On Thursday, March 17, 2011, Di Yin and I decided to take the day off work to head down to Carmel. I've been there three times before (1, 2, 3). I wanted to get away and relax and read in a different setting.

We chose to go to Carmel this day because the forecast predicted better weather (highs 58 or 60 and sunny) than any other day during the coming week. The weather was great--even better than we planned for/expected! It was beautifully clear and warmer than expected. I sat comfortably in the sun on the beach without a jacket. Also, I got to watch the large, crashing waves. (There was a high-surf advisory.)

I enjoyed the drive to Carmel. After San Jose, 101 passes many green hills. We accidentally took 152 to the coast rather than 156 as would've been faster. Thus, the trip took longer than I'd hoped, especially the last leg as we came out of the mountains. Nevertheless, the long route was alright: 152 travels through an attractive, lichen-covered forest. Also, once we hit the coast, we got to see what artichoke plants look like. (I had forgotten.)

We did an expected assortment of activities in Carmel: sat on the beach, ate lunch in a restaurant, walked a bit around town, and sat in a cafe, whereupon I returned to the beach to read more and Di Yin remained in the cafe. Later reunited, we sat on a library bench for a bit, then walked along the beach and then through residential neighborhoods (commenting on houses along the way), at which point it was getting to be late afternoon and the right time to head home.

I took a few pictures on this trip.

Musee Mecanique, and chocolate

On a rainy Tuesday, March 15, 2011, I left work in early afternoon, grabbed Di Yin, and headed to the city to visit the Musee Mecanique.

I took pictures on this outing.

On the way to the museum, while driving down Embarcadero in the city we spotted a chocolatier, Tcho, in one of the old buildings on the waterfront. What an unusual place for a chocolate factory! We decided to stop. We explored it briefly--the factory space was roped off so there wasn't much to see beside the small shop--sampled a few flavors, bought bite-sized nuggets of a few flavors we didn't get to sample, and continued onward.

After driving a bit more, we parked and navigated the tourist shops and restaurants along Fisherman's Wharf until we found the museum.

The museum houses a wide variety of mechanical devices ranging from simple shows (e.g., put money in to cause a model of a man to dance for you) to more complex interactive devices (e.g., use a lever to control the direction and strength with which a model golfer hits a ball, trying to get it in the golf hole) to modern arcade machines. It's a neat place, like a really-old-fashioned arcade. Soon after entering, I realized there were many games I wanted to play and machines I wanted to activate. I stuck a twenty in the change machine.

Although chock full of antiques, it's hard to call this a museum. Few machines have informational signs about them. There is a number of large (poster-sized) information signs scattered through the building, but these aren't connected to the actual objects in the museum. Rather, they're mostly about the history of amusement (as in the history of amusement parks, world's fairs, etc.). In fact, the vast majority of the signs never mention mechanical machines like these. It's almost like the big signs and the physical artifacts aren't connected! Some of these signs had a local bent, describing large recreational facilities on the west side of San Francisco. These are now all defunct, but learning about their rise, their heyday, and their fall was interesting.

Regardless, the focus of the museum is clearly on the machines themselves. For details, refer to the pictures--I took a lot in order to capture the breadth of the collection.

Interesting Articles: Q4 2010

* I spotted a Vanguard Blog post, Emerging markets: Innocents abroad?, that points out that something I always assumed was true is actually a fallacy: that emerging markets' higher rates of growth naturally mean their stock markets provide higher rates of return. The Vanguard Research article, Investing in emerging markets: Evaluating the allure of rapid economic growth (PDF), has the argument that there need not be a relationship between these two things. Indeed, it has evidence that there is no correlation between them!

* Sugar Pills Help, Even When Patients are Aware of Them (ABC News). The placebo effect is even more powerful than previously thought.

Media and Social Change:
* The Future of Gaming (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). Beginning at 4:35 in this segment, two enthusiastic speakers present their views on how video games can change people and change the world for the better. It's a powerful vision. I hope it comes to pass.

Cultural History:
* Fallon and Timberlake give rap history lesson (NBC Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) (copy on youtube). Okay, this isn't an article and not really intellectual in any way (unless you want a pastiche/history of hip-hop music), but it cracked me up and I wanted to save the link for posterity.

Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve

On Friday, March 3, 2011, Di Yin and I went on a short hike in Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve. I didn't take pictures, but Di Yin took a goodly number.

It was a nice hike, cool (60s) and clear. We hiked through plains, forests, and by gullies. Occasionally we got glimpses of the nearby Steven's Creek Reservoir and the more distant bay. The two most notable aspects of the hike were the sporadic views of the exposed mountainside of a nearby quarry--Di Yin called this a dystopian vista--and the peacocks and roosters by Picchetti Ranch itself. (Picchetti Ranch is a small, historic winery in the preserve; it has various animals running around its historic buildings.)