Day 63: Chautauqua and Motorcycles

If Dad’s in trouble, it’s a good bet that either Chuck or Russ is involved.

Russ works with Mom and Dad, and he’s one of those scientists with contagious love and enthusiasm for his work.


He studies and teaches a variety of different subjects, and his grin shows an understanding that they’re all connected. And if your truck breaks down in the middle of the desert, I hear he’s a wizard with baling wire and duct tape.

In 2004 while on a research trip, Russ, Mom and Dad discovered a woolly mammoth skull buried in a cliff in Baja. It’s an exciting and sad story involving shovels, guns and broken ladders. The photos from Dad’s camera are amazing. I’ll see if he’s posted them anywhere.

This week, Dad and Russ and Sara are teaching a class at a research station in Moss Landing, near Monterey. Their class consists of 15 math and science teachers from across the country. This is a multi-day chautauqua (a series of interesting discussions in interesting places).

I drive down to hang out with them in Monterey, stopping to eat at a great little roadside diner. Cindy runs the place, and I don’t leave hungry.

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I catch up with Dad at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I still can’t get enough of that Jellies exhibit.


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…but the real treat today is the chance to visit Ed Ricketts‘ laboratory. If you’ve read Cannery Row, you’re at least a little familiar with him.


Ricketts was a marine biologist, and his work was one of the most influential factors in the disciplines of environmental preservation. He was also the real-life influence for many of Steinbeck’s characters, including “Doc” in Cannery Row. His lab is located in Monterey, and is usually closed to the public, but educators can request special access.

A lot of important work happened in this little place.

Once we’re inside, Russ reads a passage from Cannery Row which describes the place we’re sitting.

Afterward, we wander around and explore the small house and lab.

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The roads are closed all around Cannery Row today, for the arrival of hundreds of motorcycles in a very cool event called MotoGP.
I can’t stay for the festivities, but here are some good pictures.

Random assertion: The location of a laboratory is usually at least as important as its contents.

Steganographic data: 1846/4.2


Day 62: Zombie Phones and Baby Alligators

While my phone was busy finding the limits of the text messaging infrastructure, my muse’s phone has decided to turn any battery placed inside it into a lump of coal. Two so far this month. I want to stencil little battery icons on the side of it, like mini kill-trophies.

She’s giving me that look.

Side note #1: When her last phone died a few years ago, I took it apart, soldered in a bypass for the charging circuit, and kept it running for a full year. Yay zombie phone!

The look She’s giving me now says “Oh no you’re not.”

Might be time for a new phone.

Today I’m getting a lot of work done on Secret Plan 161, but instead of finding a sensible quiet desk, I’ve walked to Delessio at Market & Valencia.

Delessio is right next to Flax, an excellent art supply store. Mmmmm.
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After a few hours of heads-down work, I decide to go find Gene for a chess lesson. I walk down to Union Square, and there’s an art festival going on. It’s fun; I sit with a book for a while to see if Gene shows up.


Twice in the past week I’ve seen him right here, but not today.

If I can’t predict when he’s going to be here, I don’t stand a chance of beating him at chess. There are rules which determine when he comes here, where he sits, and how his pawns move as the game opens. I’m going to try to figure them out, rather than relying on luck. Next time I come, he’ll be here. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Side note #2: A few years ago, I taught my muse to play chess.

You know how baby alligators are so cute, but then they grow up and become unstoppable predators? That’s basically what happened. I haven’t beaten her at chess in a long, long time.

Fond Memory 1: A place called Beaulieu-sur-Mer in the South of France, 2003.

A gentleman brings us drinks as we sit facing each other over a beautiful marble chess table. He pauses, chuckles, and softly says “Elle va gagner.”

If the waiter can tell you’re getting your butt kicked, then you might have taught your student too well.

Fond Memory 2: San Francisco, 2006.

After trash-talking and wagering ourselves into an epic battle, the game begins. A few moves in, she gives me that look: “Oh no you’re not.” …and it’s all over.

Her queen must have been sleeping with with one of my pawns, because she just showed up behind the whole line, and left a trail of carnage on her way to the king before anyone could even find the emergency exit. Ow.

(It doesn’t mean she’s ready for the pro chess circuit, just that she specifically knows how to beat me. That’s comforting.)

I guess I’m lucky. Most people don’t get to keep the baby alligator once it becomes dangerous. And it doesn’t usually look this good.

Random assertion: There are no dice in chess, which does not mean there are no surprises.

Steganographic data: 1862/6.7

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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