I asked DALL-E 2 to show me “downtown San Jose, California painting by Van Gough.” Here is what it created:
These are pretty good. I asked DALL-E to show me what murals in San Jose would look like if the murals were by Van Gough and it came up with these:
Here is one more that has nothing to do with Van Gough. The San Jose State University mascot downtown is the Spartans. I asked DALL-E, technically this is DALL-E2 that I have been working with, to show me a “photo of a Spartan soldier walking through San Jose, California” and it created this:
DALL-E 2, the artificial intelligence graphic software, is now free for all to use on the internet. It turns your text prompts into graphics. I asked it to show me a “downtown San Jose, California painting by Vermeer” and here is what the AI generated:
Pretty impressive! Vermeer is most famous for his Girl with a Pearl Earring. That is this one:
I asked DALL-E to show me what it would look like to see “the Girl with a Pearl Earring as a modern business woman portrait…” and it created this:
I love these beautiful trees. They turn yellow in the fall and then eventually blanket the earth around them in the brightest yellow. They are the Ginkgo Tree. What is also fascinating about them is that they are the last living species of a tree type that predates the flowering trees with leaves that we see so often. What? Are those not leaves in the picture? Yes, they are leaves. However, they are not like any other leaves on any other living tree on all of the earth today.
To oversimplify: the first trees on Earth were types of ferns which reproduce from spores, then later came the kinds with needles like pine trees which reproduce from seeds and pollen, and then later came flowering trees that have flat leaves and reproduce with flowers and pollen to make their seeds. The ginkgo used to be one of many similar tree species that are closely related to conifers, those trees with needles. They did not use flowers, just like other needle trees. However, their needles were modified in a way that the needles were essentially unrolled into a flat wavy fan. Yeah, so basically the ginkgo leaves are unrolled tree needles. And, there used to be lots and lots of these types of trees on Earth for millions of years. And then, when the flowering plants came about and started to take over so successfully, only the ginkgo tree of the unrolled needle type trees survived into modern times. To add on to the interesting-ness, the ginkgo is sometimes referred to as a “fossil tree” because it has essentially remained the same for 60 million years; not evolving much during that time. When you look and appreciate the ginkgo, you can contemplate so much. This is a special type of beautiful tree.
The first parish in California was a small church built of adobe in San Jose. Over time, it was rebuilt after earthquakes and fires and eventually became the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in downtown San Jose.
The story goes that at some point, Spain, which had taken control of the Ohlone land that is now San Jose, shipped over a church door to be used by the San Jose parish in some capacity. The door had come from a 12th century medieval church in Europe.
When it was decided to build a second church location in San Jose, it was constructed in 1872, called St. Patrick parish, and used that medieval door that Spain had sent over for the entrance. That church also eventually suffered from various earthquakes and fires so that it is now a newer building and called Our Lady of La Vang Parish in downtown San Jose.
The 1906 earthquake, however, destroyed the original church building, among many other buildings in the area. That’s when a San Jose resident named Paul Mason took the old door from the rubble and debris of the St. Patrick church.
Paul Mason had married the oldest daughter of his business partner, Charles Lefranc. Lefranc had created the first winery in California using French grapes instead of the Spanish grapes that the missionaries had brought over and spread as they colonized California. That first French style grape winery is now a park in San Jose, California. Back to 1906… The big earthquake had also damaged the wine cellar that Paul Mason had at his winery in the hills of Saratoga overlooking San Jose. When the new wine cellar building opened back up in 1907, it had some nice old doors from the 12th century.
Lefranc and Mason went on to become well known winemakers who helped to develop the California wine business. While the San Jose winery that Lefranc had started is now a park in a residential neighborhood, the winery that Mason opened in the hills of Saratoga stands today and is known as the Mountain Winery. It is a beautiful place where concerts and weddings and special events are held. When you look at the stage, with the old stone wine cellar building on it as a backdrop, and you see that door that famous musicians use to walk out on to the stage, you are looking at a very old door. It is a door that once hung at the St. Patrick church, and traveled by ship, and had hung in Europe, having been touched by unknown numbers of people in churches and on stage and in life, since it was made in the 1100’s. That is a pretty neat door.
