|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / California||Related: Florida, Cross-Country, California (Site Map)|
|Approaching the Peartree apartments.||Front of Peartree apartments.|
What I saw while walking by is pictured to the right. Those tall trees have
been growing a while. That road is three lanes wide for traffic, in each
direction, not counting space for parking and turn lanes approaching
intersections. Traffic was light when I took the picture Saturday morning, but
it was heavy during the day Friday. There is a lot of road noise, but it
diminishes well inside the apartment grounds and should be okay inside the
|Peartree office.||Back of office.|
Disadvantages include that the commute to Apple involves lots of traffic
signals and alternate routes may be much longer, the water fees are apportioned
based on apartment size and number of occupants rather than individually
metered, some tenants have complained of plumbing problems and slow
maintenance. There is no air conditioning.
|Pool. My apartment is at the right edge of the willow.||My apartment.|
After settling the apartment, I drove up to San Francisco for chocolate. In the
future, I will seek to go by train, perhaps with my bicycle, because parallel
parking on a steep hill with a manual transmission is hard.
At orientation, I was immediately swamped with things to do. Largely, instead of filling out forms, new employees are given pointers to things they have to do—URLs of web pages with benefits information, and so on. There were some forms to fill out, of course, and there are a lot of accounts to create, for benefits access, bug-tracking systems, file servers, and more.
The awnings in the picture are part of the cafeteria, which is superb. Areas in the cafeteria include: chef-prepared salads; a grill for burgers and fries (and vegetarian options like veggie or soy patties); general hot dishes; a sushi counter; made-to-order pizzas in a wood-fired oven; a pasta counter; a salad bar for greens; a salad bar for beans, avocadoes, potatoes, and so on; a sandwich bar; and a burrito bar. If you are in a hurry, there is a cooler with prepared sandwiches and salads. I do not know what all the beverage options are yet; there are several dispenses and several coolers and a smoothie counter.
Smoking is not allowed anywhere on Apple property, not even away from the buildings.
Apple and Electronic Arts are polar opposites in some ways. At Electronic Arts, I was given a computer system that had been configured by the IT department, and it was supposed to stay that way. The IT department remotely controls aspects of the systems and installs patches and upgrades. At Apple, I was given four different systems and told to install systems on them myself. Apple employees are generally responsible for configuring and upgrading their systems themselves.
Electronic Arts has a few accounts that need to be set up for each employee.
Apple has many. Most are linked and share common data, but there is still a lot
more work than at Electronic Arts.
First I was sent to the line to get my car inspected for identification—a DMV employee checks the VIN, stickers, license plates, and engine. The I got in line to get a numbered ticket. Then I waited for the number to be called, which took about an hour. We started the registration paperwork, but I had to get a smog test, even though the car is new, certified for operation in California, and an ultra-low emissions vehicle. We also did the driver's license paperwork, and I paid for both. Then I stood in line to get my picture taken. Then I took a written test, which is harder than other states' tests. It is a good thing there was an hour wait, because I read the California driver's handbook during that time. Then I stood in line to get my test scored and take an eye test. I was rewarded with a hole punched in my Florida license and a piece of paper that said I was licensed to drive in California. The permanent license will be mailed.
Then I left to get a smog test. The nearby station was busy, of course, so I drove around and located a place that could test my car right away. Find the place took about half an hour, and the test took another half hour. Then I went back to the DMV and got another numbered ticket. They put you in a shorter queue when you come back, so I only had to wait ten minutes, after which I received a piece of paper saying my car was registered and moved to another counter where I quickly got the actual plates.
The last time I went to a New Hampshire DMV office, there was no line at all. I walked in, walked across the empty room, showed my previous license, paid, took an eye test, and got photographed. I only had to wait for them to manufacture the card.
Tomorrow I might actually do a little software development.
|My new office address.|
I got closer to doing work today. The personnel administration stuff has
reduced. Instead, I spent time installing and configuring systems, and I
received an introduction to the source code I will be using in my work.
