Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium
San Diego
November 26, 2016

We went to the Birch Aquarium with our middle daughter and son-in-law. We set out later than we thought we would, because we were all watching the Ohio State v. Michigan game that morning, and it went to double overtime. The Buckeyes pulled it out in the end, and we headed to lunch in our OSU gear, then on to the aquarium.


We first explored the galleries to the left, with thematic exhibits about climate change, Mexican ocean ecology, and current research aboard the research vessel Sally Ride. Also on that side are some of our most favorite creatures: seahorses, pipefish, and seadragons.



We next toured the galleries to the right of the entrance, which exhibit the bulk of the live collection. Several Pacific coast regions are represented: the local San Diego area, the Northwest, Southern California, and Baja Mexico. At the end are a couple of tropical tanks. The tanks in the gallery are small, but there are a variety of animals on display with good explanatory labels.

At the end of our visit, we stepped outside to see the artificial tide pool area and enjoy the beautiful view out over the Pacific. Gentle touching of creatures in the open tanks in permitted, and Meredith reached in a finger to touch a sea anemone.


Adult admission is $18.50; there are discounts for seniors, students, and children. We opted to buy a dual membership ($75 for one year), which includes four guest passes, thereby covering all four of us today and giving us the opportunity to go back.

Parking is free for up to three hours, which is generally enough to see everything at the aquarium. Wheelchair accessibility is good. Sandwiches and snacks are available at the Splash Cafe, operated by the French Gourmet.

Turkey Trot

Father Joe’s Villages Thanksgiving Day 5K
November 24, 2016
Balboa Park
San Diego

We woke up before dawn and went to Balboa Park to run a 5K this Thanksgiving. This “turkey trot” is a benefit for Father Joe’s Villages, serving the homeless. We attended the open air Mass at 6:30 a.m. on the Plaza de Panama, in front of the art museum. We then walked west over the Laurel Street bridge to the start line.


We had meant to sign up for the fun run option, but somehow ended up in the timed runner category. (Meredith had registered for the event on her cell phone, and figures the mistake is due to old eyes trying to read fine print on a small screen.) Bemused, we went to the separate Speedy Turkey start line and chugged along at our own pace, including a few walking breaks.


It was a big scene, and we had fun taking in the crowd. We are not sure of the exact head count, but we saw numbered bibs in the 8000’s. After we finished we stopped to pick up the pumpkin pie we had pre-ordered with our race registration.

Sheriff’s Museum

Sheriff’s Museum
Old Town San Diego
November 6, 2016

We have been meaning to visit the Sheriff’s Museum ever since we spotted it on a training hike we did last year, from Clairemont to downtown, in preparation for walking the Camino in Spain. Until we stumbled on this museum at the east edge of Old Town, we did not know it was there.


We enjoyed a Sunday brunch at Miguel’s Cocina, then walked a block east to the museum. It is larger than we thought, looking at the building from the outside. The museum collection is housed in a two story building. The ground floor displays contain many artifacts, such as badges and vintage communications equipment. In the courtyard are several historic cars. The top floor has more thematic displays, including the history and role of women in the department, major incidents like the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide and Santee shootings, and separate displays for specialty units. The final room is devoted to deputies who have been honored for bravery and a memorial for deputies killed in the line of duty.

The collection is quite extensive, well laid out, and clearly labeled. Bob was particularly interested in two things: an old map of California and the display honoring all of the Sheriffs in San Diego history. The map caught his eye because this good sized wall hanging showed a huge San Diego County–one of the original twenty-seven, it stretched to the Arizona border and north to the Nevada border half way to Lake Tahoe, including what are now the counties of Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino, and part of Inyo. Not being a native Californian, his knowledge of its history has some gaps. The display honoring the Sheriffs had a couple of points of interest. The first Sheriff, Agoston Haraszthy, was an immigrant from Hungary and was one of the founders of the modern California wine making industry. A 1953 photograph of the then Sheriff and his deputies included one deputy, John Duffy (with requisite buzz-cut), who would later be the county’s twenty-sixth Sheriff. He was in office from 1971-1991; Bob and Meredith arrived in San Diego during his tenure.

This museum would be a good place for a family outing; the exhibits appeal to all ages. There was a retired deputy serving as docent who answered our questions and made us feel welcome.

Admission is free, although donations are encouraged. Handicap access is good, with an elevator connecting the two floors. The gift shop has a good selection of items. There is no on-site parking; we walked over from where we had parked for brunch.

Museums Afloat

USS Midway Museum
Festival of Sail
Maritime Museum
San Diego Harbor

Bob has had a couple of very nautical weeks recently. He visited the USS Midway Museum in mid-August, and then attended the Festival of Sail on Labor Day.

