Archive for May, 2010

Filoli Gardens

May 31st, 2010
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One of the finest remaining country estates of the early 20th century was the setting for our next activity. We went to Filoli Gardens in Woodside, which is very near Menlo Park. To that end, I can't believe I've never heard of it before. It was so close to my college.

Walled Garden

Walled Garden

Because it's not an Italian name, like everyone thinks, it's pronounced FIE-lo-li, the FI rhyming with lie. Like the fi of Wi-fi.Or the first part of fight.

People go to tour not only the gardens, but the mansion as well. "Opened to the public in 1976 as a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Filoli features a 36,000 sq. ft. home and a 16–acre English Renaissance garden. In addition, Filoli's property includes a 6.8 acre Gentlemen's Heritage Orchard and a trail system that transverses five different ecosystems for docent-guided nature hikes and visits to the Sally MacBride Nature Center," describes its website.

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"Filoli was built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn, prominent San Franciscans whose chief source of wealth was the Empire Mine, a hard-rock gold mine in Grass Valley, California. Mr. Bourn arrived at the unusual name Filoli by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: 'Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.'"

We have, however, its next owners to thank, for letting us get a look inside. Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth bought the estate in 1937, and there's a Hawaii tie-in here! The Roths owned the Matson Navigation Company! In the house, there are some Hawaii-insipred artifacts.

Hawaiiana in the kitchen

Hawaiiana in the kitchen

Mrs. Roth lived there until 1975. She donated 125 acres, which included the House and formal garden, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations. The remaining acreage was given to Filoli Center, the non-profit that manages the estate.

After paying your admission, you are encouraged to watch a 15 minute video about the estate, before taking a self-guided tour of the property. Allow for about an hour to wander through a dozen differently themed gardens (rose garden, fruit garden, etc).

Cutting garden

Cutting garden

At this point, we chose to break for lunch in the wonderful cafe. The line was long but it moved fairly decently (though, be warned, my frame of reference is definitely broader after the dulling experience of Disneyland lines). We got to sit outside and eat on the patio to further enjoy the beautiful environs. I liked the red velvet cake, by the way.

Reception room

Reception room

Then, we strolled through the mansion. It's so humbly referred to as a house in all the brochures, but come on. If you want a house, I'll show you my house. Claus and I were laughing that our front yard was smaller than the entryway.

You can only see the first floor, in which there are 14 rooms, including the quaint idea of a ship room, a kitchen with a large intercom system, and a ballroom with 22.5' high ceilings. Now that's living the good life.

Hawaiiana in the Ship Room

Hawaiiana in the Ship Room

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In real people's homes, like mine, the ship room would be converted a space that people can actually use, the kitchen intercom is designed by Yelling Really Loud, and the only dancing we're doing is the pau-hana rush to cook dinner, feed everyone, and get Olivia to bed on time.

It was neat to see how the Other Half lives.

It's funny how everyone in our traveling party has different tastes. Of the gardens, my favorite was the Sunken Garden. Claus' was the pool (duh; swimmer). Val's was the Rose Garden.

The girls liked it, though I had to keep reminding Olivia to stay on the path, not pick the flowers, and not jump in the pool. They seemed to enjoy all the flowers, plus running in circles around the tennis court.

Me at Sunken Garden

Me at Sunken Garden

Stopping to smell the roses

Stopping to smell the roses

Claus' favorite

Claus' favorite

If you can make it there, you should. Allow for at least half a day to really enjoy yourself. And I'd be curious to see which landscape you like!

***

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Blog status: secure

May 29th, 2010
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Just a quick and happy note to tell you I have been retained by the Star-Advertiser as a blogger! To think, I was sitting in limbo all week (we were told that this week we'd hear about our status) waiting for that call or e mail, and I happened to check my SPAM folder today and saw the e mail had arrived Thursday. Oops.

So, that's nice. I'll be here if you still want to hang out.

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***

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Emmy night

May 28th, 2010
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Let's get the big question out of the way: I didn't win a regional Emmy. There, I've said it. Yes, I was- and am - disappointed. I feel I deserved an award. I really believed in my stories.

