Swing Dancing at Disneyland; Anaheim, CA

Wow! Every Saturday night Disney hosts a dance at Disneyland! WHO KNEW? The dance happens in Disneyland’s Royal Hall, a spot normally reserved for character meet and greets. (How they convert it from that to a dance space I don’t know.)

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I was wandering around Disneyland on a Saturday night, heard jazz music, assumed it was yet another of the obligatory Disney entertainments and found THIS… HOW COOL!

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From what I read, not only does this dance happen almost weekly (and has for a few years) but it has a dedicated group of regular dancers.

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From what I could it’s a very friendly crowd of very good dancers (for the most part) and more than few of them seemed to know each other. Back before my inner ear broke making spinning an impossibility for me anymore, I’d totally have been here every week.

Lunch with old friends: Hermosa Beach⁩, ⁨California

Had lunch with one of my oldest friends (we’ve known each other since we were in diapers) and his fiancé. I wanted to go to the beach so they took me to this place called “The Good Stuff Restaurant” in the city of Hermosa Beach

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It’s mostly an all day breakfast sort of place with lots of healthy options. Apparently (I learned while writing this) it’s a local LA chain, with four branches. I got a strawberry smoothie with protein powder and a Greek omelet.

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Not the best Greek Omelet I’ve ever had, but quite tasty. They use good feta, but it was a bit too oily … and they offer a choice of potatoes or fruit… we all opted for the fruit. That said, it did have great views of the Ocean while we ate.

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After lunch we walked out on to the pier and came across this….IMG_0485

… a photographer doing a photo shoot about how we have to do a better job of recycling. Apparently 69% of our garbage ends up in landfills or in the oceans.

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and then we went further out, enjoying the seaside and looking at the surfers

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All along the pier there were a bunch of fishermen, and this guy was holding out a piece of fish to a seagull, another fisherman said that I might not believe him but that particular seagull was the first man’s friend, and always ate out of his hand

IMG_0489UNFORTUNATELY I didn’t manage to get a shot of the seagull actually eating out of the man’s hand, but he did!!!

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A sign warning the fishermen which fish to throw back

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When we got to the end of the pier we spotted this seal, swimming among the fisherman’s lines, like he was trying to get fish off the lines, or steal their catches

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The Indian Warrior aka, “Muffler Man” at Ethel’s Old Corral Restaurant: Bakersfield, California

Adjacent to Ethel’s Old Corral bar and restaurant on Alfred Harrell Highway in Bakersfield stands the last remaining Native American “Muffler Man” (25 feet) in California, and one of only 18 remaining ones nation wide.

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Driving towards this fiberglass “Muffler Man” you’re going to be SURE the directions are wrong, but they’re not. According to Roadside America, it was originally purchased in the 1960’s for $1,400 to bring attention to a tire store, at a time when tire brands tended to have Indian names; the Indian then was moved to in front of the local high school (as confirmed to me by the guy who took my picture while I was there), and then in the late 1980’s moved to this location in front of Ethel’s Old Corral restaurant

 

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This poem was written AFTER the statute had been moved to its present location… it’s boarder-line impossible to read.

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Oh, and not far from this bar, as you heading back to the highway you might pass this view of the Bakersfield’s oil fields

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The gas station of the future, a Tesla super charging station in Kettleman City California

At some point in the future places like this will replace gas stations along major roads. Here, rather than pouring gas into your car, you hang out and wait for your car’s battery to recharge. While I’ve seen individual electric vehicle charging parking spots, and even some sponsored by Tesla…  This was the very first time I saw a Tesla super station.

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I counted, this location is capable of charging 40 cars simultaneously, and also has two spots dedicated to handicap vans… plus a few window washing things scattered around, should you need to do that.

