Friday, May 31, 2024

SearchResearch Challenge (5/31/24): Curious questions that come up during travel?

 I'm constantly wondering... 

... what is that building?  Or... Why is this like that? Or.. What else is nearby?  

You know, the kind of questions kids ask when they're traveling--the really good ones that parents usually decline to answer.  

This week I had a great time traveling to the University of California San Diego campus.  (Which, for interesting / odd historical reasons is actually in La Jolla.  Yeah, go figure. But you could look it up!)  

I was on campus to give an invited lecture at the Design Studio.  Here's the link to my talk--the video is here, should you be interested. It was great fun, especially as a visitor walking around the campus which has some extraordinary architecture.  (To be honest, it also has some eminently forgettable buildings, the epitome of unmemorable.)  

But THIS building (show above) is pretty remarkable.  Once you see it, you don't forget it.  

Naturally, I'm curious... and I have SearchResearch Challenges for you that grow out of my visit to UCSD and San Diego--the kinds of questions that kids have, and that we adults tend to forget to ask.  Be curious! And let's see what we can learn! 

1. What building is this?  But why is it that particular dramatic shape?  It's a striking, powerful building--what's the architect trying to communicate?  What's the story here?  

2. As I walked past the building, I found a truly extraordinary path on one side of the building.  Without me telling you any more... can you find the "extraordinary path" and find out why it's there?  What's the story here? 

3. I chatted with a student who told me that about there's a "fantastic piece of art" that's about 500 feet (152 meters) away from the path.  "Just keep going," he said, "you'll find it."  With just that direction I DID find it, but the artwork was a bit of a surprise... and it took some funny search skills to locate it.  Can you find this artwork? What is it and where is it? 

4.  Lastly, on the night flight home (I flew from San Diego to San Jose, CA),  I was looking out the windows on the right hand side and noticed the street lights extending northward from San Diego towards LA.  About 12 mins into the flight, I saw a HUGE gap in the lights.  It was dark, so I wasn't sure of exactly where I was, and I couldn't figure out why that place was so devoid of lighting.  Can you figure it out?  Where is that blank spot on the map?  Why is it blank?  

Let us know what you find, and HOW you found it!  (I'm especially curious how you figure out the blank space in particular.  It took me a few minutes.)  

Keep searching!  

(And I'll post more about the Venetian cappuccino this weekend.  Ciao!)  

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Answer: How much is a cappuccino at the cafe near here?

You might recognize the place... 

Most of this week's Challenge wasn't too hard--but the last Challenge question is tough.  Let's jump into it.  

This pic from last year brought forth a couple of Challenges for you:  

1. Where am I standing in this photo?  

For some reason, I thought the partially obscured view would make image identification difficult--but I was totally wrong.  If you just do a simple Search by Image, you'll find that this are the results you see: 

 I did this by saving the image to a file, then uploading that file into, which produced several lovely images (including my own).  A quick scan of the results tells you that this was taken at St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di Marco).  With just a bit more poking around, you'll find that the brick tower in the background is St Mark's Campanile (Italian: Campanile di San Marco, Venetian: Canpanièl de San Marco), and the statue of the horses is the Quadriga di San Marco--although the one behind me is a copy of the original, which is housed in the museum. 
Here's a pic with an arrow pointing to where I'm standing.  Yes, I'm on the roof (but that's okay!).  

2. Can you tell me how much a cappuccino costs at that famous nearby cafe at the moment?  (Extra credit: Why is this particular cafe so famous?)  

What's the famous cafe?  The obvious query works well: 

     [ famous cafe piazza san marco ] 

 How much is a cappuccino there?  

Initially, my query was [ menu Caffe Florian ] -- but that proved to be ambiguous.  (You know how many cafes are called "Caffe Florian"?)  So I added in the location: 

     [ menu caffee florian venice ] 

Which led me to the Caffè Florian website.  If you download the PDF, you'll see on page 27: 

For the "why is this cafe famous?" Challenge, I tried the obvious Google query:  

     [ why is the Caffe Florian famous? ] 

which led me back to the Caffè Florian's website.  Of course, you have to take what they write about themselves with a grain of salt--they're heavily motivated to have a large claim to fame.  But in fact, the website is fairly history-free--certainly no exaggerated claims.  The Wikipedia page on Caffè Florian gives a good deal more background.

There are many reasons for the cafe to be famous, but in its early days, the Caffè was patronised by many celebrities of the time, including the playwright Carlo Goldoni, Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, Charles Dickens, Goethe and Casanova... who was no doubt attracted by the fact that Caffè Florian was the only coffee house that allowed women. 

The cafe is also famous for Casanova's late night stop on Oct 31, 1756... the night that Giacomo Casanova broke out of prison, but before fleeing into the dark, he stopped for a quick cup of coffee.  Of course.   

3. Can you tell me how much a cappuccino would have cost at that cafe in 1955?  (For extra credit, can you determine why I'm asking about 1955?)  

It turns out that THIS is a difficult Challenge.  I've tried all kinds of things--looking for old menus, searching the Internet Archive, looking in old books for mentions of buying a cappuccino in 1955 Venice--but no dice.  At least not so far!  I'm widening the Challenge just a bit to see if we can't figure out the cost of a coffee in Venice in the 1950s--but even that is proving difficult.  Apparently, the price of a coffee / espresso / cappuccino was so obvious that it didn't need writing down!  

But take heart--I have some leads.  This little tidbit of info is just harder to find than most.  I'll be back in a few days with an update on this Challenge.  

Meanwhile... the extra credit question is pretty straightforward.  The query:  

     [ Caffe Florian 1955 ] 

leads to several hits, but perhaps the most interesting is the discovery that the book The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is set in Venice and has scenes in Caffe Florian, was published in 1955.  What's more, the movie Summertime, starring Katherine Hepburn, also came out in 1955--again, with scenes set in Caffe Florian.  Here's the trailer for that movie--see if you can spot the Piazza San Marco and a coffee shop there...  

I'll summarize our lessons next time.  But until then... Keep searching! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

SearchResearch Challenge (5/8/24): How much is a cappuccino at the cafe near here?

 This is me, somewhere in the world... 

If you've been here, it's easy to recognize where I'm standing--but if you haven't been in this slightly unusual spot, it'll take a bit of SRS magic to figure it out. 

In the next photo taken on the camera, I'm drinking a cappuccino with my daughter at the most famous cafe near where this image was taken. 

This fun memory from last year brings forth a couple of Challenges for you:  

1. Where am I standing in this photo?  

2. Can you tell me how much a cappuccino costs at that famous nearby cafe at the moment?  (Extra credit: Why is this particular cafe so famous?)  

3. Can you tell me how much a cappuccino would have cost at that cafe in 1955?  (For extra credit, can you determine why I'm asking about 1955?)  

I suspect there are new ways to find out the answers to these Challenges, which is why I'm posting them here.  Tune in next week for my solution to these questions. 

But when YOU find the answer, let us know how you did it!  

Keep searching.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

SearchResearch is taking a week off!

 Every so often... 

... one needs a break.  So this week, I'm off in Hawai'i enjoying a dive trip with a few friends.  Here are a couple of photos of my piscine friends... 

Back next week.  

Keep searching.  (I will leave it to you to identify the kinds of fish shown in the photos.) 

Not a fish, but roll with it.  What makes those electric blue pentagonal patterns?