State College and Pennsylvania State University

Today I made a long overdue trip to State College PA. State College is only an hour’s drive from Williamsport but I’ve never been there. This trip was further proof that there are still some fun and interesting things for me to see and do in Pennsylvania.

Approximately half of State College is taken up by the Pennsylvania State University campus. I’m tempted to cite this as a perfect example of an university swallowing up a town but I suspect the town grew up around the university, based on the town name. I might be considered an alumni of Penn State since I graduated from the Williamsport Area Community College which is now the Pennsylvania College of Technology, affiliated with The Pennsylvania State University. State College has been in the national news often due to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. I think it is a great tragedy that Joe Paterno suffered the loss of his legacy after reaching a ripe old age. Just think, he spent all those years bringing glory to Penn State only to have his achievements negated just before he died. The only impact this had on my trip is that I could not take a photo of the Joe Paterno statue because it has been removed.

It just so happens that the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts was taking place on the day I finally got around to visiting State College. At first I was vexed because I wanted to explore the city on a quiet, typical day but this did give me an additional reason to travel to State College. I was particularly enticed by the BookFest but it was devoted to comic books. Because of the arts festival, I parked near the Bryce Jordan Center and took a shuttle bus to the downtown area. The local media warned me that the parking garages downtown might be full for the festival and I did see that this was the case.

After the shuttle bus dropped me off downtown, I walked a few blocks taking photos of establishments but there were a lot of festival booths that got in the way. For example, the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center had a festival booth set up in front of it so I could not get a good photo. Eventually I wandered onto the Pennsylvania State University campus and took some photos of Old Main. I managed to find the Nittany Lion Shrine but there was a crowd of people around it and I had to wait in line to take my photo. This is supposedly the second most photographed site in Pennsylvania after the Liberty Bell.

Nittany Lion Shrine

Nittany Lion Shrine

I continued to walk around the campus until I found a few theater buildings and came across the Palmer Museum of Art which is open to the public. The Palmer Museum of Art is probably the finest art museum in Pennsylvania between the major cities Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. But it was a fairly small museum with just two floors of exhibits and not many galleries. The collections included everything from medieval art to modern art, Asian pottery to Peruvian pottery, but there was often only a few pieces to represent an art era. The most noteworthy painting I saw was a Philip Pearlstein nude (he was known for his Modernist Realism nudes). Visiting such a fine art museum gave me the impression that I was on a real trip and not just doing a boring bit of domestic travel. Their special exhibit was Luminous Allure: Studio Glass from the Collection of Audrey and Norbert Gaelen which reminded me of glass art work you can see at the Corning Museum of Glass.

The Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art

When I left the museum I found the Pavilion Theatre and then the Penn State Berkey Creamery. The creamery is famous for its ice cream. This is where I had lunch. I picked up a boxed sandwich, tuna salad on a croissant, and ordered a Peach Paterno milkshake because I was very hot and thirsty.

The Pennsylvania State University campus was huge and quite impressive. Many of the buildings were massive and architecturally interesting. I have a peculiar fascination with college campuses. I have dreams where I go back to college to earn a redundant degree. The college campus is never the same in my dreams, but often takes a strange form which is surprisingly realistic, like the work of a great architect. Perhaps my visit to the Pennsylvania State University campus will furnish new material for my dreams. I sometimes wake from these dreams with an intense longing for my school days. I don’t think my college experience was particularly fulfilling. I got more intellectual stimulation from the college library than my classrooms.

I eventually found my way back downtown to wander around the art festival booths. There was a surprising number of art festival booths. I walked up several blocks, then over a block, and back down several blocks. I was unable to resist buying a $20 art print of a particularly lovely watercolor of trees. This artist had won a blue ribbon so I wasn’t the only one to be entranced by the beauty of her art. She was Z. L. Feng from Radford, VA.

Actually, before I explored the art festival booths I went to Webster’s Bookstore Cafe, the only used book store in State College. I wasn’t too impressed by this book store since it was located in a basement and had a terrible selection of used books, they all seemed to be extremely used (in the sense of being shabby). After struggling to find any book worth buying I settled for a programming book, CodeNotes for C#. I also entered a Penn State souvenir store were I saw the book Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father for sale. I’m not a big sports fan so I bought a Nittany Lion stuffed animal instead.  The problem with Pennsylvania State University is that it is a football university. They are nuts about football. They do not glorify the intellect or academic achievement the way they glorify football. Beaver Stadium is the most massive building on campus. The stadium is so massive that it is the second largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest in the world.

Beaver Stadium

Beaver Stadium

I spent about four hours at State College. I should have stayed longer but I was hot and tired and the arts festival made the town a mad house. I took the shuttle bus back to the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot. Before I left, I took lots of photos of Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center. Some big name performers and major entertainment acts do perform at the Bryce Jordan Center so that provides the best reason for me to return.

I’m glad I finally visited State College and Penn State. You do hear a lot about this city and university in Williamsport. The Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitor Bureau even includes a few Williamsport attractions in its travel brochure. In addition, I think some of the Pennsylvania startup community is based in State College so I should familiarize myself with the city for future Information Technology opportunities.

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YouTube Data API

Google has changed their YouTube Data API and broken my web pages; YouTube Favorites Back Up and YouTube Subscriptions Back Up. I did manage to rewrite the YouTube favorites back up. It actually backs up a playlist and it can only do one playlist at a time. Instead of entering your YouTube username, you have to enter your playlist id which can be found at the end of the playlist url, for example,

The YouTube Favorites Back Up spreadsheet will now only include the Video Url, Channel, Title, and Description because I can get less information about a video. Just getting the Channel name requires a separate data request for every item in the playlist. I also made a few improvements to my original code. I added some error handling so I get an email when there is an error. Google limits the number of records it will return per data request and I finally added some code to get the next page of results.

Backing up your list of YouTube subscriptions is proving to be more difficult. This requires an OAuth 2.0 token. I’ve made some progress using the Google API Client Library but the results are unexpected. I’m not getting the right number of records and the data does not exactly match the channel names I see for my subscriptions.

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Worlds End State Park

On Friday the weather forecast changed. There would be zero percent chance of precipitation for the day. I decided to revisit Worlds End State Park on Friday in the hope that it would be less crowded on a work day. At least it was a work day for some people. I got the day off because the July 4th holiday fell on a Saturday.

My main reason for essentially repeating a recent trip was to see Dutchman Falls, a waterfall which is actually very close to where I begin the Loyalsock Trail. But I didn’t know it was there so I missed it on my other two trips to the Haystacks.

First I drove to Eagles Mere because it has a book store and I cannot resist a book store. I bought a novel, The Circle by Dave Eggers since it was on my Amazon wish list. I wanted to read this novel because it is about social networking. Maybe this is Dave Eggers take on Silicon Valley. I had a cheeseburger for lunch at the Sweet Shop across the street. This time I did not immediately leave Eagles Mere. I walked around the town a little bit to see what else is there. I found additional parking just up the road from the Sweet Shop. That is good to know because the general store parking lot can get full. I also found a park with a gazebo and one bench. I never realized this park was there. It was fairly small. I also saw the Eagles Mere Lake and the canoes piled on its shore. The lake is the main asset of this small village. There used to be many vacation resorts around the lake and now there are million dollar vacation homes in Eagles Mere, all because of this lake. I also explored a few side streets and found Eagles Mere Inn. I’m not sure why you would want to stay there, since Eagles Mere has practically nothing for you to do, unless you go to Worlds End State Park. This village puzzles me but it is very picturesque and reminds me of the Poconos. I saw one of the million dollar homes with a pebble lawn, huge picture windows, and a deck with a view of the mountains. I would describe it as a rustic ranch house with mansion pretensions.

I left Eagles Mere and drove to the Loyalsock State Forest where there is a trail head at Mead Road on Route 220 North. After climbing down to the North Bend Railroad grade I immediately left the trail and climbed down further to find the Dutchman Falls. I thought you needed to hike a ways to the right, but it is actually right there down the hill towards Loyalsock Creek. I saw a stone tunnel under the North Bend Railroad grade for the stream to flow through. It was obviously not a natural tunnel. The Dutchman Falls has an upper falls and a lower falls and I carefully climbed down to take photos of both. I did see three other hikers leaving just as I got there.

After taking photos and even video of the waterfalls I decided I might as well hike to see the Haystacks as long as I was there. I might have skipped that if the waterfalls had taken longer to find. When I got to the Haystacks I found them quite crowded, with people sitting on the boulders and wading into the creek. On my previous trips to the Haystacks they had been deserted. But I saw a lot of people on the trail and around fifteen people camped out around the Haystacks.

It had been raining all week and there were a few streams flowing over the trail. At some places it was quite difficult to cross the stream without getting my feet wet. On the way back to the parking lot I tried an alternative route. I was hoping this would require less climbing. It wasn’t as steep a climb, but the climbing seemed to go on for much longer so I didn’t consider it an improvement.

I then proceeded to Worlds End State Park which I still have not explored completely. I did come across several new aspects of the park which made my trip worth while. First I drove along a very narrow state forest road up to the Canyon Vista. The view was fantastic! Almost as good as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon vistas from its overlooks. Nearby I discovered the Rock Garden, a collection of large boulders and rock formations with deep crevices. One crevice provided a path deep into the rocks. The Rock Garden looked like the ruins of an ancient civilization without the rock carvings.

After that I drove far along other narrow state forest roads and managed to find the High Knob Overlook. I was quite pleased with myself because I have directions to the High Knob Overlook in my notes but I had not intended to try to find it on this trip. There were a few cars parked at the overlook and a few people enjoying the view. I took lots of photos. You could see many mountains in the distance. It was the kind of view that makes you glad to live in Pennsylvania where there is a forested mountain always on the horizon. I found an overgrown trail behind the High Knob Overlook but I did not follow it very far because it seemed to be unmarked.

I did want to do some hiking at the Worlds End State Park but I wanted to try one of the trails I had seen on my last trip. I drove to the main parking lot and picked up a park map at the park office. Then I drove to the Butternut Trail and High Rock Trail trail heads. I decided to hike the Butternut Trail since it did not have a warning sign under the trail sign. I only hiked for about an hour on the Butternut Trail until 5:00 p.m. because it was beginning to get dark in the woods.

I bought a strawberry milk shake at the refreshment stand near the main parking lot and sat at a picnic table where I drank it through a straw. There is something quite nostalgic about a state park because it is the sort of rustic amusement you may experience as a kid during family outings and then abandon as an adult. Unfortunately, I only remember being taken to Ricketts Glenn State Park even though there are many other state parks that are closer. Oh well, you can definitely over do it and I may get tired of visiting these state parks and hiking the same sorts of trails. On the other hand, it makes for a cheap weekend vacation.

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Last Day In San Francisco

For my last day in San Francisco I had no specific plans. I decided to just visit a few places I had not seen yet. My first goal was to was to find the Hallidie Building which was the first American building to feature glass curtain walls. I saw a NBC truck parked up the street from my hotel with “We Investigate” written on its side. This vehicle was probably there to cover the U.S. Conference of Mayors. I walked to the Powell Street Station and took the MUNI subway to the Montgomery Street Station. From there it was easy to locate the Hallidie Building and I found the Crocker Galleria nearby. I also planned to explore the downtown shopping malls later on in the day after they had opened.

I found a CVS Pharmacy where I bought a small bottle of Bayer Aspirin and a small stick of CVS Sunscreen. I can tell from the receipt that the San Francisco bag fee is 10 cents. I used the self checkout machine. My receipt also gives me the precise time I was there, June 20, 2015 at 8:59 a.m. and the address of the store 581 Market Street.