I was very excited to touch it. If you end up at the Mountain Winery, I highly recommend noticing the old door on the stage and thinking about its history for a bit.
When Bert was 13 years old, he lost his arm in a hunting accident. Something you are not likely to see everyday is that his arm received its own burial plot and tomb stone in the Hacienda Cemetery in the Almaden area of San Jose.
Also pretty interesting, is that the rest of Bert kept on going until it was 74. His body rests at Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose. Arm and body separated by about 11 miles and 61 years of worldly experiences.
His arm, buried in the cemetery of the mining town, was apparently well known of in Bert’s day. When it was later decided to run a road through the old cemetery, yes- they paved over graves still under the road today, the road was named after its most famous resident. Take a drive down Bertram Road if you would like to visit. Thanks to volunteers, the old cemetery and headstones for those who are known are maintained. It is an interesting thing to walk among the graves and to read and to imagine the lives who worked and lived there before.
Recently, during many of the online nature and history presentations that I have been attending, I have heard the virtual meetings begin with land acknowledgements. The speaker begins by stating where they are physically at and then acknowledging the land and the native people whose land it is before they begin with the topics of the meeting. I had not heard of these land acknowledgements before this year.
Looking into the practice, I have learned that in several countries this is customary and protocol for the beginning of group meetings such as in Australia. They are also becoming more common in Canada and the US. Some of the ideas behind them include the following. Many native cultures had a custom of formally acknowledging the land and the people of that land that they were visiting before getting on with business or other social events. It is a way to show respect for the native people of the land. Today, the idea also hopes to begin the healing process between the newcomers and the native people. It is considered an early step in the healing process to acknowledge and to see the native people and to recognize they are still here while being honest about the history that got us all to this point.
It is a bit of a philosophical exercise, for me anyway, to imagine invaders taking my people’s land and then to imagine walking around a couple of hundred years later and seeing the descendants of the invaders controlling the land and resources. It is amazing to imagine the pain, sadness, anger, and more that would all be understandable under these circumstances.
I think also about how, if I knew enough about my own ancestry, I would then know about how my own people were native first peoples somewhere else on earth at some point in time. I wonder if we left there as explorers or if we left to escape others taking our ancestral lands.
I also wonder how San Jose would look differently if the Spanish colonialists had not come here with practices of subjugation but with practices and the demeanor of guests to another people’s land and customs. I wonder if they all could have gotten along and mingled as many from different cultures have done when politely meeting others. I wonder what kind of San Jose we would live in if the Tamyen people never had been forced off their land or had active attempts made to erase their culture and replace it with other belief systems, practices, and levels of social status. I can imagine this city looking a bit different and having a Spanishtown and Little Mexico neighborhoods just like we now have a Japantown, Little Portugal, Little Italy, and Little Saigon neighborhoods. And then we would have Tamyen and other Ohlone restaurants and art and monuments throughout. It would be interesting. I wonder what else would look different as we walked about the town.
Such mental exercises can be enlightening. At some point, the imagination has to close that path to get back on with the days tasks and current reality. With that, I have created the following Land Acknowledgement for our 825mph website.
Land Acknowledgement of 825mph.com
825mph.com celebrates the world of the bay area from here in San Jose, the ancestral lands of the Tamyen people. The Tamyen of what is now San Jose are one group of the Ohlone people. The Ohlone are composed of several groups who share related languages and cultures and whose lands stretch from the San Francisco Bay to the Monterey Bay. Today, the surviving people of several Ohlone groups in the bay area, including the Tamyen, are organized as the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.
We acknowledge that we live and work on this land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. We are grateful to be here and for this opportunity to see and appreciate this space.
If you look at the top of the Adobe headquarters building in San Jose you will see four yellow circles with lines across them, each 10 feet in diameter and made of LED lights. That is the San Jose Semaphore , a puzzle and art piece. If you watch, the four wheels you will see that they spin every few seconds, each independently and to a different degree to relay an encrypted message.
The first puzzle was programmed into the spinning semaphores in 2006 and was solved by Mark Snesrud and Bob Mayo in 2007 to be the full text of the 1966 novel, The Crying of Lot 49.
