Category Archives: Best Of Bay Area

Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay


A nice write-up on a key subject! Omits “Dan Webb Books”, doesn’t mention “The Booktree” right across the street from “A Great Good Place For Books” but my picks belong in my list. This is theirs and I’m glad to have found it!

The writer mentions the Montclair Egg Shop as a pairing with A Great Good Place for Books. Absolutely yes! Best place I can think of to take a new book or an old friend or both.

Source: Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay

Advertisements

What the People want:


So, for example, here’s what brought people to my blog yesterday:
More editing tomorrow.

— Information pointed to from here:
mosquito bomb aimers position 23
boeing 707 gray 2
hobby store bay area 2
dh mosquito

— Information here for airplanes and other subjects for modelling:
mosquito bomb aimers position 23

— Information here for paint and finishing:
boeing 707 gray 2
how to sand down excess plastic modeling 2
how to thin model master acryl paint 2
remove decals to model aircraft 1
tamiya paint sets 1spraying with water based paint 1
water based paint diluters

— Information here about Bay Area hobby shops
hobby store bay area 2
san francisco rc plane shop 1

“wwii” and “model kit” and “kids” 2
“air international” magazine index 1

dh mosquito cockpit door 1
grumman f7f tigercat/cabin view 1
1
radio shack electric motor rf-500tb-182 1
thinning water based paint for spraying 1
tamiya acrylic remover 1
dh mosquito 1
model paint stripping 1
and dilute acrylic paints for models 1-20 y 1
boac mosquito 1
removing future floor wax 1

I— nformation *not yet*here
italeri c 27 1/72 2
spray paint for pots and pans 1
système de trim wheel en cockpit 1
misquito twin engine bomber three view 1
revell constellation lufthansa blue tamiya colours 1
cockpit/grumman tigercat/images 2

Saxaphone Soup – Mama Vita plays Silverbells


This absolutely delights me and while it has NOTHING to do with building model airplanes I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Outstanding ability appears in many contexts, and the important lesson is that its not the tools. Its NEVER the tools.

50 books every geek should read- from Monster.com


Ok, lets see: I’ve read 16 of these, gave up on another and have 2 in-progress.

I think there are a few good books missing:

1) “The C Programming Language” – Kernighan and Ritche. Not only a great book about programming, especially for beginners, it also shows how clear a programming text can be, how little needs to be said, and how to spiral around the same problems with increasingly capable and complicated programs.

2) “The C++ Programming Language” – Stroustrup. By comparison to C, a much thicker book, containing K&R’s language and a whole lot more, for practical coding and for object oriented techniques.

3) “The Codebreakers” – Herman Kahn A huge book and one that ends in the era where crypto was still a government issue, mostly. But a great history, and clear proof that no cypher system, or code book, is 100% unbreakable.

4) “Seizing the Enigma” – most complete discussion of BREAKING Enigma I’ve seen so far. There are any number of good lessons here, starting with, a small, motivated, team can accomplish what is considered impossible. Never treat the opposition with contempt. Define your requirements as well as you can, do what you can to satisfy them, pay attention to what actually happens.

The actual analytic technique to break Enigma was cooked up by two Polish intelligence officers who could see how the wind was blowing in the late 1930s. When the Germans invaded, they escaped with their method and presented it to the French. The French passed it on to the British before they collapsed. The technique wouldn’t do for rapid recovery of plain text from a well operated system but it could break in by brute force, with some time, and it could also rapidly exploit any laxness in technique by the cypher users. Whereas the Germans believed that Enigma was essentially unbreakable and never seriously looked for its weaknesses, or their own in using it.

