24 December 2008

San Francisco: out and about

I'm giving San Francisco the same treatment that I had given Seoul and Hong Kong for the past few months. It only lasts a few days, however, due to my much shorter visit.

California Academy of Sciences is one of the most outstanding science museums anywhere, and has been a San Francisco landmark for ages. However, major damages from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake necessitated closing its Golden Gate Park facility for complete rebuild. The rebuild was completed in September 2008, and that gave me another excuse to come up to San Francisco (of course, the main excuse is my car).

A greenhouse containing a tropical rainforest is a star attraction here. I needed an hour for this: 30 minutes in line, another 30 minutes looking.

At the bottom is a flood basin, and yes, there are people down there - walking through a glass tunnel.

Another star attraction is the planetarium, but due to having to wait four hours for a show, I had to back out. At least I don't have to wait the four hours in line - I can reserve my showtime upon entry to the museum.

Freshwater rays from the Amazon rainforests.. Who knew?

A fish tank. One of many test shots where I tried out the color capabilities of my new Canon from Seoul. I'm impressed with the camera's capabilities - it blows away my old Pentax. With the anti-shake feature and a very smart exposure controller, I can take almost any photo and capture just about all colors.

There is a lot of emphasis in the new Academy on environmental sustainability and global warming. This bicycle, which can use a hybrid of pedal and electric power to travel at very impressive speeds, is an example of transportation alternatives.

Visitors are welcome to hang, on a wall using a piece of paper, their own ideas on how to fight global warming. Many of the ideas were far more to the left than I'd ever dream of back in my reactionary SoCal neighborhood. I made sure to write down what I've just done, and it's very obvious:

I have just sold my BMW - not because it pollutes, but because BMW management supports politicians who don't believe in global warming. Replacement vehicle is a Hyundai. Hyundai pays for one year of carbon offsets with my car.

Yet another level where the car swap makes perfect sense.

Contrary to what some of my neighbors back south like to think, humans have evolved relatively recently compared to everything else out there. Here are some replica human skulls, from Homo Habilis to the Neanderthal. Behind me is a replica of Lucy, the famous Australopithecus Afarensis fossil.

Penguins! While most penguins hail from Antarctica, these belong to a South African species of warm climate penguins.

Another example of evolution at work. Galapagos turtles!

The Foucault Pendulum is always a common sight at many science museums. In fact, I had seen one less than two months before in Daejeon!

The one here at the Academy is quite famous, and makes sure to return in the new building, as seen above. The pendulum proves that the earth rotates.

The rooftop is wild plant garden. Nicely done.

A new bus service provided by San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority, a new umbrella organization which oversees the city Department of Parking and Transportation (DPT), the Municipal Railway (Muni - mass transit), and other transportation services within San Francisco. This is the new Muni 74x "Culture Bus," which offers visitors the ability to travel to several museums throughout San Francisco. Fare is steep at $7, but that's for the all-day hop-on, hop-off privilege. Not bad.

Speaking of mass transit in San Fran, Muni now uses smart farecards called TransLink, similar to Hong Kong's Octopus and Seoul's T-Money. It appears to be in testing stage, however, and very few people, if ever, carry the cards. Most people carry the monthly flash pass, which is simply shown to the driver when boarding a bus. Visitors like me pay cash fare ($1.50) and take an old-fashioned paper transfer as proof of payment. Fare management at Muni, indeed, is still very primitive with plenty of fraud opportunities.

BART is the other component of San Fran mass transit, though after using the subway systems in Hong Kong and Seoul, I now feel that BART looks downright primitive by comparison. This is despite the fact that BART trains are probably the fastest and the most capable subway trains anywhere in the world. BART fares are ridiculously expensive too, while at it. And my magnetized ticket quit working, and BART had to write me a manual paper voucher for the return leg of my Berkeley-San Francisco roundtrip ticket. And by riding BART today, I ended up riding three different subway systems this month - I don't think I've ever done that before.

Back to Berkeley. I took Gwaneum One for a spin around Berkeley, but didn't find much to photograph. I ended up at the Unitarian Church, where I took this entrance sign photo.

Gwaneum One has a very BMW-ish profile from the back, but the Hyundai logo remains very prominent. That's the only Hyundai logo on the exterior of the entire car, by the way. There is no logo on front. The other Hyundai logos are found on the wheel caps and the steering wheel.

Another church shot. Love the banner in the background, which makes the church's stance on the gay marriage battle clear.

For now, there is a risk of me and Gwaneum One being seen as unwelcome visitors from Los Angeles's notoriously reactionary, homophobic Korean-American community. After all, Gwaneum One does carry dealer insignia from Los Angeles. At the church, however, I can simply talk about my three months in Asia, and the story of why I am no longer showing up in the BMW that I had brought here last Christmas Eve. Of course, once I get the vanity plate, my allegiances will become crystal clear - and that won't be to the Korean-Americans.

I'm heading back to the church in a few hours for another Christmas Eve service.

My Emeryville hotel faces the Berkeley Hills to the east, and the bay to the west. I got a free upgrade to the bayview room, and this is my view out. Love the hills of San Francisco, and I also get a good look at the east spans of the Bay Bridge. A new east span is being built to replace the current one, which is likely to suffer catastrophic failure at the next major earthquake; the new span is progressing very nicely.