Robie House

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Chicago’s Robie House “is renowned as the greatest example of the Prairie School style, the first architectural style considered uniquely American”. Inspired by the Great Plains, the Prairie style is “usually marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, integration with the landscape, solid construction, craftsmanship, and discipline in the use of ornament. Horizontal lines were thought to evoke and relate to the native prairie landscape.” Seen above, the Robie House has all this.

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Waiting for a Tesla

Before 6:00 this morning, I joined in line in front of a Tesla dealer in Palo Alto, California. At 10:00 Tesla would start taking orders for their Model 3, an electric vehicle that will sell for $35,000. The early people pitched tents. I brought a chair.

The dealer was well prepared for us. The manager provided coffee, and employees came through the line offering bottled water. But they didn’t open their restrooms until 10:00. Most of us declined the water, planning ahead.

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Protecting Our Fruit from Squirrels

With oak trees and more than a half-dozen fruit trees in our yard, we battle hungry squirrels for fruit every year. Nature won while we slowly developed a design to protect our fruit trees from the ravages of squirrels. This year we were finally successful.

We like eating fruits and vegetables, but oak trees simply have squirrels. Our Santa Clara Valley has an amazing climate for growing fruits and vegetables. “Until the 1960s it was the largest fruit production and packing region in the world with 39 canneries.”

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Sunset Garden Fades in the West

We visited the Sunset garden for the first time last week, just before it closed for good. The garden is part of the Sunset magazine, which advertises itself as “the premier resource for achieving the ultimate Western lifestyle”. It was a vibrant brand in the ’60s and ’70s, when the West was growing by leaps and bounds. But the magazine was sold to Time-Warner, which recently sold the garden and buildings to a developer. Located in Menlo Park, California, the 7-acre site is valuable, being less than two miles from the Stanford University and Facebook campuses. Continue reading Sunset Garden Fades in the West

Squirrels and Pluots

Our yard has oak trees and fruit trees, and oak trees have acorns that attract squirrels, so every year there’s a contest between us and the squirrels about who will get most of the fruit. Last year the squirrels won — they got almost all the fruit. Pluots are the the next fruit to ripen in our backyard. Pluots are a cross between a plum and an apricot. Shown above, we wrapped the pluots in paper, thinking that it would discourage the squirrels. But we were wrong — we saw a squirrel in the pluot tree, and a pluot was missing.

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Levi’s Stadium Tour

I scored a free tour of Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, a Bay Area professional football team. The stadium is brand new — the first home game is in a week and a half. Although the new stadium is located in Santa Clara, California, 50 miles south of San Francisco, the team remains the San Francisco 49ers.

From the main parking lot, the stadium is tall. The black scoreboard on the left is 180 feet high. The light color helps the stadium appear less massive. The large structure in the center holds the box seats and press box. Box seats command a premium price and provide luxury seating and a private space to wander and mingle.

Levi's Stadium exterior
Levi’s Stadium exterior

Waiting at the gate for the tour to start, here’s my ticket and an ad for a Cal-Oregon football game in October. Although that game is an opportunity to see the new stadium on a game day, Cal is sure to be blown out by Oregon :(, so I don’t plan to attend.

tour ticket
tour ticket

As we entered the stadium, music was blasting so loud we couldn’t hear our guide — they were testing the sound system. Away games are played in other team’s stadiums, where the fans make so much noise that it disrupt the visiting team’s offense by drowning out verbal signals. Teams need to prepare for away games by using nonverbal signals and practicing with loud music. The playing area is grass, large enough for football and soccer (known as football outside the US). The two goal posts are at opposite ends of the field. Up to four banks of seats surround the playing field.

Levi's Stadium interior
Levi’s Stadium interior

From the press box, you can see the field, scoreboards, and the stadium seating.

After visiting the press box, we walked to the green roof, where the 27,000 square feet of plants reduce heat and power required for air conditioning, while generating oxygen. Photo-voltaic panels on the left generate electricity. The green roof, photovoltaic panels, and other features qualify Levi’s Stadium for LEED Gold status. I forgot to ask if these are California native plants.

living roof and PV panels for LEED Gold
green roof and PV panels for LEED Gold
more rooftop plants
more rooftop plants

From the roof we descended to the field level. Here’s the visitor’s locker room, where the visiting team dresses and meets. It’s not bad, but the home team locker room has ceilings twice as high, and each player can see every other player at his locker.

visitor locker room
visitor locker room

From the field, you get a better appreciation for player’s view and the large number of box seats. The field is real grass, complete with the “Keep off the grass” sign and sprinklers.

Levi's Stadium field level
Levi’s Stadium field level

For the top-level seat holders, there’s an exclusive club where food, wine, and beer are complimentary. The home team players and coaches enter the field through this club, so members get to see them up close. We didn’t ask how much those seats go for — if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.

luxury dining venue
luxury dining venue

The tour concluded at the gift shop, of course. The new stadium looks beautiful and first class, but it’s expensive, and the owners need to recoup their investment.