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But was the night a wash? No, it was still an experience, and I'm happy enough I attended.

For a 7 p.m. dinner, I started getting ready at 3:30. It takes women an hour. Then there's the hour-long drive from Menlo to San Francisco (accounting for traffic). We left Olivia at the apartment with my cousin Val, and Val's daughter Camie.

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Since I was a presenter, the organizers told me to show up at 5:30 to get my instructions. We got there before anything started, including the 6 p.m. no-host cocktails. I went backstage and, along with a small group of other presenters, was briefed on what to do.

And NO, there was no SWAG.

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I was actually nervous. Like any other working assignment, I didn't eat or drink much, and I was only half paying attention to the conversation because I was trying to focus on the task at hand. I just didn't want to screw up.

Our table

Our table

I had invited a group of friends and relatives to attend as my guests. We actually made up a table of ten; six were my California friends, and I knew they would like it because they would get to see all their local San Francisco newscasters in person. Because the event's in SF, it stands to reason most of the attendees are from the area.

Ten of us

Ten of us

There were not too many Hawaii people, though I saw my former producer Justin, who left KHNL to produce at KNTV San Jose. It's a small industry; people jump around the nation and you end up knowing, or knowing of, a lot of people.

I also met a really nice Maui production team who took an Emmy home for a piece that aired on KHET, "Bhutan: Taking The Middle Path To Happiness."

With producer Tom Vendetti

With Bhutan producer Tom Vendetti

It really wasn't a schmoozing kind of night. Entire tables of ten were designated for one station, so even though there were about 550 people, I didn't talk to too many other people besides the ones I invited. People kind of closed ranks and hung out with their friends, which I'm sure is entirely normal for an awards ceremony.

My category came up early, and I did not win. I lost to The Wayne Freedman, who earned his 46th Emmy that night. He's a great reporter, and I don't begrudge that. (Wayne is also a really nice guy, as I met him at the ceremony.) I'm only bummed I didn't get one also, because there can be multiple winners in each category. Some categories had two winners. On occasion, three.

My photographer Tracy Arakaki was also nominated, but he didn't win, either. He was watching online and was texting me throughout dinner.

I had to wait through dinner and dessert for my turn to present. Pairs of presenters gave away six awards, before they said goodbye and the next pair came up. Giving out six awards took about half an hour.

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I had to go past the room where the winners got to be interviewed, backstage where boxes of statues sat on the table for upcoming winners, and stand at the presenters' podium and look across the stage to the podium where the winners gave their speeches. Ugh. Someone put me out of my misery.

Di and Pilar

Di and Pilar

My co-presenter was a really sweet Mexican woman, Pilar Nino, who had just won an Emmy for her reporting at Telemundo. Though I was nervous before we went up, when I actually stood up on stage, I felt fine; I went into auto-pilot from years and years of anchoring.

A shot of us, off the live internet video

A shot of us, off the live internet video

The big discussion between me and Pilar involved who would say what, in what order. They tell you to keep the banter to a minimum to keep the night moving along. They also tell you to NOT use the word winner. It's actually printed on the card, "And the recipient is..."

A photo I snapped while on stage!

A photo I snapped while on stage!

You are also asked to hold up the card as you read it, so the trademarked Emmy statue pictured on the back is visible to the viewing audience - both live, and online. Oh, and you're also told who stands on the left side of the podium, and what order to walk up in.

Another photo taken on stage, of a winner giving speech

Another photo taken on stage, of a winner giving speech

After that was done, I was getting tired. It was late, I was still jetlagged, and I was running a sleep deficiency. It was about 11 p.m. when we decided to leave, though my California friends chose to stay till the end. They said they had fun.

I was disappointed though, and I told Claus that maybe I wasted my time flying up for nothing. We spent a considerable amount of money to fly, drive, house, and feed four people. "No. If you won and you were in Hawaii, you would have been more bummed," he reasoned. Hmm. Maybe so.

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So I've decided this is an experience that I could really choose to see as a glass half full, versus half empty. There were some good things, there were some junk things. It is what it is.

