Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Does it Snow in Santa Cruz, Calfornia?

Celebrate this holiday in an extra special way where ever you might be!  
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

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Let's go on a trip now! ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Venice, Italy Gondola Ride Experience on Vacation

I like to see new regions with other people.  Yes, I am independent – I enjoy going with other people.  One of my favorite memories is riding the Gondolas in Venice. This experience may not be the same by myself. 

Let me explain 

Gondolas + Venice = Fun Images Courtesy of DWest

Venice, Italy Gondola Experience

Our group was ready to stretch our legs on our nice, easy walk from our motor coach along the side the water canals to where we found our next fun floating transportation.  Yes, we followed our tour director past other long lines to our service area where we found our special reserved gondolas waiting to navigate us through the water canals. 

Service Areas - Gondolas

The gondolier is very skilled in steering these little gems as I watched them carefully helping everyone get on board and showing them exactly where to sit. 

As we departed the service area, of course we snapped several  pictures of each other in our small group made up of five or six gondolas as we glided along the narrow, secluded waterways and then our surprise!

(drum-rolls) WOW!  when we turned into the main presentation of the Grand Canal of Venice! Double WOW!

Sipping Champagne on Gondolas, Venice, Italy
It was great to be with others as we shared and pointed out unusual sightings of houses, churches, and palaces along our way while sipping our champagne.  Even rain didn’t spoil our spirits during our serenade.  
Umbrellas Up Venice, Italy

We were prepared with our “umbrellas up” as we listened to our Italian singer and musicians.  Our contagious smiles were infectious to strangers watching us as we got off and started on our next walking tour discovering Venice with our tour director.  How cool is this? 

Italian Serenade

Tell us how your Gondola experience was?  

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 Please don’t tell anyone how fun group trips really are … it is our secret, what happens on tour stays on tour ~ The Fun Tour Guru

All images above belong to the Fun Tour Guru and not to be used without consent.  

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Silicon Valley: A Day at the Computer History Museum

One of my fun childhood memories is getting unusual Christmas gifts from my parents.  Two moments brought huge smiles when I found my small wireless transistor radio and a portable tape recorder under our tree.  I spent hours listening to my AM transistor radio which I took everywhere.   What was the story behind these inventions?

Fast forward today, who knew I would find myself exploring gadgets like this at our Computer History Museum in Mountain View.  I love this unusual history and each time I visit I unveil new stories.  I recommend this place to our visitors all of the time - I got a chance to do some exploring on my own.

If you haven’t been to this museum in a couple of years, you will find amazing changes.  I watched the transformation in progress and it was in January 2011, our Museum re-opened.  

Babbage No 2 Engine in action!  Math calculations Ed Note:  Exhibit not here anymore (Image by DWest)
The main Revolution Exhibition floor is easy to walk through and has a large amount of information to read and absorb on a self guided tour.  The exhibition is larger than it appears with 19 galleries and I recommend allowing plenty of time to see it.  Don’t worry, you’ll find something that interests you.

Make sure you pick up a free visitor map when you purchase your ticket.  Tickets are $15 per person, (students, active Military, and older adults will receive a discount).  You don’t have to buy a ticket to eat at the Cloud Café and find unusual gifts in the Gift Shop.   The Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, from 10 am – 5 pm.  Note: please call to check times are available.

The Computer History Museum floor with a special tech design! Image by DWest

Insiders Tip at the Computer History Museum ~

Be sure to ask about the times of the demonstration of the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 and the guided  volunteer docent tours through Revolution area.  I recommend doing both of these.  And, don’t worry about repeating because each docent shares very different stories.  (Update: this exhibit is no longer at our Museum)

I found myself immersed in private conversations (with myself) and with several prominent women in technology and computer history starting with Ada Lovelave, and includes Grace Hopper, Lynn Conway, Fran Allen from IBM, and the eight women who programmed the ENIAC (Kathleen McNulty, Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Synder Holber, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum)  and many others the day I went.  

How Google Street Map started Image by DWest
 And, after watching the Babbage demonstration, I sat in one of the Google Street View Cars that has transformed the way we do business today. Plus,  I wrote my name on the Jeopardy Stage Set of Watson the Computer.  Plus much more. 

