Summer Americana – small town carnival, real life and virtual

Every year the volunteer fire company in my small town has a carnival, a fundraiser for their organization. There are several rides, some food booths, a few carnival games, and fireworks. There is neon. This year there was a classic car show. I do not know how the rides and carnival games come to be – are there itinerant carnival operators who contract with various organizations and travel the US, in summer, running the little carnivals? I’ve seen little carnivals used as fundraisers for organizations around here; the church on the border of my small town has one. I have never seen these small carnivals in California. Perhaps small carnivals are local to regions of the US.

I like small town Americana, in limited doses, so I went, early one July evening this year. In a delightful change from other years’ carnivals, it was not broiling hot and humid.

Since I went early, I got parking! Parking is a big deal for me. Without easy parking, I go home.

My black Honda Civic parked. July 2014

My black Honda Civic parked. July 2014

I entered from the side, going past our town’s softball fields, another slice of Americana. None of my photographs show the entrance to the carnival, which is not as pretty as you would think, as there is a parking lot in front of what I would call the “front” of the carnival. And I can’t see an overall theme on how the carnival is arranged, except the food booths are in the front.

Walking to the Carnival. July 2014

Walking to the Carnival. July 2014

Getting closer to the Carnival.  July 2014

Getting closer to the Carnival. July 2014

You can see neon. I like neon.

Carnival neon. July 2014

Carnival neon. July 2014

More Carnival neon. July 2014

More Carnival neon. July 2014

Ticket booth. You need tickets for the rides, not the food.

Ticket booth. July 2014

Ticket booth. July 2014

Funnel cakes are the best carnival and summer festival food. You make a funnel cake by pouring batter into very hot cooking oil, in a circular motion, hence the term funnel cake. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funnel_cake).Funnel cakes are traditionally covered in powdered sugar. Sometimes they are covered with cooked fruit, but I am a funnel cake purist, no fruit for me. If you eat a funnel cake, be forewarned that the sugar and the fat can make you a little sick. It works out better if you eat half a funnel cake.

Funnel cake booth. July 2014

Funnel cake booth. July 2014

This is what my funnel cake looks like.

Funnel cake. July 2014

Funnel cake. July 2014

See how big the funnel cake is! It was yummy.

Walking around, I saw some entrepreneurial people were selling neon sticks. I like neon. I bought two. The neon sticks helped me get to my car. Here they are, lighting up my screened in patio.

Neon sticks. July 2014

Neon sticks. July 2014

I could have stayed for the fireworks, but I decided to go home. Depending on exactly where the fireworks are set off, I can see my town fireworks from my alley, from a couple of blocks away, by the golf course, and sometimes from the second floor of my house. This year I did the alley and walked down to the golf course. The golf course has a tall chain link fence surrounding it, which is new, so the shots from the golf course are not that good.

My other phone had better settings for fireworks. I’ll have to play around with this phone to see if I can get better shots.

Fireworks. July 2014.

Fireworks. July 2014.

I didn’t see the fireworks finale, since my neighbor saw me outside and rushed over to talk to me. Apparently my fence has some openings in it, and her dogs are getting through to my side. Such is life in a small town. I can’t see the damaged fence because my bushes are overgrown; I promised her I will fix my fence after my landscaper tames my overgrown bushes.

My virtual life has a carnival too! I have what is called a smart wallpaper on my Android phone and Android tablet – My Beach HD by DualBoot Games, a 3D beach image. Things move, the scene pans. It is wonderful. I selected the carnival option as the point of interest for July festivities (4th of July is a US holiday). My virtual self can go to a bigger carnival, if I want to! I will have to imagine going there as there are no pictures of the carnival up close. And my real life food is better.

Beach scene and carnival, Android tablet. August 2014

Beach scene and carnival, Android tablet. August 2014

I’m fond of fireworks on my cell phone and tablet. I installed Fireworks Deluxe Full by Jetblack Software.

Fireworks on my phone. July 2014

Fireworks on my phone. July 2014

Happy carnival. Happy fireworks.

It’s all about me. Word clouds.

Like many of us I enjoy things that purport to tell me something about me, even if what they tell me does not seem right. I like fanciful things too. I take Facebook surveys – what color would I be if I was a color? I made that one up.

