The Biology of Growing Food – A Class taught by my Son-in-Law

My daughter Allison and her husband Doug Bruce lives in Oakland. Doug teaches at a couple of different community colleges. Recently he has started to teach a new class called Biology 801 – The Biology of Growing Food. I know I am biased but I think this YouTube video about the class is very cool.

Here is a flyer about the class

Download Bio801_flyer_1_page

Chihuly, DeYoung Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Duke, and McCain’s Hand

Life has been hectic around here lately. Right after we got back from Iowa I made a trip to San Francisco for a girls weekend with a couple of friends. Among other things we saw the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the DeYoung Museum.


I enjoyed the Chihuly show and also really enjoyed going up in the new observation tour at the DeYoung. Here is a picture of the view from the tour. The building in the front is the new California Academy of Sciences which opens in a little over a month. Their website is cool. I can't wait to visit the new academy when it opens.

The day after I got back from San Francisco  McCain was in Sparks (right next to Reno) for a Town Hall meeting. Duke and I went to see him. I continue to be impressed by his honesty and competence but he sure doesn't create enthusiasm. One guy McCain called on said "When I vote for you I won't be voting for you I will be voting against Obama because I don't believe you are a conservative. Tell me why you think you are a conservative." I thought McCain gave a pretty good answer but I don't think he convinced the guy who asked the question. After the meeting was over Duke went down front and got to shake McCain's hand. He got stopped on the way down and was told by a secret service agent to take his hands out of his pockets.

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The day after the McCain visit my sister came to spend a few days with us and visit Dad. My Daughter and her family came for one night and my niece also stayed with us for a few days. It was all a lot of fun and and My Birthday was in there too.

Mountain View Cemetery

I was in Oakland last Saturday for my daughter’s birthday. It was a sunny warm day. She and I took a docent led tour of Mountain View cemetery. When she told people that we were going to tour the cemetery on her birthday many people thought that was a bit weird and asked Why?? She and I are both big history buffs. The Cemetery is full of famous and familiar names as well as not so famous people whose lives are still interesting. Hearing their stories makes history come alive.

I’ve loaded all my pictures on to Flickr and I’ve added captions to most of them based on my notes and what I’ve discovered searching the web since I got home. You can look at them all on Flickr here but I’ll also include a few here


Sara Plummer Lemmon and her husband John Lemmon were both self taught botanists. The tomb stone says "The California Poppy was named the state flower in 1903 due to the persistent efforts of Sara Lemmon" In searching the web I also found a blog written by a woman who had just climbed Mount Lemmon outside of Tucson. She includes more of the Lemmons’ story.

"According to an article we found at the new community center in Summerhaven (on top of Mt. Lemmon), written by Eileen Palese:

mountain was named for the first white woman who dared to climb it, a
vibrant, curious woman who was challenged by the beauty of the mountain’s plant life and the harshness of its precipices.
was in 1881, when the US Cavalry still pursued Apaches and gunslingers
fought it out at Tombstone’s OK Corral that Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon,
a slender, dark-haired woman of 45, challenged and then conquered the
mountain that loomed over the old Spanish community called Tucson.
arrived in Tucson with her husband, John Gill Lemmon, on the first
train ever to reach the town. He was a self-educated botanist, respectfully called the "professor", whose health had been permanently undermined during the Civil War when he was imprisoned by the
Confederates in the notorious camp at Andersonville, Georgia.
and John had met in 1876 at a lecture he gave in Santa Barbara,
California, where she owned a lending library and stationery store. She
already had an unbounded interest in botany, and, when they married
four years later, she was qualified to assist her husband in an
ambitious effort to catalog the plants of southern Arizona, a part of
the world few botanists then had visited.
Their first ascent
into the Santa Catalina Mountains was up the south face, the one
closest to Tucson, along roughly the same path that the Catalina
Highway follows today.

[I’ve left out much of the story which you can read on Alanna’s blog]

Though largely self-taught as a botanist, her work was
outstanding. She published many scientific papers, and, thanks largely
to her efforts, California adopted the golden poppy as its state
flower. She lived to be 93.

