Joan Brown SFMOMA

Joan Brown SFMOMA

This one almost got away from us. Originally scheduled on a Thursday morning, we discovered the museum opens late on Thursdays so we moved our visit to Tuesday. But the driver/docent developed sniffles and only the two of us who were planning to go by train/ferry on a crisp winter day made the trip. Also, with no RSVP, I felt someone had to show up in case there was anyone we didn’t know about (there wasn’t).

The artist’s early abstract expressionism was commercially very successful. Abstract in the sense you could tell the subject was a dog or a toddler, her canvasses featured heavy impasto and were sought by NYC and L.A. galleries and collectors. After the birth of her child, the artist’s style began to change to something more like Picasso’s, whom she admired. Her work became biographical, as Picasso’s is, and she developed her own distinctive visual style, as Picasso did. But large faces are hard to live with, and collectors planning to display in a residential setting were not attracted. Nevertheless, she kept painting, divorcing, marrying, traveling and seeking spiritually.

There were many self-portraits, and Dianne noticed one with the artist wearing a similar jacket and a wild 1960s hat, so she asked for this shot. Dianne knew how to get to the glass elevator that rises on an angle to reach Salesforce Park where we walked the length on our way to the museum. I had some fun posing in front of the gold curtain by the 1960’s exhibit.

Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry

Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry
Lesson in Chemistry - a novel

“Know what you need to do, dig in really hard, and do not expect it to be easy.”

As I checked out this book, the librarian said, “Did you wait a long time? People are waiting a long time for ‘Lessons in Chemistry’” so I read it promptly. It took only three days to go the 385 page distance because the book was so thrilling and satisfying. I have reconsidered my recent vow to avoid novels: this one was a delight. For months I have been chewing on Terry Real’s observation: we live in a society that is patriarchal, narcissistic and addicted. Elizabeth, the chemist, is working in the early 1960s, back when I was making plans to become a biologist. The author, Bonnie Garmus, draws a clear picture of the efforts made by men in academia and the in business of science to oppress, repress and dismiss women. Talented women. Hard-working women.

Garmus said, “the book isn’t anti-men, it’s anti-sexism.”

I love how the book came into being. According to Sadie Stein in her New York Times interview of author Bonnie Garmus, a career copywriter who experiences some “garden variety misogyny” one day at work and takes her anger out on the page.

“I felt like I was writing my own role model, and so she came easily… [the chemist understood that] You can really do what you need to do. You just have to dig in really hard and not expect it to be very easy.”

I learned a lot about rowing, and both the author and the chemist relieve stress by working out on an “erg” a rowing machine. Bonnie Garmus had endured nearly 100 rejections of prior projects during her career as a copywriter, so if you just considered “Lessons in Chemistry,” it might look like an overnight success story: she took her anger out on the page, caught the eye of an agent who offered representation on the strength of three chapters. The book goes to auction; bidding wars ensue; the novel comes out and surpasses expectations.

I am glad that this book is striking a nerve with readers because it shines a light on 1960s behaviors that were so corrosive. By placing the novel in the recent past, it tells the truth about the oppression, mocking and belittling in the hard sciences that continues today in technology companies but is more skillfully denied (gaslighted). At the same time, the book was hilarious and I laughed out loud a lot. Reading this book was like putting healing ointment on a skinned knee.

I have been thinking a lot about the “American Dream” and its abhorrence of failure. Bonnie Garmus makes it very clear that in science, as in life, failure is an important part of the growth process and is to be grasped ferociously and wrestled to the ground. I was gratified to learn:

One high-school teacher, says Garmus, is making her students read “Lessons in Chemistry” for a class on the American dream.

Christmas The Villages 2022

Christmas The Villages 2022

Lily and her Christmas tree in The VillagesMary Rose picked me up at Orlando airport on Sunday morning, the day after my birthday. I had flown all night, more than 2,700 miles, so that I could meet Lily’s “parents” before they left on a cruise with several other of Mary Rose’s friends. About a month earlier, MR realized that she wanted all the dogs to be cared for but she could manage only three and there were four who needed looking after, so she sent an Email invitation to several siblings. I was the one who said yes and spent about $1,000 on r/t air tickets for the chance to spend two weeks at The Villages at Lily’s residence, with the use of a golf cart thrown in. Peggy sweetened the pot with a birthday gift of $500 to defray some of the costs, and the folks whose house and dog I was taking care of said they would offer some payment.

