When my brother and I were small -- after we'd accidentally killed our goldfish and before we got the loopy dog that eventually took a ride with Dad and never came back -- our parents granted our fervent requests for a pet with an Uncle Milton's Ant Farm. The 'rents were probably prepared for critter neglect. Instead we were so fascinated by the minuscule yet strong, industrious ants that we spent hours watching them dig tunnels and ferry food. But had we gotten a look at the California Academy of Sciences' "Ants: Hidden Worlds Revealed," we would have known that our little toy was a rinky-dink piece of crap. The exhibit features six large colonies of live insects representing species from harvester to honey pot, each of which has its own unique habits. Visitors can watch the leaf cutters chomping on greenery, the carpenters excavating wood, and the creepy army ants swarming over and devouring live crickets. Bow to the mighty bug as "Ants" opens today during opening weekend at the California Academy of Sciences' temporary new home, 875 Howard (at Fourth Street), S.F. The exhibit continues through May 2005. Admission is free-$7; call 750-7145 or visit www.calacademy.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Tour de Downtown
Looking up at history
Based on Gray Brechin's book of the same name, the Imperial San Francisco Bicycle Tour takes a hard look at big buildings. The Southern Pacific Building, the headquarters of various large corporations, and many of downtown's monuments are on the planned route, according to ride leader Ralf Muehlen. Brechin's perspective can be illuminating, Muehlen explained in a recent phone interview: "One of his great insights is that mining brought the technology for elevators, which go down vertically, and that enabled building skyscrapers, going up vertically." And tooling around on a bike seems a better way to think spatially than riding in a car. Although the tour's subject is the local history of imperialism, Muehlen cautions, "It's got nothing to do with Emperor Norton." Meet at 10 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza, Market & Embarcadero, S.F. Admission is $5; call 431-2453 or visit www.sfbike.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Motorcycle races take off
We prefer motorcyclists who ride through walls of fire or jump Greyhound buses like Evel Knievel, but for true racing fans there's nothing like the thrill of bikers zipping around a track. What is it that electrifies them so? The smell of exhaust? The roar of the crowd? The chance that someone will smash into a wall? Whatever it is, enthusiasts can get their fill at the Ricky Graham Memorial Indoor Short Track and Motorcycle Show, two full days of flat-track racing. The motor madness begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, S.F. Admission is $10-30; call 806-1404 or visit www.supermotoproductions.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Lobos Creek, Reborn
Thanks to S.F.'s high concentration of tree-huggers, ecological restoration projects are common -- yet events commemorating the successes of such initiatives are not. Celebrate a newly pristine environment at "May Day at Lobos Creek," an afternoon of guided nature walks, educational activities, and native edible plant munching starting at noon in Lobos Creek Valley, Lincoln & El Camino del Mar, S.F. Admission is free; call 561-3034.
-- Joyce Slaton