The “station” also has a waiting area that I couldn’t get inside of because I’m not a Tesla owner (I asked saying I just wanted to take pictures, but they said no), but I could see (through the windows) and they had come complete with a coffee shop, with a staff member working the cappuccino machine, as well as what seemed to be free bottles of water and/or various other drinks plus some snacks, all of which are available to Tesla owners as they wait for their cars to charge

Harris Ranch; Coalinga, California

San Francisco really isn’t a steak town. Having grown up in Chicago, which IS, the whole time I was living in SF I kept wondering where a girl had to go to get a decent one (seriously in SF you pay a lot for very little when it comes to steak). That place as it turned out, was — according to all my friends — Harris Ranch, an actual cattle ranch (and the largest one on American’s west coast) about halfway between SF and LA off of California Route 5, that is also a store, a hotel, and a gas station.

IMG_5540.jpgThe thing that first strikes you any time you drive past Harris Ranch is that it’s something of an oasis in the desert. IMG_5542

The owners really have built something very grand out here in the middle of not very much, and I often wondered what the cost of it was in terms of their water bill.IMG_0444This is particularly true during the summers when California is traditionally completely dry (seriously, for those who don’t know, it is HIGHLY abnormal for California to get any rain during the summer months), and this is especially true these last few years which have been a growing drought; the greenness of the place really shocks your eyes.

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That said, all along the way I kept seeing signs alongside the road saying things like, “is water wasted when it’s used to grow food?” And “This dust bowl courtesy of the federal government.” There’s apparently a political war going on between the conservationists, the farmers with regards to the water issue… but I don’t have the time or energy to delve into it here. (It’s important to remember that while the cities of California vote mostly democratic, the rural farm areas, such as where Harris Ranch is located tend to vote Republican.

IMG_5539That said, Harris Ranch clearly understand who their customer base is…. namely the rich customers who commute between SF and LA, some of whom are willing to put their money where their mouths are in terms of their concern for the environment by buying insanely expensive electric cars.IMG_0436

That said, there’s something new at Harris which wasn’t there last time I visited… a BBQ option at cheaper prices being sold out of the gas station part of the place.

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Plus a selection of their steaks to go again, from the gas station’s mini-mart. IMG_0445If however you go to the main building (a really gorgeous hacienda type building), you’ll find not only a much bigger gift shop, but a butcher shop section in the gift store that’s about twice as big as what’s in the gas station — with more cut options, sausages, etc.

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In this building there are also three different restaurants. The first is a bar, which offers up alcohol and slightly cheaper cuts of meat.

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The 2nd is a family style restaurant, which is walk in, but again with the slightly cheaper cuts of meat, and a wider menu (to appeal to families) with kids, etc., where you can buy things ‘ala carte

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And then the third option is their high-end restaurant, which normally requires reservations, has only their best cuts of meat, and the main comes with a selection of sides, a soup, etc. (NOT ala carte).

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THIS is where I opted to eat, because in addition to better cuts of meat, which I wasn’t going to eat, it had a wider sea food selection. I got a bowl of gazpacho

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For my drink I had their watermelon iced tea, and then for my main I ordered their scallops dish, which is intended to go ON TOP of the steak… and their vegetable platter.

The Soup was very good… and then I waited 45 minutes for my mains to show up. Finally (when my iPhone’s battery was starting to fail) I called over a waiter and asked “how many hours am I going to have to wait for my main dish?” The waitress who had taken my order over heard, ran over, apologized and then told me it was all her fault, she’d forgotten to put the order in. Her manager then came over said they’d have my food out in a jiffy, and that my bill was on them…. SO they screwed up big time, but as the food was free, I can’t complain too much…

That said, I was pretty unimpressed with everything I ate… So Harris, is great for the steaks but seems to have to get its act together otherwise.

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Apparently they also breed horses

map won’t load: It’s here:  https://goo.gl/maps/2toyjvjLsnE2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casa de’Fruta; Hollister, California

Casa de’Fruta in Hollister, California, has been a mainstay tourist trap on the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles, pretty much for forever (apparently they’re celebrating their 100th anniversary). It started out as a fruit and nuts stand and has since then expanded to being a multi building tourist trap with a market, a gift store, a coffee shop, a restaurants, and distractions for the kids. AND if you want to sleep there there’s both a motel and an RV park. That said, it’s a MAJOR tourist trap and really only good as a place to stretch your legs.

