Apr 282008

TIME has a great story up by John Cloud called Shark Frenzy in Solana Beach. It has some great quotes:

The media was fascinated because shark attacks are sickeningly grisly and cosmically rare. Your chances of being killed by a shark in any given year are about 1 in 280 million, according to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Your chances of dying in a car accident are about 1 in 6,700. In other words, you would have to swim in the ocean 41,000 times a year (or 112 times a day, or seven times every waking hour) before swimming in shark habitats became as dangerous as driving your car a single time…

That’s one reason local officials’ response to Martin’s death was so transparently silly. For 72 hours, they banned ocean swimming along a 13-mile swath from South Carlsbad State Beach to Torrey Pines State Beach. That’s like a ban on leaving your home after a thunderstorm. Actually, statistically speaking the latter ban would make more sense: Your chances of dying after being struck by lightning are 1 in 3 million, about 93 times more likely than dying after an altercation with a shark.

He also brings up an interesting point – this may influence the Children’s Pool debate in La Jolla. Some may argue that having a beach full of plump seal treats near public beaches is tempting fate. I think that statistical chance is still so remote that it doesn’t play into the debate. But who knows, people can be emotional, facts can be sensationalized. I think the family handled the press pretty well:

…a reporter asked whether the family would stop swimming in the ocean, and Jeff Martin said quickly: “No.”

“Can you elaborate on that?” the reporter asked.

“I went surfing yesterday. Does that help?” Martin said, a bit sharply. “I’m taking my boys out tomorrow.”

Apr 252008

A triathlete in training swimming with 10 others at Fletcher Cove was bitten once on the legs by a shark, and died from blood loss this morning. My heart goes out to relatives and friends. Hopefully this incident will be portrayed respectfully and accurately in the media. This was an unfortunate incident, but it is important to remember that it is also extremely rare – there was only 1 death world wide last year from sharks.

Update from one of the dive lists I’m on: A group of research divers from Scripps was in the same location this morning and noted very bad visibility because of plankton blooms. The few shark bites that do happen are frequently in very low visibility situations – the shark can sense there is a mammal near with electroreception and lateral lines but mistakes the victim for a normal prey animal, like a seal or sea lion. This is why most attacks are just bites – once the shark realizes that it bit something it wasn’t expecting, it releases and usually doesn’t bite again. Unfortunately because of the size of great whites, one exploratory bite can enough to cause death by blood loss.

Apr 242008

I had heard about Sharkwater on the film festival circuit for a year, but wasn’t ever in a place where it was showing. It came out on dvd last week and I finally watched it last night. Sharkwater is really three movies in one. Part nature documentary on sharks, part educational documentary on shark finning (mostly for sharkfin soup aka fishwing), and part docu-drama. Rob Stewart has some beautiful underwater footage in the movie, and one could see how that was how the movie started out. But the hook of the film is the drama they encounter in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.

That drama ties into explaining the sharkfinning industry, and just how dangerous it is to the ocean – our lungs. The movie doesn’t hold back in terms of imagery. In addition to finning sharks, the viewer is shown exactly what longlines are, and just how wasteful and brutal they are for large fish species. Today, it is estimated 90% of shark populations are gone from our seas. The removal of this top predator from the oceans will have a huge impact on an already off-balance ecosystem.

Though parts of the movie are hard to watch, I think it is a very important film to get into the public consciousness. Unless laws and enforcement change, most species will be gone within a decade.

Watch the Sharkwater trailer here:

Apr 232008

Two weekends ago (man am I slacking on posts) Anna and I went to Two Harbors with the dive group again. It was a gorgeous 3 day weekend – Flat water, hot weather, clear skies. We did some kayaking and wandering around the island, but nothing too adventurous. I managed to get in a night dive, two boat dives, and a kayak dive. The night dive had a lot of octopus out on the sand hunting, which is always fun to see. The first boat dive was to sea fan grotto, which was interesting in spots, but didn’t hold much life. The next dive was at Bird Rock, which had a load of sea fans, some cool swim-throughs, lots of nudis, and a good showing of fish. It was so nice we kayaked back to it on Sunday morning for another great dive. A long weekend Two Harbors is definitely worth the drive to Long Beach.

Apr 212008

I’ve been working my way though the many wonderful talks at TED and was happy to see a new one pop up with Gore showing his new slide show: New thinking on the climate crisis. Do yourself a favor, and watch it. He is a great speaker, and the topic is extremely important. Gore is right, the scale of change requires law and politics.

As fantastic as the talk was, I have a nitpick. I wish he spoke more about the huge car dependence we have in the USA. It is sort of the elephant lurking in the room. Any changes to our impact on the environment will have to start there. There are solutions, there just needs to be the will to change business as usual – More rail for cargo and transport, better mass transit, conversion to electric, and making cities walk-able through approaches like new urbanism.

The fundamental issue, as Michael Pollan says, is cheap energy. Without putting a price on carbon, there won’t be enough change. Of course, cheap energy was a temporary state, and now as crops are turned into ethanol, the decision seems to be fuel or food in many respects. How the rich starved the world is an interesting read.

This seems somewhat appropriate: Thousands of people saw varying shades of green at EarthFair yesterday at Balboa Park – and it seemed like all of them came in their cars.

Apr 172008

Graffiti found by our friend, Mandi, while walking the Via dell’ Amore (Path of Love) between Riomaggiore and Manarola in Italy (Cinque Terre):

Anna <3 Chris

It makes me wonder if there is also a padlock on the guard rail with our names on it, and a key in the sea.

Apr 162008

Better late than never. Adam, Mani, and had a lovely Sunday morning dive on the 6th. Visibility in La Jolla Canyon was 20 feet or more, making it very bright compared to usual. The visibility was probably the result of deep upwellings, given the 48F (9C) water temperature. Brrrr. In fact, coming up to 55 degree water in the shallows actually felt warm. My dry suit buddies didn’t hold back on explaining just how warm they were. >:(

Apr 102008

When I first heard about it, the Sigma DP1 sounded like the perfect package. A full size sensor, 28mm fixed lens and SLR controls. It was exactly what I wanted. A year passed from the initial announcements, I was tired of waiting and eventually bought a Ricoh GX100. I’m happy with it, but I never lost interest in the Sigma DP1. The first reviews are finally out for the DP1:

PopPhoto’s DP1 Review
The Online Photographer’s DP1 Review

It seems the DP1 is a mixed bag. Great images, but you have to deal with shutter lag, slow focusing, LCD screen lock, and slow write speeds. It is sounds awkward to work with unless you have a still shot. It is hard to believe they put all the work into making a full size sensor in a compact, but then kept all the flaws compacts had years ago.

The slow focus is probably a technical issue that can be ironed out in the next version. But the slow shot to shot time is inexcusable – this is an expensive camera, why couldn’t they have added more memory to the camera to buffer photos?