I hope to build and run the software soon.
|Main entrance, IL1.||My building, IL2.||IL2 seen from interior yard.|
|New neighbor up the street.|
There are other surprises to be found. My new apartment complex is at 330 Mathilda Avenue. Driving around 1400 Mathilda Avenue, I found YaHoo!. Colorful local names include:
The Caltrain station is mostly good for getting to San Francisco, but there are
buses to local destinations, and there is a light-rail station two miles away
with service to San Jose, Great America, Great Mall of the Bay Area. San Jose
International Airport is eight miles away.
Here is a comparison of train trip statistics between Sunnyvale and San Francisco and between Ulm and München:
Time Distance Fare Sunnyvale to San Francisco 80 minutes 40 miles $4.25 Ulm to München 80 minutes 140 kilometers €17.60
In San Francisco, I checked out six chocolate store leads. Several were stale, and the stores were closed or at least moved, but the ones left were mostly good, and I will enter reviews on my chocolate page soon.
After the chocolate stores, I walked by an interesting-looking pizza place and looked to see what they had. Those of you who followed my Germany journal may remember that I said pizza with corn on it is not "American pizza." I stand by that, but this place in San Francisco had pizza with corn on it. It was cooked more than the Munich version.
Then I walked to Exploratorium and became a member. The Exploratorium really is a great science museum. It has lots of novel exhibits that strongly demonstrate things science has told us about nature.
In my Florida web page, I mentioned the tube illusion at the WonderWorks. It is a flickering tube (or single column of multi-colored lights) that appears as an image if you move your eye across it while it is flickering. The Exploratorium used to have one, but now it has a greatly improved version. In the original, you had to tug your eye back and forth. You had to be instructed to do it, and it was not easy to time it well. In the new version, there are several tubes spaced apart. The different tubes flicker in quick sequence, first one, then the next, then the next, and so on. Your eye naturally moves from tube to tube, following the light, with the result that you see a good two-dimensional image because each flicker appears at a different place on your retina. When I saw it, the illusion was strong enough that I was not sure there was not a full screen there. I had to get closer and force my eye to stay in place to be sure it was just a set of motionless vertical columns.
Many exhibits at many science museums are wimpy; you look at something and maybe press a button, and something happens that if you think about you might realize is demonstrating some physical law. At the Exploratorium, many exhibits are startling; the demonstrated effect is surprising and very clear.
I rode the Muni here and there in town. I was amused by the streetcar that passed by while I was walking down Market Street—it was an old car with a sign saying "Boston Elevated Railway."
The Muni has some rough edges they should work out. For one thing, the Muni web site says there is a day pass, but you can only buy it from a cable-car conductor. So you cannot readily buy one when you get into town; you have to get around first. From the Caltrain station, I took Muni rail to Market Street, where there is a cable-car terminus. The rail station attendant affirmed the web site's information, and I went up to the street and asked a cable-car conductor about a day pass. He said I had to buy them from some place across the street, and he pointed. I went there, and there was nothing evident except some kiosks with ticket machines that had been taken out of service.
Later in the day, I wanted to get off a bus. A sign by the rear door says:
So I did not stand in the stepwell, and the doors did not open. It turns out that if you obey that sign, the doors will not open. There is another sign that says:
CAUTION: DOORS OPEN INWARD
FOR YOUR SAFETY
DO NOT STAND
WAIT FOR LIGHT STEP DOWN TO OPEN DOOR STEP UP TO CLOSE DOOR
Another issue is that the Muni rail gates require exchange change in coins.
At one station, there was a machine that changed $1 and $5 bills into coins.
