Support your local bookstore

Support your local bookstore

Bookstores are still a treat for me. There is something special about being able to browse, touch and smell the books. It’s rare that I can resist and not buy anything.

Kepler's Books & Magazines, Menlo Park, store windowA bookstore with a remarkable history can be found in Menlo Park. Kepler’s Books and Magazines, founded in 1955, was the epicenter of counterculture in the ‘60s and ‘70s. For founder Roy Kepler, the exchange and flow of ideas was part of his business. A lot of students and faculty from the nearby Stanford University were patrons and appreciated the idea exchanging approach. In-store concerts from the Grateful Death to Joan Baez made the store popular. But when Kepler embraced paperbacks as an economical vehicle to bring ideas to the masses, it was genius.


You can still feel the progressive energy. On my recent visit I overheard an elderly woman who found a book, reading the title: “We Were Eight Years In Power – An American Tragedy. “ And asked her friend ‘Do you think they mean Reagan?’ and then realizes: “Oh, they mean Obama.” Kepler's Books & Magazines, Menlo Park

A staff person asked me if she can help me find anything. I declined ‘I’m just taking it all in’ I replied with a smile.

A few more browses down the aisle, I overheard a man dictating his findings about soccer books including all commas and question marks into his phone.


To compete with online stores, Kepler’s concept of a bookstore expanded and has many interesting events to offer, from speaker series to author lectures. The Kepler’s 2020 Project continues to provide an outstanding bookstore and has developed a community meeting space, with events. Let’s hope they prevail.  


Is there an independent bookstore near you?


Additional Reading:

SFGate: Kepler’s turns another page

Washington Post: How to save an indie bookstore


Feel the spring Japanese style

Feel the spring Japanese style

There are quite a few Japanese Gardens in the Bay Area. If you expect to see a large amount of cherry blossoms you are misdirected, as I was.

As one gardener from the San Mateo Japanese Garden told me: “Cherry trees don’t do to well in the Bay Area.” They do have a few, but it is not their main focus.

Magnolias in the Japanese Garden in San MateoJapanese Gardens are all about local plants arranged in a Japanese aesthetic, giving you tranquility. Most of them have tea rooms  and a tea ceremony may be offered, a waterfall, and a lake.

The San Mateo Japanese Tea Garden is a great place to contemplate and see what is blooming in the season. Entrance to the Japanese Garden in San Mateo

Currently there are magnolias, with their vibrant reds and pinks, in bloom. Watch for trees that have been shaped to grow a certain way, or bonsais, that have been cropped to appear miniature.

Which is your favorite Japanese Garden?

Buy machine created artwork

Buy machine created artwork

Have a unique piece of art created by a machine.

Starting instructions for the artwork forgeFor 4 quarters you can get your very own art piece. In front of City Hall at King Plaza in Palo Alto stands the Artwork Forge. Artist Toby Atticus Fraley created this machine, looking like a retro robot, that makes art.

You begin with inserting 4 quarters in slots, pushing the money into the machine and pressing two red buttons at the same time. When you walk around to the painting station the machine will determine your location and based on this, comes up with a trending artwork.

Artwork Forge painting stationNext at the painting station you can watch canvases being transported to the color ink jets. You can’t see your picture yet, but when the painting station closes you should go around the corner to the drying station. A towel is hanging there to remove paint from impatient hands. If you wait for the three steps from drying, to almost dry, to dry, you’ll be sure to have a dried picture when you take it out of the slot.

Art created by the Artwork ForgeI loved the process and the details that played with the audience. Come on, push the two red buttons at the exact same time!

Who is to say if this is art?

The question arises “What is art?” The last artist I talked to, a Chinese man living in Germany, had a plain answer: ‘Whatever sells.” For $1 each I think I got a good deal and a fun surprise.

Until April, 2018 you can watch your artwork being created on the spot at King Plaza in Palo Alto. This is part ot the Play! exhibit by the Palo Alto Arts Center. I wrote about it in Play! with art.

Have you used the Artwork Forge?


Stroll into the past

Stroll into the past

To really understand something you should know it’s history. On my recent exploration through Santa Clara I came across a few opportunities to learn the city’s history.

The first one is the Stroll Into The Past, a seven station, self-guided tour behind City Hall. The stations start with the Ohlone, and move to the Mission and to the settlers that came, to being the center of the tech evolution. There is a good overview, and a lot of reading.

