Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another American Story

A 9 year-old girl goes to a Lake Havasu City  “Bullets and Burgers” outdoor shooting range.  She was on vacation with her family and had a “bucket list” and shooting an Uzi was on that list.  What a 9 year-old was doing with a bucket list, I have no idea.  Bucket lists are usually reserved for cranky but endearing old men with terminal diseases. But I digress. 

So the instructor, Charles Vacca , 39, set her up and began instructing her in the finer points of Uzi shooting.  The instructor and the little girl were  captured on video by, I presume, her proud parents.  There she is, cute as a button in her pink shorts, little pink barrettes in her hair ,which was falling in a long braid down her back. Standing next to her, bending down to help her hold the gun, is the instructor.

The first single shots go fine.  Then Mr. Vacca sets the gun on automatic and the young girl, with no idea of the strength and control needed to keep the kicking gun steady, loses control and it veers up and off and puts a bullet into Mr. Vacca’s head. He dies a few hours later.

At this point in the story, the first impulse would be to laugh and say something about “gene pool.”  But I kept thinking about that little girl.  Thanks to her parents, she will spend the rest of her life with the ghost of Mr. Vacca, the man she killed, haunting her dreams forever.

All because her parents did not know what my parents knew and what any sensible parent knows:  When children ask for dangerous, age-inappropriate things, the correct reply is a very short word that begins with the letter “N” and ends with the letter “O.”

Interestingly, the news story on this incident noted that in 2008 an 8 year-old “was firing an Uzi at a pumpkin when the recoil caused him to lose control of the weapon and he shot himself in the head.” 

That’s the problem with Uzis.  They were designed for adults with good hand strength that can control the recoil.  And they were intended for use as a weapon of war, a small, rapid-fire automatic, a highly maneuverable weapon designed to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible in a close combat situation.

They were not designed as a toy for a child to play with as part of her bucket list.  Except in America.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Garden Folly Redux

Yes, I know.  This all started going sideways from day one.  First it was the dogs that required fencing that turned the garden into Fortress America.  Then it was zucchini plants from Mars that grew to Brobignagnian size and started churning out zucchini on a production-line scale so I ended up with zucchini for breakfast, zucchini for lunch and dinner.  And ended up chasing my neighbors down with sacks of the stuff while they ran away, their hands over their heads, yelling, “I’M NOT HOME!”

And, all right.  The pumpkins.  That started out as a joke.  I had saved the seeds from last year's soup pumpkin and I thought, "Oh, there's no way these things are going to grow." But they did and broke out of the dog barrier and headed for the fence, trailing pumpkins behind them. It was right out of "Invasion of the Pod People." 

Next came the green beans.  Who knew they would grow so tall?  And since the support netting was only pea-pod high, they started mungling back on themselves into a tangled mess.


But that didn’t stop them. Nosir!  They were worse than the zucchini.  Beans, beans, more beans.  24/7 nothing but beans. Fortunately, I love green beans.  So do my friends and neighbors, but the plants were getting to be a serious mess and so tangled it was hard to find the beans before they'd turned themselves into little more than lumpty bean-filled pods. 
O.K., I confess.  Looking back, I should have sought out therapy, some nice Garden Counselor who could have talked me down.  But, no.  I was too far gone by this time, my green bean ambitions totally out of control.  Plus, it wasn't my fault.  The Universe was conspiring against me because when I was out walking the dogs, I just happened to stop and chat with a neighbor – about gardening, naturally – and he just happened to mention that he’d given up on growing green beans – something about not enough sun in his garden plot – and he asked me if, perhaps, I’d like his very tall bean-pole poles.

Well, what could I say?

bean pole, zuri, 003

So I carted them home, put in eye-screws , cable-tied them together into a bean teepee and planted them in  another raised bed and popped a few more bean seeds in the ground.

And today I'm planning on pulling out the old bean tangle. I think maybe a nice row of green peas might work there.  Mmmmm, peas.   

Meantime, does anybody happen to have Jack’s phone number?  I need to call him to get the Giant’s recipe for green bean soup. I think I'm gonna need it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Sunday Thought


Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers.
And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.
                                                Bill Cosby, quoted in The Week

Saturday, August 16, 2014


All right, not rain, exactly.  O.K. O.K., it was mist.  Well, maybe more accurately it was . . . damp.  That's it, damp.  But damp enough over a long enough period of time to result in some dripping off the roof gutters.  Dripping off the roof gutters is good.  So, I'm counting that as "rain," O.K.? 

Hey, we're desperate here. Everybody dance.  Yaaaayyyy!

Then stare at the picture and focus . . . Puddles, we want large puddles, bring us puddles . . .

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Eeelgrass Week!


The 2014 Morro Bay Eelgrass Recovery Program is underway.  And volunteers will be coming all week to the Morro Bay State Park Marina (staging area to the west of Bayside Café, park well to the east of Bayside café.)

Eelgrass is a foundation species in the Bay and due to a series of problems (disease, sedimentation, temperature rise) the grass’s previous abundance is now dangerously diminished. So efforts are underway to re-plant the Bay.

The process is sort of like hair restoration:  The healthy beds are carefully combed and a certain amount of  eelgrass is carefully uprooted and gathered into sacks, ready for the volunteers to bundle.

 Then the volunteers, most working in two hour shifts, carefully pull rooted strands of grass out of the flooded work beds. 


Five or six strands are carefully noosed together with a cunning little tie rod that helps anchor the bundles into the silt.


The grass bundles are counted out and slid onto rods which the volunteer scuba divers will take out to the new beds to be planted. (A shout out here to Depth Perceptions in San Luis Obispo for donating (tank) air to all the volunteer divers.)  Since the Bay is pretty murky, much of the work underwater has to be done by touch.


The restoration project has been underway for several years.  It’s slow work since the success rate for the re-implantaion is about 50%, but already sections planted a few years ago are starting to grow and spread.

So, how important is the lowly, lovely eelgrass?  Very.  Eelgrass loss equals a terrible reduction in the overall abundance and productivity of the coastal environment. Eel grass shelters, supports and feeds a huge variety of critters, improves water clarity, produces oxygen, improves the bottom of the Bay by trapping and stabilizing sediment.  In short, it’s absolutely vital for the health of the Bay, which is a complex haven, nursery and cafeteria for countless species.

So, if you have an hour or two to spare this week, drop by the staging area and get your hands wet. The crews are  usually up and running by 9 a.m. and go all day, so volunteers can come and go when they have a little time to donate. Or call the MBNEP office to get latest work schedule updates. 

The success of this project depends on the volunteer bundlers and divers. So, lend a hand and go play with some eelgrass.  The Bay will thank you.


For further information, contact the Morro Bay National Estuary Program  at, call (805) 772-3834 or stop by their offices (upstairs) at 601 Embarcadero, Suite 11 (Marina Square) in Morro Bay.