Sunday, December 18, 2011

YandA home from California

YandA are home and ready to sum up the trip and describe the latter few days.

At UCLA we had lunch with Margy at the Faculty Center.  The campus evoked a legion of memories although much has changed and there are new buildings all over at the expense of the trees and greenery that were so lovely.  After lunch, A spent an intense few hours with Margy discussing Cassini data from her experiment and ours while Y checked her mail and did various  other things in the guest office.  Margy was not free in the evening so we went on our own to Gladstone's for Fish, on the beach in Malibu,and then back to our hotel.

Friday was a free day and we took advantage of it.  The hostel, a standard Holiday Inn situated on an awkward traffic corner and obviously built into an older, renovated building, does its best to maintain standards and a good reputation. It is arranged around a central courtyard and on the second floor there is an open balcony, covered only with an awning, on which a free hot breakfast is provided.  It was a bit chilly, but convenient (just outside our room) and nice.  After breakfast we went down to Ocean Front Park in Santa Monica, another trip down memory lane.  En route we drove past the complex on Stanford St. where Daphne, Shaul and I had lived during the 1980-82 sabbatical.  Naturally  Fred, the Parking Place Angel, provided a vacant meter on Ocean Park Blvd. and off we went to see the sights.

In the park overlooking the beach, we found something amusing.  Traditionally, religious bodies in Santa Monica present Nativity scenes in booths along the park.  The city allocates 21 locations by lottery.  This year organized atheists won 18 of them and the Christians were left, alas, with only three...The atheists indeed got their point across,  possibly an appropriate memorial for Christopher Hitchens who died this week.  His obituary will appear in the next Pollyanna  blog.
Note the mythological characters

Naturally the Christians told their story as well, but somehow it was less convincing.

We wandered down to the famous Pier and out to the end of it.  It is still the colorful fun place that it always has been for over a century.  Here are some scenes that we caught.
Looking north over Santa Monica Bay

The Pier is much as we remembered it
Come to trapeze school

The real owner of the Pier and its territory
Would you care to buy a hat?
By then we were hungry so we repaired to an old haunt, The Enterprise Fish Company restaurant in Santa Monica, the place where we had the celebration lunch after Shaul's Bar Mitzva in 1981.  After a delicious meal, we went on to Venice and strolled along Ocean Front Walk, enjoying the scene. 

On our way back, we passed the old shul on the beach where the Bar Mitzva had taken place.

It was just being opened for Friday mincha and maariv so we went in.  It has been totally refurbished and the congregation and rabbi have changed, but A found a few old acquaintances from the old days. 

It was getting dark, so we had a quick coffee at the Fig Tree cafe and then headed out to the Los Angeles County Art Museum.  LACMA, as it is know for short, is open to 2130 on weekend evenings so we had time to enjoy some Islamic art, mostly medieval from Iran and Turkey, and some impressionists and modern paintings as well.  From there, to the hotel near the airport to get some sleep before getting up at 0400 to return the car and check in for a 0630 flight home via Newark.

This was not without incident.  The sleepy incompetent check in clerk at Continental was not up to the task. For some unknown reason the computer could not preprint Y's boarding pass and at the airport the printer had run out of paper, an event beyond the coping capabilities of this lady.  It took her a quarter of an hour to find a box of boarding pass blanks and then she had no clue  how to install them.  Eventually a young man from the next station took pity and we made it to the plane,  Unfortunately Y's suitcase did not and was nowhere to be found at BG airport when we landed.  It arrived on the next flight and was delivered in the evening. so All's Well that Ends Well as someone once wrote.