Santa Clara Brewery, 1890If you prefer a more visual approach, stroll over to City Hall and check out the photographs that are displayed in the hallway. Here, I learned that Santa Clara was once the home of one of the largest tanneries in the world.

To complete the historic overview I recommend the walking tour of historic buildings. The city of Santa Clara put out a map: ( , it has a lot of information about the houses and their architecture. On rare occasions, the Santa Clara Historic Home Tour is offered and gives you a glimpse into the houses. Jamison-Brown House, Santa Clara

Finally you can arrange a visit to the Harris-Lass House Museum, the last farm site in Santa Clara, and number 11 on your walking tour. This place is only open by appointment (408-249-7905, leave a message).

Where do you stroll into the past?

Uncover a museum and cemetery

Uncover a museum and cemetery

Sometimes you expect something, but then it turns out to be something totally different!

The Agnews Historic Cemetery and Museum in Santa Clara sounded to me like a very cool burial ground with interesting tombstones and I thought the museum would be related to that.

When you enter you see to your right a gated grass field, that is probably the size of half a soccer field. I later learned this to be the burial ground for 600 people. To the left in a small cottage building is the museum. Upon entering I was greeted by Pat, a volunteer at the museum and former employee of the Agnews State Mental Hospital, who helped me uncover the mystery of this institution.

Pharmacy at the Agnews Museum in Santa ClaraAgnews, it turns out, was the largest hospital for the mentally ill in the Bay Area during the Gold Rush, with over 1,200 patients at a time. Back in those days there was no industry near and they had to be self-sufficient. The patients worked to earn their stay in the hospital’s own cannery, or they made mattresses or tended to the pigs and chicken. This place was almost like a little village with a pharmacy and their own fire station.


Unfortunately the 1906 earthquake destroyed a lot of the buildings, including the prominent clock tower and was responsible for the loss of many lives at the hospital. In fact this was the largest tragedy of that quake which killed more than 100 people. When they rebuilt Agnews it was considered the most progressive institution in the 20th century, as they established a ‘cheerful’ place.

In 1971 the Laterman Act transferred mental health programs to local communities and as an outcome of this the state closed many hospitals, including Agnews.

In the late 1990’s, the area got bought by Sun Microsystems. Sun had to keep some of the historic buildings and the cemetery and park for public use.

Agnews Historic Park, Santa ClaraToday Oracle owns the land; the restored clocktower building is now a center for the developmentally disabled. The park in front of the buildings is a nice quiet space and in a pavillion you can read about its former glory.  

The Agnews Historic Museum and Cemetery is only open on Fridays from 10 am – 2 pm, no admission.

Have you ever heard about the Agnews?

Jazz in the de Saisset

Jazz in the de Saisset

A new exhibit just opened in Santa Clara University’s Museum de Saisset: Jazz Greats. A loan from the Bank of America collection, the free exhibit is open until June 16th, 2018.

Poster of the exhibit Jazz Greats currently at the de Saisset, Santa Clara UniversityThere are two galleries filled with black and white images. In gallery I, among others, are pictures of a young Miles Davis and Billy Holiday. One that impressed me the most is an image of Dizzy Gillespie in France, showing kids how to blow up their cheeks. Gillespie clearly wins with the most volume

Gallery II greets you with jazz music of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. An old record player is set up to have an authentic experience of the music. There are two couches in the middle. When you looked at the pictures of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, you can then relax with some coffee table books about jazz.

As a contrast. the other upper gallery is showing Michael Mazur’s illustrations to Dante’s inferno.

Ohlone hut from the permanent exhibit of de Saisset at Santa Clara UniversityDownstairs is the permanent collection. A historic résumé of the beginning of the mission and it’s interaction with the Ohlone and the evolution into the university.

The most prominent piece is a replica of an Ohlone hut. But you can’t go inside.

Overall a nice museum that is free with the option of giving a donation.

Where do you get your jazz?


Go on a shadowy treasure hunt

Go on a shadowy treasure hunt

Most of the time walking in a city I feel like people should look up more. I mean really up. The old storefronts, birds that huddle together in the same directions on a lamp post, and murals are treats only to be discovered by a slight change of perspective.

Railbots part of the Shadow Art series by Damon BelangerLooking down can also be rewarding especially in Redwood City were Damon Belanger was chosen for the sidewalk art project in 2016. Belanger received the HOW International Design Award for the shadow art he created all around downtown Redwood City.