I returned to my hotel with this purchase and then went out again to seek the Ina Coolbrith Park. I went to the Powell Street Station and bought a single ride ticket to the cable car. This time I made sure to keep the ticket in my other pocket without my point and shoot camera which I was always taking out. I waited over an hour to get on a cable car but I did see the famous San Francisco eccentric Frank Chu while waiting in line. There was also a gathering of police at Hallidie Plaza for some reason. I saw an Asian street preacher screaming at people about the bible. He even screamed at the police who seemed to tolerate him with amusement. After finally getting on the cable car I only managed to get off at Columbus Avenue.

As long as I was in North Beach again I decided to check out a few more things in the neighborhood. I had lunch at Caffe Greco. I had a smoked salmon bagel and a latte. Then I went to Washington Park and found the Bob Kaufman Alley. Bob Kaufman was a Beat poet. I finished reading his Ancient Rain book just before my trip.

I was finally ready to find Ina Coolbrith Park. The park entrance proved to be hard to find. I think I mistook the Vallejo Street Stairway for the park entrance because I did climb a steep set of steps on Vallejo Street. But I eventually found Ina Coolbrith Park. This must be one of the hidden gems of San Francisco since it offered spectacular views of the downtown skyscrapers, yet it was a relatively quiet place with only a few tourists about. The park was beautifully landscaped and gave me several opportunities to get some foliage in the foreground of my photos. Ina Coolbrith was a Bohemian poet who is completely forgotten today.

Ina Coolbrith Park

Ina Coolbrith Park

After spending a fair amount of time in the park I returned to Columbus Avenue and took my best photo of the Kenenth Rexroth Alley street sign. The alley itself was of no interest whatsoever. I had lunch at L’Osteria del Forno where I ordered two limonatas and lamb which was served on a skewer. The lamb was full of gristle and it took me a long time to chew it enough to swallow. I rarely eat lamb so I don’t know if this meat is always like this. I could not resist returning to City Lights Bookstore and buying one final book, Kenneth Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Chinese. At least it was a thin book of poetry. I did notice that other travelers had much bigger pieces of  checked luggage than mine. I’ve recently bought the biggest piece of luggage I could find at Walmart so I’ll have more room for bringing back books from my trips.

Kenneth Rexroth Alley

Kenneth Rexroth Alley

As usual I walked all the way to Market Street and took the MUNI subway from Montgomery Street Station to Powell Street Station. For my final few hours in San Francisco I decided to just walk along Market Street. I came across the San Francisco Chronicle building which I had forgotten about and the nearby Mint building. I entered the Westfield San Francisco Centre and wandered around without buying anything since there were no stores where I could buy books or DVDs. I also revisited Yerba Buena Gardens and took some better photos. I walked all the way up Market Street to the Ferry Building and then explored the Embarcadero Center. I bought a vanilla and strawberry milkshake at Over The Moon, a small ice cream parlor.

When I arrived back at my hotel I encountered an even larger street protest against police brutality. I even saw Frank Chu again at this protest. This protest was taking place at the intersection of Taylor Street and O’Farrell Street so it was hard to avoid. I was worried that it would delay my departure. I checked out of my hotel at 9:00 p.m. even though my flight did not leave SFO until 12:22 a.m. The front desk suggested that I get a taxi at the taxi stand in front of the Hilton Hotel. The only final detail to report is that I ate dinner at the Yankee Pier SFO where I ordered a lemonade and fish and chips.

I will be going back to San Francisco in September. This trip is with Collette Tour and will only use San Francisco as a hub for excursions around Northern California. The only reason I booked this tour is because it would give me a chance to see more of California. On my own, I would not venture far from my destination city.

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San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

By Friday I had completed all of my original goals for my trip. Now I had to improvise. Fortunately I had researched a lot of establishments which were outside of the neighborhoods I was focused on. My major goal for the day was to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge but I did not want to do this in the morning because it might be hidden in fog. I decided to visit the Mission District in the morning since it is easily reached using BART.

I took the MUNI  subway to Castro Street Station because there was one other San Francisco Zen Center location I wanted to find, the Hartford Street Zen Center. As soon as I exited Castro Street Station I saw the famous Castro Theater. And I found the Hartford Street Zen Center pretty quickly since it was just one street to the east. I didn’t want to see anything else in the Castro District so I continued to walk east until I came upon Dolores Park. Naturally I stopped to climb the hill in the park and took photos of the view and every park monument I could see. The park has some palm trees which are exotic looking for an East Coast native. From there it was easy to find the Mission Dolores church.

I continued to walk east to find Valencia Street. There were several establishments on Valencia Street which I wanted to see. First I located the Stage Werx Theatre which rents its performance space to many theater companies. Although the San Francisco travel guides only mention a few theaters that stage touring musicals, San Francisco actually has an extensive theater community which you have to research. I also saw 826 Valencia which is associated with the writer Dave Eggers. It has an interesting mural on the facade.

Further up Valencia Street I found Dog Eared Books, Owl Cave Books, and Borderlands. Borderlands was the book store I really wanted to visit since they specialize in science fiction. But they would not be open until Noon and I did not want to wait around that long before heading out for the Golden Gate Bridge. However, I was able to have breakfast at the Borderlands Cafe. I ordered a strawberry lemonade and ham croissant. Dog Eared Books did open at 10:00 a.m. so I went there and bought some more books. I bought This Present Moment: New Poems by Gary Snyder and Time Out Los Angeles. Other establishments I located were Owl Cave Books and The Marsh Theater which wasn’t in my notes. I did take a postcard from their promotional materials.

Dog Eared Books

Dog Eared Books

I finally managed to obtain a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper from a vending machine. Every time I tried to find this paper at a Walgreens, they were sold out.

I continued to walk east until I found Mission Street. I didn’t really make any effort to find anything on Mission Street. I just observed whatever I happened to come across and took photos of anything of interest. I did come across a Dark Room Theater which appeared to be another  performance space which I missed during my research. As soon as I saw the 16th Street Mission BART station I decided to cut short my exploration of the Mission District. Mission Street was very interesting but sort of ghetto. I was eager to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

As I approached my hotel I saw a lot of protestors lying in the middle of O’Farrell Street in front of the Hilton Hotel. They were making a lot of racket using a siren and an alarm. I did not know it at the time, but President Obama was in town to give a speech at the Hilton Hotel where the U.S. Conference of Mayors was being held. This explains the heavy police presence I always saw in front of the Hilton Hotel. I may have even seen President Obama’s black limousine in front of the Hilton Hotel, because I did see a black limousine. This was all going on so close to my hotel that there was a line of police squad cars parked in front of my hotel.

I dropped off my books at my hotel and headed back out to see the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is clear across town so it takes a long time to get there and requires several bus trips. I took the 38 bus to Park Presidio Boulevard and then transferred to the 28 (19th Avenue) MUNI bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. I did encounter a few other tourists on the 28 (19th Avenue) MUNI bus. I walked all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge and then walked back. This probably amounted to four miles of walking if you include the walk around the observation point on the other side of the bridge. I took a lot of photos! Some of my photos look just like the classic photos of the Golden Gate Bridge you find in travel guides. The pedestrian walkway was crowded with tourists and bicyclists. The view was spectacular! I walked around Vista Point. Sausalito was actually further up the bay, but I had mistaken the U.S. Coast Guard Station and the Presido Yacht Club for the city and was wondering why it looked so small and inconsequential.

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

After walking back across the Golden Gate Bridge I took the 28 (19th Avenue) MUNI bus back towards downtown but I did not transfer to the 38 bus. The 28 (19th Avenue) MUNI bus only took me as far as Laguna and Chestnut Street. A large group of Asian school children discouraged me from getting on the 30 Stockton bus and it was proving to be a long wait for the next bus. Looking at my travel notes on my smartphone, I noticed that I could walk to Lombard Street and see the famous crooked street which I hadn’t seen yet. It was a long walk up some hills to get there. But first I came across the George Sterling Park which I spent a few minutes exploring. George Sterling was a Bohemian poet who was quite famous in his day, but he is practically forgotten now. I only came across his name while researching San Francisco. I did order a copy of his book The Thirst of Satan: Poems of Fantasy and Terror on Amazon but it did not arrive until I got home.

When I arrived at Lombard Street I found it swarming with tourists. They were so thick it was hard to find a spot in which to take photos and cars could hardly squeeze through to begin winding down the crooked street. It was sort of ridiculous since this street is very picturesque but hardly that fascinating.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street

From Lombard Street I proceeded down to Columbus Avenue and spent more time in North Beach. I went into Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe but I only had a coke since I was very thirty from all that walking. Then I could not resist stopping in at City Lights Bookstore again. But I felt obligated to buy a book from their Theater section instead of more poetry. I took a chance on Mojo and Other Plays by Jez Butterworth. I have never heard of this playwright. He is a contemporary British playwright and I’m not familiar with contemporary British theater.

After making my purchase, I walked to Market Street and found Lotta’s Fountain in front of the Palace Hotel. That must have been near the Montgomery Street Station which I used to get to the Powell Street Station and from there, back to my hotel. After that much walking I needed a lot of time to recuperate. I brought my old DELL laptop with me on this trip. It served as my digital command center. I checked my Clipper card balance and discovered that I was running low so I added $10.00. I also made a reservation for 7:00 p.m. at the Minas Brazilian Restaurant. I’ve become slightly interested in Brazil as an exotic travel destination because I discovered that Brazil has a vibrant theater community which is virtually unknown in the United States. I have a nasty tendency to become fascinated by anything obscure which might be caused by an ingrained inclination towards the occult and  hidden knowledge. This fascination with the arcane is even responsible for my involvement with computer programming.

To get to the Minas Brazilian Restaurant I had to take the MUNI subway to the Van Ness Station. My Clipper card did indeed not have enough value left for this fare so I had to add $5.00 cash to it using the station vending machines. Before going to the restaurant I did find the SFJazz Center and took  a few photos of that. Along the way I saw a homeless man pissing very visibly into the street which was pretty disgusting.

Minas Brazilian Restaurant provided probably the best meal I had in San Francisco but it was also the most expensive, $51.11. I had a Caipirinhas (drink), Frutos do Mar Tropical (served in half a pineapple used as a dish), and Mousse de Maracauja for desert. While waiting for my meal I watched a Brazilian sports channel on satellite TV. It was mostly about soccer. I accidentally left my sweater on the back of my chair and had to go back for it. Fortunately it was chilly enough to remind me to get my sweater.

I probably should have spent more time on Mission Street but it was hard to know how long it would take to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and I couldn’t miss that. I think I did an excellent job packing in more essential tourist experiences on this largely unplanned day. I’m pleased that I enjoyed an unique dining experience at Minas Brazilian Restaurant. I didn’t really plan to visit any fancy restaurants on this trip but I did manage to eat at a variety of places.


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San Francisco – Haight-Ashbury

The 1960s is an era before my time but in the 1980s it seemed like a golden age in myth and legend. Pop culture still contained many references to the 1960s. It is easy for me to idealize the 1960s because although it seems vaguely familiar, it is not tied to any unpleasant memories or specific events. Therefore I wanted to visit the center of the Hippie universe, Haight-Ashbury. To prepare for my trip, I read the book The Haight-Ashbury: A History by Charles Perry and bought a few classic hippie albums on CD, even a Grateful Dead CD.

