Discovering Ocean Kayaking

July 28, 2011 - 3 Responses

Photo courtesy of Beach Shoot San Diego

Blessed with the opportunity to spend my summer in the beautiful city of San Diego, I have discovered a newfound passion – kayaking in the ocean.  I was hooked and determined to buy a kayak one day after only experiencing it twice.  Surprisingly, you do not have to be tremendously strong or well-educated on the subject to get the most out of kayaking.  You simply need an open mind and maybe some sunscreen to be guaranteed an unforgettable experience.

The beauty and spontaneity of the ocean create a unique environment for kayaking as opposed to a lake or river.  At the beginning, the kayaker must face the crashing waves, which was personally the most exciting aspect of the entire trip.  However, once the kayak has passed the initial waves, the water becomes significantly smoother, making it the perfect condition to simply observe the surrounding environment.  The ocean water offers the chance to catch a glimpse of many interesting creatures such as sea lions, dolphins, and elaborately colored fish.

Another plus of ocean kayaking is the amazing whole body workout.  Though you may think the hobby only works the arms and possibly the back, I found that my legs and abs were also sore the next day.  Kayaking is so exciting that it never feels like a strenuous work out, but in fact it has been the best workout I have had all summer.  If only I owned a kayak, I would do it every week!

Prices to kayak in La Jolla, the best place in San Diego for the sport, start at around 25.00.  The first time I went out on the water, I used San Diego Bike and Kayak Tours and a group of nineteen other people accompanied.  Bike and Kayak Tours sends a tour guide with the group who explains the history of the surrounding waters.  The second kayaking trip I endeavored was through Beach Shoot San Diego, a company that supplies their customers with a kayak and photographer for a semi-private day on the water.  Beach Shoot’s prices are hefty, starting at around 400, which does not even include the price of the photos.

Kayaking will be among my list of favorite things to do for many years to come.  I have made genuinely wonderful memories through the hobby and got a full body workout in the process.  For anyone who enjoys the outdoors, water activities, or the beach in general, I highly recommend trying a hand at this wildly entertaining sport.


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My First Experience at Comic Con

July 25, 2011 - One Response

Comic Con 2011

I have never been much of a comic book/video game fan.  My knowledge of science fiction is essentially compiled of Star Wars and the recent major Hollywood films such as X-Men.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find myself walking alongside the geekiest of costumed nerds into the biggest comic book/science fiction convention of the year – Comic Con.  All that changed when I was offered a highly coveted, totally cost-free opportunity to enter into the San Diego Convention Center doors for a look into the world of magic and super powers.

Transformers Robot towers over crowd.

When I hopped onto the free Comic Con shuttle, my first surprise was that there were actually totally normal people on the bus.  A feeling of relief washed over me; I was not the only average person attending Comic Con 2011.  Perhaps there were several other people like me who were blindly walking into the convention with little previous knowledge of comics.

The shuttle arrived at the convention center, and I picked up my press pass.  Then the adventure began as I entered the Exhibit Hall.  Thousands of people filled the hall to view everything from the actual transformers robot to Playboy Playmates.  Overwhelmed, I wandered around viewing the booths and snapping pictures.  The more I absorbed it all, the more I realized I actually enjoyed much of what was being celebrated at the convention.  Maybe Comic Con was not just for nerds after all…

Jeffrey Weissman and I pose for a picture.

Jeffrey Weissman who played George McFly in Back to the Future2 & 3 was the first actor I encountered.  I have grown up adoring the movie, so I asked if I could snap a photo with him.  Only when I flashed my press pass did he happily agree.  He currently lives in Northern California and is continuing to pursue an acting career.

I naively attempted to attend a panel session with the Napoleon Dynamite cast and showed up twenty minutes before it started.  Around five hundred people were already anxiously in line, and the room filled up far before I ever got a chance to enter.  It became quickly obvious that the only way to attend almost any panel session would be to wait in line for well over an hour.  With no patience and an empty stomach I soon gave up.  However, as I was walking away I did catch a glimpse of Diedrich Bader before he entered the room.  He stopped to pose for a couple of pictures and seemed very friendly.

Elijah Wood talks to ecstatic fans while promoting his newest movie, Wilfred.

The highlight of my day was easily when I saw Elijah Wood up close and personal.  I have watched Lord of the Rings countless times and consider Wood an amazing actor.  While signing autographs, he saw someone he knew and the two of them began to make conversation.  It was exciting to watch him interact with a friend and show his true personality.  He really does have piercing blue eyes in person, by the way.

