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Birthday Week

My birthday was this past Wednesday, and Debbi and I took the day off to go do something fun.

We had breakfast at the Depot Cafe in San Carlos. It was quite there for a change (we usually go on a weekend), so I got to look at all their train photos and memorabilia. Afterwards I talked to my Dad before we headed up to San Francisco.

Our destination was the California Academy of Sciences, which I felt we hadn’t been to in long enough that a mid-week visit would make for a nice birthday trip.

As usual we got tickets for the planetarium as soon as we arrived, and then headed for the tropical rainforest, which is probably my favorite part of the museum. Since it was a Wednesday there were a bunch of school trips visiting too, and we spotted a couple of them trying to get butterflies to land on them (and a couple did!). None landed on me, but I did get some good pictures of butterflies (and slightly less good ones of birds):

Brown Butterfly Orange Butterfly
(click for larger image)

The elevator out of the rainforest drops you in the aquarium. I’ve always thought the aquarium is merely okay, but it does have a few nice sights:

Tropical reef

Jellyfish

The planetarium’s show this time is on earthquakes, with some pretty nifty CGI simulating the 1906 San Francisco quake, and good aerial views of fault lines and recent earthquakes. They had an exhibit on earthquakes and continental drift augmenting the show (or maybe the show was augmenting the exhibit), including a small shake room to demonstrate what the 1906 and 1989 quakes felt like. (The 1906 quake was long, about 90 seconds.) Someday I imagine we’ll get to feel one of these for real. I can wait, though.

We spent a while looking at the museum’s Foucault pendulum, which I remember from the old museum:

Focault pendulum

I wish I’d gone to the old museum once more before they tore it down (it was replaced because it was not really earthquake-safe, as I recall); it was a pretty neat old building, and my memories of it are pretty fuzzy.

The new building has a living roof, which we always visit. They had a telescope with a solar filter on it which we looked through, and saw a couple of sunspots (they look like dirt on the lens, really). Then I remembered the panoramic photo feature on my iPhone and took one of the roof:

Rooftop panorama
(click to enbiggen)

That’s about a 180° view, by the way.

Since the Academy was pretty quiet on this mid-week midwinter day, we ate at the cafeteria, which was surprisingly good! They really need more seating there, though.

We also saw a short film called Dinosaurs Alive!, with CGI recreations of dinosaurs, plus some paleontological stuff. Having been a dinosaur fan since I was a little boy, I feel almost like I’ve spent my life watching the progress of animation of dinosaurs, and one thing that’s always the case is that in every film there’s never enough of it! But it was an okay film. Evolution is awesome.

All told we were there for about five hours, and we decided to become members for the year, so we’ll be going back a couple of times this year.

We had a quiet evening of pizza and comic books to wrap up my actual birthday.

Unfortunately Debbi – who had been fighting something off for much of the week – cratered that night and stayed home for the next two days. Thursday in particular she felt awful. By Friday evening she was feeling better and we went to one of my favorite restaurants, Amber India, for dinner.

Other than running some errands yesterday, we’ve had a pretty low-key weekend. We’re having our bizarre midwinter summer right now (highs in the 60s), doubly odd since it got quite cold shortly after Christmas and stayed that way for a couple of weeks. It’s been nice, but I am looking to the rain coming back sometime soon.

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