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IF all you want to do is to buy fruit, I passed any number of mom and pop stands set up along farms in the area that probably have better prices… but they all lack the sort of tourist trap shtick that this place has.

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I find it ironic that not only do they allow you to taste their wines (see below, they have their own brands) — they’ve actually begun to push them at you (just what every traveler should do before getting back on the highway)… while at the same time you’re no longer allowed to taste their nuts or candies before you buy them by the pound. (They used to, allow you to taste them, but no more)

IMG_0381That said, this place used to be all about the flavored almonds… but I didn’t see any for sale this time…. just a lot of wine

IMG_5446The place has actually become kind of huge — I don’t remember it being this big 20 odd years ago… the last time I was here

IMG_0382There’s now a set up for “mining gold” (even though the gold rush never really happened this far south of SF… it was more north) where you buy bags of the sluice to pan…

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There’s a 2nd shop that mostly sells wine (again), gifts and some deli sandwiches and things that might go on said sandwiches

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There are rides for the kids (a merry-go-round AND a train)

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A building devoted to all things sweet and sugary (of course, it’s placed directly adjacent to the kids area) — and coffee for the adults (after drinking all that wine you’ll need it).

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And now there’s a 24 hour restaurant, selling pretty normal diner types dishes. No I did not eat here.

Computer History Museum: Mountain View, CA

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View California, is a relatively new museum that’s still finding its legs. It is a work of love the houses donations not only from corporations, but from the individual movers and shakers of the bay area (the guys who actually invented the stuff you use today) who donated items from their garages and attics — as in some of them are friends of mine and I remember when this place first opened up.

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One of my favorite people on the planet, I guy who I’ve known for over 20+ years (I knew him when was still an un-tenured professor in Chicago — we used to be dance partners at a country western bar in Chicago — he’s had four books on the New York Times best seller’s list since then), who I wanted to catch up with while I was in town (he’s become impossibly hard to contact since his success) suggested that we meet for lunch at a South American place called Voya located in Mountain View — we had ceviche which was ok, and a few other fish things… didn’t think it was anything to write home about and I was paying more attention to being with my friend than the food… so no review

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(I got his Uber driver to take this photo of us before he took off — I think our last photo together was at his wedding) … ANYWAY… AS I got there a bit early … while waiting for him to arrive, I was walking around…

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you know you’re in the Bay area when….

when I realized that the computer museum …. (one of the jewels of the bay area) was directly across the street …. A place I have not been to in about 16 years… So after he went back to work I went in for a visit.

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By the time I had shopped the gift store, gone to the bathroom, took my purchases back to the car (in part out of fear that my windows had been smashed — see below), yadda yadda, yadda….

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It was already was already 3:30 in the afternoon and instead of having to pay $17.50 to get in (YEESH, that’s EXPENSIVE) I only had to pay $10. You’ll notice this is NOT advertised on their sign. In fact I was utterly clueless to it and just got lucky … the guy who was working the front desk… who had seen me earlier while I was scoping out the gift store

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Whole sections of the store are devoted to women in the sciences stuff, or stuff geek girls might want…  so I got very buy-happy/excited
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Why yes I did get the bumper sticker, why do you ask?
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And of course I got the geek girl jewelry (am now the proud owner of the hoop earrings with fuses hanging in them –these are the sort that are hidden in cars and appliances), and a few other pieces made from computer parts
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That said, NOT ONE of the t-shirts for sale had a V-neck or scoop neck collar, so I didn’t get any of them (which made me very sad)

… HE assumed I had timed it intentionally, calling me a “smart woman” for doing it; but I swear, it was just dumb luck.

That said, there are two sections to the museum, the first one is to the left of the check in counter where you buy your tickets. The other is off to the right, between the counter and the gift shop. The first section, left of the counter, is mostly devoted to temporary exhibits (more than one) while the other is the permanent collection.

