Street


We live at the dead end of a short suburban street. You’re looking north. Those small hills are the Loma Ridge. It’s one in a series of foothills to the Santa Ana Mountains.

California is filled with land like this. It can’t/won’t be developed, ever. There are actually two large highways in this shot, but their footprints are purposely small. Californians seem respectful of the land.

Honey, Wake Up. We’re Having An Earthquake!


Doppler and I were peacefully napping on the sofa when Helaine took to her feet.

“Honey, wake up. We’re having an earthquake.”

I opened my eyes and stared down at the couch’s fabric a few inches from my nose. The house was shaking.

5.1 earthquake in La Habra! My earthquake map says 19 miles from here.

Screenshot_2014-03-28-21-28-16KCAL 9 news was on. Within a few seconds they were in quake mode. A live seismograph jiggled across the screen.

Much like a bell that had been rung, SoCal was still shaking. It wasn’t strong enough to feel by this time, but more than enough to measure. The quake’s movement covered the entire graph.

Rides at Disneyland have been stopped. The LA subway and other rail lines have slowed down to inspect tracks. Choppers are flying over a water main, now flooding a La Habra intersection.

Tonight’s quake was actually a swarm of quakes. There were at least 10 greater than magnitude 2.0, a few stronger than a 3. We felt a few, though none as strongly as what happened at 9:09 PM PDT.

seismo plotStef felt it in Hollywood too. She had just hung something on the wall and was staring at it as it began to shake.

Back on TV, KCAL went to a live shot from a restaurant here in Orange County. There were broken bottles on the floor, but normal activity had already resumed. Californians have been through this before.

So, this is what it’s like.

Doppler slept.

Is It Dog Friendly?


Last year as we decided where to move, Doppler was a large concern. We wanted a dog friendly place. That’s part of why we chose Orange County.

IMAG0677-w1400-h1400Because of weather, life is lived more outdoors. And most places without roofs welcome dogs. You see dogs at the mall. You see dogs in Home Depot. You see dogs on restaurant outdoor patios.

That’s where we took Doppler tonight.

IMAG0670-w1400-h1400Woodbury Town Center is our local shopping center. It’s got a Ralph’s (supermarket), Home Depot, Staples, Trader Joe, Walgreen’s, banks, medical, dental and vet offices and a bunch of smaller shops. There are about a dozen restaurants clustered together in an outdoor courtyard.

We sat down outside at The Counter. It’s a build-your-own burger place. Doppler supervised quietly from Helaine’s lap.

IMAG0680-w1400-h1400The waitress saw me taking a photo with my cellphone and pointed toward a nearby fountain. She said it was perfect for sunset shots. She was right.

We wouldn’t take Doppler into a store with food, but other than that she goes nearly everywhere. We’re never the only people with a dog.

Guests Mean Baked Goods… And Guests

Helaine's baked goods

Guests are arriving tomorrow. My sister and brother-in-law are flying in from the ‘burbs of Milwaukee. Brutal winter. We’ll reintroduce them to the Sun.

Their trip from Milwaukee to Orange County will take nine plus hours.

I’ve done my part. I’ve been to the store to pick up my sister’s favorite goodies.

Helaine has been baking. Oh, my. I was skinny when Helaine and I met.

There are baked delights so delicious and unhealthy they can only be baked to convince a recalcitrant boy not to be scared of you. I don’t get those anymore.

“I don’t think these came out right,” Helaine offered as I walked into the kitchen earlier today.

I’ve heard this before. She’s so wrong.

Pastry. I heard the word “almond” float by. Slender, twisted, pale in color. I took a bite. Flaky. Oh. My. God. Nirvana.

I offered to take them off her hands, no questions asked.

Also appearing on tonight’s show… chocolate chip and thumbprint cookies. Both killer.

The cool thing about Helaine’s baking is how much she enjoys it and how good she is at it. Where is my 21 year old metabolism when I need it?

