A Day on The Rock

Alcatraz Island - View from the ferry in San Francisco Bay.

Alcatraz Island – View from the ferry.

“Break the rules and you go to prison. Break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.”

You see this quote posted in several places throughout the tour of The Rock. I don’t recall who said it, but it has an impact as you walk through the 22-acre island. The island was first used as a U.S. Military Base in the 1800s. It wasn’t until 1934 that the island began operating as a federal penitentiary.

Building 64 and the Warden's House on Alcatraz Island - View from the docks.

Building 64 and the Warden’s House on Alcatraz Island – View from the docks.

The first thing you see as the ferry pulls into the dock is Building 64, and then the ruins of the Warden’s House up above. Building 64 was originally constructed for military officers and their families, and was later used to accommodate the families of the guards working at the prison.

Many of the buildings, including Building 64, fell into disrepair over the years. When you visit the island now, many of the buildings are in ruin, or have been destroyed. However, the Cellhouse has remained in decent condition. The tour is self-guided, and includes the use of audio headsets. You can walk through the island at your own pace, taking in the history and scenery.

Here is the view from the Cellhouse of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here is the view from the Cellhouse of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I particularly enjoyed the photographic opportunities on the island. The broken buildings with the beautiful blue of the bay in the background, the view of San Francisco, the sailboats in the water. Even the flowers along the pathways were beautiful. However, I know many people are interested in some of the facts about the prison, so to appease those curious minds, here are a few bits of information I learned along the way:

  • Alcatraz operated as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.
  • During its operation, Alcatraz had 36 prisoners who attempted to escape. All but 5 of those prisoners were recaptured/accounted for.
  • Alcatraz had 3 cellblocks, B, C and D. B and C blocks were for general population, while D was for those prisoners considered unruly or more dangerous. There were 42 isolation cells on D block, along with 6 “Holes” (the deep, dark rooms for those who behaved really badly while in prison).
  • There was no “death row” or execution facility on the island.
  • After closing as a federal prison, Alcatraz island was later occupied by American Indians from Nov. 1969 to June 1971. The occupation was orchestrated as a protest of the lands taken from the American Indians in the past, and it was effective in shaping Indian policy moving forward.

There are many other fascinating stories about the island, from the perspectives of inmates, guards and others who occupied the island. I highly recommend taking the tour. We’ve been twice now, and it’s more intriguing with each visit.

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Tours are available through Alcatraz Cruises. Go to http://www.alcatrazcruises.com to book your tickets. They sell out quickly though, so I would recommend booking your tickets as soon as you know your travel plans to San Francisco.

We have no affiliation with Alcatraz Cruises. We have simply taken the tour, and we loved it!

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Down by the River

Sitting by the Eel River

While up in Redway this weekend, we had a little tent set up by the river. It was a perfect place to get in out of the sun and relax while reading my book. This was my spot for several hours in the afternoon, with an occasional dip in the river to cool off. What a great way to spend a relaxing weekend.

Ringing in 30 with a bang

First of all, I’d like to say a big THANK YOU for all the wonderful birthday wishes! I received so many messages/phone calls/texts from friends and family, and most notably, a birthday serenade from my amazing second family, the Kempers. I feel very loved, thank you!

July 3rd hiking in Bodega Headlands

July 3rd hike in Bodega Headlands

I thoroughly enjoyed closing out my 20s, and had even more fun breaking in 30. Let me assure you, 30 is not boring! Dad came in town a few days before to spend the week with us in California. We went hiking, and running, and hiking, and climbing…. All things I absolutely love. In case I was worried about being in shape, well, I’m definitely not anymore.

July 4th hike in Bear Valley, Point Reyes

July 4th hike in Bear Valley, Point Reyes

Outdoor adventures paired very nicely with the numerous birthday celebrations. We had a lovely dinner with friends and family at the Fishmans, and then a 4th of July/Meg’s 30th continues party at Auntie & Tio’s, accompanied by Charneth (the bling master) and family. Fun was had by all, including the infamous Tio cake and making the birthday girl prance around in goofy garb (see evidence below).

When you turn 30, you get to wear bright red pants and a fun apron.

When you turn 30, you get to wear bright red pants and a fun apron.

If turning 30 was this much fun, I can’t wait for the next decade!

The Big 30

Happy birthday, Meg. You were born one day short of Independence Day, 1983.  Your determination and strength of character have made your progression through life a ceaseless adventure.  I am always proud you are my daughter and look forward to the experience of watching your life continue to unfold.

Have a wonderful birthday.  Love ya tons.  Mum

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U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment — A Review

Dairy cows out at Pt. ReyesThe U.S. Sustainable Dairy Commitment is a collective effort involving the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and dairy farmers, processors, retailers and businesses. The purpose of the commitment is to work together to “provide products that are nutritious, produced responsibly and economically viable for all.” [1]

The original sustainability commitment, signed between the Innovation Center and USDA in 2008, provides that the dairy industry will be proactive in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Specifically, the industry-wide, voluntary goal is to reduce U.S. dairy’s GHGs by 25% by the year 2020. Additionally, dairy producers have seen the following benefits [2]:

  • More than 6,000 producers received a total of $287 million through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program to implement conservation practices
  • USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program invested more than $53 million to install anaerobic digesters on dairy farms (anaerobic digesters basically break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, and thus reducing the amount of landfill gas emission into the atmosphere)
  • Over 350 on-farm and in-plant energy audits were conducted, and nearly $640,000 in cost-share grants were provided for energy efficiency equipment

It is exciting that the dairy industry has accepted the challenge to reduce GHGs and make dairy processes more efficient, both for the sake of the environment and the economy. As an animal lover, I do wish there was some language about also incorporating humane practices, however it appears that humane practices are included in the requirement to produce dairy products responsibly. I’m sure that’s already written down somewhere in the industry guidelines, but it would be nice for this sustainability commitment to also include a pledge to engage in practices that are healthier for the environment, more efficient for the economy, and more humane in the treatment of animals in the dairy industry.

Are there are dairy buffs out there who’ve had any experience with this Sustainability Commitment? After reading a few articles from various news sources, and of course, the Innovation Center’s website, I’m very curious to see what impact this is having in the diary industry, and if dairy producers/processors are seeing a difference.

To learn more from the folks at the Innovation Center, you can visit their website at www.usdairy.com.

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* Please note, I am not an expert in anything dairy, except for the fact that I love the products. All views expressed in this article are my personal opinions and do not reflect the views of any organization with which I am affiliated. Please forgive any ignorance to practices or industry standards. Any comments are welcome!

[1] See Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy website at www.usdairy.com/sustainability

[2] Gallagher, Tom, “U.S. dairy’s sustainability commitment realizes benefits for dairy producers”, June 4, 2013,  http://dairybusiness.com/seo/headline.php?title=u-s-dairy-s-sustainability-commitment-realize&date=2013-06-04&table=features.  Gallagher is the C.E.O. of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.