Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Chase

The Chase from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

The music in this film was composed by Kerry Muzzey and is a track called The Secret History from the album The Architect. Please consider purchasing this album over on iTunes:

I am forever in Kerry's debt for his kindness and generosity in donating this song for my film. I do not have enough words to thank him!

If you'd like to purchase a digital download of the film for your iPhone or iPad, please visit

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This past spring I spent more time chasing storms on the plains than ever before. The most I had spent prior to this was seven total days and that was last year. What I came away with from that short time made me realize that if I could double that...the stuff I could capture would be amazing. Of course I long to be out there for a month or longer, but when you live in Phoenix and have a wife and three have to be realistic.

I turned 40 years old this year and I told my wife all I wanted was 10 days chasing on the plains. She loves me though and it ended up being 14! Two days in April and then 12 straight days from May 23rd - June 3rd. Those 12 days were absolutely incredible. I'm friends with other chasers via social media, met them on the side of roads while chasing, even grabbed dinner together...but never have I felt more of a part of the chaser community than being out there for almost two weeks. Living the life...seeing the same amazing chasers over and was overwhelming to me. I missed my family, it was hard at times, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Both chases originated from where I live in Arizona. In April I drove out all night to Colorado, slept maybe an hour, chased all day, got a good night's sleep, chased the next day in the Texas panhandle and drove home that same night, stopping only for a quick nap in New Mexico. The second chase was the same. Left Phoenix late on the evening of May 22nd, never really slept and the chase was on the next day. All in all I drove well over 12,000 miles over the course of those two weeks, visited 10 total states (New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota) and shot over 45,000 frames of footage for this film.

I have many people to thank. Pat O'Brien for being my first private tour attendee this spring. Mike Mezeul II for one very big tip on a spot above Rapid City, SD. To James Langford who not only guided me to that spot over the phone, but "now-casted" for me many, many times. I may have missed out on four crucial clips in this film if it wasn't for him suggesting I punch the core in South Dakota. Thank you sir. And to my pal Andy Hoeland...who was with me for over a week of my time out there, driving, looking at forecasts, talking to weather experts and always helping us have a great target for that day. He's become my chase partner for most of these big plains trips and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Also thanks to Cinetics ( for sending me their Axis 360 to play with. I used it one time in this film and wish I had used it more. I love that scene.

Finally...above everyone else, of my wife. To let me go for that long, to never complain, to never discourage me...but to only believe in could I be so lucky to deserve a wife like that? We have three kids and that's tough on a parent to have her husband away that long. It will never cease to amaze me that I would not be here, doing this, if it wasn't for her support and encouragement.

Technical details...everything was shot on Canon 5D3's, along with an array of Rokinon lenses. I got sick of lens-twisting (mostly of FORGETTING to lens twist) so I mainly used those manual lenses on this trip. Everything was processed using LR Timelapse, Lightroom, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

I'm in absolute love with this film. The stuff I saw rivaled anything I've ever seen on the plains minus that insane Booker supercell in 2013. We saw four tornadoes (one of them appears in a deleted scene at the very end of the film), countless supercells, gorgeous shelf clouds, stunning mammatus and some awesome lightning shows. The song..well, the song for this film blew my mind. I loved it when I heard it, but then seeing how everything started coming together on the timeline, the pace, the slow build-up, the huge ending...I've said it before, but the song is 50% of the film. Thank you again Kerry for everything!

All this movie does it fuel me to want to do better next year and this summer in Arizona. Stay tuned for Monsoon II and for The Chase II next spring!

I sincerely hope you enjoy and share this film around. Thank you!

End of July Weekend Links

End of July?  Already?  Pretty much.  Anyway, here are a few stories I came across this weekend:

Last Race in Sonoma: Twilight for "Top the Cops" - SBNation

The Three Burials of Tony Ayala Jr. - Texas Monthly

Before Beane - Grantland 

Bill Nye on the Monsanto Eco Disaster: 'We Accidentally Decimated the Monarch Butterfly Population' - AlternetLuckily, the milkweed population seems to be making a comeback locally in roadside ditches and abandoned pastures.