Beside eating, we plan on showing Jeff and Trudi around. It’s a nice place and we have access to the Sun.

Surf’s Up In Laguna Beach


Good surf conditions seemed likely today, so I threw on a pair of shorts and sweatshirt, packed my camera and lenses and headed to Laguna Beach. Laguna was a call of convenience. I was looking for a surf spot as close to home as possible. Google suggested Thalia Street Beach.

Thalia Street is a locals spot. The surfing is OK. No one goes out of their way to come here. The waves crest beautifully, but break quickly. Short rides.

Thalia Street itself is a dead end stub west of CA-1. Stairs built into the palisades take you about fifteen feet down to the beach. A parking spot opened up and I pulled in.

For a photographer, Thalia Street Beach is great. The surfers aren’t very far out. My 300mm lens was marginally too long! The beach is smooth sand.

Overcast skies. Temperatures in the upper 60s. With my sweatshirt on and shoes off, I waded in. The water was cool, but not enough to be a problem.

Just going calf deep in water got me fifteen feet closer to the action. Then one big waved ran up my thighs. I pulled the keys and cellphone from my pocket before they were injured and became a little less aggressive.

There were 15 to 20 surfers and an equal number of spectators on the beach this afternoon. The vibe is very casual. People don’t stumble onto this beach. It’s well hidden.

Now it’s my spot too.

All the photos are clickable for a larger view.

The Disappointing Drive

We live at the northeastern edge of Irvine. Beyond us is wilderness. Some of it, supposedly, is spectacular.

For instance, the sinks in nearby Limestone Regional Wilderness Park has been called a “Miniature Grand Canyon of Orange County.” Probably a little bit of hyperbole, but worth seeing, right?

Limestone Canyon Regional Park   Google MapsI drove Portola Parkway to its end and turned onto Limestone Canyon Road. There were locked gates in either direction. Frustrating. Google Maps doesn’t show this as limited access.

My next attempt was on Jeffrey Road. Once again it looks fine on the map. The reality was different.

unfriendly-signThough the gates were open there were signs everywhere reminding me not to be there!

One open gate featured at least ten locks, each sharing a chain link with the next. It’s not great security, but it allows any of ten groups to control access to the road without sharing a key. Pretty clever.

gate-with-many-locksI called my Cousin Melissa, an Irvine native. She promises to take me out early Sunday for a little introduction to the wilderness.

Today I’m just disappointed.

The Snow I Won’t Miss

New Year’s Night. 8:47 PM PST.

COD Meteorology    Numerical Model Data

There’s a storm on the way to New England. There are one or two major storms there during any snow season. This will be one.

I’ve been working the numbers. It’s fun to forecast. I like maps, graphs and numbers. I can do it sitting in my chair here in Orange County.

I don’t miss the anxiety of forecasting. I know my fellow meteorologists sweat these out too. No one wants to be wrong.

At this hour radar from the Northeast is showing snow over Connecticut. Bradley’s been reporting light snow for over an hour. Most of the state is still quiet. The center of the upcoming storm is over Arkansas!

Here’s the setup: The low moves from Arkansas to the Northeast. A Canadian high will block the low’s northerly progress, but also provide an ample supply of cold air.

New England’s geography takes over.

As the low moves over the relatively mild (compared to land) ocean it will explode! A low’s strength is measure by its central pressure. The pressure will drop like a rock!

The prediction shows a rapid fall from ~1016mb to ~985mb. That will enhance both precipitation and wind! More of each.

Don’t be fooled. This isn’t a linear storm. There will be a long period of light snow, then the main course.

Thursday will be cloudy with snow showers and flurries. A few inches will accumulate during the day. If you have to drive you probably will, though you shouldn’t. The wind will being picking up.

After dark, windblown snow becoming heavy at times. Strong northeasterly winds. You’ll want to be safely home before this bad boy gets going.