At the time I went one of the temporary ones was devoted to a brilliant woman who was not really awarded her just deserts in her lifetime due entirely to her gender… Ada Lovelace

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Lovelace is considered by some to be the first person to fully recognize that the computing machine had applications beyond simply doing calculations, wrote a paper that included an algorithm on this topic, and is as such considered (by those who support her) as having been the first computer programmer (software engineer, versus hardware engineer… and “never the twain shall meet” (for those who don’t know, engineers tend to be one or the other, only VERY rarely are they both).

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The other ‘temporary’ exhibit seemed to be more of a rotating one devoted to any and all of “newest” computer driven technology trends (well, the ones that are public anyway), everything from computer graphics, to texting, to medical technologies (like MRIs) to…

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…the currently oh so sexy topic of fully automated cars. These would be the next step forward after my Subaru which has saved my life more than few times already by spotting potential accidents that I fully admit that I utterly would have missed (or not as the case might be) but for its warning me of them. My car, however, I still have to drive, in the future… a technology which is already visible (in its testing phases), at least on the streets of the Bay area…. is completely self driven cars.

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Pics I took of the testing of “self driven cars” on Bay area streets

This exhibit talked about the not to distant future (hopefully) where they’ve managed to test all the bugs out and fully self driven cars are ready for prime time (a future that I for one look forward to, as I’ve never been one to drive for the fun of it).

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This included side topics of how they are able to now utilize the computer graphics from the previous room create virtual car crashes. Virtual testing allows manufacturers a much cheaper way to test every conceivable sort of normally inconceivable crash, rather than actually smashing up a car. As some of you know, they used to only test two or three different sorts of common crashes; virtual testing allows them to reenact the uncommon ones, as well as test what might happen in those relatively unlikely cases with the newer cars, not yet on the roads.

IMG_0312Additionally, as self driving cars rely a great deal on computerized maps, they also had a small exhibit showing just how advanced this has become… presented by Google Maps

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And there was also segment devoted to Wikipedia (which anyone reading my blog knows I’m a big fan of)

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Indirectly the Museum was exhibiting something it never talked about directly, but which I’ve NEVER seen before and hence was VERY aware of… i.e., a new technology for use in museum presentations

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Now that said, One of the things that impressed me was an innovative sound management system that I’ve not seen anywhere else.

If you look carefully at the picture below you’ll see a woman watching a video in the middle of wide open space… this is pretty unusual although you might not realize it… normally movies are presented in cordoned off areas where the acoustics can be easily controlled. What’s even more unusual is from where she’s sitting the sound is completely clear and distinct, almost to the extent that it was like wearing headphones … or as though it were the only sound in the room, like in a movie theater. YET, from where I took the picture, you can only barely hear what she’s listening to at all.

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How you ask? Well… look above her head and you’ll see there is small white square hanging from the ceiling… That’s where the sound came from… Now, logic dictates that it’s some sort of directed speaker that produces very directed sound waves. As in, she can hear it loudly and distinctly without it annoying someone a few feet away (where I was standing). From there, it merges into a sort of white noise created by the various soundtracks all running simultaneously but without the effect of cacophony of sound, like you get in other museums.

You can’t see it, but right behind me was a different video, with the same set up, with its own sound track, that in no way interfered with the experience the woman in the above picture was having. Now let’s face it, I go to a LOT of museums and I’ve never seen this technology in use before. I have no idea how much it costs but I hope to see it a lot more regularly from now on. It rocked…

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Returning to the museums itself: On this same side of the museum there they also have regular demonstrations of the OLD IBM mainframe computer systems that used to process things like company payrolls, first introduced back in 1959, which had been given the catchy name of the IBM CMH-1401

IMG_0305The demos are given every few hours by actual retired former IBM employees, whose jobs had been to keep the 1401 running in its heyday (read the signs below)IMG_0306

Interestingly, they do so to large throngs of very interested young programmers… keep in mind this was about 3:30 on a Wednesday, not one child or family unit in the room.

