Category Archives: California

Thursday Doors: The Queen Mary

CoinFrontLast weekend my husband and I went to a Geocaching mega-event called Geocoinfest. If you don’t know what a Geocoin is, the header at the top of my blog is actually taken from one: the 1000 finds Geocoin. I bought it several years ago when I started this blog, in honor of my thousandth find (I am currently at 2881 finds, but who’s counting?)

The event was basically an opportunity for geocachers from all over the country (and world) to get together, swap stories and trackables, and to find more geocaches. It was held on the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach.  The first Geocoinfest on a ship! And my first time on the Queen Mary.

02MainHall

The old Queen is looking a little faded these days. It is still a nice place to be, and definitely worth a visit there on the water in the lovely SoCal weather (and surprisingly, the air was much better down there than up near us because of the North Bay fires). But on the main deck and in the common rooms, you get more of a sense of past glory and times gone by, than current grandeur. The wood is polished and shiny, but the ceilings are low and the pipes are visible. And, I think I see a . . .  phone booth?

On the ship there were a couple of interesting models, one of the SS Normandie, one of her sister ships. Look at the tiny doors, along with tiny-everything-else!

And another model of the Queen Mary made entirely of Legos. More tiny Lego doors!

Out on the ship’s deck itself, there were more doors leading to mysterious places:

Although it looks like potentially a good place for them, there weren’t any geocaches hidden on the ship itself. But there were plenty around the dock and harbor area, and some special “lab caches” made just for the event. We found them all and got a souvenir.
Congratulations

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time) at Norm 2.0’s blog here.

20KarenwithQueenMary

 

 

Advertisements

Mundane Monday: Pendulum

s-l300The last class I taught was about pendulums, those mundane things that swing back and forth. My favorite illustration of how a pendulum works is the old-fashioned metronome. I still own one like this, somewhere. The lower on the stick you position the weight, the faster the tempo it marks. The one in the picture would be ticking so fast it would be hard to keep up.

This phenomenon illustrates the fundamental principle behind pendulums: that the period of a pendulum (that is, the time it takes for it to swing back and forth) depends on its length, not on the weight or on the angle at which it is released (for small angles). When you move the weight up and down the stick of the metronome, you change the length of the pendulum, and thereby change its period and the tempo it is providing. Nowadays, with metronome apps changing the tempo at the push of a virtual button on your phone, this concept is going to be harder for young musicians to intuit.

Our students made their own pendulums and varied each of the three parameters (length, weight, and angle) to figure out which made a difference in the period of the pendulum. There were brightly-colored chains, with weights hanging on them, attached to protractors and hooks all around the classroom.

ClassroomPendulum

One type of pendulum that many students were already familiar with was a kind that you often see in science museums, called a Foucault’s Pendulum. This pendulum, hung on a fixed pivot that does not rotate, was first used to observe and measure the rotation of the earth. This video provides a good explanation of how that is done:

 

Only a week later, I found myself at Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, and they have a Foucault’s Pendulum in the lobby there. This picture was taken looking down on the pendulum bob as it swings. The bob itself is lighted, as is the circle around it that enables observers to see the change in the pendulum’s position throughout the day as the Earth rotates.

 

For the Mundane Monday Challenge #131.

Astronomers
The Astronomers at Griffith Park Observatory

Buying a Cello

TopOfStairsWhen you are buying a new instrument, whether for yourself or someone else, it feels like opening (and closing) many doors. The last time I went instrument shopping, it was for myself. In the past 10 years, I have bought both a violin and a viola. As an adult, I found that experience fun.

But I remember the experience as a teen being stressful. I played several instruments and tried to think about tone, sound, playability, etc, but the looming questions in the back of my mind were always things like, would my teachers like it? Would my parents complain about the price? Was this instrument “worth it?” I had a hard time focusing on what was important. Continue reading Buying a Cello

Layers of October

As we head into fall, days get shorter and the light changes. It’s also time for seasonal CITO (Cache-In-Trash-Out) events. We go for walks in the Baylands and instead of looking for geocaches, we look for trash. As I’ve written before about this park, it’s pretty clean. We never get enough trash to fill our bag, and end up taking the trash bag home to use it for household garbage so as not to waste it and defeat the purpose of the event. Continue reading Layers of October

Mundane Tuesday: Tired Oak Tree

This tree, in the middle of Jack Fischer Park in Campbell CA, has a sign next to it which reads:

Hello, I am an old and tired Oak tree. But people and wildlife still enjoy my company. Someday, I may drop a branch here or there, so for your safety, please stay outside the fenced area. Thanks! 

