Even More Opera in a Park

[Blog post filled in and pictures uploaded many months after the event.]

On Sunday, July 30, 2006, I went into the city once again for opera. This time, rather than a full opera, some opera singers were performing in Stern Grove. It's nice living near a city with so many free artistic shows.

For some reason I'd always thought Stern Grove was part of Golden Gate Park. I was wrong. It's pretty far south from Golden Gate Park, nestled in a secluded valley and protected by many tall eucalyptus and redwood trees.

The grove itself was so crowded security had roped it off to prevent more people from sitting in it. I hiked off into the trees to find a seat.

Soon after I sat, the show started. I opened my take-out box of sushi from a Berkeley sushi joint and started eating. Somehow sushi and opera seemed to go together.

Anyway, it was a nice excursion. I've uploaded the few pictures I took during this trip, including one of the Berkeley kite festival, which I spotted en route to San Francisco.

Interesting Articles: June 27th-July 23rd 2006

The smattering of worthwhile news articles I've collected over the last month, despite not reading the New York Times.


  • The Gender Divide in Academic Achievement (KQED's Forum). An hour-long discussion by researchers in the field about the differences between male and female achievement, the causes of it, and what it means. The article At Colleges, Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust (New York Times) covers similar topics, although with less depth and a slightly different focus (e.g., more toward examining affirmative action for men). Finally, Does gender matter? (Nature) is a commentary in Nature on the same topic, written by a female to male transgendered professor.

  • Travel:
  • A Job With Travel but No Vacation (New York Times). On the tough life of a travel writer.

  • Science:
  • Gay Males' Sibling Link: Men's homosexuality tied to having older brothers (Science News). This, perhaps, will inform/affect many political debates involving homosexuality.
  • Sight for 'Saur Eyes: T. rex vision was among nature's best (Science News). Tyrannosaurus rex have amazing vision: better than hawks. Read the article for details.
  • Say Hello to Stanley (Wired). There's been a lot of articles about Stanley and the Grand Challenge. This one stands out because it give a good history of computer-controlled driving and shows more of the personalities behind the people involved in the effort, both currently and in the past.
  • Lavender Revolution: Plant essences linked to enlarged breasts in boys (Science News). Does this mean the FDA should test soaps and hand lotions? If the above link doesn't work, here's another article on the topic: Some soaps may give boys breasts (Health24).

  • Food:
  • Coffee protects against alcoholic cirrhosis (Science News). Countering one possibly bad habit with another possibly bad habit. The source article, Coffee, cirrhosis, and transaminase enzymes (Archives of Internal Medicine), has the details.
  • SF Ferry Building (and looking for housing)

    On Saturday, July 8th 2006, I headed back to city for another ferry building visit and more hunting for housing. My ferry trip was nice: I had a fairly good soft-shell crab sandwich (I've never seen that before) at the San Francisco Fish Company, though it had too much mayo & mustard that together somewhat overpowered the crab. I also bought a doughnut peach (I don't think I've consciously seen those before either, but it didn't taste much different from an ordinary peach) and a plum.

    Normally I wouldn't bother posting such mundane details on my blog. But this time I took a panoramic photograph from the place I ate near the Ferry Building (full size). Now you can see one reason why I previously proclaimed my last Saturday wonderful. It really is a stunning view and pleasant setting.

    After eating, I spent the afternoon hiking (seven or so miles) around the city looking at apartments.

    Thai Temple, Alameda Biking, and No Traveling

    I woke up once again wanting to travel, despite my feelings to the contrary after the wonderful day yesterday. Hence, I spent some time researching places to go, finding things to do, and locating plane ticket fares and comparing them against going in a few weeks. By the end of the morning, I'd convinced myself that there was no cost advantage to waiting and I should have lunch, go biking, and when I return in the evening I should book my plane tickets for tomorrow.

    For lunch, I biked once again the short 1.5 miles to the Thai Temple. Despite being overcast, it was even more packed than usual, probably due to the holiday weekend. I grabbed a three item combo:
    * Panang curry (with beef). Quite good.
    * Pad thai (with chicken and tofu). Okay. I swear I tasted ketchup or at least something else that made it sweeter than it should be. And where were the peanuts?
    * Stir-fry of chicken thigh meat, baby corn, and a few other vegetables. Decent. The ingredients made it feel very Chinese, and the taste didn't contradict that.

    After lunch, I figured biking around in the sun and exploring a new place would fulfill my desire for travel. Hence, I decided to bike around Alameda. The pictures and accompanying commentary document this exploration. Check it out; I ran into some neat things. Throughout, I was repeatedly ambivalent about traveling. Exploring was nice but didn't feel revolutionary or eye-opening. If traveling elsewhere would be only as good as this Alameda trip, why bother? On the other hand, if I can only get only this quantity of excitement from local traveling, why stay here? By the time I got home, I slightly leaning toward traveling. Why not?

