Week 2

Our post about the second week turned out to be longer with more details and information than what is considered to be the norm if you will, so please be mindful of this as you get on board of the band wagon.

The second week of our expedition (instead of our “travels” we have decided to call it our “expedition” because in comparison to a jaunt or outing, even if it may be a longer one, an expedition is something that requires one to work for the sake of traveling itself. For instance, going to a place where it may not be as interesting or enjoyable to be at or do). Having that said, our second week started out in Napa valley which is well known around the world for its vineyards and wineries.

By that time it was known to us that our friends, whom we met in Honolulu, live in the vicinity and it was agreed to make their abode our quarters as well for the next week and to explore the surrounding neighborhood. We begin by going south to San Francisco.

2. In Cupertino we stopped by Apple in hopes to explore inside to see how the staff live and work in one of the best and most expensive companies in the world. It turned out that there was not much to see on all that Steve Jobs awarded his fans with was a small retail store and a main entrance with the company flag. But, despite the somewhat disappointing observation, Applests are erecting a brand new headquarters nearby where there might be a museum, tours and everything else that can be offered by the company’s headquarters to tourists and fans. We drove to the building site but it turned out to be a semi-secretive construction zone with a very high and blind fence.

3. But there are no obstacles or fences that can scare off our drone.

4. A grandiose construction.

5. This is the Silicone Valley. This is where the first computer came to be, that means that there should be a museum dedicated to it; a museum of computer history.

6. I love museums. Especially themed museums which we have quite a few of. In case some of you may not know, in the USA there are more museums than McDonald’s and Starbucks together; a whopping 35,000 (compared to 14,000 distasteful fast-food “restaurants” and just as wretched 11,000 coffee shops). If we were to compare this to Russia, it has fourteen times less museums; only two and a half thousand. via

7. Computer is a computing machine, first and foremost. One of the very first computers is 300 years old.

8. A Russian fruit market in 1970. The cashier at the Moscow market uses an abacus along with other modern calculating devices. Americans may not comprehend the fact that the abacus was the only calculating device used at markets and stores in the former USSR up to the 1990s.

9. A Soviet adding machine of the 1930s which was named the “Iron Felix” in honor of the grandparent of the KGB and FSB, Felix Dzerzhinsky.

10. A pocket calculator. I would have loved to travel back in time and see how one, with a straight face and in all seriousness, took this thing out of his pocket and by turning the handle calculates taxes, percentage, and purchases.

11. Minicomputer from the 1940s. During those years it was something similar to our present day notebooks: miniature, convenient, even feminine.

12. One of the first computer ‘displays.’ It is interesting that the majority of the first computers came in a package with a table; desktop with a built-in keyboard even though the calculating block stood on its own.

13. …but look at the colors, design, beautiful vintage keys!

14. The museum has many different interactive stands where you can join the accountants of the past century or flip the toggles with your own hands in hopes to understand the principle by which these computer transistors worked and operated.

15. You can rest and at the same time learn more in these mini-theaters.

16. One of the first Japanese robots. I still have hope that in my lifetime, we will be able to have robotized servants in our homes.

17. To attract the crowds to art and the popularization of science, especially the younger generation, sometimes it is essential to excite the primal instincts. For instance: arranging a food court at the entrance of the museum.

18. Plus live, good quality music – who will dare say no to hang out in such ambiance.

19. There is a large crowd of young people, students and tourists. It is a pleasure to be in a crowd such as this. Dude and his pup are patiently waiting for a hand-out from the boss.

20. All around are all these Googles, Syscos, and Disneys. When the workday comes to an end at these companies, the sidewalks and roads in the quiet tech-quarters fill up with countless corporate buses which transport employees to their residential neighborhoods.

21. The streetlights are not able to cope with the sudden influx of automobiles and pedestrians so the traffic control technicians come to their assistance on all of the intersections.

22. Ilya and Irina, unexpectedly and with much surprise for themselves and all of us, had twins. Children of the Silicone Valley; it is not just a beautiful phrase. To raise the demographics in these places, all it takes is to organize a symposium or a conference for young specialists and professionals. In the evening set up a chic banquet and put them in a neat hotel. In nine month the results are obvious.

23. It is hard enough for young parents to raise one child. Our friends are currently going through not very simple times of their lives with two on their plate. So, we made them dinner. Turned out it was the first sit-down dinner they had together since they moved into their new home, which was a few months ago. Once, preoccupied and inspired by a conversation we were all having, the poor mommy and daddy began to untangle their hair that have been neglected for the last few days. It was so touching and funny at the same time that I took the liberty in asking them to repeat the gestures for a photo.