Code and cipher trade-craft was good in the Kriegsmarine, so-so in the Wehrmacht and lousy in the Luftwaffe, oddly echoing Hitler’s complaint that he had a Christian Navy, a Reactionary Army and only one National Socialist (Nazi) armed force, the Luftwaffe. The Brits mounted a frontal assault on Luftwaffe Enigma traffic and got what they needed because of bad practices by the users. With the Wehrmacht they got enough to combine with conventional intelligence, what the Soviets gave them from “Lucy”, from the Italians sending cables to each other, etc., to get the job done. The Kriegsmarine used Enigma intelligently, so that frontal assaults hit a blank wall. Fortune gave the Brits the keys, the initial rotor position for each message, occasionally, and they knew what they were missing, so they made it their business to GET the keys, through espionage, Soviet salvage of a sunken German ship, the capture of a shipboard weather station in the North Atlantic, the US Navy’s capture of U-505. Every six months when the key changed, they had to get the new one and did, EACH TIME. And tight security at the Allied end allowed the Germans, all of them, to ignore any suspicion that their cyphers and codes were less than 100% secure. They had no “Red Team”s, or even someone looking at the pattern of Allied luck in finding lone U boats, bombing the right place at the right time, etc. Convinced of their own superiority, like the Japanese, they caught “victory disease” and when the tide turned, retained a confidence that events did NOT justify. Lucky for us.

“Snow Crash,” Neal Stephenson
“Neuromancer,” William Gibson
“I, Robot,” Isaac Asimov  <———- 1
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams  <———– 2
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip K. Dick  <————– 3
“Ender’s Game,” Orson Scott Card
“The Time Machine,” H.G. Wells  <————– 4
“Microserfs,” Doug Coupland  <————— 5
“Flatland,” Edwin A. Abbott  <——- tried, couldn’t get into it. Should try again I suppose
“1984,” George Orwell  <—————- 6
“Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley  <————— 7
“iCon,” Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
“iWoz,” Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith
“Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire,” Jim Erickson
“The Visual Display of Quantitative Information,” Edward Tufte  <——————- 8
“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” Steve Krug
“The Non-Designer’s Design Book,” Robin Williams
“Tog on Interface,” Bruce Tognazzini  <—————– 9
“User Interface Design for Programmers,” Joel Spolsky
“Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made,” Andy Hertzfeld
“The Soul of a New Machine,” Tracy Kidder  <——————- 10
“Where Wizards Stay Up Late,” Hafner and Lyon
“Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age,” Michael A. Hiltzik
“The Cuckoo’s Egg,” Cliff Stoll  <—————- 11
“The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness,” Steven Levy
“Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time,” Dava Sobel  <– 12
“The Code Book,” Simon Singh
“Cryptonomicon,” Neal Stephenson
“Crypto,” Steven Levy
“The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master,” Andrew Hunt, David Thomas
“Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction,” Steve McConnell  <—— working on it
“Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software,” Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John M. Vlissides  <— working on it
“Dreaming in Code,” Scott Rosenberg
“The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering,” Frederick P. Brooks  <———- 13
“Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think,” Andy Oram
“Cathedral and the Bazaar,” Eric S. Raymond
“The Long Tail,” Chris Anderson
“The Future of Ideas,” Lawrence Lessig
“On Intelligence,” Jeff Hawkins
“In the Beginning was the Command Line,” Neal Stephenson
“Code: Version 2.0,” Lawrence Lessig
“The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki
“The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” Ray Kurzweil
“Gödel, Escher, Bach,” Douglas Hofstadter  <——— 14
“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer
“A Brief History of Time,” Stephen Hawking  <————- 15
“Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age,” Paul Graham
“The Evolution of Useful Things,” Henry Petroski  <————– 16
“Getting Things Done,” David Allen
“Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better,” Gina Trapani

“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer

The comedy that I really enjoyed in my formative years


I’m going to start this as a list and link it out to the people whose humor inspired me and soothed my teen-age years, when I wasn’t just playing music as loud as I could manage…

Bill Cosby. I loved his early records- Noah, the chicken heart that ate Philidelphia.. a funny, funny, man. I totally loved  “I Spy” too.

Cheech and Chong. All of “Big Bambu” was great but “Dave’s Not Here” remains a relevant cultural touchstone. Its the beginning of any honest talk about smoking dope, as my people say. Yes, I’ve told it, as best I remember, to my son. It sums up a reality that goes with the post-detox Robin Williams’ masterpiece deconstruction of alcohol- “The point of alcohol is to make English  your second g*&@#)(@+d language!”  Say it, brother Williams!

