Winter visitors: the Monarch Butterfly Migration reaches California

It’s a special time of year along the California coast, eagerly anticipated year after year: the return of the monarch butterflies.

Frequent Flyers
Beginning in October and peaking in December, the butterflies will remain in California until late winter, when they embark on their return trek to Mexico. One of the most popular locations to see them is in Pacific Grove, near Monterey. They are attracted to the area’s lush eucalyptus groves, where the monarchs nest. 

The creatures are also attracted to milkweed, their primary source of food. Because it is also a common allergen, milkweed is often removed from private gardens and public parks across the country, and that affects the butterfly populations.

Their numbers are declining, and fast: according to a recent study published in Biological Conservation, their numbers have plummeted from 10 million to around 300,000 since the early 1980s. 

Dr. Karen Oberhauser, professor of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota (photo courtesy of Karen Oberhauser)

Vulnerable Beauties
Karen Oberhauser is professor of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota and has studied the travel and habitats of these winged wonders extensively. According to NBC News, Oberhauser reports a decline in the monarch population of ninety percent since 1995.

Oberhauser and others believes that changes to the areas where the monarchs stop during their migration are behind the decline of the species.

“Because the monarchs are concentrated in a very small area in the winter, they are more vulnerable during this stage of their life,” Oberhauser told NBC News. “However, breeding sites in Canada and the US are also crucial to their survival, and additional losses of these sites also pose threats. There are no laws in the US to protect their habitat.”

Researches and conservation groups are strengthening their efforts to save the butterflies before it’s too late.

A monarch butterfly photographed by C. P. Ewing

Eric Sachs is a Science and Policy Lead at agricultural chemical company Monsanto, whose pesticides are often blamed for the decline of a primary monarch feeding ground: the wild milkweed found on farms across the country.

“We agree with the experts that have identified a number of factors that contribute to the decline in monarch population. We also agree that the place to focus our efforts is on restoring habitat outside farm fields,” he told NBC News. Monsanto also claims it is evaluating options for replenishing milkweed and is working with farmers and conservation groups to reach a solution.

Where to find them
The California coast is home to several sites where monarchs nest during their migration, from the North Bay to San Diego. Check out the map below to find the best places to see the orange and black insects.

Related stories:
Slideshow: Monarch butterfly stages of development
Top 5 Places to See California’s Wildlife


Coke Problem #TBT

My coworkers and I used to get Mexican Cokes every day from the Chinese-Mexican restaurant across the street. At one point we had about 75 in the front window of our shop. We also had a Christmas tree. When someone in town complained the tree was out-of-season, my boss responded by decorating it for Spring Break with empty bottles and cans.

mental health, racing, you

Don’t Get Black Flagged

In auto racing, flags rule everything. A green flag signals to drivers to go. A black and white checkered flag ends the race. And a vehicle that breaks a rule or that presents a physical threat to itself or other drivers is shown the black flag. This signals that the driver is to get off the track and take their car to the garage or pit.

A number of things can cause a black flag: something has come off the car, like a spoiler or a tire; the car is incapable of maintaining the track minimum speed, resulting in the car becoming a hazard on the track. If it’s just a physical problem and not a huge rule violation, the driver is usually allowed back on track once the offending issue has been corrected. If your car isn’t running correctly, or you’re not running it safely, you can get black flagged.

Drinking and driving can get you black flagged.

This Old Car

I have this old car. It’s a one-of-a-kind 1985 model that has aged remarkably well, but it doesn’t run like it used to. It needs a little body work, and a ton of help under the hood. It could definitely be something really powerful when I put some time and effort into it.

The damn thing it idles way too fast. It’s especially bad in the mornings. Even sitting in neutral, it idles at almost twice as many RPMs as it should and the whole body shakes. Not only does the shaking look bad, but I worry that it puts stress on other parts and that it could rattle something else loose. Or break a seal and spill something gnarly.

It has trouble shifting too, especially on cold mornings. You have to fight to get it out of neutral and into first gear, and you have to push it into second. Good luck getting it to go any higher. It’s slow to accelerate in any gear, and it stalls out if it drives too fast for too long. How long is too long? It varies each time. So does the gear in which it stalls. It’s incredibly unpredictable, so you’re better off just leaving it in the garage all day.

