Tag Archives: San Francisco

California Day 6: The Benefits of Walking: Views and Plants


Walking in San Diego on Memorial Day.

I am not sure if I have lost any weight on this West Coast adventure. Hearty restaurant meals and afternoon ice cream or other treats are on one side of the ledger—balanced against 6 or more miles of walking each day.

But I have enjoyed the walks. I’m not a fast walker, and usually lag behind, but I do walk and can cover some distance. We returned Tuesday to San Francisco from San Diego. The weather was breezier in the bay city, and the ground undulates a lot more here—a lot more. Still, California has been kind—I’ve been following all the stories of storms in the Midwest, and I hope the pattern there dries out soon.

Anyway, I’m fonder of bike riding—the pace is so much faster than walking, you cover more ground, and get to enjoy the same sense of being outside and experiencing the birds and bees and flowers and trees. Still, there is something to be said for walks, too. For one thing, conversation is much easier and more effective. On bike rides, I often find myself projecting my voice strongly to try to be heard, or straining to catch another riders’ remarks, often failing to hear what was said.

Walking promotes chatting.

And plants. We flew back to San Francisco Tuesday morning. Our daughter-in-law had to spend the afternoon working. Our son had a work meeting via computer, too, but it did not take long, and soon we took a Lyft to an older neighborhood for lunch and an afternoon stroll.

We purchased sandwiches at “Say Cheese” on Cole Street, and if you want excellent lunch sandwiches in San Francisco, I recommend it highly. We walked to a nearby park—San Francisco is graced with many small neighborhood parks—and enjoyed our meal.

Than we strolled up to Tank Hill, a bit of a climb, but I guess that makes the walk more effective as exercise. We enjoyed the views there.

And then walked off to find ice cream. Because, you know, vacation. The intended shop was closed, and the next almost a mile away, but since we were headed towards treats, we decided to go ahead and do the walk. We passed through the Panhandle on our way. We were in an older part of town, and there was some comfort in seeing all the Victorian townhouses—it felt very San Francisco.

On the sidewalk outside of one, someone had set a small table with several succulent plants. “Free to a good home,” the sign read. The plants were rooted in carboard cartons, and because our son keeps some house plants, we decided his was a good home. So we picked up what my wife first called “baby,” but which I said was “Audrey III,” and carried on.

We got our ice cream and walked to Alamo Square. It was a nice day, and the side of the square facing the famous “painted ladies,” as those colorful Victorian houses are known, was busy with tourists making images.


Park where we ate lunch. And climbed a hill. There were several hills on our San Francisco walk.


Tank Hill, great views of the city.

I’m not sure exactly how far we walked. Most days, we have gone 6 miles or so—this was probably a shorter stroll, but a few miles anyway.

Once we get home, I know that I’ll try to get as many biking miles in as I can. Still, it would be good to make some time for a daily constitutional, too. A walk on a fine day if good for the body and soul.

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California Day 2: The March for Art and Burritos


At San Francisco Museum of Modern Art–Andy Warhol flowers and cows.

My feet and legs regretted the second day of our California adventures, but not the rest of me, and the use probably did my feet and legs some good. It was a great day.

Our daughter in law went to work Friday and had an evening engagement, and our son had to work from home on this Friday, so part of the plan for the day was for my wife and I to spend some time away from the apartment on a walk about the neighborhood.

I know from reports online that Friday was a stormy day in Iowa. It wasn’t in San Francisco. The morning was cool, but bright and sunny, blending into an afternoon that was, for an Iowan, still a little chilly at times, but at other times required my jacket to be carried rather than worn. To paraphrase a line from “Miss Congeniality,” in San Francisco, May 24, 2019, was the perfect date because it was not too hot and not too cold, all you needed was a light jacket.

On our late morning stroll, we walked down towards the bay, and instead of walking by the Giants’ ballpark, which we had done the first night, we turned in the opposite direction and strolled towards shipping docks. It was again pleasant to be beside that ocean inlet. We enjoyed the sights and took our time, me stopping to make images of many flowers in bloom.


Day lily in small park by children’s hospital.

We played a game we sometimes play with grandchildren on a walk. At each intersection, we alternated who got to choose what direction to go in. Turns out, if you want to get lost in San Francisco, it’s a pretty effective strategy.

Not that we ever got all that lost. The big things—a children’s hospital, for instance, or a building I don’t know the purpose of that has what looks like a giant fungus growing on it, the top half being some sort of oval—where there to confirm we hadn’t really wandered out of the neighborhood.

And we enjoyed a quick stroll through an unexpected, small park by the hospital.

After we found the apartment again, we hung out for a while during a work meeting that was still going on in the next room via Jon’s computer. Still, we had timed our reappearance well; it was not long before Jon was done.

Lunch? It was mid afternoon by then, and Jon had made us a filling breakfast, but we were getting a bit hungry. Jon suggested a walk to the SF Museum of Modern Art, partly because he said there was a decent burrito place nearby.