Continue reading Mundane Tuesday: Tired Oak Tree

Mundane Monday: Great Wall Shopping

The Mutianyu area near Beijing is a great place to visit the Great Wall of China. It’s not crowded, a long stretch of the wall itself is restored to good condition, the surrounding natural scenery is beautiful, and it has a chair lift and toboggan! But today I’ll focus on the mundane aspects of the visit: what you see when you pay your money. Continue reading Mundane Monday: Great Wall Shopping

Thursday Doors: Self-Driving Car

More geeky doors for Thursday Doors!

The Computer History Museum near the Googleplex is a good place to take guests who are visiting for graduation (or anything else). I’m not a computer scientist myself, but I’m the wife of one and my dad, a chemist, has always been an early adopter of computer technology. I think we had one of the earliest IBM PC’s in our home back in 1981.

The museum is comprehensive, from Ada Lovelace to Steve Jobs. And I just felt like including this picture of one of the first computer video games, Spacewar,  because it’s cool. Spacewar was developed in 1962 and runs on a machine called a PDP-1.

Spacewar being played on a restored PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View
Spacewar being played on a restored PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

But, let’s leave the desktop computers for a minute, and move on to computers that move! When we moved to Mountain View, it didn’t take long for us to see self-driving cars motoring around the neighborhood. They always have someone in them, though, who kind of looks like he or she is driving, so it’s not as odd of a sight as it might be.

The museum has one of these cars for visitors to sit in, both doors permanently wide open.

Side Door to Waymo Car

In my in-progress SF novel, set in the year 2074, I write about a patchwork self-driving car usage. Some cities and regions have only self-driving cars. Some are reliant on public transit like subways and trams, and have walkable and bikeable downtown areas. And in that world, for cultures who do use cars, I envision an autopilot option that comes with every vehicle, but that its use is voluntary. Some characters in particular don’t like to use that option, and their attitudes towards transportation serve to reveal more about their character.

Myself, I’m a fan of self-driving cars, at least as long as they’re electric and can be built to run on sustainable technologies. I believe they have the potential to increase safety and decrease traffic congestion. And I’ve never been so enamored of driving that not being at the wheel myself seems disappointing. Actually I quite like the idea of still being able to get around independently when I’m, say, 95, and my vision and reflexes aren’t what they used to be.

The author in the back seat of a Waymo car
Take me home, Jeeves!

Thursday Doors: Stanford Medical Center

The last time I lived in the SF Bay area, I was a PhD student at Stanford University. I graduated from the Neurosciences Program, an interdisciplinary program for studying the brain that includes faculty from both the School of Humanities and Sciences and the School of Medicine. Even back then, in the early 1990s, brain science seemed to me to be the field of the future, an exciting time full of promise to understand both the world and ourselves. I thought, rightly, that you could spend an entire career, an entire lifetime, studying the brain, and never get bored or tired of it. The tagline for this blog, The Brain–Is Wider Than The Sky, is taken from Emily Dickinson’s poem with that first line.  Continue reading Thursday Doors: Stanford Medical Center

Mundane Monday: Platform

This week was the start of a busy end-of-school-year time. From my son’s birthday in late May onward, it usually doesn’t let up until we go on vacation. My son turned 14 this year, and I took him and some friends to see Guardians of the Galaxy II. I’d already seen it, so I went to find a geocache nearby behind the Googleplex.  Continue reading Mundane Monday: Platform

Mundane Monday: Broken Path

Driving around the North Bay near Suisun City, we came upon a geocache called (ironically, as it turned out) “Beautiful Downtown Denverton.” According to the geocache page description, “in 1878 the town [of Denverton] had a store and a blacksmith shop, a wheelwright, a meat market, a hotel, a school-house, and a Good Templars Hall.”  Continue reading Mundane Monday: Broken Path