Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival

On an overcast Saturday, May 31, 2008, I looked over the list of bay area festivals and, deciding I was in the mood for something unusual (and certainly not something I attended before), selected the Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival. Although a small festival, it was good excuse to drive to and wander around my old stomping grounds in Berkeley, the gourmet ghetto. Most of the shops in the gourmet ghetto had chocolate goodies--some funky--that could be purchased with tickets. The booths that sold tickets also sold chalk; people drew all sorts of things on the sidewalk up and down Shattuck and on the side streets. Also, some stores made cool renderings of their store name and logo in chalk. Finally, entertainers performed on street corners, though I generally didn't stop and listen to them.

I don't have much more to say about the festival other than the story told by the pictures I took of the sidewalk art I liked and the chocolate items I ate. I must've walked the gourmet ghetto loop three or four times as I hopped from shop to shop, eating dishes in the order that pleased me. As you no doubt guessed, I tried to focus on the more distinctive offerings.

There were only two items I planned to get that I didn't get a chance to. One was a goat cheese truffle which was, oddly, provided by a smoothie shop. When I went there, they said they were all out and that they'd went so fast, they were thinking about adding them to their regular menu. The other was a chocolate ganache cupcake. I walked by the shop a few times. The cupcakes looked good. I planned to get one as I left the festival to save for a dessert the following day. However, by the time I left the festival, they were all gone. Oh well. As you can tell from the pictures, I probably had enough chocolate anyway to last me through the next week, at least.

May's Bounty

On Saturday, May 24, 2008, for the first time in quite a while I made it to the San Mateo Farmers Market. Despite the unseasonably overcast and temperate day, there was a good crowd. I'd forgotten that the spring and summer arrive with an abundant harvest. I thought I went a little overboard when I came home with cherries, an assortment of various types of peaches, snap peas, strawberries, and flowering Chinese cabbage, plus a few baked goods such a pumpkin bolani and a miniature pizza (decent--I had half of it for lunch). I also noshed while I was there, on an apple cinnamon muffin (good once I removed the sugary topping) and a cheese puff (eh).

By the time lunch at home was over, I'd finished half the cherries and most of the basket of strawberries--oh, so good!--and realized I hadn't overbought at all.

Interesting Articles: December 2007

* Escaping flatland (Science News). An article about how cells grown in a flat medium such as a petri dish behave differently than in a real, three-dimensional setting. At the core of the result is the idea that sometimes one must question the most basic simplifying assumptions in experimental science.
* Airy theory, but true (Science News). Frankly, I find this physical phenomenon unbelievable and incomprehensible. I found a longer article on the topic, Scientists make first observation of Airy optical beams (, but it makes the effect no more understandable to me.

Immigrants Day Festival

I like the summer (yes, I know at the time I'm writing this it isn't technically the summer yet) because the summer brings with it a plethora of festivals. On Saturday, May 17, 2008, I looked through the list of festivals and, feeling lazy, selected the Immigrants Day Festival in downtown Redwood City.

I made a great choice. First, the food was a great deal: for a mere five dollars, I got to eat a large quantity and variety of food--I must've had twenty distinct items. (See the pictures for details.) Almost all the dishes looked home-made. Clearly, no one was making money from this tasting. Frankly, I'd be surprised if, given the quantity of food everyone got to try, the food stands broke even.

Second, it was a clear and brutally sunny day and, despite the heat wave, quite comfortable in the shade. Seats under umbrellas were in high demand. Aside from the time I spent eating, I spent most of festival sitting outdoors, listening to and watching music and dance groups from a diverse assortment of cultures. Although the San Mateo County History Museum was free admission and even had special arts and crafts activities the entire day, I enjoyed sitting outside by the entertainment too much to actually browse the exhibits (including the permanent one about immigrants to San Mateo Country). I only entered to eat.

In between performances, a state senator, an Irish consul, and a Filipino consul all put in appearances and spoke briefly. Those are nice gestures to the local community.

The pictures I took have more details.

