Went with the family to see Space Shuttle Endeavour and a Pixar-themed exhibit on computer animation at the California Science Center.

The 6YO loved the Pixar exhibit, which broke down all the steps to creating a computer-animated movie into separate hands-on centers where you could do things like…

  • Apply different textures and bump maps to an object.
  • Rig a character for movement.
  • Change the lighting of a scene (real or virtual).
  • Define a shape in a 3D grid and watching the computer rotate it (way too much time on this one).
  • Create your own stop-motion animation by moving an actual desk lamp.

The only way we got him out was to point out that the museum was closing, and we only had 10 minutes left to get to the touch pools he’d said he wanted to visit. As it turned out, the pools shut down about two minutes before we got there, but staff was willing to let him look at the starfish. And we did catch the last desert flash flood simulation of the day.

As for the shuttle…he wasn’t impressed. He insisted on taking the simulator ride, but the real thing? I guess it’s old news when the whole fleet’s already been shut down by the time you start hanging onto long-term memories. 🤷

Admittedly, a big aluminum hut isn’t as suitable a viewing area for Endeavour as open space in broad daylight, surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd. Though that might have been the fact that it was my first time getting up close. On the other hand, this time I could see both sides. Heck, I could walk under it!

There is a new building in the works, where they’ll be displaying it with one of the external tanks in launch position. I’m sure it will lead to plenty of cartoons and movies where someone goes to the museum, breaks into the shuttle and blasts off.

I couldn’t make the building line up with my memories of visits when I was younger, back when it was the Museum of Science and Industry. The only thing I could match up at all were the wall facing the Exposition Park rose garden, and some of the buildings by the parking lot (a sunken structure now, but I remember it being flat).

Then again, what I remember are specific exhibits more than the layout: a big math/physics exhibit, a chicken incubator, and a multi-screen cartoon about energy sources and engine types called “The Water Engine.” (Each screen has a character talking up internal combustion, flywheels, mag-lev, electric, etc. I still quote the Peter Lorre-inspired fuel-cell scientist saying “And then…we burn the hydrogen!”)

It turns out there’s a good reason nothing fit my memory: They tore down the whole building in the late 1990s, preserving only that one wall!

The Scream recreated in LEGO, with the person in 3D in front of the bridge and sunset as a flat background. The whole scultpure is viewed at a skewed angle.

😱 Artist Nathan Sawaya recreates Edvard Munch’s The Scream in LEGO, on exhibit in The Art of the Brick.

Perhaps it’s a cliche, but I’ve rather liked The Scream since I first saw a print of it somewhere. (Well, one version of it, anyway, as the artist created four of them.) Maybe it was in an art book, maybe it was a poster. Maybe it was one of a zillion pop culture references to it. (Heck, it’s got its own emoji now.) I associate it with college, but I also associate it with the crowd I hung out with in high school, so it’s hard to say.

And of course growing up in the 1980s means I have a lot of fond memories of playing with LEGO.

I got to see the full exhibit at the Fleet Science Center last week. (It’s there through the end of January). The first two rooms are mostly recreations of famous paintings and sculptures — Starry Night, the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and so on — and the rest are original works. Some are realistic, while others are outright surreal. Almost all of them are done using standard rectangular LEGO bricks and tiles.

Sadly, the 6YO was not impressed by the subject matter, the creativity, or the craftsmanship (he was much more interested in building in the play area afterward), and tried to leave several times before we got through the whole exhibit. Then we got to the the dinosaur skeleton. That one he liked, as well as the crowd walking along a street that, when viewed from the right angle, lines up with the markings on the wall to form the image of an eye.

Continuing the write-up of our vacation along the Central California coast from the last week of February, we started out with Cambria/San Simeon and Hearst Castle, then wrapped up Wednesday night in Pacific Grove. That brings us to…

Day 3: Thursday — Monterey and Carmel

We checked out of our hotel Thursday morning and drove down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Then we drove past it, past Cannery Row (which is now a shopping area), up one street, down another, and finally past a bunch of streets with NO LEFT TURN signs trying to find a way into a parking garage. Eventually we ended up on a highway that took us into the main part of town until we could finally turn around and make our way back to the Cannery Row area. *whew*

So we made it to the aquarium shortly after 10:00, which meant we got to see them feeding the penguins. It was about 15 minutes of introducing the black foot penguins, handing them fish, and asking kids in the audience to be “penguin heroes” by doing things like saving water.

I’d been to the aquarium twice before — once when I was around 10 with my parents, and once when I was around 20 with friends on a road trip, so it seems I’m on a roughly 10-year schedule. I’m 90% certain that half of the current building wasn’t there the first time I went. And I’m not so sure how much was there last time.

I missed the next two shows, feeding the sea fish and feeding the animals in the kelp forest, due to a tech call from work (the only one all week, thankfully), but Katie caught them both. I got to see a lot of an outdoor terrace on the third floor, which at least had a nice view of the bay, though it was cloudy all morning. Afterward she took me over to the outer-bay tank and showed me the way the anchovies (or was it sardines? neither of us can remember) school together and form this silvery shimmering cloud.

We took in about 3/4 of the aquarium during the rest of the morning and early afternoon, then went looking for lunch in Cannery Row. We ended up at a crepe place near where we parked, which wasn’t terribly good (they used pre-made crepes and some of the fillings that should have been hot were still cold when they were served), then went over to the Ghirardelli shop. Because ever since they closed the shop in South Coast Plaza, I can’t go to a city with a Ghirardelli shop and not go there. (Seriously, that was the way I could handle the stress of shopping in South Coast Plaza.) I had the Mint Bliss sundae. Katie just had the square of chocolate that they put on the sundae. And it was seriously good. Also, check out the picture of one of the tables they had outside.

