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We spent the weekend in the Bay Area visiting family.  Yesterday Jana needed the day to study, so I took the kids into the city for a day at the Exploratorium.  As I’ve mentioned before, by joining the Natural History Museum you benefit from the “passport program”  promoted by the Association of Science-Technology Centers.  It allows you free entry into any participating science museum over 90 miles away, and for those of us in Humboldt that’s every other participating center.  The participants include the Exploratorium, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and about 300 other participating centers, including the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding.  In the Bay Area there are four or five participating centers and your membership can pay for itself in a day.

The California Academy of Sciences used to participate, but they just completed a five year reconstruction and they need money.  They’re selling their capacity of tickets every day.  Generally speaking, the ASTC participants benefit from the program.  The benefit attracts potential members.  Your costs don’t increase all that much due to increased attendance due to the program, and maybe the members of distant centers will buy something from the gift shops or spend money in their overpriced cafeterias/restaurants.  CAS has sold tickets to capacity nearly every day since they reopened apparently and so they would stand to lose some money.  Therefor they don’t participate with ASTC, nor apparently does it participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums reciprocity program (if you join the Sequoia Park Zoo your membership will get you into the San Francisco Zoo, the Oakland Zoo, and the Monterey Aquarium).

I had intended to take the kids to CAS, but I went to the site to learn that they strongly advise buying tickets in advance as they frequently sell out.  I noticed that the passport system was not listed as a membership benefit.  I then went to the ASTC site to find that they are no longer included on the reciprocation list.  I called over, but only got a machine.  Entrance prices are 25 bucks for an adult and 15 for each kid.  The thought of driving over and shelling out 55 dollars for the opportunity to elbow people in order for my kids to catch glimpses of the exhibits just didn’t appeal to me.  I’ll wait until the hype dies down a bit, and maybe when they’re no longer selling tickets to capacity they’ll rejoin one of the reciprocity programs.


So we went to the Exploratorium.  It’s about the 20th time I’ve taken Asher there and at least the 10th time I’ve taken Lilith, but they never tire of it.  There’s so much there and now they’re actually reaching ages where they will actually focus on the lessons the exhibits have to offer and not just the physical sensations – though my daughter still spent about 45 minutes at the magnets with the black iron powder.  I enjoyed some of those exhibits when I was a kid and they still appeal to me.  The kids watched a young volunteer dissect a cow’s eyeball.

My four-year-old daughter got separated from me at one point, but didn’t panic.  She didn’t follow my prior instructions either, and instead walked around to find me.  She was happy as a clam, and I assume she would have gone to the information desk eventually.


One change from my childhood – the cafeteria now serves organic-free range-natural fare.  My son got his usual Nieman Marcus Ranch hot dog, my daughter got her usual penne with surprisingly flavorful marinara sauce, and I slammed down some chicken wings over rice with a spicey lime cilantro sauce.  All good, and all predictably overpriced due to monopoly and probably exhorbitant rent, although given the constant lines all day you’d think economies of scale would allow for cheaper prices.  The Nieman Marcus hot dog was $4.50, as bad as any baseball park although probably better for my son.  The SF museums have all brought in, probably by some madate from Mt. Olympus downtown, California culture preferred food.  Ironically, across the bay in Berkeley, the cafeteria at the Lawrence Hall of Science offers the usual mystery meat sandwiches with small bags of Laura Scudders offering intead of the more expensive (and better tasting) Kettle Brand, although they did offer some yummy oatmeal cookies from a local bakery the last time I was there.

According to the CAS website, they have a “full service restaurant” which probably has prices through the roof.  At least the Monterey Bay Aquarium has both restaurant and buffet cafeteria options, although the food in both is top rate (no Laura Scudders).  I think the CAS management is a little out of touch, and I wonder how well it’ll do once the initial hype has subsided.  As a kid I went there three or four times per year.  I doubt we’d do that at the current prices.


