Archive for March, 2011

The circle of love at this years Swallow's Day.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, -(CA)- The 53rd Annual Swallows Day Parade went off without a hitch on Saturday morning in San Juan Capistrano.  The parade is meant to celebrate the return of the swallows from their winter homes in South America.  The swallow is a small migratory bird that typically builds their distinctive homes inside the Spanish tile roofs of the city or beneath the eaves of more modern homes in the area, using mud and grass collected after spring showers.

Good manners go a long way, cowboy.

More than 150 entries participated this year which began promptly at 11 a.m. but not before a real horse drawn stagecoach from Spurs and Satin of California, a crowd favorite, cleared the way, acting out  robberies and gunfights in the street as they fired blanks from their six shooters into the air.  The parade led off with a banner and the last USMC Mounted Color Guard still active in the Marine Corps, led by Gunnery Sgt. Pete McConnell on his wild mustang “Rookie.”  The 1st Marine Division Marching Band Followed in addition to an element from the 1st Battallian/11th Marines, San Juan Capistrano’s adopted Marine Unit.

This girl was having a good time and it shows with her big smile.

This year’s Grand Marshals, Art and Maria Galindo, owners of the popular southland chain of Mexican eateries, “Las Golandrinas,” which translates to “the swallows” in Spanish, rode in a white horse drawn carriage, waving to the crowd and having a great time.  The Juaneno Band of Mission Indians walked the parade in native and ceremonial dress.  Area educational institutions like the Mission Parish School and St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, participated in cowboy, Indian, charro, friar with some in animated springtime flowers, bees, lady bugs and fairy costumes.  The “San Juan Capistrano Ballet Folklorico,” in addition to “Mariachi San Juan,” came with trumpets, violins, guitars and gutarrones, a traditional large and tub shaped mariachi guitar like instrument, playing and singing while performers danced in unision wearing colorful Mexican dresses.  Horse groups of all types paraded including Charros, a type of Mexican cowboy, and riders from Rancho Mission Viejo in western wear.

The Grand Marshals; Art and Maria Galindo.

San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association organizers expressed concern that it would rain on their parade but remained positive and their enthusiasm carried the day beneath some cloud cover but not a drop fell.

Mom's are always there when you need them.

Many parade participants stopped to wish friends and family along the route including one horseman from the ‘El Viaje de Portola” who stopped across from the Mission San Juan Capistrano to hand out beads to a family member and chat.  He was admonished with hoots and hollers from other cowboys in the group to catch up.

This guy should be in the movies.

“I am coming, I’m coming…” He shouted  back but not before seeing someone else he knew and stopping again to chat and hand out more beads.

No one gets away with anything at the Swallow's Day Parade.

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George Fortin and his amazing machine.

SAN CLEMENTE,- (CA)- After President Barack Obama said early in his presidency that we, as a nation, must start building things again, San Clemente real estate broker George Fortin went to work to build an electric go-kart from scratch in the garage of his Talega home.

In November, a year and $4,000 later, he finished the 20-horsepower, zero-emission vehicle he calls the Z-Kart. It uses six lead-acid batteries and has a range of 20 miles at speeds of 40 to 50 mph, depending on the gearing installed. With a frame built from recycled polyethylene, it weighs about 300 pounds and can be charged from a regular household electrical outlet in about three hours, Fortin said.

Fortin, 55, said he was inspired not only by the words of the president but also a personal conviction to live “greener.”

“If I can build this using common tools and stuff from local hardware stores, then think of what someone could build with better resources and an engineering degree,” he said.


His parents learned quickly that no household appliance was safe from their son when he had a screwdriver in his hand. He took apart can openers and hairdryers and even made an electric scooter with the rotisserie motor from his dad’s barbecue.

Fortin, who grew up in Diamond Bar, began “engineering” go-karts when he was about 11, including secretly taking apart his dad’s first gasoline lawn mower.

But he didn’t get serious until he upgraded an old motorized minibike. He said all the adults in the neighborhood had off-road bikes and would regularly ride to the top of a particularly steep hill. Limited by the small motor on his minibike, he was unable to tag along. But he swapped his bike’s 3-horsepower motor for a Briggs & Stratton 8-horsepower model, and soon he was on top of the hill.

“The (bigger) motor was all in pieces when I got it, and when I had it on the bike it was so big, the spark plug came up through the top of the seat. But I made it work,” Fortin said. “Sitting on top of that hill … it was my moment.”

