Mar. 24th, 2009

mr_cellaneous: (me)
(I didn't have that much to say about day 2. I went to some meetings, had Thai for lunch--appreciating the mental image evoked by the menu item "Jungle Lamb"--went to more meetings, and walked to Chinatown for dinner, the end.)
  • Today I had nothing to do at lunch time or for a few hours thereafter, so I took a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf, ate lunch at an overpriced but fairly tasty and pleasantly atmospheric chip shop, and took another cable car home. I hadn't ridden on a cable car since I was 8 years old. When I was a teenager, growing up in San Francisco, I would've sneered at myself. Tourist!

    But you know what? Cable cars rock. Just for starters, what other mode of transportation in this lawsuit-happy age still lets you dangle yourself off the side on a running board and feel wind in your face on a beautiful Spring day, while the operator plays a percussion concert on the bellrope while keeping up a comic patter with the other riders, talking trash to other Muni operators and occasionally shouting a greeting by name to someone on the sidewalk?

    Fisherman's Wharf... well, okay, the t-shirt shops and souvenir stands are pretty awful. But walk just a little further, beyond the distance the average tourist is willing to travel from his or her parking place, and it suddenly becomes fascinating. There's a real live industrial fishing wharf there, piled high with the tools of the industry. And a bunch of genuinely cool historic ships to goggle at. Worth the visit.

  • I adore the ringtone on my cellphone. It sounds like an old-fashioned bell-ringer dial telephone. I especially adore it when it rings while I'm standing at the microphone in an IETF working group meeting making a public comment. Comedy gold, man.

  • Tonight was the social event for IETF attendees. It costs extra and I usually don't go, but this time it was held at the California Academy of Sciences and wasn't too expensive. My favorite museum in the world when I was a kid living an easy bike-ride away from it with a membership card in my pocket. I haven't had a chance to go back since they rebuilt it, though.

    I didn't get to see all of it--a number of sections were closed. What I saw of it... made me really miss the museum I used to love. It's not that it's bad, it's very good. It's just not alive to me in the same way. Or, more optimistically: it's not alive yet. Perhaps a museum gains personality by accretion over a period of years, and this new place just hasn't got it yet. In any case, it hasn't got it. No quiet little niches and galleries where a kid can sit and just absorb the place. Maybe those were the closed-off sections. I'll hope.

    The exterior is fantastic. The green roof deserves all the praise it's gotten. The building fits perfectly into its setting, doing no violence at all to the Music Concourse or to Golden Gate Park (unlike that horrible piece of Fuck-You Architecture they shat out across the way). (Though, credit where due, the DeYoung is very nice on the inside. I just wish it could've been designed by Möbius or Klein so it only had an inside. There are no words in human language for how much I hate the outside. But I digress.)

    Some of the interior is great too. The rain forest enclosure, in particular, just blew my mind.

    And the new Steinhart Aquarium is gorgeous; it reminds me of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is high praise indeed. My only slight regret is that there already was a Monterey Bay Aquarium and now there's no Steinhart, but I can live with that.

    Biggest disappointment was the new Morrison Planetarium. Oh, that hurts. I have so many happy memories of hours spent sitting under that perfect simulation of the night sky, shining behind the silhouetted skyline of San Francisco. The laser shows were my favorite, but the astronomy shows used to cost only 50 cents with a membership card and so I saw a lot more of those. Now they've tilted the dome over and turned it into a hemisphere-shaped IMAX theatre without the image clarity; a really really really big-screen TV. The formerly-perfect stars are fuzzy. There are visible scan lines in the display. I could weep.

  • Leaving aside the setting, the party was pretty nice. Amusing observation along the way: They took us from the hotel to the party in big shuttle buses, and my bus was full. The bus stopped at the Academy, and all four people in row one stood up. The ones on the right got off, then the ones on the left. All four people in row two stood up. The ones on the right got off, then the ones on the left. All four people in row three stood up... and so on, all the way back to where I was sitting, whereupon my companions and I wordlessly repeated the operation. It was the most orderly exit from a bus I have ever seen in my life.

    This is what happens when you fill a bus with networking engineers and protocol geeks.

  • After the party, I started to get on one of the return coaches, when it hit me that it was only 9:30 and a beautiful night, and I still had a Muni pass in my pocket, and how often do I get to walk through Golden Gate Park? So walk I did, all the way to Market and Van Ness, and then took a trolley bus the last six blocks or so. I'm really tired now.

    It brought to mind a story that I feel like telling, though. 1985, the night of my high school graduation, there was a senior class party at my classmate Jessica's house. Her parents were apparently the sort who, while not exactly approving of kids' drinking, recognized that it was going to happen one way or the other and it might as well happen in a place where they could keep the kids safe. I was never much of a drinker, but there was plenty of my own preferred intoxicant as well, and I consumed a very large amount of it.

    By and by, it got to be about two or three in the morning, and I'd had as much fun as it's possible for a seventeen-year-old boy to have without a girlfriend, a driver's license or social skills, and I decided to head home. But the bus that ran directly there had stopped running at midnight; I'd have to go all the way downtown and transfer to a streetcar coming all the way back--it would take hours. Instead, I decided to walk home.

    But, see above re: intoxicants. I was a just a teeny bit paranoid that night, and felt very tense as I walked along the streets, fretting about muggers jumping out from behind all the oscar-the-grouch garbage cans to take the two dollars I had in my wallet.

    I vividly, viscerally recall the moment when I finally stepped into a deserted Golden Gate Park and heaved a huge sigh of relief. Because, you see, I'd thought about it logically, and realized that since no one ever walks in the park at night, it would be a completely stupid place for anyone who wanted to mug passersby to hang out. There was no prey, so naturally there would be no predators. A guy who wanted to steal my wallet would have to be completely crazy to be hiding behind one of those weird twisty shadowy trees. In fact, he'd have to be totally insane. I mean, completely around the bend. He would be entirely beyond the reach of human logic. There would be no reasoning with such a person. He would be driven by utterly incomprehensible motivations. So, logically, if there were someone hiding behind one of those trees, he'd probably EAT MY FUCKING LIVER.

    It was perhaps the shortest-lived sigh of relief of my entire life.

    Tonight's walk was much more pleasant.

And so good night.


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