24. At the same time we celebrated Irina’s birthday. A Russian programmers’ gang warming themselves in the sun, aerated by the fresh ocean breeze. Alla and I are freezing ferociously.

25. Alla continues to work for Distefano Winery not only remotely but ‘expeditionary’ and a few bottles of delicious Sauv Blanc or Cabernet accompany us at all times.

26. The cost of living in Silicone Valley apartments reflects employees’ salaries. But then they are designed with style, convenience, and comfort, offer a place to invite friends to make steak, bask in the sun or relax in a spacious foyer.

In addition to ukulele, I decided to bring along another instrument. By the way, my music career began with the accordion when I was around three years old and wore my older brother’s school satchel backwards and pretended I was an accordionist singing, or rather, humming melodies. Later, I tried to play the real ginormous, uncomfortable, loud and pinching-my-thigh accordion. My brothers helped by pulling apart the bellows and pushing on the bases.

27. Like every pianist, as I would imagine, I always regretted that I could not just pick up my instrument and take it with me on a road trip or a hike. This is why I tried playing the guitar and the Ukulele but strings are not my forte for certain. But the accordion is halfway up my alley already. All that is left to do is finish learning playing base with my left hand. So currently I am turning my childhood “satchel” dream into reality and Ira’s party was my first concert where I performed the role of folklorist.

28. On one of the days we went to Stanford University with the young family. Closer to lunchtime, Mila persistently asked for a snack.

29. The request was immediately satisfied.

30. The usually serious Alex regarded the lunch to be a success.

31. Stanford University was founded by a railway tycoon, senator of USA, and former governor of California, Leland Stanford and his wife Jane Stanford. The university was named in honor of their only son Leland Stanford Jr. who died as a teenager of typhoid fever. The Stanfords decided to dedicate the university as a memorial to their only child and Leland said to his wife, “The children of California will be our children.”

32. Approximately 16,000 university students are being educated by two thousand instructors from which twenty one are Noble laureates. Altogether, fifty eight scientists of those that taught or studied in Stanford were awarded this honorary prize.

33. Solar energy for charging computers, phones, and other gadgets.

34. Stanford is a city with its own news that the citizens find out about by the old fashioned postings.

35. Today is Sunday. The students are taking a break and relaxing by the modern buildings on campus.

36. There are certain people who are extremely cozy and provoke a desire to watch them intently. They wear comfortable shoes, comfortably situate themselves, and almost infectiously keep themselves busy with something without disturbing anyone around them and not being disturbed by anyone themselves. I love to observe these kinds of people.

37. Many famous people have attended Stanford including a few presidents of the U.S. such as Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy as well as many founders of popular companies like Hewlitt-Packard, Google, Yahoo, Logitech, Nike, Instagram, PayPal, Netflix, Dolby, Victoria’s Secret, Firefox and many others.

38. A more modern part of the campus.

39. Learning how to work being seen. I am positive that this has a deeper meaning or reason behind it; sitting like this behind your table with your face towards the world who in return sees not only the facade but the background of your office as well.

40. The laboratory of neuroscience.

41. I can’t say that all students and research workers of Stanford stand out by their cleanliness and neatness.

One of the museums in the university has an exhibit dedicated to ARA (American Relief Administration). During the graduation of Herbert Hoover, ARA was helping Soviet Russia. The story behind that is gruesome, sad, but also very informative.

The not so bright followers of Karl Marx devising a plan to create a revolution around the world, followed a simple motto which was this: All the world of rape we will destroy to its foundation and then we will rebuild our, we will build a new world where one was once a nobody will now be a somebody. The motto contradicted physics, as well as logic, but ignoramuses didn’t think about it too much and got down to work.

Similarly in our childhood we did spring cleaning in this way at the house. It was interesting to start; taking the bedsheets and pillow cases off, dumping a large pile of laundry from the laundry basket onto the floor, taking the chairs and tables into the hallway, taking out jars and other random items from the storage closets and stacking them in the bathtub while blowing soap bubbles into the air, etc. In other words, we were making an even bigger and in a way, almost necessary mess and chaos. We had enough energy to last us about halfway into the cleanup of this madhouse (since we had to somehow keep ourselves entertained as well) up until it was evident that the situation could not get any worse and it was well passed lunchtime making us realize that we would much rather be outside playing with our friends. But, much to our disappointment, in front of us was a mountain reminding us of things to be finished and without having the slightest idea of how it will be conquered, our mother showed up to the rescue with a scornful and displeased look on her face.