My mother was reminscing about the time in which both the CAS and SF Zoo were free (I remember when the Sequoia Park Zoo was free).  Now you get nickled and dimed (or worse) at every turn of public offerings.  So when we left the Exploratorium yesterday I decided to introduce my kids to Fort Point, which was free when I was a kid.  I hadn’t been there in years, but guess what?  It’s still free!  Something fun and educational in this world is still free, besides the beach and the sunset!

It’s still as striking as it was, with the vaulted brick architecture (which the tour guide claims inspired the design of the Golden Gate Bridge, but I find that questionable given that there are plenty of bridges which proceed both the fort and bridge with “vaulting” appearances), the views of the ocean and bay.  We don’t have as much to show for history as the east coast, but this building has plenty of history.  It became obsolete almost as soon as it was built of course, but it remained a military outpost off and on until World War II when they put some anti-aircraft guns on top of it to protect the bay from the Japanese.  I think that was probably for public show to encourage the feeling of security as had the Japanese made it that far they probably would have reduced the building to rubble in minutes.

The place has been maintained nicely, with some fascinating historical exhibits in  the old quarters.  My daughter actually got scared as we passed through a dark hallway on the western portion of the second floor, but both kids loved the top floor where you can feel the salt air wind and enjoy gorgeous views in all directions while listening to the rumbling of the vehicles on the bridge above.  You can see splatterings of red paint from the bridge on the floor and wall of the fort, and my son asked why they didn’t put tarps down when repainting the bridge each time.  Excellent question.


By the way, it’s six bucks to cross the bridge now.  Thirty bucks a week if you commute for a job!  That’s almost a day’s pay if you’re earning minimum wage.


In looking for a photo of the Palace of Fine Arts (where the Exploratorium is located) I came across this photo taken in 1919 at Wikipedia (through the above link).  If anybody asks why the Marina District is so dangerous during earthquakes, I think I’ll dig up this photo.

A brief clip of a well attended march from Civic Center to the former location of Castro Camera, Harvey Milk’s business at Castro and 18th.

My wife’s words as she was reading about the attacks in India.  She normally fills out applications by checking the “caucasian” option when asked, but it doesn’t always seem right to her. (Jana wanted me to correct this.  She actually checks “other.”)

Some of the victims were targeted because they were Jewish.  I’m not in her shoes, but I imagine it’s hard not to take it personally.  Whatever the politics.  Whatever the arguments. Whatever the excuses.  The bottom line is that they were killed because they were Jewish.

Synchronicity.  I’m glad I’m on WordPress.  Sorry.

The photo of now deceased Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, used by the Jerusalem Post in the article through the link above, comes courtesy of AP.

Addendum: This Kos poster has photos of Mumbai from happier times.

Second addendum: For those of you interested, Stephen is posting a few of the posts he would have posted here over at his own blog.

Heraldo has a post on him.  I’ll post some more stuff later.

Addendum: Cristina also has a post on topic, with the NYT obit link.

Second addendum: I did not know Frank well.  I actually never met him in person.  We had an occasional email exchange, particularly when I posted something about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade or other historial lefty stuff.  He was a wealth of information, and obviously had a passion for the subject and a rich sense of humor.  I knew his artwork from the Mateel.  I wish I had the opportunity to get to know him better.  But I feel richer from the little contact I had with him.  I wish I could say more.

Economist Robert Kuttner tells us that concerns about depression trump deficits.

District Attorney Meredith Lintott says the decision will make a “tremendous difference” in law enforcement’s ability to crack down on commercial grows.  From the Ukiah Daily Journal:

“It’s finally providing us with the tools we need to enforce the medical marijuana laws fairly, equitably, and without the kind of vagueness which has allowed things – in our county in particular, of course – to expand into an area where the county has been harmed. I don’t think our medical marijuana patients have been harmed, but the residents have been harmed. Now we can say we support, we back the use (of medical marijuana) the way the law intends it to be, but we will not allow you to trounce upon the quality of the life of the other residents of our county.”

