Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bowling at Bel Mateo Bowl

We decided to try bowling with our friends at Bel Mateo Bowl, after our hike to Huddart County Park. It was almost Halloween time and Bel Mateo bowl had lots of Halloween decorations throughout. Some of the staff were also dressed in Ghoulish costumes to frighten us all.

Once getting the obligatory bowling shoes (my size 11 were way too big!), we settled to our chosen lane. We decided to play in two teams: Men vs Women. Yeah! The men were going to win for sure!

On the men's team, we had me, Alex K, Sasha, Dima, and Alex K.
On the women's team, we had Inna, Ira, Alla, and Liza.

On my first fame, I bowled unusually well (for me), scoring a total of 141, with lots of spares and a couple of strikes. Unfortunately, it went all downhill from there. Beginner's luck, maybe?

Here is a video of Inna bowling one frame:

Here is a video of Alex bowling one frame:

The men's team won, but my bowling scores declined from the high of 141 in the first game to just above 100 on my 3rd game.

Hiking in Huddart County Park

Today, we decided (despite the slightly drizzly weather), to hike in the beautiful Huddart County Park in San Mateo / Woodside, CA.

Based on recommendations in, we initially tried to follow the Crystal Springs Trail.
The Crystal Springs Trail is a single track trail that runs down the northern section of the park and connects to several trails in the park. This trail can be accessed at the Zwierlein Trailhead. There are no panoramic views on this trail but the hiker will experience hiking among redwood, madrone, and oak trees. This trail connects with the Canyon TrailCampground TrailDean Trail and Chaparral Trail. This trail will also cross McGarvey Gulch Creek. Crystal Springs Trail is the only trail that goes from the top to the bottom of the park.

I initially tried to use Alltrails and my iPhone 7 to help me guide on the trail, but somehow got on the Richards Road trail instead. However, I was able to get back onto Crystal Springs Trail and continue the beautiful hike.

Although the weather was initially drizzly, the dense forest canopy did not let much rain through and the sun started to come out mid-way through the hike.

We ran into a few deer on the path and a few horseback riders too.

Using MapMyWalk, I recorded our wanderings as follows. We did not have enough time to do the full Crystal Springs trail, but we enjoyed the short portion of the hike that we did. We definitely would like to come back again and continue where we left off.

We saw a lot of large mushrooms on the trail. Some were quite large.

It was a quiet, scenic, beautiful hike. I plan to come back here again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

2016 Halloween Concert at Dartmouth Middle School

Today, we saw a once-in-a-blue-moon Halloween Concert at the Dartmouth Middle School.

Most of the Concert and Symphonic Band were dressed in black and some of the choir participants had Halloween-themed costumes and make-up. Alex wore all black (as expected).

The music program started out with the following compositions by the Concert and Symphonic Bands:
  1. "Grim Grinning Ghosts", arranged by Douglas E. Wagner (Symphonic & Concert)
  2. "Revenge of the Dust Bunnies" by Dan Adams (Concert Band)
  3. "Rockin' Halloween" arranged by Michael Story (Concert Band)
I especially liked the spooky music of the voice in the "Grim Grinning Ghosts".

The Choir took over next with the following songs:
  1. "Happy Birthday" for Mr. Sam Neipp (the music director) by the Choir
  2. "Things that Go Bump in the Night" by Douglas E. Wagner
  3. "Something in the Dark" by John Parker
"Things that Go Bump in the Night" featured screams and cool special sound effects. It was a fun piece to listen to.

The music program continued with the following compositions:
  1. "Fright Night" by James Kazik (Symphonic Band)
  2. "Haunted Carousel" by Erika Svanoe, Theremin played by Eliza Ford (Symphonic & Concert)
  3. "Music for a Darkened Theater" by Michael Brown (Symphonic Band)
"Fright Night" started out as a Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, followed by "Jaws", and eventually by Michael Jackson's Thriller - what an interesting combo.

Haunted Carousel featured the weird-sounding Theremin instrument (played without touching).

We enjoyed all of the Halloween-themed music.

Note, while I tried recording most of the photos and videos with my Canon 5ds, I ran out of battery power, so some songs got cut-off.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dirt Biking at Hollister Hills SVRA with the East Bay Meetup

Since I have been mostly dirt biking alone, I decided to join the East Bay Dirt Bike group. The group usually rides at Carnegie SVRA. However, today, the group decided to ride at the Hollister Hills SVRA.

