Saturday, February 23, 2002

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

This, I promise, will be a much shorter blog than the last.

It's Sunday here now and the afternoon chill is just starting to settle in. We're still no closer to knowing exactly when we can leave the US, or when we can even start to plan to leave. The results of the pets' latest blood tests should be available early the week after next. Until then, there's nothing much else we can do.

During our period of enforced captivity we have spent considerably more time with the pets. Mitzi, now 11, is starting to show her age, though this might be partly due to her staying up late with me and then getting up early with Debbie. Through direct observation, we've also added a few new items to the lengthy list of foodstuffs that Mitzi will willingly ingest : frozen peas, bologna (no real surprise there) and sunflower seeds, the latter after deftly cracking the shell in her teeth and then delicately sucking out the seed. This contrasts sharply with her usual eating method which is to swallow first - well vacuum, really - and taste later. Suitably presented, she would, I think, eat dirt (perhaps she already does).

Today we tour to:

San Jose - Feb 12

After consulting a map, we were pleasantly surprised about the proximity of Burlingame to San Jose, and the proximity of where we wanted to go in San Jose to the Caltrain stop at which we would be alighting. San Jose, a little over an hour away from our home by train, has a population of just under 900,000, making it the 11th largest city in the US. It was, for a short time in the mid 1800s, the state capital, and is now considered by many to be the capital of Silicon Valley. Its per capita personal income in 1999 was a smidge under US$47,000, this figure no doubt buoyed by the tech boom and consequently perhaps a little lower now (these stats courtesy of Infoplease). Nevertheless it's still a comparatively wealthy city with a distinctly Spanish/Mexican feel.

Tech Museum Logo Our main purpose for journeying to San Jose this day was to visit the city's Tech Museum of Innovation (website In keeping with the Mexican flavour of the city, the exterior wall of the museum and the logo (see photo at left) feature deep oranges and blues. Though most of the exhibits were obviously designed for children (or San Jose has an unusually high proportion of residents who are under 3 ft. tall and speak in short, simple sentences) it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Throughout various parts of the museum we could, among other things :

  • find our weight on Mars (about 40% of our Earth weight)
  • pilot a lunar rover
  • solve a murder mystery using DNA (Valerie dun it! [on the balance of probabilities])
  • read about the Human Genome Project
  • design a mountain bike (mine was rated 'cool', narrowly missing the primo rating of 'killer')
  • understand the extraordinarily complicated and high-tech processes that are required to manufacture silicon chips (a cleanroom, used for such purpose, has only 1 particle of dirt for every cubic foot)
  • experience an earthquake rating 6.5 on the Richter scale
  • simulate the effects of earthquakes of different strengths on buildings of varying height and construction material (lesson : when the big one comes, don't be in a tall building made of wood)

We left, mid-afternoon, to go in search of food. Reasoning that, since we were in San Jose, Mexican was the logical choice, we headed for the street recommended in our guide for its Mexican and other restaurants.

San Jose Museum of Art

Enroute we passed the San Jose Museum of Art (see photo at right) which sits to one side of what is called the Circle of Palms. Dotted around the circle are a number of colourfully decorated sharks, created in honour of the local NHL (ice hockey) team, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are one of the stronger NHL teams and lead their respective division by a couple of games at the time of writing. Their home rink, the Compaq Center, which we walked past late in the day on our way back to the train station, seats about 17,500 people for hockey and has averaged over 95% occupancy for Sharks games over the last decade. For the privilege of naming rights, Compaq are paying over US$3m each year and are contracted to do this each year until 2015.

Shark Here's a close up of one of the sharks outside the Museum of Art. These elaborately decorated sharks can be found throughout the San Jose CBD. Indeed there are so many that the city has produced a brochure containing a self-guided shark tour of the city. As well as the large "school" among the Circle of Palms, a further 35 or so are on display inside the Compaq Center, though they can only be viewed only on particular days. We were there at the wrong time and so missed out on seeing them. If you're curious, try

Originally posted by TC

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