Vasper cooling machines, Moffett Field

Streamline your exercise

It felt good the other day at the doctors. When she asked me about exercise I could give her a tip on how to get stronger muscles. 

View out the Vasper door towards the hanger, Moffett Field

Vasper is based on three scientifically proven principles – compression technology, cooling and interval training. Scientific experiments also show the reduction of stress hormones. 

Vasper bike at Moffett Field.

What is Vasper? A workout on a bike (or rowing machine, or eclipse) with added cooling. I do a 21 minute bike workout where I sit on a cold pad, the feet are bare and also cooled, and cooling compressions are added to the upper legs and arms. It’s perfect for a morning workout since sweat is little, you feel invigorated afterwards, and have a 1 ½ hour routine compressed into 30 minutes (there is a 10 minute cool-down period recommended). You can try out three sessions for free!

Vasper sign with the hanger, Moffett Field.

An added bonus is Vasper is located at Moffett Field in Mountain View. Bring an ID to enter and be close to the airship hangers you always see from the 101.

How do you exercise?

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


Front of the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

Stop by where the internet began

If you followed my 50 things to do in San Mateo county you might already know where the internet begun – at least in this area. 

The plaque outside the Alpine Inn, declaring the beginning of the Internet age.

A plaque at the entrance of the Alpine Inn in Portola Valley reads: “On August 27th, 1976, a scientist from SRI International celebrated the successful completion of tests by sending an electronic message from a computer set up at a picnic table behind the Alpine Inn. The message was sent via a radio network to SRI and on through a second network, the ARPANET, to Boston. This event marked the beginning of the Internet Age.” 

Founded in 1852, the Alpine Inn is the second longest continuously running tavern in California. In May of 1969 it was registered as a historic landmark (#825). Just recently Zott’s, as it is known by locals,  reopened after extensive renovations by the new owners.

Beer with charcuterie board at the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

The Alpine Inn is a jovial beer garden. They still have hot dogs and burgers on the menu, but we enjoyed the woodfired pizza and the charcuterie board.  Afterwards we played a game of cornhole (bags can be borrowed from the bar). 

The beer garden at the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

Currently they are open from 5 pm to 10 pm, but plan on having lunch hours soon.

The Alpine Inn is by far my favorite beer garden in Silicon Valley. Do you have a favorite beer garden?


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?

Table setting at the Los Altos History Museum Silicon Valley Eats exhibit.

Foodies reunite in this exhibit

The last time I went to the Los Altos History Museum I came back with some old recipes. This time it was again a food inspired exhibit that spiked my interest: Silicon Valley Eats. Silicon Valley was formerly known as the Valley of Hearts Delights with orchards and canneries. This  is the natural starting point for this exhibit. I liked the different menus from restaurants in Los Altos displayed on the wall.

Place setting at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

There were a lot of information about new and inventive foods. Did you know that 80% of the world’s population eats bugs?

The J. Gilbert Smith House next door also has a Silicon Valley feel to it with its scavenger hunt-like exhibit about Gadgets Galore! Our guide pointed out different old mechanical devices. For example, there is an adding machine – and in fact, all it does is add.

Adding machine at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

In the spirit of invention, the History Museum can point to the walnut huller. They own the prototype and the actual working huller. All invented in Los Altos.

Part of the walnut huller, Los Altos History Museum.

Both exhibits run through early September and are free (donations are appreciated). The Los Altos History Museum is open Thursdays to Sundays noon – 4 pm.

This was our first group outing. Thanks to everyone who joined me! If you like to be included in future group activities contact me, or sent me an email under untilsuburbia@gmail.com.

Are you a foodie?

Sam's Castle, Pacifica

Tour Sam’s Castle

Have you ever noticed the castle up on the hills in Pacifica? It has a fantastic history and lots of stories and artifacts. They open the doors to Sam’s Castle once a month for a tour. I was very happy when I got invited by the Mazza Foundation to see the castle. The Mazza Foundation is a  private philanthropic foundation established by the estate of our founder and last owner of Sam’s Castle, Sam Mazza.

Sam Mazza's throne at Sam's Castle in Pacifica.

The castle was built by Henry Harrison McCloskey in 1908, as an earthquake/fireproof home. Pete McCloskey, former California congressman, learned about his grandfather’s former home while canvassing in Pacifica with his dad. But the true king of the castle was Italian immigrant Sam Mazza. Sam acquired the castle in 1958 and was also the main decorator who had a reputation for collecting eccentric pieces.

Light refreshments after the tour of Sam's Castle, Pacifica.


