Random fascinating stuff out there, plus a few opinions of my own about the California Academy of Sciences *UPDATED*

Although it’s been open for more than a year now, I went for the first time today to the newly rebuilt California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.  My visit there was an interesting contrast to my first visit, some years ago, to the newly rebuilt De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Although I can’t find it now (I think it was on my old Word Press blog), my review of the De Young Museum was that, on the outside, it looks like a series of stacked chicken coops but that, on the inside, it is an exceptionally lovely museum, with beautiful flow and lighting.  And since I go to see the art and not the exterior, it’s basically a very satisfying experience to visit the place.  It makes the art accessible, which is all one can ask for.

I have the exact opposite view of the newly rebuilt Academy of Sciences.  On the outside, the designers managed to create a facade that is both classical and streamlined in a very modern way.  It nestles contently on the eastern side of the Park’s main concourse, and is a chic, appealing visual treat.  Inside, however, it is utterly chaotic.  Various exhibits all seem to struggle to occupy the same space.  There is no flow whatsoever, which is disastrous for a building that is meant to cater, not only to crowds, but to crowds composed, in significant part, of highly kinetic little children.

The underground aquarium, for example, is a maze of short tunnels, each of which has exhibits placed randomly in the center of the walkway, as well as along the sides.  Tossed about by the milling crowds, it is impossible to discern where one is or what one is seeing.  Although I grasped, intermittently, that there was some overarching geographic organization (e.g, fresh water, salt water, tide pools, etc.), everything was so noisy and chaotic, I couldn’t make sense of the exhibits.  The old Academy may have had a pokey rectangular layout, but it sure was easy to move through, to see things, and to understand.

Nor has the Academy improved the food problem that always vexed it.  For as long as I can remember, the old Academy offered vile food at a shabby underground food court dominated by a stuffed grizzly.  The new Academy now has three food venues:  a fancy hot dog stand, a buffet style restaurant, and a very pricey restaurant.  Oh, did I say that only the last named was very pricey?  Forgive me.  They all are.  If you want anything more than a $3.00 pork bun, feeding a family of three in the Academy will run you close to $50.  The prices are justified by the fact that everything is organic this and organic that, but the fact is that the all-organic ham and cheese sandwich tastes remarkably like an ordinary ham and cheese sandwich, only $4.00 more than I usually pay.  Of course, the food prices are consistent with the admission prices.  It cost me almost $50.00 to take my two kids there, which is a pretty hefty price tag for an experience that left me with an eyeball popping headache.

The new Academy also disappointed me for a very personal reason:  they’ve done away entirely with the old gem and mineral collection.  Although not of the scale or caliber of the amazing gem and mineral collection at the New York Museum of Natural History, this was a lovely, little gathering of precious, semi-precious and simply interesting stones.  For me, it was always one of the highlights of a visit to the Academy, and I sorely missed it today.

Speaking of all-powerful centralized government, if you haven’t thought long and hard about the implications of Obama’s appointing a “Food Czar,” you should.

What I also disliked about the Academy (and what I also dislike about the newly, and nicely, refurbished San Francisco Zoo), is the hectoring tone all these places take.  In the old days, the message was, “Aren’t these natural wonders great?”  Nowadays, the relentless message is “These natural wonders are great, but you’re destroying them by your very existence.”  I don’t take kindly to spending massive amounts of money only to be insulted.

The only part of the Academy that I thought was wonderful, although it too had design problems, was the rain forest dome, which was almost, standing alone, worth the price of admission.   It’s a clear plastic dome that has a spiral walkway that takes one up through three levels teaming with trees, plants, birds, butterflies, moths, frogs and lizards.  It’s truly beautiful and really well done.  The only down side is that the only way to get out is to stand in line at the very top, waiting for an elevator.  The lines are long and chaotic.  Additionally, since the elevator is at the very top of a rain forest dome, it’s incredibly hot, steamy and, as with the rest of this echo-y, clamorous place, incredibly noisy.

I will say that what made the trip there a much greater pleasure than it would otherwise have been was the fact that I met up with my brother-in-law and niece there.  My two were delighted in the company of their cousin, and I always feel lucky when I get to spend time with my brother-in-law, no matter where that time is spent.  What a nice man he is.

Whining is finished now.  This is where I put in all the links for the things I read today, many of which readers brought to my notice (thank you!), but that I really didn’t get a chance to think about.

I think I am the last conservative blogger in America to link to it, but link to it I will.  You must read Angelo Codevilla’s America’s Ruling Class — and the Perils of Revolution, which pretty accurately spells out the state of American politics.  You won’t be less worried or frustrated when you’re done reading it, but you will be enlightened.

