April 2017
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Date Day

Yesterday Debbi and I took a day off from work and had what Debbi called a “date day” – we drove out to a couple of spots in the Bay Area and had fun together. When Dad visited me last spring he and I went to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and I thought that would make a nice outing with Deb.

We started by driving down to the Original Pancake House in Cupertino, which has the advantage over the one we usually go to (in Los Altos) of having more seating, comfier seating, and a lot more parking. Though the parking didn’t come into play since the place was pretty quiet on, well, a Thursday morning.

Big Basin was much busier than when I went there with Dad (that’s the difference between April and August, I guess, even on a weekday). I think I’ve decided Big Basin is not quite as nice as Muir Woods (at last as far as the main scenic trail goes), but it’s still a fun little walk. Someday we might head back for one of the longer hikes.

After the park we drove down to Santa Cruz – eventually, since it turned out that Highway 9 was closed for the last few miles before Santa Cruz. The signage along the way didn’t (IMO) make it clear that it was actually completely closed – the mere presence of “detour” signs aren’t really persuasive since such signs are often put up long before and taken down long after the detour is relevant. At least the route was scenic before we had to turn around.

We did a little shopping in downtown Santa Cruz (always fun to drop in on Logos, not to mention the Pacific Cookie Company), and then headed down to the Beach Boardwalk where we walked along the beach, and out the wharf. It turned out that a landing along the wharf is currently hosting a group of sea lions, and you can get extremely close to them. I was standing about 4 feet above the lions when I took this shot:

After returning home we collapsed for a bit before heading downtown to have dinner and walk around Thursday Night Live. We don’t take many random days off, and as Debbi said it was nice to spend a day going around doing some fun things and not having any chores or errands to run. We’ll have to do it again sometime. But where to go?

What's With This Weather?

In the 12 springs I’ve lived in the Bay Area I can’t recall it raining more than a trace amount as late in the spring as May, yet tonight we’re having our second substantial shower of the month. On May 17! And Debbi says it was showing for most of the day up where she works, closer to San Francisco! Bizarre!

Not that I mind that much, since I like the rain, but hopefully it won’t interfere with my biking to work tomorrow morning.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been too busy lately to post much other than my usual comic book entries. We did get out to do a few things this weekend, though, notably the A La Carte and Art festival downtown on Saturday (otherwise known as “the small one”, as distinguished from “the big one” at the end of the summer), for which our friends Lisa, Michel and their daughter Isabella joined us.

I also downloaded the game store Steam, specifically so I could play Portal (free through May 24!), which is at least as much fun as I’d always suspected. A 3.8 Gb download is a bit much for my wimpy little DSL connection, though.

But that’s about it. The rest of the month will also keep me pretty busy, but hopefully things will quiet down come June.

Maybe it’ll stop raining by then, too.

Epic Rainstorm

The Bay Area is having an epic series of rainstorms this week, with the heaviest downfall hitting today. While we had thunder Tuesday morning (and our DSL had gone out, though rebooting the modem fixed it), it’s just been pouring, pouring, pouring this morning. When I got up this morning, Blackjack was hiding in the closet. He’s come out and been social this morning, but he doesn’t like this weather. I think this is the most rain we’ve gotten in such a short span of time since I moved here. (I wasn’t here for the El NiƱo storms and mudslides of the 90s.)

Naturally there have been plenty of traffic accidents, including this impressive story about three men pulling an unconscious driver out of his burning car.

I’ve been delayed getting out this morning by spending time trying to improve the drainage routes in my back yard, since I noticed there was half an inch of standing water on my patio. The thing just wasn’t built for this amount of rain. I unclogged the main artery for the patio to drain, which routes the water into my pond. The pond is a pretty good place to send the rain, since it’s away from the building, and I can also grab a bucket and bail it if necessary. I bailed 10 bucketfuls (20 gallons, maybe?) into the sink this morning, to provide some more space for the water. Perhaps I should invest in 50 feet of hose to use the pond’s pup to just pump the water steadily out of the pond and into the sink. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

The rain’s picking up again, and it’s time for me to head out. I’ll drive carefully, you can bet on that.

That Burning Sensation

We woke up this morning and Debbi said, “I smell something burning.”

Fortunately it wasn’t something around our house; rather, it was smoke blowing in from a fire in the south bay hills over 40 miles away from us:

The Summit fire has consumed about 3,100 acres, but is not spreading as rapidly as feared yesterday. Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Fred Plageman this afternoon said that 20 homes have been destroyed.

And:

Shifting winds this morning blew ash from the fire away from Santa Cruz County and toward the summit and into northwestern Santa Clara County, where residents reported smelling smoke.

Santa Clara County public health authorities advised people who can see or smell smoke to stay inside and keep windows and doors shut.

At work I had to walk to another building for a meeting, and the central courtyard was filled with a light haze, presumably the smoke blown in from the hills. By lunchtime it had cleared out, along with the smell.

Only Hundreds of Miles by Car

Wow, the rest of my Dad’s visit just flew by; I can’t believe I’m back at work already!

I put hundreds of miles on my car this past week, but that’s not really surprising; there’s a lot to do in the Bay Area – even on his third trip, there were still things he hadn’t seen before, and a few I hadn’t seen before – but most of it is widely spread out.

Following the trips to the coast and the Livermore wine country on Friday and Saturday respectively, Sunday we went to the A La Carte and Art festival downtown, which I think Dad enjoyed more than he’d expected. He picked up a few goodies, and reminisced with one of the vendors about making rubber band guns back in the 40s. After that we went to the Computer History Museum. I was sure I’d been there with Dad before, but he says not. But it’s always a terrific visit, and we got to see the Babbage Engine they have on display there (one of two in the world).

