What's New? 2008-10-05

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What's New? 2008-10-05

 5 October 2008
  Lila and her teacher, Shoshanna, at Hebrew School. (The light in the library is low, and a flash would be intrusive, so we'll have to make do with poor-quality pictures.)

Lila & Shoshanna at Hebrew School

Afterwards, we head down the peninsula towards Arata's Pumpkin Patch, on Hwy. 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, south of the Hwy. 92 intersection. It's become an annual thing, starting with the kids' pre-kindergarten class trips.

Arata's Pumpkin Patch

Lila & Isaac atop the bright orange pumpkins. Available is a color range from white and light pink to deep red, and from palm- to wheelbarrow-sized. Grocery stores are a much cheaper alternative, and might blunt some of the "buy me" vibe that happens when these are the first pumpkins spied this season.

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: Lila & Isaac

For the first time at Arata's there was a sword-fighting demonstration by a local martial arts club. It's interesting seeing how broadswords are wielded (in contrast to the lightweight Japanese katana to which we're more familiar). Heavy and rather dull, they require a completely different set of strategems and techniques. (I suspect had East met West we'd all be eating sushi instead of roast beef. Well, we are, actualy, but you know what I mean.)

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: resting warriors

Arata's make a huge corn maze, through which the kids always want to traverse, even when they were younger and it was rather scary. Here's Lila and I in the middle of our first attempt. (I taught the kids the right-hand rule for navigating mazes, but we weren't so methodical during our three trips through. We used the social, with-new-acquaintences, run-around method.)

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: Lila & Mickey in the maze

This year the maze safety monitor was the Minotaur; passing through each path several times an hour to ensure happiness and joy, giving out gold-painted gourds to the little kids. When one comes across this unexpected view everyone is taken aback.

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: the Minotaur

A panorama of the side of the maze, showing the square rooms, a pyramid resting area, and several levels of wall. Lila, at left, approves.

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: maze panorama

At the west edge of the farm, past the pumpkin and corn patches, is a straw-fighting area, complete with high and low areas. There is subterfuge, ambush, teasing, dancing, and, of course, lots of tossed straw. You can't imagine how long it took me to extract all this from Lila's hair.

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: Lila's hair

Near the end of our trip it's time for the kids to selecta pumpkin each and to have an excuse for wheelbarrow rides.

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: wheelbarrow rides

The happy couple, with the kids running and screaming loudly with newly-made friends near-by. A moment of quiet togetherness.

Arata's Pumpkin Patch: Rose & Mickey
 4 October 2008
  The California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, is re-opening after a complete post-earthquake re-build.

Recall please, that when the De Young Museum re-opened several years ago they were open day and night, and still the crowds queued up almost to the entrance to the park, past the Conservatory of Flowers.

So, you're no doubt saying to yourself, surely the administrators of the CAS learned from the fiasco across the street and did a great job of planning how to accomodate the entirely predictable crush of families who have been waiting for almost a half-decade for this moment?

And guess what? You would be completely wrong. No clue. At all. Long lines. Few staffers processing family membership applications (because the per-day admission is $25 per person). In short, yet another fiasco. Another black eye on San Francisco's tourist economy, based upon the feedback I heard from visitors in line for hours.

California Academy of Sciences long queues

Longer lines inside were the reward for staying outside for hours. Lines everywhere. To get to the bathrooms, to get to the roof gardens, to get to the three food-service areas (could we perhaps have spent a bit less square footage to feeding tourists bad food when there's a vibrant restaurant ecology three blocks away?), and to get to the two highlights, the planetarium and the tropical gardens. (In fact, the lines to the planetarium spill into a common walkway, and those to the gardens block much of the central area of the museum. It's almost as though - despite much-ballyhooed computer modelling of the design - nobody actually thought about what having people inside might do. I'd be awfully embarrassed by this three-quarter of a billion dollar boondoggle. It's a huge press release, with far less functionality. Next time, add a few children to the design staff. They might tell you that we don't need a huge central area dedicated to selling $7 cookies. Losing much of the interesting science displays, like the scarab beetles and the earthquake experience, isn't worth the overpriced sugar fare.)

There are a few high spots once you're actually inside; for us another hour wait. The butterflies are fearless, and beautiful.

butterfly, close-up

Being able to get close to the butterflies is fascinating. Many parents were having a challenging time explaining to their precious snowflakes why grabbing at the butterflies was a bad idea. Some didn't even try.

Lila & Isaac observe butterfly

Would I suggest tourists visit the CAS? Not yet. It's a great place to visit, but there are too many ways the admissions and visit process is irritating, from the cost to the flow. There's so much else to see here. It'll be better the next time you visit. Unless you want to be in line with your kids for most of a day. There's so much else that wasn't thought out, such as the far too few electrical outlets around to charge personal electronic devices and cameras (and to empty digital cameras onto laptops). For locals there's the very unfriendly cost and complete lack of cooperative memberships with other organizations. Despite having been reassured that the whole place was being built by donations and bonds, it sure feels as though the visitors are paying off the mortgage. Give it a few years, use free days and school field trips.

Exhausted by the hurry-up-and-wait inside, we spend a chunk of time at the near-by Shakespaere Garden. Lila has been practicing flips non-stop. I mean non-stop. Everywhere we go. All the time.

Lila flips

Dinner is a small, inexpensive feast at Naan & Curry. Then it's home for a hot bath. Lila decides to try a new towel fashion style:

Lila's post-bath towel stylings

Unexpectedly, Bubbie arrives. The kids are rolling around the floor, screaming with laughter, trying to show her something on the laptop. Don't ask; I have no idea.

Lila, Isaac, Bubbie Marion
 3 October 2008
  Isaac's aerie: the top bunk. That dark-grey box in the middle is the trumpet he's been playing recently. The whole place has been tidied because a friend is coming over to play.

Isaac's aerie
 2 October 2008
  What's that scratching sound in the middle of the night? Someone trying to get in the front door? How about those beady eyes, the sharp claws, the fearless reaction to a papa with a camera? Yep, our local racoons.

racoon eyes at the front door

Isaac wanted to make note of our goldfish, hanging out in the tank by the kids' homework area. So noted.


Little princess, complete with braids and pink unicorn nightgown. All ready for story-telling and bed.

Lila with braids and pink unicorn nightgown
 1 October 2008
  Rose went with Lila's class to a field trip to the Asian Art Museum, downtown. That's Alejandro at the far right.

Lila on field trip

Post-Olympics, Lila has been doing all sorts of gymnastics that she's seen. Here's her split.

Lila's split

Her cartwheels are getting frightengly fast, crisply upright, with a good amount of snap in them. Non-stop, if I haven't mentioned it recently.

Lila's cartwheel

Oh, how the mighty have fallen (asleep). Lila rests. But, as I scan the photo, I see she's not the only one.

Lila rests

Lila demands a certain amount of serious attention as she hands out her recent tests and explains what she's been learning, what taking the test was like, with whom she's been decorating notes when the in-class lecture doesn't entertain, etc. Her verbiage is a delight to hear. (We're in her choice of eatery this evening, the Taiwan Restaurant on Clement Street at 6th Avenue.)

Taiwan Restaurant: Lila & Mickey

Isaac, on the other hand, has less to relate about school ("Nothing.") but is proud of having put his toy car up on blocks, err, chopsticks.

Taiwan Restaurant: Isaac's car, up on chopsticks

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