Friday, February 1, 2002

Brrr ...

It's about 5pm Friday afternoon, the Sun is disappearing, and the evening chill is beginning to set in. It's been like this now for a couple of weeks : generally coolish days followed by freezing or near-freezing nights and early mornings. Just a few nights ago there was a snow advisory for the entire Bay peninsula excepting only San Francisco county. The weather archives show that it is atypically cold for this time of year, and the forecasts suggest that it isn't about to get much warmer anytime in the next few days. Each day then, Debs and I are forced to decide : central heater or log-fire? The central heating is much better at warming (most of) the house, particularly the bedrooms, but it doesn't have the aesthetic appeal of the open fire. Better still, the US have devised the firewood equivalent of the TV dinner - kerosene-soaked wood wrapped in flammable paper. Instructions for use :

  1. Place paper-encased 'log' in fireplace
  2. Light paper at arrows
  3. Rub hands together and say 'ahhh!'

Now if only they could find a way for the resulting ash to self clean.

And the next in our series of Places We've Been Recently :

Berkeley Campus - Jan 18

This trip allowed us to travel on the BART - the Bay area's rapid transport system - for the first time since we arrived in San Francisco. Boarding at Powell Street in San Francisco, we were transported under (yes, under) the Bay, emerging about 15 minutes later to daylight in West Oakland. If The Big One hits, pray it doesn't happen while you're riding the BART a couple of hundred metres underground. We tried not to think about this during our return journey later in the day.

I always recall the BART as one of the prime examples of poor planning, the history of which is covered in a book called Great Planning Disasters. The Opera House is also featured in this book as another example of planning gone amiss. Like many public-works developments, construction of the BART apparently suffered from chronic delays and budget overruns, exacerbated by much-higher-than-expected inflation during the 1960s. As an example, the 'transbay tube' that we travelled on was built at a cost 25% over budget and many years late. But the end result certainly seems worth it. It's quick, clean and reasonably priced.

The next major development of the BART will see it link up with San Francisco airport, although this development too is late and over budget. It's due for completion this year.

Today's only shot is of the 94m tall Sather Tower on the Berkeley Campus, famed partly for its height but also for its carillon recitals. We missed the day's recitals but we did ride the elevator to the top of the tower to witness (and, of course, photograph) the exceptional views of Berkeley and the Bay. Atop the tower we discovered that it was possible to watch the recitalists live from this vantage, though the array of 15ft and other variously sized bells above us would suggest that this could only be attempted by the currently or soon-to-be stone deaf. It was breezy and cold at the tower's top, but the architecture and the bells did afford ample opportunity for what Debbie and I call 'arty shots'. More of these when we post the photos.

During our time on campus, we tried to loosely follow a walk suggested by one of the guidebooks. My overall impression is of a large, pleasant, wealthy, green campus. The on-campus literature is forthright about Berkeley's reputation, without being snobbish. If I had one quibble it would be the architecture of some of what I guess are the newer buildings. It looks as if some architects had decided that, above all else, they wanted their buildings to stand out as different. One example that sticks in my mind was a building festooned with round windows and odd holes and no real sides. Though the architects have no doubt achieved the goal of being 'different', in some places it gives the campus the look of a home-expo. On the whole though, it's a very pleasant campus.

Originally posted by TC

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