A mountain peak is not all that
bears her name. An entire group of plants was named for her by Harvard’s
Asa Gray, one of the outstanding botanists in the United States in the
19th century.
Perhaps the best description of Sara Lemmon,
was provided by her grandnephew, Dr. Harold St. John: ‘She was
enthusiastic, sincere, intense, a driver and an organizer, cultured,
literary and scientific.’
All in all, she was a woman far ahead of her times"

Dsc_0304  Dsc_0305

These are pictures of our tour. I think but am not sure that the man in the middle of the pictures in the checked shirt is Michael Colbruno. Colbruno has done a lot of research on the stories of people buried in Mountain View and has created a wonderful blog of these stories. The stories he shared on our tour added immensely to the tour.

Mountain View Cemetery is 220 acres and was founded in 1883. Over 170,000 people are buried there. It  has views of San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay. It was one of the first garden cemeteries. The annual tulip festival was a couple of weeks ago. It is full of the stories of people’s lives from Domingo Ghirardelli to Henry Kaiser, to Julia Morgan to John Lee Hooker.

Allison and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will go back again.



A Great House in Union City – For Sale in a Buyer’s Market

We picked a really bad time to try to sell our house. Sales of existing homes fell 4.3% nationwide in August and
San Francisco Bay Area house and condominium sales fell 25% to the lowest for an August in 15 years. I think our house is a great examples of the slump. We have priced it very competitively at more than 10% less than what similar houses were selling for a year ago but our agent says that nobody is even looking right now. It sure seems like a great time for someone to get a great deal. I am not worried because I know that in the long run it will sell and even at these lower prices we will still make a nice profit but still…..

You can see pictures of the house on our listing. We were down in the bay area Tuesday to see family
and do some yard work at the house.

I planted some more flowers. It was a picture perfect bay area day to be working in the garden.


Sunol Regional Park

The San Francisco bay Area has a lot of wonderful parks and spring is an especially beautiful time to visit. There are lots of wild flowers and all the hills that will be brown in the summer are beautiful and green right now. Last Sunday we put Aidan in the jogging stroller and went for a hike at Sunol Regional Park. Afterward we cooked polish sausage over a fire and enjoyed them in the picnic area at the trail head.Sunol_3182007_001

One of the good things about retirement

One of the lovely things about being retired is that for the first time in my life my daily schedule and agenda are under my control. My days were externally driven in childhood, in school, at  work, and then parenthood. Now I decide what I am going to do every day. I decide what is important and what isn’t. It is up to me! I absolutely cherish this freedom.

So, for example, last Tuesday I drove to Sunnyvale and had breakfast with a friend before taking her to the San Jose airport for her flight. Then back to Sunnyvale where I caught Cal Train to San Francisco for lunch with Allison.  The train service on the the San Francisco peninsula is wonderful and the scenery is great too. I walked to Allison’s office. It was a beautiful warm sunny day (rare for San Francisco). After we ate our sandwiches we sat in Yerba Buena park and talked before she had to go back to work. Then I walked back to the train and took it back to Sunnyvale.

My friend Linda’s house is near the train station. She I went out for dinner before our book club meeting. The book club book was Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood. It was a wonderful very enjoyable book. I liked that it was well developed. The characters were very believable and it had a thought provoking and satisfying ending.

Tuesday was a perfect day partly at least because I was doing things I wanted to do.

Duke and Marion’s Big adventure

Duke and I are off on a grand adventure. (490 miles so far) We are driving down into Mexico to do some exploring and to stay a week at a condo in Manzanilla. On Wednesday we left Union City and drove to Escondido down near San Diego to spend a day with my parents helping to instal the new printer they received for Christmas and to visit and hel;p with a few other tasks. Tomorrow we are off to Tucson.

I haven’t blogged in a while. Lot’s going on. One of the highlights was a trip to the Computer History Museum right before Christmas. My daughter works there but it was my first visit. It felt like going through a museum of my working career. They had pretty much every computer I ever worked on, IBM 360, Univac, PDP 11, Data General Eclipse, early CP/M machines, the Compaq portable that looked like a sewing machine, Sun machines, and of course PCs. The highlight of the visit was when the guys who had renovated the museum’s PDP1 computer ran it to lead us in Christmas carols. It was so cool to see them run the paper tape programs through the machine and flip the switches on the front of the computer to play the carols. The man running the PDP 1 was one of the original programers of the machine, Peter Samson. According to his wikipedia article “For the restoration project he reverse-engineered music tapes from the PDP-1 era and built a player for the museum.” I highly recommend touring the museum if you get a chance. i plan to go back again soon

Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tour

Last weekend we went to the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County’s 21st Annual Open Studios Art Tour. This is the third or fourth year we have attended and we always have a good time. To attend the tour you buy a calendar and map of the almost 300 open studios and then you pick the ones you want to visit. The tour runs over three weekends so you can visit as many or as few as you want to.  There are several reasons why the tour is a fun thing to do. The obvious first reason is that it is interesting to see the art. But in addition to seeing the art it is also fun to meet and talk to the artists, to see where and how they create their art and to drive around Santa Cruz county and see the beautiful scenery and homes.