Jeopardy Stage Set for Watson the Computer Image by D West
What is your favorite piece of computer history?  
You'll find it here ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Visit our new website, Lighthouse Travel and Tours, for trip ideas.

All pictures courtesy of D West

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pacific Highway One: Half Moon Bay, CA

I frequent the coastal Highway One between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay and San FranciscoI am always surprised to find so many unusual differences along this one hour drive.  

Today I spent time in and around Half Moon Bay.  This picture was taken on a drive north of Half Moon Bay about 5 or 10 minutes. There is a nice walking trail and beach access. 

Half Moon Bay, CA - Image by D West

If you get hungry and thirsty, please find 'Sam's Chowder House' restaurant which I recommend their fabulous Lobster Rolls, drinks, and an unusual array of ice cream desserts.  Nope, I do not have pictures of the Lobster Rolls nor dessert because they disappeared quickly. 

I was drawn to this artist mural in town too.  Which do you like better, the mural or the actual scenery picture above? Tell me in your comments.

Mural Art in downtown Half Moon Bay, CA - Image by D West

Out and about along our Pacific Highway California Coast, 
and loving it ~ The Fun Tour Guru 

Do research for regions and find hotels at Lighthouse Travel & Tours, Santa Clara Tour Company.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Corn Palace, not South Dakota, the one in Silicon Valley

The buildings are getting closer to our favorite Valley of Heart’s Delight Produce Stand.  Sunnyvale’s Corn Palace may soon disappear.  I stopped by to take pictures.  

The Corn Palace, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara CA
 Of course, it is not like the famous Corn Palace in South Dakota, it is a symbol of yesteryear dating back to 1926 – and as they say, if the walls could talk, oh, what stories they would tell.

“The one good thing about the Silicon Valley parking lot commute mornings and evenings on Lawrence Expressway is this small open-air structure with fresh produce in front of a backdrop of acres of corn,”  Daniel Hindin writes in Sunnyvale’s Sun news article, Way We Were – Corn Palace in 2000.

Joe and Ben Francia co-owned this 20-acre farm along with farm land in Mountain View and in the Salinas Valley.  At 80 years in the year 2000, the Francia Brothers recall the history and growth of our area in this article. Even with many offers on this golden piece of real estate in Silicon Valley, neither one considered giving up life as they knew it. It was in 2005 – 2007 when one of the brothers passed away that a family decision overrode the other brother to keep their wishes and not let go.  And,  it appears there were ill feelings about this.  

The new residential buildings get closer

Progress ... in Silicon Valley
 I pulled this history together from three sources - talking with an older gentleman at the Corn Palace (he recently got out of the hospital after a long illness) and very happy to return to work at his beloved Palace, from the 2000 Sun article, and a Corn Palace blog post written in 2007

The gentleman told his story of this history word for word (before I read the article) as if it just happened. 

I also found this short video taken in the actual fields behind the building with excellent commentary of this area. 

Corn Palace Video is below.

What is your favorite story of yesteryear? 

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Let's salute The Corn Palace –Sunnyvale, CA.  One of  our last acres of agriculture in Silicon Valley ~ The Fun Tour Guru


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Sunday, June 9, 2013

USA Celebrates Flag Day, June 14

I'm sharing this article that I wrote and published online in June 2009. A tribute to our USA flag.  For me, this holiday is very personal because I remember my Mother's birthday on Flag Day.  My Mother always loved to display our flag on her special day.

A Holiday which America Celebrates the Anniversary of the Flag

Flag Day, June 14, is now an official holiday and tradition of the USA Flag symbol which was started in the 1800s by children in elementary schools.  

Fourth of July is a popular USA holiday where people take extended weekend vacations in the summer months and gather together in local communities to participate in parades, picnics, and fireworks to celebrate the birth of USA.

A not so well known holiday celebration, FlagDay, June 14, in United States. People shower USA with flags on the fronts of businesses and homes to celebrate the USA flag, which was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777.  In some cities, there are traditions to give children small flags to carry with them throughout the day.

The USA flag is a symbol to remind people of the history, national pride, and independence of USA. The American Flag is even celebrated through the words of the National Anthem, the "Star Spangled Banner." 