IMG_5202These all looked to be young programmers (most were between 23 and 35), new to the bay area (possibly)… and you could tell the older retired engineers were really happy to be so appreciated by the younger generation of engineersIMG_0304At the end of the demonstration you could create a punch card with your name… which I did, and receive a custom printed … on a HISTORIC printer … that says you visited the place (as you can see I was there on September 5th, 2018).

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After this I went to check out the permanent exhibit: This is in fact my 2nd time coming to this museum. The first time was about 16 YEARS ago in 2002 (the year I finally completed my dissertation) while I was still living in the bay area and was invited to the grand opening event for this ‘new’ building for the collection… by friends who had donated various contents from their garage to be shown in here … in fact I knew more than few people at that event who were all there for the same reason (donating objects to the collection). I have to say that at that time the museum was HIGHLY UN-impressive… Since then, major upgrades have occurred and it’s clear they have hired a fairly decent curator to organize the thing, and while it’s still imperfect, it is now quite IMPRESSIVE, although imperfect.

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It starts out logically enough with “ancient” tools for making calculations (as in ones my dad was using 50 years ago), like slide rules, abacuses and maritime tools… and then moves on to things like

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Calculating tools that helped during World War II, back when women who typed in the all the data were called calculators, to innovations of the 1950’s

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there’s discussion of stops and starts and lateral moves as various technologies came up and then quickly died as someone else came up with a more elegant solution

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And there’s discussion of the problems women had entering the male dominated field… to techs that I remember using when I was in grad school (20 years ago)

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I particularly got a kick out of the video game section which talked about these on-line Unix based games like rogue and dungeon crawls where if you got far enough in the game you were allowed to contribute a dungeon section that you had coded yourself to the larger game… but it meant you had to learn the language C++ in order to do it… which drove a lot of players to learn to code.

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… and there were also the more passive games, where you just a customer, like Pac-Man (which my brother excelled at) and pong. IMG_0299IMG_0327

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One of the things that I did NOT like was just how easy it is to get turned around and lost in the maze of exhibits.

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Look at the map above, even there it’s like, “HUH” … unlike most museums there’s no clear path, it’s like a bit like a  giant fun house maze

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… to the extent that there they have had to place massive markers on the floor to direct you around … markers that if the museum were well laid out shouldn’t exist. That said, I can SORT of see a justification for messy layout, in that innovation and the connections between technologies isn’t a straight forward thing. Innovation goes backwards and side-ways and every which way… but a museum really shouldn’t do that.

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I mean look at the above space, really look at them, and tell me if can figure where you’re supposed to go next in terms of the layout of the exhibit. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to it… and seriously, I got kind of lost in it. I almost never get lost.

The future is ALMOST now…or what’s normal in the SanFran Bay area is freaky everywhere else

You know you’re in Silicon Valley when… Didn’t happen to run into any of these in while attending my friend’s 50th wedding anniversary in the North Bay (i.e., north of SF) but as SOON as I got south of San Francisco …. BOOM… these suckers seemed to be everywhere ….  Google’s beta test versions of self-driving cars (i.e., the car drives itself) … there are testers seated in every vehicle who are there to make sure it doesn’t do anything stupid or kill anyone, but for the most part these cars are driving themselves.

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They’re easy to spot because of the radar type things on their roofs.

Welcome to the future!!!

That said, I wasn’t there but a day when I noticed one of the “hiccups” in the system of these new cars… as of today, they drive like your 80-year-old grand mother… in particular the one in the upper right hand picture was in the left turn lane and took for bloody fucking ever to make up its mind that it was in fact safe to make the left turn.

I’ve seen this happen more than a few times now, and then I heard a TV commentator talking about how drivers in the south bay are starting to get pissed off at the Waymo’s blocking traffic in left turn lanes.

