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On the One Hand Stark Reality, On the Other Hand Fantasy

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Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez greets fans and reporters outside his home in Mexico City on March 6. Photo: Mario Guzman/EPA/Landov


Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday at the age of 87. His work, including the novel 100 Years of Solitude earned him a Nobel Prize and sparked an entire genre of literature.

NPR’s Mandalit Del Barco reports his magical realistic style of narrative had it’s roots in two grandparents with two different perspectives.

Garcia Marquez was born in 1927 in the Colombian coast town of Aracataca, which experienced a boom after a U.S. fruit company arrived. In a 1984 interview with NPR, he said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child:

“There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand … there was the world of my grandfather; a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about, since he had been a colonel in the last civil war. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.”

According to the BBC obituary, in 1965 he was politically active and a journalist but little known. He was driving to Acapulco with his family when he had a idea for a story. He turned the car around, went home and shut himself in a room for 18 months with six packets of cigarettes a day.

He emerged eighteen months later to find his family $12,000 in debt. Fortunately, he had thirteen hundred pages of phenomenal best-selling text in his hands.

The novel’s first printing in Spanish sold out within a week, and during the next thirty years One Hundred Years of Solitude sold more than twenty million copies and was translated into more than thirty languages.

The New York Times called it the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.

Marquez had recently been hospitalized. He died at home in Mexico, where he had live for the past 30 years.

To Restore Elkhorn Slough, Ecologists Look to 19th Century

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Elkhorn Dairy Farm, now site of the reserve, in the the 1930s or 40s.Source: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Water rationing starts in the city of Santa Cruz on May 1, just in time for spring planting. Landscaping with native plants is one way to reduce the water use in your garden. Ecologists at Elkhorn Slough use history to help them decide which native plants to use during habitat restoration, and their tips can help homeowners choose plants as well.

The trail from the visitor’s center at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve  leads to an overlook with views of salt marsh, grasslands and woodlands. An old barn with a rusty roof is a one clue that the wild land was dairy and pasture for many decades.

Andrea Woolfolk started working as stewardship coordinator at the reserve about 15 years ago. “I was told that my job was to restore things,” she says. “You stand out in a field of weeds and wonder ‘What do I restore it to?’”

She started gathering historical maps, photos, journals and newspaper articles to get an idea of what the land looked like in the past. That gave her clues as to what plants or habitats might do well in the future. “It could have been a small project,” Woolfolk says. “But it’s become a bit of an obsession, you might say.”

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A land survey of upper Elkhorn Slough, created by A.T. Herrmann in 1898. Blue shows tidal channel; brown shows salt marsh; green represents freshwater areas dominated by tules. Source: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

And she says it’s become a hobby as well. At first, Woolfolk was captivated by the beautiful maps and arresting accounts. Then she started noticing themes emerging as she gathered more information. “The more that you pull it together, the more these narratives emerge and you kinda can’t stop,” Woolfolk says.

Creating a narrative

Woolfolk pulls out a map from 1869 that surveys the area for Elkhorn Road. Today, that road leads to the main entrance to the reserve, and it provides a way to locate our position in a field behind the overlook. The map shows that the land where we are standing used to belong to a man named Wescott.

Wescott held a big 4th of July party in 1869 that merited an article in some local newspapers. Woolfolk reads from the article in the Castroville Argus: “The choice of location was very good, a gentle roll of land studded with the grand old oaks. They give California hills the appearance of noble parks.”

The story in the Pajaronian gives a little more information about the land. “The ground is clean and shaded by wide, spreading oaks and nearby is a spring of pure water,” Woolfolk reads. The reporter estimates there’s room enough for over 100,000 people.

The articles also mention dancing on a green sward, which is an old-fashioned way to say meadow. Based on those descriptions, Woolfolk learns that the land used to be covered in a mix of grasses and oaks.

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A painting of Moss Landing, looking south to Castroville, painted by Leon Trousset in the 1870s. The original hangs in Our Lady of Refuge Church in Castroville.