Bob Newhart. From the Button Down Mind album to that wacky show with Daryl and his other brother Daryl,  And to stay on theme, you can throw in his Sir Walter Raliegh phone call about drinking the hot bean juice with some of the burning leaves every morning…

The Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre.  Ah, so much to choose from here- the Mr. Science routines on NPR, their “Gonad The Barbarian, a man on the edge of thought”, which 30+ years later STILL provides me with chuckles and some great wise-ass lines (“You speak squeek bear?” “I was raised by squeek bears, in the wilderness”). The Drag Aggies spiel. The “Household Appliances” song. The “Ronald McDonald” song… A friend of mine was in the same apartments as at least some of DBMT at one point and they were apparently kinda obnoxious neighbors- loud, coming and going at all hours, about what you’d expect. How many MS and PhD students were delighted to say, “I have a <whatever degree>, <pause> In Science!” when their diplomas were awarded? There must have been a good 10 years where that would be THE thing to say to your friends…

The Flying Karamazov Brothers… another bunch with boundless talent. Maybe Penn and Teller invented their deconstruction schtick independantly, but the FKBs need to explain how everything worked was pretty amazing, even in the 1970s. The words, the music and the juggling all worked together, with a real delight in language, physical acumen and finding a place for the 2, then 3, then 4 and sometimes 5 truely diverse individuals.  And their musical accompanists, the Kamikaze Ground Crew, added another bunch of colorful people and interesting ideas.

George Carlin. Gawd. The philosopher prince. Not JUST for the 7 words, not JUST for any particular bit, but for the strength and clear eyes he brought to the whole business. Funny was only one part of  it, and he had some serious staying power. He remains a national treasure.

Chris Rock. No, I don’t approve of a lot of what he says about women, some of his opinions are reprehensiblle, but some of his bits are deadly accurate.. He’s not really about making nice comfort zones on “racial”, cultural and economic issues.  Rock gets laughs out of material that could be written for people far more conservative than his actual audience. If the Republicans weren’t an aging, mostly white-male outfit of hypocrites, they’d be a natural audience for some of Rock’s hard truths. Cosby, Chappel and plenty of others too.  There are plenty of people who delight in pushing the buttons of the stereotypical liberal unconscious…  just as there are people who delight in pushing the buttons on the stereotypical conservative unconscious. Both are endless opportunities for humor.  The brittle hypocrisy of the Hanity/Coulter/Limbaugh noise machine can’t be better demonstrated  than by their obvious lack of humor. Narrow, mean, vindictive, controlling people are seldom much good at comedy….

Roseanne Barr. Look, before its pathology came to echo that of my own family of origin, I thought the Cosby Show was great. Finally- the real world up on the little screen. Then I realized that part of my positive reaction was to the just-like-my-family father competing with son dynamic… ick! And then I saw Roseanne… dang, she and Mr. Goodman were the best romantic couple since Morticia and Gomez Adams.   I think the Roseanne episode where the older daughter writes a poem about her mom and the school orchestra plays the worst recorded version of Pachobel’s Canon may be the greatest 30 minutes of human actors doing comedy on TV……. Again- dang, what an ACCUTE observer! And how lovely the ensemble cast’s work. The time the boy child turned out to have a box of Barbie doll heads under his bed- NEVER explained, just like in real life :^)

And I DID see the “Night Court” episode where they went to the Markie Post characters home and saw all the character’s Prince Charles and Lady Diana stuff….  Night Court was pretty funny too!

I don’t expect anyone will read this, much less reply, but It feels good to give recognition where it belongs!

Bill

Ihttp://dbmt.blogspot.com/2009/06/fire-this-blog.html#links

Buying a plastic model kit for a kid


Wow, this is a really loaded issue. What’s a sensible “first model” for a kid who starts at age 4, like I did, or age 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14… Get it wrong and your gift will be uninteresting because its too simple, or uninteresting because too daunting (or requiring too many skills). Revell, Revell Germany and Testors in the USA are all promoting “easy” kits for beginners. Hasegawa once had a line of small, cheap, easy kits, and Heller had a separate “Cadet” range to this very end. With minor exceptions, the entire Matchbox model kit product line that was created in the 1970s and 80s was aimed at beginners.