Look at the bright side. I have lovely friends who came to support me. I had the privilege of being an awards presenter, which not everyone can say they've done. I got a chance to use my ballgown again. We made a really fun vacation out of the rest of the trip.

Di, Jen, Zig

Di, Jen, Zig

As my friend Jim put it so kindly, "It doesn't take a statue to prove you're still a winner as far as your friends are concerned!" I really appreciate not only that sentiment, but that I have a lot of quality people in my life who will say that to me, and I know, mean it.

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Exploratorium

May 26th, 2010
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Wow! That's the first word I used when I walked into the Exploratorium, a museum in San Francisco full of hundreds of hands-on exhibits with a scientific bent. It's an interactive museum that functions as an informal education center.

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Physicist and educator Dr. Frank Oppenheimer founded the Exploratorium in 1969 as a way to help people - big and small - explore and understand the world around them. I've never been there before, which seems a little strange, considering how well known it is - though maybe it makes sense since it is a primarily student-oriented place, and I didn't attend grade school in California.

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It has more than 700 Exploratorium exhibits in the building, with 400 currently on view. "It provides access to, and information about, science, nature, art and technology," according to the website. "Since the Exploratorium’s inception, the museum’s exhibits and programs have focused on human perception: how do we see, hear, smell, feel and otherwise experience the world around us?"

I just thought it was awesome. If I lived there, I'd definitely buy a membership. Olivia was endlessly fascinated with the exhibits, and had to be pried off one station to go check out another. It's not huge, but it's so well designed, one could go there over and over and not tire of it.

Dry ice on water replicates planetary rotation

Dry ice on water replicates planetary rotation

Make sure you go upstairs. That's where the living exhibits are, including my favorite - the LIVING chick embryo that is growing in a petri dish. You could see it under a magnifying class, heart beating and all! There are several dishes with chicks at various life stages. Here's a shot of a five to seven day old embryo. It's wicked cool.

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Real brains

Real brains

Electricity from a potato

Electricity from a potato

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Exploratorium

3601 Lyon Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) EXP-LORE

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PS I finally uploaded video of my LA trip last month:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

***

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Alcatraz tour

May 24th, 2010
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Our first activity of the trip was a visit to Alcatraz Island, also known as The Rock. (Yeah, I've heard islanders call Hawaii the same thing, but trust me, it ain't the same!) It's  in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco. Though it's had many roles over the decades, it's best known for its service as a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison.

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I came here only once, when I was about 13, so I had forgotten many things about this place. Alcatraz has also hosted a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison. From 1934-1963 it was a federal prison, housing infamous criminals including Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George "Machine Gun" Kelly, James "Whitey" Bulger, Bumpy Johnson, Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. "Doc" Barker and Alvin Karpis.

My cousin's daughter, Camryn

My cousin's daughter, Camryn

In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area. It is a historic site operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Tours are free, but you have to pay for the ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf. There is only one tour operator that contracts with the Park Service to provide this ferry service, and that is Hornblower Cruises.

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It's $26 per adult and $16 per child ages 5 - 11, so if you have a family like we did, your cheapest option is to get the Family Ticket, which includes two adults and two kids for a $5 savings. However, it's not available online. You should definitely call and buy tickets at least a week ahead of time, because cruises sell out. The day we showed up there were "Sold Out" signs and we were one of the morning sails!

The ferry ride is very comfortable, and it's a half hour sail. When you get off, you crowd around the main square and hear one of the rangers giving some general directions on a bullhorn. He basically tells you where you can go, and where to pick up the free audio tour. You walk up the hill and go into the first building, where there's a pretty good ten minute film on the history of the island.

The showers

The showers

After that, you walk to the prison, pick up your audio tour, and walk the building for about an hour. You're herded in like cattle, and the first sight that greets you is the same thing the prisoners saw: the showers. No hot water, by the way. That alone is a crime deterrent for me - ha ha.

Di and Cammie in solitary confinement cell

Di and Cammie in solitary confinement cell

You'll see not only the cells decorated as they were when prisoners were living in them, but solitary confinement, the recreation yard, the library, and the scene of the most notorious escape attempt, complete with bomb marks on the floor. There's also a memorial to the officer who died in that incident. The audio tour is well done and really brings the history of the prison to life.