It is with respect which Americans follow certain rules when they display their flags:
  • It is to be flown during daylight and when it is not raining.
  • The flag should never be dipped or flown upside down.
  • It is not be used for advertising purposes.
  • When lowered to be put away, no part of the flag should touch the ground, it should be received by waiting, hands and arms, and folded in a ceremoniously way.
  • It should be cleaned and mended.
President Truman signed the official “Act of Congress” on August 3, 1949 appointing June 14th of each year as National Flag Day after Woodrow Wilson officially set up the Proclamation on May 30th, 1916 declaring this anniversary of the 1777 resolution to the American flag.

Shoreline Park, Mountain View CA Courtesy of D West

Children First Celebrated USA Flags in Elementary Schools

Children in elementary schools played a significant role in celebrating the USA flag in the late 1880’s when B.J. Cigrand arranged a celebration for the children in his classroom in Wisconsin to recognize this anniversary of the flag. Geogre Balch arranged ceremonies for kindergarten children in New York City which was recognized later by the State Board of Education in New York and Pennsylvania.

Leroy Van Horn, together with Cigrand, formed the American Flag Day Association and were successful in assembling the celebration for 300,000 children through Chicago in parks of Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington honoring the USA flag.

Ted Roosevelt’s Story of the Flag

A story from 1908 passed down through generations is as follows: 

"On June 14, Theodore Roosevelt saw a man wiping his nose on what he believed was the USA Flag. He quickly walked over and started hitting the man with a small wooden stick. He then realized the man was using a blue hankerchief with white stars to wipe his nose.

Roosevelt was quick to apologize for his behavior, although struck him one more time because he had become “riled up with national pride” with this similarity the cloth had to the flag."

Soon after this incident, in 1914, Secretary of Interior, Franklin K. Lane, delivered a speech in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: 

"I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself."

The USA Flag is a symbol which is rich in history and traditions of American people and is celebrated on June 14 every year throughout local communities across the USA.

Happy Birthday and Flag Day, Mother!  ~ The Fun Tour Guru  

Keep reading:  Solo through our Nation's Capitol

Source Used:

The Flag of the United States of America.

Image of flags from BostonUSA.com 

Join us on a trip:  Travel Together

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Santa Clara CA: Levi's Stadium, New Home of 49ers and Superbowl 50

A "super" size big deal. In Santa Clara, CA. 

I watched the live stream where the NFL voted in the first round to have Superbowl 50 (in the year 2016) in our new Santa Clara Levi's Stadium. And, with a tweet of this. Wow, this is my neighborhood.  It is great to be a part of history-in-the-making.  

You may read the official news, facts, and figures on our City of Santa Clara website and there is even a live view web cam of the building activity available.  Our Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Bureau website has a Superbowl 50 link with the latest news on hashtag #SCSuperbowl and the stadium building activity live view web cam link too.  

I watched this monster building activity growing the past couple of years as I drive by every week.  The following pictures I have are real, and not just from an architect drawing.  I took the pictures on the day after the Superbowl 50 announcement. May 2013

Santa Clara CA Levi Stadium Courtesy DWest All Rights.
Santa Clara CA Levi Stadium, New Home of 49ers and Superbowl 50

Above, you are looking east towards the Diablo Range and Mt Hamilton (San Francisco bay area highest peak) and our City of San Jose, or what we call the Capital of Silicon Valley today.   

Santa Clara CA Levi Stadium Courtesy of D West All Rights.
Santa Clara CA Levi Stadium - New Home of the 49ers and Superbowl 50
Above, I was standing in our Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club parking lot, golf course behind me,  which is (approx) north of the stadium.  The 49er Headquarters is to the left of the stadium.

Santa Clara CA Levi Stadium Courtesy of D WEst
Close Up of Santa Clara Stadium - End View Courtesy of DWest

Above picture, close up of our new stadium.  Santa Clara CA

City of Santa Clara parking, courtesy of D West

Above, Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club is on the right side and our new parking facility is straight ahead, following the palm trees.  Our convention center is tucked away behind the parking facility.  The other high rise building in the distance is the Westin Santa Clara. Behind this, continue to the local towns of Sunnyvale and Mountain View.

Great America Amusement Courtesy D West
California's Great America Amusement Park, Santa Clara CA - Courtesy D West

The above picture, I turned slightly around without moving my feet, to my right, after taking the very first picture.  California's Great America Amusement Park.  You are able to see the top of the roller coasters and the pointed roof of the Carousel.  

