Archive for the ‘California’ Category

SF Day Two

June 29, 2017

After a very active day yesterday, A. (six) slept in until nine!  Don’t think he’s ever done that before. Had a great breakfast at the Church Street Cafe, where the espresso drinks are labeled Fancy Drinks on the menu.  Then my brother’s son, Ian, joined us (taking the day off from work) to go to the Exploratorium.  According to Wikipedia:

The Exploratorium is a public learning laboratory in San Francisco exploring the world through science, art, and human perception. Its mission is to create inquiry-based experiences that transform learning worldwide.

It used to be housed in the cavernous—and very empty—Palace of Fine Arts, which was once part of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in Golden Gate Park.  Took my kids there many years ago.  Now it’s on Pier 15 along San Francisco’s Embarcadero.  We took a trolley to get there.  They run up and down Market Street, the Embarcadero, and Fisherman’s Wharf, and are restored vintage trolleys from all over the world.  (See these pictures: streetcars.)

A. had another pal now, and the two of them dashed around from exhibit to exhibit while my brother and I lagged behind, reading some of the text.  (The purpose of the interactive exhibits, of course, if to learn why something happens.)

Here are A. and Ian in a parabolic mirror, and (right) watching their slow motion video.  Then my strobe light photo, and Ian taking a photo of his.

 

Next, my brother viewing his stop-action photo, the water drop image of him upside down.

We ate lunch at the SeaGlass Restaurant there, the sushi chef (at left in this photo from their website) making a dish for me and A.  Ian got a nice vegetarian dish (which could have been Mexican, as he and his girlfriend had spent six months in Mexico City last year).  Forgot what my brother got, but it included french fries.

We continued dashing about, until the dissection of a cow’s eye, where we sat, upstairs, and which was very interesting.  Can’t even start to relate all of the exhibits we saw, but we were there for over five hours.

Then we had to catch a trolley back to The Castro to meet Ian’s girlfriend, J., for dinner.  First trolley too full for the four of us to squeeze on.  The next one, just as crowded, didn’t bother to stop.  So we thought to hail a cab.  Only two went by us, and they were full.  Finally Ian called an Uber driver.   Then we were caught in rush hour traffic (which is why a trolley would have been better, but the next one was in half-an-hour).  Were twenty minutes late for our six o’clock reservation.  Luckily they held the table at Pauline’s Pizza.  (Homegrown ingredients go into the pies & salads at this family-friendly pizzeria with a wine room.)  Ian and J. are vegetarians, so we all split two pizzas, one with a Salted Meyer Lemon Puree, blueberries, mint, and goat cheese (yummy!), the other asparagus, kale, and something else that was green (the Green of the Day?).  Plus nice wines.  We walked back to our motel and A. got to bed a bit late.

Had to get up early for the drive to the Oakland airport.  A. and I had our breakfast there.  Had our lunch (not much, as we were still full!) in Los Angeles, then the final flight home.  (No delays!)  What a nice week.

https://www.exploratorium.edu/

San Francisco with a Six-Year-Old

June 27, 2017

On Thursday my brother, my grandson, A., and I drove into San Francisco.  We went immediately to the The California Academy of Sciences.  (For you other architects, LEED Platinum status.)  These quotes from their website.

…a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth.  Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum—all under one living roof.

Keeping a six-year-old on track was a bit difficult, but we zipped about, and saw most of the museum except for the living roof.

We walked under the four-story living rainforest, which is a section of the aquarium.

The Steinhart Aquarium is one of the most advanced and biologically diverse aquariums in the world, home to the world’s deepest indoor living coral reef, an albino alligator, …a shark lagoon and more than 38,000 live animals representing over 900 species.

The aquarium was a big hit, especially where they allowed the kids to touch (just with two fingers) the sea stars.  I liked the jellyfish.  A. took lots of photos with the phone his mom had lent him.  And he learned how to focus and enlarge.

Even the lunch there was great. A. wanted sushi, and, it being California, I figured it was very fresh. We split a pack.

We watched the feeding of the African penguins, but A. wasn’t interested in the dioramas of African landscapes and animals in the Kimball Natural History Museum, because the animals were stuffed.

We walked up to the top of the four-story Osher Rainforest, housed in a 90-foot glass dome and teeming with life from some of the most biodiverse places on Earth—from… free-flying birds and butterflies to enormous Amazonian fish.
(Photo of dome from zoochat.com, which has a lot of information.)