So after stopping for chocolate & ice cream, we made our way out to Carmel By-The-Sea to check out Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo. Anyone who grew up in California in the last few decades will remember learning about the Spanish colonial period, and the emphasis on the chain of missions founded by Junipero Serra. Both of us had visited a number of the missions on family vacations, but somehow Katie’s family had missed this one, or at the very least she didn’t remember it. So we spent an hour or two exploring the grounds and the museum.

Something I hadn’t remembered was that this mission had collapsed during an earthquake in the 1800s, and was left in ruins until an early 20th century project to rebuild it from surviving structures, drawings and descriptions. Also interesting: it’s an active church, with a school on the grounds (which seemed to let out while we were there). Talk about living history!

Finally we went out to visit my aunt on her ranch up in Carmel Valley. We’d never been there, so it was kind of a surprise to see just how off the beaten path it was. It’s the kind of place where directions involve going to a certain mile marker, then looking for a one-lane road and following it up into the hills.

We only stayed for an hour or so, because we had to be in San Francisco that night, but we got to see the place (which has a fantastic view!) and catch up a bit before getting back on the road.

The next time I plan a trip I’m going to have to remember that driving estimates from Google Maps are not sufficient. Aside from traffic, you need to factor in late starts, stops for sightseeing or bathroom breaks, stopping for lunch, etc. We’d hoped to make it to San Francisco for dinner, but ended up taking the first exit in Gilroy, looking for someplace to eat. Amazingly the street proved to have only a small pizza place and the occasional bar, so we finally turned onto a side street and found ourselves… back at the freeway. Once we pulled out a map, it became clear that the road we’d taken actually paralleled Highway 101 except for the one spot where it turned a little diagonal and crossed. We ended up just eating at Chevy’s, rationalizing that the locations near us had long since closed, so it was still a restaurant we couldn’t go to at home!

It was around 10:30 at night by the time we checked into the Mosser Hotel in San Francisco. We’d picked the hotel based on my brother’s recommendation, and were quite happy with our three-day stay there.

Continued in Friday at WonderCon. More photos on Flickr in my California Coast photo set.

Saturday night we met up with my parents after the con for dinner. On the way to the restaurant, Chopahn — very good Afghan food, another one we’d definitely recommend — a mob of people made up as zombies came shambling up the street. We decided to hang back and wait for them to pass.

Sunday morning we got up early so we could check out of the hotel and move the car. (We left most of our luggage stored at the hotel, but they wanted all the cars out of their valet lot by noon to make room for a new round of guests.) I was amazed that we managed to get a space in a lot literally right across the train tracks from the convention center. Of course, it was around 7:00 AM, and the con didn’t open until 9:30. Neither of us needed to get in immediately today, and standing in line for 2½ hours didn’t seem appealing, so we tried to find something else to do.

We went back to Cafe 222 for breakfast (it seems appropriate that we did it twice), then wandered the Gaslamp district a bit — which is a little creepy at that hour, when very little is open aside from coffee places and restaurants that serve breakfast, and few people are out and about aside from people working at deliveries, taking out trash, etc. and homeless people. Once the William Heath Davis House opened, we went into the museum and took a self-guided tour.

Back to the convention, we both spent the morning combing the floor. I focused on the artists’ area, and ended up getting another sketch, this one of Iris West II by Freddie Williams II. Eventually I made my way to the second DC Nation panel, dashed off a blog post, and discovered that my writeup of the Comic Book Tattoo panel and signing had hit Undented and at least half a dozen other blogs and forums. The 24 hours from 5pm Saturday to 5pm Sunday (midnight to midnight in UTC) had the highest traffic this blog has seen since I installed WP-Stats, something like a year and a half ago.

Katie hit the Cartoon Voice acting panel, during which room staff moved her purse without telling her. She stood up at the end of the panel and it was gone. We spent the next hour and a half talking to event staff (run by a different organization, so they didn’t actually talk to each other), filing a missing property report, reporting her credit card lost, and looking for the purse itself, until I went back into the room and checked with the tech table — and there it was.

We had just enough time to make it to the sing-along screening of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, “Once More With Feeling.” It was different from last year, since it was a much bigger room and the sound was turned up too high to really hear the audience sing, but still a lot of fun.

Afterward, we wrapped up the weekend with ice cream at the Ghirardelli shop. Then we picked up the car and the luggage, and started the long drive home.

I mentioned that on Saturday, we left Comic-Con for a few hours to check out the ships at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. We saw five:

  • The Star of India, billed as “the world’s oldest active ship”
  • The HMS Surprise, a replica of an 18th century British ship.
  • The Berkeley, an 1898 steam ferry
  • The Medea, a 1904 yacht
  • A B-39 Soviet submarine.

The big attractions, of course, were the Star of India and the HMS Surprise. Naturally, the Star of India was closed when we got there.

Star of India as seen from a porthole in the Surprise
The Star of India seen from the Surprise

The Surprise was fun, though. It turns out it was built in the 1970s as a replica of an 18th century British Royal Navy vessel, the HMS Rose. It was sold to 20th Century Fox in 2001 and used to film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. After filming was complete, the museum bought the ship and renamed it the HMS Surprise in honor of the fictional vessel.

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