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Vista Point: Science of sneaker waves: Seeing isn’t always believing


Three boys stand on a log. An adult couple walks by 20 feet down the beach. That scene is not recorded, but presumably it’s what was happening just before video began to capture a moment of fright on Oct. 24, 2010, at Rockaway Beach, Ore.

The video shows three boys sent tumbling off their log as every visible part of the beach is rapidly inundated by a surging wave that seems like it will never relent.

Two of the boys struggle to gain their footing in the surge, and just as soon as they do a much longer log hits them in the legs, cartwheeling them face-first into the water. The third boy, up to his neck in water, can’t even get to his feet before he is swept about 15 feet down the beach by the second log and nearly pinned between third and fourth logs, one of them just missing his head as it rushes by.

By the time the recording begins, the couple who had been walking by have already been knocked down. One of them floats uncontrollably for about 20 feet, and only regains footing when the surge begins to recede. The other floats away, belly-down, for 30 feet, struggling to keep head above water, and has to be helped up after a sixth person runs out to assist. The person who is helped up staggers back to high ground, leaning on the rescuer for support.

As with giant squid or Siberian meteor blasts, the ubiquity of the video camera has revealed the secrets of another of nature’s elusive elements: the sneaker wave.


Editor's Note: There’s no such thing as a perfect newspaper

I’m coming up on 34 years of newspapering, so you’d think I’d know better.

There I sat with my coffee last Thursday, looking over that morning’s edition and finding it a shining example of what we’re trying to do here three times a week:

A front-page centerpiece about a highly charged local discussion of gun rights well-captured by the writer and photographer. An insightful look at one of the biggest local sporting events of the year and the volunteers who put it together. Intriguing developments regarding two high-profile figures under investigation. A story of a local family and its two generations of Warrior athletes. A preview of the next big community theater event, complete with great shots of rehearsing cast members.

Almost perfect, I thought as I turned through the pages a second time. But there’s nothing like journalism to cure a case of pride.

It was a couple of hours later when we noticed that a big chunk of one of those front-page articles had accidentally been left off a “jump” page, where stories are continued inside the paper.

Readers of the article about the reinstatement of Del Norte chief probation officer Thomas Crowell missed the details about the public safety officers’ fund he is accused of embezzling from. Gone also was Supervisor Martha McClure’s explanation for the reinstatement while charges are still pending: “We don’t always have to go for the jugular.”

 You can read the full article at triplicate.com — it’s the first one that comes up when you type “Crowell” into the search engine. Meanwhile, the Triplicate’s search for perfection is never-ending, if you know what I mean.

A rush to judgment with gun resolution

Some interesting reactions were on display as the Del Norte County supervisors listened to public comment and then voted Tuesday on a resolution “in support of the Second Amendment and the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

All but one of the 11 citizens who spoke supported the resolution. And the exception made it clear he doesn’t like the idea of additional gun-control laws. Bill Lonsdale just questioned the necessity of the resolution and implied that Supervisor Roger Gitlin was forcing a local vote on a hot-button national issue in an attempt to politically damage any colleague who disagreed with him.

Lonsdale wasn’t the only person in the room who seemed less than enthusiastic about what was unfolding. After the public comment period ended and supervisors had the floor, three of the five said absolutely nothing about the issue at hand.

Responding to Lonsdale’s questioning of the need for the resolution, Gitlin asked, “If not us, who?”

Martha McClure was the only supervisor who delved into the 11 “whereases” contained in the resolution, questioning interpretations of legal precedents in three of them.

“I too am a gun owner,” said McClure, but she noted that the supervisors had already taken oaths to uphold the entire Constitution and said it made no sense to “cherry-pick” amendments for special consideration.

She abstained, but her four colleagues voted in favor of the resolution. “Sure,” said David Finigan when the roll call came to him. It sounded more like, “whatever.”

Editor's Note: Print product, but Facebook-friendly

As I wrote last week, the Triplicate’s financial health depends for now on its paper product. If Del Norters value their only comprehensive local news source, they’ll buy it (not a big expense) and advertise in it (also not that big of an expense).

That doesn’t mean we ignore the Internet. At triplicate.com, we post breaking news as soon as we’ve got it. And as of this week it’s easier than ever to track us on Facebook.

We started out in the world of social media as “The Daily Triplicate,” but that site didn’t go away when we switched to three-times-a-week publication and added a second site, “Del Norte Triplicate.” So for more than a year we’ve been posting at both sites. Finally, we’ve been able to merge our “friends” and “likes” into a single site, simply “The Triplicate.”

