Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Left my Heart {at Hyde and Lombard Street} in San Francisco

As a captured audience inside the Terminal 2 at the SFO International Airport waiting for my return flight to Las Vegas, I found a rack full of "I left my heart in San Francisco" postcards. Outgoing postcard US-3373240 to Ukraine was one of those that I obligatorily purchased.

The card shows a section of Lombard Street in the Russian Hill neighborhood, a one-way block between Hyde Street and Leavenworth Street, known as the crookedest street in the world with eight sharp turns.

That section of Lombard Street used to be a straight, cobblestone street with a 27% grade which was too steep for most cars. The turns were built in 1922 so that people could drive up and down the hill, until the street was made one-way downhill in 1939. The street was paved with red bricks and about 250 steps were built on each side of the street to accommodate pedestrians.

Now, during the peak tourist season in summer, there are as many as 350 cars driving down the street each hour. However, it was not a popular tourist destination until the late 1950s. I drove down the street twice during my previous visit to San Francisco in 1999. This time, I took the Powell-Hyde cable car to the top of this block earlier today, and took the steps down to Leavenworth Street.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Walking over the Golden Gate Bridge

It was a little windy but otherwise beautiful earlier today. I took the opportunity to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, and back, as part of my Coastal Trail hiking. The bridge celebrated its 78 anniversary of opening on May 27, 2015.

The bridge spans 2.7 kilometers or 1.7 miles. I started at the parking lot on the San Francisco side. During my previous visits, I had turned around at the first tower like most people did. However, walking over the full span turned out very rewarding. From the Vista Point in Marin County on the other side, you got to see the entire northern coastline of the city including the Fisherman's Wharf area. The added bonus was watching those large container and cargo ships passing directly under the bridge. It took me a little bit more than one hour for the 6.1-kilometer or 3.8-mile round trip.

"CSL TECUMSEH", a 2013 self discharging bulk carrier sailing under the flag of Bahamas, was passing the bridge.
Postcard US-2849047 to Finland shows an aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge with an ocean cargo ship passing by.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Post Office at Union Square, San Francisco

I still needed to mail the card that I planed to drop off at the LAX airport in Los Angeles. There are plenty of US Mail drop boxes on the street in San Francisco. Since the forecast was overcast with a slight chance of rain, I decided to look for a post office so that the card wouldn't get wet. Google Maps showed a post office at Union Square, on the way from my hotel to the conference site. However, it took me a little effort to find it as it was well hidden in the Macy's basement.

If you enter Macy's main store from Stockton Street, turn left through cosmetics, take escalator down to the basement, turn right through the foodcourt, and find the cookware section, you will see a small "Post Office" sign on the far side with the entrance invisible on the right. If you enter from Farrell Street, take the stairs to the basement and walk all the way to the cookware section on the other side.

It's a small yet full service post office. I came during the lunch hours with little waiting time. There was to be a postal rate increase effective the coming weekend. The staff was very knowledgeable with the details and I was able to save a few nickels by purchasing some USPS Global Forever stamps.

It had been one of the only few United States Post Offices that opens on Sundays. However, effective May 4, 2015 this post office only opens Monday to Saturday.

Outgoing postcard US-3373244 to South Africa shows the Tony Bennett's heart sculpture at the corner of Union Square. The picture below shows the heart-shaped sculpture in its current form, near the Macy's store across the street.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Code the Road

Google Maps APIs is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Since Google Maps released its APIs to developers 10 years ago, developers have been able to integrate maps and location service to online and mobile apps. It was interesting to hear that a member of a band playing at the 2015 Google I/O Afterhour at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on May 28, 2015 shouted out to Google Maps, among all the Google services, when they recognized the host.

Departing tomorrow afternoon from Google I/O, Google's annual developer conference, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, a 1959 GM tour bus, powered by bio-diesel, is hitting the road for a 14-stop cross-country trip called Code the Road to meet application developers and map creators along the way. The bus will make its first scheduled stop at the iFit ICON Heath and Fitness 5K treadmill run in Logan, Utah on June 2, 2015. From there, the bus will stop in Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Virginia, and Georgia, with the final destination at the Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, showcasing many map and location applications developed using Google Maps APIs from iFit, Harley-Davidson, Lyft, Hilton Hotels, The Weather Channel and Walt Disney World.

