Brackett Observatory, Pomona College

I had only an idea of where Brackett Observatory stood, knowing it’s around the southeast part of the Pomona College campus but never having seen it. In fact, during an evening open house of the campus a couple of years ago, I stumbled around past dusk trying to find it and failed. It’s not impossible that I walked right past it.

But on a recent afternoon, I went looking for Brackett Observatory and found it, near the Sontag Greek Theater off East Bonita. The observatory was closed on a Sunday, of course, but the quiet allowed me to admire its classic dome with retractable roof, and its fieldstone walls. It’s a modestly sized place, built in 1908, and named for the same professor whose name adorns La Verne’s municipal airport.

More about it can be found on the observatory webpage, which includes a video of a solar flare.

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Column: Chino Hills is getting to be a habit with jazz singer

The first Chino Hills Jazz and Blues Festival takes place April 22. Headliner Barbara Morrison is a noted L.A. jazz singer who’s already performed in Chino Hills once before — or twice, really. I explain, as well as offering up a Pomona mention in the New Yorker, an update on my film series, a couple of Culture Corner items and more, all in Sunday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: California Fish Grill

California Fish Grill, 1135 E. 19th St. (at Campus), Upland; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Located in the newest section of the Colonies Crossroads Center, California Fish Grill is next to Oggi’s, on the north side of 19th Street. I was across the street getting a new cell phone recently and thought I’d try out CFG for dinner.

The experience and menu are similar to Pacific Fish Grill, which has a location in the Shoppes at Chino Hills that I’ve visited repeatedly. There’s an array of fresh fish entrees, which you can order with various seasonings and sides, and you order at the counter.

I got a combo of salmon and swai ($11.50), with rice and zucchini as my sides. On a second visit, at lunchtime, I got the serrano lime salmon bowl ($9). I enjoyed both of these meals; they seemed light, fresh and healthy.

A few points of comparison with Pacific Fish Grill: The latter delivers to your table instead of making you pick up your food (on a giant metal tray that holds two or three plates and looks like overkill when you’re eating solo); it doesn’t charge 50 cents more for brown rice; and it offers a side of vegetables, not simply zucchini.

On the other hand, California Fish Grill has more variety in its menu; it has a salsa bar; and its soda dispenser has non-brand names, from Stubborn Soda, with no artificial sweeteners or colors and better flavors (a la The Melt); I had black cherry and vanilla cream. So between the two places, it’s kind of a draw.

The comparison may not be meaningful to you if you live closer to one or the other rather than kind of in between, but I made it anyway. Overall, I liked the Upland chain seafood restaurant slightly more than the Chino Hills chain seafood restaurant, but they’re both worth trying.

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Column: Salsbury scooters ended production cycle in Pomona

In the local history category, Wednesday’s column recounts the story of Salsbury scooters, a beloved brand that was briefly made in Pomona, in a factory that was highly touted but, sad to say, quickly failed.

By the way, trying to get a photo in which I was not reflected in the glass of the picture Jeff Hodge is holding was tough! This one, in the shade, was fine, and you can see the scooter art, but you can’t see much of the factory building.

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Restaurant of the Week: Below Zero Shaved Ice

Below Zero Shaved Ice, 583 E. Foothill Blvd. (at 5th), Upland; noon to 7 p.m. daily

A friend with Upland knowledge asked if I’d been to Below Zero Shaved Ice, and I had to admit I’d never heard of it. (It opened in 2011.) So we met up on a recent hot afternoon for dessert.

It’s in a strip mall, the same one with Ashirwad vegetarian Indian restaurant. I noted approvingly that Below Zero uses Thrifty ice cream. But wait, isn’t this a shaved ice spot? It is, but it has ice cream too.

The menu board has the ice flavors, and the ice cream is in labeled tubs like at other ice cream parlors. A specials board lists pre-selected combinations. To save the fuss of choosing, which is after all why combinations exist, I went with the No. 1, a root beer float; my friend got one of her usuals, pina colada (small, $3.75).

What arrived were dishes with generous servings spilling out over the top of the bubble top. Mine had vanilla ice cream, root beer and vanilla shaved ice; hers had coconut-pineapple ice cream and pina colada-flavored shaved ice.

From above, you think it’s like a twist, where you get equal servings of two flavors. Or maybe that you would get shorted on the ice cream in favor of the less-expensive ice. But no. “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of ice cream,” my friend said as I dug in. And she was right: The ice cream fills one side but also layers the bottom. Eating them equally, I ran out of shaved ice before I ran out of ice cream.

Anyway, this was a low-cost, delicious treat. After dessert, we parted, and I went out for lunch. As the saying goes, “life is short, eat dessert first.”

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Reading Log: March 2017

Books acquired: “The Doom That Came to Sarnath,” “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” H.P. Lovecraft; “Seinfeldia,” Jennifer Keishin Armstrong; “Hail, Hail Euphoria!” Roy Blount Jr.; “It Can’t Happen Here,” Sinclair Lewis

Books read: “Funny in Farsi,” Firoozeh Dumas; “Wolf in White Van,” John Darnielle; “Reading Comics,” Douglas Wolk

As I’m back at my desk Monday from a few days off and need to get this done, let me get right to my March book report. Three books this month, none with any relation to each other.

“Funny in Farsi” was the On the Same Page community read choice for Claremont. Constructed as short essays, this 2003 memoir of coming to America from Iran as a girl before the Iranian revolution is episodic, witty and warm-hearted. Dumas plays up the comedy of her family’s struggle with language and customs, and emphasizes what unites us rather than what divides us. Likable, and sometimes very funny, but for my tastes too glib.

“Wolf in White Van” is an acclaimed 2014 novel, nominated for a National Book Award, by a native of Claremont, John Darnielle, the singer-songwriter behind the band The Mountain Goats. A character study of a young man who became consumed by his fantasy life but managed to make something positive out of it, this is closely observed, skillfully told and unusual in invoking nerd totems of a certain era: Conan, August Derleth, Hit Parader. Also, it’s set in Montclair! I hope to write further about it.

“Reading Comics,” from 2007, is a series of essay of comics criticism. By now, the acceptance of comics and graphic novels as acceptable and even hip reading matter appears almost complete, making Wolk’s review of some of his favorites, partway into the revolution, less useful and his arguments in their favor almost quaint. Comics are art? Yes, we know. “Fun Home” just played at the Ahmanson. But most of his choices remain sound, some are pleasingly idiosyncratic and he has interesting things to say about them all.

How about that: all my books are from the 21st century. No other month’s Reading Log can make that claim. (Unless Doug Evans produces a link to contradict me, I think I’m on firm ground here.) Next month will be far different, but let me revel in my modernity for now.

What have you all been reading? Did your March go out like a lamb or a lion? Let us know in the comments section.

Next month: 20th century books about newspapers.


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