Snakes such as the Madagascar leaf-nosed snake were fun because they hid in plain sight (photo Wikipedia).  Also geckos, chameleons, and the tiny poison dart frogs.  (These were all in separate terrariums.)

The whale and dinosaur bones were no big deal, nor the minerals.  But we went into the Earthquake Shake House to experience San Francisco’s two biggest quakes—the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake [1989, which my brother was in] and the 7.9-magnitude Great San Francisco quake of 1906.  That was fun, and informative.

And when we started to lag, we sat for half an hour learning about asteroids and comets in the newest planetarium show.  The Morrison Planetarium

…is home to one of the largest and most advanced all-digital domes in the world. The Academy’s Visualization Studio produces award-winning original planetarium shows that tell stories about faraway galaxies—and our home planet Earth—using scientific data to depict the most current discoveries.

Note: A. said this was the best day, possibly because we went to the gift shop and he spent his $20 on a Plasma Ball, which shall be a great nightlight for someone who doesn’t like the dark, in addition to being fun to play with.

A. requested clams for dinner, so we went to an excellent but tiny fish restaurant, the Anchor Oyster Bar.  My brother doesn’t even like fish, but he’s cool, and had a shrimp dinner.  It’s walking distance from Becks Motor Lodge in The Castro district, where we were staying, because it is reasonable, right on a trolley line, and has free parking.

Kinda sorry that we missed the 47th annual Pride Parade, as it was on Sunday, and we left on Saturday. (These photo two of many from sfgate.com.)  Would have been an eye-opener for a six-year-old.

Water

June 27, 2017

Other than my daughter’s pool, not much water around here.  So my brother and I (his wife has just had knee surgery) took A. to the creek one day, to play with a small sailboat.

The next day we went to One of the Most Deadly Beaches in California, Jenner Beach.  The Russian River runs into the Pacific there, where harbor seals raise their young.  Obviously we did not go into the water at the beach, but made an intricate sand castle.

On the way back we stopped to watch a paraglider on Goat Rock, but he wasn’t airborne, so no photo. Here are two from my last time at that beach:

 

When we made a stop at Whole Foods to buy a few items for the evening’s hot pot, A. chose clams!  Not sure he had ever had them before, and my sister-in-law had never cooked them before, but for dinner he ate six of the eight!

Cazadero 2017

June 27, 2017

Visited my brother and his wife in California with my six-year-old grandson, A.  Had a fun time flying a week ago Sunday.  The family dropped us up at the airport; an hour-and-a-half later, when we were supposed to be boarding, we were told that the plane was broken (crack in windshield), and we’d have to wait four hours for another plane.  (This being summer in Tucson, there were only two other planes at the airport, both full of people escaping the heat.)

So… called my daughter, 45 minutes away.  They had to get their daughter, B., to the airport in the afternoon to catch a plane to visit her grandfather, so they drove back and we had a Mexican lunch in South Tucson.  Then back to the airport, where the whole family got to go to the gate, as my granddaughter is under 13, flying unaccompanied.  What a great Father’s Day at the airport my son-in-law had!  (The loud family – as in SNL – was next to us – four kids, the two-year-old screaming.  A. stared, unbelieving.)  After B. left, A. and I still had two hours until our flight to Salt Lake City, where we were to change planes.  The SLC airport was fun – moving walkways!  For dinner,during our two-hour layover, we ate the PB&J sandwiches my daughter had packed for our lunch.  (A young woman in a lightweight backless white top – a very lacy pink bra showing totally in back, and jeggings.  With her a young man with one full sleeve of tattoos, curly hair past his shoulders, and a camouflage baseball cap on backwards.)

At the last minute, a flight delay to CA of half-an-hour was announced. We didn’t leave until 10:30 pm.  Did I mention that my grandson is six?  He watched two movies on his Kindle, a power cord connected to a power pole between seats.  I had called my brother twice to keep him apprised of the situation.  He greeted us at 11:15 in Oakland, and we still had a two-and-a-half hour drive to northern Sonoma.

This was Delta airlines, whose entire computer system had gone out two weeks ago.  Flying is so much fun.  (Or why can’t someone invent a transporter?)

Monday we went geocaching.  (See this blog from Idaho re geocaching: geocaching.)