Did I mention whining a couple of paragraphs above?  That’s actually something important to think about.  Although I do it all the time, I’m aware that whining is not an attractive quality.  A couple of PR and public policy experts have figured out that Israel has been whining lately.  The whines are completely righteous and justified, but they fall into a vacuum of ignorance.  Listeners are not sympathetic.  It turns out that the effective way for Israel to deal with her plight is to do exactly what the Palestinians and their fellow travelers have been doing for so long:  she needs to demonize the opposition.  And what’s so great about this tactic is that, rather than making things up, as her enemies do, all that Israel has to do is broadcast the opposition’s actual words and deeds.  When people see what Israel is up against, as opposed to just hearing how Israel suffers, they become remarkably more sympathetic to Israel’s situation and dire security needs.

By the way, those same Palestinians who have managed to convince just about everyone in the world that the Israelis are worse than Hitler, have managed to hide from the world’s view the fact that, with Israel as their enemy, they are living high on the hog, enjoying standards far in excess of those Arab Muslims in lands that don’t have the good fortune to have Israel as their next door neighbor and enemy.

I loooove Andrew Breitbart.  Seriously.  I’m just crazy about the guy.  I think he is one of the most brilliant political thinkers in America right now.  He’s figured out what the PR folks are talking about:  show the opposition’s ugly side, using real footage of them being really ugly.  And to that end, immediately after the NAACP made waves complaining about unprovable and almost certainly non-existent Tea Party racism, he came out with actual footage of vile racism courtesy of — the NAACP.  Genius.  Sheer genius.  Here’s just one example of the ugly, discriminatory race obsession that characterizes the NAACP and its fellow travelers:

UPDATEAndrew Breitbart jumped the gun.  The snippet he got was taken out of context and, when put back into context, shows Sherrod explaining that, having once been a racist, she’s learned the error of her ways.  It also appears that the NAACP audience, which should have been the real focus of this video, as the video was a counter-attack to the NAACP’s decision to lambaste the Tea Party on racism grounds, murmurs approvingly when Sherrod reveals her new, enlightened views of race.

If you need it, here’s a little more on the Democrats’ entire ugly obsession with race, one that turns on its head Martin Luther King’s vision of an America in which people are judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  Oh, and here’s one more thing about that race obsession, and how Obama’s administration uses it to consolidate power, while sowing civil dissent.

When I wrote my post about burqas as a weapon, not just a type of clothing, I dragged in discussions of mosques and minarets too.  I entirely forget to mention in that article the mosque that is plotted for Ground Zero.  Pat Condell did not forget:

Even the New York Times periodically recognizes that federalizing school funding with no regard whatsoever for the situation at the ground is unfair, disruptive and damaging.  What staggers me is that these same NYT types are incapable of recognizing an overarching principle, which is that reactive government closer to home is always more understanding than directive central government far away.

Whether you’re in the military or not, don’t believe this administration when it claims to love the military and cries crocodile tears over its sufferings.

It took me almost half a lifetime to figure out that the NRA has always been right:  “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”  I needed to see crime rates soaring in London, in Chicago, and in Washington, D.C., as well as the chaos in post-Katrina New Orleans neighborhoods that did not have gun owners to finally understand this simple principle.  More and more, statistics are revealing the obvious:  a law-abiding, armed citizenry is safer than a law-abiding unarmed citizenry.  Contrary to liberal fears that arms will automatically turn us into Liberia or some equally horrific anarchic society, it’s clear that what effects such a change is leaving arms only to the criminals.

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  • Spartacus

    “More and more, statistics are revealing the obvious:  a law-abiding, armed citizenry is safer than a law-abiding unarmed citizenry.”
    Rewind to 1998, specifically the day the Cox Report was released.  As I was driving somewhere anyway, I decided to tune in NPR to hear how they would cover the release of the report (or, more to the point, whether they could bring themselves even to mention it).  In full disclosure, I got to wherever I was going before the hour was over, and so cannot definitively say whether they mentioned the Cox Report, but I must give them credit for a very well-done, 15-minute segment on an incident that was a microcosm of the war in Kosovo.
    The segment told the sad story of a little town called Laštiča (losh-TEE-tsa; guessing on the spelling based on the spelling of other Yugo towns, but failed to find it on a map).  A predominantly ethnic Albanian town of about 1,500, it fell victim one day to two truckloads, or about a couple dozen, of Serb paramilitary thugs who rolled in.  Most of the townspeople fled to the hillside outside the town.  Those who didn’t get the word or were otherwise unable to flee were systematically beaten, raped, and / or murdered as the town was looted and put to the torch.  And it just didn’t sound right: 1,500 cowering in fear, and at the (unforthcoming) mercy of 24?  How could that be?  But of course, how many Kosovars had anything to shoot back with?  And that was the crucial difference.  A citizenry that is not allowed to act as its own militia will fall prey to any militia that its government either sends against it, or to which it turns a blind-but-approving eye.
    I’m reasonably certain that NPR had no intention of airing a 15-minute ad for the Second Amendment — and of course they dutifully failed to connect the dots — but I did appreciate their efforts nonetheless.

