Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ 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!

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/

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

SF 004

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/