This is very similar to what happened with the proletarian ‘fiery bums’ of the burgeoning soviet republic. They deposed everything and everyone they could get rid of; chased away, scattered and lost everything that moved; stole, broke, destroyed and burned just like the International demanded. After which they would have to “we will our, we will a new world” build, aka communism. It so happens that there came to be a bit of a problem; no one knew in reality how communism needed to be built and even if they did, no one wanted to do it, by the old habit of grabbing everything to themselves, often by taking away from others, which somewhat contradicted the idea of communism.

Four years later, after the Bolsheviks usurped the state power in what was once a rich Russian empire, drained by the Civil war, the famine came. The place that got hit the most was the Volga where the war-like communisms in very inhuman and animalistic way required citizens to give bread to the government. At first, the imbecile Lenin tried to solve the problem on his own by demobilizing one million youth and sending this army of ragamuffins to Ukraine, where they “would help and strengthen the agro-business, being purely interested in only that”, specially clearly understanding and feeling the unfairness of “gluttony” of rich Ukrainian peasants. In other words making Povolzhye 2.

42. Reaching the year of 1921, proletarian slogans such as “No one will give us deliverance; not God, not the king, nor the hero. We will achieve emancipation with our own hands” in the face of reality gave way to common sense and the proud Bolsheviks cried out for help.

43. Maxim Gorkiy, a friend of Lenin’s, writes a message to the international community asking all ‘honest European and American people’ to help Soviet Russia.

The honest American people turned out to be not only honest but wise as well. Two years prior to this letter, president Woodrow Wilson gave orders to create an organization that will make it possible to help in the war with Bolshevism stating that: bolshevism is famine, chaos, and the only way to stop it is by food and order. This is how the World Relief Administration came to be which, by the guidance of president Hoover, took upon itself to help the Russian people who suffered from the consequences of the stupid governing powers.

At first, the government wanted to take the help with money since they didn’t give a damn about the dying population that included children, and also because the famine was just another way for them to hoard more money for themselves (in a few years the famine would repeat itself again only in the wheat-rich republic of Ukraine created fully artificially and intentionally).

44. The Americans agreed to help only with food under as strict control and supervision as was allowed in the country immersed in robbery and wallowed in crime.

45. From September 1920 to September 1921, the Americans delivered more than 90,000 tons of produce, spending about 60.6 million dollars (equivalent to about 1 billion today). The People’s Commissars promised never to forget the help that was extended by the Americans and to have friendly ties with their saviors.

46. For whatever reason they study religion in Stanford. For me, it is equivalent to teaching lobotomy. Instead of finding ways and methods to eradicate religion once and for all, it is still continued to be taught.

47. Taught and practiced.

48. I am positive that sooner or later there will come a time that all this beauty will be no more than a mere museum. A place for religion is in a museum. People will come to these former temples to be amazed at the naive trust of one group and the cynical fraud of the other.

In the meantime, we are witnessing a recital of a tertiary choir. As the tourists listen for free, they do not realize that they are witnessing that same fraud that is present in this building but in small proportions: the choir sings unbearably but the choristers are not aware of this because the competent, in their eye, conductor either pretends or really thinks that they are singing decently. Hence, he speaks in abstruse phrases suggesting to do something beautiful. If they could only understand or comprehend what he really means and how to do it. But they do not and that is why they sing again, in the very same way as they did the first time. But this time absent from reality choirmaster is pleased with the result.

49. The choristers are pleased as well.

50. The clergymen of the cult with their flock. Hard to believe that these people are walking on the territory of the university that graduated Elon Musk and Sergey Brin.

51. This year Stanford celebrated its 124 year anniversary.

52. Bamboo grove to make you feel as if you are in Hawaii. But we were still pretty cold here.

53. The university’s newspaper. In the crime section of the paper dominates the main felony – the stealing of a bicycle.

54. That is why all bicycles are either cheap, or cheap and old.

55. All of the university’s water fountains are turned off due to the severe drought that has been going on for the fourth year now.

56. Our personal guide through the campus is the lovely Sonya.

57. San Fransisco is one of the two cities (the other being Seattle) on the west coast that is truly interesting to me.

58. You can scroll left-right on the picture to see a full panorama.

59. The city is growing, inhabiting the surrounding hills.

60. San Francisco, being not very large in size, is second to New York in US in its population density.

61. For the most part, the more expensive neighborhoods have the best view of the city and the bay. But here the middle class got lucky. By the way, a distinctive feature of a city dweller is that their balconies, as their apartments, have no piles of garbage or stuff collective in or on them.

