I have landed (in Palo Alto)

November 3, 2022 • 3:15 pm

Strange to say, this is the first time I’ve ever been to Palo Alto, and tomorrow will be the first time I’m visiting Stanford University. The arrival was swift from Davis: a shuttle to the SF airport, and then an Uber to the spiffy hotel where they put me up in Palo Alto.  Now I’m writing a brief post. before setting out for noms.

Here are few photos from the past few days, but not of terrific interest.

First, two plants in Davis I saw on a walk. The captions are guesses by Phil Ward, but if I had the app called “Seek, I could have pointed it at the plant and got a pretty accurate ID. You should download that free app, which is remarkably accurate at telling you what a plant is by pointing the camera at it. (It even does animals: I pointed it at myself and it said Homo sapiens.) I didn’t get it until after I took the next two photos. Readers can help with the identification. Seek also gives you information about what you point the camera at. All you do is hit the green camera once in the app, and after that just point your camera at whatever you fancy.

Phil’s caption: The first one looks to me like Lantana (in the Verbenaceae).

Phil’s caption: Not sure about the second. Maybe ornamental asparagus (Asparagus setaceus).

Here’s a video about the Seek app, a product of iNaturalist that continually updates its photos using AI.

Clouds in Davis:

One night we ate at a dorm near campus, a place called Latitude. Boy, have dining halls changed since I was in college! At William and Mary we got one plate of glop and a side (with Jello or pudding for dessert), and there were no seconds,

Now, at Davis, they have different ethnic foods each night, a huge selection, and it’s all you can eat (and drink). Today’s menu is here, but they only show about half of what they actually have on tap. It’s only $13 for a visitor—cheaper if you’re a UC Davis professor. Talk about the “freshman 15”: here it would be the “freshman 30.” (This refers to weight gain in first-year college students.)

It was Korean, Brazilian, and Middle Eastern Night on Tuesday. Here’s my dinner.

First course: a bowl of cold garlic shrimp, Korean short ribs with (overcooked) broccoli, cucumber salad and rice, and a baklava that I snatched because the desserts turn over during the evening:

Second course: a sort of Brazilian feijoada, with beans, pork with green chile, rice, guacamole, and sour cream. On the side are dried pork cracklings (chicharrones). I washed this all down with an agave vanilla cream soda (the drinks are good, too!)

As I suspected, the baklava disappeared quickly, so later I got a second dessert: a cream puff:

This morning it was 1.5 hours from Davis to the San Francisco airport, where it was dead easy to get an Uber to Palo Alto. Here’s Alcatraz Island with its famous prison on the way (now closed as a prison, but you can take Park Service tours and see Al Capone’s cell):

And a panorama of my hotel room. You can see me in the mirror to the left.

Tomorrow: the Academic Freedom Conference begins. I will of. course report on it.

18 thoughts on “I have landed (in Palo Alto)

  1. Just a note that the idea that freshpeople (men and women) gain 15 lbs is a myth. In a recent study, only 5% gained that much, many lost weight, and the average weight gain was only 2.7 lbs. Men gained more than women though.

  2. “William and Mary…one plate of glop…and no seconds”. Who would want seconds? The jello was of an interesting consistency which allowed you to stick your fork into it and use it to pick up the jello AND the heavy ceramic plate it sat on/was stuck to. I realized college food had changed when we took our youngest daughter to George Mason University around 1996 and had lunch in their dining hall which was a food court with several popular suburban mall type vendors. I think that in addition to its wine program, uc-davis may also have a hospitality program which might further positively influence the food on offer.

    1. Woody Allen opened his film Annie Hall (1977) with:

      “There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ‘em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’ The other one says, ‘Yeah, I know; and such small portions.’”

      The joke is, as stated, an “old joke” and did not originate with Woody Allen. Harry Hershfield (1885-1974) originated the joke with this caption for a drawing in Bronx Ballads (1927):

      “You don’t like the eating at the ‘Benjamin Arms’, Mrs. Margoliesf”
      “No! It was terrible! Every mouthful was positively poison — and what small portions they give you of it.”

      1. Thanks. When I wrote my comment above, I remembered the joke in general but neither specifics nor where I heard it. I thought likely borscht belt comedian in the 60’s or 70’s. Thanks for the source.

    1. From my experience in the past:
      Did pretty well with some flowers but many plants, esp if just leaves, are dicots only.
      A dog was mammal only.
      One person was human but others birds or bats. I registered as an inanimate object.

    2. My wife pointed it at me and the best it could do was “probably vertebrae” but could not id species. One data point. I enjoyed that so much that i did not take another. It worked great on our garden roses.

      1. Wonder what would happen if Jerry pointed the Seek application at one of those hirsute forearms of his? It might identify him as some other type of mammal — similar to the way Rebekah fooled her husband Abraham into thinking their younger son Jacob was his older son Esau by covering Esau’s hands in goat skin in Genesis 27. 🙂

  3. I’m curious about the format for tomorrow. It looks like there are four discussants and a moderator in your one-hour session. Do you each speak for a short time—say, 10 minutes—with moderator-led discussion at the end? Or is the session more of a conversation defined by a specific question?

    Either way, good luck!

    Oh, and dining hall food may now have more variety, but the quality of the food still looks like, well, dining hall food. I lived off-campus my entire college career, but I did eat on campus occasionally. One of my favorites was “mock” lobster. Yes, “mock” not “rock.” It wasn’t half bad, despite being mocked by everyone. Unlimited servings of soft-serve ice cream from a machine kept the peace.

  4. I haven’t been to Palo Alto in about 15 years (got air, hotel, and a reception at the faculty club that time), but remember it and the Stanford campus fondly. Enjoy, and be sure to take a little time to walk the campus.

    1. Same plant i believe but technically not a fern (see red berries) but is related to edible asparagus. The newer varieties of lantana are bushy rather than the old viny kind. The asparagus and lantana (in particular) are also common in southern california. [FWIW, i detest the musty smell of the old ham-and-eggs lantana.]

  5. I use iNaturalist a lot and the AI is fascinating. How it tells things apart is basically a black box but I find it interesting when it is fooled by mimics and just as interesting when it is not fooled by mimics. I photographed a Pseudolycus beetle this morning, a genera that has fooled me more than once and the AI recognised it. Whereas with the green ant mimicking theridiid I found near Cairns, it only suggested a green ant despite the photograph clearly being of a theridiid spider with an egg sac which would not fool a human at all.

  6. Colleges have exponentially more dosh than when I went to school.

    This shows up in many ways, definitely including the chow. When my daughter was in college, in the early 2000s, I already couldn’t believe how luxe her dining facility was. It was the most haute cafeteria I’d ever seen. It catered to every whim — vegan, gluten-free, you name it. I imagine they’re even more luxurious now.

  7. Seek is a great app – and it works on photos too! I pointed it at your two photos above, and it suggests the plants are Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) and Sprenger’s asparagus (Asparagus aethiopicus). However, it also thinks your cream puff is a gastropod, so take it with a grain of salt….

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