But the station at Market and 9th has no such machine. It has one
machine that will change $10 and $20 bills into $5 bills, and it has BART
machines that will change $1 bills into quarters. There is nothing that will
change $5 bills, and, of course, I had run out of singles. The attendant
showed me that the BART machines will allow you to add 5¢ to a farecard
and give you $4.95 in change. So I did that and went home.
|Tracks of the Valley Transit Authority's light rail.|
So, I do not expect to use the buses or light rail. I do expect to use Caltrain to get to San Francisco occasionally and maybe to get to San Jose airport.
|Sutro Baths.||Bison in Golden Gate Park.||Palace of Fine Arts.|
|Golden Gate Bridge.||Spectator.||That steep street with all the curves.|
|Driving and idler sheaves. The driving sheaves are turned by motors and pull the cables. The idler sheaves push the cables around larger arcs of the driving sheaves, giving more friction.|
|Sheaves under the street.|
|Cable room. The sheaves on carriages at the far end of the room move to keep the cables tight.|
To move a cable car, the operator uses the grip to clamp onto the cable below
the street. The grip supports 20,000 pounds, necessary to pull a car and its
passengers up steep San Francisco hills. To vary the car speed, the operator
loosens the grip, so the cable slides through it. The cable is coated with pine
tar to make sliding smooth, and a grip does not completely hold the cable until
the heat from friction evaporates the pine tar.
From 1982 to 1984, the cable car system was renovated. The old cables were
chopped up for souvenirs, and I now own six inches of San Francisco cable-car
|Chocolate Peanut Butter Bengal Cookies.|
|Pond.||Koi.||Duck seeking lunch.|
The pictures are not bad, but the rooms are even nicer—I am pleased with the results. Also, there is more room than may be apparent in the photographs. In the dining room, there is room to walk completely around the table; it is not a tight squeeze to get into the chairs. That is a bit rare in Silicon Valley's stressed real estate, but this apartment layout has worked out well for me.
In addition to seating eight people, the dining room table can hold two
strategy board games in play, and a third fits on the coffee table, so this
apartment is a good place for hosting games nights.
|Santa Clara Tower.|
This is a nine-minute ride from the Sunnyvale station. Still on my list of
things to do is get a day pass and visit several stops along the line to see
what is there. I need to get a Saturday when I can allocate the entire day for
|View from tower.||Controls.||Display board and timers.|
It does not seem worth it for 48¢ (for ten cans and one bottle). I rarely buy soda these days but figured I would try stocking some for guests. Given all the trouble of returning the containers, I will not bother. I figure I will put the remaining cans near the dumpster where gleaners can collect them, and I will avoid buying soda in the future.
In other news, California is finally getting highway exit numbers. However, it
may still be years before we see them.
|Shades of Gray. Compare squares A and B. They are the same shade of gray. More information is here and here.|
|Color Conflicts. Say the colors of these words as quickly as you can. Do not say the words. For example, for GREEN, say "red," not "green." This is called the Stroop Effect, after J. Ridley Stroop, the psychologist who discovered it in 1935.|
|Strips seen by still camera.||Strips seen by moving camera.||Butterfly. The images change every few seconds.|
Certainly I had a lot more experiences in Germany, in terms of seeing new places, learning things, observing culture, and so on. Even so, the area here seems sort of homogenized. That is ironic, consider the diverse subpopulations here. However, the cities blend into one another. This area is a gigantic dense suburb.
Reviewing my Ulm journal, after this long in Ulm, I was appreciating a lot more of the history, culture, and lifestyle than I am here. I collected lots of Ulm souvenirs and mementos. Here, there is little I expect to miss when I leave. One of the best things about the area is the active strategy board game groups, so I get to play games much more frequently than in New Hampshire. The weather is nice, and my new apartment is nice. Other than that, I would rather be in New Hampshire or Ulm. Life here is okay, but it is not charming.