We post the breaking news there as well, along with occasional bonus photos and previews of what’s coming up in the next print edition.

Since we’re already talking about cyberspace, let’s take a look at the results from some of our recent polls at triplicate.com. These surveys are far from scientific, but they do generate a lot of responses.

• Most recently we asked if people should be legally prohibited from walking on the Crescent City jetty, the scene of many wave-washed tragedies and rescue operations over the years.

For now, we remain mainly a paper product

A recent letter from a longtime resident illustrates the challenges facing the newspaper industry these days.

The writer said she had lived in Del Norte for two-plus decades and always relied on the Triplicate for “local news as well as national headlines.” She’s never been a subscriber, however, preferring to occasionally “buy editions that seem to have articles about something relevant that piques my interest.”

Her beef was that the newspaper doesn’t post its product to its website “in a timely fashion.”

In other words, c’mon Triplicate, join the Internet age and give us your product instead of selling it.

She assumed we could collect enough revenue through online advertising to compensate for letting people read the news for free. Unfortunately, that has proven to be an industry-wide fallacy resulting in dramatic downsizing and even closure of some newspapers.

Here’s the truth, at least in Del Norte: For the foreseeable future, the fortunes of the local newspaper are inextricably tied to its print product.

That is why we don’t post local articles and photos to our website from one edition until the next edition is already in our subscribers’ hands or available for purchase at stores and machines.

Coastal Voices: Yes, citizens do need large-capacity guns

In the Jan. 12 Editor’s Note column, “Newtown: There are myriad ways to fight back,” you discussed a number of valid proposals. And I do agree with some of your suggestions.

Arming designated people with self-defense training capable of firing back is a good idea, though they need not be marshals or even law enforcement. How about expanding the base of civilians with concealed weapons permits? They have the training needed and the extensive background checks.

As for violence in entertainment and graphic TV news, exposing our young people to the violent entertainment, movies, video games and much of what is called music these days does have an effect. But all of that can be reduced with parental censorship. Also the parents as role models make a lot of difference.

The mentally ill is a bit of a stickier subject. It has been my experience that most professional psychologists are extremely left-leaning (i.e., anti-gun). Allowing them to make the decision on which of their patients should be allowed to own firearms is biased at best.

Strictly speaking, if one is a danger to himself or others, they shouldn’t be allowed on the streets. I also know that isn’t practical or right. But neither is punishing law-abiding citizens for the crimes of a few.

The Newtown shooter was mentally disturbed by all accounts I have seen, as was the shooter in Aurora. Both were on anti-psychotic drugs, as were almost all of the shooters involved in the recent shootings. Most broke several state and federal laws in the commission of their crimes.

Editor's Note: Newtown: There are myriad ways to fight back

I’ve written before about the need for passionate moderates: People who energetically seek compromise while taking stands based on the issue at hand without regard to labels such as conservative or progressive, Tea Partier or liberal.

Nowhere is the need greater than in formulating America’s response to the string of massacres culminating — at least for now — in Newtown, Conn.

There are partial solutions a’plenty and none involve rocket science. In fact, they’ve already been mentioned by local voices in the pages of the Triplicate. The non-compromisers will tell you that only some of these proposals are valid. But the fact is, they all are.

• Violence as entertainment: Killing people is obscene, and yet we limit access to pornography much more than we limit access to video games where players choose their weapons and go on murderous sprees. Sometimes the victims are unsympathetic, but oftentimes players can kill anyone they choose, including bystanders — the special effects are the same.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board already advises parents and retailers alike about the appropriateness of certain games for certain age levels. But let’s face it: plenty of these games are inappropriate for all ages. We should treat them the same way we treat the vilest forms of legal pornography — stores that opt to provide them should put them behind their counters. And if the public starts to view these establishments as the equivalent of adult bookstores, all the better.

Again, killing people is obscene. Movies that contain an inordinate amount of violence should be rated X. The movie industry is self-policing. While submitting films to the ratings of the Motion Picture Association of America is voluntary, many theater chains won’t show them if they are unrated.

Giving films that are full of gratuitous violence an X rating would prevent children from seeing them in theaters. What gets shown in homes is up to parents, but the message would be delivered to people of all ages: watching this stuff in movies or TV shows is as socially acceptable as watching porn.

• TV news media and voyeurism: Each massacre becomes a 24/7 mini-series on CNN, FOX and MSNBC, as every detail is told and retold over the course of several days. Unless they have the good sense to turn it off, viewers are force-fed far beyond the nutritional value of understanding what happened.