62. At the top of the mountain Twin Peaks (remember that chilling movie?), there are self-washing toilets. When you come out, the door closes after you and somehow everything washes itself. The next in line presses a button, the door opens and the cycle repeats itself over. I don’t know how it is in Europe but people in the U.S do not realize that the toilet might have some instructions to go along with it. Every time I used one of those toilets I had to dissuade the next person in line from the idea of entering the toilet right after me, so as not to be washed along with the toilet. Though I am positive that there were quite a few lucky city guests that did.

63. At the entrance to the famous Castro District, we are greeted by the a flag of gays and lesbians. This is their capitol.


65. A sympathizing to evil former compatriot from the rear view mirror.

66. In certain places, the city is situated on very steep hills where the phrase, ‘run to the store around the corner to get some bread,’ acquires a very different, olympic meaning.

67. Unexpectedly a piece of Russia in a residential neighborhood. Light swearing mixed in with a smell of tobacco smoke wafted from the open window of consulate.

68. In the same area a whole quarter is chosen for the high ranking envoys of the unfriendly government. According to the foppish entrance, one might assume that here lives the consul himself.

69. From afar, we noticed a sign that read, “Russian Treasures”, so we headed over. Our expectations were justified. In a very large tourist area on the marina, among the many shops from around the world geared towards all kinds of interests, this is all that the modern Russian culture could offer for the locals and the guests of this city. It is not a surprise that the majority of foreigners associate Russia with the Russian Nesting Dolls in all possible perversions, Orenburg kerchiefs, and ear-muff like hats with soviet cockades.

70. The townhouse is under construction. The houses sit very snuggly together in these neighborhoods, which is why it is not possible to do any construction work or paint jobs without a protective canopy around the building or house.

71. The business center and China Town (on the left). As always, it is hard to comprehend the steepness of the road on the photo. But it is present and with such intensity that by just walking one block requires a brief respite and to begin moving in a car without a slight skid of the tires is literally impossible. That’s why you can hear the screeching and whistling of tires on a regular basis even when the cars are ascending, if they are driving on the rails.

72. The trollies are almost all restored and original. The locals, among the tourists, use this form of transportation pretty regularly. You can recognize them by a boorish look on their faces. Tourists get ecstatic about hanging off the footboard while riding besides the fast-moving cars – in the era of total security measures this could be their adrenaline attraction.

73. The locals living on the hill do not need treadmills with ascending/descending elevation settings. Make a few rounds around the block and the cardio workout is achieved.

74. This is a very popular way of transportation around the city. You walk up and then get rewarded by the breezy decent down. To break all you need to do is to step on the rear fender. As for the skateboarders, their shoes are completely obliterated to the heel.

75. The Golden Gate Bridge. It is astonishing that this structure was completed two years prior to the birth of my mother, in 1937. How did they, with Joseph Strauss in charge, calculate everything without a flaw? How did they estimate correctly the wind, earthquakes, tides, humidity, and everything else they needed to consider for this project? Presently we can calculate pretty much anything on computers but how did they do it then?

76. It is evident that the bridge is maintained on a regular basis; painted and repaired but still, the weather here does not joke around.

Ken Hopper, one of the workers of the bridge, does volunteer work besides his job responsibilities. Namely, he tries to (and with great success) save suicidal people who come upon the bridge with astounding regularity. At any moment of the day or night, Ken is ready to leave everything and come to his place of work to try to dissuade at least one more person from throwing themselves over the rail.

There are thirty saved and two lost lives on Ken Hopper’s account. In the very first incident after a prolonged struggle, a suicidal man cut loose from the grip of his help and was able to finish what he intended in the first place. In the second incident, Ken only had begun to approach a young man when he threw his two year old daughter over and followed her with his own life.

77. Ken Hopper is on the right.

78. A jogging path situated at the edge of the beach ends at an old, abandoned fort surrounded by a fence. Usually, a sportsman upon reaching the place where he turns around would touch something. In honor of Ken Hopper, the legend of the Golden Gate Bridge, an intravital monument was erected of his hands poured out in bronze which not only the locals touch but the uncountable tourists as well.

79. The dogs would also like to express their gratitude to Hopper.

80. If it wasn’t for the chilling cold and wind, I would sit here all day watching the ships leaving the port for their long voyage.