Kenneth Rexroth's Apartment

Kenneth Rexroth’s Apartment

I took 7 Haight-Noriega MUNI bus towards Haight Street but got off at Pierce Street because I wanted to find Kenneth Rexroth’s old apartment building first. I had finished reading the Linda Hamalian biography, A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, a few weeks before my trip. After taking numerous photos of this Victorian house I walked further along Page Street to find the San Francisco Zen Center. I’ve read several books about the San Francisco Zen Center, including Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and Crooked Cucumber, a biography of Shunryu Suzuki. Zen appeals to my contemplative nature and inclination towards mysticism. But I suppose I lean more towards shamanism since my spirituality relies on my ability to explore the depths of the subconscious mind. Buddhists don’t seem to appreciate the visionary experience. They only value the transcendence of  consciousness to feel one with the universe, i.e. enlightenment. You can find some interesting blends of shamanism with Zen in the psychedelic 1960s when the youth experimented with LSD to experience a chemically induced enlightenment.

San Francisco Zen Center

San Francisco Zen Center

Next I walked to the Alamo Square Park which proved to be very disappointing. The grass was brown because of the drought. The city is not watering the lawn in this park. And one of the painted ladies was covered in scaffolding. It was being repainted. On top of this, it was early in the morning and the sky was more gray than foggy. I was unable to take a classic photo of the “Painted Ladies”. My photos just look dreary.

I walked back to Haight Street although I initially went in the wrong direction. Once I reached the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street I managed to locate the Grateful Dead house. Unfortunately there was some road work being done on  Haight Street so that really ruined many of my photos. I walked all the way to Golden Gate Park but then walked back up Haight Street to Booksmith which was open by 10:00 a.m. At Booksmith I bought some travel guides; The Rough Guide to Los Angeles and Time Out Boston. I may make Boston my next destination since I can get there via an Amtrak train and avoid airport security. I had lunch at the Blue Front Cafe. I had a glass of lemonade and a Clubhouse Sandwich, fresh baked turkey and crispy bacon on toasted bread. The sandwich was huge so I only ate half of it. After eating I went to Amoeba Music. This record store had a huge selection so it was hard to decide on what to buy. They had an impressive collection of world music and I was intrigued by Brazilian music but I don’t know anything about that. I took a chance on a double CD of Françoise Hardy, a French pop music, yé-yé singer. And I bought a Die Antwoord CD, Donker Mag, because I had seen the movie Chappie on the plane to San Francisco.

There isn’t much to do on Haight Street except shopping and eating out so I went back to the Golden Gate Park which offered a huge park to explore. I saw a lot of homeless people camping out in the park. I soon found the National AIDS Memorial Grove which proved to have some beautifully landscaped paths through lush vegetation. I then came across the Music Concourse and headed for the de Young Museum, a fine arts museum in Golden Gate Park. The de Young Museum had two floors of exhibits featuring anthropological artwork from Africa and Mesoamerica, and American art from the Hudson River School and the Arts and Crafts Movement. I did see two Salvador Dali paintings which were popular as always. You often have to get in line to see a Salvador Dali painting. I managed to find my way to the tower where I could take photos of the city and the California Academy of Sciences. I bought a book of photographs South of Market by Janet Delaney. Some of these photos were on display as a special exhibit, Janet Delaney: South of Market January 17, 2015 to July 19, 2015 in Gallery 12. I liked these gritty urban photos of what the South of Market district looked like before redevelopment made it the home of Internet startups. At the museum cafe I just bought something to drink. I wish I knew what I bought since I had never seen these products before. The coffee flavored drink may have been Califia Farms Cold Brew Coffee and the citrus drink may have been a can of  Sanpellegrino Aranciata. When I walked outside I found the “skyspace”, James Turrell’s “Three Gems”, which is basically just a circular room with an oculus like the Pantheon in Rome which allows you to view part of the sky.

Next to the de Young Museum I came across the Japanese Tea Garden which was really cool. It was very popular and quite crowded with tourists. I had to pay a $8.00 entrance fee. I saw the large statue of the Buddha, the koi (ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp), the Zen rock and sand garden, and the pagoda. The Japanese Tea Garden had a restroom which I used and a gift shop which didn’t have anything to interest me.

Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Garden

I was tempted to visit the California Academy of Sciences but it was expensive and I felt I had done enough for the day. Golden Gate Park was already an addition to my original plan to just explore Haight-Ashbury. So I found my way out of the park and then walked along the southern edge of Golden Gate Park trying to get back to Haight Street. It was impossible to walk all the way around without re-entering the park but eventually I found my way back to where I came in. Along the way I briefly stopped at the Shakespeare Garden. I know there was a lot of other things to see in Golden Gate Park but it is a huge park and you would have to devote an entire day to fully explore it.

Once I got back to Haight Street I went to Loved To Death, a store which sells macabre, Gothic trinkets, and bought a scorpion in lucite keychain since it was probably the cheapest thing they sold. I then retraced my steps to Kenneth Rexroth’s old house and San Francisco Zen Center to take photos under better lighting conditions. I was going to visit the San Francisco Zen Center book store but it appeared to be closed even though it should have been open by then. That was disappointing because it was the only real reason I walked all the way back there.

I then walked all the way to Market Street looking for a bus stop but instead I entered the Van Ness Station to take the MUNI subway up to Powell Station. I entered the Visitor Center and picked up a few free brochures. Then I went to a Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant and had a Western Bacon Thickburger, french fries, and a Sprite. A homeless man made a scene until the security guard called for the police. That made me a little nervous.

That evening I saw a play at the Exit Theater, not far from my hotel. This was the second nightlife activity I scheduled which made this trip really special. The Exit Theater is on Eddy Street, in the Tenderloin, a very sketchy part of town. I snapped a photo of the exterior on my first day in San Francisco but I can see why nobody had taken any photos of the theater. You don’t want to look like a tourist in the Tenderloin. I told them I bought a ticket online and they gave me a theater program as my “ticket”. I bought a can of Pepsi before the show and sat on a stool in the cafe, staring at interesting photos of past performances on the wall. There was a very small stage with purple lighting at the back of the cafe. It was all very shabby but cozy like a genuine artistic space.

Exit Theatre

Exit Theatre

The play I saw was The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. This was a play I actually wanted to see. I’ve read a book of Martin McDonagh’s plays, but not this one because it hasn’t been published except as an actor’s script. This production was put on by the Breadbox Theatre Company. An actor was sitting blindfolded on stage while the audience filtered in. He sat there patiently for fifteen minutes or more while everyone got settled. What actors go through for their craft! The stage was an almost perfect box theater and very ghetto. This was a very dark play about torture and child murder and telling stories, really grim but slightly humorous. It was probably the darkest play I’ve ever seen or read. Martin McDonagh’s other plays are kind of dark, but not to this extreme.

There were lots of street people outside when the play let out and the theater staff had to beg them not to murder anyone. I’m not sure if this was a joke or not! It was very sketchy. Of course, the content of the play may have inspired the plea against murder.

But I was very pleased to have seen this play during my vacation. A little theater makes travel seem more like a cultural experience. I wish I was more active in the theater. I do have a short play which will be performed in January and I’m thinking of writing a novel about a very mysterious actress, sort of a Jungian animus figure, to represent the yearning for the inexpressible as glimpsed in great theater. Anyone can now write and self-publish a novel without losing any respect. I think writing that novel would be a great way to entertain an elaborate fantasy and it could be the best way to ultimately get what I am after. The theater does not offer fame or fortune to a playwright. You have to be in it for the sheer love of drama as a form of literature.

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San Francisco Technology Tour

On Wednesday I devoted the day to my special interests and explored an area of San Francisco which is not visited by tourists. I went to the South of Market area and located the headquarters and office buildings of numerous technology companies. This was actually one of the main inspirations for my trip. I became fascinated with the many Internet companies based in San Francisco as an outpost of Silicon Valley. As a programmer, I could probably get a job in San Francisco and make three times what I’m making now, but most of that money would go to paying rent which is ridiculously expensive in the entire Bay Area. There are many startups around South Park so I went there first.

I took the subway to the Montgomery Street Station and then the 10 Townsend MUNI bus. At the bus stop I found the Alexander Book Company but they weren’t open yet. I took a photo of the books in their window.

The first technology company headquarters I located was TaskRabbit, which is under the I-80 overpass. I then walked to South Park and walked all around this small urban park. The second technology company I located was KeepSafe. I had come across this company due to an experiment they ran to find engineers without asking for a formal resume. As a joke, I submitted a short boast about my punchcard image generator and reader project. I hadn’t actually written the code at the time but I did create the project shortly after. Punch cards may not be a viable form of user input anymore, but the concept of encoding data as an image could be applied in clever ways. For example, an animated punch card image could transmit an entire program as source code.

I was especially excited to find the building where Reddit is located since I spend the entire day on that site. I love the social interaction on Reddit where anything is sure to be commented on. Wired Magazine is also located in that building. You wouldn’t know this just by looking at the building which only has a sign reading Organic.



I had breakfast at Caffe Centro, where many tech workers in the neighborhood have breakfast. I overhead some tech talk. I ordered a bagel with bacon and egg and a diet coke.

After eating, I walked south to find the AT&T Park and photographed the office building. is one of the technology companies that I find particularly interesting. They have created a JavaScript library which allows you to create really cool 3D animation in the browser. It appeals to my creative side. I tried to stalk the founders online but eventually got too busy with other things. I studied the JavaScript framework for awhile but it is very complex so I’m afraid I abandoned that too. Still, I plan to do some in-depth research into a San Francisco startup to find a way to associate myself with that tech scene.

188 King Street

188 King Street

At the AT&T Park I saw some ATMs so I made my first cash withdrawal. I had $600 cash on me when I arrived in San Francisco but I burned through that money fast.

I then did a lot of walking through a bland urban industrial area looking for nondescript buildings which housed various high tech offices. There were a few other establishments like The Creamery near the Caltrain station and Brickhouse Cafe next to the Olivia building where Hipmunk is located. Zygna and Adobe had very large buildings far south on Townsend Street so they were easy to find. I got very hot and tired so I didn’t bother to find as many buildings as I could have. Eventually I returned to South Park and then walked east to the Bay Bridge. From there I found the Greyhound Bus Station and the Mozilla offices in San Francisco, something I particularly wanted to see since I use the Mozilla browser in my web development work.



Rather than retrace my steps using public transportation, I walked north on the Embarcadero. I saw the massive Cupid’s Span sculpture by Claes Oldenburg. Eventually I reached the Ferry Building where I had lunch at MarketBar. I ordered Panko Crusted Organic Chicken Paillard and a glass of prosecco, since I know how to pronounce it. After walking around the Ferry Building I found the Book Passage store which was much smaller than I expected. I bought the book In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin because it is a famous travel book and I’ve been reading travel books lately. I plan to write two novels which will feature imaginary journeys.

I waited a long time for a F historic trolley to take me to Fisherman’s Wharf. But I didn’t have to pay the fare because the driver made everyone board immediately without paying. At Fisherman’s Wharf I saw Alcaraz Island in the distance and the seals on Pier 39. All the stores were quite tacky and only sold junk which I wasn’t interested in buying. However I did enter quite a few stores looking for something to buy so I could get a bag for my book. Eventually I found a CVS Pharmacy where I bought Aftersun Aloe Vera which I needed for sunburn and got a bag. My nose and forehead did get badly sunburned from being out in the sun all day. San Francisco may be chilly most of the time but the sun is still bright and you will burn if you aren’t careful. I found the In-And-Out burger joint where I wanted to  eat but it was packed with a long line so I decided to skip it.

I walked all the way to Ghirardelli Square where I used their restroom but I didn’t find their shops very interesting. I bought a single ride cable car ticket at the Fisherman’s Wharf Cable Car Turnaround. However, there was a limousine driver going around trying to convince people to ride with him instead, since the cable car was only going to Chinatown and not all the way to Union Square. About half way through the line I discovered that I had lost my ticket when I removed my camera to take photos of the cable cars in my boredom. This really disgusted me after waiting so long in line.