And so, we were off. I am not sure how far it was to the museum—walking distance, but longish walking distance, well over a mile through probably under two. I was ready for the burrito by the time we found the place, and it was good.

Just before 3 p.m., we arrived at the museum, which closes at 5. They have an Andy Warhol exhibit going on, and we got tickets to see that as well as the general museum. Because the Warhol tickets had a time on them, we started there.

I’m no expert on modern art. I was aware of Warhol, in a general way, through a few of his most famous images, such as the Campbell Soup ones, but I was no aware of the range of his work. Although I still would not call myself a Warhol fan boy, I was impressed.

As is normal with modern art, my impression of the rest was a mixed. Sometimes, the oddly monotone rectangles or urinal placed on its side seem to stretch the bounds of what I do think of as art into the ridiculous. Then again, there was plenty to see, all of it interesting, much of it done with some thought and skill.

The San Francisco MOMA is a good place to spend the latter half of an afternoon. Not only was most of the exhibits worth seeing, but the building itself had interesting quirks—I thought the stairways themselves and a few of the halls were almost works of art.

The most interesting exhibit, besides Warhol, was a “Snap and Share” one about how mail was used to share photographs in the era before social media.

The walk back to the apartment felt a bit longish, to me, and as I noted before, my feet and legs were not entirely pleased with the day. But then again, if I can’t bicycle every day, long walks are a kind of RAGBRAI training, and I didn’t come to California to spend my days indoors.

The lunch had been late and filling, so we just snacked in the evening and played games. Jon knows how to make pleasant cocktails.

And now we are off to San Diego today. I may try a few quick blog updates via phone, but I am not planning to take the computer with me to the border, so you’ll just have to be patient, readers, for further California updates from sunny San Diego.

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California Day 1: Airport Adventures


View on our evening stroll–boats, Bay Bridge, SF skyline.

We aren’t in Kansas anymore. Well, technically we have hardly ever been in Kansas save for some incidental forays when visiting Kansas City, Missouri—but you know what I mean.

We aren’t in our familiar Midwestern place.

The flying adventure Thursday not only went fine—there were some bumps crossing the Rockies, but nothing too scary—it featured Audrey making new friends in that affable, talkative way she has which is the envy of all communication professors, and me making deft use of a smartphone to rescue an Asian girl.


Another view on walk, of ballfield.

We were at the airport in the Twin Cities, waiting for our connecting flight to San Franciso. Sitting two seats away from us was a young woman who was obviously Asian, maybe Korean, Vietnamese, Chines or Japanese—I don’t know, except I’m pretty sure the blond hair was dyed. No matter, she was looking confused, and in heavily accented English she asked me “this gate for Detroit?”

No, young lady, this airport portal will lead to San Francisco. She looked disappointed and wandered slowly off.

Well, I have a smart phone. “Google, Minneapolis Airport,” I said in a commanding voice that a few years ago might have indicated a crazy person, but today we are all used to.

A few seconds later, I had found the nearby gate that would lead to a Detroit departure. Audrey had been going to the restroom, and it was my turn after that, but still, she wondered a bit as I shot off across the airport terminal. I wanted to catch up to Asian lady before I lost sight of her.

I told her the Gate number—which was only three gates away, but she was unsure where that gate was, so I walked her down to it. “Detroit” said the sign over the gate, confirming the airport’s web site was up to date.

A random rescue of a damsel in mild language-related distress—not a bad omen to begin this trip with. As I noted before, the flights were fine. Audrey is a good traveling companion—not only pleasant company, but more experienced than I am with a good sense of when to eat and when to ask for seat assignments on the next connecting flight. I am happy to have her with me, even if Rescue Asian Girl was a solo adventure.

Once we landed, we met our daughter-in-law, who Ubered us over to their apartment where our son awaited. We walked to dinner, did a stroll by the Giant’s nearby ballpark, came home and played a game.

Day 1 of our California adventures was a short one, but a nice one!

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Eating As a Silicon Valley Techie Eats


My wife and I walking on the Golden Gate Bridge this spring break.

During spring break this year, my wife and I flew out to San Francisco to visit with our son and his wife.

They both work in technology out there—she designs human-machine interfaces for Samsung, he is a software engineer for WhatsAp, a division of Facebook.

nalena and jon

Daughter-in-law and son do an “ussie” during a visit to a San Francisco park with us.

One highlight of our visit was the half day we spent at the Facebook campus. With tens of thousands of high tech employees, the company’s site is a mini city. It has a main plaza with shops and restaurants, for example. You can get your hair cut, visit the dentist, drop off some dry cleaning and get your bicycle fixed (or buy a bicycle) without leaving the company grounds.

Jon explained that he thought it was just smart for the company to provide those kinds of services because tech employees are highly skilled, and the corporation benefits by providing services that keeps those people together and talking with each other.