  • jj

    Well, you ended by going all over the place with this post – which is fine, but Ill keep it to the initial subject, and I’ll second your opinion:  You wanna go to a museum?  Go to New York.  Go to the American Museum of Natural History on the upper west side, and you will have been to a museum.  An actual, real, museum.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    “Natural Wonders”
    One of the defining characteristics of today’s “progressive” is the complete absence of a sense of wonder. No object, no natural phenomenon, no idea, no accomplishment is worthy of admiration in its own right….everything is merely a marker in power and status games. All fields of knowledge are transformed into a squishy form of “social studies.”

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    The JP post about how problematical the israeli PR apparatus is good.
    “It turns out that the effective way for Israel to deal with her plight is to do exactly what the Palestinians and their fellow travelers have been doing for so long:  she needs to demonize the opposition.”

    But Israelis don’t do this because it would make them into Nazis. They’re afraid of being called Nazis. Or at least, their ruling class is afraid.

  • suek

    “this was a lovely, little gathering of precious, semi-precious and simply interesting stones.  For me, it was always one of the highlights of a visit to the Academy, and I sorely missed it today.”
    Maybe you should inquire into what happened to the collection?  So many possibilities…donated, stuffed away somewhere for a later exhibit, just stuffed away, sold to pay for the new building, nobody has any idea about those old rocks… I’m sure there are more possiblities!  However…if you find them, maybe a local group would be interested in exhibiting them somewhere…   You could be  a matchmaker!
    From what I’m hearing, the NRA might have been infiltrated.  They’re doing/saying things that don’t seem consistent with their political positions of the past.
    Re: racism…didn’t I hear this conversation before??  on this blog?? like … about 2008 shortly before the election???


    Go to the American Museum of Natural History on the upper west side
    I can’t compare the two, but the museum on the west side (81st & Central Park West) is fantastic. My brother and family live on 81st, which always enhances any trip to NYC.
    “These natural wonders are great, but you’re destroying them by your very existence.”
    It’s not just the museums. I love watching nature programs, including those with six or more parts on how this or that was created. Of course, now they include the ‘green’ message about the destruction of [fill in the coordinates] because of the human race.
    Who wants to be scolded for breathing when all you wanted to do was watch the animals migrate.

  • JKB

    A must read on gun control is this post by Kevin Williamson over at NR:   Coyotes in the State of Nature
    As he points out, progressive gun control is not about guns but about the ideas a person might get it they are able to live without the good graces of the state.

    Even in the relatively free part of America I live in, I’ve gotten strange looks when I stated that ultimately crime control is the responsibility of good citizens.  We hired police to handle the day to day aspects of crime when it got so prolific that depending on the Posse Comitatus disrupted the economic pursuits of the citizens to the point that contracting out the function was more efficient and permitted the community to grow.  A bonus was the buffer put between law enforcement and vengeance in most instances.  But if the police are unable to handle the problems, the responsibility still lies with the citizenry to put down crime.  Sadly, by establishing the “law enforcement” cadre, we created the means not only for crime control but also social control and subjugation.  Kind of like the robot ins I, Robot.  Created to provide a service to mankind, the robots decided they could better accomplish their mission with more detailed and personal control.  So has the concept of law enforcement evolved.

    It is pretty radical to suggest that police power derives from the citizenry and can thus be taken away by the citizenry.  It terrifies the State fetishists.

  • MacG
  • MacG

    My comment window was freaking out but it took the link I provided to give some clarity to the White/black farmer issue.  Trust but verify.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    Of course it is verification. It is verification that the NAACP had no problems with racism on the part of blacks. The reaction of the audience is quite clear.
    Only when they have to do damage control, do they worry about appearing fair. They’re still neck to neck with the Black Panthers operationally.

  • MacG

    I thought her point was that she learned that she had erred in supporting blacks over whites and poor trancends color. This was a part of her learning curve.  If this is what she really meant then she has learned a big lesson in that a lot of her preconcived ideas, the ideas that hse bought into were wrong.  This would be akin to a Arabic Muslim learning the Jews do not infact use the blood of gentile children in the Purim cookies.  I took it to mean that she (not the NAALCP) had an ah ha moment and her giving partial aid the to white farmer was wrong when he deserved full aid even over his obnoxious attitude (perceaved or real).  This was her struggle to aid the Samaritan as it were.

