Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Another Little Prince

Like most cities, SF is no stranger to graffiti. Much of it isn't great, to be honest.

Last year, I discovered this lovely Little Prince while walking to my old Red Cross gig just outside downtown SF. -pretty clever stuff.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Loan words

Japanese signage in Katakana. Photo: Sébastien Bertrand

Japanese uses a tremendous amount of loan words from various European languages. Katakana, one of the three writing systems used in Japanese, is used exclusively for this foreign vocubulary. 

Some loan words change meaning when adopted into another language. For example, Arubaito アルバイト taken from the German word for 'work', means simply 'part-time job' in Japanese. 

Some words retain not only their meaning, but also, largely, their pronounciation. Ex.: Kamera カメラ-- camera

Some words undergo sort of an extreme make-over. It can take a while to see/hear/read the connection between the borrowed word and their original language counterparts.
Ex.: Mishin ミシン -- sewing machine  ('Mishin' sounds a bit like 'machine', so there you go!)

German uses a lot of borrowed words as well. Like Japanese, the meaning of these words can either be fairly clear or not at all. 

To an English speaker, der Shitstorm (yes, it's in Duden), das Baby and der Computer make sense. Der Smoking, on the face of it, is a bit of a quandry. Der Smoking means 'tuxedo jacket' or (now an outdated word in English) 'smoking jacket'. I like to think that an image of James Bond smoking a cigarette was the inspiration for this loan word. 

German nouns have a certain solidity and all-encompassing feeling that one doesn't necessarily get from English nouns.  This is especially so when thinking of suitable equivalents to words like, 'Weltanschauung' and 'Zeitgeist'. To use the English translations of these two concepts, 'world view' and 'spirit of the times', just doesn't cut it somehow. 

'Sally is about to start school at the Garden of Children'. That sentence has kind of an eerie ring to it.  And, no, I'll not be sending my child there, thank you, but instead to a Kindergarten. 

Loan words in English from German that I especially like:

Pretzel (Brezel)
Weisswurst, Bratwurst, Knackwurst  (Sausage)
Delicatessen (Delikatessen)-where to find all of the above, hopefully. 
Angst  (Thanks, Freud!)
Scheisse (can be spoken with or without the final 'e')

-any loan words you find yourself using that you especially enjoy?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Walk to Land's End

The Golden Gate as seen from Land's End
Even though I've been under the weather for the last two weeks, or so, I felt well enough to meet up with my brother for a short walk at Land's End over the weekend. Strangely enough, I don't recall ever having walked the path along the coast there before. It's literally just up from the Cliff House, a place I have been to many times over the decades, and yet I had never thought to walk just up and over the hill to Land's End. The current incarnation of the Cliff House, I'll note, is nothing like the  one Adolf Sutro had built before the turn of the last century. Not one to forget his German roots, Sutro had the Cliff House built in a style meant to mimic German castles. I don't see that in the old pictures of the place, but I do see that the original Cliff House had an 'Old World' charm about it. Sadly, that first structure was destroyed in a fire over a hundred years ago. The current joint is a boxy blah of a thing. The view from the back of the building overlooking the ocean, however, can't be beat. 

Across from the Cliff House, Sutro had built an observation tower (from which one could observe the Pacific Ocean and the Marin Headlands) and an adjacent viewing deck. A Conservatory, smaller than the one in Golden Gate Park, also stood on the grounds and housed Sutro's exotic plant collection. Also dotting the finely manicured grounds were various imported European statuary meant to, I would guess, give us Wild West types some 'culture'. The only statue remaining on the grounds, now a part of the SF Parks Service, is one of the Goddess Diana. 

My brother.