The Mysterious Oxfordshire Sheep Panic of 1888 - EsoterX

Boozy Root Beer Is About To Be Huge - Bloomberg.  Dad had to reserve some at the package store today.  Personally, I'm not too sure about that combination of sugar and alcohol.  Interestingly (at least to me), this brand got bought up by Pabst.

How An 11-Year-Old Boy Invented The Popsicle - The Salt

Meet 'Fried Jesus,' the State Fair Food Genius Who Invented Deep-Fried Butter - Vice

A denim twofer.  Distressed Denim: Levis Tries to Adapt to the Yoga Pants Era - Bloomberg and Forget Shorts, Jeans Made With Jade Help Chinese Beat the Heat - Bloomberg

Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table - New York Times

The Singular Mind of Terry Tao - New York Times

Cleveland Wants To Make Sure the Next Wright Brothers Come From the Rust Belt - NextCity.  The Rust Belt: home of the first Wright Brothers.

The Vegas Plot - The California Sunday Magazine

How to Charge $1000 for Absolutely Nothing - priceonomics

Road Hazard: How the 'Embarrassing' Gas Tax Impasse Explains Washington - ProPublica

Scott Walker: We might have to take military action on Day One - Washington Post.  Shorter Walker: Vote for me, I'm just as big of a blowhard idiot as Donald Trump, and with better hair.

John Kasich Barges Into The Race - The Atlantic.  As scary as it is, Kasich may be the most sensible candidate in the GOP not named Bush.  God help us all.

America's Craziest Governor Goes Off The Rails - Politico.  Surprisingly, not in the Midwest, the South or the Mountain West.  Perhaps the perfect example of the lunatics elected in off-year elections.

Can Auto Shed Its Tiers? - Labor Notes

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Massive Ranches

Bloomberg looks at several large ranches, including the King Ranch and the Mormon Church's massive ranch in Florida.  But the biggest is in Australia:
If you don’t have $725 million for the Waggoner Ranch, the world’s largest working cattle ranch is on the market. Australia’s remote Anna Creek Station clocks in at roughly 6 million acres—more than seven times the size of King Ranch in Texas–and its sale package will include 160,000 head of cattle.
6 million acres and 160,000 head of cattle?  Wow.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kasich Ridiculously Suggests U.S. Navy Is Too Small

Columbus Dispatch:
As he prepares to announce his quest for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, Gov. John Kasich is poised to call for a major increase in the size of the U.S. Navy, saying that the American fleet has “really eroded.”
Although Kasich has not said how many ships he wants to add, he has made clear his belief that the current Navy of 272 ships is not large enough to deter China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, attack Islamic State militants in Iraq and maintain a strong presence in the Atlantic Ocean.
That's John Kasich's big foreign policy position?  Consider how much bigger our navy is than any other in the world:
The U.S. Navy has 288 battle force ships, of which typically a third are underway at any given time. The U.S. Navy has 10 aircraft carriers, nine amphibious assault ships, 22 cruisers, 62 destroyers, 17 frigates and 72 submarines. In addition to ships, the U.S. Navy has 3,700 aircraft, making it the second largest air force in the world. At 323,000 active and 109,000 personnel, it is also the largest navy in terms of manpower.
What makes the U.S. Navy stand out the most is its 10 aircraft carriers—more than the rest of the world put together. Not only are there more of them, they’re also much bigger: a single Nimitz-class aircraft carrier can carry twice as many planes (72) as the next largest foreign carrier. Unlike the air wings of other countries, which typically concentrate on fighters, a typical U.S. carrier air wing is a balanced package capable of air superiority, strike, reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions.
Compare that to China, the world's second largest navy:
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has come a long way in the last 25 years. The spectacular growth of the Chinese economy, which fueled a tenfold defense-budget increase since 1989, has funded a modern navy. From a green-water navy consisting of obsolete destroyers and fast attack boats, the PLAN has grown into a true blue-water fleet.
The PLAN currently has one aircraft carrier, three amphibious transports, 25 destroyers, 42 frigates, eight nuclear attack submarines and approximately 50 conventional attack submarines. The PLAN is manned by 133,000 personnel, including the Chinese Marine Corps, which consists of two brigades of 6,000 marines each.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force provides fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for China’s new aircraft carrier, helicopters for surface ships, and shore-based fighter, attack and patrol aircraft. The PLANAF has 650 aircraft, including J-15 carrier-based fighters, J-10 multirole fighters, Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and Z-9 antisubmarine warfare aircraft.
Or take a look at this graphic:

 Oh shit, Italy has 2 aircraft carriers!  Hey, let's take a look at the ISIS navy:

No, seriously, I remember the USS Cole attack.  However, ISIS is in possession of a bunch of useless desert, and has nothing more than a couple Zodiac boats that could pass for a navy (which unfortunately can blow a bigass hole in a U.S. warship).  The fact is, the U.S. Navy is a ridiculously oversized force which is possibly vulnerable to missile attack and hasn't fought a real naval battle in almost 50 years.  There is possibly no less useful defense expenditure than building a larger navy just because we used to have more ships than we do now.  It seems like John Kasich looked around and said, "what ridiculous and wasteful defense program haven't the other dumbfuck Republican candidates put forward?  Oh, a bigger navy, that's what I'll go with."  He's proud he limited the billions of dollars we flushed down the toilet on the B-2 bomber (which my grandpa helped design), but he's come up with an equally wasteful project to champion in his tilt at the Republican nomination windmill.  God help us, Republicans are useless idiots.

The Coming Water Crisis

A June 2015 NASA study found that 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers—in locations from India and China to the United States and France—have passed their sustainability tipping points, putting hundreds of millions at risk. Stunningly, more than half the rivers in China have disappeared since 1990. Asia’s Aral Sea and Africa’s Lake Chad—once the fourth- and sixth-largest lakes in the world, respectively—have all but dried up due to unremitting use for export-oriented crop irrigation.

In Brazil, almost 2 trillion gallons of water are extracted every year to produce sugarcane ethanol. Cutting down the Amazon rain forests has dramatically reduced the amount of rain in the hydrologic cycle. Healthy rain forests produce massive amounts of moisture that are carried on air currents called “flying rivers” and supply rain to São Paulo thousands of miles away. The destruction of the rain forests and groundwater mining for biofuels has created a killing drought in a country once considered the most water-rich in the world. Not surprisingly, large-scale cutoffs and water rationing are taking a toll on millions of poor Brazilians.

The story repeats itself in the North. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Ogallala Aquifer is so overburdened that it “is going to run out…beyond reasonable argument.” The use of bore-well technology to draw precious groundwater for the production of water-intensive corn ethanol is a large part of this story. For decades, California has massively engineered its water systems through pipelines, canals, and aqueducts so that a small number of powerful farmers in places like the Central Valley can produce water-intensive crops for export. Over-extraction is also putting huge pressure on the Great Lakes, whose receding shorelines tell the story.
It is scary to think of the Great Lakes shrinking, but one would think that as much rain as that watershed has received this year that water levels would increase.  Overall, though, the stress put on the environment by 7 billion people is incredible.  The impacts in the Amazon watershed are terrifying.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Revenge of the Lobster?

