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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

Like most tech-savvy hounds these days, I am permanently leashed to my iPaw mobile device. I never leave my doghouse without it. Unfortunately, my carrier’s data network doesn’t always provide me the coverage and speeds I need, especially as I make my rounds through the often-crowded Central Mesa area of Balboa Park.

Thankfully, I can now stay connected via Balboa Park’s new Wi-Fi hot spot, which extends from the Spreckels Organ Pavilion to The San Diego Museum of Art. This free Internet access makes the recently created pedestrian area in the Plaza de Panama not only a great place to enjoy a snack and people watch, but an ideal setting for me to get a leg up on any online updates to the many programs and activities in the Park. I can also update my Facebark page and blog.

The endless possibilities of how the various Balboa Park cultural attractions will take advantage of this open Wi-Fi network certainly has my tail wagging. They can now more easily engage visitors of any species via mobile apps, social media, interactive games, and podcasts. For example, the Spreckels Organ Society could now host webcasts of the free Sunday concerts in the Organ Pavilion (hint, hint). Other outdoor events and festivals, including Balboa Park December Nights, will also be able to take advantage in ways I can only imagine.

The fact that this Wi-Fi hot spot is free of course means someone else had to pay for it: the Balboa Park Conservancy and the office of City Council President and Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, who together shelled out 20K bones to get up and running.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Mingei International Museum facade, Free TuesdaysAs much as I enjoy the wide diversity of scents I’m exposed to in Balboa Park each summer, as hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world pass through, I don’t mind getting the Park all to myself again after Labor Day weekend has passed.

That’s not to say that Balboa Park becomes a ghost town. Far from it. It’s just that more of my favorite local flavors come to the surface, and there’s no waiting in line in front of my favorite trees while overheated tourists enjoy a timeout in the shade.

I understand that my bipedal friends also appreciate the more manageable crowds this time of year, especially when it comes to the greatest benefit of living in San Diego County: Free Tuesdays.

With pups back in school and folks returning to the salt mines, I understand it may be difficult for many to take advantage. But that’s what personal days are for — aren’t they? I mean, after taking care of a few personal errands and appointments, what else are you going to do?

It would be a doggone shame to sit around on your keester when you can waltz into three or four different museums that are free on any given Tuesday to reconnect with your cultural heritage, learn about the latest discoveries in science and nature, or discover a new hobby.

Take next Tuesday (the third one of the month) for example. That’s when The San Diego Museum of Art, Mingei International Museum, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the San Diego Art Institute, and the Museum of Man are free. That’s five first-rate cultural organizations for the one low price of FREE to any San Diego County resident!

So before filling up your next Tuesday with meetings and appointments with clients, you may want to consult with the Balboa Park Calendar first to check on which museums are free and what they currently have on exhibit.

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Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, International Cottages, Lawn Programs, House of Puerto RicoIt was recently brought to my attention that in over five years of writing this blog, I have yet to highlight September’s roster of free Lawn Programs at the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages.

Having no desire to bite the hand that feeds me (literally), I simply overlooked them amid Balboa Park’s many other fall activities, including the popular Top Dog Photo Contest (more on that later this month).

In fact, it would be quite impossible for me to play favorites when it comes to the 32 “houses” that take turns hosting the Sunday afternoon cultural extravaganzas at 2pm from March through October. You see, unlike some of my feline friends, I’m not what you’d call a finicky eater. For an old hound like me, variety is the spice of life, and I look forward to trying out gourmet twists on my four favorite food groups: beef, chicken, pork, and fish, every week.

For example, I could never turn my snout up at the deep fried meat turnovers and codfish fritters served up by the House of Puerto Rico this Sunday, September 8. Not to mention, these and other tasty treats will be complemented by colorful cultural performances by the Areito Borincano Folkloric Dance Group of San Diego and musician/composer Manny Cepeda.

The following week, the House of Finland will warm my heart and tummy with crepes, baked goods, and lively Scandinavian dances on September 15. Then on September 22, the House of Turkey presents mouthwatering kabobs and baklavas, the first annual backgammon tournament, and belly dancing!

Speaking of spice, my “monthly world tour without leaving the Park” concludes on September 29 when the House of China serves barbeque beef skewers, rice, egg rolls, and noodles, alongside acrobatic lion dances. Let me repeat that: BARBEQUE BEEF SKEWERS. Definitely not playing favorites here.

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If you’re like me, you’re probably ready for an extra day off after working like a dog all summer. (Those who have been cat napping through their summer vacation time will want to read on as well.)

Whatever animal species you’ve been mimicking, Labor Day weekend can seem bittersweet. Summer’s last bark, it comes at a time when Balboa Park institutions are overflowing with big summer exhibitions, performances, and programs. Here are just a few select treats for my bipedal readers to chew on:

Cosmos Blog, Balboa Park, Mammoths and Mastodons exhibition, Natural History MuseumBeerology — For many Americans, playing drinking games in college is a rite of passage. This intoxicating exhibition at the Museum of Man reveals that beer making and drinking was also an integral part of ritual and social practices for various world cultures dating back thousands of years. It should be noted, however, that dog-friendly beer was only invented in the last decade.

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age — The Natural History Museum has taken the expression “go big or go home” to a whole new level by presenting a comprehensive exhibition of two of the largest land mammals ever to walk the Earth. As a relatively diminutive four-legged animal, I have just one word: Respect.

On the Fly: Technology Takes Off — This exhibition at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center shows just how far small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology has advanced since the invention of the paper airplane through daily live demonstrations inside the museum’s indoor flying arena. (I’m assured that this is perfectly safe.)

Arnold Newman: Masterclass — While the proliferation of camera phones has turned everyone into a would-be master photographer, it only takes a few minutes inside this exhibition of a truly great portrait photographer at The San Diego Museum of Art to realize that most of what you see on Instagram isn’t exactly museum quality.

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Cosmos Blog, Ask Cosmos, ButkisButkis writes: Dear Cosmos, You’d think a popular adage like “the dog days of summer” would actually inspire someone around here to organize a summertime event just for canines. What gives?

Cosmos: It just so happens that my good friends at the San Diego Sculptors Guild are way ahead of you on this one. But rather than taking their cue from that tired expression, they’ve reached back to the golden age of 1970s American cinema to present a “Dog Day Afternoon,” on Saturday, August 31.

As if there weren’t already enough reasons for families to bring their entire pack to Balboa Park this Labor Day weekend, “Dog Day Afternoon” will liven up the already colorful Spanish Village Art Center from 12 noon to 5pm that day. 

The Guild’s Gallery 36 will be ground zero for this pooch-friendly party that benefits Baja Dog Rescue. Among the featured activities will be live musical performances in the Sculpture Garden, an opportunity to win original artworks created by SDSG members, as well as hot dogs, ice cream, and fresh squeezed lemonade — my three favorite food groups.

The Sculptors Guild will also unveil a new collection pet-related sculptures for sale, with 10% of the proceeds going to Baja Dog Rescue, who will be on hand with adoptable new friends.

And for all my fellow party animals that just can’t get enough, there will also be a Dog Day Afternoon after-party in the Spanish Village Art Center from 5pm to 8pm.

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