The pics I took while NOT driving, were taken on a quiet suburban street in Sunnyvale, not far from Google headquarters…  outside the home of my friend where I was staying for about a week or so… Every day, almost like clockwork…  this Waymo showed up, would pull to the side of the road, stand there for a bit, then go on its way. One day I ran out (grabbed the pics) and got the girl inside to roll down the window. I asked her WHY were they doing that. She said, “I have no idea, the car does what it wants to do, I just sit here and take notes.”

A few days later I went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View California and saw this display on the topic, about the not to distant future (hopefully) where they’ve managed to test all the bugs out and fully self driven cars are ready for prime time (a future that I for one look forward to, as I’ve never been one to drive for the fun of it).

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A new (to me) sound technology I’ve never seen in a museum before.

Spotted this innovative sound management system that I’ve not seen anywhere else at The Computer History Museum in Mountain View California. I talk about it as part of a blog post about that museum, but I think it’s worth its own mention (and not buried in something much longer).

If you look carefully at the picture below you’ll see a woman watching a video in the middle of wide open space… this is pretty unusual although you might not realize it… normally movies are presented in cordoned off areas where the acoustics can be easily controlled. What’s even more unusual is from where she’s sitting the sound is completely clear and distinct, almost to the extent that it was like wearing headphones … or as though it were the only sound in the room, like in a movie theater. YET, from where I took the picture, you can only barely hear what she’s listening to at all.

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How you ask? Well… look above her head and you’ll see there is small white square hanging from the ceiling… That’s where the sound came from… Now, logic dictates that it’s some sort of directed speaker that produces very directed sound waves. As in, she can hear it loudly and distinctly without it annoying someone a few feet away (where I was standing). From there, it merges into a sort of white noise created by the various soundtracks all running simultaneously but without the effect of cacophony of sound, like you get in other museums.

You can’t see it, but right behind me was a different video, with the same set up, with its own sound track, that in no way interfered with the experience the woman in the above picture was having. Now let’s face it, I go to a LOT of museums and I’ve never seen this technology in use before. I have no idea how much it costs but I hope to see it a lot more regularly from now on. It rocked…

Pacifica State Beach, California

Meeting up with an old friend I haven’t seen in years…. I will say this about the Bay Area… if you don’t like the weather drive 15 minuets, it’ll change. I was staying at the home of another old friend in the South Bay area, and drove north to Pacifica, which is right next to the ocean. We met at her home, had a long chat and then walked the TWO blocks (yes life is hard for some people) to the sea-side.

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The temps in Sunnyvale (which is in the South bay) were 77 F when I left about an hour ago, here in Pacifica it’s 64 … this difference is because of the fog that coats the place almost none stop during the summer months

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There was a group of whales out there— we kept seeing multiple poofs of water as they spouted….. and then I saw the whale’s back out in the distance, for just a second… and we kept watching and then saw jumping whales and their heads as they tried to scoop up the fish and then their tails when they dove back in—- but it was so far out in the ocean that I seriously doubted that my little iPhone camera picked up anything — and it didn’t

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Just at the edge of the seashore was this statue:

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Captain Don Gaspar De Portola
born in Balaguer, Catalonia, Spain
First Governor of California
Founder of San Diego and Monterey
Discoverer of the Bay of San Francisco on November 4, 1769
Presented by the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia
The Honorable Jordi Pujol on November 5, 1988
To the People of the State of California
The honorable George Deukmejian Governor

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Me and my old friend, believe it or not we used to wear the same size clothes

That said, on the way back, my Subaru saved my life again today… was tired, driving home from Pacifica, didn’t notice cars in front of me on the highway suddenly slowing down, my car threw on the brakes and set off alarms, I threw the brakes on harder…. a tour bus was on the side of the road with the door to the luggage area completely open blocking a lane of traffic….

And then, when I got home to my friend’s house, where I’m staying… I found the family in bathing suits… “we’re going to go hot tub, care to join us?” My first soak in a hot tub in about a year — life in California is so hard