And I like data analysis and data visualization. Data visualization is the new way of saying that you make your data look like a picture – a chart, a graph, a map overlay, something. You visualize it. “Data” is (often) counts of something, by something – number of sales by product (the oblong widget, the square widget), month and year of the sale, area of the world. You can use metrics other than counts, such as averages. What is the average price of a pint of blueberries in Philadelphia, during July 2014? You get the idea.

A word cloud, also called a tag cloud, is a data visualization of all the words in a document or a web site. Wikipedia talks about this in some detail, and includes a formula – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_cloud. You do not do this manually; you use an application, a program that count up all the words, and displays the words differently, depending on how often they are used in your source. Words that are used more often are bigger and have more prominence on the page. You omit filler words such as “the”, “and”. The goal is to make a pretty picture that says something interesting about the document or web site.

I decided to use Wordle (http://www.wordle.net) to make a pretty picture of this blog. Wordle is free. You can put Worldle images on your site. Most importantly, the images it generates are attractive.

I could not find an easy way to grab all the words from this blog, so I carefully copied my blog posts into a document, eliminating administrative words such as “posted”, dates of the posts, and the words from the columns on the side of my posts. I wanted wordle to work on what the blog was about. I wanted to see what comes up. Will California still be important?

I generated my word cloud before the last two posts. My word cloud captures how my blog looks before July 19, 2014. I tried a variety of picture formats and took a screenshot of the one I liked.

Word cloud of amarez.com, generated by Wordle, June 2014

Word cloud of amarez.com, generated by Wordle, June 2014

Good news – California is still prominent in my word cloud! There it is, looking blue. You can also see that Wordle is not smart enough to figure out that some words are really one word, even if they look like two. I wrote about Palo Alto, where I lived, but Wordle breaks it up into two words, and distributes the words “Palo” and “Alto” on different parts of the picture.

Next, I wanted to see what my resume looked like, after it went through Wordle. I removed my name and address and let Wordle do its thing. Here it is.

Word cloud of my resume, generated by wordle, June 2014

Word cloud of my resume, generated by wordle, June 2014

From my readings, when you apply for a job, you are supposed to generate a word cloud of a job you like, and then a word cloud of your resume. Then you make the word cloud of your resume match the job as closely as possible. The idea is that your resume fits the job, and so people will want to interview you for the job. I do not know if this works, but I understand the reasoning. But here’s the thing – I am absurdly fond of my how my resume came out on Wordle. I can look at my resume and I see what I care about.  I would not want to change it.

It’s all about me.

The Shore – Ocean City in between

Unlike California, New Jersey beaches, or “the shore” as it’s called, have a  season.  If you go to a beach town in the off season, the shops next to the ocean, the ones on the boardwalk if your beach town has one, will usually be closed.   In the “season”, July and August mostly, also June, the weather is good, the ocean breezes provide some coolness, everything is open but it is very crowded.

I loved going to the ocean, as I called it in California, in fall, winter and spring.  It was beautiful.  The seasonal rains didn’t happen every day, and they turned the dry landscape green. The weather was mild.  The end of February and March were wonderful times to go.  I didn’t go much in the summer – I spent the summer swimming in my pool.

New Jersey is different.  Winter means snow, cold, ice, and bad weather for travel.  And many hotels are seasonal, open from the end of April to the first week in October.  So “shoulder season” is the time to go.

My sister and I stayed in Ocean City, New Jersey, in June and September.  June was a little crowded, but not too much, and everything was open.  September was not crowded at all.  Some places along the ocean (the boardwalk) were closed in September, though they were probably still open on the weekends.  Both times we went were magical.  I had a wonderful time.

The drive in over the Route 52 Causeway Bridge into Ocean City

Going over the Route 52 causeway to Ocean City, New Jersey, June 2011

Continuing over the causeway into Ocean City, June 2011

This was the place where my sister got our wonderful beach chairs.  The chairs she got have a canopy you can attach to the back of the chair — you can flip it back when you don’t need it.   You don’t have to mess with a sun umbrella.

The best place to buy beach chairs! Ocean City, New Jersey, June 2011

We stayed at the Ocean 7 Hotel.  Wonderful, 60’s pop retro charm, with contemporary comfort.  Our room had a little kitchen.

http://ocean7hotel.com/

Ocean 7 Hotel. The wave motif. June 2011


Ocean 7 Hotel. Exterior Mural. June 2011

Ocean 7 Hotel. Walkway to our room. June 2011

We were very close to the beach.