One odd difference between California and Ulm is that I have not settled on a
grocery store here. Of course, I expect more of the stores here; I did not
expect to find my favorite brands in Ulm. But I was pretty satisfied with
Marktkauf. Here, I have to split my shopping among several stores, and that
includes not one but two companies for which I occasionally shop at different
stores because the different stores of the same company do not stock the same
|Gooey Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Cake.|
|Herbie welcomes you to the Garlic Festival.|
I tried the garlic chocolate ice cream. I think the garlic pistachio ice cream
would have been better. Other items included garlic fries, garlic bread, and
garlic chicken. There were a lot of non-garlic items, though. Generally, I
think the garlic theme could have been incorporated into the festival better.
Only a few of the artists had garlic featured in any of their displayed works.
|Garlic fries stand.|
Gilroy has several sister cities, some of which have garlic festivals of their
own, including Monticelli d'Ongina, Italy, and Takko Machi, Japan.
|What to do on your way out of the Garlic Festival.|
|What happens when you step on a treadmill five million times.|
|Gate at south end of Chinatown.||A street in Chinatown.|
We had been walking a while, so we tried to catch a bus back to the motel. Some main bus routes run through Chinatown. The first bus passed us because it was full, but the second stopped.
From the motel, we drove to a good viewpoint for the Golden Gate Bridge. Except it was not a good viewpoint today. A thick fog concealed the top of the bridge, although the bottom was clear. I noticed the view back toward the main part of San Francisco showed a more interesting skyline than other views I have seen. However, I left my camera in the car, so I will have to show it to you another time.
We went to Golden Gate Bridge, drove along the coast briefly, entered Golden Gate Park, stopped to see the bison, and went to Haight-Ashbury. It may be that some of the counterculture stores are not as counterculture as they used to be, even neglecting the interloping of the Gap store.
It was past dinnertime, and I found a restaurant in my vegetarian dining guide
that seemed to suit everybody, Crepevine. Dinner crêpes was a new idea for
Angela, so we went. Along the way, we passed an empty bus that was not picking
up passengers, so I dubbed this the Goldlocks bus system—no stopping for
you if the bus is empty or full, only if it is just right. Crepevine was good;
I will be back.
We ate at Extreme Pizza, which I do not think is very extreme, made another mandatory stop at Cocoa Bella. Cocoa Bella had gotten Cluizel chocolates since the last time I was there, so I bought a pound.
|Staircase to nowhere.|
|Exterior of part of Winchester Mystery House.|
It is dubbed the Mystery House because of staircases leading nowhere (shown to the right), windows built into floors, a chimney that rises four floors but ends below the final ceiling, and doors that open onto blank walls.
However, it is overpriced and not much of a mystery. I know plenty of people that would build a staircase planning to finish the stairwell later. And putting windows in the floors of a large multistory building brings sunlight to interior rooms, as well as giving visibility between the public rooms of different floors.
After the Mystery House, I drove Angela and Justin past some Internet
landmarks, like eBay and Yahoo!. For dinner, we went to Murphy Avenue. This is
part of downtown Sunnyvale within walking distance of my apartment, and there
are about three dozen restaurants in a few square blocks. We tried
Il Postale. I thought it was a local chain
and did not expect much, but I was confusing it with another place. Il Postale
is in Sunnyvale's old post office, hence the name. I was quite pleased. The
pasta was outstanding.
|Salt pond.||Plants at salt pond.|
Since I was looking for paved routes, I left the bay trails and headed east
for a bit to explore Mountain View.
|Women of Buffy.||Friends of Buffy.|
The "grass" rug is not very good, but it looks better than the cement. The fake flowers and the tall fake plant in the corner are better. The branches growing in on the left are real. The glow behind the fence is sunlight reflecting off the swimming pool.
|Snowmen and trees.||Elves rescuing Santa.||Penguin flight school.|
|Lima train.||Elf mail car.||Bear forge and foundry.|
|Southern Candy Cane Railroad.||Southern Candy Cane Lumber Mill.||Reindeer barn.|
The reindeer in the barn are in stalls. My initial impression was that they
were reindeer heads mounted on the wall, and Rudolph had had his revenge.
|Walking to the laundry room.|
|Red hills.||Big red hill.||Red hill with black stuff and a cave.|
|Approach to Mouse's Tank.||Mouse's Tank.||Red hill with holes.|
Valley of Fire is not named for heat or being a desert; it was cold and rainy. I do not know how the government manages to maintain a desert there, what with the rain. I suppose it was named for the color of the rocks.