Santa Clara CA Courtesy DWest
49ers Headquarters, Santa Clara CA, Before the new stadium Courtesy DWest

It is a big deal. Superbowl 50 in Santa Clara ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Santa Clara CA Resources

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Santa Clara CA University Graduation Event on Memoral Day Weekend

Remember these great finds close to home

I enjoy walking around one of my favorite universities, Santa Clara University, because of the beautiful Mission which is located on the university grounds.  Santa Clara University is one of the oldest "private universities" in California. Many times I get to see the set up or break down of weddings and events held over summer weekends.

This weekend (2013) I saw this behind-the-scenes set up of the Santa Clara University Law School Graduation which took place yesterday.  I don't know any of these graduates personally, I still pause as I know this is an accomplishment for our students.

I looked down the rows of empty seats and my thoughts went to the celebrations taking place with each graduate and their family and friends taking place this weekend. I remember my own graduation celebration with my family ... I didn't know what I would do after that one day, there was the dream of what might be possible...

The green lawn was covered with hundreds of perfect aligned white chairs on both sides of the stage waiting for their arrivals the next day and uniquely placed around the palm trees throughout the area. 

I talked with the kind, friendly security officer, who let me wander a bit behind the closed off areas and on the stage.  

Happy Memorial Day! So much has happened this past year ~ throughout our own country and world, how may we help each other? ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

3 Most Frequent Questions from Travelers on Trips (FAQ)

What questions do you ask during the trip?

The trip is planned and now you are ready to leave.

I know it is fun to start reading favorite blogs and websites for additional region stories and information.  Yet, I wonder why am I still asked the same, repeat questions from travelers during their trips?

I chose three of the most frequent asked questions that people ask me, whether the trips are for business or leisure.  The answers to these questions are not readily available by social media. 

And remember, if you arrive in the evening or over the weekend, people in tourism and information centers will most likely NOT be available to help. 

Where is the toilet, bathroom, or restroom?

Don't get caught with your pants down...Picture taken at Gilroy Hot Springs, CA Courtesy of DW
I did a Google search for  “how to ask where is the restroom internationally”  and received  about 4,830,000 results (0.38 seconds). 

My tip, don't forget the many variations in each language of “restroom” and “bathroom”. An example is Spanish may be different in Spain and Mexico.  And, the definitions of these 
words are different in each country.  

This is even true when you travel across the USA.  I giggle as I mention this because I know even New York City is very different from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

This is a list of how to ask in five of my favorite languages:
  • German:  Toilette
  • German = Wo ist die Toilette, bitte? (Vo ist dee toy-LETT-uh, BIT-uh?)
  • Spanish:  Bano (North American Counrty)
  • Spanish = Perdone/Disculpe, ¿Dónde está el baño?(Formal) (Per-DON-eh, DOHN-deh es-TAH el BAHN-yo?)
  • Italian:  stanza da bagno
  • Italian = Mi scusi, dov'è il bagno?
  • Greek:  τουαλέτα
  • Greek = Parakalo, pou ine i tualetta? (Πού είναι η τουαλέτα;)
  • French : Salle de bain
  • French = pardon, où sont les toilettes? (pahr-DAW, oo saw lay twah-LETT?)
Do you understand what I mean now? 

Gilroy Hot Springs, Gilroy, CA Courtesy of DW
 The next frequent question… 

Do you have wi-fi? And, how much does internet access cost, what is the code to use to connect?

I admit, I am spoiled living in Silicon Valley and Northern California where most towns offer free (complimentary)  wi-fi , or connection to the internet.  I take it for granted. This is not always provided for you or sometimes a challenge to find the code access.  

Luxury hotels and resorts charge for this additional service.  Less expensive hotels usually provide this service, yet sometimes it is only provided in the lobby. 

On my trips, I ask where the local public libraries, coffee shops, or internet cafes are located.  By doing this, I  get the additional benefit of talking with the local people by doing this. 

Where may I charge my smartphone?

This is an active question now.  Even people locally ask this question when they attend meetings and conferences.  There is not that many electrical outlets available.  And, if you are traveling internationally, you may not have the right plug-in connection.  

