Fun with Highways: The Golden Gate Bridge at 75

Today we at CatSynth and countless others celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The tallest suspension bridge in the United States, the second longest, and painted in International Orange, it is instantly recognizable. In a sense, the Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco’s “Empire State Building”. Both are iconic architectural centerpieces that represent their respective cities, and both date back to the 1930s and feature the distinctive Art Deco elements of the era. Both are often present in the background during everyday life of the cities. And (at least for me), they are also places rarely visited except when hosting out-of-town visitors.

But the Golden Gate Bridge is an important practical part of the city. It is a busy transportation carrying US 101 and California Highway 1 north from San Francisco into Marin County and points beyond on the north coast. It is very unusual for a modern roadway in that the opposing lanes are separated only by short poles that are moved to adjust the number of lanes in each direction. It seems a bit quaint, in fact. On the city side, the highway split into a boulevard carrying CA 1 south and Doyle Drive (US 101) until this past month when the latter was demolished. From these points, travelers are dispersed onto the city streets of San Francisco. There is no easy highway or rail connection between my part of the city (near the Bay Bridge) and the Golden Gate Bridge, owing to the city’s hilly geography and quirky political history. As such, I find myself not near the bridge very often except when I need to be. But when I am nearby it is worth stopping to take notice.

This is what we most often see when we look at the bridge, the orange structure partially shrouded or occasionally completely enveloped by another of our famous landmarks, the San Francisco fog. But the interplay of the fog, the bridge structure, and the other natural and human elements of landscape can make for interesting compositions.

With the anniversary upon us, much attention is being paid to the history of the bridge, its engineering as well as the politics and economics surrounding its construction. For me, the most interesting part of the history is the work of Charles Ellis, a senior structural engineer and mathematician. In many ways (including his early academic credentials), he was more mathematician than engineer, and did much of the theoretical work on the design of the bridge with large amounts of detailed mathematics, along the way publishing highly cited works such as “Williot Equations for Statically Indeterminate Structures” in Transactions, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1935. Indeed, he is now recognized as a principal designer of the bridge, but at the time he was not given any credit after being fired by Joseph Strauss, chief engineer of the bridge project. He was only officially given credit in 2007 (as described in this San Francisco Chronicle article).

This film from the time chronicles the building of the bridge, but also exemplifies the mythology that Strauss created around himself.

Nonetheless, the bridge itself opened to huge fanfare, as seen in this Prelinger Archives film:

Another copy of this video can be found here.

The festivities for this year’s 75th anniversary began about a month ago with the demolition of Doyle Drive, the elevated highway connecting to the bridge.


[Photo by toyzrus8 on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

The old highway had elements such as metallic beams in the International Orange color that connected it to the bridge, and it definitely looked to be of the same vintage. It is being replaced by the new Presidio Parkway that will more gracefully connect to the surrounding parkland but also contain the iconic orange color and architectural elements to connect it to the bridge.

Today’s festivities include a planned fireworks display at the bridge. Perhaps most notably there is an ongoing art exhibit at Fort Point called International Orange in which several prominent artists present works inspired by the bridge. I am hoping to see this exhibit soon (perhaps on a quieter day when I can observe the pieces in detail). I did see a preview recently at one of last weekend’s art fairs where Anandamayi Arnold wore one of her dresses for the exhibit, appropriately colored in International Orange. I am also inspired by the concept of this project and the mathematical work of Ellis described above to try my own hand at a creative piece in honor of this occasion.

Please join us in wishing the Golden Gate Bridge a happy 75th Anniversary!

Fun with Highways: The Bay Bridge Turns 75

This past Saturday, November 12, marked the 75th anniversary of the opening of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, known conventionally as “The Bay Bridge.” It is a regular part of life for many of us here, one of our main connections to the communities across the bay and a principal landmark during walks in my part of the city. It has been featured in many previous articles here on CatSynth.

The Bay Bridge is a workhorse, spanning over 4 miles and carrying an estimated 270,000 vehicles a day, making it second busiest in the U.S. after the George Washington Bridge in New York. But the western double-span is quite a beautiful structure, both as seen from the hills of San Francisco and from up close.


[Click to enlarge]

[Click to enlarge.]

Don’t let that last photograph fool you. Even though it may look like it was taken 75 years ago, it was actually taken yesterday using the iPhone Hipstamatic app during an early afternoon walk by the bridge.