Fortin, who has no formal training in design or engineering, has never stopped making things, with dozens of self-propelled vehicles and go-karts made and pulled apart again – always salvaging the parts to make something better. Trial and error has shown him what works and what doesn’t, including gear ratios, chassis design, suspension and steering assemblies.

Fortin says he is driven by curiosity about how things work and making things people can use efficiently and safely.

“I am just a big kid,” he said.

His first Z-Kart had spoked bicycle wheels, but when the motor torque and tight steering tests kept tearing the wheels off, he redesigned it using dune-buggy wheels with motorcycle tires, along with other refinements.

“I really want to use my story to support making the garage a breeding ground for new ideas,” Fortin said. “Big corporate companies are too bogged down with stuff. The garage is a personal space free from negativity … and politics, where a person with the passion and an idea can be creative. Apple and Microsoft did it.”

Fortin said he has had about 155,000 hits on his YouTube videos featuring the Z-Kart, along with more than 4,000 emails from people inquiring about how to build it themselves. He also has been contacted by San Clemente-based chassis maker Swift Engineering to possibly help take the Z-Kart to the next level.


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The Wood brothers hope to chop it up at Willow Springs this Weekend.

SAN CLEMENTE, -(CA)- Brothers generally live the early part of their lives side by side, but Chris and Phil Wood of San Clemente will take it to another level this weekend as they begin their quest for the 2011 Motorcycle Side Car North American Championship.

They plan to compete in 12 races, beginning Saturday and Sunday at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, 20 miles north of Palmdale


Some of the people that help to make it happen.

The two lifelong motorsportsmen, originally from Yorkshire, England, arrived in the United States in 1989. Chris Wood, 42, is co-owner of Salon Incognito in San Clemente with his wife, Mary Lee, while Phil Wood, 39, manages a downtown San Clemente tire store along with a family-owned muffler and hot-rod shop.

“When we were kids, with the family we’d all go to the Isle of Man (between Britain and Ireland) on vacation and go to the sidecar races,” Phil Wood said. “When Chris saw it for the first time, he told me, ‘I want to do that one day,’ and so here we are.”


Chris Wood show us the button for the rocket launcher.

The pair hope that by season’s end this fall they will have ridden their Swedish-made ART 190-horsepower, $40,000 sidecar into the championship ring with the most points accumulated from this year’s races.

Last year, entering the season halfway through, they placed 10th in the overall standings in the West Coast division of the Sidecar Racers Association (SRA West).

This year the brothers have a new sidecar featuring the latest technology – the same as Formula One race cars, even using the same 105-octane fuel.

Sidecar racing is almost as old as motorcycle racing itself, with championship series held in Europe and the United States every year, beginning officially in 1949.


Phil Wood shows off his port side heeling position.

The driver, or “throttleman,” is in charge of the speed and direction of the three-wheeled sidecar using a combination of acceleration and braking, also known as “drift steering,” to point the machine right and left on the closed track.

The passenger, or “monkey,” is responsible for leaning to one side or the other, and often over the bike fractions of an inch off the pavement at high speed, using his body weight to turn the bike.

Speeds reach 80 to 90 mph on the turns and 170 on the straightaways – all with no seat belts. The only protection are gloves, helmets and leather clothes.


Wood Brothers Racing in action in Las Vegas last year.

Trust between the throttleman and the monkey is crucial, as well as knowing what your partner is going to do next. That’s why the Woods believe that, as brothers, they have a big advantage;

Crashes most often occur when a team’s critical balance is not perfectly in sync, resulting in the sidecar flipping over and throwing the racers across the track.

“Sidecar racing is everything ‘on’ or everything ‘off’; there is no in between,” Chris Wood said.

He described one of last season’s races in which Phil was hitting him on the back, which Chris thought meant he needed to go faster.

Phil said he was hitting his brother as hard as he could to signal him to stop; the sidecar’s brakes were on fire and flames were coming from under the cowling.

Chris couldn’t see what was happening. “I felt it getting really hot, but I thought it was just the bike,” he said. “We pulled over, threw sand on the fire and at least finished the race. The crowd cheered as we came in … they loved it.”

The brothers say that on a typical weekend, with trips to Las Vegas, Utah or Portland, Ore., usually cost about $750, including gas for travel, entry fees, food and lodging. Unless you blow a motor, which can cost as much as $8,000 to replace, sidecar racing is relatively inexpensive, they say.


The Wood brothers are looking for the North American Championship this year.