View of SF from inside prison

View of SF from inside prison

After wandering the prison, you're fed into the gift shop, where by some good luck, we got to meet a former prisoner. Darwin Coon authored a book, Alcatraz: The End of the Line, and goes five days a month for a book signing. I bought the book for the novelty of having him sign it. I then asked him some questions (you can take the girl out of the newsroom but not the newsroom out of the girl) which seemed to annoy him.

Di & Darwin Coon

Di & Darwin Coon

He served time for bank robbery, and I asked him if he had any advice for juvenile delinquents headed down the same path. "Don't do it," he stated. "There is nothing fun about prison."

I asked him about his worst memory in Alcatraz. "Serving time in The Hole (isolation). Twenty nine days."

I asked him if he regretted parts of his life. He looked at me blandly. "Nope. Cain't do nothin' about it," he said.

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I asked him what he did after he left prison. He sighed and looked at me, as if to wonder when this broad would stop asking questions. Maybe as a preemptive move, he responded with several sentences. "I was a property manager. Twenty two years. Never broke the law again."

I asked him if he's happy now. I like to ask that. I like to know. I think it also irritates some people because if one is trying to live in denial of constant unhappiness, this question sort of roots it up. That's not why I ask it, but sometimes I get an agitated response.

"Yep," he said.

I could tell the interview was over. I thanked him and left the table. Claus said he saw Coon leave the table shortly thereafter, step outside, and puff a cigarette a few times, looking irritated.

When I went to buy the book, I mentioned to the cashier that I think I annoyed Coon. "Oh, Darwin? He's just like that," laughed the clerk. "He's actually really nice." I'm sure he is. And I'm sure the same questions over and over must get dull.

Alcatraz, from Pier 39

Alcatraz, from Pier 39

After that, we left. There's a bit more to see, including a tour of the bird life and the inmates' flower garden, but it was a cold day, and we had seen the most interesting parts.

My advice to you if you are going, and/or going with kids:

1) Bring a stroller. The walk from the boat to the prison is up a long, winding hill. The walk inside the prison is long, too.

2) Bring food. The kids got hungry by the end. I used it to keep Olivia quiet during the tour, and then we all ate on the ferry back.

3) Wear layers, but pack a jacket! Better if waterproof. It was definitely chilly.

4) Handicapped: We saw a tram for people with mobility issues. I'm sensitive to this topic because my mother can't walk that well. Once inside the prison, there is a fair amount of walking and some stairs. If you have a wheelchair, that would work. There is an elevator.

You could probably spend the better part of a day there, because you can walk around the whole island. If you go at night, I have read that they give you a more guided tour, but we thought we'd see more (literally) by day, plus it's so darn cold when the sun is up, why would I want to freeze more at night? At the least, allow for two to three hours.

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This makes me want to rent the 1979 Clint Eastwood movie, Escape From Alcatraz!

PIER 39

After Alcatraz, it was still cold and overcast. We dropped the plan to walk across Golden Gate Bridge, and instead walked to Pier 39.

By the way, we parked at Pier 27, and parking rates just increased to $25 a day. The increase must have been very new, because not even the signs in the lot were updated. Technically, it's $25 per 24 hour period, but really. I would think most people are doing what we did and needing it only for a half day or so.

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I have only ever needed to go to Pier 39 once in my life, as it's so touristy I can do without it. But it was something for the kids to do and it was nearby. We rode a carousel.

MOUNTAIN VIEW

We then drove back down south to have dinner with my Kamehameha classmate Kristiann. Coincidentally, a lot of the friends I wanted to see on this trip live in Campbell, which is where I used to live, too. We split the difference geographically and picked a restaurant in Mountain View.

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We returned late to the apartment, and turned in for bed at around midnight - which was to be our trend for the whole trip. I forgot how the late summer sunsets in California mess with your body clock. In Hawaii I like to go to sleep at 10 pm, but in California, with it being light out until 9 p.m., I didn't even feel tired till 10.

I love how it's just the right coldness at night - what great sleeping weather!

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