10 best ideas of the week: Sunday, June 27, 2010 

Piano music breaks up city chaos, seventh-graders discover cave on Mars, Australia elects female prime minister, and the San Francisco Zoo mourns the loss of tiger.

1. The entertainers

New Yorkers gravitate to public pianos
The details: Music is in the air in Manhattan. As part of a two-week art installation, pianos are scattered throughout downtown, attracting aspiring musicians who will play classical and cartoon songs, among many others. Busy New Yorkers are stopping to note the sonatas, and the slowing down of the urban chaos is pleasing some residents who are glad to hear sounds other than subway noise, car horns and cell phones ringing. The installation goes on until July 5.

2. Homecoming

Town of Vulcan welcomes Leonard Nimoy
The details: Residents of the 2,000-person community of Vulcan in Alberta, Canada, wore their pointy ears and homemade uniforms to welcome Star Trek’s Mr. Spock to town. “I have been a Vulcan for 44 years. I figured it was time I came home,” the actor said at a ceremony. The farming town might be the center of Spock fandom on Earth, featuring “Spock Days” in midsummer, a model of the USS Enterprise at the highway turnoff and pictures of the logical character and space scenes on downtown buildings. Far from just being another celebrity appearance, Vulcanites called Nimoy’s visit “the Holy Grail moment.”

3. Cave on Mars

Seventh-graders find mysterious spot on red planet
The details: Kids find the darnedest things. Sixteen students from a seventh-grade class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood — just east of Sacramento — found a mysterious cave on Mars. The class was participating in the Mars Student Imaging Program at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, which allows students to ask a question and commission a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image to answer their question.

4. Desert sun

Solar farm in Sahara could power Europe
The details: There’s a lot of sun in the Sahara Desert. If all goes as planned, some of that sun will be powering Europe within five years. The European Union is backing projects to build solar power plants in northern Africa with the target of getting 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. European officials say the solar farm will be expanded over the coming decades as funding for alternative energy ramps up.

5. From Russia, with love

Billionaire comes to rescue of Sonoma County park
The details: Fort Ross, a state park in Sonoma County, was in danger of closing due to budget cuts. But Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and the chief of Renova Group, stepped in to provide “substantial financial support” to keep Fort Ross open. The park has been open only three days a week and had a budget shortfall of $800,000 in 2009.

6. Historic election

Australia elects first woman prime minister
The details: Australia got its first female prime minister this week after Kevin Rudd was ousted as the result of a party coup less than three years after taking office. Attorney Julia Gillard was elected unopposed after saying she was not going to sit idly by as “good government was losing its way.”

7. Training for rookie docs

Proposal gives new doctors shorter shifts, more oversight
The details: Under a new safety-based proposal, first-year resident doctors would have shorter shifts and closer oversight in the interest of promoting safety and reducing medical errors. The rookie ­doctors would work maximum shifts of 16 hours as opposed to 24 hours, cutting down on sleep deprivation for those who aren’t used to the hours. Also, patients would be told when they’re being treated by first-year doctors.

8. Red-phone replacement

Obama says Twitter may replace Kremlin line
The details: President Barack Obama said Twitter accounts might eliminate the need for dedicated phone lines between Russian and U.S. leaders. Obama said both he and visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev use the popular social networking program. Obama said, “We may be able to finally throw away those red phones” that were designed to allow immediate contact between the Kremlin and the White House during the Cold War.

9. Ring return

‘The Bachelor’ contestant must give ring back to ABC
The details: Bachelor Jake Pavelka dumped fiancee Vienna Girardi by phone this week, and the Florida native will have little to show for her brief engagement to the 32-year-old airline pilot. According to a Warner Bros. spokesperson, Girardi has to return the $50,000 2.72-carat diamond and platinum ring. Pavelka didn’t hesitate to agree: “Yes. We’re no longer engaged and she can’t wear that ring.” The engagement dazzler will go back into production, proving there are no freebies in reality TV. No word on whether the ring will be recycled for future seasons of “The Bachelor,” but Girardi — who said she was “shocked” by the breakup — has now permanently departed the wings of love.

10. Tiger celebrated

SF Zoo mourns beloved Siberian tiger
The details: The San Francisco Zoo’s beloved tiger Tony finally reached the grotto in the sky this week, after the 18-year-old’s reign as the second-oldest male Siberian tiger in North America. Following his passing, visitors left cards and flowers near his enclosure, and zoo staff honored the big cat with a moment of silence. Zoo Director Tanya Peterson left a bouquet of blue flowers that were accompanied by a card that read, “The zoo is blue and misses you.”

Bright Light of the Week

John Isner

Who: The 6-foot-9 player outlasted opponent Nicolas Mahut of France in the longest match in tennis history.

How long: The Wimbledon match ended after a record 11 hours, 5 minutes that was spread over three days. Isner defeated Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set after 183 games.

Gracious winner: After battling that long, the customary handshake just wouldn’t do — so Isner pulled Mahut in for a hug. Moments later, he said, “You know, it stinks someone had to lose.”

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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