Monthly Archives: December 2013

California King Tides 2014

King Tides are the highest tides that occur all year. They are the highest of the high tides. According to the California King Tides Initiative, King Tides “occur when the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon are in alignment.” The ones coming up at the turn of the year will probably not be as crazy as what is pictured below from a really bad storm in January 2010.

Ventura Pier in January 2010 Storm

I learned about the king tides a few days ago thanks to the California King Tide Initiative. As an organization, they have a few objectives: (1) engage Californians in dialogue about the future of coastal areas, (2) identify and catalog coastal areas that are vulnerable to tidal inundation, and (3) build an online resource of images that can be used by everyone to communicate about coastal hazards.

The objectives are in part accomplished by an annual photo initiative.

Photo Initiative

The photo initiative invites people to take photos of the King Tides wherever they live. That means you!

If you want to highlight the future impact of rising water levels, focus on where the higher tides flood roads, bump up against buildings—things like that. Pictures can then be posted to their Flickr group. Make sure to be safe when photographing!

Thank You Ocean, another organization that advocates for the ocean, produced a podcast slash YouTube video about this photo project.

Timing of the California King Tides 2014

The first King Tides in the 2013–2014 season are coming up December 30th to January 2nd. There is a repeat later in the month, January 29th–31st. In Ventura County, the high tides looks like they will be near 7 feet. Below is the tide forecast for 12/27/2013 to 1/4/2014.

Ventura California King Tides Forecast

Credit to tide-forecast

Based on NOAA information from Ventura, CA, high tide on 12/31/2013 is at 7:43 am and 6.88 feet. High tide on 1/1/2014 is at 8:30 am and 6.97 feet, followed by high tide on 1/2/2014 at 9:16 am and 6.84 feet.

Check out the California King Tide Initiative’s Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Camarillo Gemini Street Ventura County Christmas Lights Blue Lights

Ventura County Christmas Lights Traditions 2013

You might be thinking, “Cut to the chase, Andy.” Okay! Here’s a map of everything mentioned: the Candy Cane Lanes, light shows, and the “Santa-In-Lights” Christmas Eve helicopter.

“Candy Cane Lanes,” light shows, and a Santa Chopper

With five days left until Christmas, I expect most people who are going to decorate have already put up their lights. I check each year if any of my friends want to drive around looking at lights. We haven’t gone yet, and I’m out of state visiting family, but that shouldn’t stop any of you from checking out these annual Ventura County Christmas lights traditions.

Camarillo Christmas Lights (2013)

Camarillo Gemini Street Ventura County Christmas Lights Blue Lights

Gemini Street in Camarillo is always decked out. The Camarillo Acorn just released an article on the annual Camarillo tradition that also mentions the Christmas tree on top of the water tower in Old Town and The Christmas Pig. To get to the Gemini Street lights, go north on Arneill past Ponderosa (this would be toward the hills in Cam, away from the water tower Christmas tree). You’ll come to a stop sign that intersects with Dunnigan, turn right. Go down the street a bit and turn right on Gemini. Many drivers turn off their lights. Consider parking to walk around. (GPS protip: Search for the “Dunnigan St. and Gemini St.” intersection in Camarillo.)

Oxnard Christmas Lights (2013)

Oxnard G Street Ventura County Christmas Lights Charlie Brown

Downtown Oxnard has another Ventura County “Candy Cane Lane.” From 6 pm to 10 pm until the 25th, head to the display on F and G Streets between Fifth and First Streets. According to the Ventura County Star these started in 1992 after the Candy Cane Lane in Ventura closed up. Some residents sell hot chocolate, there is often live music, and last year I recall an extensive model train set. (GPS protip: Search for the “5th St. and G St.” intersection in Oxnard.)

Moorpark Christmas Lights (2013)

Moorpark also joins in the holiday cheer. This Candy Cane Lane is near the Arroyo Vista Community Park off Tierra Rejada Road. The streets, according to an author on Macaroni Kid, are Pinedale Rd, Clearwood Rd, Cedardale Rd. (I personally have not been to these lights and cannot verify that they still go on, but it seems likely they exist.)