My afternoon at Comic Con 2011 turned out to be very insightful.  The following tips may help other newbies walk into Comic Con a little less blindly than I did.

1)      Review a map of the Convention Center before you arrive.  I spent too much time staring at the map and asking people where certain exhibits were located.  If I would have known my way around the building beforehand, I would have had more time to attend panels and hunt down celebrities.

2)      Bring water and snacks.  At many events similar to this one, security makes you throw away food and drink before entering the building.  However, there were no rules against carrying in food or beverage.  Prices for snacks at the convention were unsurprisingly inflated, and I really regretted not coming more prepared.

3)      Do not be afraid to go alone.  I bravely attended the event alone and had the freedom to do and see whatever I wanted on my own terms.  Though the experience would be fun shared with a friend, going alone has its advantages as well.

4)      Ride the free Comic Con shuttle.  Do not attempt to park downtown!  The free shuttle comes as far as Hotel Circle and was not crowded.  While other modes of public transportation are also helpful, they are not free like the shuttle was.

5)      If there is a panel or screening, show up EARLY.  Depending on the popularity, you may have to wait in line for hours.  Bring a book or game, or just enjoy the chaos around you.  “The key is to view the smaller panels.  They are actually really fun and the lines are not as long,” I overheard some Comic Con pros telling a rookie.  Seems like good advice to me!

Five Lifestyle Choices that Keep Other Countries Healthier Than The U.S.

July 20, 2011 - One Response

My travels to other countries have opened my eyes to a disturbing fact about American culture – we are lazy!  There is no mystery why the United States has some of the highest obesity rates in the world.  Our society revolves around comfort and convenience, while efficiency is a major determinant for cultures in much of the rest of the world.  Here are five ways other countries remain skinnier and healthier than Americans.  By adopting the following lifestyle changes, our country can save itself from the plague of obesity.

Locals in Santiago, Chile are seen here walking and waiting on the bus.

Walking or Riding a Bike to Work In Puerto Montt, Chile, I told some locals that the act of driving around a parking lot for several minutes simply to get the closest parking spot was typical in the United States.  They responded in laughter, truly thinking I was telling a joke.  While owning a car may seem like a necessity to the average American, the people of Chile and other nations rely on public transit, bicycles, or their own two feet to get them to work.  The average person can burn over one hundred calories walking at a moderate pace for thirty minutes.

Spending LESS time on the Computer The average American works all day in front of a computer screen, only to come home and spend more time on his personal computer.  Video games and the television have also replaced more traditional modes of entertainment.  In parts of Mexico, many households do not own a single computer or elaborate video game equipment.  Instead, the children play outside, and the adults do much more physical labor.

Taking the Stairs When I was traveling home from England, the people in the busy London airport were fighting to use the stairs, while the escalators held only the elderly and disabled.  Once I landed in the United States, the stairs were deserted and the escalator was overflowing.  As Americans, we tend to look for an elevator or escalator before even considering a staircase.  As simple as it seems, taking the stairs and other small changes to daily life can be a great way to start a healthier life!

Eating Smaller Portion Sizes From Chile to France, portion sizes are significantly smaller than in the United States.  I actually lost seven pounds in Chile partly because I was eating less at each meal.  Try splitting your plate with someone when eating out, or use a smaller plate when eating at home.  Either way, you will be guaranteed to eat less than you would have otherwise.

Drink More Water and Less Sugary Drinks  In the United States, we definitely enjoy drinking high calorie, very sweet beverages.  The popular Grande Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks has 470 calories!  Trade that in for a Latin American alternative – a cup of coffee with milk and sweetened with honey.  Instantly your 470 calorie splurge has been reduced to around 35 calories (mostly from the milk).

Taylor Leigh Photography: Behind the Lens

July 14, 2011 - One Response

Not every nineteen year old girl can brag she has already founded a successful business.  For Taylor Leigh of Ringgold, Georgia, she has had these bragging rights for over a year.  What started as a humble hobby turned into a thriving, self-established business when the community noticed her natural talent.  Though the upcoming sophomore has only taken the base art classes at Jacksonville State University, she has already illustrated her ability to take captivating photography.  Leigh regularly photographs family portraits, senior pictures, model portfolios, and maternity shots along with other various types of photography.  Her most recent accomplishment was scoring the title “Official Photographer” for the annual Ringgold Run.