  • MacG

    Seeing more of the full video, she does still hold to the myth that the Republicans are doing hte things htat htey are doing because we have a black president.  So there is room to grow.


    My science contribution to this thread a day late.

    We’ve gone from landing on the moon, to Moonies, to NASA advising muslims in 41 years.


  • suek

    Don’t write off the Sherrad incident as done quite yet.  If you haven’t seen this yet, by all means check it out:


    Vilsack apologized and no shocker during the follow up press conference – no one raised a single question about the Pigford settlement.
    Let’s all cry ‘snookered’ together!

  • suek

    Talk about random fascinating stuff out there!  Since I watch Fox news, I’m not particularly aware of what’s going on with the non-cable news shows, so I found this interesting:


    what’s going on with the non-cable news shows
    It almost makes you want to drop a massive airlift of pamphlets onto the population. My local news is just dreadful and filled with crime in my tri-state area, traffic reports, weather, sports interspersed with one or two lines about national news with the  requisite number of plugs for the evening alphabet news.
    If you are not watching Fox and reading you are clueless. Then again, if you are like my liberal brother, who finds discussing politics just wearisome and a few liberal friends, who become instantly breathless and panting at the very idea that I watch Fox News and are forever trying to clue me in, on the ‘real truth’ like some raving missionary rant…

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~nooriginalthought/ Charles

    On a related note to the Sherrod incident.  I was watching ABC World News tonight when Jake Tapper (or someone) asked why Obama changed his opinion and would like to rehire her. White House Spokesperson said that “the facts changed.”

    I was thinking, my god, what idiots these liberals be, facts do NOT change, only one’s understanding of them can change.  The Obama Whitehouse cannot even admit that they didn’t have all the knowledge before and now they do – it is always someone else’s fault.  In this case it was the fault of “the facts.”

    Then the report continued and stated that, indeed, the facts did not change, only Obama’s understanding of them did.  So, maybe there is some decency in the newsmedia after all.

  • MacG

    Premature judgement on Gates and his police department, premature judgement on Arizona’s defense of Citzenship law, and now Sherrod.  The song in my head: “Oops. I did it again”. Someone take the nuclear football out of his hands please cuz once you push it there is no time to discover changing facts.  I think he has a propensity to shoot from the hip more like a cowboy than GWB ever did (apologies to cowboys everywhere).

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    “who become instantly breathless and panting at the very idea that I watch Fox News and are forever trying to clue me in, on the ‘real truth’ like some raving missionary rant…”
    That’s their religion alright.
    You should return the favor, with guns and what real violence is ; )
    This is my summary of what happened.
    She got caught up in a NAACP vs Tea Party fire fight.  

    She was taped giving a speech to NAACP convention using a story she told of her racist past. Breitbart played this as a leading salvo to the charge that NAACP has their own internal problems with racism, thus making them too hypocritical to speak on Tea Party racism.  

    The government bureacrats, amazingly enough, did a reaction CYA moment and fired her. The NAACP also reflextively did damage control first, without investigation, due partially, I think, to Breitbart’s reputation and the ACORN histories.  

    As the story became more fully fleshed, the woman in question came out looking good. Which, ironically, made the NAACP and the agriculture bureau look bad.  

    Breitbart didn’t get a critical direct hit. But his range was close enough to make the enemy flinch and make mistakes. So an indirect hit.
    The thing is, government agencies has been traiined to cover their arse, partially by the NAACP and other race baiters. When they hear a charge of racism, the yhave been conditioned, by the Left, to bow down and apologize. The yare only reconsidering issues because the NAACP and their race masters have told them to reverse the story. 

    But, the damage is done.
    She isn’t the one who needs to die by the sword.”

    She isn’t the one being targeted. It is simply collateral damage. The target is the NAACP. In so far as people like her caught up in it, is cause the nAACP use them as human shields. Or they attend NAACP meetings and give speeches at them. 

    It’s kind of obvious that if you stake your reputation alongside an organization and that organization is rendered for target termination, you might get some of the back blast ontop of yourself.
    “But in the context of how she hoped to do better?  ”

    In the context that wealth redistribution is better. It’s not race war, it’s class war. So instead of posing white vs black, she said that she saw the superiority of the rich vs poor warfare over the white vs black war. 

    This was the lesson, amongst other things she was talking about politically against Republicans, that she was giving a speech about at one time. 

    “You don’t destroy an ordinary person’s life just because they happened to get in the crosshairs of national politics for a moment.    ”

    That’s up to the government.
    The quotes are from Grim, who some may know as a uncommon author at Blackfive and elsewhere.