A wonderful week in San Francisco followed by an awe-inspiring week in Arizona, and then a longer spell at an airport hotel in Los Angeles waiting to come home….
A mixed bag of thoughts that struck me at various points and which I feel oddly compelled to scatter:
1. San Francisco is a friendly and attractive mechanism for converting sourdough bread into calf muscles.
2. Starfish, which look incredibly inert from above are very active when you see them from underneath. Jellyfish are beautiful and deeply alien.
3. California has a curious relationship with climate change epitomised by the california academy of sciences. A very modern building with a green “living roof”, strident displays warning of climate change – and gas patio heaters outside the cafe!
4. Route 66 in Arizona has a disgraceful amount of litter by the side of it. But the coincidence of coming into Seligman just as the Cars, the Motion Picture Soundtrack got to Our Town was just perfect, and touching.
5a. The Grand Canyon is both.
5b. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon it was so big and unusual that I couldn’t initially process it as a 3D image – it looked painted on. When I did adjust for the diminished parallax it was truly awe-inspiring. Definitely didn’t disappoint. Gazing at its incessant detail I was reminded of the moment in September 1986 when I first saw Mandelbrot set images. In a reflective moment of thinking how a river had carved this over millions of years I suddenly realised that it was less than 2% of the age of the Earth and had a “total perspective vortex” moment.
5c. There are worse places to be than the Grand Canyon at sunset.
6. On a train journey a fellow passenger was wearing a baseball cap with the legend “World War 2 Veteran. Battle of the Bulge” and staff members on the train and others would occasionally say to him “thank you for your service”. I really can’t get my head straight on what I think about this.
7. Arizona is a lot greener than I expected, though coming back to the UK I thought my eyes had a different colour filter on. Also struck by how colourful UK currency is!
8. On the subject of green, Wrigleys spearmint gum has changed colour since I was a boy, although I suppose it may always have been green in the US.
9. Geology is much more interesting when its more extreme aspects are in your face or under your feet (or in the atmosphere potentially stopping you from getting home).
10. Hypothesis: tessellated triangles are used for decoration by all cultures – human and otherwise!
12. Neuroscience’s application to public policy is almost certainly at the level of metaphor or a repetition of evolution-based thinking rather than a direct insight. The possible exception being in relation to education policy.
13. Disneyland broke through my cynical carapace within the first 100 seconds, but fortunately the omnipresence of retail helped me to reassemble it before we left.
14. United Airlines customer service is very good – even under pressure.