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Friday, January 12, 2018

San Francisco with Kids: The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium is a suggestion that EVERYONE makes when telling you about places to visit with kids, and when you go in, you'll realise why. It's like a Science Museum on steroids.. one day is barely enough to see it all. If you can avoid school holiday time, you might have an easier time of it, as when it's crowded you might end up waiting around a bit for popular exhibits as we did. But there's enough to experience that you can keep moving around and come back later to the ones you missed as well. The post is more of a photo tour, as I can't really do justice and describe the variety of stuff. You can find more details of the different spaces etc. at the link given on the first line.

This is an exhibit in the Colours and Light section (which is where most of my pics are from) that showed how perception makes the difference when viewing colours. I was curious to see if it would come through in photos as well:

What colour would you say that is? White?
The one on the left is the "white" one from the previous pic!
The rightmost one is the newest now.. 
The card in 2nd position is the one we saw in the first pic - dark grey if not black.
Pretty cool, especially for the kids.

Who doesn't want to make funny and colourful shadows if you get the chance. I was also part of the fun along with trying to click it ;).

This is what we looked like on a screen that detected our infrared radiation. The one with the black i.e. VERY COLD nose is me :P. Checked after a couple of hours spent inside and it was back to normal. You could also press your hands on some cold shapes and check out your "tattoos" on the screen.

On to a small room where everything was lit in monochromatic (yellow) light. It was fascinating to see how that drains out most colour. My blue jacket was dark grey, our shoes were drab, and this lovely rainbow looked absolutely washed out. Compare to the one just outside the room just below. The room also had small torches giving out white light that the kids could shine on things to see the difference that made. A box with jellybeans, a set of crayons, a painting of a landscape, were some of the examples in the room.

Monochromatic light
A similar one in normal white light
We'd seen this type of mirror before but it's always fun to go at it again. I was not going for Leonardo's Vitruvian Man symmetry, but that's what I managed to look like ;)

This one was titled Floater Theatre where we watched a BLANK WHITE SCREEN for a few minutes with a narrative playing alongside, with the floaters in our eye showing up and giving a performance based on how we moved them. Amazing use of something I always assumed was a minor irritation but otherwise never thought about.

The kids, especially D, were fascinated with this one
My post probably covers about 3-4% of the place, as most activities were hands-on and I was only clicking the occasional one. Do check it out if you are ever in San Francsisco, I am sure the kids will find it memorable.

Signing off with a lovely if slightly garbled pic of D and S with an even more shadowy me on the side..

Monday, January 08, 2018

Looking for Balance in 2018

This is NOT a resolutions post ;). I seem to have done a few of those over the years, and find that nothing much has changed from what I wanted in the last couple of years. I've made some progress and there's still quite a way to go. But there's something about a new year that spurs one to make SOME change, so here goes.

Facebook let me know this morning that my friends have liked my post 68,000 times. Definitely a "feel-good" piece of info :).

But in fact, 2017 was a year when I consciously moved away from social media, especially FB. It was in my effort to find a balance between sharing my thoughts and wondering if it was validation-seeking. I think though, that I ended up too much in the other direction and hardly ever posted at all. It was especially around the new year when I saw a timeline filled with posts from people I know.. and it set me thinking afresh.. why don't I post anything much nowadays? Whether on social media or on the blog, I seem to have a block of sorts.

I know it started with posting less pictures of the kids online due to safety concerns.. and then considering very carefully every one of the memories before putting them down on the blog.. wondering if I'm invading their privacy in some way by doing it.. and just over-thinking in general. I have always been more of a literal/narrative writer rather than a creative one, and I was losing my main writing material :).