It was quite an engineering feat when it was built, the longest bridge of its time and built in challenging geography of the bay.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons.]

This video (as seen on the official Bay Bridge info site) captures both the era and the engineering:

Much like the Brooklyn bridge when it was first built, the Bay Bridge towered over the surrounding architecture of the cities it connected. It is anchored in the middle to Yerba Buena island with tunnels connecting the two spans of the bridges. On the the San Francisco side, it is anchored to Rincon Hill, once an upscale neighborhood in the late 1800s that fell into rapid decline and largely destroyed in the 1906 quake. The eastern bridge was built resting on mud rather than bedrock. It was the most expensive bridge built to date.

The idea of a bridge crossing the bay has been around since the 1800s. Indeed, such a bridge was proposed by Emperor Norton in the 1870s (I think this even made it into Gino Robair’s opera I Norton). But unlike his other proclamations, this one seemed like a good idea. After that, there were many proposals, such as this one that in some ways resembles the bridge that was actually built.

The bridge proposed in this drawing connected to Telegraph Hill rather than Rincon Hill, and has suspension bridges on both sides of Yerba Buena island.  The spires also make it look like some of the older suspension bridges on the East River in New York.

When bridge first opened, it carried US Highways 40 and 50 as well as the trains from the Key System in the East Bay. The upper deck had longer ramps leading to Harrison and Bryant Streets at 5th, roughly the same as the rather long ramps at those streets today. On the Oakland side, the bridge had viaducts from Cypress Street (Highway 17) as well as San Pablo Avenue and the Eastshore Highway (US 40). The bridge now carries Interstate 80 across the bay. The railway is long gone. Gone also are the connections to the old Transbay Terminal and Embarcadero Freeway, both of which have been demolished. The area under the bridge on the San Francisco side, once a gritty industrial waterfront, is now a picturesque boulevard that is great for walking. Through all of the changes, the bridge itself has not changed very much at all…

[Bay Bridge approach, 1940s]

[Bay Bridge and Embarcadero, 1970s and 1980s. Photos from Wikimedia Commons.]

[Present day, Bay Bridge and southern Embarcadero. Photo by CatSynth]

…until now. The eastern truss span, which was badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake, is now being replaced with a new more graceful cable-stayed span. The construction has progressed to the point where the tower is in place and the cables are being hung. It is indeed a bit distracting when traveling the bridge. But I am looking forward to seeing it completed, probably around the 77th anniversary in 2013.

CatSynth 5th Anniversary!

Today we mark the 5th Anniversary of CatSynth!

I started this site on July 19, 2006 as a novelty when a friend and former colleague at E-MU systems suggested that I “should make a website about cats and synths.”

Every anniversary we feature the photo of Luna from the inaugural post.

I still have that Novation keyboard, though it does not get used as often of late. Luna of course still is very territorial about that beanbag chair. Times have changed a bit, here is an iconic photo of Luna from this past year, this time with an iPad app (in this case, the Smule Magic Piano):

Another quirky way we like to celebrate is with statistics. First the basics:

1559 posts.
0.85 posts per day.
8784 comments.
5.63 comments per post.
476 posts featuring cats and synthesizers.
195 reviews (and gig reports).
381,735 visitors.

Even after five years, people from around the world continue to send us pictures of cats and music gear. These days most of those come via our Facebook, which together with twitter has become a major way people engage with this site.

From Google Analytics (which we finally got working properly over the past year), here is an overview of where our visitors come from around the world.

By far and away most of our visitors are from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Australia, France and Germany. I’m gratified to see so many visitors from India, though I’m curious why we never receive any comments from there…

It’s also interesting to look at cities.

Not surprisingly, the top cities are San Francisco and New York. In Google, it’s SF followed by NYC, while in Facebook, New York is the top city.