In the evening we drove up to San Francisco to have dinner with my cousin K, who coincidentally has the same name as Dad (well, okay, actually it was intentional). My other cousin, L, also lives up there, but was out of town. She recommended a restaurant for us to go to, though, so we went up with Debbi, picked up K, and had a fine dinner. I haven’t seen K in years – probably since I was in college; he’s quieter than I’d remembered. But the family resemblance among him, me and Dad is pretty clear. (Somehow we managed to completely forget to get any photos of the three of us.)

That was the first of three trips we made to the city (and that one was in Debbi’s car!). On Monday Dad and I drove up hoping to go to the Cable Car Museum, but there was absolutely no parking there. We thought about parking elsewhere and taking a (duh!) cable car there, but they were also doing some work on the tracks, so we decided to punt. Instead we drove over to Golden Gate Park.

So I have this amazing talent for forgetting that the museums in SF are closed on Mondays. Gah. Fortunately, there’s always something more to do. We went to the Japanese Tea Garden, and then walked through Strybing Arboretum. I see a little more of the Arboretum each time I go – it’s always fun to visit. This time around I learned that Monday seems to be watering day in the arboretum. Sheesh! After that we stopped at Ocean Beach to see the sea, and then I dragged Dad to Borderlands Books, which is fun to visit during the week since there’s plenty of on-street parking, for a change! I got some cuddle time with Ripley, their hairless cat, too.

Tuesday we went up again, this time to visit the Conservatory of Flowers in the park. I’d never been before, and I highly recommend it; it’s full of orchids and palm trees and other tropical plants, plus it has a room full of butterflies. Very cool. And it’s in a 19th century building, too! After that we went to the Musee Mechanique. Dad wasn’t so impressed with the Musee, and I’ll admit that I think their old location at the Cliff House was better; it presented its contents in a more historical order, whereas the current arrangement seems rather scattershot, even though it has more space for the exhibits. Ah well.

And as I said yesterday we ate plenty of food amidst all of this driving. We were usually pretty wiped out once we’d eaten dinner, so we had some quiet evenings at home, although we did watch the season finales of both Smallville (which I’m kind of glad I don’t watch anymore) and House (which I kind of wonder if I should watch more often).

Wednesday it was up early (well, early for me) to drop Dad off at the airport. On the way out of the airport, my car rolled over to 90,000 miles. I put another 60 or so miles on it in a failed attempt to spend the afternoon on the beach (it was far too windy, and the clincher was that the wind was blowing the sand into my face and hair). That was a bummer, and put me in a melancholy mood for the rest of the day. Or maybe it was the prospect of going back to work today.

Anyway, I had a great visit with Dad. I think I enjoyed our trip to the coast on Friday the most, although the Conservatory of Flowers was really neat, too. And of course it was just good to see him.

I’ll put up a few more pictures from his visit over the next few days, but for now I’ll end with this one:

Me and Dad

South Peninsula Neighborhoods

This is pretty neat: Palo Alto Online has historical notes on many neighborhoods on the southern SF peninsula. For example, Castro City in Mountain View, or Loyola Corners in Los Altos, or Fair Oaks in Menlo Park.

Of course, my own house isn’t in a historical neighborhood. We’re newfangled sorts around hereabouts, I guess.

It’s strange that the former town of Mayfield hardly rates a mention. Mayfield used lie between Mountain View and Palo Alto, and it eventually was absorbed by the two other cities when it was outgrown by them. The southern half of Palo Alto was mostly Mayfield, and I believe California Avenue was Mayfield’s downtown, which is why Palo Alto effectively has two downtown districts. The now-defunct Mayfield Mall at the north end of Mountain View was named for it, and is the only location I know of which still bears the Mayfield name (though there may be others I just don’t know about).

Why We Live Here

(Second in an occasional series.)

The leaves didn’t finish falling from the trees until late this month. (A few trees still haven’t finished, but the ones around my yard have.)

Yesterday afternoon I sucked them up with my leaf blower.

(That would be yesterday, the day after Christmas.)

It took me a little over an hour, but then, I have a small yard. All I was really waiting for was for the leaves to dry off from the last rainfall so that most of them wouldn’t be sticking to the ground.

Snow? What’s that?

It has been a little chilly, though – highs in the low 50s. We’ve built a few fires this week. But it’s supposed to hit 60 over the weekend.

The jobs and culture are nice and all, but I maintain that the climate is the fundamental reason people live in the Bay Area in the first place.

Earthquake Time

Tonight we had a magnitude 5.6 earthquake in east San Jose. It was felt throughout the valley, although not by me, since I was running around on a frisbee field at the time.

Debbi says it spooked the cats quite a bit, and herself a little too. Subrata‘s wife Susan says a few things fell off at their house.

Fortunately there seems to have been only minor damage from the strongest Bay Area quake since 1989. Cell phone voice service was out for us for a while, but data still worked, so I sent Debbi and Susan text messages that we were fine. I bet some hidden damage will be found over the next few days, but it looks like we got away with one this time.

Anyway, if you were wondering, we’re okay here.

Summer Shower

The common wisdom is that it doesn’t rain in the Bay Area from April to November. Not so: Since I moved here in 1999 we’ve gotten a summer shower around the beginning of August most years. We got one this morning, for about 15 minutes, a couple weeks early. Not enough to alleviate worries of a drought, but still pretty nice.

Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get another one next month.

Classic Car Recovered After 31 Years

What a cool story:

Since the summer of ’76, Ron Leung thought his stolen 1956 Ford Thunderbird was “like the Roman Empire – history.” That is, until he got a call from Palo Alto police Thursday, almost 31 years to the day after it disappeared.

Now he’s eager to get the car to Palo Alto from Southern California, where it was recovered, reportedly in good shape.

Stories of mysteries solved years or decades after they occurred fascinate me.