In addition, the Woods say, the family atmosphere at the track among fans and racers is great, with everyone helping with problems and offering encouragement.

“In sidecar racing, there are no divas, there is no attitude and no potty mouth,” Chris Wood said. “There are several husband-and-wife teams. In the pits we are like one big family.”

The Wood brothers have several area sponsors, including Champion TrikesHi-Tech Collision and Glass CentersEl Camino AutomotiveSC Rider Supply, Naked Monkey and Biker Garage 101.


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Coming in Cold.


SAN CLEMENTE, -(CA)- Ian Kos knew exactly what he had to do for the San Clemente city lifeguard tryouts Sunday morning. After all, the 16-year-old’s mother, Sandy, was San Clemente’s first female city lifeguard.

“My mom told me to keep my head down, get out past the breakers as fast as I could, give it lots of kick, ignore the cold and catch a wave in,” Kos said. “I have been preparing for this my whole life.”

According to San Clemente Marine Safety Lt. Rod Mellott, 32 applicants came out early Sunday to brave 58-degree water to try for six or seven jobs the city has to offer for this summer’s beach season June 24 to Sept. 5. Hopefuls had to be available to work 40 hours a week for starting pay of $15.69 an hour. They will complement the 45-member lifeguard department.


But to even earn a chance to interview for a spot in the 92-hour lifeguard training program that starts April 16, applicants Sunday had to swim 800 yards in the ocean, followed by a 1,200-yard run/swim/run – without the benefit of fins, wetsuits or goggles.

Those invited for interviews will be notified within a week whether they will advance to the training course, Mellott said.

Mellott detailed basic safety guidelines, reminding the applicants to be careful about unseen submerged obstacles in the surf. He also instructed them to clearly raise their hand if they found themselves in trouble during the swim so that lifeguards standing by on longboards could assist them.


Number two and ready to rock.

Elizabeth Strain, 16, a Capistrano Valley High School sophomore and swim team member, admitted being a little nervous for her first tryout, but she was mostly concerned about the cold.

“I hate the cold; the swim will be easy,” said Strain, of Mission Viejo.

Pat Cary, 26, of San Juan Capistrano, who placed 10th in the 2008 U.S. Olympic swim trials, was first out of the water after the 800-yard swim, finishing about 100 yards ahead of the next-closest finisher, Monder Elouaer, 24, of Aliso Viejo, a swimmer for the Saddleback College Gauchos.

Rachyl Quan, 18, a member of the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim team, was the first female swimmer, and third overall, out of the water.


All accounted for and on the line.

In all, 15 swimmers were chosen to continue to the 1,200-yard run/swim/run.

More than 150 family members and friends gathered around the Marine Safety headquarters near the San Clemente Pier to cheer on sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and significant others. Just before the run/swim/run, Kelton McMain, already a San Clemente city lifeguard, held his brother and lifeguard hopeful Ian McMain, 16, by the arms, shaking him gently back and forth while reminding him not to run out too hard and to, in the last leg, give it everything he had.

Joel Rodgers, whose son Tyler made it to the final selection, stood at a beach transition flag along the course and could be heard above everyone else shouting advice down the beach to his son to ignore the cold and not give up.

Cary, the Olympic hopeful, again finished first, encouraging his competitors with low-fives as he passed them in the opposite direction on the final leg of the run. Each applicant to cross the line quickly wrapped up in towels, hats and jackets, with teeth and limbs chattering while receiving hugs and smiles from supporters and sipping tea or coffee.


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One of the first images of the Moon and on film

SAN CLEMENTE, -(CA)- Can Big Brother see you in your underwear from space? According to John Hoot, who owns an imaging consulting firm in San Clemente that works with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the average satellites orbiting the Earth at altitudes of 190 to 450 miles can see you – but not with enough resolution to say it’s you and not your neighbor.

During a presentation called “Images in Space” on Thursday night at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente, Hoot said satellites normally operate at higher altitudes to avoid being pulled down by Earth’s gravity but can come down lower for a short time to take photos when its important enough. That’s when they can collect some great images.

Let me go out to the car and get my checkbook.

Because of particles in Earth’s atmosphere such as dust, smog and moisture, imaging technology like that used by Google Earth can get image resolutions only within about 10 feet of clarity. Hoot says cameras, lenses and technology are sophisticated enough to realize high resolutions within an inch or two at altitudes of 190 miles, but the Earth’s cloudy atmosphere is hard to get around without what he calls “adaptive optics.” That’s what likely is used on U.S. military satellites to get better images than what any civilian will ever see.