Leigh’s ultimate vision for herself is to graduate with a Fine Arts degree with a focus in photography at Jacksonville University.  Her vision is to work as a National Geographic photographer.  Photography is more than a hobby for Leigh; she feels that it is her calling.  “My goal is to share God’s love through the shutter of my camera,” Leigh described,  which explains what is motivating her at such a young age.

Taylor Leigh has an eye for the beauty in little things such as the texture of the red brick wall or the simple elegance of freshly polished shoes.

Family Portraits are one of Leigh's most popular requests. She is able to capture a genuine happiness that many photographers are unable to achieve.

Along with great family portraits, Leigh photographs maternity shots. Mother's love being able to capture such a special time in their families' lives.

Rising model Jade Patton posed for Taylor Leigh. The shots were extraordinary, proving both model and photographer have great potential.

As Leigh's popularity has risen, her range in photography has grown to include wedding photography. Model Morgan Brittany Walker is seen posing in a wedding dress.

For reservations or more information about Taylor Leigh photography, email taylorleighphotography@yahoo.com or like her Facebook page.

Casey Anthony Trial: The Bottom Line

July 6, 2011 - One Response

By now most of us are very familiar with the Casey Anthony case.  What started as a missing child report in June 2008 ended up becoming a controversial story of a broken family, death of an innocent child, and the brutal response from the American people.  Yesterday, Casey Anthony was found not guilty on all charges related to the murder of her daughter, much to America’s surprise.  The media turned the entire trial into a riveting play-by-play that resembled a Law and Order episode.  The coverage of Caylee Anthony’s death and the events that followed reflected the revolutionary way the media and the American people react to current events.

Social media sites were the perfect outlet throughout the case for people to give their own two cents.  While Nancy Grace ranted and raved about her (educated though sometimes annoying) opinion, everyday people were able to write a blog, note, status, etc. from their perspective.  Sites such as Facebook and Twitter were a perfect place to vent, and the trend soon became a phenomenon.  According to a recent article on the Boston Herald’s website, the phrase “Casey Anthony” was used on Twitter 34,000 times within an hour after the verdict was announced.  Such an immediate public response made it almost impossible for the everyday internet user to miss the trial’s verdict.

Heated debates shown on national television were a popular way to cover the Casey Anthony case.  While greatly entertaining, these debates were based highly upon speculation as opposed to only stating the hard facts.  Fueled by opinion and driven by TV ratings, head-to-head arguments were on display for everyone to watch.  Every twist in the story gave analysts on television something else to debate, no matter how truly trivial it was.    Talk shows and debates are growing more and more popular over the traditional straight-to-the-facts news coverage.  Unfortunately, a little of the media’s reliability has been lost along the way.

When the verdict was announced “Not guilty,” most Americans were stunned, outraged, and confused.  But it taught us a lesson.  No matter how many Facebook updates and Twitter trends agree she killed her daughter, Caylee Anthony, only the jury and judges ultimately could decide Casey Anthony’s fate.  Even if at times the news spent half their broadcasts on the trial, in the end, it held little value in court.  We may all THINK our opinions matter, and we may all ENJOY giving our two cents, but maybe we should leave it to those who truly know all the facts.  Most of the time, the majority of us are not actually the experts (even though we like to think we are).

San Diego Weather: July Fourth Weekend and the Days to Follow

July 3, 2011 - Leave a Response

Lifeguards called in extra help to prepare for the high volumes of people at the beach this weekend.

Along with fireworks and highly congested beaches, the holiday weekend was accompanied by above average temperatures in inland San Diego County.  Communities in East County saw triple digits on Saturday such as Alpine, which reached 100 degrees. Humidity and haze made the hot weather even more unpleasant.

The inland viewing area can expect these extreme temperatures to continue for the next few days before seeing some relief around Saturday.  Mountain and desert areas may experience a chance of thunderstorms beginning today and continuing throughout Wednesday.

Coastal areas are quite cooler, meaning packed out beaches this weekend.  As of 11 a.m. this morning, parking at Mission Beach was impossible.  Other beaches are seeing the same turnout as well.

While a trip to the beach can provide some relief from the heat, surfing conditions will be poor tomorrow.  Local beaches will see weak surf averaging between 1’ and 3’.  Light winds will also mean sailing conditions will only be mediocre.

Until the temperatures creep back down, remember to remain hydrated whenever you are spending time outdoors.  Heat exhaustion and dehydration can be easily avoided even in conditions such as these.