Interestingly, my fortune cookie had two fortunes! "An unexpected visitor will bring you good blessings." "You will receive an unexpected gift from an acquaintance." I don't know what the existence of two fortunes means, but I at least can guess that something unforeseen will happen.

Interesting Articles: November 2007

  • Deinonychus' claws were hookers, not rippers (Science News).
    Many paleontologists have presumed that the claw enabled the lithe predators (raptors) to disembowel victims with a single slash, but two analyses suggest that the claws were instead used to grip and climb large prey.
    You mean some things I learned from Jurassic Park are wrong?
  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Day 3: Returning Home

    Monday wasn't much of a holiday--I had an early flight back home. After waking up early (though not as early as I got up in order to fly to Oregon on Saturday), I grabbed an apple croissant from the Apple Cellar Bakery & Bistro on the way to the airport. As I bought it and asked the counter-woman about her wares, she revealed that the morning buns were made from the same dough as the croissant. Interesting; I wonder if that's a common practice.

    Also on the way to the airport I learned that, in Oregon, all gas stations are full-service. This surprised me, as I don't recall learning it on my previous visit, yet I would've imagined I would've needed to get gas at some point.

    I made it to the airport with much time to spare. I polished off my leftover salad from dinner the previous night, then ate the pleasing apple croissant. It had a nice quantity of apple pie goodness inside.

    Incidentally, I took these pictures of my Apple Cellar experience.

    Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Day 2: Table Rocks, Coriolanus, and Food

    Since I didn't want to see matinees on two consecutive days, I chose to attend an evening performance on Sunday. Hence, I had an entirely open day. I decided to go hiking.

    These pictures illustrate the day's activities.

    First, however, I needed fuel. I chose to eat breakfast/lunch at the Wild Goose Cafe and Bar, which is really more of a roadside diner. Here's my review.

    I drove north to the Table Rocks. The Table Rocks are two hills, the tops of which are flat like a tabletop. They were created when lava covered the entire area. Over time, most of the lava eroded due to the strength of a river. Only these two hills remain.

    I hiked both upper and lower Table Rock. They're the same height--they're only called that because one is up-stream of the other.

    The day, despite being overcast, was hotter than I expected or in fact brought clothes for on this trip.

    I hiked the lower Table Rock first, mainly because its parking lot had space when I arrived and the upper one did not. This hike was perhaps six miles round-trip and eight hundred feet elevation gain. The upper Table Rock hike was shorter; I did its round trip in a bit more than an hour. The sights seen on both hikes were basically identical. I took practically no pictures on the second hike because everything looked the same as on the first one.

    While hiking, I passed many families with kids, often six or eight years old. Why is this worth mentioning? Because the parents were about my age. Some were even younger. Scary!

    After hiking, I returned to Ashland for an early dinner at Omar's, a seafood and steak place where I ate during my last visit. Here's my new review. Over dinner, I eavesdropped at the table next to me. One guy, my age, was visiting two people I assumed to be his parents. They turned out not to be. I'm not sure what their relationship was. The guy had just moved from San Jose to Alameda; the group spent much of dinner talking about features of various parts of the bay area. (I think the older couple previously lived down there.)

    Then I went to see the evening show of Coriolanus, one of Shakespeare's tragedies that I never heard of before. I thought the last theater was a nice size. This one was tiny: a square stage is surrounded by the audience on all sides; there's only six rows of seats. I was in the third row.

    Here's my reaction to the play:

    A decent tragedy set in Rome, when the patrician, aristocratic, wealthy, landowning, generally military class rules, and the plebeians farm, serve as foot soldiers, and generally exert no power.

    The play is about class conflict in a nation beset by war and is, as such, timeless. It’s also about the difficulty in translating military fame in political power and in translating military knowledge and strategies into political ones. In addition, it comments on how easily public opinion can be swayed. Finally, in its title character, it portrays how modesty can, surprisingly, live side-by-side with egotism.

    Costumes were modern. Characters wore 20th century military or revolutionary outfits with rifles, pistols, laser sights, knifes, etc. Plebeians in particular often wore sweatshirts (hoodies) with faces of activists such as Lennon.