We couldn’t open the first box we found, so, “thinking it was not the cache”, we crossed the bridge, skidded down a hillside, waded across the shallow river and climbed back up the “cliff” under the bridge.  Tried the box again and got it opened.  Did two more locations on the interactive map.  A. got a Smoky the Bear pin for his brother and a “diamond” ring for his mom.  He traded them for Prized Items he had found in Uncle Grandpa Dick’s workroom.

BTW – it was 89° there and 113° in Tucson that day.

The March

January 24, 2017

img_6756The sky in Tucson intermittently drizzled on the morning of January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s Inaugural, but still 15,000 people (here, in this little cow town!) showed up at Armory Park downtown, for rousing talks and music, followed by a v-e-r-y slow “march” to the library, to merge with the Solidarity Rally.  Many imaginative chants were used to buoy our spirits, such as, We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!  Imagine how many more would have joined us if the weather had been good.

Stiltwalkers, I guess from TCA (Tucson Circus Arts), including a pussyhatbearded guy in pregnant woman’s garb, top right.  (You can click on photos to enlarge.)

Pussyhats.  I was rather clueless about that, even though the project4 started Thanksgiving weekend.

We were so crowded together that I only saw one couple I knew, but found out from friends’ Facebook posts that many more were there.  piñataBecause the downtown streets are so narrow, it took us more than an hour to go 0.6 miles.  (I didn’t get any good photos, but here are a few, including a piñata.  I was either shooting into the rain or the sun.  And wasn’t clever enough to have someone take a photo of me…)  Rain started to fall the moment Donald Trump began giving his first speech as US President.8  But the sun did come out here in Tucson; Annie had said that it would:

The sun will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There’ll be sun…

 

Local law enforcement officials said more than 20,000 people participated in Phoenix … and 1,200 in Flagstaff, which faced a snowstorm the night before.1
nancy

San Diego police estimate 30,000 to 40,000 people participated in the Women’s March in downtown San Diego.  (Photo of a friend – center – who was there.)

 

But dwarfing us, of course, were the half a million people marching in Washington, DC!  (Left EarthCam.) More than the attendees to the inauguration! (Right EarthCam.)

Plus, unlike Trump’s failure to attract A-list celebrities, the DC March had Alicia Keys, Gloria Steinem, Madonna, Cher, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Kerry, Scarlett Johansson, and Michael Moore.

march-on-dctrump-inauguration

It was 23 degrees and snowing in Park City, Utah1, which is hosting the Sundance Film Festival right now, but they had Charlize Theron and other celebrities, and thousands marching.

cousin-lynnlangley-waMy cousin (the other Lynn Blair) drove two hours from Sequim, Washington to Langley, on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, to march in her Pussyhat.  She wrote,cousin-melissa

I actually didn’t know about the hats until Greg said “they are running out of pink yarn”—well, not in Sequim, so I got mine made just in time!

The turnouts around the world were heartwarming-  now  let’s get to work!

There were approximately 100,000 participants at Women’s March on Denver.  (Photo of my cousin there – third from left.)

nyc-2New York, Trump’s home town, had 250,000 marchers, Helen Mirren and Whoopi Goldberg.  (My niece was there – her appliqué “Smash The Patriarchy”.)

Chicago had a quarter of a million too.  Boston had 100,000 marchers and Elizabeth Warren, among others.  But Los Angeles had more marchers than DC, with three quarter of a million!

President Trump tweets on Women’s March protesters: “Why didn’t these people vote?”

With all the numbers in, Clinton ended up winning 65,844,610 votes, which is 48.2% of the total votes. That vote total is good enough to give Clinton the third most votes of any presidential candidate in history (Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 elections are first and second, respectively).3

A friend posted this video on her Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/omgfactsofficial/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

womenantarcticAnd there were also 673 marches around the world!  The estimate is 4,814,000 Sister Marchers!  Check out the website – it lists all of the cities in the world who participated!5  Even 30 people “marching” in Antarctica!  (Good video on this website.)6 Map:7

march-map
1http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2017/01/21/phoenix-womens-march-sister-washington-capitol/96849890/
2https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/01/21/sundancemarch/?utm_term=.e65b399b6f2f
3http://www.dailywire.com/news/11777/how-many-votes-did-trump-and-clinton-get-final-james-barrett
4https://www.pussyhatproject.com/
5https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters/
6http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2017/01/21/womens-march-around-the-world-orig-sg.cnn
7http://us.pressfrom.com/news/world/-20317-worldwide-people-rally-in-support-of-women-s-march-on-washington/
8http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-rain-speech-inauguration-president-us-sign-prophecy-a7538686.html

Water

May 6, 2015

California is cutting its water usage.  I emailed my brother, who lives in Sonoma County, and his son has a small apartment in San Francisco:

I spoke with the guy in charge of our water consortium, and he told me we’re ‘under the radar’ as we all use waaay less water than the most minimal users. I’m pretty sure Ian is also a low user…apartment renters aren’t watering lawns etc.  The most water I ever used was in Orinda, and we got charged very large penalties during the first drought.