The house was really nice, walking distance from MR’s but overlooking a different lake — one with two fountains. The lanai was L-shaped, double-pane windows to the floor so Lily could look out to water on both sides of the lanai, nice privacy from neighbors on the other side of the lake. The home was a perfect constant temperature with no noisy furnace. (Mine sounds like a jet engine.) Granite-top decorator kitchen, nice television with Amazon Prime and PBS streams. I watched the first seven episodes of “The Periphal” on the first day of the temperature plunge.

The mercury plummeted in most of the country for seven days, cancelling all the outdoor events at The Villages including dancing, swimming and pickle ball. Mary took me to see a near-deserted Spanish Springs just as the freeze started.

Mary Rose Hated the Appearance of My Hair

On the night of the solstice we had a disastrous dinner, but the next morning we went to a party at 9 a.m. and to see ‘Avatar 2″ in 3-D, followed by a walk around another lake.

Don’t Feed The Alligators!

Lily got lots of walks: morning, afternoon, and I was surprised to discover I needed a flashlight at night because there are no street lights! She would get an early outing, breakfast, then a long walk, often all the way around the lake.

It would be hard to describe how quiet it was on Christmas morning at The Villages when the temperature was so low. Perhaps this image of one of the main lakes will tell the story. There are birds perched on the tops of the pilings of a long-gone pier that once thrust into the cold, silvery water.

Lily vigorously sampled the frosty scents, such a change from the normally redolent fragrances of other canine visitors, golf course, and gas-powered golf carts. Trotting around with her in the absence of other dogs was a pleasurable meditation.

Our solstice dispute meant we each spent Christmas alone, but we joined each other for Boxing Day Trivia Night where I met Ted’s son, Kevin, visiting from Rio de Janiero.

On my final day, Mary Rose and I enjoyed the Marketing Trolley Ride to all the new construction becoming available. I learned that more than 80,000 people live in The Villages which covers more than 70 square miles over three counties and boasts more than 700 holes of golf. Cait joined us for a sunset boat ride.

At 3:15 a.m. the next morning, the airport van collected me six hours before my scheduled 9 a.m. departure. The flight was delayed one hour, but it took a very long time to get through TSA. I got on line about 6:30 a.m. and MCO airport split the line at 7 a.m. as new TSA inspection stations were opened. The seven-hour daytime flight offered no food or alcohol, just some cookies. San Francisco experienced five inches of rain on the day we landed, but the landing was perfect. The wait for Airport Express was impacted by the rain, however, with some serious flooding in parts of the city.

I was very glad to see my neighbor Kiki at about 4:30 p.m. on the drizzly New Year’s Eve, picking me up at STS. I’m glad I got to experience The Villages. About a week later I was pleased to receive $350 and a nice note from the homeowners.

Birthday 2022

Birthday 2022

Kiraku Cake Delivered by Robot – Photo by Joyce

My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, so I thought I would celebrate by inviting the Saturday Saunterers to my home for cookies and coffee. I wrote to our leader, who (unknown to me) was finalizing plans for a December visit to Germany, so he simultaneously announced his absence for a few weeks and my offer to lead a creek hike on the 17th. I sent out a detailed map so folks could find the starting place — our normal starting place for this hike.

Notice Both Map and Field Instructions

I asked one of the hikers who comes every week to assist me — to lead a short section so that I could dash home and heat the coffee. She showed up at the start but did not even cross Fulton to start the hike. She took off by herself in a different direction and one of the hikers sprinted after her, and learned that she preferred to meet the rest of us at my house. So I had no help and the rest of the group arrived to wet chairs and cold coffee.

The rest of us being three people.

Wende, Marsha, Laura. Marsha’s husband Dave was also there

They sang happy birthday to me. I spent about $100 on food and flowers, which I gave away to my neighbors that afternoon before boarding a plane to Florida to help out my sister Mary Rose, at her request, dog-sit for her friends who were going on a cruise together.

Book: Our Missing Hearts

Book: Our Missing Hearts

Rarely do I see a book review by Stephen King in the New York Times. I never stopped to think that he even reads books, let alone reviews them for the NYTimes! Wow, this guy can write! And here’s a book he loved, written by a woman, Celeste Ng, about a dystopian near-future.

I am currently taking a class on the “Science in Science Fiction” and Stephen King refers to many of the classics.