Newbury Park Christmas Lights (2013)

There is a choreographed light–music display in Newbury Park at 5309 Via Jacinto. Head over between 5 pm and 10 pm until January 1st. Be sure to tune into 99.1 FM to hear the music! Also in Newbury Park is an animated display at 538 Brisbaine Avenue; 100.5 FM. There may still be lights near the intersection of Via Patricia and Via Ricardo in Dos Vientos (on Via Patricia) as they have been happening the past six years; 99.1 FM. Sandra Court in Newbury Park may have a good number of decorated homes, too (GPS protip: search for the “S Dewey Ave. and Sandra Ct.” intersection). The following is a video from one of these houses:

Thousand Oaks Christmas Lights (2013)

At 1566 El Dorado Drive in Thousand Oaks, there is a nightly light display from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm (10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday). The Conejo Valley Guide has a great article on their almost 30 minute show. Bring some canned goods and other non-perishables to put into a collection can for the Manna Canejo Valley Food Bank. Apparently this display is interactive!

Simi Valley Christmas Lights (2013)

A few houses have some stuff going on in Simi Valley: the corner of Timberlane and Fearing and a second one at Highland and Sinaloa.

Other Ventura County Christmas Lights (2013)

And finally, Aspen Helicopters will fly Santa-In-Lights, “an 800-pound, 35-foot long Santa Claus light display,” around west county from 6 pm to 7:40 pm on Christmas Eve. It’s called Santa-In-Lights. The VC Star scheduled out the route. Camarillo will be around 6:25 to 6:45 pm; Riverpark and The Collection at 6:50 pm; and then downtown Ventura from 7:18 to 7:30 pm.

The Canejo Valley Guide has even more Christmas and holiday events.

This is a map of all the things mentioned in this post.

As a quick aside, the most striking display I’ve seen just driving around was coming into Camarillo via Santa Rosa Road. On the right, just about into the city limit, there are blue and white lights flashing “LET IT SNOW.” It may not snow in Ventura County, other than in the mountains, but it has snowed at my family’s in Ohio!

Ohio Christmas Snow

What Christmas lights do you go see every year? Let me and your neighbors know by commenting below, tweet me @itsandyking, or send an email to andy.king977 at gmail dot com.

This is cross posted at Venture Ventura, a “living guide book” to Ventura County that I help with. Check it out here.

That happened here! Ventura County local history.

In part because of hiking, because of radio stations like KCLU and KCRW, and the annual Santa Paula Ghost Walk, I enjoy local exploration (as do many of my friends). This interest connects with history, environment, and geology—all of which are profoundly local.

For an instance of local history, California State University Channel Islands—my now alma mater—used to be the Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

Hike behind CSUCI

Camarillo State Mental Hospital was a California state-run mental hospital. The buildings, half of which remain vacant with broken windows, were built in the 1930s and the hospital shut down in the 1990s. Classes and offices were group rooms and examination areas. Students literally inhabit the same halls and rooms that patients did, and the administration building has served administrative purposes over the decades.

The university has an archive on the hospital, but the past tends to be avoided in, say, recruiting literature or campus tours.

A decent amount of people in Ventura County either worked or volunteered there. There are a some books and videos available, like this employee orientation video from the early 1980s:

Two other past local events are the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928 and the sodium reactor experiment (SRE) partial nuclear meltdown in the 1940s.

The St. Francis Dam busted a week after being filled, destroyed William Mulholland’s career[1], and killed over 500 people. This makes it about as bad, if not worse, as the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Water came out into the Pacific through Ventura at a reported height of 15 feet.

Studio Santa Clarita made a short video on the dam and apparently the telephone network and its operators saved hundreds of lives the night of the disaster:

The SRE was at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Simi Valley. It was the first commercially used nuclear reactor in the United States. The plant was connected to the grid that powered Moorpark, California, which became the first city lit up with nuclear energy. Edward Murrow, the famous news reporter, featured the event on his “See It Now” television show:

Less than two years later there was a partial meltdown.

The site continues to be an active toxic/hazardous materials cleanup site.

Other places around Ventura County, southern California, and wherever you live in the world must have their own local happenings. With a small amount of curiosity you just have to scratch the surface and find out.

What’s happened around your parts?

  1. But not his wealth. He also built the Los Angeles Aqueduct that just had its 100th anniversary.  ↩

Produce price averages for comparison when shopping

The rural roads connecting cities in Ventura County, especially in the Oxnard Plain, are dotted with produce stands. There are at least ten farmers’ markets in the area every week. All grocery stores1 have their own fruit and vegetable prices. Not only do prices vary, but how produce units are sold is different place to place! (For instance: one banana for 19¢, one pound of bananas for 49¢, or one bunch of bananas for 99¢.)