Outgoing postcard US-3373238 to Germany was sent from the bus when it was parked at the north-east corner of 4th Street and Howard Street, across from Moscone West during Google I/O.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

1984 Summer Olympics Torch Station

Outgoing postcard US-3373220 to China was a stamped postal postcard for the 1984 Summer Olympics with an Olympic Torch Station postmark in Los Angeles, California on July 28, 1984.

The torch was lighted at 9:30 a.m. on May 8, 1984 on the lawn in front of the United Nations building, with the energy from the Olympic flame in Athens, Greece via a "heat reading" device and underwater cables. It then traveled 33 states in a 9,000-mile or 15,000-kilometer marathon relay from New York to Los Angeles in 82 days, passing through the hands of thousands of runners from all walks of life.

Since I had a layover at LAX airport in Los Angeles earlier today en route to San Francisco, I thought it would be neat if I could mail it from LAX. To my disappointment, I found out that there was no US Mail drop box in the airport. The closest U.S. post office was at 9029 Airport Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90009.

So the postcard will have to be mailed from San Francisco.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Giant Shoe at Cosmopolitan

Outgoing postcard US-3372310 to India shows a giant shoe at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, one of the sculptures made by artist Roark Gourley of Santa Ana, California. At 9 feet or 2.7 meter tall and big enough for a person to climb into for a photo, the sculptures were originally designed as art and not playground equipment. After being roped off for a while and sent back to studio for repair and rejuvenation in 2012, they are back and welcome visitors to take pictures, on only by them, but also in and on them.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Bought at a stamp show, a 2001 postcard shows U.S. Army personnel donning personal protective suits. The caption on the back of the card reads: "READY - The threat of nuclear and biological contamination of a battlefield requires that military personnel be highly proficient with a protective mask."

Unrelated, Capitol Police bomb squad blew up a pressure cooker from a ‘suspicious’ vehicle near Capitol yesterday before a Memorial Day concert. However, a follow-up search found nothing hazardous.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia

Outgoing postcard US-3372299 to Taiwan shows an aerial view of Virginia Military Institute (V.M.I), a state-supported military college in Lexington, Virginia. Allegheny Mountains in the distance, V.M.I is famous as a military and engineering school, frequently referred to as "the West Point of the South."

In keeping with its founding principles as the oldest state-sponsored military institution in the United States, V.M.I enrolls only military cadets and awards 18 baccalaureate degrees exclusively in 14 majors in Applied Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Computer & Information Sciences, Economics & Business, Electrical & Computer Engineering, English, History, International Studies & Political Science, Mechanical Engineering, Modern Languages & Cultures, Physics, and Psychology. V.M.I offers cadets strict military discipline combined with a spartan, physically and academically demanding environment.

Photo by Herbert Lanks.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Postcard IE-78738 from Ireland shows a sunset view from the Cliffs of Moher or Aillte an Mhothair in Irish, located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. According to Wikepedia, those cliffs rise 120 meters or 390 feet above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 meters or 702 feet just north of O'Brien's Tower, eight kilometers to the north. There is a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs, built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O'Brien, where visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south. With almost one million visitors a year, it was one of the most popular tourist sites in Ireland.

A rainbow formed over Dublin in the evening yesterday as people in Ireland voted on a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage. Final results indicated that 62% of voters and all but one district approved the amendment in a referendum Friday. It shows that support for marriage equality extended well beyond Ireland’s liberal urban centers and deep into its rural heartlands; and that a vote for same-sex marriage in Ireland is not a ‘No’ vote to Catholicism. Just as Prime Minister Enda Kenny proclaimed: “with today’s vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.” Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote in the world, joining 18 other countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, Luxembourg, and Finland) where same-sex couples can marry nationwide.

Friday, May 22, 2015

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Postcard US-3263831 to California was a vintage card showing St. Patrick's Cathedral, a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church and a prominent landmark of New York City, directly across the street from Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan and specifically facing the Atlas statue. The cathedral was completed in 1878, The cathedral and associated buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. According to a spreadsheet of NRHP list from the National Park Service, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 8, 1976 with a reference number 76001250.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vista of Capitol through Cherry Blossoms

Outgoing postcard US-3372297 to Japan was a reproduction of vintage linen postcard Vista of Capitol through Cherry Blossoms, Washington, D. C. by D.C. Reynolds Co in the 1930s. It shows the famed cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background. It has one of the USPS Gifts of Friendship stamps featuring the U.S. Capitol building surrounded by white and pink dogwood trees.