To sum up, it was a great trip.  In particular, the weekend with Fred and Marial and getting to hang out a bit in San Francisco with Maya
Our Little Red Student
constituted a wonderful experience.  The science was also good, it was wonderful to touch base with several old friends, too many to list here, San Francisco and Los Angeles are lovely cities and we had a chance to relive some old memories,  Seniors who are still mobile, should in our opinion, take advantage of travel opportunities.  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Now back to the real world.  We hope we are up to it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

YandA in California II 2011

YandA@AGU  Dec. 2011 Pasadena

Friday most of the nerdi scattered to their various nests. We packed up and had time for lunch  with Mel and Nancy and a visit to the Houdini exhibit. It turns out that this master of illusion was also an expert on exposing fraudulent claims of  connecting with the dead and saved quite a few people from unnecessarily falling into the hands of  scoundrels.
Then we were chauffeured professionally by the Krupp's son Billie to San Mateo, who also took our heavy bags upstairs , to our grateful thanks. The cold weather eventually evolved into rain over the weekend, but our warm welcome  by Fred and Mariel and enjoyment of time spent with Maya could not be quenched by a few gusts of icy wind. (Yes, 11 Centigrade, even with wind chill, will make some of our readers smile, but we are tropical birds).
Maya arrived from Oregon Saturday at noon. and after exchanging hugs with the Krupps joined us on a visit SFMOMA. Some of the exhibitions I (Y) like, some less. A will doubtless have something to say on the subject. We returned by train, which is very efficient, and decided to travel the same way the next way.
Sunday we tried to persuade our hosts to come with us, but they are both less mobile than they were, Fred no longer drives and Mariel is after a knee replacement which limits her movements if not her driving. We went to see the beautiful one-time exhibition of  Italian 15-16th century Masters on loan from the Viennese Museum which we enjoyed very much. Mike
Y could not resist the color inversions
 picked us up at the station and we went  to a very tasty and pleasant meal with the Krupps  at the Afghani restaurant we have frequented before, not without nearly missing our way  because neither of these two scientists  asked the other if he knew where he was...

The flight to LA was delayed by one hour due to weather conditions at LA airport. Although the flight itself was smooth and short – only 55 minutes – the delay was fatal. It took us 3 hours! from landing to get up to normal speed and off the freeway into the streets of Pasadena. The GPS (whom we have named Mabel, the same as our local WAZE ) took us the shortest way – right through downtown at rush hour.
Cityscape taken while stalled downtown

I don't know if Arkee's solution – much longer and roundabout – would have been better, but we were very tired and in need of toilets when we finally arrived. However, today I made good use of the GPS, driving Arkee to work, driving back and to shopping and back to the hotel. Not that a map would not have served, but trying to read street names while driving is not easy, and it is better not to have to stop on the side or  have other drivers hooting at one when hesitating at a traffic light! Arkee having landed me in Pasadena on the one day in the week when the musea are closed, I had to fill up the day somehow. Tomorrow will be cultural!
The evening finished up delightfully with dinner with two colleagues of Arkee's in a noisy Italian restaurant (is there such a thing nowadays as a quiet restaurant where one can hear conversation?).
Conversation – when it could be heard – ranged from religion to Judaism to Israel to human rights and back. A pity our friends cannot be closer.

A: The meeting was good and I got some interesting feedback and had some good discussions. 
Indeed SFMOMA presented a variety of exhibits and some interesting modern takes on what constitutes art.  There was an exhibition of photographs by a young photographer who committed suicide at age 22.  Her work reflected her obvious problems but is of interest and it is sad to speculate how she might have developed had she lived.  
San Francisco is a unique city and I enjoy every visit to it.  The meeting has gotten out of hand in size with over 21,000 participants this year. Note the amount of stashed luggage on the last day.
 In fact, I did   see many people who were there, but could not see everyone whom I had hoped to meet.   In the past splitting has been proposed, but has been rejected by the community.  We will see how long this can go on.
 Tuesday at JPL was very intense and useful.  I have not had a good scientific interaction for quite a while so I really got into it.  An old friend and former collaborator who no longer works at JPL came to see me.  She is Mona Delitsky with whom I wrote a few papers on Neptune long ago.  We had dinner with her and Bonnie my hostess.  Today there were more interactions and then we wended our way to West Los Angeles for a two day visit to UCLA.  It should be most enjoyable.  This time we did much better on the road by ignoring the directions of our friend Mabel and using the roundabout but much less crowded (at least in the direction we were traveling) commuting route that had been useful in the 1986-88 sabbatical at JPL..
Tonight we went out to dinner with cousin Carl Shusterman, his wife Sonya and a friend of theirs to another noisy Italian restaurant in Westwood.  We had a lovely evening with them.  Tomorrow UCLA awaits us.
Y. While Arkee was whiling away his time  with his friends at JPL, I was packing up the hotel room and happily shopping at  THE book store in Pasadena, which fulfilled most of my (our) desires. From there I went finally to the wonderful Norton Simon museum which I had not seen for 30 years, since we lived in Burbank and visited it several times.  I think its collection has no parallel, for its size, in the world. I reveled in the Dutch masters, the Degas dancers, the large selection of Impressionists and 20th century painters and greeted with joy many old friends including the Rodins, Moores and Maillols scattered around the front and back gardens.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself until it was time to join  Mabel again for the trip to pick up Arkee.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