I arrived at 9:15 am, though the meetup was supposed to start at 9:00 am ( I had to stop at Whole Foods for a sandwich!). At first, I could not find anyone (and with the non-existent cell phone reception), I figured that I probably would never find anyone (with so many dirt bikers here). 

I decided to warm up by doing a few laps on the Vintage track followed by a short ride on Harmony Gate road. I recorded it this video in High Definition on my GoPro 4 Silver: 

When I returned to my van for some refreshments, I checked my phone and saw the Steve has posted the location of the meetup (near Radio Ridge). I found both Steve and David, and we rode a few trails together. David preferred the black-diamond trails, so we rode around in search of these more challenging trails in the park.

One of the black diamond trails we tried is called "Lights Out". I recorded a GoPro 4 High definition video here or Standard definition below:

I ended up stalling my engine half a dozen times and dropping the bike a few times. It was challenging but fun day and I hope to do it again soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Biking Russian Ridge OSP

For about a week, I have been planning to ride the Russian Ridge OSP with the South Bay Mountain Biking meetup. I have been to other South Bay mountain bike riders, and this was a chance to ride some new trails that I have not previously ridden.

Despite early morning fog in Los Gatos, the weather was fantastic at Russian Ridge OSP and we had a group of 10 mountain bikers riding along (1 person did not show up). Renata did a great job organizing the ride and making sure that we did not miss all of our required turns. There were a few cases that I would have easily missed the turn-offs (if she had not ridden ahead and provided guidance).

The surrounding views of the valley below were quite nice and the ride had plenty of shade (at least ins some parts).

The ride started out quite mellow on a gentle incline to Borel Hill, from which we rode downhill.

I shot a GoPro 4 Silver video of my entire bike ride, editing out all of the slow, boring parts:

The trail ride with one loop was only about 6.1 miles. Some of the other mountain bikers did an additional downhill/uphill loop.

The total elevation gain over one loop is about 800 feet. This includes two climbs of about 300 feet with 10% grade and some other sections with rolling hills.

I used MapMyWalk iPhone App to record the ride:

Google Location: 

Directions: The parking lot is at the northwest corner of Page Mill Road and Skyline Blvd. Driving uphill on Page Mill Road from 280 to Skyline will take about 25 minutes. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: "The Hard Problem" (Geary Theater)

We have not been to San Francisco's Geary Theater in a while - as nothing recently playing really excited us. However, Inna was intrigued about the the concept behind "The Hard Problem" - a fairly recent (2015) play by Sir Tom Stoppard  (screenwriter for Shakespeare in Love) on the subject of consciousness.

How does consciousness come about? Is our identity the product of what Francis Crick calls “a vast assembly of nerve cells”? How much is human behavior the product of egoism or altruism?

Sir Tom Stoppard starts with an interesting central character, Hilary, who we meet as a psychology student at Loughborough University. She is competing for a coveted research spot with Amal (a genius graduate Indian student) to study consciousness at the famous Institute. Somehow, through luck and perseverance, she gets the nod for the research spot (over her academic superior Amal).

Hilary's role is well-acted by Ms. Brenda Meaney, who shows a number of interesting sides to her character. She is unusual in many ways: she has a hidden longing for the child she bore when she was 15 and gave up for adoption, and she prays to God, to the evident scorn of the brilliant scientific minds that surround her. Stoppard is suggesting consciousness cannot be explained in purely mechanistic terms (as Amal's character suggests) and that there are intrinsic values that depend on an overall moral intelligence.

Even more striking are the limitations of the scientific minds around her – in particular her occasional lover, Spike (played by Mr. Dan Clegg), who seems extremely intelligent but somehow deficient and aloof.

The play touches on a number of topics: scientific fraud, adoption, the nature of motherly love, and philanthropy - but does not really get to deep into any of them.

When Stoppard tries to return to the "Hard Problem" of consciousness, by letting Hilary and her brilliant math protege conduct a landmark scientific study, we get excited that something extraordinary is about to be revealed. The scientific study's initial premise - that all children start out good but decline morally as they become civilized  - is quite surprising. However, we are let down by the fact that Hilary's protege fudged some of the scientific data and the whole study is invalidated. Thus, the whole "Hard Problem" discussion is discarded and Stoppard moves on to other, lesser topics.