Another attraction is the petroglyphs (shown to the left), which are more than four thousand years old. I think the plant on the right is more interesting; it has a pretty weird arrangement.
Later, we went to the Atomic
Testing Museum. Then we went back to the strip and saw the
Venetian hotel, with the indoor
gondolas. Back at
Bally's Paris, we rode the elevator up the "Eiffel Tower." There, I took the
pictures below of the mountains and the strip.
Outside the Venetian is a replica of Ponte di Rialto. Here you can
compare it to the real Ponte di Rialto and the Legoland Ponte di
|Vegas Ponte di Rialto.||Real Ponte di Rialto.||Lego Ponte di Rialto.|
|San Francisco skyline.|
|Paramount's Great America.|
In the meantime, I thought I might mention some differences between California and New England. These are in random order.
I have gripes with the traffic engineers around here. Amazingly, California does not have numbers on highway exits. If you are looking for the Lawrence Expressway exit, and you see Wolfe Road, you cannot know whether you have gone too far or not unless you check a map (or are familiar with the area). California is adding highway exit numbers now (several decades late), but it is going to take years to finish the job.
Another traffic problem is that lanes start and end too frequently and with too little notice. So traffic is frequently forced to merge, sometimes unexpectedly. This happens on local roads, expressways, and highways.
There is a lack of synchronized traffic signals, at least in my area. This wastes time and fuel because traffic has to stop more frequently than if the signals were coordinated between intersections. They also seem to be timed poorly; I frequently observe stretches of time when no cars are passing through an intersection.
Obviously the weather is better here. It essentially never snows and rarely rains during hours when you want to be outdoors. I am a bit inland, so the temperature is even more moderate than in San Francisco. I never need a winter coat, just a light jacket, and sometimes light gloves and a headband for the few days in winter when it is chilly.
None of the grocery stores here are completely satisfying, so I rotate my shopping between them.
The area from here to San Francisco is one big suburb. The cities do not have much individual character, although there are pockets here and there.
Being Silicon Valley, the area is nerd central, which has various effects. There are plenty of game groups (e.g., strategy board games) and game events. There are plenty of computer stores, including Fry's Electronics and Weird Stuff Warehouse. Fry's is like CompUSA but bigger and better. Some people complain about Fry's, but the inventory is pretty good. There is a CompUSA in the area, but it is pretty lame; it is clearly suffering from Fry's competition. Weird Stuff Warehouse buys and sells old computer parts, so you can find all sorts of things there.
The chocolate environment is different from Boston. There are several fine chocolatiers in the area, mostly up around San Francisco. That is fine for premium chocolate, but the tier below that (still above average) does not seem to me to be as well served here as in New England.
One of the most visible differences are the businesses. Driving around the area is like driving through the Internet—Yahoo!, eBay, Cisco, IBM, Hitachi, Apple, Adobe, and more.
New England obviously has more history than California.
I like my apartment here quite a bit. I will miss that when I leave.
The geography is different here. New Hampshire is hilly all over. Here, it is flat (and easy to bicycle) for miles, right up until you reach a mountain, when it becomes steep quickly. The settled area is a narrow strip running up the peninsula, bordered by uninhabitable areas of bay, mountains, or desert.