The Midway was just named as the sixth most popular museum destination in the United States by TripAdvisor’s reviewers. Included with admission is an audio tour that is self-activated and keyed to locations on the ship. There are three main themes to the tour: On the Roof — the flight deck, island, and most of the aircraft; Man and Machine — hangar deck, engineering, and air wing; and City at Sea — crew living spaces and the infrastructure to support a crew of thousands. Bob found the tour very interesting and the audio clips well chosen. The clips were both informative and poignant, often including voices of former crew members recalling their service—loading bombs, flying aircraft, or simply doing the laundry. The USS Midway was in commission from 1945 until 1992. The museum opened in 2004. Visiting begins at 10 a.m. Bob served as an engineering officer in the US Navy, so he started his tour of the Midway below decks. As he could not spend as long on board as he might have wished, by the time he got to the flight deck it was too late for him to wait in line for the guided tour the bridge — and the museum warns people that the line may close at 3:30 on busy days. So if you get aboard first thing in the morning, you should head to that spot first. There was really no waiting for the tour sites anywhere else on the ship.

Admission is $20 for adults. There is a gift shop and food is available, though he did not check those out very closely. He saw signage for elevators to help those with mobility difficulties, but we imagine that a ship is not the most friendly environment for visitors with those challenges. Bob also did not explore the flight simulator rides, which cost extra. One other fine thing about the museum is the large number of docents, knowledgeable former Navy men, who were in every space open on the tour.


The Maritime Museum of San Diego is several blocks north of the USS Midway Museum on the waterfront west of downtown. The museum has a permanent collection of eleven vessels, ranging from the largest -— the Star of India, a sailing ship built in 1863 — to the smallest, a Vietnam War era “Swift Boat,” PCF-816. We have been to the Maritime Museum many times over the years; the museum was founded in 1948. We have also been to the Festival of Sail a couple of times before, first with our daughters when they were younger, and then again with our German exchange student Lisa who lived with us during the 2009-2010 school year. The festival has become an annual event and takes place over Labor Day weekend. Added attractions at the festival, aside from food and other vendors along the wharf, are visiting sailing ships, a display and firing of a number of cannon on the museum’s pier, sailing excursions, and staged “cannon battles” between some of the smaller sailing vessels. Tickets for the festival were $7 this year. Participation in the excursions and “cannon battles” cost extra.


Bob liked the engineering spaces on the ferry boat Berkeley very much; a docent was explaining the boiler and engine systems to a couple and operated the machinery to show how it would have worked. A new attraction that Bob also liked very much was the recently launched replica of Juan Cabrillo’s flagship San Salvador. Cabrillo was the leader of the first European expedition to visit San Diego Bay, and building the replica has been a huge project led by the Maritime Museum over the last several years. There was a short line to wait for the introductory lecture, led by a ranger Bob recognized from the Cabrillo National Monument (another favorite place we take out of town visitors). One item of particular interest to Bob was seeing the renovation project that is underway on the Star of India. She is an iron-hulled vessel, but the superstructure is wooden and thus in need of constant attention. The current project is replacing the weather decks. As of Labor Day, a few sections of the project were complete but moving forward one could see the work in progress. The volunteers are removing the old deck to expose the underlying iron framework, preserving that, and then laying down an engineered wooden laminate deck that will be waterproof, the planks of the new deck, and then finishing the work with caulking, sanding, and coating.

The museum is open year-round and admission is normally $16 for adults, so seeing it during the Festival of Sail is a real bargain but also probably more crowded than on a normal day. Again, though there seems to be an attempt at accommodating all visitors, ships and boats are not the most wheelchair friendly. The museum has a gift shop and a small café.

Rancho Bernardo History

Rancho Bernardo History Museum
Bernardo Winery
August 21, 2016

Meredith met up with some girlfriends for a wine tasting at the Bernardo Winery. She arrived before her friends and had some time to kill, so looked through the History Museum which is located at the entrance to the winery complex. It is a simple one room museum, run by the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society and dedicated to local history. It has been at that location since 2013. The exhibits are not extensive, but they are well laid out and informative. The centerpiece is the newly built “mud wagon,” a replica of the wagons which ran daily on the stage route from Escondido to downtown San Diego and back, from 1887 to 1912. A map of the stage route is displayed in front of the wagon. Stages left at 8:00 a.m., one southbound and one northbound. They stopped midway for lunch and to change horses, then arrived at their respective destinations around 4:00 p.m.


Entry to the museum is free. It is open Tuesday 9-12; Friday 10-3; Saturday 1-4; Sunday 2-4; and by appointment.

The winery itself is fun to see. It bills itself as the oldest winery in Southern California, established 1889. (The friars who brought wine grapes to the California missions might quibble about that!) In addition to the tasting room, there are event rooms, a restaurant and a coffee shop, and a number of small shops. On Fridays there is a farmers market on the grounds.

