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Month: December 2008

The New Academy of Sciences

The New Academy of Sciences


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A few days ago while I was still in the Bay Area, I visited the new Academy of Sciences museum with my family. They just re-opened a few months ago after replacing their old earthquake-damaged buildings with a new, very unique building. You can follow those links to learn all about the ‘living roof’ and the various exhibits.

I have some mixed feelings about the new museum. The old museum (you can see some pictures of it at their time line page) was a funky amalgamation of several buildings built over many decades. You could see the history of modern American natural museums in one place. The old section had dioramas of stuffed animals in pseudo-natural scenes. Exhibits like lions hunting antelopes with Serengeti sounds playing on speakers. The newer sections had live animals and fish and a greater focus on education. The whole place was labyrinthine and dusty, and a well-used kind of ancient. It was never too full of people. I liked the old museum and I’m sad that a piece of my childhood is gone.

The new place is very shiny, flashy and popular. We waited for one hour and forty minutes to get inside. It might be bigger in cubic meters due to the higher ceilings, but I don’t think it’s bigger in square meters of floorspace. The main exhibition areas are limited to the two ends of the building, past the planetarium and tropical sphere, and the aquarium has been moved to the basement. The aquarium is quite a bit nicer than it was, with a few tanks that rival the Monterey Bay Aquarium in quality and cool curving Plexiglas, but not in size. Like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the museum pushes education on choices the individual can make to positively change their effect on the ecosphere. They have a ‘carbon balance’, but it mostly ends up being played with by children who generally don’t decide whether to buy a SUV or a hybrid car.

I found a couple things I really liked; click on the thumbnails above. Read the tag on the human skull, and take a look at a whole wall of very carefully pinned ladybugs. I took three pictures a various zooms. That may have been a PhD thesis, right there.

Mini-Vacation – Monterey Bay Aquarium

Mini-Vacation – Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Yesterday, Melissa and I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were met there by my brother Adam and his lady friend Shinji, who not coincidentally decided to also see the aquarium on the same day. The aquarium has expanded since my last visit. There is now a northern wing that has fresh water otters, an “outer bay” tank and a seahorse exhibit (that was under construction, sadly). More than the last time I was there (or maybe I was too young to pay attention to things not cute), the aquarium really pushes conservation and ethical seafood consumption. They have a set of cards you can carry to help guide seafood and sushi purchases in stores and restaurants.

Mini-Vacation – Hearst Castle

Mini-Vacation – Hearst Castle

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The Hearst Castle is ridiculous. The architecture and the history of the people who visited it are quite a spectacle. And of course I think it would have been grand fun to have visited it when William Randolph Hearst was alive and the place was hip and hopping. I was wondering with Melissa over dinner if I became silly rich could I invite movie stars and political leaders over to my remote ranch? Probably not. We did both agree that if we were to build on that site we would have had more of the buildings and common areas facing the grand view. As it is, many of the rooms, like the dining room, have no view.

Before we went to the castle we looked at some tide pools. Melissa even found a hermit crab wandering in between the rocks.

Tomorrow we will see the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Mini-Vacation – Santa Barbara

Mini-Vacation – Santa Barbara

Melissa and I are taking the slow route up to the Bay Area for the holidays. Tonight we’re staying in Santa Barbara, and we’ll visit the Hearst Castle tomorrow. For dinner we ate at a decent Mexican restaurant on State Street. Afterwards we walked down State Street looking at all the shops and restaurants. It’s clear that the economy has started to hit Main, err… State Street America. Despite the Christmas decorations, and the huge tree in a left-turn lane, there are quite a few empty stores and others going out of business. I guess now is the time to start a new business cheaply in Santa Barbara – as long as you can weather the current economic storm.

More tomorrow!

Bookmarks for December 10th through December 18th

Bookmarks for December 10th through December 18th

These are my links for December 10th through December 18th:

Rainy San Diego

Rainy San Diego

It’s been really rainy and a bit cold here in San Diego so far this week. Here are some pictures I took today of the rain, and a couple of our xmas decorations.





Yes, that’s a bike work stand in the foreground.

Bookmarks for November 26th through December 6th

Bookmarks for November 26th through December 6th

These are my links for November 26th through December 6th: