August 30, 2011

Shakes, science, and sex, drugs, and rock n roll

Sooo, I survived my first earthquake. It happened about 12:30 last night and was a 2.9 on the Richter Scale. I didn’t know the Richter Scale went that low. It shook the house and knocked a book off my housemate’s desk. He was shocked it didn’t break any windows or knock out the power. I told him this house withstood the 1906 quake, a 2.9 is like a fart in the wind. He was sufficiently terrified that he has packed a duffel bag with a change of clothes, water, and some candy bars in case the “big one” comes. He said he doesn’t want to be running around hungry and in his “skivvies” when buildings starting coming down. I slept through the entire thing.

Anyway, today was my last day before real work starts so I relaxed and read in a coffee shop for a bit and then headed to the California Academy of Science (the place I was trying to find yesterday in the park). Turns out it was just around the next corner when I got hungry, lost interest, and found some doner kebab. This place is unreal. It was $29 (minus $3 if you show proof of public transportation to get there, which I had) and I thought this to be pretty steep. I was wrong, it was worth every cent. It is a natural history museum, an aquarium, a zoo, and a planetarium all rolled into one. I saw a slice of a 2000 year old redwood, a leafcutter ant colony, a shark and stingray tank (I almost dropped my camera into the shark tank), every type of underwater ecosystem in the aquarium, a 4-level rainforest/butterfly dome (which costs like $12 at another museum which will remain anonymous- and this one is much better and not extra $$), a black mamba- one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, penguins, an albino alligator and dinosaur skeletons resembling the ones in Smithsonian.

The entire building also has a living roof…2.5 million pounds of living biomass to insulate the building and soak up the elements. Incredible.The planetarium also is included in the cost; this is 45 minute show in IMAX form except the entire dome ceiling is the screen. It was narrated by Jodey Foster and took my awed colleagues and me from the beginning of the universe with the Big Bang to the origins of life in the deep oceans to the inside of a chloroplast. For biology majors and general nerds like me, this place is like a crack house for the late “Rack ‘em” Willy, may he rest in peace. I spent 5 hours there and felt like I owed the place more money for such an incredible scientific journey, so I bought a travel coffee mug with a wooley mammoth on it in the gift shop on the way out. Don’t make fun.

Since I have some time I’ll also tell you about my neighborhood: Haight Ashbury. Quite a place. For those of you who don’t know, it is the heart of the Hippie movement in the 1960’s. It is ground zero for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I’m sure some of our parents’ generation got to experience it in it’s heyday and if you are reading this, I can assure some of the same people are still here, and they have yet to wash or cut their hair. The neighborhood is now known for its “alternative lifestyle.” It makes the Highlands in Louisville look like a prep school quad. Here are a couple shop signs:

And I love this street sign on the pavement in the park. It is professionally painted which suggests it was mandated by some sort of city government agency.

Ok, off to go grab a drink in Russian Hill with an old college housemate we will call Cristobal Peron. Hopefully these posts won’t taper too much after real work starts tomorrow. Miss you all…

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