Semaphore, Almaden Tower in San Jose.

Crack the code

Have you ever noticed the four round lights on top of the Adobe Almaden Tower in San José? They look like cat eyes turning to a rhythm.  Every 7.2 seconds they change their position. 

Adobe Almaden Tower's semaphore, San Jose.

This is a semaphore – in the early days a semaphore was the person holding two flags to send messages by changing the arm positions. In computer terms it is a variable used for multitasking operations. This semaphore has four wheels each of them can change into four different positions. Enabling it to have a 256 item vocabulary. It is transmitting a code that you can spend weeks to crack. 

Ben Rubin was chosen as the media artist to install this artwork in 2006. By 2007 Bob Mayo and Mark Snesrud cracked it. It took them 3 weeks to find out the semaphore was spelling out Thomas Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49.

Adobe Almaden Tower's semaphore, San Jose.

The code has been solved twice now. The most recent update was in October 2012. 

You can spend hours in front of the building or check out Adobe’s website to study the pattern. If you are successful in deciphering the code you can submit it to Adobe and they will award you bragging rights and a year’s subscription for the Adobe Creative Cloud. In 2017 the Tennessee math teacher, Jimmy Waters figured out that the code at that time was a sound file voicing Neil Amstrong’s famous sentence: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

A true Silicon Valley experience. 

Have you ever cracked a semaphore code?

Resources: 

https://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/philanthropy/sjsemaphore/
https://sf.curbed.com/2017/3/13/14913006/adobe-semaphore-code-cracked-tennessee


View from ground level at the Kaiser Center rooftop garden, Oakland.

Chill on a rooftop garden

I had heard of the Kaiser Center rooftop garden on top of a parking garage in Oakland, near Lake Merritt. Naturally intrigued I went to check it out.

Entrance to 300 Lakeside Garage, Oakland.

You can see greenery from the street level on 21st St. I thought it was a bit tricky to get up to the 4th floor. I went around the parking garage and turned right into a side alley. The stairs there advertised the rooftop garden. As a bonus exercise I took the stairs. 

Lake of the Kaiser Center rooftop garden, Oakland.

When I arrived at the destination I was blown away. There is a little lake with some fountains and a bridge that crosses the lake. A lot of people used the garden as an after lunch walk. Some were just chilling on the shady benches that are plentiful. 

Rooftop garden at the Kaiser Center, Oakland.

A nice size walk that I bet brings joy into a lot of people’s daily lives. 

Have you been to the rooftop garden?

Sandwich board advertising Los Altos First Friday.

Dance on the sidewalk

Many cities in the Bay Area have a First Friday established. San Jose, Oakland, Campbell and Santa Cruz, to name a few.

Band playing in front of Linden Tree bookstore, Los Altos.

I always wanted to go to one, so two weeks ago Friday was my first. Since I did 50 things to do in Los Altos, but missed out on the First Friday, this was my time.

I was early and most of the musicians were still setting up at 6 pm. But by 6:30 pm every corner of downtown was filling the air with music. All different styles are present from polka to rock and folk.

Band playing on State and Main, First Friday, Los Altos.

Livin la vida loca was the opener from a band that played on one of the larger stages on the corner of State and Main. To the side were the girls from the dance school, nervously awaiting their turn; around the picnic tables, people feasting on carry out; an elderly group enjoying wine and tapas; a couple dancing. Los Altos knows how to party!

Drummer of the Ruse, First Friday, Los Altos.

I liked the Ruse, a trio of high schoolers that played next to the Tasting Room. Ready to rock, they were constricted by someone who thought the drums were too loud. They made the best of it while waiting for a damper. I’m sure they will play a lot of First Fridays, and who knows, eventually stand on a large stage. 

View into Viewpoint Gallery, Los Altos.

First Fridays are, of course, happening on the first Friday of the month in Los Altos from 6 to 8pm. Some stores might be open longer and the two galleries in town usually have receptions. 

What a great way to invite you to linger downtown. 

Do you like to dance on the sidewalk?


Front facade of the art and art history at San Jose State University.

Regard the future of art

Announcement for the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery.
Excerpt for (inter) Facing - Fall 2019 Digital Media Art Faculty Exhibition.

The current exhibit held by the faculty of the department of art and art history at San Jose State University is called: (Inter) Facing. This digital media art exhibit runs until September 20th, 2019 at The Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery. Virtual reality drawings and an opera with video game imaging are some of the highlights. With six annual exhibits the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery is worth visiting often.

Announcement board for the Student Art Galleries at San Jose State University.
Announcement and excerpt of the O Belcher Gallery.

Across this gallery is the O Belcher Gallery that also has a digital media installation with some techno music. 

Outline hanging on the wall for Not a Straight Line, SJSU.
Peak into the exhibit: How not to draw a Straight Line, SJSU.

While wandering the hallway I found two more galleries. I really liked that it wasn’t just art ‘presented’, but one could feel that a lot of thought went into how it got presented. Not a straight line, for example, had the outline of the exhibit on six papers on the wall.

Notepads to record your critiques, SJSU.

Every gallery had a notepad for you to write and critique the exhibit.

You could feel that art in its myriad forms was present throughout SJSU.

During the academic year the galleries are open Monday – Friday 10 am – 4 pm. Tuesday evenings 6 pm – 7:30 pm. Admission is free.

Where do you feel the future of art?


Haoyun Erin Zhao art work for the 50|50 show at the Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica

Get your instant art gratification

View from the main gallery hallway exhibit of 50|50, Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica.

50 artworks created in 50 days by more than 60 artists. Now in its eleventh year the 50|50 show held by the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica is a great success. Artists challenge themselves to create 50 pieces of artwork each on a small canvas in 50 days. 

Main gallery with some of the 50|50 artwork, Sanchez Center, Pacifica.

The work is arranged in 7 x 7 grid and the 50th piece on the side. Everything was for sale, right there. You can be the owner of some special creation and take it home right away. I’ve seen price ranges from $45 to $150. Some artists give a discount if you buy 2 or more. 

Single image viewers, Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica.

If you get overwhelmed by the mass of images you can grab yourself a single image viewer to experience only part of the collection.

Part of Kimberley D’Adamo Green's 50|50 artwork, Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica.

Opening night was August 30th, 2019. We visited on Sunday there were a lot of missing images. Some artists put up a photo of the whole project, so you could identify both what was sold and how the whole collection looked. 

Gallery hours are Fridays to Sundays from 1 pm – 5 pm. The exhibit runs until September 22. 

Have you been to the 50|50 art show in Pacifica?


Bike bike rack, Los Altos

Park your bike

Dog bike rack in downtown Los Altos.

It’s been hot the last couple of days. High temperatures and exhaust are causes of smog. That’s why we had ‘spare the air’ days the last couple of days. Since I’m not too impressed with public transportation around here I usually enjoy my bike rides. 

In 2013 the city of Los Altos started the artistic bike rack policy. Businesses and property owners are allowed to install interesting bike racks in front of their property. In 2015 and 2016 the city had a bike rack competition

It makes for a great treasure hunt. Try to find them all!

Squirrel bike rack, Los Altos
Leaves bike rack, Los Altos
Ice cream cone bike rack, Los Altos
Owl bike rack, Los Altos

Do you have a favorite bike rack?


Sign for the Woodside library and the native plant garden.

Work in a native plant garden

Native plant garden at the Woodside library.

The sign at the Woodside library announces the library, and right below, the native plant garden. This acknowledgment is well deserved; the space of the garden seems as large as the library itself. You have to enter the garden from the library. The chairs and tables makes it clear that al fresco studying is encouraged here. And the people of Woodside take advantage of the natural office setting.

Map of the native plant garden at the Woodside library.

Right away there is a map of the garden. This garden was established in 1970 by the Woodside Atherton Garden Club. They also provide a pdf of all the plants.

Manzanita grove at the Woodside native plant garden.

The manzanita grove to the right immediately delighted me with their dark red bark. The horse smell from next door reminded me that I’m in Woodside. Every place, even the library, has a horse rack in front.

Redwood grove at the Woodside native plant garden.

The redwood grove in the back uses its half arch for benches. A great place for a school class to enjoy some lunch. Benches are sprinkled throughout the garden, inviting everyone to take a break.

The native garden is open during library hours: 
Monday – Thursday 11 am to 7 pm
Friday and Saturday 11 am to 5 pm

Have you been to the native garden?

Resources:

http://woodsideathertongc.org/cgi-bin/p/awtp-custom.cgi?d=woodsideatherton-garden-club&page=9513


Aquarium at the Cupertino library.

Find Nemo at the library

Butterfly fish at the Cupertino library aquarium.