According to a USPS news release, "in a ceremony at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two of 3,020 flowering cherry trees gifted to the nation’s capital from the city of Tokyo. As a show of gratitude for this generous gift, former President William Howard Taft arranged for the United States to send 50 flowering dogwood trees to Japan in 1915. This reciprocal gift featured a species of tree native to the eastern United States and Canada."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Yuccas Blooming on the Desert

Postcard US-3285001 to Finland was a vintage linen card Yucca Whipplei blooming with a background of mighty San Jacinto Mountain in California.

Native to southern California, United States and Baja California, Mexico, Yucca whipplei ( Hesperoyucca whipplei) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Hesperoyucca, but closely related to, and previously usually included in, the genus Yucca. It is extremely drought tolerant and thrives in clay soils. The fiber from its leaves was used extensively by Native Americans for making sandal, cloth, and rope.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marilyn Monroe

Postcard US-1852497 to Ukraine shows a 1955 movie scene with actress Marilyn Monroe appearing in the Seven Year Itch where her dress blows up from the subway grate. It becomes one of the most famous Marilyn Monroe scenes of all time. The subway grate is marked at East 52nd Street and Lexington Ave in New York City.

Fifty three years ago on Saturday May 19, 1962, Marilyn Monroe sung "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" for President John F. Kennedy at a celebration of his forty-fifth birthday, ten days before his actual date on Tuesday May 29, 1962.

Less than three months later, Monroe was found dead at her home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California on August 5, 1962. She was 36 years old.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Will Rogers Memorial Museum

Outgoing postcard US-3368790 to Germany was a vintage linen postcard with an aerial view of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and Tomb in Claremore, Oklahoma that commemorates Native American social commentator and actor Will Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) who was one of the world's most famous stars in the 1920s and 1930s. The museum houses artifacts, memorabilia, photographs, and manuscripts pertaining to Rogers' life, and documentaries, speeches, and movies starring Rogers are shown in a theater. He made 71 movies and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Rogers died in 1935 during a small airplane crash in Alaska. His tomb is located on its 20-acre or 8-hectare grounds overlooking Claremore and Rogers State University. The museum opened in 1938, three years after his death.

May 18 is the International Museum Day. The theme for 2015 is "Museums for a sustainable society."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Apúlia, Portugal

Postcard PT-368959 from Portugal shows Apúlia, a town with 4,323 residents and a former civil parish in the municipality of Esposende, Portugal. In 2013, the parish merged into the new parish Apúlia e Fão. It was a municipality by itself until 1834, when it was incorporated into Esposende. Apúlia is known for its dune beaches, as seen on the card, and Roman-style folk costumes, which may indicate its connection to the region of Apulia in Italy where a possible migration was originated during the Roman Empire.

May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. On May 17, 2010, President Aníbal Cavaco Silva ratified a law for legalization of same-sex marriage and became effective on June 5, 2010. Portugal became the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage nationwide.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Landscape with Peacocks by Paul Gauguin

Outgoing postcard US-3263776 to Taiwan shows an oil painting on canvas Landscape with Peacocks by Paul Gauguin from 1892. Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (June 7, 1848 – May 8, 1903), a French Post-Impressionist artist who was not well appreciated until after his death, is most recognized for his famous paintings of Tahiti. Matamoe, or Landscape with Peacocks, is one of his most beloved works. Peacocks walk in the foreground as a Tahitian man chops wood by a fire. A hut stands in the background with two women talking below palm trees as the sunset turns the landscape orange, purple, red and yellow. Gauguin's experimental use of color and synthetist style made his paintings distinguished from Impressionism.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bike to Work

May is National Bike Month, established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, when many events are offered to showcase the benefits of biking. Bike to Work Week runs from May 11 to May 5, 2015, with Bike to Work Day on May 15 to highlight that biking is a viable transportation alternative.