Out of disgust with my bad fortune I became determined to finally use Uber to avoid a long walk back to my hotel. I went to the corner of Beach Street and Hyde Street and used the Uber app on my smartphone to get a ride. I was able to identify the car by the license plate. There were two other tourists already in the car because I had used UberPool. I sat in the front seat next to the driver. He dropped off that couple first and then left me out directly in front of Hotel Mark Twain. This ride only cost me $7.00 and I didn’t have to pay the driver anything. The application charged my credit card. I was pleased to have successfully used Uber because the company is based in San Francisco and its frequently in the news. Using Uber in San Francisco should be considered part of the local culture experience.

After resting my feet at the hotel for awhile I went out again and walked down Market Street to find the Twitter headquarters. I was also looking for the Uber headquarters but I think I missed it. I did find the restaurant Farmerbrown and the new Strand Theatre on Market Street which is associated with the American Conservatory Theater. I also took some photos of the Orpheus Theater. I did a lot of research on San Francisco theater for this trip. The theater district is located around Union Square and my hotel so it was easy to find all the theater buildings.

I made a reservation for dinner at John’s Grill at 7:00 p.m. It was a short walk to the restaurant. I ordered the Chef’s Special Red Snapper served with seasonal vegetables and  a baked Idaho potato. This was one of the more expensive meals I had in San Francisco. I think it cost over $45.00. I’m not sure exactly how much I paid because I used cash.

After leaving the restaurant I found a Rasputin Music store on Powell Street. I was going to visit their store on Haight Street but I decided to visit this one instead. I bought an used Terminator 2 Blu-ray DVD for $9.95. This seemed appropriate since Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be the governor of California. This store had way more DVDs than CDs. When I got back to my hotel I saw a young  homeless girl being arrested in front of my hotel. The cops asked me to walk around them.

Even though I did a lot of walking on this trip, I did not get any blisters on my feet because I wore padded socks and new sneakers. San Francisco is a very important city in the tech sector, but except for the South of Market urban industrial area, I saw little sign of technology companies dominating the city. I didn’t see any Google buses or excessive advertising for Apple products. I forgot I was a computer programmer and didn’t feel like a privileged member of the tech elite.

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San Francisco – Chinatown and Japantown

For my second full day in San Francisco my mission was to visit Chinatown and Japantown. This is probably as close as I will ever get to Asia. I would love to visit Japan some day, but not being able to read the writing at all is very intimidating. I think I would feel completely lost there.

I walked to Chinatown since I had seen how easy that was yesterday. I just had to walk north on Taylor Street and then east on Bush Street. Along the way I came across an elaborate French church, the Eglise Notre Dame des Victories, which I don’t remember being mentioned in any of the guide books. I also saw the Goethe-Institut on Bush Street.

I walked all the way to Grant Avenue but most of the stores in Chinatown had their security gates down so I had breakfast at Café de la Presse first. I ordered an espresso and two scrambled eggs with two slices of toast. I had my first encounter with the technology industry in San Francisco because the two men at the next table were discussing databases, MySQL and SQL Server. I eavesdropped on their conversation like a spy.

Chinatown Gate

Chinatown Gate

It was a little too early to be exploring Chinatown. All the stores were closed. I can tell by the timestamp of my digital photos that I arrived at the Chinatown Gate at 8:00 a.m., although my digital camera was still set for the Eastern Time Zone. Nevertheless I walked up Grant Avenue and located various buildings in Chinatown based on my Google Street View virtual tour of this street. Eventually I walked all the way to Columbus Avenue and then walked up that street to take photos of Hotel Bohème which I had missed the day before. I had considered staying at Hotel Bohème but their rooms seemed kind of small and shabby for what you are paying. It would have been more expensive than the Hotel Mark Twain for a dingy room. Only the location would have been an improvement.

After walking back towards downtown I found the Transamerica Redwood Park. This is a small park at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid skyscraper. There are a few redwood trees in the park. At 10:00 a.m. I finally went to the Chinese Culture Center which does not open until then. The Chinese Culture Center was a disappointment. There is only a small art gallery to see. It only took me ten or fifteen minutes to look at the art. The Chinese Culture Center is hard to find. You have to cross a walkway from the Portsmouth Square Plaza and enter the Hilton Hotel on the third floor.

I then walked to Union Square and waited until 11:00 for the R&G Lounge Restaurant to open. This restaurant is famous for its Dungeness crab but I did not see that on the lunch menu. I think I ordered the Barbecued Pork which was served with rice and a vegetable I’ve never seen before, bok choy or “Chinese cabbage”. The dining room was downstairs and they had forks on the tables so I didn’t have to use chopsticks.

When I walked through Chinatown again, more of the stores were finally open so I entered the Far East Flea Market hoping to find DVDs or some interesting bit of Chinese culture. I only found “Made in China” crap but I eventually settled for a beetle in lucite keychain.

I found the Chinese Historical Society of America but it wasn’t quite ready to open at Noon so I walked to the nearby Cable Car Museum. I wasn’t going to visit the Cable Car Museum at all but it is free. I bought what might be the best souvenir of my trip, a San Francisco HD Video Tour on Blu-ray DVD for $14.99. Although this video focuses too much on cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge, it does have some vivid footage which almost transports you back to the city.

When I went back to the Chinese Historical Society of America the museum was open. It did not take very long to see the exhibits. I did see the Underground Chinatown exhibit, about a 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair attraction which presented the Chinese community in a false light.

I walked all the way back to my hotel and found the room had been cleaned in my absence. There was at least one day when my room was not freshened up. Although I had only planned on visiting Chinatown for the entire day, there wasn’t enough to do there so I decided to squeeze in a trip to Japantown. I walked up to Sutter Street and took the 3 Jackson MUNI bus to Japantown. I got off the bus at Laguna Street and immediately saw the Soto Zen Mission where Shunryu Suzuki was the chief priest, although this was just where the temple moved. I did take some photos of the original Bush Street Temple where Shunryu Suzuki actually taught Zen back in the 1960s. I’ve read several books on the San Francisco Zen Center so this was very interesting to me. There isn’t much to Japantown except for three interconnected shopping malls. The original neighborhood was destroyed when the Japanese were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. But I actually preferred Japantown to Chinatown since the shopping was better. I entered the Japan Center mall and found Japan Video right away where I bought a DVD, Bushido: Cruel Code of the Samurai for $24.98. I have so many samurai movies that I wasn’t sure if I didn’t already own this DVD but fortunately I did not. I then found a cafe where I bought a bottle of orange juice because I was very thirsty. For some reason, I had a craving for orange juice on this trip and always bought that when it was available. I then searched through the malls until I found the Kinokuniya Bookstore where I spent considerable time trying to select the best book. Eventually I decided upon A History of Japan by R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger published by Tuttle ISBN: 978-0-8048-2097-4. I don’t know anything about the history of Japan so this seemed to be the best introduction to their culture.



When I left the Japan Center mall I located another bookstore on the Buchanan Plaza, Forest Books. There I found a book by Gary Snyder, He Who Hunted Birds In His Father’s Village: The Dimensions of a Haida Myth. I had no idea what this book was about. Gary Snyder is one of the Beat poets whose work I have not read. According to Amazon it is a study of a single Native American myth.

Before leaving Japantown I walked around the area taking lots of photos. I could have visited the New People entertainment complex but I was getting tired so I decided that was enough for one day. I took the 3 Jackson MUNI bus back to Taylor Street.

At 7:00 that evening I had a reservation for a show at Biscuits and Blues, a music club not far from my hotel. This was one of the neatest things I did on this trip, since I often don’t get a chance to try any nightlife on my one day bus trips. Although the show seemed like a bargain at $20.00 that did not cover the food and drinks. I had to pay $20.00 cash at the door since my credit card was not actually charged for the online reservation. The hostess had to give an explanation for that. I ordered a Mississippi Tea Cocktail for $11.00, Nachoes with Guocomole for $14.00 and a basket of biscuits for $5.00. I ate the four biscuits first and was unable to finish the nachoes. The musical act was the Daniel Castro Band with special guest guitarist, Terry Hiatt. I’m not really into the blues but this was a real treat. The music was great! Daniel Castro and Terry Hiatt are real guitar virtuosos. It was like watching Jimmy Hendrix do his thing. They had a sense of humor and kept you guessing when the song was really over, with lots of false stops. They even showed a sense of humor when somebody in the audience complained that the music was too loud. The rest of the audience seemed shocked that somebody would complain. This is live music! It is supposed to be loud! After the show I bought a CD of their latest album, Desperate Rain.

Biscuits and Blues

Biscuits and Blues

I rarely hear live music and this was my introduction to the blues so I thought this show was really something special. Travel offers an excellent opportunity for new experiences that will expand your horizons. San Francisco is a very multicultural city and I discovered a lot of new things on this trip.

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San Francisco – North Beach

For my first full day in San Francisco I wanted to visit North Beach. Being a bibliomaniac, I was eager to visit City Lights Bookstore and do some shopping. I tried to use Uber outside my hotel but I was harassed by a homeless person so I walked to the Hallidie Plaza and bought a single ride ticket for the cable car. A black man was singing next to where passengers get on the cable car. He was using an iPad to play his music. Even the buskers have gone high tech! I got off the cable car where it makes a turn in Chinatown, near the Cable Car Museum. I found Broadway Street and walked east until I found Columbus Avenue. I soon found Jack Kerouac Alley since it connects Chinatown’s Grant Avenue to Columbus Avenue.

At City Lights Bookstore I headed upstairs to find the Beat Literature and the Poetry sections. There was only one other tourist up there taking photos so I felt comfortable taking a photo as well. I bought four books because this book store has a great selection for anyone interested in serious literature.

  1. San Francisco Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (an obvious choice)
  2. Overtime by Philip Whalen (Zen poet)
  3. Seven Guitars by August Wilson (Pittsburgh playwright)
  4. One Hundred Poems From The Japanese by Kenneth Rexroth

It was hard to find the Kenneth Rexroth book since it was shelved in the basement under Asian Classics and not upstairs in the Poetry section. This trip has gotten me to read some poetry again, but I really prefer drama.

City Lights Bookstore

City Lights Bookstore

I found Caffè Trieste nearby which is also a famous Beat writer hangout. It did not look too busy or crowded so I stopped in for lunch. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and iced latte.

My next stop was the Beat Museum which is pretty interesting for a writer. I saw lots of typewriters. They also had a nice collection of paperback books on display in the museum. You could also buy rare books in the museum store. There was some material on Charles Bukowski. I don’t really consider him a Beat poet. He was more closely associated with Los Angeles. I sat in the museum’s little movie theater for quite a while, watching a good documentary on Jack Kerouac. Before leaving the museum, I bought a DVD, The Source, a Beat documentary which was very expensive considering it was burned onto a DVDR, and not a commercial DVD. I should have bought a rare book instead.

After that I walked up Columbus Avenue taking photos of all the North Beach landmarks. I saw lots of fire trucks near the Transamerica Pyramid so I got a few instances of fire engines in my photos to add interest to them.

At Lombard Street I turned east and walked up a steep hill to reach the Coit Tower. Unfortunately, the elevator to the observation deck stopped working right after I entered the elevator with some other tourists. Everyone had to walk 13 floors of steps to reach the observation deck. This was very exhausting for me! On the observation deck a few windows were open so I could get good photos of the TransAmerican Pyramid and Alcatraz Island. This is obviously where some of the great photos of the San Francisco skyline which I found on Flickr where taken.

Coit Tower View

Coit Tower View

After visiting Coit Tower, I continued to walk up Columbus Avenue until I reached the San Francisco Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf hotel. This is where I’ll be staying on my second trip to San Francisco scheduled for September so I wanted to check out the neighborhood.

