Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Do the Right Thing…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

A few months ago, there was a story posted in Slashdot about how to hack Kryptonite bike locks. Apparently someone discovered a very easy method to pick the tubular cylinders on them. For 30 years, the Kryptonite has been the gold standard of bike locks, so this was a Big Deal.

I went to their web site and put in the serial number of my lock. They then sent me a prepaid UPS shipping label to send it back to them. My lock was 10 years old. Most companies balk at standing behind any product that old. I thought they might send me a coupon for $2 off a new lock or something like that. But today, exactly two weeks later, I got a new lock in the mail. I’m sure that this whole replacement campaign must be costing the company a fair bit of money, but it’s really refreshing to see them pony up and stand behind their products. They did the Right Thing.


It’s not raining, it’s just…ummm….heavy fog

Filed under: — stan @ 1:41 pm

Six of us showed up for the ride today, even though it was cold and wet and drizzling at the park. Since our usual leader Gene wasn’t there, we just decided where to go. I suggested going south or west to get away from the mountains. A lot of times we get weather like this in Pasadena when it’s perfectly nice everywhere else. So we headed west.

We went past the big Federal Court building on Grand Ave. I recently read that that building used to be the support center for the Los Angeles area Nike anti-aircraft missiles.

As we crossed into South Pasadena, the drizzle stopped and from then on it was dry, although still gray and dreary. But we still got a laugh from the bus ad for Spay and Neuter Month. Sort of reminiscent of the Ron Jeremy PSA for the same cause.

We went south through Glassell Park, passing the old Van de Kamp’s bakery. Then we crossed the L.A. River and got on the bike path. We took the bike path all the way up around Griffith Park to Riverside Dr. Along the way, we could see that the trees in the river bed were all bent over and covered with debris. It’s just more of the effects of all the rain we’ve been having this winter. Then, after the bike path ended, we took streets the rest of the way to Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake.

After the stop at Priscilla’s, we were all complaining about being cold. It took a few miles to warm up. We came back by the southern route, since we thought that it was probably still raining up closer to the mountains. We came back across Glendale and Eagle Rock on Yosemite Dr.

We took a short detour in Eagle Rock to make an attempt at climbing Nolden St. I thought it would be good practice for Fargo St. next week. Four of us made the attempt. Matt, James, and I all ended up slipping on the damp pavement and had to stop. But John made it all the way to the top and was therefore the Hero of the Day.

After that bit of fun, we headed back into Pasadena, whereupon it began to rain again. On the last street we saw someone trying to give away a treadmill. I guess that’s just one of those New Year’s resolutions gone bad. But maybe he thought that giving away the barbecue with it would somehow make up for it.

When it was all done, it was actually a pretty good ride.

42 miles.



10 years!

Filed under: — stan @ 7:32 pm

I’ve been at my job for 10 years now. This is a first for me. I’ve never stayed anywhere for that long before. So I got a little certificate and the boss took us out to lunch at Hooters. (Sadly, there’s not a real strip club that serves lunch anywhere near here, so Hooters had to suffice.) Anyway, it was a fun time, even if today was otherwise kind of a bear. The air conditioner in the computer room broke down, and I had one other computer die today, so I was busy fixing stuff.

Still, I like my job. I realized recently that this is the only job where I’ve ever not used all my vacation time, and the only job where I’ve never called in sick when I wasn’t really sick. So I guess that says something. When I first started, I figured that working in the earthquake business in Los Angeles pretty much had to be an adventure. During the time I’ve been here, we’ve changed from using VAX and VMS to using Sun and white-box commodity PCs with Solaris, FreeBSD, and Linux. Computers that used to cost $50,000 now cost less than $1,000. We’ve had one M7.1 earthquake out in the desert, but nothing big in the city, and the long-awaited Parkfield Earthquake happened. It’s been tremendous fun, and I’d be quite content to just stay here until I retire.



Filed under: — stan @ 2:31 pm

The Caltech Women’s Center had a lunchtime screening of “Tupperware!” today. The film covered the rise of the company in the 1950s and the role of Brownie Wise in building the Tupperware empire. It was a very interesting and amusing story, complete with lots of old archival footage from the time and interviews with people who were there. If you’re a big ol’ documentary geek like me, that made it a true must-see.

Ultimately, though, it was a sad story. Brownie was ousted in 1958, ostensibly so that Earl Tupper could sell the company and retire. Still, what she did was impressive by any measure, and it was a very interesting story.


To the egret…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:55 pm

There is an egret who sometimes hangs around the Caltech campus. There are a few little pools that are stocked with frogs and mosquito fish, and apparently the little fish and tadpoles are very tasty. So the egret hangs around the ponds and eats. It’s an interesting bit of actual nature, red in tooth and claw, in the middle of the big city.

Hans Bethe

Filed under: — stan @ 1:47 pm

I just read that Hans Bethe has died:

He was one of the giants of 20th-century physics. When I was in college, his name came up often in the quantum mechanics and nuclear physics textbooks.

One day not long before I graduated from college in 1982, I stopped by the Bonner Nuclear Lab at Rice to talk to my professor, Dr. Phillips. While we were chatting, his secretary buzzed him:

“Dr. Phillips, I have Hans Bethe on the phone for you.”

So he excused himself and picked up the phone:

“Hello Hans! How are you?”

I thought it was really amazing that I knew someone who was actually on a first-name basis with one of the legends of physics.



Filed under: — stan @ 4:08 pm

Today’s ride was to Glendora. Gene found a new bakery out there and he wanted to get a loaf of olive bread, so off we went.

The first part of the ride was a bit of a blur to me, since there was a problem at work, and my phone was ringing. There was a M5.4 earthquake in Quebec this morning, and the computer that does the Community Internet Intensity Maps (a.k.a. the “Did you feel it?” maps) was having a problem. It’s a bit of a challenge to talk on the phone while riding.

Today’s new entry in the Flat Tire Gallery is Matt.

After that excitement, we continued on through Irwindale, passing the low-rent Irwindale Speedway. I always refer to it as the ‘low-rent racetrack’ because while a lot of racetracks might have events like the “Purolator 400″ or some such, I’ve seen the sign at Irwindale trumpeting the “Food-4-Less 150″, which just sounds a whole lot more downscale.

Continuing on, we passed a place to take a leak and the hot rod mailbox before heading into Old Town Glendora. We stopped there for a little snack at the bakery. Gene pulled out a backpack and stuffed an enormous loaf of olive bread into it for the trip home.

After the stop, we headed home across the San Gabriel River and then back through Monrovia and Sierra Madre. I snapped one picture of the town square in Sierra Madre, since it was a major filming location for the 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

Gene carried that olive bread all the way back, and the extra weight and wind resistance didn’t seem to slow him down too much.

40 miles.



A couple of random things

Filed under: — stan @ 1:18 pm

I did some CSS tweaking on my Tattoo Artists Database, so I’d appreciate it if people could have a look at it and give me some feedback on it. Is the search interface intuitive enough? Any new features it should have? When I look at my site statistics it’s usually one of the most-requested pages, so I’m trying to improve it.

Also, today marks 10 years since we moved back from Texas. Yay.


Online Poker

Filed under: — stan @ 5:11 pm

Here’s a link for the Googlebot to follow: Online Poker

I got this from The basic idea is that if we all put a link to the Wikipedia page about online poker, then that will become the #1 match for the phrase in Google. All the comment and trackback spam we’ve been getting lately is all in pursuit of page rank, so this is a way to try and prevent them from getting what they want.

Dunno if it’s going to work, but I thought it was a funny idea.

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