27 October 2006

Why I love Oakland

This afternoon, I was riding my bike down Broadway on my way home. I passed Oakland Tech high school, and it must have been lunchtime because there were lots of kids milling around the school and at the fast food places across the street. As I got closer, I noticed a fire truck parked on Broadway in front of the school and a police cruiser on the paved area in front of the main entrance. There was a big crowd of kids on the front steps of the school, and I though "Uh oh, something bad just went down." But as I pulled past the front of the school, I realized what the commotion was all about. Next to the police cruiser was a bright red fire department sedan, and both cars were tricked out with hydraulics! The back end of the police car was jacked up with the trunk open, and I could have sworn I heard some trunk-rattling beats coming out of it. I wish I'd had a camera, because in a city with a horrible relationship between the police and its poorest residents, this was one of the coolest public relations displays I'd seen or heard about. There probably aren't many other places that would do that to a police car and take it to a high school. Just one more reason to love this city!


24 October 2006

This is why I don't wear my hair down

12 October 2006

A Nice Weekend

Last weekend got off to a good start. On Friday I learned that I have until the 24th to finish all of my lab work. This is considerably better than having to be done by this Friday, which I had initially thought, and would have probably killed me. Couple that with the A's sweep of the Twins, and the weekend was off to an auspicious start!

On Saturday, after working for a while in the lab I went to the Cal football game against Oregon. I was prepared for a close, but good game because both teams were ranked (Cal #16 and Oregon #11). It turned out to be a blowout, and it didn't take long for the chants of "Over-Rated" to rain down on the visiting fans. Cal won 45-24, and at times it didn't even seem that close. Not that I'm complaining, though. I still remember a game the year we went 1-11 and I stood in the rain and watched us lose to USC by a similar margin. Saturday's game was also a sellout, with approximately 72,000 people in Memorial Stadium. It was pretty cool to be in that environment, with everyone riled up about the biggest game so far this year.

Halftime was a great mix of the academic and athletic when our newest Nobel laureate, George Smoot, led the crowd in a cheer of "1-2-3 Go Bears!" He had one of the biggest, goofiest grins I've ever seen. I can only imagine this has been the best couple weeks in his life. Favorite quote of an evening hanging out in the student section with all the undergrads -- blonde, slightly drunk sorority girl to friend, regarding Dr. Smoot getting the Nobel last week: "He proved the Big Bang actually happened! How fucking cool is that?!"

Sunday we went into the city for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, an annual, free concert in Golden Gate Park. This was the sixth year, and we've gone to the last four. It's gotten bigger every year, so much so that the crowds are getting to be a bit much. But rather than fight the crowds milling among the five stages, we decided to park at one stage for the afternoon. I went over a little early to have coffee with a friend of mine who worked for me on the fisher project a couple years ago. She was in town visiting a friend, but had chosen this weekend so she could go to the concert. Anne, Matt, and Caden joined me a little later. (Sadly, Cascade had to stay home and study for her orals, but I hear that it was a productive day.) We got there in time to see the end of Hot Tuna's set. We then sat through Richie Furay. We'd never heard of him, but Matt figured out midway through his performance that he had been in Buffalo Springfield. After listening to him play for about 45 minutes, I understand why he's probably the only member you haven't heard of. We were a little bummed to have to sit through a bunch of recycled licks and even a song or two about Jesus while missing Richard Thompson playing on another stage. But we were happy not to fight the crowds only to have to turn around and come back for the main attraction, which included a Living Legend.

The last band to play on the Arrow Stage was the Waybacks. I'll confess to only knowing one of their songs, and that one only because Dan emailed it to me last week. But I was still pretty excited for their show because I'd heard good things about them, and more importantly, Bob Weir was playing with them. Well, it turned out that my not knowing any Waybacks songs wasn't a liability because they played mostly Grateful Dead covers (is it technically a cover if Bob Weir is on stage with you?) with a few other classics thrown in. Bob was definitely showing his age, and I thought their cover of Kashmir was a little ambitious -- I don't know if Bob Weir ever had the vocal range of Robert Plant, and he certainly didn't on Sunday. That said, and in spite of any vocal shortcomings, it was great to see a Living Legend. Also, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings joined them for a couple songs, including a rocking version of Casey Jones and the encore of Like a Rolling Stone. It made up for the fact that we missed her show the night before. As we filed out, we walked by the main stage where Emmylou Harris (another Living Legend) was singing like an angel.

One of the things I like most about HSBG is checking out the crowd. Although it's not quite as racially mixed a group as a typical Bay Area gathering, there are still people from all walks of life. Near us we had a couple yuppies drinking Belgian beer (Chimay, no less), as well as hipsters, lots of people in fleece and Tevas, just about as many hippies, and quite a few people who looked like they lived in the park. Matt sagely observed that this last group was probably the closest in spirit to the audiences the Grateful Dead played for when they were getting started.

It was nice having a (mostly) guilt-free weekend, where I didn't think (much) about work. The A's getting clobbered in the first two games of the series against the Tigers and a jury summons arriving in the mail yesterday have tempered my enthusiasm a little, but I'm still feeling relatively relaxed as I head into the home stretch with the lab work.