Here are some postulates I think cover the decision space:

The younger the child-

the fewer pieces needed;

the lower likelihood of paint being needed;

the GREATER the need for good kit engineering and easy fitting of parts;

the GREATER the likelihood that the existence of the object depicted will be a surprise!

the GREATER importance of “play value”- moving pieces, tough construction that doesn’t break. lack of thin bits that might injure or break

So you want a high quality kit that makes a good toy when completed. The old Monogram 1/48 (aka ‘ 1/4″ scale ‘ – ie 1/4″ = 1’) airplanes; Car kits with hoods that open and engines inside, ships and boats that float (!!!). In the old days, smaller model tanks with molded rubber tracks and motors inside had pretty good play value. Lack of ‘drivability’ limits the play value of today’s scale model military vehicles.

The younger child will view building anything as aspirational, and will have all their attention consumed by cutting a dozen or two dozen pieces off the runners, matching them to the instructions, trimming and generally getting the pieces to fit, gluing it together and applying the decals with a glass of water and their fingers. They will need a Helper for the first 1-5-10 kits they build.

Tool kit:
Parent, grandparent, qualified sibling or friend, or other helper. REQUIRED.
Fingernail clippers will do for cutters and a file.
Moderate-tack/long release masking tape to hold the pieces together while the glue dries. 3M’s line of blue masking tapes are perfect.
Future floor wax. (aka Johnson’s Kleer)

Clip out the parts as needed, not all at once. The nail clipper and file is fine get the parts ready to assemble.
Fingernail sanding sticks are a nice luxury, as are diagonal cutters and a real file or two, but the whole job can be done with clippers.
Coat the clear parts with Future floor wax inside and out and non-toxic tube glue or the liquid equivalent (Testor’s blue label) can be used to firmly attach the clear stuff without messing it up. Liquid non-toxic cement is flammable but not poisonous… that’s a neat trick!

The older the child:

The more they’ll enjoy assembling larger numbers of parts.

The more likely they’ll want to paint some or all of the pieces; (HOWEVER, for a first model, not having to paint the whole things is real advantage, at any age)

The more likely they’ll have aethestic and or knowledge-based opinions about what kit to build.

50 to 100 pieces are fine for a first model for a teenager; (13 and above)

Buy a car kit molded in more than one color- white body, black and silver engine and fiddly stuff. Vinyl tires are supplied black and don’t need to be painted. In airplanes and ships, pick something appropriate to the gray or white the kit will be molded in. In the old days, kits came in white, silver, olive drab, light blue, red, yellow, orange, black, etc . Monogram and Airfix were particularly adept at this, and the late, lamented, Aurora. Lots of US car kits were molded in white because the builder would have the least trouble paint it any color they liked

Some prefer the good guys, some prefer the bad guys. Pointy planes or biplanes with the pilot sitting out in the breeze. Some kits will be an education, something they’d never seen before, but in the area they care about, they’ll know what they want.

So, OK, what do I recommend??

If you really want moving features, go for Legos. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Technic’s, Mars Mission, Underwater, sports, cars, trucks, airplanes, real Mars Rovers, Space Shuttles, cars and motorcycles, whatever. I find there is less play value in the Bionicles because mostly what they do is pose and shoot something and the relatively large pieces limit possiblities. Consider them as aimed at the under 8 crowd. Anything with hinges and the like make good basis for toys.

If you want models to play with, Revell’s tugboat is pacific in nature, floats well in a bathtub, can be painted in bright colors or left plain. The PT boat and flat-bottomed ships all float pretty well. The round-bottom Essex-class (or “Battle Of Midway”) aircraft carriers need to be carefully balasted. Lindberg or someone has a fishing boat which might once have been Aurora’s Soviet Spy Trawler…. Some big cargo vessels are out there too.