This year my favorite artists that we visited were Julia Cairns, Michael Eckerman and Marilyn Kuksht.

Julia Cairns is an artist/ illustrator who lived in Africa for a number of years and has illustrated several children’s books. I really liked her paintings too. Her studio was in an old house overlooking the ocean half way between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. As an added treat we got to see a wild bobcat out the window of our car as we were navigating the dirt road leading to her studio.

Michael Eckerman uses river rock to make the most wonderful sculptures and fireplaces. His studio was in a residential area of Santa Cruz.

Marilyn Kuksht does metal sculpture. The works that she was displaying had a marvelous  way of flowing and of symbolizing their subject that I thought was very powerful. Her studio was north of Santa Cruz, just off highway one, right next to a field of Brussels sprouts.

Some of the studios on the tour will be open next weekend. Eckerman is the only one of the the three artists above who will be open. If you get a chance try to go next year. I highly recommend it.

The River’s Edge

How many places are truly unique? So many restaurants, stores, homes and towns feel like they are just copies of one another. It is rare to find a place and a restaurant, especially in the San Francisco bay area that is not just like all the others. I think maybe homogenization comes with population density.

A few weeks ago Duke and I took a long weekend and went up to the California gold country. On our way we stopped for lunch in Isleton, a small town on the Sacramento river delta. Isleton feels unique. The shops and restaurants all have character. The restaurant we stopped at for lunch is well worth going out of your way to eat at. This trip was the third time we have eaten at the River’s edge. Every meal we have had there has been special. The cafe is in an old renovated building. The hardwood floors look original and are accented by purple tile. The eggplant green and purple walls are decorated  with geometric modern art. The result is a warm wonderful feeling before you even open the menu.

But the food…………  ah my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  All the sandwiches come with salads, mine had fresh, wonderful, room temperature greens with a tangy raspberry dressing. My sandwich was chicken meatloaf and Duke’s was the roast lamb. Both were on homemade facacia bread with homemade mayonnaise that brought out the flavor of the meat.

The breakfast menu had my mouth watering too. So last weekend we drove out to the River’s Edge for breakfast and then took tours of the Jelly Belly factory and the Budweiser factory which are in nearby Fairfield. With all the rain we have had and the concern about the integrity of California’s levees it was interesting to drive on top of one of the levee’s along the river. Isleton feels like it is way below the level of the river. Our breakfast at the River’s Edge didn’t disappoint me.

The River’s Edge is worth making a special trip to visit.  Next time you are driving down highway 80 from the Bay Area to Sacramento take a detour to Isleton and the River’s Edge. You won’t regret it.


Last night Duke and I went with friends to the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland.  I enjoyed the exhibits but the planetarium and the telescopes were the highlights of the evening.  I didn’t know this but their telescopes are open to the public free of charge every Friday and Saturday night. It was so cool to go out into the night air in the dim red light and look at Venus through the refractor telescope. We looked out the window and saw Venus in the west and then looked through the telescope and saw that Venus looked just like a half moon. It was also really cool to realize that the telescope
is the original 1883 instrument donated by Anthony Chabot who founded
the center. We also looked through the  telescope which is the largest refractor in the western United open for public viewing and saw the globular cluster M15. It gave me shivers.

The planetarium at Chabot was just reopened recently. It has the latest and greatest in the way of planetarium equipment. The man who gave presentation had just the right amount of fascination and awe about the universe mixed with a scientific skepticism and telling of the facts.  The planetarium night sky was wonderful. At one point he raised the lights a bit to show us how the lights of the bay area wash out the stars. I think that was part of what made the bay area night sky of the planetarium so awe inspiring, It was just like we were up in the back country of the Sierras able to see the millions of stars that take your breath away.

When we left the planetarium we went for dinner to the Downtown Restaurant in Berkeley. Last time we went there the dinner was great and this time I thought it was even better.