Noah Gardner, known as Bird, is a 12 year-old Chinese American living with his father in Cambridge, Mass. His mother is a fugitive, on the run because she wrote a supposedly subversive poem titled “All Our Missing Hearts.” America is living under PACT — the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act — which became law during a confused and economically disastrous period known as the Crisis.

Noah’s father is a librarian and the books are being recycled into toilet paper. There is a lot about books and words, as well government scapegoating of minorities, in this case Asians. This review is so much fun to read, I decided read “Our Missing Hearts“!

I hated it. It took a long time to read and the ending violated Anet Dunne Rule #1: Don’t Get Caught. I made a vow not to waste my time on fiction again. I learned nothing. Grrr. But the Stephen King book review was good!

Asian Art Museum – 2022

Asian Art Museum – 2022
Bernice Bine Mural Asian Art Museum

Bernice Bing Mural with Dianne, Pat and Nanette

The OLLI Art Club visited the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on Saturday 19 November. Nanette collected us at Pat’s condo and drove us there on a beautiful autumn morning.

Jade Money Tree

We were delighted to find a Christmas bazaar on the ground floor with many wonderful textiles from around the world, but the exotic treasures on the third floor captivated us. We delighted at the sight of the rare 3,000 year old Bronze Age Chinese rhino, and I loved this jade “money tree” crafted from intricately carved wafers of jade. I wonder if the wafers themselves were used as currency?

We struggled with the audio app that we downloaded: it was hard to figure out how to use it, and the text was gray on a white background, typical design by young artists who don’t realize that aging eyes lose contrast (which is why you see Emails from your grandparents written in bold). The third floor has art from South Asia, the Persian World and West Asia, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Buddhist art as well as the fabled Chinese jade.

The architectural mash-up of the neoclassical library and the new museum is always a delight. I urged my friends to ascend in the glass elevator and descend on the semi-exterior escalators, then through the almost hidden doors to the magnificent marble stairway in the center of the old library and the stunning, renovated Samsung Hall.

Bronze Age Chinese Rhino Asian Art Museum

Bronze Age Chinese Rhino

We were able to get the $27 value tickets through Sonoma Library Discover and Go which was a learning experience. The tickets need to be reserved, and the reservation held until a day to two before the actual visit, when it needs to be cancelled or printed. If you print it at the time of reservation, you can’t cancel it and because there are limited number of spaces allocated, you deprive someone of using it if your plans change and you can’t go. Worse, you use up your own allotment of free tickets through the service. Nevertheless, we figured out how to use and it it was great!

Dianne had researched luncheon options and she chose Chao Pescao at 272 McAllister Street, just a few steps from the museum. The decor and food was wonderful! A very successful day.

Chao Pescao San Francisco

Dianne and Nanette at Chao Pescao

Walker Creek 2022

Walker Creek 2022

Justin organized a Walker Creek paddle because the optimum tides of about 5 feet would occur at about noon. This time Wayne joined us for his first paddle of Walker Creek.
walker creek put in

We pulled our boats to a small gravel island when we stopped for lunch, but they were nearly afloat when we returned.
Walker Creek Pt Reyes

We hiked up a hill to enjoy lunch, and checked out the trees on the river bank, some with sweeping arrays of Spanish moss.

Walker Creek can be truly magical with the sunlight reflecting off the water creating dancing lights on the tree trunks.

Justin brought his loppers and cut back many of the large branches to clear a way for us and for the stand-up paddle-boarders we saw. The large river otters were not pleased with our intrusion!

I brought hand clippers and enjoyed the stability of my wide kiwi as I trimmed the smaller branches in our path. The nimble kiwi was great maneuvering around the snags, but a lot of work to paddle on the open stretches near the put-in. Justin in his canoe was paddling two strokes to every one of Wayne’s in his beautiful, slim ocean boat, and I was paddling two strokes to every one of Justin’s! The sun came out and it was a beautiful day. I was surprised at how little birdsong there was.

Santa Rosa City Bus

Santa Rosa City Bus

About a month ago I got a special Bay Area clipper card and I wanted to make sure it worked, so I took the #6 bus by my house to Coddingtown Mall. I transfered to the #17 to get a ride to the SmartTrain, and I nearly missed the train! The conductor held it for me and I ran for it. Couldn’t figure out how to tag in, so I got off at central Santa Rosa expecting a return train momentarily. Nope. I read the schedule wrong. There would be a bus before the next train.