Any smaller airplane can be a fun toy in the bathtub or pool, if balanced more or less correctly (1/3 back from the leading edge of the wing). But ships are better.

Probably my fondest memories of moving parts models are

1) Revell’s 1/72 F-111A/B. Swing wings that move in and out. VERY fiddly landing gear that fold up and retract OR come out and and support the model. Crew escape capsule that can be removed from the model. Radome comes off and a somewhat generic radar dish is inside on the front of the fuselage.

Monogram (now Revell-Monogram)’s 1/48 scale
TBM Avenger,
SBD Dauntless,

Both have folding landing gear and a deploy-able tail-hook. Both have a pilot in the front and a gunner in the back, with a gun that moves. Both originally dropped their main weapons- the TBM dropped a torpedo when you flicked open the bomb-bay doors. The SBD dropped a bomb with the little displacing gear to keep it away from the propeller, operated by a tab that stuck out the bottom of the fuselage.
In the 1970s or 80s the bomb in the SBD was changed so it didn’t come off anymore. Since the torpedo just fell out when you open the doors, it may still work.

If you prefer a more peaceful working feature, paint your TBM in bright colors- white or silver with yellow, red trim,, with a big number on the tail, the wing tips and the engine cowling. Wad up a piece of very thin silk, red or pink, about the size and shape of a old school basketball player’s sock, and let it represent the “water” dropped by air-tankers fighting a forest fire.

The big differences between the kits are that the TBM has wings which might fold if you’re pretty good and follow instructions closely, and the SBD has 5 dive brake panels which opperate simultaniously. Sweet!

Tamiya’s early 1/12 cars- with a motor in the motor and a gearbox in the gear box and a suspension that works. I built the Matra MS-80 and it had two AA cells where the driver’s legs should have been. The steering wheel turned the front wheels, the suspension went up and down, the motor drove the back wheels through driveshafts with real universal joints… and the tires were hollow and smelled like real tires. AND the compltete engine and transmission could be removed from the rolling chassis.

Monogram’s (Now Revell-Monogram’s) other US Navy and other WWII planes with moving parts are: (all 1/48) F4F Wildcat,
F6F Hellcat,
F4U Corsair,
SB2C Helldiver,
Messerschmidt 109,
Mitsubishi Zero,
P-51 Mustang,
Supermarine Spitfire
Hawker Hurricane.

All but the Wildcat have landing gear that fold up, most of the Navy subjects have folding wings. The TBM and SB2C have opening weapons bay doors, the SBD, SB2C and TBM all dropped weapons originally, but that feature was disabled in the 1970s or 80s. (boo!) The SBD has opening dive flaps that all work together (5 panels) and are way cool. Later 1/48 models, the de Havilland Mosquito, TBD Devastator, bombers and jets had more details and less moving parts. An age had ended.

Lindberg’s Me-262 WWII German jet had folding landing gear and opening hatches over the cannons in the nose. They had a number of less detailed 1/48 jets with moving parts, along with a B-17, He-111, Mitsubishi BETTY and B-58 Hustler in somewhat odd scales with moving landing gear, etc. The B-58’s folding mechanism is fun to play with and you can detach the underslug bomb and fuel tank, and open the hatches for the 3 cockpits. But WWIII atom bombs have less play value that you might have expected. Monogram made a near-1/72 B-66 with a single bomb, no doubt nuclear, and it suffered in comparison to the 1/48 Navy planes.

Monogram’s 1/32 P-51D Mustang, available in colored plastic or as the Visible Mustang with a clear skin, went two better with retracting landing gear where turning a wheel made all threee legs and wheels move, and the doors open and shut. There was also a fiddly deal to hang a bomb under each wing and release them separately. The canopy also slid back, and in the ‘visible’ version, besides a motor to drive the landing gear (in the base) there was a motor in the plastic engine to turn the propeller. How cool is that?? But its hard to build, hard to make work and harder to keep working. Legos are more fun. Sigh.