Postcard US-1996944 to Germany shows a biker in Portland, Oregon, the most walking, biking, and public transit friendly city on the West Coast, according to Walk Score. Minneapolis, MN (Bike Score: 81.3), San Francisco, CA (Bike Score: 75.1); Portland, OR (Bike Score: 72.0); Denver, CO (Bike Score: 71.3); and Boston, MA (Bike Score: 70.3) are the top five most bike friendly cities in the U.S. In comparison, Las Vegas is unfortunately a car-dependent city, ranked 29th (Bike Score: 52.0) among the cities with 300,000 residents or more. An article from the Las Vegas Review Journal has listed 6 scariest things about riding a bike in Las Vegas.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Toucan World Cup

Outgoing postcard US-3373322 to China shows a vintage color poster advertisement featuring Guinness and a football (soccer) supporting toucan with an Irish shamrock scarf, with a tag line "Lovely day for a Guinness."

As for the 2014 World Cup in the recent news, the last two of the 12 stadiums built for the purpose of hosting the Brazil World Cup have finally been completed, 10 months after the tournament ended, while at least four others have either turned into a parking lot, been used by homeless people, or become other white elephants. The waste fueled the continued controversies about the amount spent on the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which, as many protesters claimed, should have been used to deal with the poverty issues and to improve infrastructures in the country.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rufous Hummingbird and Rocky Mountain Beeplant

Postcard US-2996988 to Florida was a maxi card of a Rufous hummingbird feeding on flowers of Rocky Mountain Beeplant on Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in western Sweetwater County, Wyoming. The stamp was a USPS 34-cent Hummingbird stamp with a first-day-of-issue postmark dated February 7, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo from the USFWS Mountain Prairie collection by Tom Koerner/USFWS; used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chengdu Skyline, China

Postcard CN-1366988 from China was a beautiful 3D card showing the city skyline of Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan province in China. With 14,047,625 residents (7,415,590 in nine urban districts and 6,632,035 in the surrounding area), Chengdu is the fifth most populous city in China as of 2010.

Today is the 7th anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, measured at 8.0 Ms, that killed 69,197 people and left 18,222 missing. The epicenter was 80 kilometers or 50 miles west-northwest of Chengdu.

Monday, May 11, 2015

157th Anniversary of Minnesota Statehood

157 years ago, Minnesota became the 32nd state of the United States on May 11, 1858. It first became a territory of the United States in 1849. Then it submitted an application for statehood to President James Buchanan in January, 1858. However, distracted from a controversy about statehood of Kansas, Congress did not act on the application for several months before finally approved it. The state was created from the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and part of the Wisconsin Territory. The name "Minnesota" was originated from a Dakota word meaning "clear blue water." The state is known as the "Land of Ten Thousand Lakes" due to its large number of lakes.

Postcard US-2269166 from Minneapolis, MN shows Minnehaha Falls, one of the most photographed sites in Minnesota with 850,000 visitors every year, at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The park was designed by landscape architect Horace W.S. Cleveland in 1883, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 as the Minnehaha Historic District.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Untitled (a.k.a 'a night') by Simon Pais-Thomas

Postcard US-2266937 to Germany shows a piece of artwork Untitled (a.k.a 'a night') by photographer Simón Pais-Thomas from Santiago, Chile. It was from the opening series of the exhibition "Little Endings" (Finales Pequeños), on display at Salón Tudor, Santiago, Chile through October 7, 2007.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

Russian troops marched across Red Square in a huge military parade on Sunday, May 9, 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany.

Western leaders including those from U.S. and U.K. boycotted the parade over the Ukraine crisis. Nonetheless, President Vladimir Putin was joined by 30 foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. During the 60th anniversary in 2005, 53 heads of state, including President George W. Bush, attended the Victory Day ceremony at Red Square.

Postcard RU-3105343 from Russia was a vintage postcard showing Red Square in Moscow with Saint Basil's Cathedral on the left and Kremlin Palace on the right.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Obama Visits South Dakota: Been to All 50 States as President

Delivering the commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota earlier today, Obama became the fourth president to have been to all 50 states in the U.S.

Richard Nixon was the first president who has visited all the states within his first three years in the White House. President Bill Clinton had not made to his last state Nebraska until his final weeks in office. While George H.W. Bush managed to visit all 50 states in his only term, his son G.W. Bush ended his two-term presidency and had never visited Vermont where a tiny town Brattleboro with just 12,000 residents had voted “to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution.”

