SFMOMA

That’s some acronym.

SFMOMA may not be as famous as “the” MOMA which has hijacked the acronym MOMA…but it’s a pretty good MOMA for a non-MOMA MOMA.

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Anyway, I instantly like this museum. A suspended electric fan nearly takes your head off as you enter; later I am a little disappointed to discover it’s for an upcoming exhibition and not a permanent feature.

I’m just in time for a guided tour for which only four people (including myself) turn up. We get lots of useful information of the type that you really only pick up from a tour, such as that the colourful abstract paintings in the lobby are by somebody called Sol LeWitt who architects such paintings: like an architect, he draws and sells blueprints of the painting, leaving the actual implementation up to painters. So, in this case, the museum essentially bought a “colour by numbers” book.

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Next we visit some other paintings and have a go at analysing them:

  1. One is a recent acquisition by a promising young artist.
  2. Another is a very angry painting by Mexican artist in the 1960s.
  3. The final is a gigantic pile of 18,000 indigo shirts and trousers. We have fun working this one out – it’s something to do with the efforts of one person leaving behind perhaps only a small trace but the collective effort of thousands leaves behind a big pile of…work. As part of the installations, a man is employed for four hours a day to sit at a nearby desk and erase pages in a government-issued land/sea boundaries book. Very modern!

I contentedly spend a further couple of hours wandering about (there is an especially good photographic exhibition on the third floor), surrepticiously texting home and buying up the museum shop (finally – “how long ago did I open it” electronic timers!) before grabbing something in the Cafe Musée.

Lastly, I resolve to return for an upcoming exhibition, of whose walkway the picture below illustrates:

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Return to San Francisco

Well…after yesterday’s “excitement”, I wasn’t even sure whether to venture up to San Francisco. However, the hotel was booked and the city’s only an hour away. Should worse come to worst and I get sick again I can just lie down in a nice air-conditioned hotel room for a few hours. Either way, it’ll be more fun than Mountain View. Off I go.

The Caltrain connects downtown San Francisco with San Jose and the many towns inbetween, including Mountain View. Several “express” services at morning and evening rush hour take 45 minutes between San Francisco and Mountain View while most services take 60 minutes.

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I guess by American standards this is pretty good – really I’m lucky there’s a service at all – but on weekends the time between Mountain View and the city is an astounding 75 minutes. Bear in mind it’s only 35 miles!

Anyway, I arrive in San Francisco at 11.30 and instantly am glad I came. I’ve wanted to return here for years, ever since spending just a single day seeing Alcatraz and visiting a record store while touring California. Even that was enough to know I liked the city. This time, I’m staying downtown near the Embarcadero. MOMA is top of my list of things to see and do and is only a few blocks away. Off I set, gazing upwards and snapping everything in sight.

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California Road Trip

We left for Sequoia National Park right after work, hoping to make it there by 11pm or so.

It’s a journey of 240 miles from Mountain View, so we figured we might make it by 11pm if we didn’t stop.

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Of course, it’s Labor Day weekend and everybody native is either driving home or driving to Sequoia National Park too.

Whatever the case, they’re on the same road as us. We see some interesting slices of Americana but this road is backed up all the way to Los Angeles and we need to get off of it if we’re to make it back by Monday. The GPS doesn’t want us to go any other way but we eventually convince it to at least show us a map to allow us figure out an alternative route.

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So, after three hours on the road, we’re less than one third of the way there…and not exactly headed in the right direction. We do get back on track only to end up in a “stray sod” near “Panoche Road”, which eventually turned into a dirt track and, when you thought things couldn’t get any more comical, a lake.

Old GPS didn’t see that one coming.

But, we do somehow get back on track (no thanks to me I hasten add) and by 1am we have found our hotel for the night.

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First Few Days in Mountain View

An early start this morning. Mountain View isn’t too easy to explore without a car but it’s nice enough, in a middle-of-nowhere kind of way (can you call the middle of Silicon Valley the middle of nowhere, though?).

Plans are afoot for a trip to Sequoia National Park on Saturday which should liven up after-work time no end, along with a sojourn in San Francisco afterwards…this being Labor Day weekend, there’s plenty of time for everything.

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Dublin – San Francisco

Dublin to San Francisco with British Airways (Dublin-London actually operated by Aer Lingus) via Heathrow.

I must fly Sundays more often – although I’ll have to contend with launching straight into work the following day, the airports were a dream. I’d heard murderous things about Heathrow but today – a bank holiday weekend in the UK, no less – it’s absolutely fine. There’s just a lot of walking.

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British Airways are as nice as I’d heard, too. Seats are comfortable, even in economy class and even though I didn’t get an aisle seat. The pilots and air stewards actually talk to us (not read) and tell us things. They’ve got vocabulary; they’re witty. It’s nice. For instance, taxi-ing at SFO, the pilot explains which plane is currently blocking our way (the outbound 747 on this route) and why (the road is simply too narrow at this point).

Little touches like this just make it so much more enjoyable.

(Also, they can fly. We barely feel the touchdown; contrast with my return from Tokyo, where it felt like the wheels nearly broke off when we touched the ground.)

A quick (though not necessarily short – it’s 35 miles or so) taxi ride later and I’m settled into the apartment, ready for work the next day. I’m told the weather will be like this again tomorrow, guaranteed…

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Off to California

It’s off to California tomorrow for a few weeks for some much-needed training.

From a geek perspective, it’s very exciting: the delights of the Googleplex are legendary, from the canteens through espresso machines through courtesy buses to the more notable employees (who amongst them have invented Python, Apache and the internet).

From a traveller’s perspective, it’s also very promising. I spent one day in San Francisco a few years ago and have always wanted to return. Although I’ll be based in Mountain View, some 35 miles to the south-east, the two are reasonably well connected by American standards so I suspect I’ll be spending more than one weekend in the big city.

Six weeks is quite a long time to be away from the comforts of home but considering that it’s all expenses paid (and then some), that I’ll be very busy and that the destination is sunny California, I think the time will fly.