Patterns and perspectives.. nobody sees it just like you do
I went over some of my old posts and had to marvel at the person/writer I was then, that I could just put out my thoughts and memories so easily, and had to wonder what has changed since then. I think all bloggers start off writing with a level of ease, because at that point it's not about who might be reading and how the readers might react, but just about sharing. As social media entered the picture, I was thrilled to be able to broadcast my writing, but it also brought with it the worry of what folks might think or how they might react. I know that I have hardly ever written on controversial subjects, and this worry might sound slightly irrational, (as most of my friends have been nothing much encouraging!), but we just seem to live in a world where the simplest statements could start arguments or need proof. It left me feeling like if I posted anything at all, I needed to make sure I had the energy to stand up for it ;).

Balance and peace in other parts of life would be good too :)
I have tried my best to use social media in a controlled way, especially in the last 2-3 years, but it has definitely been a tussle about how much to share. Reading all the discussions and articles about how sanitised or airbrushed a view of our lives we put up on FB only set me thinking some more :P. But then I recognised that each person's attitude or relationship with social media is a personal thing, it's not something you can figure out from reading about other's experiences. If I'm feeling low*, seeing happy posts usually brings a smile and makes me hopeful. At other times, I'm just glad to be able to know what people are up to, without needing to actually "stay in touch" :). So in 2018, I hope to reconfigure my sharing and find that elusive balance. Starting with more blog posts ;).. so wish me luck.

*If I'm really in a super-low or black mood, I usually stay away from social media altogether.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

San Francisco with Kids - Children's Creativity Museum

We've been on holiday in San Francisco, and decided that we would stick to finding places in the city to explore rather than traveling around much this time. We did the whole whirlwind tour experience in 2013 and I even later attempted an A-Z set of posts to capture it all ;).
Never actually completed the alphabet, but it was fun to write! Start reading here if you would like to check it out.

We had a lot of recommendations from friends and family on what to check out, especially with the kids, but sometimes you come across a place serendipitously - this time thanks to looking at a map (a paper one for a change ;)) and finding it marked there. It turned out that it wasn't too far from where we were so decided to give it a try and the kids had an amazing time!

The Children's Creativity Museum has something for kids of all ages, and though I was a bit concerned if D would find it too simple, both of them (12 and 9) found enough to do and had lots of fun. The ones we especially enjoyed were:

First stop: The Animation Studio. We made models out of clay, using the provided metal skeleton as a base. The first coat was with with mixed multicolour blocks (loved that they repurposed the clay for as long as possible), and the outer layer was with the colours to create the characters. Can you guess who made what from the pics?

After making the figures, the kids learnt how to make an animation video using multiple still photos of the characters, moving them a bit every time. We had a whole storyline with the princess and penguin walking along and the zombie coming out to scare them away, but managed a grand 4 second video after what seemed like a ton of clicks :)

Basic figures

And tadaah.. yes the unimaginative penguin is mine ;)
the one on the left is a Spiderman zombie ninja warrior in case you missed that.

The next stop was the Robotics Studio where the kids figured out how to write programs on the provided tablets to take the robots through a variety of tasks.. This one was to find its way out of the maze. There were also ones that drew, threw a ball into a hoop etc. The commands were simple ones, but the challenge was to find the most efficient way to complete the task. More suited for younger kids, but even my 12 year old enjoyed the novelty of it.

The kids and I had the most fun in the Music Studio where you could create your own music video :). They had a green screen background that they could use to add in one from a range of backgrounds and also provided karaoke versions for a selection of popular songs. We actually ended up going back there again later in the day to try and get more videos in ;).
Would have loved to share the videos but I have been following a policy of privacy on the kids' photos and videos, at least until they're online themselves and I have to come up with new rules ;).

There were a couple more spaces.. one based on a winter wonderland theme which had some art based activities.. but these were more catering to the younger kids so we didn't spend much time there.

Ornaments for a paper tree
I was really glad to have found this place by chance, and I hope this post helps someone who visits SF with kids in the future. All details of admission and tickets can be found here. The museum is usually closed on Mondays but was open all days for a couple of weeks thanks to the holiday season.