Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

July 4th Wrapup

It was a busy day. In a nutshell, did some shopping, worked on the aquarium, went to Shoreline Amphitheater with friends for the SF Symphony/fireworks show.

Longer version behind the cuts

Macy's Sale
As I said in yesterday's post, Macy's was selling housewares for 50% off. After a lot of comparing the 8" pans, I decided to get the most expensive one because it was reassuringly heavy, well-built, and had a silicone grip over the metal handle. Made by Anolon. See it see it here sort of. I got the 8", not the 10". Then went in search of a food scale since my new food plan is 1200 calories and things are measured in ounces. Found one for 49 cents. At Macy's. Incredible. Got it home and found out why it was 49 cents - you have to hold the food basket otherwise it topples over, spilling the food. I think I'll find a digital postal scale instead. Did not find a 10-inch chef's knife, and the 8" one I would have settled for was not on sale.

The French Store
Next stop, Target, which is on the other end of the mall. The mall is closed (Sunnyvale) so I had a nice walk in the sun. 20 lbs of kitty litter is $2.40, which beats Walmart. Also did some other shopping, got 5-lb hand weights. I had a set of weights, but they are holding down the cat tree. Also looked at knives, but they didn't have a 10-inch one either.

Baby Betta Project
Pet co in Sunnyvale usually has the aquarium stuff I need, and sometimes they have people in the fish area if you want to buy tropical fish or live plants. Not today. I wanted to add to the gourami tank, but nobody was around to help. Also wanted more plants. But what I was really looking for was a breeder tank - it is a container which hangs inside the main aquarium, big enough to hold baby fish & some plants, to protect them from Those Who Eat Their Own Young - and baby food. Fish baby food is usually a liquid.

A little subtext here - when I was a kid, I raised fancy guppies. I was pretty successful for a couple of years buying a couple of males and a bunch of females, growing the babies to adulthood and selling them to the store where I'd bought the originals. When I moved to the Bay Area, I did the same with Betas and then Jewel Ciclids. When I moved back to Seattle, I sold my tanks and gear and fish. So I've been doing this baby fish raising thing for a while.

Anyhow, Petco didn't have anything I was looking for, so I took myself to Pet Club, which did. Got the holding tank, two kinds of baby food, but like Petco they were on skeleton staff and nobody was there to sell me the plants and gouramis. That's okay, those are a lower priority.

Got home, dipped the holding tank into the main aquarium, and watched it fill up with water and baby fish. The next part was tedious - I had to find as many of the babies as I could, and using a fine mesh brine shrimp net, transported them two or three at a time into the holding tank. After about an hour of this, I figured any fry which were escaping my net would probably escape Papa Fish too, so I'd leave them for now. Took some sprigs from the plants in the main tank and plopped them into the holding tank, and squirted a few drops of the liquid food, and also sprinkled some finely powdered baby food too. I didn't do a count, but I'm guessing there are about 30 babies. I may take pictures, but it will be tough because these guys are about the width of a needle, and maybe 1/4" long. And I would be shooting through 2 layers of water, a pane of glass and a layer of plastic. Maybe I can shoot from above. Either way, I don't think it will show how tiny they are.

4th of July Festivities
At 5 pm I was at my long-time friend Janice's condo. I met Janice about 15 years ago when she answered my ad on ba.singles. We had lunch, and hung out together enough to figure out that we were going to be "just friends". But thanks to Janice's exemplary social skills and us having a lot in common, we're also biking buddies, movie pals, and confidants. When she gets a group together to travel, I'm invited. And for a long time now, she has lived in Mountain View, which owns Shoreline Amphitheater, which means first dibs on and reduced prices for all their shows. I can't remember how long ago I started going to the 4th of July concert/fireworks with her gang, but I'm guessing more than 10 years ago. I've lived in Mountain View a lot of that time, so sometimes when we have a big crowd I'll buy some of the tickets too.

This year we had most of our core group. Janice's brother, and two couples who have been with us for a while. Missing was one of my favorite couples, two women who are both medical professionals who are partners, and are raising a child together. That story alone would make them interesting, but they are truly good people, smart and fun to have around.

