Celebrate Christmas in the Park

Celebrate Christmas in the Park

One thing I miss during Christmas season, besides my family, are the Weihnachtsmarkets in Germany. Always a true sign that Christmas is coming, a great place to buy local gifts and drink some Gluehwein.

Every blood donation "counts" treeA surprising ‘christmassy’ event is Christmas in the Park in San Jose. This year they broke the world record for most decorated Christmas trees!  600 decorated trees can be seen on Cesar Chavez Plaza.

Some trees are decorated in memory of lost ones, there is a Grinch, and a Dracula advertising the mobile blood drive December 22nd from 12 pm to 5 pm, at Cesar Chavez Plaza.

 

 

LED ornament

My favorite trees were the Mentor Trees, showcasing the mentorship program between some colleges and elementary, middle and high schools in the area with some LED ornaments that glowed in different colors and patterns and the Washington Elementary Glasses Club Tree, which has some inspiring reasons why to wear glasses!

Washington Elementary Glasses Club Tree

 

The 40 animated displays is probably the reason why there were so many babies and young children during the day.

Caribbean Christmas animationThe one that made me smile the most was the Caribbean Christmas, a bunch of frogs playing a Christmas song in Caribbean tunes.

 

There is also a community stage and you can go see Santa.

This tradition is open through January 7th, 2018 and free with donations.

How are you decorating your tree?

See the light throughout the tunnel

See the light throughout the tunnel

This time of the year, when it gets dark early, it is a joy to see all the light installations, private and public.

Sonic runway, San JoseSan Jose partnered with Burning Man in an initiative called ‘Playa to Paseo’ to bring more engaging art downtown. The first of these, the Sonic Runway, is in front of the City Hall on Santa Clara Street from Fourth to Sixth. Everyday from 5pm to 12am thru mid January 2018 the Sonic Runway “is a corridor of lights that visualizes the speed of sound”, according to the official website. I recommend going both ways through the tunnel; one way the sound is coming at you the other way you are in sync with lights and sound.

 

When I visited, the early visitors were enjoying a stroll thru the tunnel, in both directions. I saw families with kids, but also couples on their way to a night out in town.

A short while later the skaters used a newspaper box as a ramp to perform some jumps and slides inside the tunnel.Skater in the Sonic Runway, San Jose

I had the feeling the only ones not so thrilled about it are the city hall employees trying to go home at 5pm.

 

The other light installations in the ‘Illuminating Downtown’ program are:

(http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/03/22/map-interactive-light-displays-downtown-san-jose/)

  • ‘Show Your Stripes’ – Second and San Fernando

You can use a phone code to change the patterns and colors of lights on the building

  • ‘Sensing You’ and ‘Sensing Water’ – Highway 87 underpasses at Santa Clara and San Fernando

Lights responding to movements of passers-by

Crack the code, an interactive game

  • ‘San Carlos Lantern Relay’ – South side of San Carlos, between Fourth and Market

Eight boxes on poles flash an interactive light show

  • ‘Voxel Cloud’ – Pierce Ave at Market St.

3-D light sculpture on top of the apartment building

 

Have you setup your own Holiday light installation? If you have post a photo on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/untilsuburbia/.

Learn about inventors

Learn about inventors

So, when you google Menlo Park you will get a lot of results talking about Thomas Edison. Who, it turns out lived in Menlo Park, New Jersey and that development was named after the Californian town.

 

1920s general store at the Museum of American History, Palo AltoThe Museum of American History in Palo Alto is running a current exhibit titled: Thomas Edison and His Rivals: Bringing Electricity to America.

You can learn about American ingenuity and the rivalries between Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla, until February 18th, 2018. They also show a lot of different inventions from the three tech pioneers.

The subject is not surprising for the Museum of American History, which focuses on inventions and technology from 1750 to 1950.Melmac at the Museum of American History, Palo Alto

The permanent exhibit features a 1920s general store, an early 20th century kitchen and outside a replica of an auto-repair-shop, a print shop and the marvelous garden.