She blamed judges for what she perceives as the confusion about the law.

“I think because people themselves took it to such extremes and had highly paid, well trained, persuasive lawyers and courts accepted the arguments,” Lintott said. “Once the courts started accepting the arguments and expanding the law to anyone who was providing marijuana, then the DAs, the prosecutors, and the people growing start buying into the interpretation.” “Hopefully (local judges will) read (the ruling) and say Hey, this is the law,'” Nishiyama agreed. “It’s like I’ve argued … if you want to grow your six plants at home and smoke it all up, I don’t care, but when you’re providing for every Tom and Dick and Harry that has a marijuana recommendation, that’s when it becomes a problem for us.”

Meanwhile, it looks like the California Police Officers Association want law enforcement to interpret the ruling as license to shut down the cooperatives.  They issued a “brief” which includes:

“As a result of the Court’s clear, distinct, articulation of who or what is a primary caregiver,’ the question of whether a marijuana dispensary falls within the definition is resolved — it does not! As is set forth in the law, a cooperative or collective can be formed to provide the needed marijuana for the members of that group. The Attorney General, in his recent guidelines, sets forth the legal basis for determining whether the dispensers of medical marijuana meet the definitions of a cooperative or collective – if they do not, they are not protected under the (Compassionate Use Act) and are operating illegally. It seems to be incumbent upon units of government, such as cities, to insure that businesses which want to distribute marijuana for medical use meet these legal requirements before issuing licenses and authorization to operate in their jurisdictions. Storefront dispensaries, which do nothing more than dispense marijuana, ostensibly for medical use, are illegal under both state and federal law and should not be permitted to operate in California.

As some may recall, law enforcement agencies have resisted Prop 215 from the beginning, refusing to honor judge orders to turn medical marijuana back over to patients on the basis that they would be violating federal law.  Finally, one judge in Mendocino told one agency to turn it over to him so he could give it back to the patient.  That action was probably one of Lintott’s issues.

I just heard on the radio that someone was trampled to death by a shopper stampede.  I don’t know the details.  I’ll post a follow-up later.

I ask the question every year.  How many of you actually go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving and why?  Somebody posted last year that she didn’t even have money to spend, but simply wanted to be there to feel the thrill of it.  I don’t know.  It seems to me to exemplify a collective mental illness when it comes to consumption,  Maybe a prolonged economic downturn followed by the loss of status as the world’s largest economy will actually do us some good.

Addendum: It was a WalMart in Long Island.  The victim was an employee, sorry, “associate.”  The New York Post has the video if you’re up for it.

More later.

Second addendum: The store was closed, then reopened later in the day.  There are calls for investigations by OSHA and the District Attorney.

The Bitten Apple contains some more thoughts on the day.

Third addendum: On the upside, it appears that local merchants did well yesterday.

The blog is almost finished, though I have to tweek some items and settings.  I’ve set the comments function up to allow anonymous comments, but I can ban IPs as well and I have some other options.  Please be respectful.  I am now eliminating all posts which consist of cheap personal insults.  I’ll know it when I see it.  Best way to avoid censorship is to stay on topic and not resort to name-calling.  It’s not that difficult.

I would ask those of you who are posting anonymously to at least come up with some sort of name to go by.  It’s not important that we know who you are in real life, but it makes discussion easier to hold discussions if there is a way to distinguish between anonymous posters.

The draft is now available.

Mostly I’m posting Obama’s address of today to test the embed video function here.  First sentence he invokes Lincoln, although since the 16th President invented Thanksgiving, I guess it’s not entirely grandiose.  Certainly the “Team of Rivals” theme in the media was also on his mind as progressives like me aren’t entirely happy with most of his appointments thus far (Melody Barnes is really the only authentic progressive nominated for anything yet).  Yes, I know his actions are more important than his appointments, and yeah, he’s providing himself cover.  Still.

There are three blue books in a case behind him.  Nothing is there by accident, but there’s no way to read the titles.  Any idea what they might be?


November 2008