June 4 — Trips from the Road

Despite rainy weather, we decided to make a day trip for abalone. The swell wasn’t the predicted 2 feet that we hoped for, but it wasn’t too bad. The water could best be described as “sharky”, due to a combination of runoff from the cow pastures, tiny bubbles mixed into the dark silty water and the appearance of pockets of blue sky that casted our silhouettes down to the obscured depths. Who says that you have to make better decisions when you get older? Apparently, we didn’t look too appetizing to any sharks that may have seen us. Despite horrible visibility, we got 5 of the little suckers after about 30 minutes in the water.

But enough about that, I decided to break out my D-50 and to take pictures on the ride back home. If you ever get a chance to drive, hike and dive this stretch of coastline a few hours north of San Francisco, take it!

Jurassic Island


On the Garden Island of Kauai, there are many, many chickens. They greeted us at the airport when we set down, begged for food (especially the fried chicken) and crowed early in the morning. You could live off of a diet of chicken and fruit for free in this patch of earth in perpetuity. Chickens are plentiful.

There are also many, many plants. You probably deduced this from “Garden Island”, but really, the plants are many in variety, hues of green, shapes, sizes, etc… If you are a botanist, this is one Hawaiian Island not to be missed. I didn’t take too many plant pictures, as there were an abundance of colorful animals to focus on.


There are an assortment of fish, this one being a blenny hiding in a hole dug out of a tidepool enclosed by sandstone. I wonder how blennies taste–they can’t be as bad as mudskippers, as those are certifiably the worst fish I’ve ever tasted and I’ve eaten a lot of fish, some of it even fermented. That’s right, mudskipper tastes worse than fermented fish. Don’t believe me? Go to Saga prefecture, Japan, and taste for yourself.


Frogs also occur in high concentrations, in certain spots. Did you know that frogs love manicured fields of grass? It’s a fact! Another point of interest: frogs are hard to see when they’re hiding in the grass unless you’re looking for them. Watch where you step, or you may end up inadvertently playing the part of Godzilla to Frog Tokyo.

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There are a bunch of lobster hidden among the reef structure. Unfortunately, this one was not big enough to be legally taken.

More pics and vids to come…

Fort Ross and Stillwater Cove

It turns out that there are a lot of camp sites available in the Fort Ross area of the California coastline, and the beginning of September during the mid-week is an ideal time to get a place to yourself. We returned to a place that had yielded some pretty good results on a previous trip at Stillwater Cove, in Sonoma:


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As with most of our trips, we tried to find new spots that people were less likely to access, as we found out that one cove over from the main beaches was much more productive than the well-picked-over waters closer to the road-side parking. Recently, we’ve been seeing more and more people who don’t seem to be very comfortable in the water diving for the snails. Luckily for us, we are a bit more comfortable scrambling down areas that are not as accessible, going for longer swims and able to dive a bit deeper.

Here’s a picture of the cliff we went over–this is not easy to scramble down so we usually end up chucking our gear over the edge first, though we’re still wearing 20 pounds of weight and 7mm wetsuits:

Stillwater Cove Cliff

This is what it looks like going down. The rock was rotten sandstone, and it was not easy to climb down, and thus there should be plenty of abalone…

Stillwater Cove Descent

Here’s a video of the entry into the water:

In this particular spot was apparently perfect for prickly sea urchins (which we were very careful to avoid, but if you like uni this is the spot!) and though we saw two abalone, they were both nowhere near legal size and crammed into deep, well-concealed crevices. On another trip, we had discovered that the channel between a group of rocks jutting out of the ocean and point on land was super-productive, however it is only safe to go in on the calmest of days. This day, though there were no huge waves, was not doable, so we had to dive the spot that everyone else goes to pick their abalone. Notice that this descent is easier, but still requires a rope to get down to the bottom when in full diving gear:

In order to find decent sized abalone, not just ones that were barely of legal size, we swam further out into areas where the surge was stronger and where the water was deeper. Luckily, this spot was nice and sunny, so we saw things like this (usually, it is cold and foggy which makes you appreciate the warm and sunny days):

Here’s an abalone, in situ:
Abalone

The Tyrannosaurus Rex of echinoderms, the sultan of sea stars: the mighty sunflower star

Sunflower Star

Abalone and a giant green anemone:

Abalone and urchin

Smaller, orange anemones:

And we had a visitor as well:

Mr. Harbor Seal

Once that was said and done, we found a spot about 30 feet down under a submarine ledge with a number of decent sized abalone:

Abalone cluster

It took me a while to select three to pull, as thirty feet is about as far as I can comfortably and safely dive right now. This is an improvement of the first time I went, when going down 15 feet was really challenging. Here’s a shot of me at the bottom. The yellow line is attached to my ab bar and gauge one one side, with my MacGuyver’d float (made out of two children’s PFD’s, rope, zip ties and a carabiner) 30 something feet at the other side:

…and at the surface, putting one away:

Here’s a shot on land. You have to tag the abalone right away once you get on your boat or come onto land, otherwise you potentially face a stiff charge:

Unfortunately, Heather didn’t bring her abalone card with her, but luckily for us, this meant that she could play around with Mika’s new Canon Powershot D10, which is rated to go down to 10m.

I don’t have any pictures of our campsite, but you’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that it’s worth getting out there in the off-season. The sites are well-maintained, there seems to be a lot of areas to go hiking, diving and fishing, and if you pick the right site, you can end your dive with a nice hot shower!