It is a great museum to spent some time inside and outside. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $5.

What is your favorite invention?

Unlock the Shakespearian treasure trove

Unlock the Shakespearian treasure trove

Sometimes I find the most amazing things without looking for them. I was killing time in Moss Landing last weekend before a beautiful kayak tour and stumbled upon this little gem of a museum: the Shakespeare Society of America and its collection of artifacts, plus a gift shop. The museum is free, but encourages donations. Opening hours are usually from 10 am – 5 pm daily.

 

Shakespeare bust from the Shakespeare Society of America, Moss LandingWhen R. Thad Taylor, the founder of the Globe Playhouse in Los Angeles, passed away in 2006, the Shakespeare Society of America had to relocate. In 2008 it moved to Moss Landing.

 

If you are an admirer of Shakespeare you should check it out. The collection consists of rare books, artwork and other memorabilia. A tour especially for school classes grades 9-12 teaches the work of William Shakespeare.

 

What is your favorite Shakespeare play?

Take your tinker shopping

Take your tinker shopping

I remember the first time I shopped in a Fry’s Electronics store. I felt like a two year old in a candy store!

Keyboards at Weird StuffI was never a nerd, but I loved the cables and components that you can buy there. More than once I had a young man explain to me how a computer was built and what a motherboard is. Which did nothing for me, but just seeing these components is intriguing. If this sounds sexy to you, you might consider a visit at WeirdStuff in Sunnyvale. WeirdStuff feels more like a garage meets maker faire. You are surrounded by electronic equipment, both old and new. I actually found myself on memory lane browsing the aisles – VHS tapes, keyboards and cables. Do you remember the Cherry keyboard?

But Weird Stuff also takes your old computers and parts. Which I see as a great service to our fast growing electro trashing society.

This is one of the best stops on your tech tour in Silicon Valley!

Do you have a thing for computer parts?

Fly a drone or model airplane

Fly a drone or model airplane

I have never been intrigued with flying in fact I get really frustrated with flying video games. But, I find watching these little airplanes and flying objects fascinating.

There are few places in the Bay Area for model airplane flying.

If you want to pursue this as a hobby you might want to join Bay R/C.

Model airplanes at Baylands Park in SunnyvaleIf you are like me a watch-only kind of person, your best chances to see the little flyers are at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale (parking is $6 from March to October). Rancho San Antonio also has a field for non-gas powered model airplanes. Rules for model airplanes at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino

For those of you who like to get hands-on education, the Hiller Aviation Museum offers the Drone Plex. Each Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 am to 12 pm there are demonstrations; from 1 pm to 3 pm you can sign-up for the flight experience – (an extra $5 for 20 minutes; museum fee is $16 for adults and $11 for seniors and youth, 5-17 year olds, under 4 year olds are free). The museum also has flight simulators.

 

Are you an aviation geek?

Expand your universe

Expand your universe

While the eclipse was a great way to get your children interested in space, planets, and safety goggles, you should use this excitement to your advantage to teach them more about the universe. The Chabot Space Center in Oakland is one of the places you can go to learn about space, see movies in a planetarium, tour the telescopes, crawl into a black hole, and much more. They even had volunteers explaining a pinhole to see the storms on the sun (we saw three storms the size of earth!) and another volunteer was tracking the sun’s movement.

Art and Science of Pinball exhibit at the Chabot Space Center in OaklandThe exhibit that convinced my family to go is their current Art and Science of Pinball exhibit, through September 27th, 2017. Of course they let you play a variety of pinball machines. But they also explain the mechanics and help you understand it by singling out the technique and making you press a button to see it.

Art and Science of Pinball exhibit at the Chabot Space Center in OaklandI loved the two pinball machines that were all see through!  One digital, one mechanical, they both allowed you to see the moving parts while someone else played. It made us go back and find the examples in the exhibit.

