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Saturday, April 29, 2017

PaGA: Day 34 Stanford University

Caught the hotel van to the SFO International terminal, then BART to Millbrae:

Caltrain is a real train:

The fare is complicated, and there is such a thing as a senior rate, but there is no one to assist you and I no doubt paid too much just to insure that I got some kind of ticket, for conductors come through the train to check if you did, and they use an electronic device to ascertain that you paid enough.  I was panicking because I saw the train coming and I was still a floor above the tracks.

A second problem is that there are steps to get on the train, and if you have a heavy suitcase, you're in trouble.  Mine was a simple roll-on, but that was a challenge.

The ride itself was great. Best of all, the Caltrain Palo Alto station is a one minute walk to the Sheraton Palo Alto.

I entered Stanford University 59 years ago.  There are a lot of new buildings with considerable construction in progress, but in many ways, the campus looks the same.

In my four years here, and the subsequent 55 years, while I must have visited here more than a dozen times, until today, I never once walked up or down Palm Drive connecting the campus with Palo Alto.

At the extreme end is Memorial Church, know here as MemChu.  You get the general idea when Hoover Tower is HooTow.

And a few more photos in-between.  Here looking back up Palm Drive:

Stanford was founded in 1885, and the official name is Leland Stanford Junior University, which worried me the first time I came on campus.  I wondered if I had somehow selected a junior college.  Honest!  

Earlier this week I mentioned that the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus occupies 320 acres.  Stanford has 8,180 acres.  There are 7,032 undergraduate and 9,3014 graduate students.  The university does not recognize the tree as its mascot, saying this is the Band's doing.

I walked by the Old Chemistry Building, which is now the Sapp Center for Science Teaching and Learning:

It just re-opened last year after being idle since 1986.  When I was here the Chemical Engineering Department was part of the Chemistry Department, and I took most of my courses in this building.  I recall in my junior year, the chairman, David Mason, rushed into one of our classes to proudly inform us that our department just got accredited.  We looked at each other and were shocked to learn that we were not accredited...until then.  Turns out that just a decade later it became the #1 ChE department in the nation.  Today, "only" #4.

Pardon me, but this is all so nostalgic. I'll be showing a whole bunch of Hoover Tower photos for my personal pleasure:

Freshmen all were required to reside and dine at Wilbur Hall, and today, this practice remains.  Wilbur had recently opened and my wing was Arroyo:

Some of us on the third floor--Jim Seger, Bill Rayner and John Laing--still hold regular reunions.  In fact, we still might before the week is over.

I then walked over to Toyon Hall, where I resided for my final three years.  At the end of our freshman year, some of us were selected to join eating clubs or fraternities in our sophomore year.  Eating clubs were founded in 1892, and went co-educational in 1966.  However, in 2010, they were all abolished.   Why?  Something to do with Stanford sanitizing everything.  The eating clubs became too independent!  My El Capitan colleagues still get together for dinner during the October homecoming week.

Next, Tressider Memorial Union to get a haircut ($27) and consider lunch, which turned out to be pasta, penne and meatballs with a cup of beer.  My eating spot was just where people came in to order.  When I was at Stanford, I never really met a Black or Hispanic classmate.  Surprisingly, of the hundred or so who ordered, most were white, with a high sprinkling of Asians.  Not one Black or Hispanic.  On the other hand, every worker in the restaurant was either black or Hispanic.  And my barber was black.  This is all so surprising because, supposedly  6% of Stanford students today are African American and 16% Hispanic, with Asians at 21%.

The building I always enter is the Book Store:

A bought a few more shirts and decided to watch Stanford play Arizona in the Sunken Diamond.  On the way there what struck me as particularly memorable was the aromatic air.  I even saw something I never did before.  This eucalyptus tree had red flowers:

At one time there were 134 species.  Today 50 different ones are thriving, but there is a sense that these trees are not endemic and could be a fire hazard.  But they smell good.

I also walked through the Rodin Sculpture Garden:

There are twenty statues.

I noticed a line where they were checking bags before entering the baseball game, so I went there, and got ushered in.  Gee, just like Rainbow Wahine Softball.  Free.  Stanford is a terrible for day games as there are no seats protected from the sun.  After an inning, I gave up and on the way out noticed there was a crowd in line to buy tickets.  I never did find out how much it cost to enter.

A few minutes walk brought me back to the Town and Country shopping center, where I bought a few things for dinner in my room tonight.

I walked into another Trader Joe's.  Took a photo of fennel:

I remembered as a student having great hamburgers from Kirk's.  Will need to return here tomorrow.  Also noticed pokeLove, which is a poke take out.

Finally, a three minute walk got me to the Westin Hotel, which is adjacent to the Sheraton.  You only see this on Waikiki Beach, where there are several Starwoods.

What a great day.  Oh, my in-room dinner:

Caesar Salad, Castello Blue Cheese, French baguette, potato chips, beer and red wine.


Friday, April 28, 2017

PaGA 2017: Day 33 United First Class

I never got around to filing a review of my United Airlines Polaris International First Class flight from Munich to DC Dulles, so will complement the UAL First Class flight today from Reagan National Airport to San Francisco.  To repeat from an earlier posting, all U.S. airlines have abandoned international first class.  United is the final one to phase out, and they're doing this in transition by creating something called Polaris, which is like a better business class, including a new family of executive lounges.

For now, they still have Polaris International First Class, but I might be among the last to experience this.  How good was it?  Not bad, but nothing close to what Lufthansa, Singapore and Thai Air have.  A night touch was flights of wines.  I started with three white wines:

The first course was creative and adventurous:

Clearly, this must have been tuna sashimi with takuan (pickled radish).  While it tasted like that, the fish was salmon and yellowish pieces were pickled beets.  I kind of enjoyed this dish.

The porcini mushroom soup was rather thin and lukewarm:

The salad was okay:

The rack of lamb was almost good, but overdone and lacking in character.

I skipped the dessert, but tried the cheese and port wine:

Overall, not bad at all.

There were flaws:
  • The audio-visual system was way obsolete, and because the company providing the music went bankrupt, there was none.
  • The oldest stewardess on all my flights until this one was half my age.  I would swear that a chubby white-haired lady serving first class was around my age.  She was effective, and I should be complimenting her....but.
  • No Johnny Walker Blue Label.  No caviar.  
International first class, however, is considerably better than domestic first class.  Not worth showing any food, but my flight from Reagan International to SFO had some photographic moments:

There was some airport traffic congestion, so we circled the Stanford campus.  Tomorrow, I move to the Palo Alto Sheraton and might go to a Stanford baseball game against Arizona, for the hotel is virtually across the street from the Sunken Diamond.

SFO is one of those airports where you need to go one floor up to catch the hotel shuttles.  I also noticed that the Smart Cartes cost $5.

 I'm staying at the SFO Four Points Sheraton, and my meals so far in California have been fast and simple:

Tomorrow, on to Stanford University.