The day we visited Facebook, we ate both breakfast and lunch there—and both meals were a surreal experience. You walk into a company cafeteria, grab a tray, and go through a food line—and then there is no cashier. You just proceed to a table to eat. Have as much as you want of whatever you want.


It does rain in California, despite the song. Drizzly day when we visited Facebook.

Again, Jon noted that the food perk, while costly, enhances collaboration and boosts  morale.

Gosh, my wife and I said to each other during the visit. That seems like a neat idea. Maybe they could do that at Mount Mercy University. Then, we shared a laugh. We don’t work for a rich, high-tech company.


At Facebook, they have a wall where you can post any comment you want for random passing people to see. Someone should invent an online equivalent …

Well, surprise, surprise—fast forward to this week, when we had the “opening day” all-employee assembly in the chapel. The President was speaking, and announced a new program at MMU.

On one designated day each week, employees can have lunch in the cafeteria. For free.

The day is Friday in September, and will change each month.

The idea is pretty simple. Students eat there all the time, and having faculty and staff share a meal encourages informal conversations, both among employees and between employees and students. We can break bread together and hash things out over hash.

They don’t offer free food daily, and don’t have the kind of variety and fancy eateries Facebook offers. What’s available is college cafeteria fare. Some may balk at that—it is institution food.

Me? Most days I brown bag it, but in the past on very busy days, such as when I’m staying late on campus for a newspaper production cycle, I have eaten in the cafeteria. And I love my cafeteria days, for several reasons:

  • I like the collaboration it fosters. I have ended up, unplanned, chatting with others about all kinds of topics related to MMU. A lot of plans for the Fall Faculty Series have been hatched over lunch in such informal encounters.
  • I think there is value in seeing my students and them seeing me in this context. If you encounter a person as a student in a class (or as a professor in the class) you have a particular kind of relationship. Seeing them in another place doing something entirely else sort of humanizes them. It makes them more of a familiar “person” rather than “student” or “professor.” In particular, there is something a bit interpersonal in being in proximity to another as they eat. You don’t eat with enemies, and the people that you regularly eat with become, in some minor way, a bit more family like.
  • I love cafeteria food. I know many students complain about the cafe food, and maybe with some reason, but in my experience the cafeteria offers a buffet of wondrous delights. Their cooks have a slightly heavy hand with spices—sometimes you scoop up some veggies and are thinking “bland” and you take a bite and suddenly you’re thinking “chilies.” But I am a spice boy. I’ll tell you want, what I really, really want—some pork or chicken or fish coated in whatever breading, served in a giant pan under a warming lamp prepared by the fine cooks at MMU. Maybe some of my MMU friends don’t agree—food opinions are like music opinions, they are personal and nobody need apologize for their preferences—but I am a fan of MMU cafeteria food. Go Mustangs! To the feed!

Anyway, I understand that the free food program is an experiment, and that it is offered only one day a week. I am also familiar with the old, reliable, wise saying TANSTAAFL (there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch). MMU will continue the program only as long as MMU sees some payoff, and if budgets get tight, so might our waistbands.

But for now, I can eat like a techie, at least once a week. I think it was a smart idea for MMU to introduce, and I hope it does what the powers-that-be hope it does so it can continue.

More networking and contacts between employees and students? A plus. Soft serve and salad bar? Count me in.

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The Best Super Bowl Ever

From http://downtonabbeyonline.com/, the ladies enjoy some Super Bowl snacks.

From http://downtonabbeyonline.com/, the ladies enjoy some Super Bowl snacks.

Where was I when the lights went out?

Well, as soon as the second quarter ended, and it looked like a Baltimore blowout, my wife and I switched channels. Our planned halftime show is called “Dowton Abbey.”

This week’s period British drama was not as dramatic as last week’s episode, thank goodness. But it had its moments:

  • Lady Mary to Lord Grantham: “The world isn’t going your way—not anymore.”
  • The Dowager Countess, turning down Lord Grantham’s demand that she and the other ladies leave the luncheon at Isobel’s: “It would be shame for such a lovely pudding to go to waste.” And earlier, of course, the Dowager Zinger had another great line—talking to Dr. Clarkson: “‘Lie’ is such an unmusical word.”
  • Mrs. Patmore to Ethel: “Anyone who has the use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse.”

Ah, such great Super Bowl memories. And when the latest installment of our British melodrama had ended, we switched back to CBS, and voila—there was still a football game going on, for which we had missed all of the halftime show and all of the half-hour of silent tribute to human’s inability to generate electricity. Job well, done, I’d say.

I didn’t see all of the commercials—I missed the horsy one that is causing all the buzz. I did see, however, the M&M one, which I thought was fairly well done. GoDaddy was embarrassingly bad, but what else was new?

As for the game, it was Baltimore vs. San Francisco. I’d rather visit San Francisco, but I don’t mind it when an old rust-belt East Coast city gets to win over the Left Coast. And it was an exciting finish, wasn’t it?

But what will become of baby Sybil?

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