I see the makings of a summer thriller:

Ghawar vs. Bakken

Ghawar is the world’s oil spigot. It’s the biggest conventional field in the world’s biggest-producing country, Saudi Arabia. Statistics about Ghawar—a narrow, deep deposit in porous limestone—are a state secret. The best guess, according to Rasoul Sorkhabi, a geology professor at the University of Utah, is that the field accounts for about 60 percent of Saudi oil.
As such, Ghawar is the country’s lever on oil prices. Too high, and the Saudis open the nozzle; too low, and they close it a bit. They’ve been pumping a lot of oil of late—the nation produced a record 10.6 million barrels a day in June, according to data the country provided to OPEC—in part to drive U.S. shale drillers out of business.
Wildcatters tapping the Bakken in North Dakota, after all, face a much different deposit. Picture a shallow lake of oil sprawling under the Great Plains for hundreds of miles, trapped in dolomite. That requires fracking, and fracking costs money. New wells in the best part of the Bakken break even at $29, according to the North Dakota state government.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, can produce oil from existing wells for $5 a barrel, Ali al-Naimi, Saudi minister of petroleum and mineral resources, said in December.
Tough numbers for the wildcatters.

NASA Photo of the Day

July 14:
New Horizons Passes Pluto and Charon
Image Credit & Copyright: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Inst.
Explanation: Will the New Horizons spacecraft survive its closest approach to Pluto and return useful images and data? Humanity will know in a few hours. Regardless of how well it functions, New Horizon's rapid speed will take it whizzing past Pluto and its moons today, with the time of closest approach being at 11:50 UT (7:50 am EDT). To better take images and data, though, the robotic spacecraft was preprogrammed and taken intentionally out of contact with the Earth until about 1:00 am UT July 15, which corresponds to about 9:00 pm EDT on July 14. Therefore, much of mankind will be holding its breath through this day, hoping that the piano-sized spacecraft communicates again with ground stations on Earth. Hopefully, at that time, New Horizons will begin beaming back new and enlightening data about a world that has remained remote and mysterious since its discovery 85 years ago. Featured above is a New Horizons composite image of the moon Charon (left) and Pluto (right) taken 3 days ago, already showing both worlds in unprecedented detail.


Chuck Jones - The Evolution of an Artist

Chuck Jones - The Evolution of an Artist from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

A Wall Street Journal Headline I Can Agree With

Please, Cubs, Don’t Win!

The Chicago I grew up in was a place of distinction. Everyone was boasting. All the time. We had the biggest, deepest, grandest and most storied everything. Tallest tower—Sears. Largest outdoor illuminated fountain—Buckingham. Bloodiest stockyards—Union. One of our baseball teams had thrown the World Series, and the other was the Cubs. At Wrigley Field, I saw a kid, a little kid, the sort that might be damaged by such a thing, wearing a shirt that had big words (Chicago Cubs World Champs) over tiny numbers—1908. Whenever I meet complaining Mets or Yankees fans, I tell them about some of the things that have come and gone since the Cubs last won the World Series: Communism and fascism, disco, moon boots, grunge. Of course, the bleacher bums take pride in it. If you’re going to suck, you might as well suck longer and harder and in a more serious fashion than anyone has ever sucked before—that’s the Chicago way.
My father, who grew up in Brooklyn, warned me not to fall in love with the Cubs. He said a Cubs fan will have a bad life, as such a fan will come to regard defeat as the natural end of all human endeavor. It was these words, as much as anything, that paved my way to fanaticism. Who can reject such a challenge? By age 12, I was riding the El to Addison Street dressed in blue. I have screamed myself hoarse in the course of 35 futile seasons. The standout players drift through my memory like trading cards: Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace. The journeymen, too, those who burned for a few weeks in some otherwise bleak August. Barry Foote, Ivan DeJesus, Keith Moreland. Anyone who ever played for the team was marked by the experience, touched by contagion, which they carried wherever they went. When Bill Buckner, playing first base for the Red Sox, let that grounder go through his legs in the 1986 World Series, we knew he was really doing it as a Cub.
In other words, my father was right.
I hope that fan gets his wish.  The article also features a video of Steve Goodman's "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request."