Our most popular posts judged by number of visitors are the annual endangered wild cats on earth day.  Over the past year, our most commented posts were:

Wordless Wednesday: Herman (Groundhog Day) 35
Wordless Wednesday: Doll and Metal Beams 28
Wordless Wednesday: 6506 (Baker Beach) 27
Wordless Wednesday: Matzoh Man 27
Happy Birthday Luna! 25
Wordless Wednesday: 7643 (New York, Late Autumn) 25
Wordless Wednesday:  Wet Paint 25
Wordless Wednesday: Mosaic with Saxophones 24
Wordless Wednesday: Summer Solstice 24
Wordless Wednesday:  Harrison Street Hipstomatic 23

Our top commenters the past year:

Kitty 199
Mickey, Georgia and Tillie 146
Gattina 94
CatSynth 90
The Chair Speaks 66
meowmeowmans 65
Snowcatcher 56
AVCr8teur 51
Daisy the Curly Cat 48
Cats of Wildcat Woods 41
Beth @ 990 Square 40

Thanks to all our friends (in time zones earlier than U.S. Pacific Daylight Time) who already sent in comments for the anniversary, and to the Cat Blogosphere for their anniversary shout-out!

And while we will continue to keep doing what we do, it has been more of a challenge over this past year to keep up with posts, especially the longer-form reviews. There is a trade between doing music and art, and writing about people doing music and art. But I still love doing everything here, and will find a way…

Weekend Cat Blogging: 6th Anniversary Edition

This weekend marks the 6th anniversary of Weekend Cat Blogging.  It was started by a group of food bloggers who took a break from the regular topics every weekend to post about their cats.  It is not an in appropriate combination, as like their human counterparts cats enjoy good food and good company.

We at CatSynth found Weekend Cat Blogging back in 2006 and have been regular participants ever since.  This is of course not a food blog, but we do appreciate food and have indeed made recipes posted by long-time participant.  Indeed, a diverse collection of bloggers have participated on and off over the years.

If you would like to participate in this anniversary edition, please leave a comment below, or tweet us @catsynth with hashtag #WCB.  We always welcome new participants!

We are also celebrating another anniversary this weekend: Luna’s adoption.  If you have not had a chance to yet, please visit Luna’s Gotcha Day post.

And so let us get on with round-up.

Jules of Judi’s Mind Over Matter has been a regular participant, and he can be counted on to make an appearance whenever we host.  Call it “black cat solidarity” if you will.  In any case, we think he makes a very handsome outdoor model, though he sometimes wants to eat the props.

Catsparella has a Caturday post featuring several cats from around the internet, including Mar (aka Mar(ilyn) Manson aka Tuxedo Bad-Ass).  In addition to having an interesting namesake, he is a cancer survivor.  He also loves eating spaghetti.  We wish him the best for a healthy and happy future!

Over at Gattina’s “My Cats and Funny Stories”, Rosie is practicing her seduction skills on one of the many cat statues that adorn their garden.  It makes for some very cute photographs.

At Pam’s Sidewalk Shoes, Smudge is posing on the garden pathway in an apparent attempt to distract us from the garden weeds.  We think it is a very handsome portrait.  And the weeds in the stones of the pathway add a rich texture to the image.

At The Chair Speaks, Pebbles enjoys a day of relaxing.  She evokes an image of poolside bliss on a deckchair.

Regular reads know that we at CatSynth are regulars in our local arts community in San Francisco, so it’s great to see our “TX furriends” Samantha and Clementine featured at a gallery near you.  That’s a gallery near you, not near us.  But it’s great to see their virtual art show – and nice prominent placement of their images (I particular like the big one of Clementine).

Our friends at Animal Shelter Volunteer Life present the cats in Cat Room 8 taking it easy on Sunday.  Our Sunday is busy as usual, so we will just have to live vicariously through their great photos.  These cats are likely dreaming of loving homes in their futures.

At Herman’s Hideaway, it appears that Herman and Emma are stuck in an infinite loop (are stuck in an infinite loop) as each watches, ready to pounce if the other does anything.  Read the post to find out the full story.

Our dear friends from Vienna Kashim, Othello, Salome and Astrid have been participating in Weekend Cat Blogging just about as long as we have.  They look back on WCB’s origins this week and link to their original post.  They also discuss the fun and value they have received from sharing these posts over the years, and we could not agree more!

As we wind down this edition of WCB, Ritzi shares a contented moment with a blanket at Mind of Mog.

Our friends Georgia and Tillie along with the rest of their household stopped by for the WCB 6th Anniversary.  Check out their Friday Close-ups!

It’s always great to here from another Luna!  This week Luna T Katt and Zulu are remembering Luna’s littermate Keiko, whom they lost to the rainbow bridge last year.  The kitten pictures are very cute – and they all miss her very much.