Instead of walking all the way back up Columbus Avenue, I took a MUNI bus. This was the first time I used my Clipper card. I was going to try Uber again but I found that my smartphone battery was too low to use my phone. Apparently the ReadySim SIM card had drained the battery with 3G data requests. This was unexpected since I usually don’t have a SIM card in my smartphone. I had to find Kenneth Rexroth Alley without my travel notes. Fortunately I managed to find the alley even though there is only a street sign to see.

I had lunch at Mona Lisa Ristorante. This restaurant wasn’t in my notes but it seemed convenient. I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t eat at the same restaurant once during my entire trip. I always went to a different restaurant. Usually I don’t consider this important so I can be very unadventurous in eating out. This must have been an authentic Italian restaurant because I heard someone speaking fluent Italian. I think I ordered Gamberoni con Cozze alla San Marino, prawns with mussels in pink sauce.

After lunch I walked down Kearny Street until I found the Chinese Cultural Center. From there I located Portsmouth Square Plaza and then Grant Avenue. I walked all the way down Grant Avenue to the Chinatown Gate, which was sort of a preview of Chinatown which I intended to explore the next day. I then walked east to Union Square where I found a lot of construction going on that partially ruined any photos I could take of this landmark.

Further walking led me to Biscuits and Blues, a music club where I had a reservation for Tuesday night and theaters on Geary Boulevard.

Geary Boulevard Theaters

Geary Boulevard Theaters

After a brief rest at the hotel I went back out and just walked a few blocks to locate the Bohemian Club, Alcazar Theater, Tides Theater, and San Francisco Playhouse. I didn’t waste much time in my hotel room on this trip. I was always out and about if only to take photos. I had dinner at Lori’s Diner which had some neat decor. They had an Edsel parked right in the diner and my table had a framed laserdisc of the film Gigi. I still own a laserdisc player and it amused to me to see a laserdisc used as a bit of nostalgic decor. I ordered a Moon Doggie (hot dog) and a coffee milkshake.

And that was how I spent my second day in San Francisco. Although I’m just a casual writer, it was thrilling to visit one of the most famous literary spots in the country. For this trip, I researched more writers for my notes than on any other trip. I’m always interested in the culture of  any city I visit and San Francisco is particularly rich in culture.

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San Francisco Vacation

I decided to visit San Francisco for my major vacation this year. San Francisco interests me for several reasons. Back when I was more of an intellectual, I read the Beat writers and North Beach poets. So San Francisco has considerable literary appeal for me. I’ve also read a lot about the San Francisco Zen Center so the city has some spiritual significance. But what really inspired me was the technology scene in San Francisco. Many important technology companies are based in San Francisco.

I started to read travel guides on San Francisco back in October 2014 so I’ve had eight months to prepare for my trip. I created over 340 web pages for my custom travel guide, watched 37 films set in San Francisco, and read numerous books by San Francisco literary figures. I read a biography of Kenneth Rexroth and a book of his poetry which has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, unread. But since I prefer drama to poetry, I also researched San Francisco theater extensively.

I spent an entire week in San Francisco which may be a little too long since I did run out of things to do and had to improvise. I did try a few new things to improve my travel skills:

  1. I used a different airport, Harrisburg International Airport.
  2. I bought a SIM card from ReadySim so I could use my smartphone.
  3. I tried Uber instead of relying on public transportation or taxis.

It takes me two hours to drive down to Harrisburg International Airport. I had to use my GPS device because the highways east of Harrisburg are tricky to navigate. Harrisburg International Airport proved to be a scaled down version of a major airport. It has all the major airport amenities without the long lines for checking in or going through security. I flew with United Airlines and there was a connection at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Some day I plan to visit Chicago. It took one and half hours to fly to Chicago and then four hours to fly to San Francisco. I didn’t have any time to explore the airports because I had to rush to make it to the gates. I barely made my connecting flight in Chicago.  They had almost completed boarding when I  got to the gate. It was raining in Harrisburg and Chicago which caused some brief flight delays. At O’Hare International Airport I had to get from Concourse B to Concourse C which meant going through the tunnel which is pictured in my notes. During the longer flight to San Francisco, I watched two movies using the inflight entertainment system; Chappie and Tomb Robber, a 2014 Chinese action adventure suspense thriller film directed by Yu Dao.

The plane did not fly over San Francisco but I did see a mountain range out the window, probably the Diablo Range. The mountains looked very different from Pennsylvania’s mountains. Pennsylvania mountains are covered in trees and look like a lump under a green carpet. California mountains are tan in color with sparse vegetation.

I took a taxi to my hotel, the Hotel Mark Twain. The taxi ride cost me around $50.00 with the tip. I chose the Hotel Mark Twain because it had a literary ambiance, it was less expensive than other options, and it was located close to a subway station, the Powell Street Station in Hallidie Plaza. It was one of the nicer hotels I’ve stayed in but the neighborhood was a bit sketchy. I had to avoid walking west into the Tenderloin.

Hotel Mark Twain

But on my first day in San Francisco I did walk through part of the Tenderloin. I walked east to get to the Civic Center Plaza. The Tenderloin is shockingly ghetto with entire streets filled with the homeless, a real skid row. I went to the Civic Center to visit the Asian Art Museum but first I stopped at Jin Mi Korean Cuisine for lunch. I had a small side dish of Kimchi which I liked, and Bibimbap, a bowl of rice with vegetables, pork, noodles, and a fried egg. This was my first experience of Korean food. Unfortunately, something must have disagreed with me because I had some gastroenteritis while at the museum and had to use the restrooms frequently.

The Asian Art Museum had two floors of exhibits. There are a lot of Asians in San Francisco because it is on the Pacific Coast. This is probably as close as I will ever get to Asia. As part of my trip research, I read Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide by Jeff Cranmer. Visiting an art museum is a good way to begin a trip since it gives you some time for quiet reflection before beginning all the hassles of dealing with an unfamiliar city. I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy in the gift shop except for maybe a book on learning Chinese, but I don’t want to get into that chore.

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

After the museum I wandered around the Civic Center a bit. The San Francisco City Hall is familiar to me from the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland. That is where the pod people work!

I walked back east on Golden Gate Avenue until I reached Show Dogs, a restaurant serving sausages and artisanal hot dogs. This restaurant is interesting for two reasons. First, it is in the flatiron building which appears in the film Interview With The Vampire. The actual interview with the vampire took place upstairs. Second, this place is mentioned in the book Startupland, about the Zendesk company which has its headquarters in the Tenderloin. I ordered a vanilla milkshake and a Smoked Kielbasa, probably not a good combination given my bout of diarrhea. Show Dogs is just across the street from the Golden Gate Theatre which featured the musical Annie. I sat across from a theater worker wearing an Annie jacket.

Show Dogs

Show Dogs

I then walked further down Market Street until I came across a Walgreen’s where I bought several travel sized toiletries; a small can of shaving cream, two razors, a small bottle of skin lotion, a small bar of soap, and Axe Antiperspirant. I also found a street map for Silicon Valley which I thought would be useful someday. I should mention here that you always have to pay a small fee to get a bag in San Francisco so you should always mention that you need a bag. I returned to the hotel with my purchase.

I continued to explore Market Street until I found the Metreon shopping center which has an AMC Loews Cineplex. I didn’t plan to waste any time on my vacation watching movies, but I was tired so I purchased a movie ticket on impulse using my credit card. A ticket to see Tomorrowland cost me $12.99 which is ridiculously expensive. I could buy a DVD for that! The movie did not start until 7:35 p.m. so I had some time to kill before then. I found a Chronicle Books book store at the Metreon shopping center but they only sold books they published so I didn’t find anything to buy. I explored the nearby Yerba Buena Gardens and found the Moscone Center where many technology conferences are held. It started to get chilly so I walked back to my hotel to get my coat. The weather in San Francisco is as strange as the travel guides promised. It can be bright and sunny and you’ll get hot but there will also be a breeze from the Pacific Ocean that will leave you a little chilly. I bought a light sweater for this trip which was perfect since I could tie it around my waist when I got too hot.

Tomorrowland was silly film that barely made any sense. Hollywood is always going over the top nowadays and produces films with too much video game action and a poor excuse for a story. The film did have a good message about being optimistic about the future. I bought a bottle of orange juice which I drank before the film started.

That was my first day in San Francisco. This was my first trip to the West Coast. There are probably only three other major cities that I will visit in the United States; Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles. There may be other cities that are worthwhile to visit, but none that I want to spend thousands of dollars to visit.



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Weekend Hiking In The Pennsylvania Wilds

Over the weekend I went hiking in three different places. It is amazing that I continue to discover new wonders in North Central Pennsylvania. I really should have got out more in all the years I’ve lived in this area. On Saturday, June 6, 2015 I visited Ravensburg State Park in Clinton County. This is a small state park south of Jersey Shore. It had rained hard Friday night so the woods were very wet. There is a creek in this park, Rauchtown Run, which was roaring with rain water. The park was very nice with extensive facilities but not many hiking trails. I only found the Raven Trail which offered a short hike to the small dam on Rauchtown Run. I did follow a short side trail which leads to scenic rocky outcrops, an entire hill side covered in boulders. The park had many camping lots, picnic tables, and restrooms. It must be a nice resource for the local community but Ravensburg State Park is not a destination park.

Since my visit to Ravensburg State Park was short I decided to squeeze in another hike that day. I drove all the way back to Williamsport and then out to Montoursville before heading north to Warrensville. I managed to find the trail head to the Jacoby Run Falls hiking trail. This is an isolated hiking trail which you can follow to reach a waterfall, but then you have to retrace your steps back out of the woods. This hiking trail did not require climbing any hills. I appreciated that because even a short uphill climb will exhaust me. The trail was a pleasant stroll through the woods except for some rocky sections of the trail. The trail follows a pipeline right of way before you reach Jacoby Falls. There are two pipeline markers 094 and 095 with aerial panels. When you see the 095 pipeline marker you are almost there. I actually thought the pipeline was the most interesting part of the hike because it was an overgrown road through the woods. It looked like a mysterious, desolate road through the wilderness. I expected the Jacoby Falls to be impressive since it had rained heavily that night but the waterfall was just a trickle of water, well several trickles of water actually, not much stronger than a shower. However there was plenty of room to walk behind the falls and I liked that. I only saw one other hiker on my way back. I took the time to saw off a tree branch that was blocking the trail. I used my Leatherman tool which has a surprisingly effective saw. I imagine the other hiker must have been surprised to find that obstacle recently removed when he turned back.

I was thinking of heading directly into town for lunch at Joy Thai Cuisine but it was getting close to 3:00 p.m. when they stop serving lunch so I decided to wait until 5:00 p.m. for diner. I went home and showered and then went downtown at 5:00 p.m. First I went to Otto’s Bookstore and searched everywhere for the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. I could not find that book so I settled for Jungleland by Christopher S. Stewart, a book about a trek through the jungle which was almost as good. At Joy Thai Cuisine I tried to order the Crispy Roll but that was unavailable so I had Drunken Noodles and  Fried Banana with ice cream. The Drunken Noodles was excellent. It was really fat noodles in a spicy sauce with vegetables and chicken. I picked out most of the vegetables because it was a heavy meal.

