Sunday, February 15, 2009

Green Roof

The green roof at the California Academy of Sciences

I love natural history museums. I was in northern California last week, and decided to check out the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. They recently built a new "green" building with newly designed exhibits.

Perhaps because it was new, it was amazingly crowded. They encourage environmentally friendly transportation, suggesting on the ticket that you bike, take public transportation, walk, or car pool. Nevertheless, the parking lot was full when we got there. We drove around awhile, and finally found a spot on a side street a couple of blocks away. (Which was at least cheaper, since there's no charge for parking on the street.) The first sight of the building was quite striking, not least because of the immense crowds lined up to go in.

There was a planetarium, and a multi-story rain forest, neither of which we saw. It was simply too crowded. The lines were incredible. The aquarium was cool, but again, it was so crowded we couldn't take it for long. People were packed in like sardines (and many of them were babies who were coughing their lungs out). I'm kind of surprised the fire marshall allows it.

I was also disappointed by the lack of dinosaur stuff. Aside from a therapod skeleton near the cafe, there wasn't any.

The food at the cafe was pretty good. We had spring rolls with shrimp and chicken "manapua" (Chinese steamed buns). Long lines and expensive, but good.

The best part of the museum was the "living roof." It wasn't as crowded as the rest of the place, and it was interesting.

All in all, though, I was underwhelmed. The Carnegie in Pittsburgh and the Museum of Natural History in NY are much better.

And I fear I am really not cut out for city life. San Francisco is a beautiful city, but arrghhhh! All those people. It made me want to crawl into a cave somewhere and become a hermit.

I was also struck by water restrictions in northern California. Low-flow faucets and shower heads everywhere. The toilets all had signs saying not to use too much TP because it would clog the low-flow toilet. The public bathrooms had signs about how you could reduce your water use at home. ("This toilet saves water. You can do the same at home by putting a brick in the tank!")

I stayed near the Port of Sacramento. It had just received a shipment of natural gas generators for a new power plant that was supposedly the heaviest shipment ever. Wind turbine blades go through there, too, with blades so large they hang off the end of the ship.

What's shipped out is mostly rice. Apparently, they flood the desert so they can grow rice, which is shipped to Japan. That doesn't seem like a wise use of water for an area that suffers from chronic water shortages.

California is a beautiful place, but I was happy to go home, where there's decent water pressure and a lot less people.

A seagull near the Golden Gate Bridge