Ocean City, View from the front of our hotel room. June 2011

Ocean City (New Jersey) dates from the 1880s.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_City,_New_Jersey) It has a famous boardwalk, “a wooden walkway for pedestrians, often found along beaches” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boardwalk).

Ocean City is what is called a “family oriented” place.  Along the boardwalk there are rides for children, a ferris wheel, miniature golf, and shops with beachy type junk food – french fries, funnel cakes, frozen custard.  You can also eat pretty well.  It’s a “dry town”; the place does not sell alcohol, though you can certainly drink in your room.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I like to have a glass of wine with dinner, but it is wonderful to not run into drunks on the boardwalk or the beach.  There’s a lot of drinking in New Jersey beach towns.   Ocean City has shops, plenty of them, and if you look carefully, you can find good things to buy, particularly during the September sales.  The place is full of retro charm.

Ocean City boardwalk at night. I have no idea what venue this is. June 2011

Ocean City boardwalk at night. June 2011

Ocean City boardway in September. Some places are closed. September 2011

Ocean City. New Jersey. Boardwalk in September. Lovely overcast day. September 2011

In September we had pizza at Mack and Manco Pizza – wonderful thin crust pizza.  The place felt regional, local, in a good way, something you don’t always experience in a beach town.   And they don’t close in the off season – they are always open.

Mack & Manco Pizza. Spectacular pizza. September 2011

Wonderful Ocean City mural

Mural, Ocean City, New Jersey. September 2011

And the ocean, beautiful, timeless

Atlantic Ocean. Beach at Ocean City, New Jersey, June 2011

Atlantic Ocean. June 2011

Ocean City beach with local vegetation. September 2011

View from the Ocean City Music Pier. September 2011

The Music Pier and the Atlantic Ocean. September 2011

We go home.

Leaving Ocean City, going back over the causeway. September 2011.

Going home. Goodbye Ocean City. September 2011


They sold my building

For fifteen years I lived in paradise.  When I left, the place existed, frozen in time.  Sometimes I’d think – I’ll move back to my paradise, if I ever move back to California.

It’s not to be.  The owner’s children sold the building and the building is getting all fixed up.  It’s not the same.

I lived in a neighborhood called midtown, in Palo Alto, California, a smallish city on the peninsula south of San Francisco – a city located in what is called Silicon Valley.  Midtown is mostly residential, but my street was zoned for mixed use. There were shops, apartment buildings and detached single family homes.  There was a gas station up the street, but it closed.

Palo Alto is a pricey city, even by pricey San Francisco Bay area standards.  But, midtown Palo Alto was a little less pricey.  My apartment, though ridiculously expensive by what I call “normal” standards, was a good deal by Palo Alto standards.  I like that – I like being the “poor relation” in a pricey area.  There were about thirty apartments built around a central courtyard with trees, two patios, plants, and a pool in the back.  I say “about thirty” because I never noticed the exact number – how California is that!

Building view via Google street view

Apartment building, front view, July 1999

Another view, front of the building, June 2009

Satellite view, apartment complex, 2004

Satellite view, apartment complex, showing location of my apartments

I lived on the second floor,  an apartment with high ceilings, big windows and a screen door which opened up to a view of the inner courtyard.  The apartment I lived in for eleven years was a two bedroom, with a big window facing the inner courtyard and another big window across from it, against the back wall, looking out onto a tree in the condo parking lot next door. I didn’t have a balcony, but there was enough room to place a container garden against the railing, across from my front door.  From my desk near the back window I looked to my left and saw a tree, and to my right I saw the top of another tree from the inner courtyard.  When it was warm I saw my plants from beyond the screen door.  It was magical.  The light, the courtyard, the trees, the plants, the pool, the open layout, the glorious weather – the entire time I was there it felt like I was living in a resort.

My container garden, 1st apartment, April 2004

Another view, my container garden, 1st apartment, April 2004

My second apartment was a one bedroom, still on the second floor, across the courtyard from my first apartment.  I was back in school and needed to economize.  While not as wonderful as the first apartment (the layout was different, not as much natural light) – it was still wonderful.  When I was in my second apartment my plants were nestled outside against an exterior wall.