Decisions, decisions

Ecologists at the reserve aim to restore grassland using locally collected seed. Bree Candiloro, stewardship specialist at the reserve, tends a small plot of native grasses that includes blue wild rye, California brome, and California oak grass.

The seed from these grasses will be used to restore habitat across the estuary from the overlook. Historical information tells the ecologists that the targeted area used to be grassland, but Woolfolk says they don’t know exactly what species grew there before. “We’re starting to test which grasses take the best,” she says. “The ones that take the best are the ones that we’ll use the most.”

Planting guided by history can be done with smaller parcels of land as well. Woolfolk and Candiloro have collected resources on a website  so that individual land or home owners around the Monterey Bay area can learn about the past ecology of their property. “Knowing where you are, knowing the land, [and] knowing what was there will assist in choosing the right plants,” Candiloro says.

Benefits from landscaping with native plants include reduced water use as well as increased native insect and plant diversity. That kind of landscaping, even if just on a little postage stamp of property, is still making a difference if you’re doing it within the context of the best thing for the land, she says.

Chances of a Stormy Winter on the Rise

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By J.D. Hillard | KUSP News
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week put the chance of El Niño influenced weather this winter at 66 percent. The forecast indicates a significant possibility of a break in the series of dry years Northern California has experienced. A strong El Niño can also cause dangerous and damaging floods and mudslides.

This graph shows anomalies in the temperature of the upper layers of the Pacific oceean water uppupper-ocean heat content anomaly (°C) in the equatorial Pacific (5°N-5°S, 180º- 100ºW). The heat content anomaly is computed as the departure from the 1981-2010 base period  pentad means.

This graph shows diversions from the average temperature of the upper layers of the Pacific Ocean. Courtesy of NOAA.

Mercury News environmental reporter Paul Rogers wrote a roundup of meteorologists’ analysis of the data behind the announcement. The announcement comes specifically from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. And, from what Rogers reports, the forecast seems to have come without the reserve you often hear from meteorologists: “We’re seeing a pretty strong tilt toward El Niño,” said Michelle L’Heureux.

A significant indicator is a growing body of warmer than average water on the surface of the Pacific. In some places it’s more than 700 feet deep. It starts near New Guinea and stretches along the equator most of the way to South America. This body of warm surface water is called a Kelvin Wave. The last time it was anywhere near as evident as this, in 1997-1998, Northern California saw storms that caused widespread floods and landslides.

Another phenomenon suggesting an El Niño winter is the that east-trending trade winds have appeared to weaken at times. According to meteorology blogger Daniel Swain, who is a doctoral candidate at Stanford, this can be part of a feedback loop: the warm surface water can contribute to weaker trades, which allows the surface to warm more.

Rogers in the interview above notes that with months to go before winter, there’s still a good chance an El Niño won’t develop. But he cautioned against putting off cleaning roof gutters.

Local Acclaimed Author Karen Joy Fowler Wins PEN / Faulker Award

Author Karen Joy Fowler.

Author Karen Joy Fowler.

Karen Joy Fowler, our local author was just awarded the PEN / Faulker award for her last novel, ‘We Are All completely Beside Ourselves’.

Over the past year, she had been the guest on two different KUSP programs. Here are the interviews and links to the shows.

From The Agony Column - Broadcast on June 6, 2013:

Host Rick Kleffel wrote: “It was quite a treat to sit down and talk with Fowler about the book, and not quite as challenging as I thought it would be. On one hand, I was loath to discuss too directly much of what happened in the book. As with any book, reading this book and experiencing the events as the author intends — with some surprise — is preferable. This is to say; I thought it would be harder to talk about the book without just spilling directly into the exciting bits…”

From The 7th Avenue Project - Broadcast on January 26, 2014
Host Robert Pollie wrote: “So we’re kin to our fellow creatures – cousins, we like to say, to chimpanzees and bonobos. But what sort of family obligations should follow from that, it seems we’re nowhere near to working out. Some people have taken the notion of primate kinship to literal lengths, attempting to raise chimps as children in psychological studies of the animal-human cognitive divide. With their often-sloppy science and often-sorry outcomes (see, for example, Project Nim), most such experiments have done less to limn the inter-species boundary than to highlight our dire confusions about it…”

For Teens On Probation: One-On-One Instruction, Counseling

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More than 5,000 youths remain locked up in California at an estimated cost of $380,000 per day. Community-based programs have proven an effective strategy at keeping kids out of jail. Laura Flynn has this report from Rancho Cielo a community school in Monterey County.

