Friday, May 29, 2009

Geeky things to do on a first-time visit to the Bay Area

A friend of mine is making plans to visit the Bay Area for the first time, and asked me to recommend some things to do here. I explained that now that I have (young) kids, all I could recommend are toddler-friendly places not too far from home in Scotts Valley. (My memory of life pre-kids in San Francisco and San Jose is pretty cloudy.) But I had what turned out to be the good idea to ask for suggestions on the "fun-list" mailing list at work.

I don't think my friend would mind if I described him as a geek. (I'm one too, and I believe we both wear the label with honor.) And he doesn't have a driver's license. Not having a car limits one's choices in the Bay Area. But my co-workers (many of them also geeks, and not into cars) responded with many good ideas:

First a list of places to go or things to see...

In San Francisco:

Recommended San Francisco walks:

  • Hippie Hill (or DeYoung Museum) <-> Haight/Ashbury
    • hippies! druggies!
    • Giant Robot
    • Kid Robot
    • Amoeba Records
    • Thrift stores
    • If he wants a *long* walk, go all the way to Lower Haight for the urban / hip hop scene and Indian Oven
  • Castro <-> Dolores Park
    • gays! lesbians!
    • upper class shopping
    • The Castro Theater, as seen in Milk
    • dogs & sunshine in the park
  • Valencia St
    • hipsters! indie kids! moustaches!
    • The Pirate Supply Store (826 Valencia) (this is a must)
    • Four Barrel Coffee
    • Ritual Roasters
    • Spork, Dosa, Herbivore are good dinner places
    • Burrito joints

Napa Valley:

On the Peninsula:

In San Jose:

Web sites with ideas:

Some recommended books:

Did I leave anything out?

Update: added The Cartoon Art Museum

Update #2: added Segway Napa

Monday, May 25, 2009

Recommended Canadian Content of the Week: Blue Rodeo

Several weeks ago I took Gabe to San Francisco to participate with his t-ball team in a "Little League Day" at AT&T Park. Claire had the great idea of Gabe and I driving up Saturday and staying at a hotel so we could get to AT&T Park early Sunday morning for the Q&A with Giants coaches and players. (And then return in the early afternoon to sit in the bleachers with his team for the game.) It was a weekend of firsts for Gabe: riding in a "subway" (the Muni Metro), riding on a cable car, going to the top of a skyscaper, walking through Chinatown, going across the Golden Gate Bridge. Hopefully some of it made some lasting memories.

Driving home after the game Sunday, Gabe fell asleep (and slept all the way home—he was exhausted after a couple long, busy days). I didn't want to listen to my usual podcasts and risk waking him up (as I did on the way up Saturday), so I set my 5-star music playlist to shuffle. I enjoyed listening to a subset of my favorite music, something I don't make time to do very often.

I was struck by how much of it is Canadian. So I came up with an idea for a series of blog posts, each describing a favorite Canadian band or artist. My idea was to do this weekly, but since it has taken me weeks to finish writing up this first post, don't expect them that often. I'll do what I can.

Several of the tracks that played during my drive were by Blue Rodeo, and I've since noticed that there are more songs by them in my 5-star music playlist (13) than any other group or artist. (Runners-up are The Beatles and Louis Armstrong with 9, and R.E.M. with 8.)

I remember first noticing Blue Rodeo when Much Music took a liking to them after they released their first album Outskirts over 20 years ago. Their album with the most songs I've rated 5-stars (5) is Five Days in July, but I've over-listened to that album and need to leave it alone for a few years before I can enjoy it again.

If you buy only one song of theirs, I (currently) recommend Bulletproof from Palace of Gold. But I also recommend...

From Tremolo:
From The Days In Between:
(I'm a sucker for ballads.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Last week I finished listening to Xenocide, over 6 weeks after I started. I blogged about "reading" (listening to) Ender's Game and Ender in Exile in "Pleasures of a poor memory" and about reading Speaker for the Dead in "The tyranny of high expectations". To continue the expectations theme, I'll remind you that I went into this with low expectations. And again, the book exceeded them.

I found this book had the most interesting science of any of the series (so far). And while there wasn't a lot of action, I found certain sections moving, especially [SPOILER WARNING] the description of the riot that burns down the Pequeninos' forest. I found the "creation" and reintroduction of a new Valentine and Peter Wiggin contrived, but towards the end Peter at least began to get interesting.

Now I'm on to the last (audio)book in the series, Children of the Mind. (But a fairly large list of podcasts continue to take priority.) I guess my expectations are higher now. We'll see if they're exceeded.