My container garden, 2nd apartment, May 2005

Another view, my container garden, 2nd apartment, May 2009

In most apartment complexes you don’t get to have your own in ground garden; our place was different.   The place had a bit of a funky quality – which I like a lot.  Someone (might have been the apartment managers) had created a space for a garden.  As my plants got bigger I moved them to the garden, along with new plants I bought for the garden.  The garden was a low key affair – put in a few plants, a bit of topsoil, water once or twice a week during the dry season.  That’s it.  Given the soil and the dry climate there were almost no weeds. There was a bird of paradise bush.  In season the lily of the nile, agapanthus, bloomed.  There were hummingbirds.

View, garden and courtyard, May 2004

Another view, garden and courtyard, May 2009

Courtyard with Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus) and Bird of Paradise, July 2007

Courtyard with overflow plants from my container garden, May 2009

And the pool – did I say there was a pool?  There was a pool at the back and it was wonderful.  It wasn’t heated, so the swimming season was only from late May, early June, through September.  Unlike some areas in the US, there was no rule that you have to have a lifeguard or pool attendant, so pool hours were very generous – daytime to around 10 PM at night, though if you live in northern California you know there’s not much night swimming.  Nights, even in the summer, tend to be blissfully cool.   The pool was used, but not heavily.   There were many, many times that I was the only one there.  It was my pool.  When a family member came to visit we spent many happy hours at the pool, swimming, then, using Styrofoam pool toys (“noodles”) lazily kicking our way back and forth, talking and laughing.  I was so happy.  Some summers I lived in my swimsuit on the weekends, putting shorts on over my suit to go to an art exhibit at the Palo Alto Cultural Center or to get the paper, coffee or a burrito.

Apartment pool, November 2007. Too cool for swimming, but still beautiful.

Pool, June 2009, late afternoon. My things are in my usual spot.

Pool, July 2008. Lovely reflections.

Getting ready to get out of the water, June 2009, a month before I left. I'll always think of this as my pool.

The place wasn’t perfect.  The apartments were large but didn’t have much soundproofing.  If you don’t get the right tenants, interior courtyards can be awful – sound carries.  So the apartment managers tried to get responsible tenants who weren’t noisy.   Palo Alto is a desirous place to live and the schools are excellent, so we had a mix of ages and nationalities, singles, couples, people with children.  For fifteen years, this place worked out well for me.  I didn’t want to leave.

I’ve learned that it’s different now.  The former apartment managers told me that the name has changed, and the plants were torn up to put in new patios.  For new tenants the rent is $500 more than it used to be.  I understand.  Given the location and the structure of the building, you could change the place and charge a lot more.  You could take away some of that naturalness, that imperfection, the communal space.   It will be a good place, but it won’t be my place.

I guess it’s true – you can’t go home again (apologies to Thomas Wolfe).  Even if I would ever move back to California and live in paradise, it won’t be that paradise.

More pictures of my community pool, part 2

This set of pictures takes you from January through June, right before the pool is set to open.  Walking by this pool and taking pictures is a thing with me.  It’s a solitary pursuit.

Pool, January 2010. Sunny day, now snow.

Pool, February 2010. Snow.

Pool landing, February 2010. My footprints.

Pool, February 2010. So very much snow.

Pool, March 2010. Dreary day.

Pool, March 2010. Dreary day with ducks!

Pool, April 2010. The trees are green.

Pool, May 2010. Drained, scrubbed, ready to fill. The cartoon characters are back.

Pool, June 2010. Dusk. The empty pool reflects the sky.

Many, many pictures of my community pool, part 1

This is my local community pool.  I know, it’s not a natural body of water, like a creek or a spring, but I like to see how it looks over the seasons.  I’ve taken many pictures in the course of my walks.   It’s a thing with me – walking by this pool.  I’ve made a path through the snow in the winter, to get up the stairs to the landing so I can look at the pool and take pictures.   What does this say about me?

Pool, August 2009. Swimming is wonderful.

Pool, August 2009. Mistly. The clown is a little creepy.

Pool, September 2009. No more swimming. The cartoon characters are gone.

Pool, November 2009. A few autumn leave remain.

Pool, November 2009. No more leaves.

Pool, December 2009. Sprinkling of snow.

Pool, December 2009. Snow and reflections.

Pool, December 2009. Pool at dusk.

Pool, January 2010. Cold. Snow and ice.