    After returning home, I headed toward a local bookstore to pick up a travel guide to my intended travel destination. I figured I should pick one up to read on the plane tomorrow. But they didn't have any. I took this as a sign from fate that I shouldn't go.

    But I'd somewhat forgotten this sign from fate by the time I got home. And although I was quite tired from being in the sun so long and biking so much (24 miles or so) and didn't really feel as if I had the energy to book plane tickets, I tried to convince myself to do so anyway.

    Before beginning that process, I had to start laundry. I'd done a bit of laundry the previous night but still didn't have enough clean clothes to go on a trip. Yet, when I went to start my laundry, the machine had a pizza box on it with a label that said it was broken and not to use it. I'm still amazed the machine broke within the last twenty-four hours. But, this was yet another sign I shouldn't go traveling this holiday. A third and final one. Now I'm convinced, and will put this foolish notion out of my mind for a time.

    Ferry Building Trip II and (more) Opera in the Park

    Friday (yesterday) I'd been anxiously debating if and where I should travel during this holiday weekend (likely extended with vacation time). I'd felt like going somewhere far away to see new sights.

    But now, after realizing what a pleasant and relaxing day I could have right here, I'm not in such a hurry.

    I hadn't originally planned about writing about today, Saturday, July 1st 2006, but now I feel like I should.

    After a late start, I headed to the Ferry Building for lunch, where I've been once before. This time, I knew my way around. After wandering around the farmers' market, I grabbed my first lunch items at the Japanese deli Delica rf-1: a hijiki (a type of seaweed) and soybean salad and spicy burdock and lotus root salad. They both turned out to be good and unique, and I could taste the freshness.

    I ate them on a pier while viewing the bay bridge and the bay. It was beautiful and peaceful. The air was clear. The sun was warm. A few puffy clouds cantered across the sky.

    Second for lunch was a fish taco from Mijita Cocina Mexicana. This was excellent: a heavily-battered deep-fried mahi mahi served in a soft corn tortilla with cabbage and an invisible but present lime-cilantro sauce. The batter, not greasy, on the fish was good and, surprisingly, the fish had a strong enough flavor on its own that it could stand up to it. The corn tortilla was clearly freshly made and top-notch. And the sauce really did tie it all together.

    Wandering the farmers' market more, I sampled and bought a golden nugget peach, then, without sampling, brought a basket of berries that looked like raspberries but were really a hybrid between them and something else. When I tried them later that afternoon I regretted not sampling them because they were simultaneously too tart and too sweet for my taste.

    Still slightly hungry, I stopped by one of the Mexican booths in the far back of the market and ordered a tamale. This is probably the best tamale I've ever eaten. This may not be saying much since at some point a while ago I decided most tamales are bad and not worth eating and since then have generally avoided them, so my sample size may be small. But this was great. Presented to me already removed from the corn husks and placed on top of them, the corn meal had flavor and was moist without being mushy (a rarity) and the chicken was moist (another rarity, as tamales tend to be steamed for so long the meat often dries out) and the whole thing was doused with some tasty sweet, almost barbecue-y chile sauce. Even without the sauce, the first two factors would make this better than any tamale I can remember eating.

    One reason I went to the city for lunch was to later hit the SF Opera in the park. I'd gone to and enjoyed the one in Golden Gate Park last year. Already late, I grabbed a BART and arrived two-thirds of the way through the first half. I found a nice place in the sun, took off my shoes and socks, put on some sunglasses, and lay on my back looking at the sky, zoning out and contemplating the music. Many people (photo) did the same.

    Although the show was a series of selections with no narrative, I found this much more enjoyable than when I watched video projection of Madam Butterfly in the Civic Center Plaza one evening in May. While Madame Butterfly was enjoyable, I felt like I needed to sit up the whole time (which I did) so I could read the subtitles, and sitting up for so long isn't that fun. And Madame Butterfly showed in the evening, when it was dark and somewhat cold, and in Civic Center Plaza, which has a small rectangle of grass that was rather uncomfortably packed with people. Dolores Park, where I was today, is spacious.

    After the concert, reading for half an hour, spotting an unusual fountain (photo), and eavesdropping on some people's conversations, I decided to head home. The long way. Since I've been thinking about moving to the city, I spent an hour and half walking from Mission to the Embarcadero (about five miles). Mostly I saw neighborhoods I now know I don't want to live in, but I jotted down a few names of apartments in nicer areas and, more importantly, picked up a number of free advertising-based looking-for-housing booklets that have already proved quite useful.

    At day's end, what have I accomplished? Ate some great food. Laid in the sun. Through music, got cultured. This was a pretty perfect day, and if I can do this right here near home, I don't see any reason to travel.