California Focus: Expect some changes in those CEQA rules

No law annoys California developers more than the California Environmental Quality Act and they figure to win at least some changes to its strict 42-year-old rules in the new year.

They almost sneaked through a major softening of the state’s premier environmental law last September in the waning moments of the last legislative session, but were forced to back off in the face of heavy objections to softening the law without any public hearings at all.

CEQA requires sponsors of any building project or other development that will have a significant effect on the environment to write an environmental impact report assessing the effects of even its smallest aspects. Signed in 1970 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, the law was intended to supplement the National Environment Policy Act of 1969. That law demands an environmental impact statement for every significant action by any federal agency.

The state law has been used by environmentalists and others to obstruct countless projects, with legal challenges to the adequacy of EIRs often adding months and years to the planning cycle of projects as diverse as sports arenas and apartment buildings.

Business and development interests maintain they respect the way CEQA provides the public with information about the effects of projects large and small. Effects measured by EIRs include everything from public health considerations – would a new freeway create health risks from vehicle exhaust? – to increased traffic and potential danger to wildlife. Once identified, adverse impacts must be mitigated, often raising costs.

No governor since CEQA passed has seemed more receptive to loosening requirements than the current version of Jerry Brown, taking a very different approach than during his first gubernatorial incarnation from 1975-83.

In a news conference last August, Brown allowed that “I’ve never seen a CEQA exemption I didn’t like.” Later he remarked that “CEQA reform is the Lord’s work.” It was no surprise, then, when developer allies in the Legislature quickly sought to push changes through.

Among alterations attempted then and likely to return iss an exclusion from CEQA for projects that already comply with local land-use plans previously certified as consistent with CEQA.

Brown’s turnaround on this law stems from his experience as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007, a time when several projects he saw as bettering blighted areas of that city were stymied by challenges under CEQA.

Don’t expect GOP to change anytime soon

Calls for change by the Republican Party — especially its California branch — came from all sides in the days immediately following President Obama’s re-election.

But don’t expect that to go anywhere fast. For this is a party that values its core principles and predilections more than it does victory.

As early as 1993, when California was just one year into its shift from being a Republican mainstay to becoming reliably Democratic in presidential elections, the GOP was warned that it needed to change its stances on immigration amnesty, gun control, birth control and abortion, equal pay for women and many others.

The GOP is now generally supportive of equal pay for women. But it has not changed much on anything else. Nor is that likely, despite the fact that some of the change-oriented advice it has lately received comes from its most conservative members.

Take Ted Cruz, the newly-elected Tea Party-sponsored Republican U.S. senator from the GOP bastion of Texas, where no Democrat has won statewide office since the 1990s.

“If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community, in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority in our state,” Cruz told a reporter. “If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple…the Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party.”

So Cruz implies he might compromise on some things. But many other conservative Republicans remain defiant of the need to change. Here’s what newly-reelected GOP Congressman John Campbell of Orange County wrote just days after the election:

 “I’ll be damned if this member of Congress is going…to go along with a slow move towards socialism rather than a fast one. This game is not over!”

Things must change, but not the gun laws

Read more...  Why did this happen?  What was the motive? Do we need to increase gun control?  What will stop this insanity?  

All are valid questions, but the media exposure by news anchors, consultants, on-site reporters — who all get paid to keep an audience watching their 24-hour news shows — focus on tragedies such as these for ratings. Aren’t they also somewhat responsible?

Motive does not matter, as we have seen from so many of these massacres. All the perpetrators are mentally unstable. But why did this happen?

Look at the violent video games, the popularity of the violent crime dramas on TV, the violence in movies — these all desensitize people to violence. Kids grow up playing these violent games.  Killing on video is not permanent — they just win and go to the next game. Killing on TV and in the movies appears to be commonplace — and the show ends with the perpetrator dead or going to prison.

Will gun control stop this?  Sure, all the good guys won’t have guns and the bad guys will find a way to get them.  That does not make sense.

What will stop this insanity? Our society is filled with rage because it does not believe it has any control over the current economy, battles raging all over the world, even improving local problems. The past elections were filled with ugly, angry slurs, not positive purpose on how to make a difference.

More laws will not stop this. They can pass all the laws in the world but the unlawful will still do whatever they want. I, personally, do not want more government control over my life. I want humanity to wake up.

This will only stop when we stop it. Stop the violent video games, the violent movies, the violent TV shows. Stop settling disagreements with rage, anger and violence. Stop political back-stabbing.

Stop the 24-hour media focus on violent, horrible, tragic news. Has anyone else noticed how difficult it is to find good news on TV, in the newspaper, or enjoyable television or movies to watch?

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