YandA at the AGU 2011 SFO

San Francisco, 8.11.2011 

OK, tradition must be preserved, you don't have to read, but I have to write.
Here we are in Sunny San Francisco, as usual at this time of the year, among the thousands of other migratory birds of the species nerdus geophysicus in all their drab plumage ( blue-ribboned  white tags hanging around their necks, the leaders having the right to coloured stripes designating higher rank)  and appendages (computer bags and poster tubes  - at least these are sometimes bright yellow, but mostly black). They are to be met – at danger to life and limb – in large flocks,   hurrying along Fourth street, covered coffee cups in hand, in the direction of the Convention Centre , huge swarms at each road-crossing necessitating the intervention of traffic agents at certain times of day. No policeman would dare issue a ticket for jay-walking to any individual in this mob. Feeding times are typified by long, noisy lines at each trough, but these mostly move fast as no-one dares hold up the schedule of the hungry attendees  balancing corporal with intellectual nourishment.   
At latest count, this year there are 21000 participants in this conference (counting staff and exhibitors, presumably, but still). The logistics are enormous, but seem hardly to jog the routine of this vibrant city.
And in less than a week the birds will be gone, flown back to their various cities, having met and embraced dear friends and colleagues and fertilized one another's minds and imaginations with ideas for the next meeting a year hence…
The weather is fine but seriously chilly, so fast walking is the order of the day, which it would have been anyway, given schedules and distances. We are lucky to be lodged in a hotel very close and on the direct route to all the centres of activity – Convention hall, ceremonies, restaurants, shopping and some of the musea.  We can drop off our impedimenta on the way to dinner, rest or change clothes if indicated.
So far  Arkee has been busy, we have had two dinners with friends and Yosefa has been to two musea with a spouse with whom I have hit it off very well.  We went to the Asian museum to an exhibition of the Maharajahs of India and how they lived – not a word of how they might have oppressed their people in the process of getting rich and awarding themselves luxurious habitations, dress, jewels, carriages and other appurtenances. They were presented as benign, all-knowing rulers, the closest thing to gods, who distributed charity according to the needs of their subjects.
One day Arkee put up his poster and stood by it, he got good and also critical feedback and met quite a few friends.  Today he is free and we finally got to walk (after the first morning rush on the pavement  past our hotel was over)  - which we needed to do. There is no fitness room in the hotel, along with a few other deficiencies, and the one across the street at the Marriott would have cost us $9 each per session. It is difficult to keep fit on our food consumption  under local conditions.
After that we had planned to go the Jewish museum and see an exhibition on Houdini (yes, he was Jewish) but they are not only closed on Wednesdays, but Thursday mornings as well. So we went toy shopping and after a light lunch – to a presentation on climate change by Richard Alley which is going to be a PBS television programme next April. The presentation was an urgent call for help and publicity by concerned scientists whose advocacy is sorely needed on the subject. Themes were on renewable energies being used in various locations around the world and convincing evidence of global warming from ice-core analysis, presented in easy-to-understand graphic and pictorial short films which we hope will have good effect. We were very impressed with the presenters, I even asked for an autograph.
Tomorrow I  hope we will finally get to the Jewish museum, there are two more we are saving to see with Maya. We will move to San Mateo and Arkee's family in the evening.