This second semaphore puzzle went up in 2012 and eluded all code breakers until 2017 when Tennessee high school teacher Jimmy Waters broke the code. Once the spinning wheels were decoded he found that they appeared to represent an audio wave. Feeding that audio wave into software that converts it to sound resulted in the code breaker listening to the Neil Armstrong broadcast from the moon, the famous one that ended with “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
A familiar site in San Jose is Chuck E. Cheese smiling at those driving by on highway 101.
Nolan Bushnell started Atari in 1972, making video games with a partner in the bay area. In 1977 he opened the first Chuck E. Cheese in what is now the Santana Row shopping center in San Jose. The second opened on Blossom Hill in San Jose and the third was this huge and locally famous one off of 101. Since then this giant Chuck E. Cheese has been smiling at us all as we have driven by. Before the giant smiling rat, this large restaurant and video game arcade building had once been a toy store with giant toy soldiers facing the highway. The location realized its great potential, however, when it opened up as a two story Chuck E. Cheese restaurant with seemingly hidden worlds and passageways for kids to discover between playing what appeared to be infinite video games, structures to climb in, time for loosing and finding staircases again and the miniature Chuck E. Cheese apartment that kids could crawl through. Then, of course, there were the animatronic stage shows. The place was mind blowing for a kid.
It has changed quite a bit in the decades since it oppened. The animatronics and stage are gone; replaced with a wall projecting a video of Chuck E. Cheese. The miniature apartment is no longer there. Well, if it is, it’s not open to the public. The play structures are gone. There is still food, plenty of space, and a whole lot of video games; more games than even there were when the place first opened. You could say Chuck E. Cheese accomplished its mission. Nolan Bushnell conceived of and opened the business as a way to make video games accessible to families and ultimately, to build video game customers. At the time, when video games were just starting out and Atari was just building its fame, video games were found in pool halls and bars where future customers, kids, were not able to get to them. Nolan wanted to mix a family restaurant with a little Disneyland together as a backdrop to providing video games to future generations. The model was copied often and expanded far and wide, spreading the connections of kids and video games.
The first video game I ever really really wanted to own was Super Mario Brothers. I had played Mario Brothers in the local pizza shop and suddenly found out that I could actually own it and bring it home. Yes, I think Nolan’s plan worked.
This last weekend we went to Lake Cunningham Park for the Fall Family Fun Festival. It was pretty impressive. The park is already a neat place to play and visit. The Fall Festival added a whole bunch of great activities, however, and it was all free. That is what amazed me, that there could still exist an event like this where all is free for the public. I mean everything you would need for a great family day including parking, performances, activities like zip lining and rock climbing, pumpkins- big ones too, hotdogs, chips and water that Lucky grocery store donated and that the San Jose fire fighters were cooking and preparing for the community… all of this free! In budgeting there have been times at fairs when we have had to tell the kids no for certain rides or activities. So you can imagine how great it was to play at this community event and not have to say no for economic reasons to anything. We had a blast. It was a great experience and I am grateful to be paying taxes in a community like this and spending money in local businesses that contribute to these events. Also, I had no excuse but to go on the zip line, too. That was AWESOME!
Not far from San Jose in Vasona County Park, there is this special train, “The 2 Spot.” This steam powered train was built in 1905. Yeah, over 100 years ago. Number 2, a one third scale steam train, began running in Venice Beach, California. After several years of service, it eventually found itself in a junk yard where local railroad worker Billy Jones found it in San Francisco bound for a scrap yard in 1939. He purchased it, restored it, and ran it for free for children to ride on Sundays around his Los Gatos farm for the rest of his life.
After his passing in 1968, friends and neighbors created a non profit to move it and keep it going at nearby Vasona Park where it continues to run today. It is pretty cool to ride this train and kids love it. The attraction to the tracks is great and so there are now five trains working to help spread the work load. Number 2 comes out mostly on weekends during the summer months. All of the trains are interesting so it is a treat to see and ride any of the four that are there to pull visitors for only $3 a ride.
I like to get excited about all of the trains but find it especially exciting to ride number 2, this bit of history from 1905 that has carried children and adults for decades. I love when it chugs hard to move up the gradient of the park. Walt Disney heard of this train and visited Billy Jones before Disneyland was a reality. They became friends. The logo, still used today, for the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad was designed by a Disney animator. Billy himself was there at the opening of Disneyland to run their train on July of 1955.