I was hoping that Sir Tom Stoppard would continue to explore consciousness, but he took the easy way out by digressing into other topics, such as the "nature of motherly love" (Hilary gets to meet her adopted daughter), and standard male-female relationship issues.

Thus, I didn't feel a sense of closure at the end of the play. Perhaps, the "Hard Problem" is truly too hard.

Enjoying Cafe Claude in San Francisco

Before seeing "The Hard Problem" at the Geary Theater, we decided to stop by for dinner at the well-recommended Cafe Claude in San Francisco, located conveniently near the Sutter-Stockton garage.

We made reservations in advance, but Cafe Claude was not very busy on a Wednesday evening. Cafe Clause serves a limited number of French dishes in a casual setting.

For appetizer, our waitress recommended the "Brandade de Morue" - a French country dish of  "Salt cod, yukon gold potato, olive oil, panko, petite salade". It was an interesting combination of salad and baked cod. We liked it but didn't love it.

I ordered the "Salad de Chevre Chaud" - a classic French salad consisting of "Baby lettuce, warm goat cheese, toasted levain, apple, candied walnuts, and cider vinegar". I really liked it and shared it with Inna.

Inna ordered the famous French Onion soup (which she always orders at fine French restaurants). The version in Cafe Claude was also delicious.

For our entree, we decided to share the well-regarded "Coq au Vin". It was well-prepared, with an especially delicious sauce. We really enjoyed it.

We finished our delicious dinner with two cappuccinos and a baked cake. The baked cake was truly delicious and I could taste the fine French Valrhona chocolate. Tres magnifique!

We really enjoyed our dinner - especially "Coq au Vin" and the chocolate cake. We hope to be back as it's rare to find such high quality French restaurants that are also reasonably priced.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dirt Biking at Hollister SVRA (Day 3)

Today was my third day of riding my Red Sticker Honda CRF250R dirt bike at Hollister Hills SVRA. It had rained the day before, and I was eager to explore all of the muddy trails at Hollister Hills.
Many of the usual trails were closed (like the TT Track and Four Corners) but some re-opened later in the day (TT Track).

I first warmed up on the nearby Classic/Vintage track, followed by a ride to Harmony Gate Road. The falls colors were lovely and many of the deciduous trees were shedding yellow & red leaves.

I ended up riding the Harmony Gate Road multiple times, since many of my normal trails were closed due to excessive mud. It's a fun, easy trail to ride fast.

I recorded a few GoPro 4 Silver videos of my ride and here is one I liked:

After riding Harmony, I noticed that Lower Field trail opened up and I decided to ride that one too. It's also a very easy trail to ride with not too many steep ascents or descents.

After getting some snacks and water, I decided to try Rancho Road followed by Ridge. This is one of my favorite routes as it covers a very scenic portion of Hollister. I had a great time on this trail.

By this time, I was quite tired, so I stopped by to grab my Whole Foods sandwich (which really helped out a lot). I decided to go for another ride at Harmony and TT track.

While riding to TT Track, I noticed that it was very  crowded, so I decided to skip it this time.

I had a great time at Hollister, though I got very muddy and it took me an hour of clean up time afterwards to wash by bike, boots, and all the other gear.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hiking Lookout Trail at Villa Montalvo

Because of the unusually hot California weather (90+ in October!), we decided to hike at the nearby Villa Montalvo, where there was significant tree cover on most trails.

Villa Montalvo is located in Los Gatos and usually hosts many arts & theater productions. We used Google Maps to provide driving directions.

When we arrived, a production of Romeo & Juliet was in progress. Unlike most productions of this Shakespeare drama, this production moved around the area (with the audience following it). This, to me, seemed a bit unusual, as audience usually stays seated for most other productions.

Since we did not purchase tickets ahead of time, we parked at Parking Lot 1 and then proceeded the steep incline to Parking Lot 3, where the Lookout Trail begins.

The hike takes one through a dense, redwood forest, with lots of tree shade (especially wonderful in the hot summer).

The Lookout Trail is steep in places and the gravel can be easy to slip on.

At the very top of the trail, there is a place called "Lookout Point", which provides unobstructed views of the surrounding Los Gatos and San Jose (and a bench to rest your weary legs).

Inna got a bit winded from all the walking uphill and enjoyed a short rest on the bench.

The views of nearby Saratoga, Los Gatos, and San Jose are nice, though one mostly sees trees and shrubs.