Can I get mine iced, please? No whip.

Fuel consumption is irregular, too. I think there is problem with the fuel pump. Sometimes it feels like it can go forever on a single tank, and sometimes it needs little refills. It also runs out of fuel all the time, sputtering and lurching to an embarrassing, ungraceful stop.

It could use a little chemical help too, maybe a fuel additive of some sort to clean out the gunk in the engine and help it run cleaner. I’d like to stay away from these kind of things, but they can help. You just have to be really careful with them.

This car should be taken to a mechanic, or it’s gonna be shown the black flag. As much as I’d like to think I can do all this work on my own—I am certainly stubborn enough—I need to acknowledge that this is a large, long-term project. I can’t do all that work on my own, no matter how much I convince myself I can. It’s important to me that I feel like I am in control of things like this.

Maintenance Required

You know what really complicates maintaining this car?
I am the car.

C'est moi!
I like to think I’m THIS super hot car.

Continue reading “Don’t Get Black Flagged”


Ukrainian Day in Golden Gate Park


What’s the easiest way to get me to go outside? Sports. Second easiest way? Slavic festivals.

Did you know California is home to a substantial Ukrainian-American population? It’s true! Los Angeles alone has at least 34,000 residents that identify as Ukrainian, and there are at least as many spread throughout the Bay Area.

The first Ukrainian to come to the Bay Area was Agapius Honcharenko, who arrived in America in 1865. He called his homestead Ukraina Ranch, and its official address was Hayward, Ukraina, California. Agapius hated gophers, according to the pamphlet about him that I picked up at today’s Ukrainian Day in Golden Gate Park.

Hopefully no gophers snuck into today’s event. There was dancing and singing, beautiful traditional costumes, but unfortunately no food. Ukrainian food is some of the best on the planet. Though I saw no mention of food on the festival website (click the kozak!), I held out hope that food would make an appearance. It did not.

Mad Men's Paul Kinsey has the best, most useful pickup line:
Mad Men’s Paul Kinsey has the best, most useful pickup line: “Do you like Ukrainian food?”. Так, Paul. Так.

Today’s event follows the 24th anniversary of Ukraine’s declaration of independence, which falls on 24 August. This is the second year in a row that the celebrations have taken place while Ukraine is fighting illegal Russian occupation in its Crimea region. And just this week, two Ukrainians were sentenced to 10 and 20 years jail time for the act of “terrorism”. After their sentence was read, the men sang the Ukrainian anthem. In the Russian courtroom. Because Ukrainians are badass.

How badass? One of the folk songs performed today described Ukrainians defending their land from invaders (a common theme throughout their history, Ukraine’s so great everyone wants a piece). Included in its introduction was the phrase “You can have our land, but only for your graves”.

Gangster. Folk gangster.

And Cossack men wear a super rad punk rock haircut:

Sviatoslav I, athiest son of Saint Olga, rocking a chupryna haircut.

Check out the photos below to see more from today’s event in Golden Gate Park. Please be a conscientious citizen and learn and share information about the situation in Ukraine; Vice News is a good place to start. And find a Ukrainian person—they’re everywhere—to show you how to cook delicious food.

Yaroslav from Kiev with his Ukrainian flag and trizub t-shirt. The trizub, or trident, is a symbol of Ukraine.


Two girls wearing floral headdresses called vinok.
LIttle dancers wearing their best vyshyvanka embroidered shirts and headdresses called a vinok.

Continue reading “Ukrainian Day in Golden Gate Park”

motorsports, nascar, sports

NASCAR at Sonoma Raceway


It’s taken me years to say this openly, but here it goes: I love NASCAR.

When I tell people I’m a lifelong NASCAR fan, I usually get a funny look from them in response. The stereotype is that stock car racing is for rednecks, folks from small towns with small minds who like getting drunk in the sun and yelling “Woo!” at cars that turn left.