Bean Sprouts Cafe at the Chabot Space Center in Oakland

Also two thumbs up for the Bean Sprouts Cafe with a lot of healthy and fun food options.

 

Where do you expand your universe?

Sweeten your museum visit

PEZ vending machine at the PEZ museum in BurlingameThe first thing I learned about PEZ at the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia was that it is short for the German word for peppermint: PfeffErminZ and the company that creates these famous dispensers and treats is Austrian. Mini PEZ dispensers at the PEZ museum in Burlingame

This tiny museum was a great visit. For $3 you get a tour with the owner who has a copiousness knowledge of PEZ.

The vending machines that give out PEZ took me down memory lane.The cutest dispensers, I think, are the mini Japanese editions – dispensers for four PEZ with all the famous characters, like Pikachu and Nintendo’s Mario.

the Atomic Energy Lab is part of the banned toys exhibit at the PEZ museum in BurlingameThe museum expanded to show classic toys, like Lincoln Logs and Mr. Potato Head and a section on Banned Toys, which was my favorite: The Atomic Energy Laboratory (with 4 samples of radioactive material!).

If you like Guinness Book World records you can view the World’s Largest PEZ Dispensing Machine. 

Are you a PEZ collector?

Exercise your auditory sense

Exercise your auditory sense

Now hear this! is the name of the new outdoor exhibit at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga.

Subtitled: an exercise in listening, you might be able to guess that these artists composed an interesting experience for you consisting of 5 installations.

Seats at the Lilian Fountain Garden Theatre in Montalvo, SaratogaFor example Stephen Vitiello’s Taking Sound Cues From The Wind plays on the hour and on the half hour from 10 am – 4:30 pm at the Lilian Fountain Garden Theatre. A sonic response to the 1925 play Wings by Joseph S. Thompson. I could sometimes not tell if the rustling of the leaves came from the speakers or just that the wind was moving  the leaves next to me. For a while I watched a dragonfly dancing to the music, her abrupt turns fitting the rhythm. I did enjoy this piece and the surrounding distractions.

On the same note Soundings are two audio tours created by Detour, an audio tour guide app. Tours involve new artists and their music while exploring the grounds of the Arts Center.

I took the first audio tour and it starts with an introduction at the box office and guides you down the path through the blue garden. The first composer Theresa Wong shares her experience in Venice, Italy under a trellis. Beautiful and minimalistic: Venice is a Fish.

Next you walk up the path and stop on the next bench to listen to Wayne Horvitz sharing his composition: 55 music and dance in concrete, part 1.

Carmina Escobar’s music can be enjoyed on a bench under the ginkgo tree.

Nina Young ends this interactive walk at the Belvedere with Temenos – an arrangement about architecture and music.Belvedere at Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga

It was a surreal experience listening to these unusual compositions outside in a park combining  the calming visuals of greenery with experimental sounds and with the chatter of summer campers.

How will you sharpen your hearing sense?

 

Now hear this! and Soundings

Monday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

Ends October 22nd, 2017

 

Walk into space exploration

Walk into space exploration

Mountain View is not only a huge part of Silicon Valley, it also has the NASA Ames Research Center. To show off what they are doing to the public there is the free NASA Ames Visitor Center. It is at the main gate of the NASA Research Center and is open Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 4 pm and Saturday and Sunday noon – 4 pm. Currently they have construction going on and you can only park behind the center.

A replica of the International Space Station at the Ames Research Visitor Center in Mountain ViewIf you ever wanted to see a moonstone or wondered how the researchers work in space (think nerdy tiny house) this is the place for you! There was also a great photo opportunity to pose as a couple of astronauts.

The friendly guy at the counter offered to show any of the movies, e.g. several about Mars, or a tour of the International Space Station, for me since it was slow and no one else was around, but I had to decline because I was pressed for time. Maybe something to come back for?

Have you seen any of the movies at the NASA  Ames Visitor Center?