Our hosts Jeannette, CEO of the Mazza Foundation and Bridget, author of the book ‘Sam’s Castle’ welcomed us. After a short movie of Sam Mazza’s life as a castle owner we learned a myriad of stories, from ghost stories to historical tidbits and tales from contemporary witnesses while inspecting some of the rooms. The tour ended with a light snack in the dining room overlooking the ocean.

They also hold music salons and high teas as special events. Please see the Mazza Foundation web site for details.

Chandelier at Sam's Castle, Pacifica.

A perfect outing for history buffs and location junkies like me. The place is full of Interesting nicknacks – and to preserve these, no one under 18 is allowed inside. I loved the opportunity to see the interior of this unusual place and enjoyed the history.

Have you been inside Sam’s castle?

Disclosure: I was invited to see this place. My review is an honest recapture.




Typewriter at the Los Altos Town Crier

Visit a tiny museum

This probably doesn’t deserve the title museum, but it is an excuse to visit the Los Altos Town Crier, the weekly local paper for Los Altos.

Town Crier Bell Collection, Los Altos

The bell exponents can be viewed from the outside and show an expressive array of different bells from around the world. There is the cow bell and the prayer bell, a dinner bell, and a souvenir bell. Bells from Portugal, Switzerland, Mali, and Indonesia to pick a few of the countries.

Different bells, Los Altos

You may go inside Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and look at the curious displays of former glories. There are a few typewriters, or as the sign says: “This antique contraption was a popular typesetter in the last century. It was superseded by chips made from sand.” My favorite exhibit was the rock labeled: “A hunk of history”.

'Hunk of history' at the Los Altos Town Crier

The hallway up to the offices is walled with posters of the old Town Crier.

Hallway of the Los Altos Town Crier

If you are in Los Altos, please stop by this little ‘museum’. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes for some chuckles. Or if you have grandchildren you can show them some of the things from the good old days.  

What is your favorite item of former glory?




Call me Ishmael phone, Los Gatos library

Call me Ishmael

Call me Ishmael phone, Los Gatos library

“Press any button to hear a story from an anonymous bibliophile about a story they loved.”  This is the sentence you hear when you pick up the receiver of the old pay phone in the Los Gatos library.

Reviews are read from different book lovers. Unfortunately there was no volume button. Some recordings are hard to listen to from the recording quality and the speed of the reader. But the personal account is priceless. Some are short and sweet but most of them are true personal recollections.  

Press 0 and you’ll hear a pitch for ‘Call me Ishmael’ or if you are at home in front of your computer you can watch their YouTube video for their earlier kickstarter project.

Current book selection from Call me Ishmael, Los Gatos library

Currently the book selections are from Sarah Boynton’s Pyjama Time! , a picture book, to classics like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, to the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

If you like to record your own review you can do this by calling 774.325.0503. On the CMI website you can also listen to featured calls.

Los Gatos library (front entrance)

A fun way of learning about new books! The personal touch of the stories makes it feel like a friend is telling you about a book they loved, and the Los Gatos library is a great place to hang and discover new books.

What book would you review?

Reach & Teach store in San Mateo

Buy something at Reach & Teach

If this is your year to become more sustainable maybe Reach & Teach in San Mateo can help. They were awarded the 2014 Sustainability Awards from Sustainable San Mateo.

Store front of Reach & Teach, San Mateo

This small store has everything from games to books to fairtrade tea. It is a great place for buying a gift. You could even fill out their gift advisor form online. But if you go by the store and need some advice, they are happy to help and might even play some games with you! Most of the games are unique titles that are not usually found in other game stores, teaching the players about peace, equality and sustainable living. One of the games is their very own invention: CIVIO – A civil rights game.

Games you can try out at Reach & Teach, San Mateo

Their slogan is: “transform the world through teachable moments”. Reach & Teach got founded as a subsidiary of Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi’s award-winning educational consulting company, WKMN Training, LLC. If you like to learn how you can make a difference in this world, best to stop by the store and get some ideas.

How will you be more sustainable in 2019?


Video arcade machines at High Score, Alameda

Get a high score

We went to the Pinball Museum in Alameda before and I was surprised that they also have an Interactive Arcade Museum.

Playing arcade games at High Score, Alameda

High Scores on Park St in Alameda (or B St in Hayward) is another rainy day option. $6 buys you an hour of fun, if you plan to stay longer you might want to invest in a $12 day pass. Teach your kid who is boss in Mortal Kombat II or eat some dots and ghosts in the classic Pac Man. A lot of these games are multiplayer, so, bring a friend or a few kids. You can also celebrate your next birthday or organize a team building event. The atmosphere is loud and crowded, but on our visit there you could always find a machine to try a game.

arcade inspired art

I liked the arcade inspired artwork above the video games and the Donkey Kong photo opp outside.

Pac-Man arcade game at High Score, Alameda

Which one is your all time favorite arcade game?