fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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how things have changed…

From a recent Dirty Jobs episode titled “Goose Down Plucker,” at the The Tulegoose Pillow Co. (aka The Mallard Goose and Duck Processing Plant)…a conversation between Trudy, her 22-year-old grandson Justin and host Mike Rowe:

Mike: “So, how long back here, with grandma, doing this?”
Justin: “As long as I can remember.”
Grandma Trudy: “Three.”
Mike: “Since he was three?”
Justin: “Yeah.”
Grandma Trudy: “Huh uh.”
Mike: “Just like, ah, Toby?”
Justin: “Yeah.”
Mike: “Everybody’s starts here like when they’re three years old?”
Justin: “Yeah.”
Grandma Trudy: “Well, until the government changed it.”
Mike: “What’d the government do?”
Grandma Trudy: “It passed a law that you had to be fourteen.”
Justin: “More child-labor laws.” (Laughs)
Mike: “That’s the problem with our government. They’re not letting three-year-olds pull their weight!”
Grandma Trudy: “And then the government changed it that you couldn’t hit them with a dead duck and discipline them.”
Mike (to Justin): “You’ve been struck with a dead duck by…”
Justin: “Yes I have. Many times.”
Grandma Trudy: “I’ve hit him with dead ducks many times.”
Mike (to Justin): “What’s it like to be struck? Is it just a…”
Justin: “It’s all-around wrong.”

File it under “stuff you just can’t write…”

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2010 Prius goes solar…sort of…

Talk about “wow factor.”

The 2010 Toyota Prius seemingly will become the first mass-produced vehicle to offer solar panels. Not to power the vehicle. Not yet. But much like many automotive features now deemed “standard” (seat belts and intermittent windshield wipers), this initial application of solar panels could foreshadow a time when an automobile’s power supply is supplemented or eventually supplanted by electricity supplied by photovoltaic cells.

The 2010 Prius’ option on high-end models for a “solar roof” embeds photovoltaic cells into the roof to power a fan that will bring outside air into the vehicle cabin. And, since the Prius uses an electrical air conditioning unit, the solar panels can also power the air conditioning — which can be activated via the key fob within thirty yards of the vehicle to achieve a pre-set temperature.

Pretty slick and wiz-bang to be sure. And the concept is not new. But automotive progress has always been slow. While Volvo offered the first automobile safety belts in 1849, it wasn’t until 1958 that Saab became the first car manufacturer to introduce seat belts as standard equipment in 1958, and it wasn’t until 1964 that most manufacturers offered them on most models.

But even in the face of volatile fuel prices, it will be a while before lower costs and efficiency make solar panels a viable power supply for hybrid or fully electric vehicles. Solar Electrical Vehicles has been adding a convex solar roof to hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, Highlander Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid. But according to those who know more than I, these solar modules, rated at up to 1200 watt hours per day, only provide enough power (via battery storage) to propel a car in electric mode up to 20 miles per day. If you only drive 20 miles day, great. As for me, I drive 54 miles a day. Add in a cost of up to $6,500 (including installation but not any state or federal credits), and one will have to hope gasoline jumps to more than $5 a gallon to recoup the costs over five or more years. (Other experts indicate that it would be more efficient to use building mounted solar panels that can better collect power by tracking the sun to store electricity for later transfer to the auto. This would also lessen the weight of the car, increasing its efficiency.)

Also, for now, solar panels’ major flaw is that it is incredibly inefficient. Solar panels traditionally convert 6 to 10 percent of the energy in sunrays into usable energy. Recently, top of the line panels pushed this into the mid teens. But nontechnology, allowing for the production of cheaper “solar dots” could push that conversion factor to the 40 to 60 percent range by converting sunlight into electrical energy at the molecular level.

For now, the Prius’ solar roof will be more of a “look at me” feature with an incredible literal and figurative coolness factor.


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a “mini” vacation

Free is good.

A free Mini for a day is very good.

The Wife — courtesy her entry in a public transportation agency’s contest — ended up with a free Zipcar for a day. And as luck would have it, she invited me to come along. For the car, she picked a Mini and left the destination(s) to me.

A silver Mini named “McNorton” waited at a parking garage on Geary St. in San Francisco. We took BART in, hiked a few blocks to the parking garage, and gained entry with a magic wave of a ZipCar card. Pretty unique and convenient system. A few blocks down the road and my wife, decidedly not the “car nut,” was thoroughly enjoying a sporting drive to the Exploratorium, where the kid bailed and we officially began “having a day.” By now my wife had announced a few times that the “wanted this car.”

The car was entertaining on many levels — there’s always switches to play with in unfamiliar cars — but it was the computer’s calculation of average fuel consumption that held our attention at first. Up and down the hills of the city it bounced around the teens, but once we were on the highway to San Mateo, it quickly rose to the rather amazing 30 to 32 mpg range. Did I mention that my wife said she wanted her own Mini?

After a nice visit with my sister’s family in San Mateo, we pointed the bonnet west. Destination: Half Moon Bay. The weather: incredible for January. (I’m very conflicted about enjoying the great weather at a time when we should have rain.) In Half Moon Bay, in my humble opinion, one can find some of the best fish and chips around at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. So it was fish and chips for me, mini Kobe burgers for Karen, and an IPA shared between us. A great lunch with a great view on the bay. A quick drive back up the coast brought us back to reality, but it was a great “mini-vacation.”


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first fish of 2009

Since I’m still supporting the retired citizens of this great country through gainful employment and periodic contributions to Social Security, I had to wait for Saturday to roll around for my first fishing trip of the year. I headed to the Two Mile Bar section with some fly fishing club members.

Overcast skies foretold of a cold day to come. Like most of the other folks, I rigged up with a pale yellow salmon egg imitation — known to have pulled up fish the previous two days — and hit the water about ten o’clock. This section of the Stanislaus, being a wild trout fishery (with catch and release regulation), can be tough fishing just as easily as being wide open. But I’ve never been skunked there.

I started at the “Big Oak Pool,” a place where during my first trip here I caught my first Stanislaus River trout. After an untold number of fruitless casts, attributing the lack of a take to my rusty casting, I moved upstream to cross at the “Amphitheater,” then fished various pools as I moved downstream.

A few hours later, and after talking with a few of the guys as I went, I found myself at what I viewed as one of the more promising small pools — like the ones I enjoy on smaller creeks at higher elevations — and began to drag a Prince Nymph with a glass bead nymph underneath it through the water. After about 20 minutes of presenting my flies in the various seams, I was mentally preparing for a fly swap. But on the tail end of my drift, as the flies began to swing up to the surface, I got a slight bump. With a gentle set, I had a fish on.

While the speed of the current seems to amplify the size of a fish, I was nevertheless happy to soon land and release my first fish of 2009! It’s Monday now, but this first fish of the year is still crystal clear in my memory. At eight inches, it’s not the size of a fish that makes it into the classic yarns spun by fishermen, but it was a joy to bring to hand a wild eight-inch rainbow resplendent along its entire eight inches.