Also emailed friends in San Diego:

Are you having mandatory water cuts?  As you no longer have a lawn to be watered, and I’ve never seen you wash a car in your driveway, are you going to have to start taking showers every other day?

She answered:

We already only shower twice a week…  only cut I can think of is to replace the toilets.  It’s going to be hard for us to meet the goal of a 35% cut.

Rain

clouds 008

Three words you generally don’t find in the same sentence: Tucson, Rain, May.  However, the past two days I awoke to the patter of raindrops.  Billowy clouds edged the sky.  The air was cooler and softer, yet the humidity was only 29%.  Today the clouds have thinned out and the humidity is back to 12%.

Plastic bags 

139 cities and counties in California have banned the use of plastic bags1.  Guess the major political party of the governor and legislature.  Arizona has passed a law to make it illegal for cities to ban plastic bags2. Guess the major political party of the governor and legislature.

Read

Victor LaValle’s new novel, The Devil in Silver (Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012, New York Times Notable Book 2012), takes place in a mental hospital where the protagonist is dropped for the convenience of the cops who arrest him.  All of the patients are so drugged up, for the convenience of the hospital personnel, that they are barely able to function.

Different from 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, which you might have read, or the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson, which you might have seen.  That book is mentioned in The Devil in Silver:  Four of the patients are at their book club. A nurse has suggested a book for them to read.

“How about Ken Kesey?” Josephine suggested. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? That book meant a lot to me in high school. I think you all might really like it.”

Sammy frowned. Well, why don’t you read Slaughterhouse Five to a roomful of cattle.”

Josephine didn’t give up. “I just thought you all might like it because it’s about a mental hospital.”

Dorry took off her glasses, which instantly made her look less nuts. Her eyes were smaller, and she seemed younger by ten years. She blew on the lenses, and small specks of dust, flakes of skin, and dandruff fell like flurries toward the tabletop. She put the glasses back on and, nutty again, looked at the nurse.

“Here’s what you have to understand about that book, Josephine. As good as it is, it isn’t about mentally ill people. It takes place in a mental hospital, yes. But that book is about the way a certain young generation felt that society was designed to destroy them. Make them into thoughtless parts of a machine. To lobotomize them. That book is about them, not about people like us.”

Josephine stammered, trying to respond, but Dorry didn’t stop talking.

“If you remember the patients who really mattered in that story, most of them were voluntary. Do you remember what the main characters called the other ones? The ones who would never leave because they could never be cured?”

“No,” Josephine admitted quietly.

“The Chronics. Most of them were vegetables. Brain-deads. Maybe violent. Chronically sick. Diagnosed as everlastingly damaged. All of us here at Northwest? That’s who we are. Northwest is nothing but Chronics. We’ve all been committed, and most of us are not voluntary. So why would we want to read a book that barely mentions us except to tell us we’re f–d in the anus?”

Well, maybe that quote doesn’t catch your fancy.  But the book does have a lot to say about mental hospitals, and there is a bit of humor.  (But no guns or car chases, and the romance is very short.)

Bugs

spiderMade from used computer parts1, watch parts and light bulbs2:

bug

1http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/30/news/california-plastic-bag-ban/
2http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/arizona-lawmakers-tell-cities-they-cant-ban-plastic-bags/2015/04/30/6f6939c0-ef57-11e4-8050-839e9234b303_story.html
3http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/04/nintendo-insects/
4http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2012/11/mechanical-arthropods-and-insects-made-from-watch-parts-and-light-bulbs/

Earth Day

April 22, 2015

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

earth dayIf you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.  -Carl Sagan.

I shall celebrate Earth Day by looking at flowers, contemplating national parks, and appreciating the wild animals around me.