Sutro Heights ca. 1890 (above); Diana, the last statue standing at Sutro Heights (below)

View from the path at Land's End
My Uncle told me recently that his brother, my favorite Uncle, had his ashes spread at Land's End after he died at the age of 43 back in 1986. I was a teen then & didn't get the memo re: ash spreading, so this was news to me.  Given that the wind is virtually ever present along the coast here, I couldn't help but have a chuckle at the thought of dear Uncle's ashes going every which way when thrown. Sure enough, my Uncle added that the ashes had indeed caught flight, scattering along the nearest hillside. I told my brother this story during our walk. We had a good laugh. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018


We had a volunteer training at the Conservatory this morning. The old butterfly enclosure has now been converted into an open space with limited guest seating. The adjacent gift shop is as it was, for the most part. The koi pond has been moved into the gift shop area, and Frank, the ten-year-old resident koi, is still kicking. We were shown around the new space by the volunteer coodinator and also had the pleasure of taking a docent-led tour of the Conservatory. I've been on the tour before, but it's always an illuminating experience.

While on the tour, the little fella above attached himself to a fellow volunteer's leg. Initially, the gecko was as green as the leaves in the enclosure. Once he'd been coaxed to leave the leg for the plant with a wee brochure, the gecko turned quickly from green to brown. The brown color darkened over the period of a few seconds. It was a trip to observe. I looked away briefly to watch the docent talk about the merits of the pitcher plant, and our guy took that opportunity to slip quietly away.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Bunny ears and tube socks

This shot makes Easter Sunday skating look relatively tame, but the grass out of shot both to my right and left was packed out with lookie-loos and skaters taking a load off. By the end of the afternoon, someone had even pitched a small tent for those who wished to get out of the sun. There were a few regulars whom I recognised. We chatted during breaks on the bench. 

Roller boogie & more.

Our man in the foreground, lovely though he may look, pays no mind as he swirls and twirls and occasionally loses his conical hat while grooving about the pavement. One must often swerve around him in order to avoid collision. He is fun to watch, however, from the sidelines. 

The ladies in the middle of our informal skate rink were performing choreographed dance moves to disco music. Many of them were kitted out with bunny ears, wee skirts/tutus & fun hosiery. It was a treat to watch them and even more fun to skate around in circles for a good portion of the afternoon as they did their thing.

Early in the day. Note the California flag someone brought with.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Frohe Ostern!

It's Easter Sunday and I'm off to roller skate in the park. I am sort of hoping that the normal skate crowd will be otherwise engaged with family obligations today. That would mean a bit more elbow room out on the pavement for me! 

May you all have a/have had a relaxing Easter Sunday. 

Here's an Easter Sunday snap from our time in Zurich---

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Henry J Kaiser Convention Center

I had no idea that the man for whom this convention center was named, created the healthcare system now known as Kaiser Permanente. 

A blurb from a history page dedicated to Henry J. reads: To prevent illness among the workers on the Grand Coulee Dam, he offered affordable coverage by creating a comprehensive, pre-paid program. Known as Kaiser Permanente, the program currently has subscribers in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawai‘i, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Washington State. When Henry Kaiser died in Hawai‘i on August 24, 1967, he left most of his enormous fortune to the Kaiser Family Foundation for health-related research.

I used to visit the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center often in the late 80s during Grateful Dead shows. I could never afford an entry ticket in & my 'I need a miracle' skills were in poor shape. To be honest, I didn't really care to go in to see the Dead. I wasn't so much a fan of their music as I was a fan of hanging out outside the shows. Lounging about on the grass across from the auditorium, now home to a sizable 'tent city' of homeless people, my friends and I would smoke pot and take in the spectacle that was always happening just outside any Dead show. Jugglers, huggers, stoners, music-makers---you name, we experienced it. 

Today, the center sits empty, ringed by fencing and litter, and is a sad sight. Its parking lot is now used by the city to generate income. One can pay to park hourly, but not overnight. 

Like San Francisco's Civic Center structures, the convention center, originally named the Oakland Civic Auditorium, was also built in the Beaux Arts style & completed in 1914.

There have been a few false starts since its closure in 2006 to re-open the structure for public use. A local redevelopement agency owned the structure for a time back in 2011. The city then regained control of the building after that agency was desolved by the state of Calfornia. Guess they weren't cutting it? 

Directly across the street from Henry J. is the Oakland Museum of California, a decent junior college, a solid public transport hub, and the delightful Lake Merritt. It is a shame to see this facility languish.

Auditorium turned into makeshift hospital during the 1918 flu-epidemic

Along Lake Merritt

View from the Convention Center of Lake Merritt at dusk