Modern airports now have more convenient outlets to use in the sitting areas, how many times do we see someone sitting in a chair next to an outlet yet not using it?  Should we add a sign on the chair saying, 'reserved for those wanting to re-charge'? Or add more re-charge stations per chair?

There are many lightweight, inexpensive, emergency smart phone re-chargers available now. I use these to recharge my phone while on the plane or at dinner.  I keep my phone with me which eliminates a chance of someone stealing the phone.

There was one hotel in Germany that I stayed at with a lobby bar that had phone/computer charging stations in the center of their tables - how cool is this?

I also try to buy equipment like small cameras with re-chargeable batteries. Don't forget the cords! You may put cords in your extra socks and shoes to keep organized.

I hope this helps to get prepared for your next trip! Let’s go! ~ The Fun Tour Guru

More tips - read My Hit and Miss of my Last Trip and Trip Planning Advice

I want to go on vacation now!  My latest trips to go on are at my website.  Ask. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Silicon Valley Where Past & Present Collides: Do You Remember National Semiconductor?

Early Silicon Valley History with our Semiconductor Industry 

I am active reading local articles in the Mercury News about our Silicon Valley history because of our new neighborhood center construction in Mountain View, CA, The Village at San Antonio Center.  On this land of the new neighborhood plan lies an old, neglected, one story building, which holds the story of a significant event of our technology history. (Editor's Note: this building was torn down - 2016 - we are glad we created this video)

Today, Silicon Valley is a blend of companies.  Don't forget that our region was coined Silicon Valley from a journalist because of the many semiconductor companies created through 1940s to 1970s.  

I was on my way home from an event in San Francisco last week, when I looked at the time on my car clock, there was still time to make it, so I decided to go undercover to a city council meeting because I was curious of what was happening with these plans.  I went to the Mountain View City Council Study Meeting. I walked away with a new understanding of their plans.

I listened closely to the members of this City Council as they made valid comments, concerns, and approaches about how the building plans should go forward. They listened to architect planners and to the public.  Most of the members seem to want to keep the same quaint Mountain View flavor and with local retail businesses even as they enter into the new modern neighborhood.

My only focus is to save this one building. I learned a great deal about this awesome new neighborhood transition that is coming and that there were many other concerns too.

I do know there is a way to save and protect one piece of Silicon Valley history, and revitalize the old building of Shockley Semiconductor - keep as a museum where people may learn essential ingredients of how this Valley began - and still build our new neighborhood around our history.  Let people walk and ride their bikes past it everyday. (See photos and video of this site in link above)

The activities on this location led to several developments in the semiconductor industry.  Workers left Shockley Semiconductor and created Fairchild Semiconductor as the second generation of this industry.  Several familiar corporate companies were created from business people who worked at Fairchild.  Three significant companies were Advanced Micro, Intel, and National Semiconductor.

A company I recently watched transition in the past few years is National Semiconductor. It was acquired by yet another company.  I took pictures to remember this. 

From National Semiconductor to Texas Instruments - Image by D West

The National Semiconductor corporate campus is still the same, has new paint and fresh updates, and now a new sign change with new owners. 

Early Days of Technology and Semiconductor Industry

National Semiconductor actually started in 1959 in Danbury, CT, to provide transistors for second generation computers.  They moved to the west coast because of an acquisition of a small integrated circuit company, Molectro. 

A year later, a former executive of Fairchild Semiconductor, Charles Sporck, became CEO and moved into a single-building with a leaking roof in Santa Clara.  Sporck led the team through this early period which made him the CEO with the longest tenure (during this period). 

National Semiconductor on Kifer - Image by D West

Highlights of 1968 - 1983 period
  • Increased revenues to $1 billion by 1983, making National Semiconductor the first Silicon Valley company to surpass the $1 Billion milestone
  • Expansion in Europe and Malaysia
  • Move to the current site on Kifer Road, Santa Clara

Insiders interest: 
National Semiconductor acquired Fairchild Semiconductor sites located in Maine and State of Washington in 1987 

The company was reorganized and transformed in the 1990s.  Today: National Semiconductor was acquired by Texas Instruments in 2011.   

Will our Past and Present get to collide and stay together
 in Silicon Valley? ~ The Fun Tour Guru 

Comments are welcome... 

Silicon Valley history dates and stories are from the book "The Making of Silicon Valley : A One Hundred Year Renaissance".