Genocide Cocktail

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My sister Merin sent me this picture of a tank full of habu in awamori that she took while on vacation to Okinawa this weekend, in a place called Gyokusendo Kingdom Village. I wrote all about habushu and mamushizake in a previous post, and thought that they made this liquer with one snake per bottle, kind of like one worm per bottle of tequila. Sad, isn’t it?
But let’s end this post on a lighter note. Let’s enjoy some potty humor, again thanks to my sister:
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Okinawa is, indeed, a place full of wonder…

A Few Diving Pics

These were taken at Zamami (jima, I think) at Dragon Lady point.
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Have you ever seen a sea cuke eviscerate? Not pretty…
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These pictures were taken by our guide, a cute 24 year old Okinawan. This one is of some kind of grouper. I want a pet grouper one day that will live under my private dock.
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These small silver fish moved as if controlled by some hivemind. Seeing them move as one really hits home the elegant simplicity of the lateral line. Their mass coordinated movements look so complicated, yet are controlled by a really primitive organ that senses differences in the pressure of the surrounding water.

My Dog, Shisar

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These dogs are Shisar, the guardians of the Ryukyu (Okinawan) Islands. You see them all over the place in Okinawa, on keychains, t-shirts, and anything else that is sold on the Kokusai-dori (the main tourist street in Naha).
Of all of the Shisar statues that I encountered, I especially like these. They remind me of our Pekingnese dogs, especially Jane. That was one cool dog.
I just watched Kill Bill vol. 1 two days ago for the first time, and spotted Shisar in two different scenes. When Black Mamba is purchasing tickets for Okinawa (one way) a pair resides on the back shelf, over the shoulder of the booking agent. The more obvious scene, of course, is when Hattori Hanzo’s steel is unsheathed for the first time. That’s Shisar, imprinted on that legendary blade.
On that note, I am looking forward to part 2. I think I may have to brave first night crowds tomorrow, because I don’t want to wait to see it!

Craptacular!

This weekend was just what I needed. I took a roadtrip down to Miyazaki City for the Cheesy Disco Party with Mark and Joe Fingerhut to meet up with the usual suspects. To say that things got out of control would be an understatement, and there are many good stories from Saturday night, but I will limit myself to posting an email I got from Joe Debiec:

Dude, shit is natural.
Mine is toxic. God speed.
I am nasty. Please forgive
it was funny at the time,
but now I feel like crap…
no pun intended.


I will let you ponder the meaning of this email, and give you some pictures from Yabe in Southeast Kumamoto to look at while you’re thinking.
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This is Tsujyun bridge, famous for shooting sustained arches of water out of both sides, just above the apex of the stone arch. On the day we went, they had turned the water off…
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They’re pretty good at making things out of wood. I’m good at burning things, but unfortunately I didn’t have any matches.
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Musashi has two wooden swords, like one that you start out with in the very beginning of The Legend of Zelda.
Hey, watch where you point that thing!
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This guy has a serious tanuki boner.
OK, back to the story. Admittance to the disco party was 2,500 yen, and it included unlimited drinks for the night, “a bargain!” I thought. We knew it was going to be “one of those nights” right away when we ordered our first round of screwdrivers. The girl behind the bar (calling her a bartender would be streching the truth a little too much) took out some plastic bottle vodka, mixed in some generic orange flavor beverage syrup, and added soda water. It tasted like orange flavored pediatric flourinated mouthwash with carbonation. Seeing as the only liquor available came in large plastic jugs (as do Popov, Lucky Charcoal Filter Vodka, and other forms of rubbing alcohol), I stuck with shochu and tea for the night and was content.
The night got pretty wild, and eventually we made it back by 5 in the morning. At 11:05 A.M., Joe D calls me up apologizing profusely, and I thought that it was just a joke. I was mistaken. After a nice breakfast and checking out “Ed from Miyazaki’s” nice collection of vinyl, his Technics, and GTA Vice City, we finally got to my car. Sitting on top is a paper bag from McDonalds. Just as he said, he had done a bad job of wiping, and there were finger-smudged bits of feces on the edge of the bag. Inside was a full loaf, and spent napkins. This pile had been allowed to bake in the sun all day, and was so toxic that it left a small stain on the roof of my car. I didn’t “Just drive off really fast…” so that “…it will fall off the back.” as he suggested. I was shocked to hear Joe tell me that he had left a bag of his own shit on my car, but I wasn’t really surprised. Ah, what a good weekend, even if I did have to deal some shit. The only thing is that I don’t really know how to one-up him. I could always wipe some crap on his face when he is sleeping, like that guy does on CKY2K, but maybe I will just pee on him… My friends are a bunch of disgusting degenerates, heh.

Chinese Meat Market

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The “butcher/deli” section in a market in Shanghai.
Shopping for ingredients in Shanghai is an adventure of sights and smells. We wandered in a large, grey, hulking building and found each section of the two floors packed with a huge variety of food in its virgin state (more or less). Nothing is nicely packaged here, there is no celophane wrap or styrofoam (Chris, does this ordinary word conjure up any memories?) and everything sits out in the open. You can tell things are pretty fresh, because the air is balmy, and there is no stench of decay, just the odors of vegetation, spices, blood, dirt, slime, and slowly decomposing generic cellular material.
Hah, people in California think that shopping at Trader Joe’s is supporting struggling co-ops and individual farmers and craftsmen while supporting the organic farmers of the world. Shop at a real Chinese market and you know that your cabbage was Certified Organically Grown with the contents from that farmer’s outhouse. It don’t get much more organic than that. There are no processed foods here. And you won’t be asked “paper or plastic?”- they will simply take a sheaf of yesterday’s newspaper and reuse it to tie up your package of meat. If you don’t bring something to put your purchases in, then you will carry them in your arms.
What kind of “meat” is that, do you ask? Dunno for sure, but it sure looks like it would make for some kick-ass barbecue. If you really want to eat disgusting meat, I don’t think it can get any more mysterious, unsanitary, or unidentifiable than the “meat” found in the common taco of Tijuana. Tu quieres carne de gato y perro?