Category Archives: Strange World

County Fair-Pocalypse

On Thursday I took the day off from work and we went to the Orange County Fair. It was a particularly bizarre visit because Costa Mesa was beneath the smoke plume from the Holy Fire (so named because it started in Holy Jim Canyon) burning in the Santa Ana mountains.

The sky, except for clear blue patches to the west and south, was a yellowish brown. The sunlight was dim and yellow.

[Looking up at a log ride against clouds of brownish smoke.]

When we arrived, the entire ticket sales system was down. All the booths. All the self-serve kiosks. You couldn’t buy tickets for any of the rides, unless you could find one of the wandering cash-only ticket sellers, roaming the fair like quest-giver NPCs.

[Looking up at a Ferris Wheel against clouds of yellowish-brown smoke.]

We did eventually find someone who could sell us tickets. At that point, the sun emerged briefly through a break in the smoke. The deep red-orange disc was dim enough to look at comfortably, and lit up the fissures in the cloud a lurid red.

[Crowds at the fair, and rides, with smoke above and some blue sky in the distance.]

Fair food keeps getting more and more outrageous. Deep fried Twinkie dogs and Zucchini Weenies have been joined by triple-decker donut burgers, chicken-in-a-waffle-on-a-stick, and the donut chicken and ice cream sandwich. But for sheer “because we can” ridiculousness: deep-fried filet mignon. What a waste.

[Food stand selling fried...everything.]

It was early evening by the time we left, and as we walked to the gate closest to where we’d parked, we saw a bright orange line in the distance. Was it the glow of the flames behind the mountain? Or the flames themselves on top of the ridge? We were too far away to tell. But that line shimmered, and we watched a deeper orange glow appear and fade behind another part of the ridge. It’s hard to be sure, but I think it might be burning in the valley between the two peaks of Saddleback.

[Night view: Mostly black, with an orange line silhouetting the edge of a mountain.]

Eye(s) of the Tiger

Tiger staring through a chain link fence

The tiger was a lot closer to the fence than I expected, watching us tourists with a disdainful look as it lounged in the afternoon heat. The fence mostly blurred out of view, but I didn’t notice a dry leaf in front of its face to the left of its mouth, leaving a brown splotch in the camera’s view. The tigers at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park have quite a bit of space, and this isn’t the only shade, which makes me think they were people watching. It’s an intriguing thought. And a disturbing one!

Looking at the photo reminded me: Tigers and other large cats have round pupils, unlike housecats. I read an article a while back on a study that linked pupil shape to ecological niche: Horizontal pupils mainly appear in prey animals (sheep and goats, for instance), and vertical pupils appear primarily in ambush predators who are active in both day and night, and whose heads are low to the ground (like snakes and smaller cats). Horizontal pupils handle glare better and offer a wider visual field. Vertical pupils adjust to a greater range of light levels and, by narrowing the depth of field, offer better distance cues…but that effect is stronger when your eyes are close to the ground. Higher off the ground, the vertical slits don’t help as much, so bigger cats like lions kept round pupils.

Expanded from a post at Photog.social. More photos from trips to the Safari Park in this Flickr album.

Drink From the Bottom Of Your Shoe

I was looking for sandals and found these. They’re flip flops with a built in bottle opener, I suppose to make them more…cool? Gadget-y? But it’s on the sole of the shoe.

Someone really didn’t think this design through.

Update: There are some replies at Wandering Shop from people who’ve worn or used these. Apparently there’s another variation with a built-in flask.

California Burning

A fire is raging in the hills and canyons of Orange County. It’s nothing compared to the devastation in Northern California, where 160,000 acres have burned, killing 21 people and wiping out whole neighborhoods in Napa and Santa Rosa — but a dozen homes have been lost and about as many damaged in the 8,000-acre blaze near Anaheim.

Even though I live farther away now, the smoke still reached the coast on Monday, the first day of Canyon Fire 2 (so-named because it picked up where the Canyon Fire left off last month). It turned the sun orange and the sunlight yellow, like sunset but at too high an angle. The smoke is a lot more diffuse now, looking more like typical smog, and firefighters are getting the fire under control as the weather changes.

The evacuation maps and the photos of Peters Canyon remind me of the Santiago Fire ten years ago this month. That fire burned for nearly three weeks and scorched 28,000 acres. I wondered whether they ever caught the arsonist who set it. As far as I can tell from a quick search, they never did. The most recent article I found was on the five year anniversary of the fire. At that time, they had “narrowed the search to three suspects, he said, but no arrests [had] been made.”

October is always a bad month for wildfires in California. Plants have been drying out all summer, the winter rains haven’t started yet, and the hot, dry seasonal winds of fall — Santa Anas in the south and Diablos in the north — whip up the flames and drive them long distances. But in the last decade, more and more fires have burned large areas in summer, spring, and even winter, to the point where “fire season” may as well be year-round.