Some areas might see a foot. 5-8″ will probably be the average.

The snow ends Friday morning. It will be replaced by bitterly cold air with many spots dipping below zero Saturday morning.

You don’t want to know what it will be like here in SoCal tomorrow.

A Walk Through Hicks Canyon


We walked a lot this summer. We’ve slacked off. Bad. This afternoon Helaine and I headed to Hicks Canyon Trail.

This area has loads of preserved land. Much of it is mountainous wilderness. Some open space with commanding views of the Pacific. Not today.

Walk Hicks Canyon and the ‘burbs are on both sides.

A headline in the Orange County Register said,

Hicks Canyon trail good for beginners and their dogs

That’s our speed. We brought Doppler too.

Hicks Canyon Trail is a long, thin sliver of parkland. For most of the way there are two paths, one paved, one dirt. The trail runs alongside Hicks Canyon Wash.

Easterners might find this concept foreign. Most of the rivers and streams here run intermittently. They’re dry more than wet. A dried riverbed that floods after rain is called a wash.

IMAG0323-w1400-h1400The wash is dry today.

On either side of the trail are nice homes, moderately large, very tiny lots. We approached one. Dogs began barking. Then these two guys came to the fence.

I’m not sure you can find a cuter sight than this!


Sunset At Newport Beach

IMG_0260newport beach sunset


IMG_0239newport beach sunset

“Wanna come for a ride,” I asked Helaine? “I want to go to Newport Beach for the sunset.”

Since we’ve been in SoCal I’ve taken very few photos. It’s not that Orange County isn’t photogenic. It’s just photogenic in a different way than my old neighborhood in Hamden. There’s more effort involved to get to the right spot.

Newport Beach is around a half hour away. It is Greenwich with palm trees, right on the Pacific.

Our destination was “Inspiration Point,” which sounds like cheesy dialog from a 1960s beach movie. It’s a bluff just above Corona Del Mar State Beach with an ocean view that includes Santa Catalina Island, over 30 miles away.

There were 15-20 people milling about when we arrived. Sunset viewing is good sport here.

They must have known I wasn’t a native Californian. I wore a long sleeved shirt. They wore coats.

Tonight’s sunset was nothing special. There were few clouds to accentuate the color. I’ll have to come back.

(Click the photos for a larger view, including a tiny sliver of the Moon and Venus in the first image)

Stuff You See While Flying: Sky Ranch


On a recent trip from Orange County we flew over a community that looked unusual. As you can see from the attached photo (click to enlarge), there’s one main street running right down the middle of the development with no homes or businesses on it. All the other streets feed off the main drag. Though they do have structures, none of them is near the intersection with the main road.


I took a closer look and realized that’s no regular street, it’s a runway!

Runway 03-21 is the center of action at Sky Ranch Airport in Sky Ranch Estates. Sky Ranch is in Sandy Valley, Nevada, within feet of the California line.

Internet sleuthing says 75 planes are parked under the hangars that accompany most homes on the ranch. I also learned…


No control tower. No lights on the runway, except at the thresholds. But, you can fly home!

This is not the promise of the Jetsons. It’s as close as we get so far.

I Smell Smoke

baker fire

We’re back in SoCal.

After taking Stef home, then dodging the traffic (and detour) near the Hollywood Bowl, we made decent time down “The Five” to Orange County.

There is one change since we left Friday. The air is pungent with the smell of charcoal! We’re feeling the effects of the Baker Fire in Silverado Canyon, around five miles away.

It’s far enough not to be a worry, but close enough to make its presence felt.

This is a mulch fire. It started in a nursery then spread to the surrounding wilderness. The fire covers around 50 acres and is 25% contained tonight.

The are multiple problems with a fire like this. The natural brush is very dry. There’s been no rain for months, then a Santa Ana wind this weekend. Beyond that this fire’s in a steep canyon with limited access.

Even California’s gentle weather packs some danger. Yes, it’s scary.