On Sunday I repeated a road trip I made four years ago. I drove to Eagles Mere and then visited Worlds End State Park in Sullivan County to the east of Lycoming County. Eagles Mere is a tiny village of vacation homes surrounding a lake. Unlike most Pennsylvania villages, Eagles Mere is very exclusive with grand Victorian mansions, almost a resort town. The only reason I stopped there was to visit the Eagles Mere Bookstore and the Sweet Shop, a small restaurant and ice cream parlor. I arrived in Eagles Mere at exactly 10:00 a.m. when the book store should have opened but discovered that it does not open until 11:00 a.m. on Sundays. So I went to the Sweet Shop for breakfast. I had a cup of coffee and an egg muffin.

I then proceeded to Worlds End State Park. This is a very popular state park, a destination park. There were a lot of people in the park that day. Ravensburg State Park had been completely deserted. I have been to this park once before but I did not find the parking area I remember. Instead I found a larger parking area where I discovered the real attraction of this park, the spectacular cliffs of the Loyalsock Creek gorge. I thought this was an impressive sight.  The banks of Loyalsock Creek are strewn with boulders forming a very rocky beach. It was very picturesque. I found the trail heads for the Butternut Trail and the High Rock Trail but these trails appeared to be very steep and I had left my hiking poles in my car so I did not attempt these trails. Instead I drove back along Route 154 and found the Double Run Nature Trail. The Double Run Nature Trail proved to be a fairly easy trail which follows a creek with some small waterfalls. There were even wooden steps on the trail to make it easier to climb a hill. This trail was fairly crowded with hikers. I  encountered several groups. It was also hard to find a parking spot at the trail head. I had to squeeze my car in next to the guard rail. There was a chapel at the trail head. I was expecting a rustic building but the chapel proved to be just log benches facing a podium.

After hiking the Double Run Nature Trail I was ready to call it a day since the trail was a little exhausting. I wanted to go to the Lycoming Mall before it closed at 5:00 p.m. But I did drive back to Eagles Mere. I saw a deer walking on a sidewalk in Eagles Mere. It ran across the road and disappeared in someone’s driveway. I found the book store had finally opened. I managed to find the book I was looking for, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. I’m eager to read this book about finding serenity in hiking. At the Lycoming Mall I found a DVD of the film Wild starring Reese Witherspoon. The cashier mentioned that the book was very popular, probably because hiking is a popular recreational activity in this area.

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Zindel Park In Clinton County

Today I visited a small, abandoned park in Clinton County. Clinton County is to the west of Lycoming County. There are a few state parks in Clinton County which I plan to visit. I will also explore Bellefonte and State College in Centre County but that is probably as far west as I will go. Zindel Park is located near McElhattan. I actually found the road to this park last year when I located Henry W. Shoemaker’s old estate, Restless Oaks. You just take the McElhattan exit going west and make a left turn to go under the highway overpass. Then keep going straight along the road with the No Outlet sign. Go as far down this road as you can until you reach a parking area with a gate preventing entry onto the road to the Keller Reservoir. From there you have to hike along the reservoir road to reach Zindel Park. There is also a small gate over a small bridge that you have to climb through.

Zindel Park

Zindel Park

Zindel Park is a very small park with interesting stone monuments, stone bridges, a waterfall, a small lake, and a small house. It looks like an elaborate private estate since the grounds are not very extensive. It was created in 1929 and then abandoned in 1954. But since the park is in the City of Lock Haven Public Water Supply Area it has not been left to fall into ruins. I thought it was pretty cool, sort of a secret place only known to local residents.

Zindel Park Waterfall

Zindel Park Waterfall

The reservoir road seemed very popular with joggers and hikers. I saw quite a few people on the road. I only found two hiking paths. The Goat Path was a steep uphill climb but I did enjoy the view and it leads to an interesting cliff with a lot of exposed rock. Eventually this trail became so steep that it was almost a vertical climb so I turned back. At the end of the reservoir road I found a trail to Kellers Bench, whatever that is. This trail began with a very steep uphill climb that left me completely exhausted. But eventually the trail leveled off and followed the reservoir road through the woods above the road. I got tired of this trail and cut through the woods at a place that seemed relatively close to the reservoir road.

Goat Path View

Goat Path View

The bugs were a big problem on this hike. They really plagued me. Later on in the day I bought some bug spray to keep in my backpack.

When I got back to Williamsport I did stop downtown to check out a restaurant. I had lunch at Joy Thai Cuisine. Lots of people think this is the best restaurant in Williamsport, although I think the relatively new restaurant Sticky Elbow might be quite good. I was inspired to check out Joy Thai Cuisine by my trip preparation for San Francisco. There will be a Thai restaurant near my hotel where I will probably eat often. I ordered the Seafood Jungle which was shrimp, scallops, mussels, and other seafood with vegetables in a curry sauce. This came with a small bowl of rice on the side. The service was prompt and efficient. I think I might eat here again since there are few ethnic restaurants in Williamsport. Having lunch at a new restaurant made this seem more like a real trip than just a staycation.

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Bob Webber Trail

On Memorial Day I decided to finish the extended weekend with a grueling hike. I was a bit reluctant to hike the Bob Webber Trail because I knew it would be an ordeal. However, I saw photos online where someone hiked the trail in flip flops so how hard could it be? Actually it would be insane to hike this trail in flip flops. I made sure to bring my hiking poles and three bottles of water. The Bob Webber Trail is related to the Golden Eagle Trail which I hiked last year. Both trails are located in the Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.

The parking area for this trail is the Ross Run Recreational Parking area just pass the village of Cammal. This is along the Pine Creek Gorge rail trail and pass Waterville and the Little Pine State Park. You will encounter the Ross Run Recreational Parking area before you reach the Clark Farm Utceter Station recreational parking for the Golden Eagle Trail. It is important to note these details because the trailheads can be hard to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. Also I had a few of these details wrong in my notes.

Ross Run Recreational Parking

Ross Run Recreational Parking

Unfortunately Bob Webber died just last month. He was a Bureau of Forestry ranger responsible for creating many of the hiking trails in Central Pennsylvania. All of the local papers featured tribute stories on his life.

The Bob Webber Trail is almost entirely uphill so I did not enjoy the arduous ascent. I am extremely slow at climbing uphill since I have to stop for breath every 10 feet and lean on a tree. The trek seems to last forever and I keep hoping that there is just a little further to go but there is always a lot more uphill climbing to do. I only saw two other hikers on their way down but when I finally made my way back down the trail I saw a party of three and a party of two hikers on their way up.

After a long ascent the trail makes a series of switchbacks. You can tell a switchback by the double trail blazes. The trail blazes were yellow and not blue as my outdated hiking book claimed. At the top of the mountain there is an interesting rock formation and a short side trail to two small springs which I would have missed except for a trail sign.

The reward for this grueling hike is a stunning vista view of the Wolf Run Wild Area. You can clearly see the Ravenshorn on the Golden Eagle Trail on the mountain. I could also see another overlook on the Golden Eagle Trail which is a scary rock cliff. I had my binoculars in my backpack so I could spy on these two distant overlooks but I did not see any hikers there. Other than that, the view is of forested mountains with absolutely no signs of human habitation to ruin the wilderness. It looks like you are out in the middle of nowhere with mountains stretching endlessly into the distance. I spent about a half hour enjoying the view because I really had to earn it. There are two benches at the end of the trail but these were not as fancy as I was expecting. The benches were just thin logs laid on the ground.

Bob Webber Trail View

Bob Webber Trail View

I was able to get down the trail a lot faster than it took to climb it. I decided to treat myself with lunch at the Waterville Tavern, just outside the road leading to the Little Pine State Park. The Waterville Tavern is a rustic roadside tavern. It is very popular with the outdoor recreationists in the Pine Creek Gorge and I have to admit that the food is pretty good. I ordered a Patty Melt which was quite delicious and worth the wait.

Waterville Tavern

Waterville Tavern

The Pine Creek area is simply gorgeous and worth further exploration. I will have to buy a bike to ride the Rail Trail because you can enjoy some great views of the mountains and Pine Creek as you ride your bike. I saw a lot people in kayaks in Pine Creek and many people fishing. Just driving along Route 44 is amazing in itself. Fortunately the area is not too over-run with tourists since Lycoming County is far from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, or any other major city. However, on Memorial Day the Pine Creek was clearly a popular destination. There are a few small villages along Route 44 and some signs of luxury accommodations like lavish hunting lodges, but otherwise everything seems genuinely rustic and relatively undiscovered.

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Exploring Danville PA

I have driven pass Danville many times on the way to Philadelphia or the Poconos but I have never stopped to see what may be found there. Actually I remember driving through Danville a few times on the way to Knoebels Amusement Park. On the second day of the Memorial Day weekend I finally spent some quality time in Danville to check it out.

One of the major incentives for finally making this trip was my discovery last year of the Robbins Trail, a hiking trail with my last name! Naturally I had to hike my namesake trail. The full name of the trail is the J. Manley Robbins Trail and I don’t think I have any remote relatives by that name. Another good reason to visit Danville is because the Geisinger Medical Center is located there. Geisinger is a huge medical complex which serves as the entire region’s trauma center.  There is a good chance that you may be sent to Geisinger if you are in a serious accident in Central Pennsylvania. Even at work I frequently encounter references to Geisinger since we transport patients there.

The trailhead for the Robbins Trail is behind the Perkins parking lot just north of the town. It begins with a pleasant path through some underbrush not far from the highway into town. The entire trail is perfectly level. The Robbins Trail is actually a bicycle trail but I did not see anyone riding a bike on it, just joggers. At around a trail sign that reads Roup Spur, the trail makes a turn to head back the other way along Mahoning Creek and though a more heavily wooded area alongside a mountain. Eventually the trail ends back at the Perkins restaurant and a Sunoco gas station where there is a bridge over the Mahoning Creek. I was glad this was a circuit trail because I did not want to retrace my steps.

Robbins Trail

Robbins Trail

After hiking that trail I headed into the city of Danville. I found a parking lot hidden away down an alley alongside Mill Street, the main business street. You would never find this parking lot just wandering into town without doing your research. But I suppose I could have parked along Mill Street because it was a Sunday morning and the town was completely dead. It was like a ghost town. The only people I saw where a few veterans running around in motorized wheelchairs.

Danville is clearly a town suffering major fiscal distress. I saw a lot of closed businesses along Mill Street with many boarded up storefronts. Sometimes it was hard to tell if an establishment was still in business. And the street was completely empty of shoppers or local residents. I probably just picked a bad time to visit although it was great for taking photos without feeling conspicuous. Everything was closed.

Danville Mural

Danville Mural

Years ago I would have been nasty and declared Danville a dump which is not worth taking the time to visit. But after traveling quite a bit I can see the hidden charms of any place. Danville may be a bit shabby but it seems like a real town that hasn’t been taken over by tourists. It has a lot of that Pennsylvania podunk town charm with dilapidated taverns on street corners and old storefronts. Still I would have expected a more lively town with the Geisinger Medical Center in town. Where are all those doctors spending their money?

Mill Street

Mill Street

There wasn’t anything to do in Danville since everything was closed, but I wandered up and down Mill Street taking photos. While researching the town, I was annoyed to find so few photos of anything on Mill Street. Google Street View is unavailable for this street so it was almost impossible to determine where anything is located. Well I fixed that! I took 118 photos that day so I have a photo of everything on Mill Street, although one side of the street was directly in the glare of the sun which ruined a few of my photos. One interesting discovery was a small basement performance space called The Booth Theater. I also liked the small Danville River Front Park which had a nice fountain. I also saw two Danville murals.

Danville River Front Park

Danville River Front Park

It was hard to find a restaurant which was open for breakfast, but I did find Edith’s Kitchen open. This was a fairly large restaurant with plenty of seating so I was able to get a table. I ordered the Fruity French Toast with blueberry and walnut syrup. This was three pieces of French Toast cut into six pieces. The blueberry syrup was very watery, like kool-aid, with blueberries and walnuts floating in it. I would have liked the syrup to be thicker, although it would have made the meal heavier. I used the bathroom which only had one stall. The Fruity French Toast and coffee cost me $10.45.