Sure, you can find a good book on Nemo or clownfish at any local library. If you go to the Cupertino library you can try to find the clownfish in the aquarium next to the children’s books. This 16 feet long tank holds 3,240 gallons of water. To support such large tank the glass is 2.5 inches thick and there is a 5 foot concrete base underneath. 

Cupertino library aquarium.

Besides clownfish, there are also yellow tanks, foxface bubblefish, yellowtail damsels, butterfly fish, and hermit crabs.The corals are man-made and therefore more environmentally friendly.  Real corals are threatened by many factors like over-fishing, increased sea temperatures and tourism. 

Plant petting zoo at the Cupertino library.

If your kid prefers land over water maybe come by on Tuesdays from 11 am – noon (summer hours) and let them explore the Children’s Garden in the courtyard. This garden has a plant petting zoo and a scratch and sniff area. For the teenagers that are into planting the Green Teen Garden might be attractive. Designed to provide local teenagers with hands-on garden experience. 

Kids splashing around the water fountain in front of the Cupertino library.

And to cool off your child they can splash around in the water fountain outside.

What a fun place for kids! 

Have you seen the aquarium at the Cupertino library?

The Apple 1 computer at the Historical Society and Museum in Cupertino.

View the Holy Grail of Computers

Cupertino is mostly linked with Apple. The garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Woziak build the first Apple computer is in Los Altos. But the first office and all the preceding offices are mostly in Cupertino, including the old headquarters at Infinite Loop and the new ‘spaceship’.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum  is currently showing: Homage to the IT Revolution.

Entrance to the Historical Museum in Cupertino.

This traveling exhibit will be here until June 2020 and it is well worth the time. The Italian curated exhibit by a group called BasicGallery takes you on a journey of the visionaries of personal computers from 1975 to 1985.

Olivetti's Programma 101 at the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum.

It starts out with the first personal computer, the Programma 101, manufactured by Olivetti in Italy (1965). In a small space they have packed a cornucopia of information, illustrating it with the responding artifacts and stories about them. There are all the famous players you would expect, like the Commodore 64 and Atari 400, and of course multiple Apple computers. All artifacts are labeled with launch date, launch price, and units sold.

Apple 1 computer with keyboard, monitor, original package and letter from Steve Jobs, at the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum.

The star of the exhibit, titled in the showcase as the Holy Grail, is the Apple 1. This is believed to be the only surviving complete kit, of the 50 sold Apple 1’s, with the original box and a personal letter from Steve Jobs!

You can listen to interviews of key players at that time, like John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Inc., and Steve Wozniak (Co-founder of Apple Inc). The introductory video is online:

http://www.basicpress.com/contenuti/media/resultmedia.asp?id=143654

I highly recommend this free exhibit (donations are welcome), from Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm. Please call ahead to verify that the museum is open (408) 973-1495.

What is your earliest personal computer experience?

Climbing structure at the Palo Alto Junior Museum.

Crawl like a spider

Tree house, part of the plan for the new Palo Alto Junior Museum.

Temporarily, the Palo Alto Junior Museum is at Cubberly Community Center. Their old site is being renovated and expected to be ready in the summer of 2020. In the front of the Center you can see the plans they have – it looks pretty cool – e.g. a tree house!

Because of the limited space all the larger animals like bobcats and raccoons, are in the back. I was told that they do special events for members where they bring some of them out. Membership starts at $100 and relieves you of the $5 suggested donation.

Kids looking at the rats exhibit at the Palo Alto Junior Museum.

What you can see is a pretty cool insect exhibit, alive and dead. The sunburst diving beetles for example are constantly diving down in their little aquarium. I did not hear the hissing roaches hiss, but you can still marvel at their size. All the exhibits are kids height.

In the middle of the room is a spider web big enough to entertain toddlers for a while. There are also some life spiders, like a tarantula and a black widow you can look at. 

Reggie, the kingsnake, at the Palo Alto Junior Museum.

Reggie, the kingsnake, decorated his mantuary with some old skin. Enough rats to learn counting are next door to Reggie.

The Clean Green Energy Machines teach children about renewable energy. These machines are hands-on, start-to-bubble-and-spit types, which makes it fun to look at and learn.

The Junior Museum is closed on Monday, on Tuesdays to Saturdays open from 10 am – 5 pm, and Sundays from 1 pm to 4 pm.

When it comes to animal walks what creature do you resemble?