Hoot detailed the beginnings of space photography, which he says essentially began just after World War II when the United States brought back more than 200 German V-2 rockets captured at the end of the war, placed cameras inside them and tested them as a means of aerial reconnaissance.

look closely to see who is really taking the photo.

In his hourlong talk, Hoot discussed the various forms of space photography, beginning with film and later scanners, infrared technology, television and finally solid-state sensors that deliver flat, distortionless images in very high resolution.

With film, rockets orbiting Earth would have to eject film in re-entry capsules that would float down by parachute and be recovered in midair by aircraft with special booms and wires. During those days, recovery was always planned over the Pacific Ocean, specifically over the almost 36,000-feet-deep Mariana trench, so that if any problem occurred in recovery, the capsule would be not be found by any rival country such as Russia or China.

Thanks to digital transmissions, Hoot said, the photos we see today are delivered from deep-space projects such as the Hubble Space TelescopeMars PathfinderMars Exploration Rover and the Voyager I, which, launched in September 1977, is the farthest manmade object from the Earth. Voyager I, transmitting at 1¾ watts, will continue to receive directions and send images back to Earth until at least 2025, when it begins to leave our solar system.

The fickle hand of fate?

In the beginning of space imaging, cameras were electronically simple but mechanically complex. That is now reversed, allowing devices we use every day, such as cell phones and digital cameras, to be smaller, more easily affordable and operate with greater reliability, Hoot said.

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Author, Sequoia Beckman

SAN CLEMENTE,  -(CA)- Sequoia Beckman was more than a little lonely after his stepfather was deployed to Afghanistan in October with a Marine Corps unit from Camp Pendleton. The feeling intensified when members of his stepdad’s unit came back wounded.

So the 11-year-old, a student at Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre School, published a book called “Arthur and the Brave Knights of Camelot” and is donating all sales proceeds to injured Marines through the Semper Fi Fund. He has raised more than $500 so far and hopes for more with the second edition.

“My stepdad’s a Marine, I live on base, and it makes sense,” Sequoia said.

His efforts caught the attention of Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit assistance group for military families that made Sequoia one of 20 semifinalists nationwide for the 2011 Military Child of the Year Award in the Marine Corps division. Finalists are scheduled to be announced Friday, with a winner in each of the five branches of military service to be chosen Wednesday.

Each award recipient will get $5,000 and a place in a recognition ceremony April 7 in Washington, D.C.

Sequoia loves to read and is especially interested in anything from medieval times, according to his mother, Sherry Simburger. And with his stepfather, Sgt. Major Karl Simburger, deployed to Afghanistan, she said it wasn’t a big surprise that he wrote his book about knights and dragons – characters derived from the classic literary theme of good guys vs. bad guys.

Beckman’s Book, Arthur and The Brave Knights of Camelot.

Sequoia wrote the book and enlisted fellow San Onofre student Charlotte McGhee, 13, to do the artwork because he thought she had a special feeling for dragons. He insisted on getting a publisher, a copyright and an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, which commercial booksellers use to identify books for sale.

The first edition of 100 copies has already sold out, thanks to his mother’s Facebook announcement to friends and family.

In February at the annual Marine West Expo in San Diego, a demonstration of Marine Corps aviation, Sequoia and McGhee promoted the book and signed copies.

Sherry Simburger says Sequoia asks her each day for details about the book’s sales. When someone in Ohio who was not a family member or friend bought the book, he felt he had become a real author, she said.

“Sequoia held back at first and was complaining a little bit that people were not buying the book. So I told him he had to grab each person and sell it,” Simburger said. “And so he really got into it. He attached himself to every person who came by, even some Marine Corps generals, and if they didn’t buy on the way in, he got them on the way out.”

Sequoia’s fifth-grade teacher, April Pezman, said he has an amazing gift for writing. He often could be found working on his book during lunch and recess and is already working on the sequel, she said.

“The class was amazed when Sequoia walked in with his real published book. After he read it to them, they had looks of astonishment,” Pezman said. “He proved that dreams can come true. I am very proud of him.”


“Arthur and the Brave Knights of Camelot” can be purchased for $10 at arthur-and-the-brave-knights.blogspot.com

The Register article:

Pendleton Marine’s son up for Military Child of Year | book, sequoia, marine – News – The Orange County Register

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