Postcard US-2143742 from South Dakota shows a map card of South Dakota with a a tag line "The Mount Rushmore State". President Obama told the White House Press Corps that he used an Executive Order to immediately add his own face on Mount Rushmore. Of course, Republicans are trying to stop the Executive Order.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Giorgio Bassani

Postcard SG-171940 from Singapore shows a portrait of Giorgio Bassani by artist L. Lee. Giorgio Bassani (March 4, 1916 – April 13, 2000) was an Italian writer, poet, and editor. He was best known for the Oscar Award winning movie The Garden of the Finzi-Continis in 1970, based on his 1962 novel Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini exploring the city of Ferrara with its Christian and Jewish elements of life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring Time at Bellagio

A departure from the Theme Dutch featuring a giant windmill and live butterflies in the past few years, Spring time at the Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in 2015 celebrates Japanese culture with more than 82,000 flowers including tulips, daffodils and snapdragons among bonsai trees. Modeled after the Golden Temple in Kyoto, a 26-foot or 8-meter tall Japanese temple in a gold veneer with rice paper Shoji screens is the center piece of the display. Shown on the outgoing postcard US-3373301 to Japan is an 18-foot or 5.5-meter tall cherry blossom tree featuring 300 acrylic leaves and blossoms, with many oil-paper umbrellas hanging from the sky. The Spring Celebration, a collaboration with master gardener Kanji Nomura from Nagoya, Japan, runs from March 20 to May 11, 2015.

Today in history: the German zeppelin Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed instantly while attempting to dock at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937; a jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Ying Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from 1,421 other entries on May 6, 1981.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Nott Memorial at Union College

Postcard US-1651769 from the state of New York shows the Nott Memorial, an elaborate 16-sided stone-masonry building which serves as both architectural and physical centerpiece of Union College in Schenectady, New York. Dedicated to Eliphalet Nott, president of Union for a remarkable sixty-two years (1804-1866), the 110-foot or 34-meter high by 89-foot or 27-meter wide structure was recognized as a National Historic Landmark on June 24, 1986. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 5, 1972.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Peking University Library, Beijing, China

Outgoing postcard US-3368775 to Ohio shows the Peking University Library at the Peking University's main campus in Beijing, China. Its predecessor, the Imperial University library, was founded in 1902. Peking University, along its library, moved from downtown to the former Yenching University campus during the university re-grouping in 1952. The main building opened in 1975 at the center of the campus. A new building, shown on the postcard, was added in 1998. It holds 5.3 million books, among of which are 1.5 million ancient books and 170,000 rare books and special collections.

Peking University, a major research university and the first modern national university in China that was founded as the "Imperial University of Peking" in 1898, celebrates its 117th anniversary and the Homecoming Day on May 4th, 2015.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Last Night for Riviera Las Vegas

Postcard US-2520811 to Germany shows the Riviera Las Vegas, which is scheduled to close permanently tomorrow at noon on May 4, 2015. It just celebrated its 60th anniversary in operation on April 20, 2015. The 2,000-room hotel opened on April 20, 1955 as the first high-rise on the Las Vegas Strip. It was home to many legendary singers and performers such as Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Elvis, Wayne Newton and Dolly Parton.

The landmark casino and hotel was purchased by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for about $190 million. The hotel will be imploded to make room for convention center expansion.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Free Comic Book Day

Postcard US-3139091 to the United Kingdom an advertising card for the Alternate Reality Comics, one of several Las Vegas comic bookstores that hosted the Free Comic Book Day events earlier today.

Free Comic Book Day, first started in 2002 and taking place on the first Saturday of May, is an annual promotional effort by the North American comic book industry to help bring new readers into independent comic bookstores. In 2005, it coincided the movie release of Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend.

At the Alternate Reality Comics, greeters were dressed in costumes and helped to direct customers to free selections where a customer could get up to 4 free comic books. The store also hosted local artists who would draw for you.

Friday, May 1, 2015

International Workers' Day

International Workers' Day, celebrated on May 1, is an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers. Also known as Labor Day in many countries, it was related in the labor union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement that advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest in one day. In Canada and the United States, it is celebrated on the first Monday of September, marking the end of the summer holiday when most students return to school.

The featured postcard was purchased from the National Geographic store at, showing construction workers on beams at the top of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. Copyright: Paul Chesley / National Geographic Stock.

A View from the top of the Stratosphere Tower