The desert continues to bloom beautifully.  The brittlebush which edge the roads are finished with their yellow blossoms, but the palo verdes have taken over.  The Desert Museum palo verde that I have in front is a dud.  Don’t buy one!  Here are the palo verdes down the street:

earth day 007
But even though my palo verde is a dud, the blackfoot daisies, yellow lantana, and aloes are blooming attractively out front.

earth day 005

Today I braked for a roadrunner; yesterday it was quail.  Neither bird likes to fly.  The roadrunner loped across the road; the quail skittered.  And there was a coyote checking out my yard outside the fence this morning.  Have not seen any bobcats, deer, or javelina recently.

The White House blog is following Earth Day: This morning, the President is heading to the Florida Everglades along with Bill Nye the Science Guy and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. 
https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/04/22/follow-along-earth-day-2015

Yosemite

John Muir’s birthday was yesterday.  I remember “meeting” him.  We had taken the kids to Yosemite many years ago, and the theater there had a one-man show, an actor playing John Muir.  Excellent.  But even better was the same actor, in character, giving Yosemite tours during the day, pointing out spots “he” liked, talking about “his” cabin and the rattlesnake which lived under it.  Marvelous!

The naturalist John Muir is so closely associated with Yosemite National Park—after all, he helped draw up its proposed boundaries in 1889, wrote the magazine articles that led to its creation in 1890 and co-founded the Sierra Club in 1892 to protect it…1

john muir

1http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/john-muirs-yosemite-10737/?no-ist

The Dead Animal Museum

April 10, 2015

dead animal museumArizona always does so well in the news.  Now Tucson’s Dead Animal Museum (also known as the International Wildlife Museum) is getting zinged.  Don’t go there! 

Many many many years ago I had taken my visiting mother-in-law on an Opera Dames Tucson Annual Home Tour.  One of the foothills homes had a gymnasium-sized building next to the house filled with stuffed dead animals!  I was appalled.   Then, apparently, the owner decided that he could make money displaying his trophies, so he had a fake-medieval castle built on the west side of town and charged $6 to get in.  He even has dead penguins.  Who shots penguins?  Read the article.

TUCSON — ON the outskirts of this city stands a fake-medieval castle with an elk statue atop its battlements. In the courtyard is a bronze relief of a man shouldering his rifle — one C. J. McElroy, a Texan who founded both this International Wildlife Museum in 1988 and, before that, in the early 1970s, Safari Club International, the trophy hunters’ group that’s headquartered here.

…the McElroy Hall, where hundreds of disembodied heads, many from animals shot by the museum’s founder, are lined up in long rows on knotty pine walls. The room is a monument to the scale of these kills. (Mr. McElroy reportedly took more than 100 safaris on six continents; his obituary says he claimed 425 trophies in the safari club’s record book.)
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/stuffed-animals-with-an-agenda.html?_r=0

More About SF

When I was in San Francisco I saw my nephew a few times.  At one point, we were in a Japanese restaurant owned by a friend of his, and she joined us at our table to say that she had to move the restaurant because the rent had gone up.  So we discussed gentrification and how the Google people in SF (who have their own free bus to the office compound), are able to pay higher rents so the price of everything has gone up.  Mom and Pop restaurants (the one we were in only had six tables) are being replaced by high-end bars, small groceries by high-priced gourmet food, and so on.  My nephew and his girlfriend will probably have to move out of the city, and he’ll miss being able to walk everywhere. Anyway, last Sunday there was an article in the Times on a similar theme: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/nyregion/a-cranky-blogger-crusades-to-preserve-the-ordinary-in-new-york.html

Seen today

As I was on the phone at my desk this morning two young coyotes ambled across the driveway.  Probably the twins that had been in the yard last July.1  When I got to the college half a dozen students were staring up into a mesquite tree; there was a great-horned owl staring down at them.  (Aside: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… well, actually, just in the house my kids were raised in, a great-horned owl sat on the back wall.  I brought both of the dogs in so they wouldn’t bother it and was watching the owl from the sliding door when I looked down – both dogs, the cat, and both kids were staring, fascinated, at the owl too.)

Pima College 

Our beneficent governor has signed a bill which cuts $166M from K-12, cuts $99M from our three universities, and cuts all state funding for Pima and Maricopa community colleges for 2016.  (Regarding taxes, in Arizona if you earn between  $50K and  $150K you pay 4.24%; over that you pay 4.54%.  That hasn’t changed ’cause it’s so fair.)  Guess you can tell that he and the most of the legislature are Republicans.

pieI looked into the 2014 budget (couldn’t find 2015) for Pima College: Instruction + Academic Support get 33% of the pie. Student Services + Institutional Support (40%) = 53%.  And here I thought that the college was here for academics.  Silly me.

