Things are “looking up” in Oakland

MONTCLARION: January 27, 2011

THINGS ARE looking up — literally. Our mild, springlike weather has been perfect for stargazing at Chabot Space & Science Center. On Friday and Saturday nights (weather permitting) Chabot’s outdoor plaza is filled with amateur astronomers and their telescopes.

“Look at the swirling gas cloud around the nebula,” said an enthusiastic volunteer showing a computer image on his iPad last weekend. He was warming up the crowd for what they would see when they looked through a telescope trained on Orion.

Two more telescopes were pointed at the moon; including the mother scope Leah, dating back to Chabot’s maiden year in 1883. One look through Leah and you could see the orb’s mysterious mottled surface so closely it was as if you were walking on it.

Then there was the curious, homemade telescope that looked more like a smoking pipe. A self-described hippie had it focused on the Seven Sisters — known as Pleiades.

“She’s the most beautiful star cluster in the sky,” he said proudly, as if he’d had a hand in creating it. His telescope was set in a salad bowl for easy rotation.

The weekend night viewings are a joyous, if not curious, event. Picture a deck party where the goodies are celestial and the man in the moon is the host.

AROUND TOWN: Montclair’s newest business, Subway, is scheduled to open in late February. The popular sandwich shop is going into the old Colonial Donuts location — a coup for owner Manoj Tripathi because it’s already zoned for food.

“I’d had my eye on Montclair for three years,” says the Lafayette businessman who owns close to three dozen Subways. His wife, Sadhana, and 17-year-old son, Neil, help him keep the shops running, with chores such as maintaining the equipment. “We have, in every store, six to eight pieces of refrigeration and equipment,” he says, “and ovens too.”

Keeping them humming is a big part of running a successful business — something Tripathi knows a lot about. He’s also been an executive officer with The Body Shop and Jamba Juice.

“I have no shame,” he says. “I can do creams and lotions and smoothies, and I can do Subway sandwiches.”

MONEY MATTERS: Montera Middle School’s wood shop is getting an infusion of cash in the form of a $1,500 grant from the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation. The oldest wood shop program in California has a big following, including a cadre of volunteers who raise money for tools and supplies. In its 51 years, literally thousands of kids have learned woodworking skills at Montera.

SQUAWK TALK: The population of ravens is way up in the hills — and no one seems to know why. It’s not that they don’t want to talk about it. Ravens are known for their conversations with people, even if they are somewhat snooty on their lofty power line perches. But there’s been such proliferation of these birds at the Oakland Zoo that the feeding ritual has had to be changed.

Dr. Joel Parrott (yes, he’s a bird doctor by trade) says keepers are feeding the resident vultures by hand these days so the ravens don’t snatch their food from the ground. You see, those pesky black birds used to steal the seed, but, quoth the good doctor “nevermore.”

Reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-273-9418, by e-mail at or on the web at


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