Dog the Cat part of the Shadow Art series by Damon BelangerAll over downtown you can be greeted by dragons, scared by monsters seemingly coming out of the mailbox, or meet a dog casting it’s shadow out of a bench. You will find a lot of whimsical creatures and robots too.

Wild Ride, part of the Shadow Art series by Damon BelangerThe city provides a map with all 20 stations of the shadow artwork. I walked around to find most of them and soon I was looking down and chasing shadows. The trick is to find the non moving objects in the city scape, like benches, water hydrants and lamp posts. Then Belanger’s art casts a shadow of these objects that transform the original and make us wonder, sometimes giggle, about the unique creatures. With a lot of humor and knowledge of the city Belanger made a valuable contribution to the public art scene.

It’s a great frugal adventure for little kids, too.

Have you ever hunted for art shadows?

Be blessed by Our Lady of Peace

Be blessed by Our Lady of Peace

Even is you are not a catholic, you might be drawn toward the giant Madonna sculpture in Santa Clara off of the 101. The 32 foot tall shiny sculpture with her arms out and a peaceful look on her face has many admirer who bring her flowers or perch on the nearby bench. The sculpture is part of the Our Lady of Peace parish and was erected in 1982.

The small park that she oversees is a great place to contemplate.

One station of the cross, Santa ClaraThe Stations of the Cross that frame the park I found surprisingly simple. Wooden structures that house white plastered scenes depicting Christ on the day of his crucifixion.  

Sculpture of Pope John Paul II, Santa ClaraAcross from Mary is a sculpture of Pope John Paul II in memory of his visit. He is lifting his arm and it seems like he is waving and smiling at Mary.

They also have a gift shop filled with religious paraphernalia.

Where do you go to contemplate?

Geek out with computer artifacts

Geek out with computer artifacts

Have you ever visited the ‘Birthplace of Silicon Valley”? The HP garage is a national landmark, at 367 Addison Ave, in Palo Alto. Unfortunately it does not offer a public tour.

Replica of the HP garage and workbench, StanfordIf you really wonder what it was like to work in the garage you should go visit Stanford’s Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center. On what they call the terrace level, I would refer to as the basement, is a replica of the HP garage and workbench. This replication illustrates the size of the workplace and feels like a homage to the first tech-founders out of Stanford. The chairs and the table inside weren’t part of the garage, but they are a great way to collaborate with fellow students and let your creativity flow, like Hewlett and Packard did back in their days.

Other artifacts in the Engineering Center include Yahoo’s motherboard, the geometric engine chip (necessary to render 3D graphics), the Intel 4004 (the first microprocessor) and NVIDIA’s first GPU (the GeForce 256). All on the first floor.

The first Google storage server, StanfordMy personal favorite is the first Google storage server (on the terrace level). The case is made out of Lego’s and it is said that Google’s affinity for primary colors came from the building blocks color scheme.

All these exhibits remind us that Stanford’s engineering department has a longstanding history of enabling successful companies.

Stanford Engineering HerosYou can pick up a copy of the Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center self-guided tour at the computer kiosk located at the first floor lobby or in suite 135. One hour tours of the Engineering Quad are offered 3-4 times a week and require reservations (



What is your favorite computer artifact?

Can horses fly?

Can horses fly?

Photographer Eadweard Muybridge got commissioned by Leland Stanford to prove that horses can fly.

The horse in motion, statue at Stanford EquestrianTo find an answer to the question if horses are, while galloping, have all four legs off the ground, Eadweard Muybridge performed a gait analysis. In 1878 he came up with a construction of 24 cameras that were along a track. He proved that on one instance the horses legs were all aflot.

Muybridge used these images in his zoopraxiscope, an early device for projecting rotating pictures and perfect for the sequential motions captured. The Horse in Motion, also known as Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, is sometimes credited as the first silent movie.

I went to see pictures of Muybridge at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, but to my astonishment, although they have a collection of almost 500 photos, they don’t have a regular display. The only clue for this extraordinary invention and proof is the statue of The Horse in Motion at the Red Barn.

The horse in motion, information board at Stanford EquestrianStanford Equestrian has a plaque to commemorate Muybridge’s role. The tribute acknowledges The horse in motion as the  first academic study of Stanford. There is also an information board explaining the history in a bit more detail.

Have you seen proof about flying horses before?