I’m a Gnu—How Do You Do?

giraffe I love the zoo. For example, I love the Giraffes’ elegant yet arrogant way to look at the world from the top, and love their comical way of spreading the front legs in order to reach water or grass at the bottom. Also nice to see how affectionate a Giraffe father can be with his offspring – assuming that was his offspring, not the neighbour’s daughter, of course.

San Francisco Zoo has a pretty nice African Savannah enclosure; while necessarily much smaller than the real thing, it’s pretty big nevertheless. The animals can roam  or get out of each other’s way, and it makes me feel less guilty about keeping animals in captivity.

The best part about the zoo, however, is that you get to see all kinds of animals; those within the enclosure as well as those outside. Children with an attention span of less than five seconds “Look Mummy the kangaroo is jumping about…” (they really were!) “…let’s go!” equally delightful are the struggling parents. Those struggling to keep discipline, and best of all most struggling to answer their children’s question. The best conversation I overheard went like this:

Mummy, where are we going now?

Now, we are going… … … … …this way!

Mummy?

Yes.

Mummy, where is this way going?

$15 entrance fee well spent.

(I also checked out the new fencing on the tiger enclosure. Fort Knox would be proud of it.)

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Alarm! Alarm? Well… maybe.

volleyball Funny, that. As I leave the shuttle train and make my way across San Francisco International terminal, walking towards the check-in counters, some strobe lights flash on the wall. People walkabout, and I cross paths with several security people. Nobody bothers me on my way, and there are no announcements, but halfway across the terminal, I realise that more people walk towards the exits than not.

I follow this silent call of the crowd. Eventually outside, I ask an official. Yes, it turns out, we are having a full-scale security alert. The entire terminal and all planes at the gates are being evacuated.

There was no sense of danger, panic or even urgency anywhere. Eventually, firemen arrive and, shouldering a pickaxe, they leisurely stroll into the terminal building. Ten minutes later, the alarm goes silent and we are being re-admitted.

Had there been a real danger, the evacuation procedures would have failed. Maybe the officials knew what we didn’t, and the full-scale alert wasn’t quite on the highest level.  Keeps everyone on their toes, though. I am certainly glad that there wasn’t more to it.

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Ethno Wunderland

SanJose Just returned from my “home away from home” in Geek County (otherwise known as Silicon Valley, California), and as always, it’s good to be back home (even though I write this post at shortly after 5am in the morning. My body clock must have gotten stuck in customs once again. It certainly isn’t here yet).

The San Francisco Bay Area has a lot to offer for techno geeks, nature lovers and culture lovers alike. One aspect at least in which the Bay Area beats even our beloved multi-culti London is the lunch time menu. Within under ten minutes driving range from my office, we had lunches with almost no ethnic repeats:

  • Californian-esque Salad Bar
  • Mexican Burritos
  • Thai lunch box
  • Korean BBQ
  • Sushi
  • French Steak Tartare
  • Indian Curry

Admittedly, ten minutes driving in West London get you nowhere. Over there, you can made significant mileage in ten minutes. Still prefer London to the Bay Area, but it is difficult some times to explain why.

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Lovely San Francisco (?)

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Lovely San Francisco, indeed. We walked the city’s many hills up and down through China Town and the Italian Quarter to Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street and the Marina, visited the De Young and Asian Arts museums, walked the coastal trail from Fisherman’s Wharf to Cliff House, enjoyed the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

We rode the cable car, the bus, and the vintage tram (the ‘F’ line along Market Street), and we managed to cruise some parts with our rental car without getting lost.

And we were, and still are, surprised just how many homeless people we saw in the streets, and how many people who were obviously not quite in their right mind due to present or past drug taking or other reasons. In a way, it is always good to see the other side of shiny. Helps getting things into the right perspective.

Back Home

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11,000 miles and three weeks later, I am as ever glad to be back home. There’s just nothing that beats the own mattress and space, even if the boiler refuses to start.

In addition to a two week business trip, the wife and I spend a week exploring Silicon Valley and the surrounding Bay Area with its gorgeous State Parks, Monterey with the Bay and the Aquarium, the Pacific coast and of course San Francisco.

I’ll share some of our thoughts and (photographic) finds over the next few days. Until then, it’s a matter of sitting here and waiting for my brain to complete the journey back to England.

 

Gone Away. Back Soon.

Selfportrait_61 Dear travellers in space and the wild, wild web: W7 is once again away from home, travelling both on business and pleasure. While I hope the business part is not entirely without pleasure, the wife will also join me there for a week of pure, work-free, pleasure.
People of San Francisco, the Bay Area and Monterey: be warned.

Back after the May Bank Holiday.

Saving Fish…

Parrot
Time for another book, since I have read two lovely ones during our holiday. So, today I shall mostly be recommending…

Amy Tan‘s Saving Fish From Drowning.

A reviewer on Amazon describes it as a great comic drama, and I guess this sums it up nicely. A group of middle-class people from San Francisco travel through China and Burma, but not everything goes as smooth as planned: It all starts with Bibi, the organiser and tour guide, dying. When the group heads off with a replacement guide, things start going pear-shaped due to their own ignorant doing, and due to other circumstances.

A brilliant tale, comic and dramatic and something for the heart. Very lovingly and insightfully written, as all of Amy Tan’s books are. Highly, highly recommended!

de Young

de Young Museum
I went to San Francisco’s newly build and re-opened de Young Museum last Sunday. After getting lost in Golden Gate Park due to Sunday closures and ongoing building and roadworks, cruising around in circles for a while, I made it and spend the best part of the day there.

A lovely and versatile collection, although I thought that they had a number or nice pieces, they are a little short of highlights.

It was fascinating to see that the entire paintings collection, especially of course the more modern works, contained nothing that comes close to my stuff. I need to think more, and self-critically, about what this means for my painting, but in a way it made me think of myself as an individual. That’s something.

Click here for a few photos that I took there.

3 1/2 Weeks

Cessna CockpitFurther on the subject of numbers and how they add up: For work, I travel fairly regularly between London and San Francisco. About 4 times a year, approximately 10 hours per leg of the journey, over the last 7 years. That makes it

4 trips/year x 20 hrs/trip x 7 years = 560 hours = 23 days 8 hours = 3 1/2 weeks

3 1/2 weeks, approximately, spend in total limbo, just in the air between London and San Francisco, neither here nor there. I am endlessly fascinated by this rather depressing fact.

More so: Orbitz reports 10 daily, scheduled, non-stop flights on that particular route alone. Some are code-sharing, so let’s say 8. Each flight takes approximately 10 hours, and each scheduled flight has a return flight in the opposite direction. Thus, there are 4 big planes, or over 1,000 passengers, in the air at all times, any time of the day and any day of the year, on that particular route alone. Isn’t that amazing?

Reminds me on the question how we’ll propel those aeroplanes in the not-so distant future. Still unanswered.