Revell’s B-24 Liberator, 1/72 scale, had movable flaps and retractable landing gear, along with the usual moving turrets. Airfix’s B-17 main gear could fold-up. Revell’s 1/72 B-17 had bomb-bay doors that opened.

Tamiya made a small number of 1/25 tank kits (Tiger, T-34, others?) that had operating suspensions and separate track links- super cool to drive around on wrinkled bed covers, but very complicated and expensive

Any car kit with rolling wheels has good play value- the Revell Snap Together kits in 1/24th scale are very nicely detailed and roll well when completed. The recent Hasegawa and Tamiya car kits have soft plastic retainers that trap a pin (The pin is on the wheel for Tamiya, on the hub for Hasegawa) so they can theoretically roll, but in practice, are simply movable. They can be removed to admire all the fiddly brake and suspension bits though…

For older kids, detail and scale accuracy are more important that moving parts. Seeing how its built is as interesting as Brrrrrraaaaaawwwwww play. Here’s where Tamiya’s Formula 1 and Sports Car models really shine- the ones with opening engine covers and so forth are just packed with bits and pieces, and they tend to come in a tree of body color parts, a tree of silver parts and a tree of black parts, along with rubber-like tires. No paint required!

Here are a pair of the old Revell 1/72 scale Hawker Hurricanes, the second or third kit I built as a kid, that I experimentally put together with just touches of paint here and there, and decals (the black one) ; and one with NO paint (the light gray one). I put decals on the light gray one but they all fell off!, so I used some white glue on the decals for the black one…

A pair of 1960s Revell Hawker Hurricanes

If you click here you can see the kit parts and a couple of steps during construction, including when everything is taped together and glue is drying.
More later, happy modeling!

Other Bests in the Bay Area – 2008 – Collecting now, alphabetized soon.


A friend is coming in tonight for a week working in San Jose, and it occurs to me to make a list of “best”s in the bay area for Michael and any other visiting fire-persons whom might come out for business or pleasure. This is also prompted by the SF Chronicle’s annual top 100 restaurants list, some of which I’ve been to (and agree are terrific) and some I would have listed that aren’t on the Chron’s list.

Best places to go:

The Exploratorium. The world’s greatest hands-on science museum and (dis)organized meeting of art and science. Whether the awesome majesty of the three guysers, who’s periods are determined by the distance between the pool at the top and the heat source at the bottom, or sheer coolness of the string shooter and spinning discs on a spinning turntable, or the interactive the water vortex, the fog vortex, the giant pinboard or the magnetic properties of eddy currents in the giant bar of copper, never mind the tactile dome ( my advice: wear a swimming outfit under your street clothes…), the Exploratorium is better than words can possibly describe. For kids of all ages, and the cafe food is good enough to just go and eat if you get hungry. The original 11 on a 10 scale.

Muir Woods. Accurately described as a cathedral of trees. Its bigger than any of the European cathederals I’ve visited, and I enjoy it more, nice though they are. Less moral ambiguity, though not none (our park did used to be someone’s home and not so long ago…) There are lobster-shaped cray-fish (big claws) in the creek the runs through the middle, and spotting them and the fish in the creek from the many bridges is one of our family treats when we go. I’ve done the hike up from the Muir Woods creek bed to the top of Mount Tamalpias and its steep and exhilerating and you have your choice of how hard to make it, based on the paths you select and how fast you push it. Bring a gallon of water per person if you plan to go all the way up and all the way down. The trees of the Wood are huge, and yet dynamic- some fall in the wind, some expire of age, new ones grow where the old have departed. Besides fish and the predictable squirrels, we’ve seen deer, moms and babys, from pretty darn close, and it was pretty darn cool!

There are also the fire-hollowed trees on the trail on the ocean side of the creek, a bit above ‘floor’ level. Jean and I have several pictures of Benjamin at various ages in these icons, a small, friendly, forest creature, all our own. Its hard to NOT take a good holiday card picture of yourself and your family here. We probably ought to take the Dipsea trail some time. I strongly recomend going out on one of the two trails into the main “cathedral” canyon and coming back on the other- doesn’t matter which you go which way on. Take the map from the gate and plan to cross the creek at the furthest bridge. If you walk that far and back, it’ll make your day better.