We had a short, enjoyable walk to Lookout Point. It was not much more than a mile from Parking Lot 3.

The hike back downhill was quite easy and we made it back to Villa Montalvo in no time.

The Lookout Trail is a nice, easy hike to do on hot, summer days.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dirt Biking at Hollister Hills SVRA (Day 2)

Today was my second day of riding my Red Sticker Honda CRF250R dirt bike at Hollister Hills SVRA. I was eager to explore all of the trails at Hollister Hills, to see which ones are suitable to my riding skill level and which ones are a bit of a stretch.

I first warmed up on the nearby Classic/Vintage track, followed by multiple rides around the TT (Time Trials) track. This was a good warm up in the morning, as these tracks were not too busy, with few riders.

Once warmed up, I proceeded to try the following trails:
  • TT Track - a very nice track for working on cornering, shifting, and braking skills
  • Four Corners - an intermediate trail with nice ascents and descents
  • MX Track - a very advanced track with lots of large jumps and steep descents (too much for me)
  • Rancho - an intermediate road with nice turns and twists
  • Harmony Gate Road - a very mild, easy ride with lots of tree cover on hot days
  • Lower Field - a very mild, easy ride for beginners
  • Ridge - a trail with little tree cover but with magnificent views of surrounding hill sides
All of the trails were fun to ride, but I especially enjoyed the Ridge trail for its scenic beauty and the Harmony Trail for its magnificent tree cover (which helped in the 90+ weather).

Here is a GoPro 4 Silver video of me riding the Harmony Gate Road.

I also recorded another GoPro video of the Rancho & Ridge Trails:

I really enjoyed my time riding and was surprised by how tired I was after a few hours. I am hoping to be back soon, for more. There are so many other black diamond trails to explore.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: "Outside Mullingar", TheatreWorks

The rain pours down in steady streams, shrouding in gloom the Irish countryside of “Outside Mullingar,” a recent play by John Patrick Shanley that opened on October 5, 2016 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

The play originally premiered at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on January 23, 2014 and closed on March 16, 2014. This was my first time seeing the play on Friday, October 7th at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Gloomy, too, is the talk of lost loves, deaths and other grim subjects dear to the hearts of the Irish. As is also regularly the case in plays set there, the reaper will pay a house call before the curtain has fallen.

You needn’t be a cockeyed optimist to deduce that the skies will ultimately clear for the play’s moody, broody central characters, two middle-aged farmers winningly played by Mr. Rod Brogan and Ms. Jessica Wortham. As soon as we hear of the prickly antipathy between these two life-battered souls, we can settle back in our chairs comfortably and await a satisfying final clinch. A woman’s loudly professed aversion for a man — or a man’s for a woman — is the surest sign that we are in the realm of romantic comedy, which demands that plenty of high hurdles be placed in the path of true love.

Rod Brogan plays Anthony Reilly, who has been keeping up the family farm in the Irish Midlands for years. His father, Tony (played by Mr. Steve Brady), allows that Anthony has worked hard and well, but he unflinchingly maintains that his son will never be a true man of the earth. “You don’t stand on the land and draw strength from it,” he says, drawing a look of wounded surprise from his dutiful son. And because, at 42, Anthony has never married, and Tony wants to see the farm remain in the family, he goes on to suggest blithely that he might just pass the farm to Anthony’s American cousin (Adam) when he dies.

Matters of inheritance are on Tony’s mind because they have just returned from the funeral of Christopher Muldoon, the proprietor of the neighboring farm. His widow, Aoife (Mrs. Lucina Hitchcock Cone), has honored them with a visit, and as Anthony cleans the kitchen and makes tea, the elders trade prognostications about their impending ends. “You’ll be dead within a year,” Tony stoutly tells Aoife, who philosophically agrees. But he later adds a gentlemanly qualification: “Me? I’ll be dead within two months.”

Tony’s not really the hardhearted fellow these bitter salvos might suggest. In fact, as played with idiomatic humor and charm by Mr. Maloney, he’s frisky, funny company as he muses with relish on the dark future. Tony doesn’t plan to leave his only son high and dry, incidentally, but to sell the farm to the cousin and hand over the proceeds to his son.