I work right across the street from the amphitheater, and my ID got us into the company parking lot, both cars. It's a short walk to the venue, and in the past it had been a very easy exit because the traffic people route the major flow down another street, and give us a free left turn onto Shoreline Blvd. More on that later.

Janice likes to get there way early, so we can take turns going out for food/drink/entertainment and before it gets too cold & dark, her gang usually plays a couple of hands of bridge. Also, we get seats on the lawn, and it's first-come, so we always get a choice section of grass to park on.

SF Symphony
If it was just me, I'd skip the concert and just show up for the fireworks. The reason is for the past umpteen years I have been sorely disappointed with the summer edition of the SF Symphony. There's always a guest conductor whose credentials are well below what I would expect from a major symphony leader. And anyone who is any good in the orchestra will be off for the summer being a guest soloist with another, less famous orchestra. I call the summer group the SF Some-Phoney. Sometimes the show is saved by the guest having a cool special agenda, like the time when he had gotten the scores from some old Bugs Bunny cartoons and showed the cartoons with the orchestra playing the music live. And sometimes it's saved by really good guest vocalist.

This time there were no vocalists, no cool agenda, and the conductor's resume was unusually lame. However, the symphony sounded teriffic. The musicianship was super. They sounded like a big-city orchestra. They got my attention with The Star Spangled Banner. The arrangement was very close to the one my high school band director wrote. He was the chief arranger for Filmore Music at the time, and his arrangement is the one with the trumpet flourishes and the trombone/baritone counterpoint - it's the best-selling arrangement of the national anthem ever. How he got to be a high school band director is another story. They didn't do the flourishes, but the basses played the counter-melody. It sounded very good.

Unfortunately, the program was not so good. The program and the theme. The theme was California Dreamin'. I don't know where the person who came up with this theme obtained the mixture of crack, extasy and quualudes he/she/it was on at the time. Here is what they played as California music:

  • An overture by that great California dreamer, Dmitri Shostakovich.

  • A Latin American Dance by a Berkeley composer (okay, that's not too bad)
  • Chinese flute music
  • A Gypsy violin piece
  • Blugrass fiddle music

After the intermission, they continued the discontinuity with:

  • A Hundred Million Miracles from Flower Drum Song
  • The Theme from Vertigo

The lame excuse is these are from movies, so the music was written in Hollywood, which is California. The only problem with that theory is the first item was written for a Broadway musical in New York. Okay, okay, Flower Drum Song is set in SF. But the music is NYC.

Finally they played some Cal stuff. I Left My Heart in SF, San Francisco from the 1936 movie of the same name starring Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald. It needed a vocalist. Then a medley of 3 Beach Boys hits, while the video screens played (silently) scenes from Beach Blanket Bingo with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

Then they slipped back into "lame excuse for a theme" mode with Summertime from Porgy and Bess, another NYC tune. But it's summer, and this is California, so...

The final number was called Memories of America which was a hodge-podge of mostly American patriotic folk tunes. I did not like it. It started with a contrapuntal arrangement of three trumpets playing Taps, which is not my idea on how to start any piece.

Again, though I did not care for the choice of music, the orchestra played it all very well.

Then it was time for fireworks, and the orchestra helped light up the skies with the usual Sousa marches. Again, they played these as well as one could hope, but my 40 years of marching band background makes me shudder at strings playing all those woodwind and brass parts.

The fireworks were not as good as last year. I think they cut them back because of the relatively high wind. They were definitely exploding a lot lower in the sky than usual - the big ones didn't even clear the fence. But they were good enough, and the kids loved 'em.

Exit, Stage Left
This year the raffle items were so uninteresting we didn't stay for the drawing. And this year for the first time ever, there were no goodies handed out at the door. Last year was lollipops. Years past it was ice cream bars and lollipops.

Exiting the company parking lot took half an hour. The traffic pattern was changed, and the enthusiastic traffic directing was woefully incompetent. At one point we were strongly encouraged to slam into oncoming traffic by a woman who had her back to the oncoming SUVs. Also, for some bizarre reason, they had not blocked off traffic heading towards the venue, and people were getting trapped. It took us about 45 minutes to make the 3-minute trip back to Janice's.

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