    In the play and in the performance, blood (or at least a red liquid) flowed.

    Given the staging’s modern feel, it's not surprising scene changes happen much like they do in movies: a flash, loud noise, a dramatic shift in lighting, and an obvious changing of the place the viewer is supposed to look.

    The actor playing Menenius (an old patrician) was great! And I’m not simply saying that because I liked the character. It’s clear he put his heart and soul into every word he spoke and physical action he made.

    Interestingly, in both plays I saw, a couple sitting near me never returned from intermission.

    One thing that struck me, perhaps prompted by the theme for the play, was that the Shakespeare festival in general seems to be filled with old, white, possibly wealthy people. (The tickets aren't cheap.)

    Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Day 1: Lithia Park, The Clay Cart, and Food

    In late April, I wanted to travel somewhere. At the last minute, I jaunted to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. I went in a previous year and had a blast. This year, due to my spontaneous planning, I didn't bring anyone with me. (I figure, with more advanced planning, I can return with people to see more plays.)

    Because United was having a sale, rather than driving the six-ish hours each way to Ashland, I flew to Medford, a nearby town, on Saturday morning and rented a car. Soon after, I took my first picture from the trip. Here's all the pictures from this day's adventures.

    I had lots of time to kill. The first play I was to see was a matinee. Because I didn't want to risk missing it due to a delayed flight, I took the earliest flight in the morning. Thus, I found myself in Oregon at nine am with about four hours idle away.

    After driving to Ashland and picking up my tickets, I decided to hike Lithia Park, to explore it in more depth than I did last time. It was a beautiful, clear day. (Everyone at the airport commented on how much nicer this day was than every day the previous week.) I hiked, listened to my ipod, lay in the sun, and read. Eventually, it was time for lunch.

    For lunch, I headed to Lela's Cafe, a cafe/bistro that I sent my friends to last time--I couldn't go myself--and they returned with raves. I knew I had to go. I'm glad I did: it was terrific. It might've been reason enough to fly to Oregon. Here's my review.

    I saw The Clay Cart by Śūdraka, as translated by J. A. B. van Buitenen. I had a great seat in the center of fairly small amphitheater with a clear view down to the stage. Looking around, it appears there are no bad seats in the theater.

    Here's my reaction to the play:

    A good, complex drama about star-crossed lovers. The story, which includes many characters, may be bit foreign to American audiences: a married man, known for his honorable and noble behavior, falls in love with a courtesan (high-class prostitute), and she him. This is considered perfectly acceptable.

    The acting is very good all around. Some characters are actually one-dimensional, stock characters, but the acting often adds most of another dimension to them. The characters are dressed in colorful Indian costumes which often show lots of skin. Some costumes are notable: for instance, at one point the courtesan’s skirt unrolls into a sheet long enough to stretch almost across the stage.

    The play occasionally included dancing. The big dance numbers look good due to the vibrant, flowing costumes and the coordination between the moves. The small numbers are often seductive: e.g., as the courtesan takes off her jewels. Obviously, the skimpy costumes helped fuel this effect.

    The story is optimistic: things all work out in the end, thieves can be redeemed, and people with truly bad intentions will get public censure of their bad motives. Another underlying theme is that character is more important than caste or wealth.

    The circular stage, probably a dozen meters across, was nearly empty. Pillows were often used to indicate setting: they represented walls, couches, buildings, etc. A multitude of Indian statues surrounded the stage. Above it hung many lanterns, all different styles, that added atmosphere. The performance did great things with colored lighting for mood. For instance, during a thunderstorm, the stage was lit in green and the lanterns swayed as if in the wind. Behind the stage, three musicians played Indian instruments.

    The play, an English translation of an old Indian play, uses modern language. Sometimes the way things are phrased is funny—those parts are rightly played for laughs.

    For dinner, I tried a Mexican fusion restaurant, Tabu. Here's my review.

    After dinner I checked into the same passable hotel, the Ashland Motel, that I used on my previous trip. I couldn't be bothered to find a nicer one.