81. Or, I would watch the helicopters circling around and under the bridge.

82. Or watch the elderly surfers.

83. I am not sure if the youngsters would be able to surf here in this ice-cold water and penetrative cold wind for extended periods of time as they await for a wave.

84. The tourist buses are a very convenient feature here. They take tourists around the most interesting spots providing them with a great view from the bus that makes it difficult to miss something. The driver talks with light humor and shows everything with an interesting approach. For example, he dropped everyone off here, people went to look around, took photos, got some fresh air, heard the bells and came back to the bus. A little chilly, but if you grab a blanket, you’ll be alright.

85. Fishermen with the Golden Gate Bridge on the background.

86. One thing that wasn’t appealing was some sort of ruins of a diminishing bridge in the middle of a beautiful boardwalk. It is as though it is not a tourist center of the city and not even the U.S but an abandoned fishermen’s wharf in Taganrog, Russia.

87. Alla is making new acquaintances.

88. The fishermen are retuning with a fresh catch.

89. The legendary sailing ship, the Balclutha, or The Star of Alaska, found its last dock in the fishermen’s wharf later becoming a museum and being added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Balclutha was the last sailing vessel of the Western coast of the United States operating in commercial voyages for 43 years.

90. The park-museum, as it is often set up to be in the U.S, is not only an exhibition, but also a game. For instance, one can be assured of the usefulness of the block(lever). Two barrels of the same weight are lifted without a pulley and with a pulley. The work in the second options seems to go much slower but with attachable results with very little strength involved. As the first girl was barely able to lift the barrel off the ground, the second one had already reached the maxim height with minimum effort.

91. On this day there were many students who’s excursion to the museum looked more of a lesson for cadets at a maritime institute. The children were divided into several groups to whom it was described what it is like to be a seaman on a vessel. These kids are learning how to lower and raise a boat to and from the water under the stern command of the boatswain.

92. Here we have an introduction to the galley.

93. Before becoming a museum in 1954, the Balclutha managed to sail to Australia, Chile, Burma, New Zealand, and Hawaii carrying wood, coal, rice and wool, and sailing 17 times around Cape Horn managed to run aground on the reefs off the shores of Alaska; be abandoned by the captain and the crew; bought out for 500 dollars; becoming a moving canning facility of the Alaskan King Salmon; sailing between San Francisco and Anchorage for 19 years; then casting in the movie Mutiny on the Bounty; sailing its last voyage to Honolulu and in the year 1937 docking in the harbor as museum in the form of a pirate ship and finally, in the year 1954, officially being added to the National Register of Historic Places and a museum in which form we were introduced to her.

94. The team at the end of their excursion.

95. As we toured around the museum, we were passed by superhumans swimming by and known by the locals as walruses. I was already chilly as it was but by seeing them in the water made me even more uncomfortable and shudder with cold.

96. I looked something like this; two tank tops, two shirts, and two hoodies and still I was freezing. Maybe jumping in and swimming would immediately warm me up?

In short, we couldn’t take the cold any longer and decided to go South and return to San Fransisco in the beginning of September.

97. Also for a reason to be able to ride these tramcars as well. So far, this was the best impression I got from this city. Because it was decided to restore the tram system of the 1920s in it, and to keep and restore the original tramcars rather than making new ones imitating that era. In other words, this beauty was made in 1947, lived its life, was recalled, taken out of the backyard and sent to Europe for the restoration process (the budget being .5 million) and then returned back and launched as functioning transportation. I do not know how to express my complete and utter awe of this.

98. Actually, this whole occurrence is called: “The Museum in Motion.” It is true that these are museum exhibits, as they would be in any country, but they don’t just sit in a historic part of the depot. Instead, they run the streets of the city.

99. In the inside of each tramcar you can find posters with the history, important dates, etc. You sit in a museum as it moves just as it did on the date of its birth 68 years earlier. Even the electrical wiring is historic; restored to the original drawings with the help of original materials. The tramcar glides softly, rocking slightly around turns and gracing the streets with a sound that is amazingly pleasant with a romantic and nostalgic hum.

100. All of the tramcars are designed and styled to the makes and models of tramcars that ran the streets of the U.S in the 1940s and 1950s. For instance, this one ran the streets of Philadelphia.

But the most staggering thing is that the city decided to not only include the trolleys of the U.S of a certain year, but to include the models of foreign countries including Russia. I will write about this miracle in detail when I return to San Francisco once more.

When I will not have to shiver uncomfortably all the time.

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