Nope. The return train came and went and I was still standing at the bus stop, watching in amazement as a “Not In Service” drove by at the scheduled time. Still, my chances of getting a ride to a stop close to home were with the bus so I waited for the next one. Learned about how wheel chairs and latched onto the bus. The driver has to unlatch. The wheelchair guy got off my bus in time to catch the 4 p.m. train to Santa Rosa North. I rode around to Piner High and another passenger and I unhappily discovered the “Not In Service” bus ahead of us, waiting at the bus stop just past the school entrance.

My bus pulled in behind, and the kids, approaching from the rear of the bus, all got on my bus. No one got off at my stop, they pretty much all went to Coddingtown Mall.

Number 6 Bus

What did I learn? The #6 bus drives back and forth between the two malls: downtown and Coddington, passing Oliver’s and Piner High on the way. The #15 bus is a waste — the stop is too far from the train station. It is easier to walk to the SmartTrain from Coddingtown through the apartments. I picked up bus schedules for the County buses to see if there is any way to park-and-ride to avoid $5 parking at SSU. So far, the schedules are impossibly difficult, arriving at campus 5 minutes after class start times.

I have been wanting to ride that bus for 20 years because I couldn’t figure out, by looking at it, what the route was. I’m glad I did it.

Celebrating Quiddity

Celebrating Quiddity

The dog in this NYTimes article by Alexandria Horowitz is named Quiddity by his two lexicographer “parents” (they don’t say owner). Quiddity is a “mid-sized mixed-breed dog with a sleek black coat, a scruffy schnauzer-like face and Brezhnev-esque eyebrows that gave her the appearance of a wise old man.”

Bringing Home Some ‘Hairy Joie de Vivre,’ and Taking Notes

Like many, the canine behavioral expert Alexandra Horowitz adopted a dog during the pandemic. She had extra incentive: understanding a puppy’s development. Now, she’s turned her observations into a book.


Because Alexandra Horowitz, 53, knew the dog’s mother and saw the puppy on the day she was born, “her early life was not full of trauma, and yet nonetheless she was not the dog I hoped she would be at first. She wasn’t responsive to us in a way that I wanted her to be.” Quid was impulsive, eager to run heedlessly after squirrels and other elusive creatures, inclined to bark more relentlessly and with less apparent purpose than Horowitz’s two older dogs.

“I feel now that I was way too focused on dog behavior,” she said. “In the beginning, nothing would slip by me, and it was too much for a puppy to bear. Over time, as I began to release my vise grip on the idea that she should be someone other than who she was, I began to appreciate her for who she really is.”

Untrammeled Enthusiams

Alex’s lexographer husband said, “I think she’s fascinating and full of excitement and love and she has a hairy joie de vivre. She is untrammeled in her enthusiasms, which is nice. Nobody’s interested in a jaded dog. She is also kind of a pain in the tuchus because of those untrammeled enthusiasms.” I looked it up and enthusiasm can be countable or uncountable. Apparently, he can count her enthusiasms, which include squirrels, tennis balls and untrammeled barking.

Quiddity can be defined as the essence that makes something the kind of thing it is and makes it different from any other. Quid is latin for “what” so if your dog was named Fred you would love his “fredness.”

I think Quiddity is what Dr.Rita Levi-Montalcini had in mind when she urged the Praise of Imperfection.

OLLI Art Paradise Winery Sculpture

OLLI Art Paradise Winery Sculpture
Paradise Ridge Sculpture

War Side of Mask Sculpture
photo by Nanette Simmons

Walter Byck, owner of the sculpture garden at Paradise Ridge Winery, gave the OLLI Art Club a tour, followed by a lunch hosted by Connie Codding.

This bus-shelter shaped sculpture has a WAR side holding ceramic masks of horror and loss. Stepping inside, one can see the inside of each mask, painted with the emotions of rage, revenge, domination and all that leads to war. On the other side of the “bus-shelter” are the PEACE masks: both the inside feelings and the outside manifestations of peace, joy, connection, safety, friendship and community.

Walter, in his 90s, walked us around, pointing with his cane at the kinetic sculpture by Ned Kahn and other electronic, motion-sensor, sound-emitting works. He unlocked “The Shoe” and Steering Committee Member Nanette went all the way up, taking photos of the top floor. More than twenty people joined us for the tour and talk.