It seems that Gracie has been having trouble with the blogger monster and thus having trouble leaving comments for friends.  But she was able to make it though and wish Luna a happy 6th Gotcha Day and everyone a happy 6th Anniversary of WCB.

We will continue to post entries throughout the weekend, so please continue to comment or tweet us if you would like to participate.

Happy Gotcha Day, Luna!

June 10 is Luna’s “Gotcha Day”. It was six years ago today that she was adopted from Santa Cruz County Animal Services and became the much beloved member of our household that readers have come to know and love.

As we often do on this occasion, we look back at some early photos in comparison to the present. This particularly cute one was taken during her first week at home in June, 2005.

By contrast, here is one of the most recent photos of Luna:

She is quite fond of that PurrPad at the moment.

Another interesting comparison. Here is Luna sitting with our often-featured glass table in June, 2005:

And here she is again in 2010:

Some things stay the same.

Please join in me in wishing Luna a Happy 6th Gotcha Day! It is a day to celebrate, and to remember what’s important in life.

We would also like to give a mention to Friends of Santa Cruz County Animals – I support them every year in gratitude connecting us.

Photo Hunt: Anniversary


Photo Hunt 230 is hosted by tnchick.  This week’s theme is Anniversary.

CatSynth 4th Anniversary

Another year has past since we started this site four years ago.  Thanks to everyone who already wished us a happy anniversary, and to the folks at the Cat Blogosphere for their shout-out today.

And just as we have with previous anniversaries, we are celebrating with statistics of questionable import.

Over the past four years, we have written 1220 posts, and readers have contributed 6699 comments.  We have received 293,916 visits.  This comes out to about 5.5 comments per post, and about 43 visits for every one comment left.  We also have about 270 “catsynth pic” or “catsynth video” posts.  Make of these numbers what you will.

In terms of tags and categories, there are not really any surprises.  These top terms do reflect what the site continues to be about:

Cats (cat) 704
Synthesizers 449
Luna 277
Music 246
Art 190
weekend cat blogging 183
WCB 181
San Francisco 160
Personal 153
News 151
Wordless Wednesday 147
Reviews 134
Photography 132
Modernism 91
Highways 82
Art 74
analog 74
video 74
cats on tuesday 70
electronic music 62
synth 62
performance 55
carnival of the cats 45
Travel 45
black cat 44

We now turn to stats specific to the past year.  The top five days for visits since July 19, 2009 are:

November 6, 2009 1036
April 18, 2010 859
May 11, 2010 808
October 15, 2009 787
March 22, 2010 780

Hmm, November 6, 2009.  Who knew our post on Reconnaissance Fly and Noertker’s Moxie at the SIMM Series would get so much attention 🙂

The posts that received the most comments over the past year:

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Sunshine 36
Wordless Wednesday: Cooper River Bridge, South Carolina 32
Wordless Wednesday:  High Line 32
Dona Nobis Pacem: Blogblast for Peace! 31
Wordless Wednesday: Asians.com 28
Wordless Wednesday:  Bay Bridge from Pier 14 25
Wordless Wednesday: Yan’an Elevated Road, Shanghai 25
Wordless Wednesday:  Before Winter 24
Wordless Wednesday: 5946 (Vacant Lot, California) 24
Wordless Wednesday:  Three Circles 23
Wordless Wednesday: Coffee Cup on the Patio 23

And the top commenters over the past year:

kitty 203
Mickey 143
CatSynth 96
Gattina 75
SandyCarlson 51
Sukhmandir Kaur 50
Robin from Israel 38
Beth @ 990 Square 37
Katz (And Other) Tales 32
cindy 31
AVCr8teur 30
jams o donnell 47
Carver 26
Sniffie and the Florida Furkids 23
Beth F 23
Cats of Wildcat Woods 22
Ms. Latina 20
Snowcatcher 19
Digital Flower 18
Susan Adcox 18
Cafe Au Lait 17
The Chair Speaks 16
Harry Spotter 16
Jewelgirls Katz 15
Judi 15
Nikita Cat 15
jason 12

These are the stats that change the most from year to year, as we welcome new readers and others fade away for any number of reasons.  One interesting thing to note is our two top commenters (who have retained those spots for the last two years running) are both from Canada.