After breakfast I bought a copy of the local paper, The Press Enterprise, Sunday edition for $1.50. I had to go back to my car twice to get enough quarters for the vending machine. I can actually buy this paper at the local Wegmans since they carry many newspapers. Danville is only 50 minutes from Williamsport which is practically in the neighborhood given the distance between towns and cities in Central Pennsylvania.

I wasn’t very impressed by Danvlle and don’t see a reason to go back there any time soon. The next town to explore east on Route 80 will be Bloomsburg. I am particularly interested in the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, one of the major theaters in the region. That trip will have to wait until after my vacation in San Francisco in two weeks.

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Second Trip to Potter County

Over the Memorial Day weekend I made my second trip to Coudersport and Potter County. It was a bright sunny day, but a little on the chilly side, so the region made a better impression upon me. Ordinarily I would not repeat a trip within a week but I was not satisfied with the photos I took last week. I also really enjoy exploring quaint, small towns and going for walks in the woods. It is the only real adventure you can experience, a trip into the unknown. I am easily entertained by seeing new places. Even a shabby old building is intriguing because it is the unfamiliar.

On this trip I made more of an effort to take photos of interesting roadside sights even if it meant stopping along the highway. My first stop was to take photos of the “Welcome to Potter County” sign which includes the tag line “God’s Country”. That makes me think this is an extremely religious county, but it may just refer to the natural beauty of the mountains and forests. After that I stopped at the Black Forest Trading Post, a country store and gift shop. I also took a photo of their road sign promoting their deer park. I didn’t find anything I really wanted to buy inside, but I eventually settled for a large souvenir coffee mug. It is important to note the order in which I encountered these establishments  along U.S. Route 6 because it provides a series of landmarks that tell you how far along you are on this long stretch of highway.

Welcome to Potter County - God's Country

Welcome to Potter County – God’s Country

For example, beyond the Black Forest Trading Post I came upon the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. I stopped there to take a photo of the large road sign and the impressive Visitor Center which is made out of wood. It looks like a huge hunting lodge. I didn’t visit the museum at this time because the parking lot was virtually empty and I was eager to reach Coudersport. I also pulled into the Sweden Valley Inn parking lot and took a photo of this rustic roadside diner and the road sign for Sweden Valley Cabins. This is approximately the area where you look for the connection to Route 44 which takes you to the Cherry Springs State Park. Therefore I thought it important to get some photos for my notes.

After that I finally reached Coudersport where I took advantage of the bright sun to take many more photos of better quality. I got some excellent photos of the creepy Victorian mansion which stands in ruin on Main Street. I also took additional photos of Hotel Crittenden, the Coudersport Mural, and the Coudersport Theatre. And I photographed the court house, the town gazebo, and the Civil War memorial which give the town that classic small town look. I had breakfast at Maple Tree On Main, a pleasant community restaurant. I ordered biscuits with sausage gravy and home fires and a coke. This was virtually identical to the breakfast I had at Fezz’s Community Diner on my trip last week, but I thought it was a little bit better here. I noticed a bookshelf of cookbooks behind the cash register nook which gave the restaurant a cozy feel. I could really go for a restaurant with its own bookstore and maybe a lounge where you can read.

Maple Tree On Main

Maple Tree On Main

After breakfast I drove to Patterson State Park. This park is little more than a picnic area with just one pavilion and some room for camping. However, it does have a trailhead for the Susquehannock Trail System and that was what I was interested in. The park was surprisingly crowded  with a few camper vans, tents, and people having a picnic. I found the trailhead for the Susquehannock Trail System. This section must be known as the Kerr Trail judging by the trail sign. The Susquehannock Trail System stretches for 85 miles and crosses numerous state parks and two counties, so I had no intention of hiking the whole trail. That would actually require a week of hiking and camping along the trail. I only hiked for about a half hour and turned back when the trail started to make a steep descent. It is easy enough to hike downhill, but the return trip uphill can be brutal. I did see a deer bounding through the woods but I did not get too close.

Patterson State Park

Patterson State Park

I did visit the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum on my way back east on U.S. 6. I wasn’t too keen on visiting this museum but it did prove to be a little more impressive than I expected. They have an extensive outdoor exhibit which includes a massive sawmill and log pond, a locomotive used to haul timber, log cars, loader sheds, and even a Civilian Conservation Corps log cabin. It is like a trip into the past to visit a lumber camp. They even have a Sustainable Forestry Trail so I was able to do even more hiking. Part of the trail follows a very picturesque brook. I bought a pack of souvenir playing cards in the gift shop and a bottle of locally produced maple syrup, the nectar of the trees, which is sort of appropriate for a lumber museum.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

On the way back to Wellsboro, I pulled over at Galeton and took some photos of the interesting commercial buildings which loom over the curve of U.S. Route 6. I am particularly proud of myself for doing this because it was a little hazardous to park there, although there was definitely an area where you could park, and I really wanted some photos of this unique architecture. You rarely see large storefronts directly abutting a major highway or on a curve. One of the large building housed another country gift store, Heart’s Desire, which I regret not going into just to look around.

Galeton Commercial Buildings

Galeton Commercial Buildings

As usual, I visited Colton Point State Park since it would be a shame to drive this far north and not see the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the major tourist attraction in the region. I went to the most easily accessible lookouts to take some great photos of the Pine Creek Gorge in strong sunlight. But I did not hike the Rim Trail even though I parked at the trailhead. Instead I investigated another trailhead. I found the West Rim Trail, a 30 Mile Pathway, in a large parking area at the bottom of Colton Road. This parking area was almost completely full even though there is nothing there except the trailhead, unless I’m missing something. A 30 mile trail cannot be completed in one day so these cars may have been for people hiking the entire trail and camping in the woods. In other words, this may be long term parking. I did not hike very far along this trail. I did encounter a sign for the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area, which I’ve never heard of. I’ll have to study my maps to figure out where this trail goes. It does seem to be a popular trail because I was following a couple of other hikers and their dog the entire way before I turned back.

I didn’t spend any time in Wellsboro because that town is getting a little old and I have taken photos of everything there several times. But I did stop at From My Shelf Books and parked right in front of the bookstore since there is no need to find a parking space now. I found the book I was looking for all day, Short Hikes in God’s Country by Chuck Dillon. This is the book about all the hiking areas in Potter County so I’m going to find that useful. I also bought a paperback copy of The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy. I thought I might already own a copy of this Canadian novel, and in fact I do, but it was only $2.00 and it is a cleaner copy than the paperback book I already had.

Some people would not find this trip very interesting, but I thought it was a great start to a Memorial Day weekend. I could have spent the entire holiday at home working on the computer, but instead I explored the great outdoors. The visits to small towns provided a nice bit of variety to all the hiking I did, three separate hikes. I should mention that the U. S. Route 6 is extremely popular with bikers who roam the highway in packs. Their bikes can be seen parked at every roadside diner and state park.

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Trip to Potter County

Yesterday I made a road trip to Potter County, which is the county west of Tioga County. I especially wanted to visit Coudersport, a small town I read about in the book, Country Towns of Pennsylvania: Charming Small Towns and Villages to Explore by Marcus H. Schneck ISBN: 978-0658000058. I frequently visit Tioga County to see the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (aka the Pine Creek Gorge), the major tourist attraction in the region.

I almost cancelled my plans because the day started with rain and the forecast called for thunderstorms in the afternoon. But I don’t trust the weather reports anymore and in fact it did not rain much for the rest of the day. It was very cloudy and gloomy at times so some of my photos are a little too dark.

To reach Coudersport you just continue west on US Route 6. I already know how to get on US Route 6 from Wellsboro because you need to get on that highway to reach Colton Point State Park. Along US Route 6 I saw many rustic establishments from the era of roadside attractions; diners, inns, campgrounds, motels, and gift shops. For example, I drove pass the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum although I did not visit it. I drove pass the Black Forest Trading Post which has a deer park, Potato City Country Inn, and Sweden Valley Inn. Although most of these rustic establishments looked a little shabby there were a few examples of more upscale hunting lodges for luxury outdoor recreation. The only place I stopped at on the way to Coudersport was Fezz’s Community Diner at the Mill Creek Plaza. The Mill Creek Plaza was a rural shopping plaza with shabby buildings. But Fezz’s Diner was a classic 1950s diner,  very retro. I had biscuits with sausage gravy which was pretty good but nothing special. There were four or five biscuits so it was plenty of food for breakfast.

Coudersport is a very small town. One of those places that time has forgot. The area appears to be economically distressed. Coudersport could be as charming as Jim Thorpe but they must not get as many tourists. Nevertheless there were a few things to see there. I saw the Coudersport Mural on a side of a building. Lots of small towns and cities now have a mural to commemorate local history. For example, Williamsport has a mural across from the Community Arts Center. I also saw the creepy mansion, the ruined Franklin W. Knox House. This was actually my major reason for making the trip. This Victorian mansion is amazing! It has enough architectural interest to be left standing even though it is all boarded up and in an advanced state of decay. It looks like a haunted house. Fortunately my photos of the house are pretty good even though it was very cloudy at the time. You could say it was appropriately gloomy.

Creepy Coudersport Mansion

Creepy Coudersport Mansion

I also saw the Adelphia Communications Corporation headquarters. This grand building is very modern but it was designed to look vaguely Victorian so as to match the rest of the town’s best architecture. This building looks much too fancy for such a shabby little town. It was the headquarters of  a cable television empire which collapsed due to fraud. The downfall of Adelphia and its effect on Coudersport is probably an interesting story but unfortunately there has not been a book written about it.

Coudersport Theater

Coudersport Theater

After Coudersport, my next destination in Potter County was Cherry Springs State Park. This state park is famous for dark sky astronomy. It even has some Astro Haven domes for telescopes. I saw lots of amateur astronomers camped out on the Astronomy Field in camper vans although the skies should have been cloudy that night. But there isn’t much to see at this state park except for the dark sky. There was an Working Forest Interpretive Trail which I hiked. The trail was very easy and covered in gravel for most of the way. It led me though some dense underbrush and forest which was very attractive with the vibrant green leaves of new foliage. The leaves were almost a florescent green and looked spectacular against the dark tree trunks. I did take a wrong turn onto East Branch Road and drove all the way to Conrad, going through the Susquehannock State Forest, until  I realized this was not taking me to Cherry Springs State Park. This is an easy mistake to make since the park sign is right in front of that road and it makes it look like you should turn there to enter the park.

Cherry Springs State Park

Cherry Springs State Park

When I left Cherry Springs State Park I briefly stopped at Longtoe Vista which must be somewhere along PA 44. Once back on US Route 6 my goal was to find a gas station. There are surprisingly few gas stations in the region so it is worthwhile to note their locations. I couldn’t get gas until I reached an Apple Market in Galeton PA.

Before going home I visited Colton Point State Park again and hiked the Rim Trail. I started down the Turkey Path before realizing I was not still on the Rim Trail. That trail goes all the way down to Pine Creek Gorge but it is too steep for me. Climbing back up the trail would be really exhausting! Finally I stopped in at Wellsboro where I discovered that the From My Shelf Books bookstore had moved. At first I thought they had closed and I was a bit sad about that, but just as I was leaving I spotted the new store in a shopping plaza down the street from the Wellsboro Diner. Fortunately I had parked on Pearl Street and the shopping plaza was right across from there.  I even found a book I was looking for, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.

