Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Scott and some of the other Fellows visited the Googleplex yesterday to meet the folks behind Google Earth. The employee cafeteria is staffed by top-notch chefs, and their budget is "the sky is the limit", so lunches are very tasty there. Scott said new Google employees usually gain a lot of weight. Google has a dinosaur skeleton in their courtyard and a rocketship in their lobby.
We went to Balboa Park which is where all the museums in San Diego are clustered. They're all in beautiful old buildings, and the whole park is landscaped with lots of flowers and fountains. We decided to visit the Natural History Museum. They had some fun exhibits for the kids, including one where they could stand in front of a green screen and see themselves on TV with time-lapse photography of plants growing. Audrey liked meeting the baby mammoth. Mary liked comparing the size of modern shark's teeth with the enormous teeth of extinct mega-sharks. After we left the museum, we stopped to watch some street performers. They picked a bunch of kids to be part of their juggling show. One girl had to leave the stage suddenly, so they needed another kid quick, and grabbed Mary. All the kids stood in a line, and the jugglers threw their clubs back and forth in front of and behind the kids. We didn't think they were actually going to do it, but they did. They told all the kids to stand still so they wouldn't get hit. Mary said she could feel the clubs going by, they were so close.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Don, Maggie and the boys came out to San Francisco during MLK weekend for the MacWorld Expo. Scott went to the city on the train Friday morning to go to the Expo with Don and Danny, and the girls and I drove up after Mary got out of school. The lower grades get out at 1:25 on Fridays, so we able to beat the traffic with a big headstart. We got a hotel room so we wouldn't have to drive back and forth each day to visit with the Wittekinds. We toured a WW II ship, ate lunch in Chinatown, drank hot chocolate in Ghirardelli Square, ate lunch in a sourdough bread restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf, rode the cable cars, saw the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, and just enjoyed each other's company.
It was really cold that weekend. Below freezing at night and not much higher during the day. Mary's winter coat disappeared the first time she wore it to school. Another girl in her class who had a similar coat took it home by mistake, and we were able to get it back in time for the weekend in San Francisco.
Last weekend we flew to San Diego. Scott met up with Don and the rest of the Swarm gang on Friday, and the girls and I went to the zoo. It took an hour to get there on the city bus, because we had to transfer twice and wait for a long time for one of the transfers. We took a taxi back, and it was only about a 10-15 minute ride.
Mary's favorite part of the day was the sea lion show. She was picked out of the audience as a volunteer, and she got to hug the sea lion and feed it a fish, and get a big kiss from it. Audrey likes to imitate the sea lion's bark.
They also liked the children's area of the zoo. Audrey pet a rabbit and Mary pet sheep and goats. We liked the Pandas too.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The kids had a great time on Halloween. Mary found a Batman cape in a thrift store in Sonoma, so she was a vampire bat. Audrey was a pink kitty cat. Scott made her ears out of construction paper and a hairband, and he painted both their faces. It's sort of hard to tell what animal Audrey is. The ears look a little like pig ears. Some people guessed she was a mouse. In the afternoon, we trick-or-treated in the shops along California Avenue with Mary's friend from school. In the evening, a bunch of families gathered at another Fellow's house to trick-or-treat. Mary painted the scar on the pirate's cheek. The foreign kids really liked our American tradition of going house to house and getting candy.
In October, the Fellowship took us all on a group field trip to Sonoma to visit wine country. They brought babysitters along to keep the kids busy while we grown-ups were treated to a wine tasting with a wine professor from UC Davis and a delicious lunch. The next day, everyone visited Jack London State Park for a picnic and some hiking. It was Mary's turn to take the class mascot, a stuffed rabbit, home with her for the weekend, so Honey Bunny had a lot to write about in his journal!
So, what do we do here when we're not off having adventures in the mountains or exploring the cultural riches of the museums of Silicon Valley? We go to classes, drop off the kids at school and pick them up, practice the saxophone (Ellen), redesign the ramen noodle user experience (Scott), meet with other Fellows, and mostly do lots of laundry (Ellen).
Our washer and dryer here only hold about a day's worth of clothes for the four of us. And since a load takes the same amount of time as a big load in a big washer and dryer, I run the machines almost constantly. The pile on the left is three loads.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
We wanted to visit Yosemite National Park before the weather got too cold, so we picked a weekend in October and reserved a cabin at Curry Village.We stayed in a cabin without a bathroom, and another family of Fellows stayed in a tent cabin. The campground had huge boulders right outside our cabin that were taller than the roof. There were smaller rocks, too, and the kids loved climbing on them like mountain goats. We skipped school on Friday and spent all day driving to Yosemite. On Saturday, we went on a hike with our friends. The trail climbed up a mountain a bit, but wasn't too strenuous for the kids. There were lots of rocks to climb alongside the trail. Our friends introduced us to the chocolate fairy, who leaves candy along the trail for the kids to discover. The trail led us to a waterfall, and that's where we ran into another Fellow who was there that weekend. She and her friend hiked the rest of the way up to the top of the waterfall, but our two families headed back down. We waded in a rocky stream before heading to Yosemite Village for lunch.