But that isn’t the case. Twice a year the cars turn right, when they go on road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

And lots of different kinds of people like NASCAR. I’ve met people from around the world at tracks, and in general race fans are friendly, intelligent, generous people. There are some lame fans, but that’s typical of any sports fanbase.

And people like NASCAR for a variety of reasons. Some fans get into the sport cos they love competition, which NASCAR has plenty of–between drivers, teammates, man and machine. And some people were just born into families that have a lot of car-related hobbies. That’s what happened to me.


The Sundays of my childhood were spent watching the weekly NASCAR and NHRA races with my dad on stolen cable. My dad liked to come up with plans for our own race team. Dad would be my crew chief, obviously. He would also help the sponsors make my commercials, since he came up with awesome ideas like “Just as you cross the finish line the camera cuts to inside the car, and you lift your visor and say ‘Maybe it’s Maybelline!’ with a wink to the camera. Then it cuts to you doing a burnout! You can get free mascara or whatever!”. Free mascara! My dad was a genius.

Continue reading “NASCAR at Sonoma Raceway”

music, photography

The News Brothers at Sandrini’s

On Saturday Ryan, his brother and I drove to Bakersfield for their dad’s birthday. What better way to celebrate a birthday than with food and music? It was the first time that I’d ever seen his dad’s band play, and it was awesome! Have you ever been at a show when suddenly there are a hundred maracas shaking simultaneously, even louder than the band? That’s the kind of stuff that goes down when the News Brothers play. Check out the gallery below:

Continue reading “The News Brothers at Sandrini’s”

hockey, Hockey History

Hockey History: The Oakland Skates & My Hockey Card Holy Grail

Hockey History is a series I’ll do whenever I find something interesting to share with you. This is the first post!

Last week I learned about Roller Hockey International, a league that existed for a few years in the 1990s (thanks to Marek, who mentioned it on the MvsW podcast). You can tell it was the 90s because all the RHI team logos look like they were made by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in Corel Draw. Any of these logos alone qualify as a jersey foul, and some of the names, too: Radz, Rage, and Voodoo, looking at you.

Source:, best site ever
Source:, best site ever

Some of these logos are confusing, like why is the cobra wearing a skate if he doesn’t have a foot? Is that a goal stick? Is the cobra a goalie? Wait, Arizona has cobras?! But I digress.

Do you see the Oakland Skates up there? When I first heard the name I pictured a green sweater with a white skate logo like the painted white skates the Oakland Seals wore, but I was wrong. It’s like the fish. They’re probably named for several types of skates that live in the San Francisco Bay with all the other frightening sea creatures. Or maybe the Oakland Skates are a band? Look at their first logo. We saw them open at Gilman that one time, right?

“Thank you guys for coming out tonight, this is the first track off our new record Roller Hockey”. (image source:

Continue reading “Hockey History: The Oakland Skates & My Hockey Card Holy Grail”


Playoff Nails

In 2009, I started getting acrylic manicures during NHL playoffs so I wouldn’t bite my nails. My logic was that if I paid $30 for them, I wouldn’t bite them. It totally worked! Six years later, I do them myself because they’re finally naturally long and strong enough. Seriously, it broke my nailbiting habit. Playoff hockey is so intense it can break deep psychological fixations or dependencies.

Now I do my nails myself. Last year I tried a different colour on each hand–one for the Sharks and one for the Canadiens–but the whole time I felt very off because my hands didn’t match. I will probably never try that again, so I’m grateful the Sharks didn’t make it. This year I wanted to go big and do the hardest thing within reach, which was to basically make tiny sweaters on my nails. Maybe next year I’ll add numbers.


Products used:
American Classics Gelish (base and top)
Essie “Blanc” (white)
Essie “Lacquered Up” (red)
Sinful Colors “Endless Blue” (blue)
Seche Vite Quick Dry Top Coat
Vinyl stickers as guides for lines

At a salon, a manicure is anywhere from $15 to $30 dollars. Nail art is usually about $5 per nail. I used regular pilish, but Gelish makes my manicures last several days without issue (and I highly suggest you grab some at Sally Beauty). This would probably cost me $70 if I went to a salon and had someone do this for me.

Wait… $70?! I should be a nail tech.