Then I saw an article in Sunday’s Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/the-real-reason-college-tuition-costs-so-much.html 

Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

Their administrators outnumber the faculty members, 12,183 to 12,019!

1https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/twins/

So open up your golden gate…

March 29, 2015

Flew into San Francisco two weeks ago to visit my brother, D, in Cazadero (population 294), Sonoma County.  We both teach and have the same spring break.

Sunday went to Bodega Head to watch for whales.  Three had been by already, but it was going to be another hour-and-a-half until more showed up (they were on the phone communicating with others further south), said one of the docents who had a table set up at the end of the parking lot, full of whale books, a chart of different whales, a sample of baleen, a whale vertebrae, and so on. They recognized my brother.  Turns out they’re not only into whales, but volunteer at the bird rescue1 with D.  We started chatting and the husband mentioned that he had gotten a degree from U of A, and had worked in optical sciences, which had just been discussed at the last science lecture that I had attended. It’s a small world, after all.  (If you’ve been on that ride at Disneyland, that song should be ringing in your mind now…)  We didn’t stay for the whales, but left to taste wine.

Sonoma Wineries

We visited two wineries (Fort Ross2 and Joseph Phelps3) that were on the list of Best of Sonoma, but their wines were too expensive for me.  The next day we researched, starting with cards that I had gotten for free tasting, culling half that D said were too far, and then getting the number down to four that had wines (specifically whites, as I have been drinking more of them with my fish, chicken, and salad meals, and I still have a number of reds in my wine cabinet) that I could afford.

Started with the Taft Street Winery, with an unpreposesing building, not on Taft Street, but Barlow Lane, Sebastopol.  They do not have their own vinards, but buy all of their grapes.  They advertise, Garage Crafted, Russian River Valley.

Like the renegade Bordeaux winemakers known as “Garagistes,” Taft Street began in a garage rather than a grand chateau, stressing quality without pretense.

They had a nice 2013 Pinot Gris, which I bought, but a marvelous Chardonnay Russian River that I purchased a bottle of despite it being over my price range because it was so delicious. My one splurge.

Stopped at Geyser Peak.  Told the sommelier (or was she merely a pourer?) that I could only afford the California  Series, the least expensive of the four tiers, and she replied that I would do better going across the street to the grocery store, as they bought the wine in large quantities and their prices were better.  But she gave us a few tastings, and I didn’t like them anyway.

Next went to Rued Winery, with its rolling hills of vines.  The first wine of the flight that we tried was a 2013 Pinot Grigio Dry Creek Valley that I absolutely loved. Got two bottles. Then there were two great Chardonnays. The first, 2014 Russian River Chardonnay,  didn’t even taste like a chard – not buttery or oaky; it had been aged in a stainless steel cask. I bought one and so did D, and he hardly ever drinks wine, preferring ale.

Wednesday we spent the day with friends of D’s from when they had all worked for Colossal Pictures.  I found the most entertaining gossip about Stephen Hillenburg, who they had worked with and who created SpongeBob SquarePants.  (D did not know him, having only worked for a short time in animation.)  Anyway, Hillenburg had not taken the hundred thousand or whatever he was offered by (maybe) Disney, as he wanted to retain control.  So now he has the TV show,  the t-shirts, the dolls and all, the movie  (which he did write).  Probably worth  $$$$$ but, they said, still just a nice guy.  Interesting afternoon.

Science Lecture

That evening we went to a California Academy of Sciences Conversations on Science lecture on Minds of Their Own: Animal Intelligence with Virginia Morell, whose recent book is Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures.  She was interviewed by Roy Eisenhardt, who has interviewed such luminaries as Stephen King, Gene Wilder, Desmond Tutu – you get the idea.

(California Academy of Sciences is a relatively new science museum in Golden Gate Park.  I had toured it back in 2008, just after it opened, as an architect, because the building had received a LEED platinum award, with old bluejeans being used for insulation, a green roof covered in wildflowers and so on. Back to the lecture.)

The rigorous test by scientists for intelligence in animals was discussed.  Jane Goodall could not say that the chimp conspired with her to get a banana after the alpha male  (haven eaten the entire rope of bananas without sharing) fell asleep, because that would have been anthropomorphizing.  And there is debate as to whether an earthworm is intelligent when it chooses between four materials put before it to close its tunnel.