This trip really advanced my knowledge of the region north of Lycoming County. There are several places I could visit on a return trip. I should visit the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum some day and Susquehannock State Forest might have some hiking trails. The area reinforces my impression of the region’s rustic recreational nature with plenty of hunting lodges, campgrounds in the woods, and vintage roadside attractions.

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Washington DC – Trip Into The City

Yesterday I made my tenth trip to Washington DC. As usual, this trip took place during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year the cherry blossoms were at their peak and it was a beautiful, sunny day. I expected it to be more chilly than it was, so I wore a sweater which made me too hot. For my San Francisco vacation I will need to buy a light sweater with buttons so I can remove a layer more easily.

I did not spend too much time planning this trip. My only goals were to visit the Adams Morgan neighborhood and Chinatown. Reading about San Francisco’s Chinatown made me want to explore Washington DC’s Chinatown, but the nation’s capital has a very small Chinatown.

I used the Metro to get to Adams Morgan. My previous notes on how to use the Metro proved useful and I managed to find my way. I bought single trip farecards for $2.75 and avoided overspending.

The Adams Morgan neighborhood is described and recommended in the travel guides to Washington DC. It is a colorful area of the city with many ethnic restaurants and fashionable boutiques. Still, it was not a particularly worthwhile place to visit since there is nothing to do except have lunch and do a little shopping. I actually arrived at Adams Morgan before most of the stores were open on Sunday, even after walking all the way from the Woodley Park Metro Station and across the Duke Ellington Bridge. So I spent about an hour photographing establishments on both sides of 18th Street and wandered down some of the other streets.

Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan

By 11:00 a.m. Idle Time Books was open so I made that my first stop. I bought the book, Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer, by Chuck Thompson. This seemed to be the perfect book since I love to travel. My travel writing is pretty boring, just like what this book is criticizing. I plan to write a novel about space travel entitled Offworld. It is going to be a boring piece of imaginary travel writing
unless I can think of a story.

By 11:30 a.m. Sakuramen Ramen Bar was open so I had lunch there. I picked this restaurant because I like Japanese culture and ramen shops are great for a really cheap meal. This restaurant is rather small and it filled up shortly after opening, but I was early enough to get a seat at the largest table. I ordered Sakuramen, their signature vegetarian ramen with corn, green onion, mushrooms, and nori. It was pretty good but only one cut above instant ramen. They only give you a soup spoon and chopsticks to eat with. Everyone was using chopsticks but I only used the spoon. Yes, I still have not learned how to eat with chopsticks even though I’ve bought some to practice with. This meal was only $11.00 but I left $15.00 with tip.

After lunch I went to a punk rock record store. There are actually two such stores in Adams Morgan, Smash Records and Crooked Beat Records, but Crooked Beat Records was late to open so I went to Smash Records. The selection of CDs was
small so I bought a CD of Washington DC heavy rock underground bands, Doom Capital. They also had some good old-fashioned vinyl but I did not want to carry an LP record all over Washington DC. I feel too old for punk rock record stores but most of the original punk rockers are dead now anyways. Punk rock will soon be old people’s music, golden oldies!

Although I only spent an hour or two at Adams Morgan, there was no reason to hang around. I took the Metro to Chinatown, which is on the Red Line at the Gallery Place Station. Gallery Place is a small shopping mall built over the station. The Verizon Center is also nearby. I took lots of photos of the Friendship Arch (the Chinatown gate), and a few recommended Chinese restaurants in the area. I also explored Gallery Place which is not much of a mall. I considered watching a movie at Regal Cinema but nothing good was playing.

Friendship Arch

Friendship Arch

I was done with Chinatown by 1:30 p.m. so I walked all the way back to the National Mall and killed time at a few Smithsonian Museums. First I visited the National Museum of Natural History because it has been a long time since I’ve visited that museum. The dinosaur exhibit was being redesigned but I did get to see the Hope Diamond. Then I spent a brief amount of time at the Freer Gallery of Art and saw the Peacock Room again. And finally I went to National Air and Space Museum to kill several hours. At the gift shop I bought the book Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel (New Series in NASA History) by Roger D. Launius and Howard E. McCurdy. This book is probably pretty boring but it was the most interesting title I saw. But as I was leaving the gift shop I saw they had Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz which might have been a better book.

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

I should mention that our tour bus had a lot of trouble getting out of the city and we wound up driving around the Watergate complex and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an area I’ve never seen before.

This will probably be my last bus trip for this year because I will now be totally focused on San Francisco. I have decided to go to San Francisco twice. Once on my own and once on a package tour which will include side trips to Napa Valley and Monterey. Going twice will be very expensive so I will have to save all my money for San Francisco. I am almost ready to book my hotel and flight for the trip on my own.

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ASP.NET 1.1 Is Broken

Recently I came across the first instance I’ve seen of Microsoft dropping support for its legacy web application technology. ASP.NET 1.1 is now seriously broken. Officially, support for ASP.NET 1.1 ended on October 14, 2008. What I am talking about is a serious technical issue which creates a problem for legacy ASP.NET 1.1 web applications.

By default, the release version of the .NET Framework 1.1 supports only the SSL 3.0 protocol. By default, the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol is disabled. Unfortunately, SSL 3.0 became vulnerable to a padding attack, named the POODLE attack (which stands for “Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption”), see this Wikipedia article. Because of that security issue, many APIs are dropping support for SSL 3.0.

I encountered this problem because I still support LaGarde’s Storefront 6.0 which was never converted to ASP.NET 2.0. All Storefront 6.0 web sites still need to run under ASP.NET 1.1. Storefront 6.0 used at least two APIs, from Authorize.Net and UPS, which no longer accept requests over SSL 3.0. Storefront 6.0 was an e-commerce shopping cart and  it is now unable to validate credit cards through Authorize.Net or get shipping rates quotes from UPS.

Fortunately, I have developed a really easy fix for this problem. I can force ASP.NET 1.1 to use TLS instead of SSL 3.0 for every request. And this can be done without recompiling the DLLs which Storefront 6.0 uses.

I rarely get any work requests for Storefront 6.0 and frankly nobody should still be using such an old e-commerce shopping cart. There is no official support for Storefront 6.0 and nobody is addressing any security problems that may exist in the code. But if you need to keep your e-commerce site running until you can migrate to something else, then contact me for a solution to the SSL problem.

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Creative Genius And Programming

I consider myself to be a creative genius. My imagination excels at the intuitive leap ahead where something occurs to me like a miracle, without my knowing how I arrived at the idea. Unfortunately this type of creative genius can be useless for a programmer because programming requires thinking of the precise steps required to achieve the desired result. In programming, it will do you no good if you think of something brilliant without knowing how to arrive at it. So although I am often inspired and profoundly inspired this has never been apparent in my career. In fact, I have never benefited from my creative genius in any way. All it seems to do is make me an idle dreamer. You could say that I took to computer programming as an antidote to this idle dreaming. Exerting control over a computer gives you the illusion of creative power. There is also a strong graphics design element to web pages which appeals to anyone who loves book covers, magazine layouts and other printed matter.

Recently I have decided to make a concerted effort to apply my creative genius to my craft. My incentive for this is that I need money. Everyone seems to think you can get rich quick with just a good idea for an application. Frankly, I find these entrepreneurs annoying since they try to entice you to do a herculean task for a piece of the company when all they have to fund their project is a few hundred dollars. But there are many modest ways to make money in software development. Most of the start ups I read about are focused on mobile applications for smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately mobile application development is a completely different technology stack than web development so it would take me a long time to learn how to create those kinds of applications.

For now, I think I have come up with my first brilliant idea which does qualify as an example of my creative genius applied to programming. I first thought of this idea as an elaborate joke but after further thought it does seem to have some potential. My idea was to generate IBM punch cards as image files which encode data. These image files can then be scanned back into the computer to read the data. Only you don’t actually need to scan the punch card, just read the pixels from fixed locations in the image. IBM punch cards are an obsolete form of data entry so this is sort of a joke. But they do have an advantage over bar codes and QR codes in that they are human readable, to an extent, and the encoding scheme is extremely simple. The basic concept can be taken further. For example, you could create a deck of punch cards as an animated gif. Smartphones could scan punch cards to obtain a web address just like how QR codes are used now. OK, so I can’t imagine why you would want to do that, but it is sort of cool. At the very least, you can use a punch card as your calling card if it encodes your web site address. For example, the punch card image below can be read to give you my web site address.

punch card for my web site

I have created two web pages on my web site to demonstrate this idea. Punchcard Image Generator allows you to enter up to 80 characters and generates the punch card image that represents that data. Punchcard Image Reader allows you to upload this image. It scans the punch card by reading the pixel color at fixed positions in the image and shows you the data that was punched onto the card.

This idea is probably not going to make me rich. It doesn’t seem to be of any practical use whatsoever. But it does exemplify my quirky imagination and it is somewhat brilliant. There are probably some old mainframe programmers who will get a chuckle out of it. A more serious application of my creative genius to computer programming requires more thought. I’m not a math whiz so I can’t do anything highly technical. Fortunately there is a wealth of possibility out there in the form of old technology that was surpassed before anyone really had the time to take advantage of it. I’m inclined to look towards old technology because I can wrap my head around it. As I do my programming chores, I’m always looking for an angle, something that I can use in an unexpected way to get ahead. There are also millions of lines of open source code out there that you could study, searching for a killer idea. But who has the time to do that? Another idea I had was to stalk a particularly brilliant programmer. Programmers attract very little attention but you can find out an awful lot about their work. I am currently in scheming mode.


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My First GitHub Repository

I have begun to do my research on San Francisco which will be the next major city I visit. San Francisco is a particularly interesting city because it is close to Silicon Valley. A large number of technology companies are located in San Francisco, particularly in the South Park district. I have already added several technology companies to my travel notes including; Wired Magazine, Twitter Headquarters, Reddit, and GitHub. This has given me a shot of enthusiasm for technology. I have begun a new project to “kick it up a notch”, in other words, to take my mad skills to a whole other level.

I spend way too much time on Reddit so I’m interested in the technology behind that site. I learned that Reddit was originally developed using, an open source web application framework created by Aaron Swartz. uses Python so it is a bit sexier than the PHP or C# programming languages I usually use. Python is the programming language that slowly chokes you to death with its layers of complexity. I am currently learning how to extend one of the sample projects, a blog which illustrates basic CRUD functionality (Create, Read, Update, and Delete).

I have also created my first GitHub repository for this project. I desperately need to learn how to use Git so this is probably the best reason for doing this project. A programmer is practically unemployable if he does not know how to use Git or some other version control system. Nobody is going to hire you if you are completely ignorant when it comes to working with Git. But since I work alone most of the time, I have not had to learn how to use it. I have seen a GitHub repository before. A lot of the open source code I make use of has been moved to a GitHub repository. But the only time I found it necessary to create an account was to suggest a fix for a problem I had with SubSonic 2 where the code clearly wasn’t right.

So far I have found a GitHub repository quite useful for eliminating the need to keep this project in sync at work and at home using a thumb drive. I also like the wiki where I can keep my notes on the project. I love documentation and notes! I think this GitHub repository will also be useful as my code portfolio. Currently I find it difficult to create a portfolio since I don’t do web site designs and my custom web applications are for backend administration, so I cannot make anything available to the general public. But my GitHub repository is public and eventually it will demonstrate how I work on a project. Every little change will be available for you to backtrack, although I doubt that anyone will be interested in my work. My web application will just be a simple web site for managing the list of books I have read. This was my earliest database which I have been maintaining since the days of MS-DOS. The only interesting aspect of my project is that it will demonstrate how to use to create a complete web application, and not just a bare bones web application for a crude blog. I have already solved an irritating problem with the static files for the view.html and edit.html templates.

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