Our Facebook page gives us a new source of questionable stats to reflect upon.  We have received  about 30 contributions (pictures or videos).  The city with the most declared CatSynth fans is New York.  The countries with the most fans (after the United States) are Canada, the United Kingdom, and Finland.  These are all plausible, but I am a bit skeptical of Facebook’s data gathering and presentation tools.

Thanks to everyone who has read and supported us, wherever you happen to be, and we’ll look forward to more over the next year…

Weekend Cat Blogging: 5th Anniversaries

This past Thursday we celebrated Luna’s adoption anniversary (aka “Gotcha Day”).  For Weekend Cat Blogging we present some photos from our celebration that evening.

Of course, there was yummy food.  In this case, Sardines, inspired in part by a (human) recipe I had heard on the radio few days earlier and still want to try out.  Luna devoured her feline fish treats with aplomb:

There were some cards from friends.  And of course, new toys.  I was particularly fond of this toy, which seemed apropos of this year:

Luna was not quite as interested (though I did see her kick it around briefly):

On the other hand, she took right away to this black mouse toy and spent quite a bit of time kicking it around, even getting it stuck on a shelf and pawing diligently to get it out.

And after a spell of vigorous play, it was time to relax:

Not only is this Luna’s fifth adoption anniversary, but it is also the 5th Anniversary of Weekend Cat Blogging. It was started by group of primarily food bloggers who set aside a post on the weekend for their cats. We found it back in 2006 as I was first starting this site. This special edition is being hosted by LB and breadchick at The Sour Dough.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at Nikita’s Meowings of an Opinionated Pussycat. And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Luna’s 5th Adoption Anniversary

Today marks five years since I first brought Luna home from the Santa Cruz County animal shelter.  Time certainly does pass quickly.  We celebrate this anniversary (otherwise known as Luna’s “Gotcha Day”) with a look back at photographs from our five years together.

Here she is back in 2005.

and then in 2006

and finally in 2007.

That series of photos ends after we moved to San Francisco in 2008, but there is no shortage of images of Luna basking in sunlight.  Here she is in 2008 (outdoors):

and 2009:

and finally this year:

(There are so many photos it can be hard to choose just one representative.)

Our friends at the Cat Blogosphere made an announcement today along with this nice banner:

Please join us in wishing Luna a “Happy 5th Gotcha Day!”

CatSynth 3rd Anniversary

Well, this site has now been running for three years. And we’re marking the anniversary the best way we can think of: with stats of questionable significance.

886 posts.
195,501 visitors.
4638 comments.
Over 15,000 spam comments squashed.
Over 400 cat-and-synth pics and videos

The top 20 terms (a term is either a tag or a category or both):

Cats   516
cat   356
Synthesizers   297
Luna   215
synthesizer   185
Music   171
News   146
weekend cat blogging   136
WCB   134
Personal   120
Art   115
Wordless Wednesday   96
Modernism   72
San Francisco   68
synth   61
Photography   61
Highways   60
electronic music   52
Reviews   40
cats on tuesday   48

The 11 most commented posts:

Dona Nobis Pacem   48
Wordless Wednesday: La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona   43
"Wayback" Wordless Wednesday: Green Kitties   42
Wordless Wednesday: A Great Moment   41
Wordless Wednesday: Luna Sun Triangle   41
Dona Nobis Pacem: BlogBlast for Peace!   40
Wordless Wednesday: 43   39
Wordless Wednesday: Cat and Geometry   38
Wordless Wednesday: Centered Cat   37
Wordless Wednesday: Alley behind 49 Geary   37
Wordless Wednesday: Maneki Neko   37

And the top comment contributors:

Kitty   451
Mickey   179
CatSynth   138
Gattina   136
whaleshaman   81
Andrée   73
Daisy   71
Dragonheart & Merlin   71
sher   65
SandyCarlson   60
jams o donnell   44
The Right Blue   44
kitikata-san   42
Hendrix   41
parker   40
Matthew James Didier   40
Katie   32
Randall   31
HotMBC   30
Gandalf & Grayson   30
Dennis the Vizsla   30

This list includes sites that are no longer active, and at least one person who has passed away.

I did also go back and look at those early posts from July and August of 2006, expecting to reflect on how much things have changed over three years. But instead I found myself noticing how much things on the site have stayed the same…