That afternoon we explored the recreated Indian village near the Visitors' Center. The next morning, we hiked to a dry lake bed, then had lunch at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and took a guided tour of the hotel. We had a great time at Yosemite enjoying nature.
In September, when Scott was in Florida for the SND conference, the girls and I went to a Chinese Moon Festival. It's a fall harvest festival, when Chinese people visit their families. Here in America, Chinese people put on a huge party in a big park. We saw dancers, musicians, acrobats, dragons, and lion-dogs. We went with a Fellow from China, and she really enjoyed playing tour guide for us. I think her favorite part was buying a serving of Bad Smell Tofu for me to try. The cooking tofu really smelled awful whenever the wind blew a whiff of it our way. It didn't taste as bad as I thought it would. It was bitter, but it didn't make me gag or anything. Ruichun said you have to eat it at least three times before you get to like the taste. She said the tofu you can buy on the street in Beijing has a much stronger flavor than the tofu I ate. It was very popular at the festival, and there was a long line at the tofu booth.
The festival also had all the bounce houses and slides you see at every festival. That was Mary's favorite part.
This Saturday we're going to San Francisco for the Chinese New Year parade, so I'll have some more Chinese stuff to post.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Today we went to the Tech Museum in San Jose. It's another hands-on science museum, devoted to - you guessed it - technology and innovation. San Jose is the capital of Silicon Valley, after all. Mary's favorite activity was creating a character for a virtual world and making her jet ski and walk underwater. Audrey liked sitting in the roller coaster car and watching the virtual roller coasters the museum visitors created. In the photos, Scott and Mary are trying to reflect sunlight onto buildings to maximize solar heating, and Audrey is feeding a bone to May in the Idea House.
Our first official group trip with the Fellowship was a bus tour to San Francisco. They took us to brunch at Ghirardelli Square, to the Golden Gate Bridge, an area of town near the convention center that had museums and a park with a carousel (the Fellows with kids skipped the museum and visited the carousel), and to Twin Peaks, a scenic overlook. We had gorgeous weather, with no trace of the famous San Francisco fog.
Scott and Mary went to the Art Car show in San Jose. People decorate their cars with paint, Happy Meal toys, old floppy disks, and all sorts of stuff. I saw some of them driving through Palo Alto on their way to the show. The one with floppies had a license plate that said "DSK DRV". Scott said a lot of them at the show had license plates that described the car. There was a bananamobile, a giant red wagon, and a car that kids got to help decorate.
In September, we went to The Exploratorium, the granddaddy of all science museums, in San Francisco. It's in the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts, which was built for a World's Fair or something in the 1930s or so. It was meant to be a temporary display, but the city liked it so much, they rebuilt a permanent one. The Exploratorium isn't a gorgeous building on the inside. It looks more like a warehouse, but it's full of fun, hands-on science exhibits. We had fun making designs on a spinning sand table, blowing giant bubbles, playing with all sorts of mirrors, watching a dissection of a cow's eye, and more. After a whole day there, we went to Chinatown for dinner, and found a neighborhood festival going on in a park there.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
We had a little trouble getting Mary into school. When she had her TB test, the doctor marked on the form that it was negative, but didn't include the millimeter reading. So we filled out another form with the mm reading. Since the information was on two different sheets of paper, the school board didn't notice that all the information was there, and held up her application. Also, her grade at the school closest to our apartment was full, so they overflowed her to the next closest school. I wasn't sure she would make it to school on the first day, but we managed to get it straightened out and get her to school only about an hour late. Here she is holding up her admit slip.
The weekend before school started for the kids, a bunch of us went to the beach at Half Moon Bay. We took a winding road through the hills and under redwood trees to get there. The Half Moon Bay website said it wasn't a swimming beach, so we weren't prepared for the kids to get as wet as they did. The most exciting part of the day was seeing sea lions swimming right off shore, really close to the beach.
The Fellowship started in September, but the Fellows with kids came early because the kids started school in August. A bunch of us met at a park in Palo Alto for a picnic and watched a performance by the San Francisco Mime Troup. They're not the kind of mimes who walk into the wind and get trapped in boxes. They put on a full-length musical - very political, and very well done. The park had this great hunk of wood or rock or something that all the kids loved climbing on.
Okay, the adventure began six months ago, but we had really slow internet for a while, so there was no uploading anything. I can't find the photos of our first picnic at the park with the other Fellows, or of Mary's first day of school, so I'll post them when I figure out where they went. This is the Baylands, in Palo Alto. There's a boardwalk that goes out over the low, marshy shore of San Fransicso Bay. We saw wildflowers blooming, insect or frog eggs stuck to plants, and had a pretty nice view of the mountains. Mary especially liked the nature center. She enjoyed looking at drops of bay water through a microscope to see what was swimming in it. Audrey liked the animal dioramas.