G.I. Film Festival (Upcoming)

G.I. Film Festival
September 14-18, 2016
San Diego

This film festival is scheduled for September 14th through 18th. The organizers promise us that the festival “brings the stories of America’s military to life through film.” The festival will feature screenings of over two dozen movies, including local films. There will also be panel discussions, a family movie night, and an awards ceremony. Tickets for all screenings and events are now for sale on line. Most screenings are priced at $10 per ticket, with discounts available for active duty military and veterans.

We plan to see the documentary USS Indianapolis, at the Ultra Star theater in Mission Valley. The festival describes it as follows: “World War II heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis sank as a result of a devastating torpedo attack. After 5 days stranded in the Pacific, surviving members of the crew were rescued and their stories are told through a series of interviews.” We don’t vouch for the historical accuracy of the account given in the movie Jaws (1975) — this upcoming documentary will give us the facts — but we cannot forget Robert Shaw’s powerful monologue about his (fictional) character’s survival of the wreck of the Indianapolis, and the shark attacks in the days that followed, until the crew was rescued.

The film festival includes several other historical documentaries, like the Indianapolis film. There are also films touching on the experiences of current service members and recent veterans.

Hail the Poetry of Gilbert and Sullivan

Hail Poetry!
Opera A La Carte
Soka University
July 17, 2016

We thoroughly enjoyed the world premiere of a new musical, Hail Poetry! The music itself is not new — the shows features 25 Gilbert and Sullivan songs over the course of two acts. The songs are taken from Trial By Jury, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Gondoliers, and The Mikado. In this new production, we see Gilbert writing the lyrics and arguing with his collaborator Sullivan. The show follows the original company rehearsing and producing the works for the first time. The songs were well sung and the acting was first rate.

Meredith had seen a brief note in the Los Angeles Times, announcing the show, but it was not a full review. We thought it was some sort of Gilbert and Sullivan revue or compilation. We did not realize until we actually saw it, that is an entirely new show.

It was exciting to be a sort of beta test group for the show. After it ended, we stayed for a session with the cast and writer, who fielded questions from the audience and explained how the show had been put together. The production was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign. The company – Opera A La Carte, based in Pasadena — would like to take it on the road. Look for it in the future and don’t miss seeing Hail Poetry! if you get a chance.


The musical was performed at the Soka University Performing Arts Center. The Soka campus is beautiful, worth a trip in itself, and the theater is first rate.



Meredith, her sister, and our middle daughter have been going through family photos and putting together photos of Margaret taken throughout her life. Meredith is fond of this photo of her mother, taken at the Getty Villa in the winter of 1980-1981. (It was the only Getty institution then and was just referred to as the “Getty Museum.”) Meredith was working in Connecticut at the time. She came back to LA on vacation, and she and Margaret spent a pleasant day visiting the Getty.

at Getty approx 1981_1

Rest in peace, Margaret

Our hearts are full today. Meredith’s mother Margaret died Monday. She had suffered a major stroke a few days before and passed away quietly Monday evening, without regaining consciousness.

It is hard to find words to express what she meant to us and how we feel. Margaret was fond of John Donne’s poetry, including this famous one, which she could recite in large part from memory, so we offer it now:

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Beer and Cannibals

Museum of Man
Balboa Park
May 30, 2016

We went with our middle daughter and her husband to the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Meredith had visited that museum recently by herself, but she had not been in to see the special exhibit about cannibals, and the rest of us had not been there for many years.


We first explored the Beerology exhibit. It chronicles the history of beer making around the world. Many different cultures, using a variety of grains, have made beer. Each region has a separate display case and write up. Various ancient artifacts are displayed in the cases. Our son-in-law is a home brewer and was particularly interested in that exhibit.

We also spent considerable time in the special exhibit about cannibals, Cannibals: Myth and Reality, which is located in the separate exhibit space across Laurel Street from the main building. It is not a permanent exhibit, but it will run until 2018. The displays include interesting artifacts, videos, and explanatory displays. We were taken a little aback, though, by the moral relativist undertone to much of the exhibit. It is best summed up by a button Meredith picked up when leaving, which said “Cannibals are people, too.” Extensive space is devoted to survival cannibalism by Europeans and people of European descent, such as the Donner party, shipwrecked English sailors, and the plane crash survivors in the Andes. Little differentiation is made between survival cannibalism and ritual cannibalism. Neither the reasons for ritual cannibalism nor its relation to human sacrifice are explored in any depth. Our guess is that the curators were so leery of giving visitors unfavorable opinions about ethnic groups whose ancestors practiced ritual cannibalism, that they missed an opportunity to educate. The exhibit is entertaining, and at times informative, but it is not enlightening.


The adult admission price for the museum and cannibal exhibit combined is $20; for the museum alone it is $12.50. There are discounts for seniors, military, students, and youths. Parking is free in Balboa Park, but visitors may need to park some distance from the museum and walk or ride a shuttle.