There’s a hitch, though: When feeling pinched, he sold a certain strip of land to Muldoon, a parcel that runs right through the access route to the Reilly farm, and would make a sale less probable. What even Tony doesn’t know is that this land belongs not to the widow but to her daughter, Rosemary (Ms. Jessica Wortham), who has been smoking on the porch while Tony and Aoife chatter in the kitchen.

Rosemary has been nursing an epic grudge against Anthony since the 13-year-old boy knocked down her wee 6-year-old self. (Resentments die hard among the Irish.) And yet, when she learns of Tony’s plan to hand down the farm to Anthony’s cousin, her righteous instincts are stirred, our first clue that perhaps underneath her long-nursed resentment resides a flickering flame of unrequited love.

Mr. Shanley must resort to some exotic stratagems to keep Rosemary and Anthony from coming to an understanding. True, Anthony’s heart has been shut down since he was rejected in his distant youth by his first love (Fiona), but the reason for this rejection, when revealed, is fairly preposterous, albeit amusingly tinged with Irish whimsy. The long scenes in which Rosemary and Anthony trade mordant reflections on their unhappy lives sometimes seem to be going in circles. And yet Mr. O’Byrne and Ms. Messing bring these somewhat sentimentally conceived characters to convincing life, and their performances have enough natural oil and water in them to make their pairing seem at least theoretically implausible.

An eventual happy ending is never in doubt, despite the testy repartee and vows of unregenerate unhappiness. “People don’t appeal to me that much,” Anthony matter-of-factly remarks at one point, to which Rosemary quickly retorts: “That’s normal. Who likes people? Nobody.” If love can’t find a way with these two, a shared misanthropy will do the trick just as nicely.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Campo di Bocce, Los Gatos

For our family day, we decided to try playing Bocce Ball at the local Campo di Bocce  restaurant and Bocce ball game center. I made reservations for 1:30pm (for 90 minutes of play time) for Sunday, October 2nd.

While playing Bocce Ball, we ordered a few appetizers and entrees from the restaurant.

Alex selected the following dishes for himself:
  • Garlic Bread
  • Caesar Salad
  • Medium Margherita Pizza

For Inna and I, we selected to share the following plates:
  • Bruschetta
  • Large Artichoke Chicken Pizza
We like the Garlic Bread, the Bruschetta, and the pizzas. The prices were a bit high, but the food was not bad.

Here is a short video of Inna playing Bocce Ball. She ended up winning (coming back from behind) the whole series.

The final point score was as follows:
  • Boris: 3
  • Alex: 1
  • Inna: 4
We had a good time at Campo di Bocce and hope to play there again.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dirt Biking at Hollister Hills SVRA (Day 1)

Since October 1st is the start of the "Red Sticker" riding season in California, I was eager for a ride on my Honda CRF250R offroad motorcycle. The CRF250R is a "Red Sticker" bike by California standards, so I am only allowed to ride in from October 1 - May 30 in most local SVRA areas.

When I arrived into Hollister Hills SVRA on the morning of Saturday, October 1, 2016, it was already getting very crowded. It looked like a lot of other riders had the same idea.

Once I unloaded my bike, I spent some time trying to start it. It has been sitting idle for a long time (since May), so it took a few attempts. The CRF250R has a manual start only, so it requires a bit of patience to get it going. It took me half a dozen cranks to get the engine started (even with the choke out).

Once I started it and ran it for a while, I rode a few laps on the nearby Classic track, to get more familiar with the controls. Unlike the Honda CRF150F I rode at the Intro to Dirt class with Brian Garrahan the week before, the CRF250R is heavier, taller, and more powerful. It took me some time to adjust to its power and sensitivity. The brakes on the CRF250R are far more powerful (and more sensitive). Locking up rear wheel is really easy now.

After some time, I headed to the TT track to ride a few laps (to practice all the bike handling skills Brian taught me last week). It took me a while to start applying body movement, bike lean, and smooth shifting techniques. It's amazing how quickly one forgets everything!

Here is a GoPro 4 Silver video I shot of my first ride at the TT Track. The TT track is a great place to practice all of Motorcycle handling techniques.

After getting some water (it was getting a bit hot), I returned to ride on the following tracks:
  • Old Ranch road to the Traffic Circle
  • Four Corners
  • Fault Line
These roads were a lot of fun and I rode them multiple times, in order to get more familiar with the terrain. They are all intermediate trails and nothing was unusually difficult. I did manage to stall the CRF250R a few times, and it's always a pain to re-start it. How I miss the electric start!