There is an 8.25% sales tax here (varying by county) and an income tax
up to 9.3% for ordinary incomes (10.3% for incomes exceeding a million
dollars). Think about what that means to people who are struggling to get by,
on top of the US income tax, and all the other fees and taxes. I will not miss
that when I leave.
|Mohandas K. Gandhi walks to the ocean and boards a ferry.|
The tour starts in the Ferry Building. The Ferry Building is a landmark at the
end of Market Street, and I am familiar with it because Recchiuti Confections
has a shop there. It turns out there is also a ferry there, right behind
the statue of Gandhi.
|Golden Gate Bridge cable.|
|Golden Gate Bridge.|
The first stop was a vista point for the Golden Gate Bridge. I have seen it
many times before, so no big deal, but Lynn is a first-timer in San Francisco.
There is a sample of the cable used on the bridge on display. If you look at
the larger picture, you can (sort of) see the individual wires in the cable.
|Coffin shaped like a cacao pod.|
The tour went to Golden Gate Park and let us off in front of the new building
of the de Young Museum. We had only a few minutes, but I found this coffin
shaped like a cacao pod. I am sending the picture to all the chocolatiers I
After that, we walked through Chinatown and passed by the Transamerica Pyramid.
The tour was quite long, and it was not uninteresting, but anybody else who
visits me is on their own if they want to do a guided tour. I will be happy to
show you the Exploratorium or tourist sites myself, although I cannot tell you
nearly as much of the history. But I can show you more chocolate stores.
|View west from Apple.|
|View east from Apple.|
In the meantime, I am going to plug one bit of software I started using recently. Apple employees get some discounts and a few freebies, one of which is 1Password. I do not use most of the discounts available to Apple employees, but 1Password seems worth endorsing.
It is a utility for organizing web site login information. It solved a couple
of problems for me. The first is securely storing passwords while making them
easy to use when logging in. There are a number of programs that do that, but
1Password also stores passwords securely on the iPhone. There are a few
applications that make your data available on the iPhone by storing it on a
web server, but I prefer to have it stored on my own device. 1Password stores
the data encrypted in a web page embedded in a bookmark and decrypts it using
Apparently I was there for the good part of the game, when the home team was winning (hurrah). The score when I left was 7-3, but it ended at 7-8.
It was unusually hot in San Francisco, which was a problem because I had made
a chocolate run before the game, getting samples from a couple of new stores.
I had cold gel packs, but they were not enough to completely protect the
chocolate. Fortunately, the best stuff seems to have survived.
|Barenaked Ladies. (Click to turn the band around.)|
One ticket to WWDC gets you into the bash and my talk, so I performed on the
same ticket as Barenaked Ladies. That is so going into my biography.
The Science Museum in London built the first Difference Engine #2 from Charles Babbage's 1847-9 plans, starting in 1985 and finishing the calculating section in 1991 and the printer in 2002. Nathan Myhrvold commissioned a second one and has loaned it to the Computer History Museum until May 2009.
As usual, the small pictures here are linked to larger versions, but I have the even larger originals if anybody would like them. I also have video of the machine in operation.
|Overview. Most of the machine is visible here. The printer is on the right. The drive crank is on the left.||Crank. This makes it go. It takes some effort, naturally, but not as much, judging by appearance, as the bulk of the machine might lead you to expect.|
|Printer. Results are printed on paper and impressed in plaster to cast printing plates.||Stamping wheels.|
The Difference Engine would not be called a computer today, because it is not programmable. It performs one simple calculation, producing the values of a polynomial. It does that by keeping seven sums of 31 digits each, adding a number to the first sum, adding that sum to the second sum, adding the second to the third, and so on.
The desirable thing about polynomials is they can be designed to approximate
other functions, like logarithms and trigonometric functions. So the Difference
Engine could have been used to making printing plates for books of logarithms
and trigonometric functions, which were essential for engineering calculations.
|Sign for buildings e and π.|
In the afternoon, we visited the
Dome at the Exploratorium. The
Dome is a set of dark chambers and passageways that you feel, walk, crawl,
slide, and climb through. I recommend it.
|Path: Eric's Site / Eric / Travel / California||Related: Florida, Cross-Country, California (Site Map)|
© Copyright 2009 by Eric Postpischil.