Alex the parrot  (now deceased, but if you haven’t heard of him, you can easily find a YouTube video, or read the book, as I have, Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence–and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process) is a marvelous example of intelligence as he used English; he didn’t just “parrot” it back.  (He made fun of one of the other parrots he didn’t like. Say better, he’d call out from his corner, which meant Griffin should speak more clearly.)  The Economist magazine devoted the whole of its obituary page to him when he died.

Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz

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The next day we went to Alcatraz to see the show by Ai Weiwei: @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz5, 9/27/14 – 4/26/15.

“The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”
— Ai Weiwei

With Wind

SF 008The first room held With Wind.

He says that for him, the dragon represents not imperial authority, but personal freedom: “everybody has this power.” The individual kites that make up the dragon’s body carry quotations from activists who have been imprisoned or exiled, including Nelson Mandela, Edward Snowden, [both shown here] and Ai himself.

SF mandelaSF snowdon

 

 

 

Trace

The next room in the New Industries Building was Trace, carpets of Legos, with portraits of 176 people from around the world who have been imprisoned or exiled because of their beliefs or affiliations.  Photos here show Aun San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King (among others), and pages of the notebooks around telling what each person was incarcerated for.   Notice that the US is guilty also.  (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

SF 027 SF suu kyi

 

 

 

 

 

SF MLK

SF kid

SF USA

Stay Tuned

dickPhoto of my brother in one of the cells.  (They are quite small.)  The three-legged stools are heavy metal made by Ai Weiwei and I believe bolted down.

This sound installation occupies a series of twelve cells in A Block. Inside each cell, visitors are invited to sit and listen to spoken words, poetry, and music by people who have been detained for the creative expression of their beliefs, as well as works made under conditions of incarceration. Each cell features a different recording.

Blossom

SF 054Ai’s father, the renowned poet Ai Qing, and his family were sent to a labor camp in the 50’s. He spent five years cleaning toilets.

The artist has designed intricately detailed encrustations of ceramic flowers to fill the sinks, toilets, and tubs that were once used by hospitalized prisoners in several Hospital ward cells.

…an ironic reference to China’s famous Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956, a brief period of government tolerance for free expression that was immediately followed by a severe crackdown against dissent.

I’ve taken altogether too long to finish this.  So I’ll stop.  See the web page for the rest of the installation.

1https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/cazadero-1214/
2 http://www.fortrossvineyard.com/
3http://www.josephphelps.com/
4www.taftstreetwinery.com/
5http://www.for-site.org/project/ai-weiwei-alcatraz/

San Diego

August 10, 2014

Last week stayed with my friends of 45 years, L and P. Unfortunately, first had a memorial service for my cousin Carol Casper.

mom & carolCarol was the last living relative on my mother’s side of the family. (Mom was the youngest in the family, so everyone else predeceased her.)

Was looking for later photos of Carol, which I know I have, but all I found were lots of pictures of her as a kid before Mom was even married.  This is a photo of her with my mother.

When I was young, every four years we would drive from Detroit to LA to visit my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousin.

Because Carol was a lot older than I was, she was an adult with a red convertible Sunbeam, and I was so delighted to sit behind the front seats, in a section about eight inches wide, when we drove up to Big Bear Lake.  That was probably in ’54, when I was eight.  (Who was in the front with Carol?  Probably my mother.  That year we took the train to LA and flew home ’cause Dad thought that we ought to experience a train before they became extinct, so we had no car of our own to drive.)

Carol was a teacher and I remember when she and one of her two best friends, P, taught on an air force base in Germany one year so they could travel around Europe on weekends and vacations.  I was envious.

Carol was probably the nicest person I’ve ever known, always helping others.  When her housekeeper was pregnant, with little money and no health insurance, Carol paid for the hospital.  When she was visiting a friend dying of cancer who was worried what would happen to her dog when she passed, my cousin adopted the dog (which her friend M now has).

Helped M (the other friend, P, passed away five days after my cousin), with one room of my cousin’s house, folding up all of Carol’s clothes (and she had a lot) for the garage sale next weekend.  But M still has the entire rest of the house to do, then getting it reading to be put on the market.

Los Angeles

ethel-davies-walt-disney-concert-hall-part-of-los-angeles-music-center-frank-gehry-architect-los-angelesThen my friend L wanted to go up to LA for two days to see the Norton Simon Museum and Huntington Gardens.