By Laura Flynn | KUSP News -

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Christian Lamonea in the classroom.

By Laura Flynn | KUSP Education -

Teacher Christian Lamonea and 13 students balance short bent wires on popsicle sticks. 18-year-old Anastasia Gonzales explains they’re watching how involuntary muscle activity works.

“We’re learning about like bones, ligaments, and bruises and all that stuff.,” she says. “It’s cool to see how, like the body works and stuff.”

Individual Attention for Students on Probation

Down the hall in Chris Dever’s class about 13 students work independently as he helps one student. 17-year-old Sheridan Sampognaro is almost done with a project concerned with instances of mathematical ratios in nature.

“The golden ratio and the Fibonacci all come together,” she says. “See in the pine cone the spirals. Three, five, three plus five is eight. Five plus eight is thirteen and so on, right?”

This is Rancho Cielo’s Silver Star Program in Salinas.  It’s one of  about 75 community schools across California serving mostly students who have been expelled from regular high school or who are on probation. The goal is to give students more individual attention. Anastasia Gonzales notices the difference.

“They take care of  you more. Their focus is on you, like they make sure you get your stuff done  an d get it.”

Kids in Court May Be Facing Difficult Choices

Retired Judge John Phillips established the program about ten years ago. He sat on the bench for 21 years, often sending young people to prison for life he says. One day while covering juvenile court for a colleague out sick, he was coming down hard on a young man in violation of probation for missing school.

“And his mother stood up and said, “well judge, he can’t. My car is broken down.” And I said, “well he can walk to school like I did,” you know. “Well I don’t want him to get shot again walking to school.” I said, “shot again?” And they said, “yeah he got shot walking to school, because he had to walk through enemy territory.””

Realizing the kids who often end up in court face difficult everyday life choices, the judge created Rancho Cielo to help them get their high school diploma or GED. But it’s easier said than done. Though Silver Star serves 15 ½ to 18 year olds, teachers like Chris Devers have to incorporate multiple strategies with students whose proficiency levels range from third to twelfth grade.

“You’re integrating everything all at once. And it takes a long time to know how to select assignments that are going to work for every kid.”

A Setting to Take Kids Out of Hectic Lives. 

Teacher Christian Lamonea likes to employ experiential learning often taking advantage of the ponds and hills on the 100 acre property they’re on – something he thinks helps the student s over all.

” But I think part of it is really is just getting out of the urban setting for students. And as a science teacher, nature, hills and its tranquility will prevail. It’s hard to be wound up in nature, you know.”

It’s also about making sure students are present and develop healthy habits.

” I think one of the great things that Silver Star, Rancho Cielo does is we pick the kids up, so truancy is really not an issue. We feed them a breakfast. We give them time to eat it. So now they have the energy regardless of what kind of home they come from.”

To deal with underlying issues that may lead to truancy or criminal behavior the school  provides counseling for mental health and substance abuse. For Anastasia Gonzales the school has changed her point of view.

“Like I feel like I didn’t really have as much respect for people and here I feel like I have more respect. …usually I would feel dumb and stupid but here like I feel like I can be smart and I can be a better person.”

Comparable to studies about community-based interventions, about 33% of youth commit a new crime after one year of participating in Silver Star versus a 50-70% recidivism rate for incarceration.  Ultimately, that’s the bottom line– creating more opportunities and keeping kids out of jail.