Easy splashing/wading in the Pacific Ocean: Drake’s Beach, north-east of Pt. Reyes. A pretty place, a large beach, rotten rock in the cliffs so don’t stand under them, a public restroom at the parking lot and a gentle slope under the water- Drake’s Beach has it all and in abundance. Because the bay its in faces south, the waves aren’t as vigorious as those on west-facing beaches north or south, and the water seems a tad warmer.

Best hat store. The Hat Store on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, just before it turns into a 1-way for the last blocks just south of UC Berkeley. We go here when we need to create a costume- buy an excellent hat and build the rest around it. Notable purchases have included a Jester hat, a soft Viking helmet, an Egyptian Pharoh head-dress and several less-formal choices. We always find something to like and take home, and they hold up well.

Best Aquarium store – Albany Aquarium. San Pablo Avenue, between Solano and Albany Bowl. This was where we wound up when UCB Open House day ran out of complementary goldfish… and $150 later we had a heated, filtered, glass, 10 galllon, aquarium with a bunch of attractive fish. Fairliy tough fish. We’ve always gotten good advice here, their fish, snails, plants and frogs are hale and hearty. They don’t over-sell or low-ball prices, but if you want a gold fish in a gold fish bowl (no heat, no filter…) they’ll help you with that too.

Two bits of wisdom I picked up from them/with them:

A) Fish aren’t like hamsters- you don’t have to put them all in a pickle jar and scrub out the tank once a month… Get a cleaner/vaccuum/syphon, learn to use it (There is a non-return valve, you have to ‘pump’ the big tube full and then it’ll syphon, without you having to suck on it) Use a 2-5 gallon bucket or trash-can to collect the wastewater and stuff from in between the rocks.. (Pour it out on the fruit tree in the back yard…)

B) pH balancing is VERY important, and if you can’t master it quickly, invest in a buffer solution that will AUTOMATICALLY balance pH to the right-ish area, follow the directions and sleep easy/. At least for the tetras, guppies, etc, this is just fine. Incoming water after I ‘vaccuum’ is treated with a chlorine/chloramine treatment product so the fish aren’t poisoned, and the pH balance stuff. Works every time.

Best Bowling Alley: Albany Bowl. On San Pablo, between Solano and the strip-mall/bart-station about a mile north. Games are reasonably priced, you can get shoes that fit, pool tables are $10/hr, they have bumpers to block the gutters and do kids birthdays. In short, they do it all. Nice people, nice place to bowl, great family ‘go out’ spot. We usually bowl a couple of games, or more, and then take a pool table for an hour. WAY fun! Someday I’ll get to the black-light miniature golf in the South Bay and I can compare the two.

Child-friendly restraunts:

Chef Chu’s (Los Altos/Palo Alto/Mountian View)

Armadillo Willie’s (all)

Venezia Cafe (University Ave, Berkeley)

Cliff House, Ocean Beach, SF

Caesar – Piedmont Ave, Oakland

Little Shin Shin, Piedmont Ave. Oakland

Becky’s Chinese Food, College Ave, Oakland,

Barney’s (Hamburgers, salads) College Avenue, Piedmont Avenue

Christopher’s Hamburgers

Both Japanese places on the last block of Shatuck, northbound, before University

Sam’s Log Cabin, San Pablo, Albany

Montclair Egg Shop, Medau Place, Oakland

Pizza Pastino’s Park Blvd, Glenview,

Buttercup coffee shop- just south of the Cotton Mill, now home of West Marine and Numi Tea, on the bay side of 880.

Jolie’s Coffee and Gifts- at the street side of the lighthouse anchorage in the Oakland Estuary, near Livingston and also the bridge to Coast Guard Island.

Bowser’s Pizza, Park Avenue, Alameda

<Restaurant in the Lighthouse>, Oakland Estuary, near Livingston and the bridge to Coast Guard Island…

More later,

Bill