Realized I’d only been to LA two times since my brother moved to San Francisco after his marriage, which was probably 35 years ago.

One gettytime I flew to LA to hear Frank Gehry speak at the Disney Music Hall, a Michigan State fundraiser for alumni on the west coast.  The other time I drove over from Tucson for a weekend to see the Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier, when it had just opened. (Photos from the internet.)

Had never been to the Norton Simon Museum before.

lyn & lynneFriend L and me with Rodin’s The Burgers of Calais, completed in 1889.

It serves as a monument to an occurrence in 1347 during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year.

England’s Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais, while Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege, and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender.

Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other burghers joined with him. Saint Pierre led this envoy of volunteers to the city gates. It was this moment, and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death that Rodin captured in his sculpture, scaled somewhat larger than life.

Although the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband to exercise mercy by claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child.

First we toured the In the Land of Snow: Buddhist Art of the Himalayas exhibit and the Asian Art collection.

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Then the Modern and Contemporary Art and Edgar Degas collections. Was totally blown away by the number of classic art pieces that they had.   There were many portraits.  Imagine is you’d asked Picasso to do a portrait of you and it looked like one of these by him:

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Degas’ most famous sculpture, The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, finished in 1881.

Degas dressed the wax figure in a silk bodice, gauze tutu, and fabric slippers, with a satin ribbon in her real hair wig. The wig, slippers, and bodice were covered with a layer of wax to help unite them with the rest of the work, while preserving their special texture.

A Giacometti.  One of Marino Marini’s Horsemen.  (Compare to the one with the detachable penis in front of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice1.)

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A Rousseau.  (Unfortunately, they’d put glass over the oil, and it reflected.)

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LA 043We’d been there almost from opening to closing but only saw about ⅓ of the museum.   We hadn’t even gotten to the European Art: 14th-16th C., European Art: 17th-18th C., European Art: 19th C., the 3-D Wall, and the Rembrandt van Rijn collections.  I took a few more photos as they herded us out.

Do these look familiar?  Portrait of Joerg Fugger by Giovanni Bellini, 1474, and Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530.

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I took tons more photos and also got photos of the gardens, which looked pretty nice until we went to the Huntington Gardens the next day.  It blew me away.

LA 071It was Free Thursday at the Huntington Gardens.  (You need reservations.)  We spent the first two hours in the Desert Garden.

The Huntington Desert Garden is one of the largest and oldest assemblages of cacti and other succulents in the world. Nearly 100 years old, it has grown from a small area on the Raymond fault scarp when in 1907-1908 William Hertrich brought in plants from local nurseries, private residences, public parks, and from collection trips to the Southwest and Mexican deserts. Today the two dozen families of succulents and other arid adapted plants have developed into a 10-acre garden display, the Huntington’s most important conservation collection, a most important mission and challenge.
The desert garden features more than 5,000 species of succulents and desert plants in sixty landscaped beds.

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Managed to catch the Lily Ponds ( photos here of lotus and koi) and Herb Garden on our way to a quick lunch.  (We decided not to spend the $29/person for the Tea Room buffet.)

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LA 084Then two and a half hours in the Japanese Garden with its large collection of bonsai (this one hundreds of years old, dug up from the coast) and the Chinese Garden with many buildings and lily and lotus ponds.

 

 

 

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But had to leave by 3pm to miss most of the LA traffic.  (See comment by friend L: Return trip 4 hours and 15 minutes.)  Missed the Australian Garden, Camellia Garden, Children’s Garden, Conservatory, Jungle Garden, Palm Garden, Rose Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and the Subtropical Garden. Nor did we get to the Huntington Art Gallery or Library. Must go again.

Home, Sunday August 10, 2014

Drove home Friday.  Only a 6-hour drive, but wipes me out.  Still few critters to be seen at my house, just a black widow on the outside of the office window, spinning her sticky web as I type, a huge Colorado River toad on my patio after dark, and coyote scat on my spa deck.

Hanging laundry out to dry yesterday it felt pretty humid, so I checked.  35%!!  And looks like we’ll have rain the whole time I’m home!  I do love the monsoons, if not the humidity – but only in the 30%’s, not like South Carolina where it’s in the 80%’s – so what am I complaining about?

tucson weather

Note: today’s rain amounted to about 14 drops here, and no thunder and lightening.

1https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/venice-saturday-15-2013-continued/