Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Welcoming the return of summer to our garden

What a lovely thing a rose is! -- Arthur Conan Doyle

All That Jazz / It's summer in our backyard garden and our
All That Jazz roses are blooming brightly.

It's the first week of summer -- sunshine and all -- and a welcoming time indeed.

Last Saturday, the sun arrived at its northernmost point in the sky. With it, we heralded a season of change on Earth as summer officially began in the Northern Hemisphere. As for our neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere, it's their time for winter. No worries, though. Your time for summer will come again, soon.

Now, as the beauty of the morning sun glistens over our backyard garden, it's a delight -- more than ever -- to photograph our summer roses.

Photograph by Michael Dickens, © 2014.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Relishing our wide world of sport

The beautiful game / Relishing our wide world of sport.

What a week it's been to be an international sports fan.

Let's see: Between the FIFA World Cup in football, the Stanley Cup in ice hockey, the NBA Finals in American professional basketball, and the U.S. Open golf championship, which crowned its champion on Father's Day, there's been something for every sports fan to enjoy during the month of June. Add to the mix, Major League Baseball with its pennant races taking shape here in the U.S., and there's just not enough hours in the day to watch everything being shown on TV or now made available for viewing via our mobiles.

It's a beautiful game.
• Thanks to the worldwide interest in international football (known to American audiences as soccer), the quadrennial World Cup tournament in Brazil has become must-see viewing around the globe. Here in the U.S., ESPN (and its sister networks) is broadcasting all 64 matches in this year's tournament, which continues through July 13.

There's new "made for TV" drama unfolding with each match and curiosity is building day by day. It will be interesting to see if the Netherlands can continue its dominance after the Clockwork Oranje dealt Spain a shocking World Cup defeat last Friday with a 5-1 annihilation of La Furia Roja. Also, the Nationalmannschaft of Germany looked very solid as Thomas Müller scored a hat trick during a 4-0 shutout of the Ronaldo-led Portugal on Monday. And, three cheers for the Stars and Stripes as Clint Dempsey scored the fastest goal in U.S. World Cup history (29 seconds) and the Americans beat Ghana 2-1. Of course, host Brazil plays the sport dubbed the beautiful game oh so beautifully, and the Canarinho are a sentimental favorite of many worldwide fans.

• On Friday night in Los Angeles, the Kings became king of ice hockey as they skated to a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers to capture the NHL Stanley Cup for the second time in three years. It's always a thrill to see the players of the winning team kissing Lord Stanley's Cup and hoisting it proudly above their heads as they jubilantly skate around the rink in celebration. It's an experience every hockey player wants to enjoy at least once in their career.

The Spurs' Parker, Duncan, Ginobili.
• On Sunday night, the San Antonio Spurs showed that it's cool to be a team -- again -- and to play like a team, too. The Spurs beat the star-studded Miami Heat 104-87 to win their fifth NBA Finals championship, thanks to a total team effort from an eclectic roster filled with international flavor, including: Tim Duncan of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Tony Parker of France, Manu Ginobili of Argentina, Patty Mills of Australia, Tiago Splitter of Brazil, Cory Joseph of Canada and Kahwi Leonard of the U.S.

• With the weather heating up across America, the Major League Baseball pennant races are heating up, too. Here in the Bay Area, thanks to San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's compiling the best records in their respective leagues, interest in the Summer Game is filling ballparks on both sides of the Bay nearly every night.

• Lest we forget: The United States Open golf championship crowned a new champion Sunday in Pinehurst, N.C. as Martin Kaymer, a 29-year-old German, won an historic eight-stroke victory in a what many described as a totally dominating performance.

• Finally: The Wimbledon Championships fortnight start next Monday in London SW19 as Scotland's Andy Murray defends his gentlemen's singles title against the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the world's premier grass-court tennis event. Break out the strawberries and cream.

Indeed, it's a time for relishing the spirit and passion of a truly wide world of sport.

Photographs courtesy of Google Images.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This welcome sight generates wind energy

A glimpse of wind turbines high atop the Altamont Pass.

Driving through the tall, grassy brown hills of the Altamont Pass on a recent Sunday, the wind turbines stood erect like milky white egrets soaring tall in the horizon.

There are nearly 5,000 wind turbines spread out over tens-of-thousands of hilly acres that make up the Altamont Pass terrain, a mountain pass in the Diablo Range near Livermore, Calif., which separates the Bay Area's eastern edge from the Central Valley. It's about an hour's drive east of San Francisco.

The Altamont Pass Wind Farm
has the largest concentration
of wind turbines in the world. 
The Altamont Pass Wind Farm is one of the earliest wind farms in the U.S. -- it was commissioned in 1981 -- and it's the largest in terms of capacity. According to Wikipedia, Altamont Pass is "still the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world, with a capacity of 576 megawatts (MW), producing about 125 MW on average and 1.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) yearly."

For decades, the wind turbines have generated clean electricity -- wind energy -- for California thanks to the stiff winds that rake the Altamont Pass during the spring and summer seasons. Their installation came about following the energy crisis of the 1970s and in response to "favorable tax policies" for its investors.

Climbing the Altamont Pass.
On this warm, late-spring afternoon, the wind turbines dotting the summit at 1,009 feet (308 meters) provided a welcome distraction while driving the I-580 back to Oakland from the arid, dusty heat of the Central Valley.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On the beauty of nature: the loveliness of quiet

Inside Golden Gate Park / The loveliness of quiet.

 "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the entrance of
Shakespeare Garden.
One of my favorite swatches of nature hidden inside San Francisco's Golden Gate Park can be found around the corner from the entrance to Shakespeare Garden.

It's a short walk -- maybe, a couple hundred yards -- from the de Young Fine Arts Museum, where I visited on a recent Friday evening. What I saw during the evening's twilight made a wonderful impression on me.

A majestic eucalyptus
tree in Golden Gate Park
that's full of character.
There are majestic eucalyptus and redwood trees that are full of character, some beautiful patches of green grass, colorful wildflowers, and a nice walking path that includes cobble stones. It's all topped off by a comfortable, brown wooden bench to sit down upon and enjoy a contemplative moment of thought or, perhaps, read a book or write in a journal. Best of all, it's peaceful and quiet. You can actually hear yourself think. Sometimes, the best things in life are still free.

Never underestimate the loveliness of quiet.

All photographs by Michael Dickens © 2014.