Nat King Cole Trio – From Film Jukebox Era

Nat 'King' Cole Trio publicity photo. Courtesy kalamu.com/ via: riverwalk.stanford.edu

Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio publicity photo. Courtesy kalamu.com/ via: riverwalk.stanford.edu

From Mike Lambert | KUSP’s In the Groove

Soundies were three-minute musical films which were displayed on a “Panoram,” a coin-operated film jukebox, in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, factory lounges, and amusement centers.

I’ve hunted up a number of swell rare ‘soundies’ and other clips of the Nat King Cole Trio from the 40′s.

We listen to the trio on the show this week–plus selections by Jacky TerrassonRené Marie (Kuumbwa Jazz this Monday), the late Frank Wess, Johnny Hodges, George Benson, and by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

There will be a selection by Billy Taylor, the pianist/educator, and by Billy Taylor, the bassist, as well.

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Monterey Jazz Festival Lineup: Where To Start?

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The Monterey Jazz Festival organizers have delivered a real one-two punch to music lovers in the area: on the heels of the exhilarating Next Generation Festival this past weekend (28-30 March), showcasing the best young jazz musicians from across the country, the MJF this week announced the lineup for the September MJF, and it’s a particularly dazzling array.

The Roots. Photo: Danny Clinch

The Roots. Photo: Danny Clinch

Where to start? How about with The Roots! ?uestlove and Black Thought and all the cats in Philadelphia’s boundary-busting hybrid live hip hop band (which is also the house orchestra at the Tonight Show) will take the Main Stage Saturday night. This is an encouraging signal of MJF programmers’ eclectic tastes and forward-looking vision. The Roots’ presence at MJF will also provide an opportunity to reform the under-appreciated Philadelphia Experiment, a troupe that includes Roots’ drummer/leader Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, pianist Uri Caine (of trumpeter Dave Douglas’s group, among other gigs) and super bassist and MJF favorite Christian McBride. Check out the Philadelphia Experiment’s self-titled 2001 album to whet your appetite.

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Showing Otters Love Through Your Taxes

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Photo: Michael L. Baird/Flickr

Photo: Michael L. Baird/Flickr

By Melissae Fellet | KUSP News

More than two million dollars have been contributed to the California Sea Otter Fund through donations on the state income tax form. The fund has become an important source of support for sea otter research and conservation programs in the state. But the program will only continue if donations reach a mandated minimum target this year, which is the largest in its seven-year history.

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Big News for News: Metro Newspapers Acquires Good Times and 3 Other Local Newspapers

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The Santa Cruz Weekly swallows up the Good Times. The papers will merge into one printed weekly edition – under the Good Times brand name.

It was announced today that Metro Newspaper Group has purchased it’s Santa Cruz county rival, the Good Times, along with three other newspapers and their digital properties.

The other three newspapers reported in the purchase are the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times.

The Santa Cruz Weekly will distribute it’s final issue on April 2. After that, the Good Times will continue to provide 35,000 weekly copies, according to Jeanne Howard, publisher of Santa Cruz Weekly.

Other sources: Silicone Valley Business Journal,  Santa Cruz Sentinel

Echoes of the Big Bang: Cosmologist Anthony Aguirre on the BICEP2 Experiment

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From the 7th Avenue Project w/ Robert Pollie. Broadcast on March 23, 2014.

The BICEP2 was built specifically to detect evidence of gravity waves in the cosmic microwave background radiation. And whaddya know – it worked.

The BICEP2 was built specifically to detect evidence of gravity waves in the cosmic microwave background radiation. And whaddya know – it worked.

By Robert Pollie:

Big physics is on a roll. It seems like only yesterday we were applauding the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider. And then this week came word that the BICEP2 microwave telescope at the South Pole had found evidence of gravitational waves from the inflationary epoch – a glimpse of the universe at the time of the Big Bang, or maybe even before. “Holy crap!” was my reaction, but I needed something more for a radio show, so I got in touch with Anthony Aguirre. Cosmic inflation is one of his specialties, and I thought he’d be a great person to explain the new findings. He was. And I stand by my initial assessment: holy crap!

For more background on inflation theory, our 2011 interview with Anthony is an excellent start.