Trader Joes Camarillo Christmas

It is not reasonable to go from seller to seller noting prices2—any ultimate savings would disappear in gas and time. I want to know, and I want you to know, if $1.50 for an organic orange bell pepper at Sprouts is a deal, or if sweet potatoes for $2.79/lb is overpriced at the farmers’ market.

How can we equip ourselves to be “empowered consumers?”

How about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service!?

They provide a Fruit and Vegetable Market News Report every Friday at this permanent link:

The report provides weighted average3 prices for a wide range of different produce. Charts in the report list the commodity, variety, unit, and then the weighted averages for the current week, the previous week, and a year ago. There is a national summary and regional breakdowns (Northeast4, Southeast5, Midwest6, South Central7, Southwest8, and Northwest9). Standard and organic produce have different sections.

USDA ERS Fruit and Vegetable Report Example

Next time I go out shopping, I’ll either write down some prices beforehand or pull the pdf up on my phone. (I may be down to design an app for it using USDA’s Application Programming Interface.)

Thanks, United States Department of Agriculture‘s Economic Research Service! Follow them on Twitter: @USDA_ERS. Check their main Market News page for more.

Bonus tip! Use the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Search to, well, find Farmers’ Markets.

How is the data collected? From a footnote in the report:

Fruit and Vegetable Market News surveys more than 200 retailers, comprising over 21,000 individual stores, with online weekly advertised features

  1. The big three: Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons. Then there’s Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Lassens, Food for Less, 99¢ Store, WinCo. Probably more. 

  2. I did this with beer prices once. For academics. Seriously! I had a stats class and compared the price of beer at Trader Joe’s and BevMo. Ultimately, the null hypothesis was rejected. (Four- and six-pack beer prices at Trader Joe’s and BevMo! are the same.) Trader Joe’s is statistically lower. At least in December 2010. 

  3. A “weighted average” is simply an average where each number, or component, is modified by a factor reflecting its importance. For this report, newer price points are more important—weighted more—and older price points are less important—weighted less. 

  4. Northeast: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

  5. Southeast: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. 

  6. Midwest: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. 

  7. South Central: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. 

  8. Southwest: Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. 

  9. Northwest: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. 

Connection, Rumination 1

In 2011 I sent a woman a postcard. I found her address on where you can list your address, a bio, and then mail to or receive from others on the site. (Fun to use around holidays and people on there can go all out with what they send.)

The postcard included this bolded quote from Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami:

“In traveling, a companion, in life, compassion,'” she repeats, making sure of it. If she had paper and pencil, it wouldn’t surprise me if she wrote it down. “So what does that really mean? In simple terms.”

I think it over. It takes me a while to gather my thoughts, but she waits patiently.

“I think it means,” I say, “that chance encounters are what keep us going. In simple terms.”

card from woman at hospital

This woman wrote a card in reply, noting that quote.

She was in the hospital taking care of an extended relative. After over a week in the hospital, which is stressful alone, a family member snapped at her and she went to find refuge in a nooked seating area. A man walked by wearing what looked to be a “facility/maintenance-type uniform.” He asked, “Haven’t I seen you here before?”

She had been in the hospital in January and wrote, “I never in my wildest dreams would ever think someone would recognize or remember me.” His question touched her deeply. It precipitated an outpouring of emotion and they sat together for a short time letting the emotions pour. The man checked in at her relative’s room for the rest of their stay, always with “a nice smile and kind words.”

Our chance meeting lifted me up and kept me going. […] Thank you again for an inspiring and now personally meaningful quote.

Beyond a postcard and a card and our words, we have never met and have never spoken. Yet I continue to remember what she wrote. It is a seed planted deep in my mind. It reminds me that the potential of connection, in a way, transcends space and time.

I am blindsided at times—as I’m sure many writers and artists can be, or actually, pretty much everyone who lives because living necessitates creation and the creative—that small things put out there in the world, online or one-on-one between friends, can impact others in a positive, creative, inspiring way. I forget that easily, that that can be a thing, but it’s pretty awesome. I want to be an active, constructive, consistent participant in that endeavor.

How will you connect with people you meet, or with people you never meet? What will you create today?

My friend, musician Matt Zeltzer, posted on Facebook this weekend, “Tune out the white noise and create culture.” I totally dig that. I put these together using some recent photos:

Create Culture Diagonal

Create Culture