Extraordinary Desserts: A Must Visit

July 3, 2011 - Leave a Response

Dessert.  The favorite part of the meal for many people, yet also the course of the meal most often skipped.  However, a San Diego restaurant once featured on the Food Network will make you skip straight to the best part – sweets!  Extraordinary Desserts has two locations in San Diego, Union Street and Fifth Avenue.  If you are planning to be in Southern California, plan on making a special trip to this unforgettable destination.

Surprisingly, there is no actual menu for the desserts.  To order, the customer must view the desserts behind a glass case and tell the waiter which treat they have chosen.  Then the waiter retrieves the given dessert and takes it to the kitchen to be further decorated with freshly made glazes.

If you have any interest at all in teas, consider ordering a pot at Extraordinary Desserts.  You can choose from a wide range of flavors such as “Marco Polo” and “109 Blossoms.”  No matter if you prefer black, green, or herbal, they have a fresh, delightful flavor for all.

Don’t be intimidated by the restaurant’s modern yet elegant appearance.  The prices range from 3.95 for a small dessert to 9.95 for a dessert the size of a full meal.  The cakes, tarts, scones, pies, etc. are well worth every penny, seeing how a scone at Starbucks is the same price for a freshly made scone at Extraordinary Desserts.  The quality of all the food and drink is a true steal when you compare it to the fresh, elaborate desserts you will receive in return.

The elaborately decorated treats along with the fun atmosphere create a must-visit restaurant.  Be prepared to eat and drink your weight in fruity, fresh desserts that will leave you asking for more!

The Act of “Thrifting”

June 30, 2011 - One Response

If you would have asked me one year ago if I enjoyed shopping at thrift stores, I would have said “No way.”  I thought the only thing I was going to find would be sweaters that even my grandmother would not wear or other overly-worn, dated clothing.

Recently, however, I have viewed thrift stores in a different light.  Partly because I am currently a broke college student, I have decided to do the unthinkable – browse for new-to-me clothing at consignment shops.  I started out very skeptical but now know there are certain tricks to make a trip to the thrift store a successful one.  In the San Diego area I discovered La Mesa has several great consignment boutiques.  Also, Ocean Beach is a great place to find interesting, fun items.

Located in Ocean Beach, CA

Location, Location, Location: All consignment stores are NOT made equal.  Chances are you’ll have better luck in the nicer part of town.  The nicer the area, the nicer the clothes.

Be Ready to Bargain: If you find something that is priced a little high for the quality that it is in, do not be afraid to name your own price.  In most cases they will negotiate.

Be Open-Minded: Sometimes the best finds are the most unexpected ones.  Have fun with it!  Shopping at thrift stores is all about finding items you would not be able to find anywhere in a regular retail store.

Bring a Friend: Two sets of eyes are better than one, and thrift shopping is much more fun with a companion.  Memories can be made with all the interesting things you will find together!

Noisy Neighbors in San Diego Spur Violence

June 27, 2011 - Leave a Response

Could noise pollution lead to crime?  For San Diego, the answer has been yes two weekends in a row.  In both cases, a noisy neighbor has provoked confrontation  ending in a trip to the hospital.

For Chula Vista resident Arnulfo Luis Flores, the sound of a lawn mower is a nuisance.  In fact, Flores found it so annoying he went to extreme measures to make sure neighbor Ulysses Rochin would no longer disturb the neighborhood by using his lawn mower.  Shortly after 8pm on June 17, Flores confronted Rochin about the noise.  When Rochin refused to stop using the mower, Flores stormed home and returned with a handgun.  Flores fired two shots at Rochin in short-range.  To Flores, violence was the best way to end the disturbance.  However, shortly after the incident, Flores realized his wrongdoing and ran from the police for two days before turning himself in.  Rochin was injured but said to be in stable condition.

One week later, a party in Pacific Beach, CA ended in a similar manner.  The party was getting a little too loud for a nearby neighbor who went to tell them to quiet down.  The complaining neighbor brought along a gun, which the partygoers quickly took away from him.  After they retrieved the gun, they stabbed the man in the upper body.  Though taken to a nearby trauma center, the victim is not believed to have life-threatening injuries.

Should neighbors confront those who are being too loud, or should they simply go to the police?  For residents in the San Diego area, it may be better to play it safe.  They never know when a noise disturbance can become dangerous.

Coming Soon!

June 26, 2011 - Leave a Response

I have several stories I am working on that should be ready by Monday or Tuesday.  Check back soon! Here are some of the upcoming stories:

  • Noise can lead to violence in the San Diego area.
  • The best dessert place in the world.
  • Discovering the joy of thrift shopping.

…AND MORE!