Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Filed under: — stan @ 1:43 pm

I’ve not had anything to say about hurricane Katrina, but this came across my desk today and it’s interesting. I don’t talk about work here usually, but I work in the earthquake business. Today a message came through about how we had lost the data feed from one of the LIGO seismic stations in Louisiana. Then there was some more talk about this and a pointer here:

It’s interesting to see that the seismic instruments could pick up the approaching storm, and looking at the graphs pretty much answered our question about why the data feed stopped.


Sunday bike ride

Filed under: — stan @ 8:38 pm

Today’s bike ride was one of Gene’s “Il Fornaio” rides. We’ve done this one before, and odds are we’ll do it again.

We went south and a bit east through Arcadia, and then got on the Rio Hondo bike path. We took that down past the 60 freeway. Then we went north on Hill Ave, passing by hospital where Curly Howard died, and then north into San Gabriel.

We passed the mission and then rode north through San Marino and Pasadena. I took a quick loop around my office to check out the computer room air conditioners.

Then we rode into Old Town for our snack stop at Il Fornaio. When we got there, some guy with a tie told us we had to walk our bikes down the alley to the restaurant. Then a security guard outside the restaurant told us we couldn’t lean our bikes against the wall. That was kind of annoying, and we may be looking for a new snack stop place in the future.

After that, we went north around the Rose Bowl and up to Altadena Drive, and then took the long downhill back to the park. When we got there, there was a lowrider car show going on the parking lot, so we marveled a bit at the cars.

Newton had ridden to the park from his house in West Covina, so I rode with him a bit more out to Arcadia and back. By then it was pretty hot, and it really felt like time to stop.

48 miles.

Have I mentioned that Pasadena has great city services?

Filed under: — stan @ 8:23 pm

This morning, we woke up to find that another big branch had fallen off the tree in front of our house. This one was almost as big as the one that fell off last year.

Cathy called the police non-emergency number to see what we should do, since the forestry department wasn’t open at 7:00 on a Sunday morning. They sent a car out to have a look, and then they contacted the on-call guy at forestry to have him come out to take care of it. While we were waiting, they borrowed my little bow saw and cut up the branch a bit so that it wasn’t blocking the street. Have I mentioned recently that the city services in Pasadena are great?


Lake Tahoe, 2005

Filed under: — stan @ 5:08 pm

Here’s the story of our family vacation at Lake Tahoe this summer. I have links to some of the photos here, but if you want to see all the photos, they are here.

Saturday, August 20

We decided to do something a bit different this year, and fly out of Ontario airport instead of LAX. It turns out it’s actually a bit closer to our house, and Southwest Airlines has a one-stop, no-plane-change flight to Reno from there. And they were running a special, so it was cheaper than LAX.

In the airport gift shop, we saw a romance novel, Gone with the Nerd. Yikes. When did nerds become characters in romance novel, and why wasn’t I notified of this?

After a brief stop in San Jose, we took the short hop over the Sierras and landed in Reno. We stopped for dinner at Carrow’s near the airport, and then we drove over the mountains to South Lake Tahoe. We got to Grandpa’s house there at about 8:00. I made a quick run to Raley’s to get food for breakfast and that was the end of our day.

Sunday, August 21

We woke up this morning and had to take another trip to Raley’s to get some Orajel. Lucinda’s six-year molars are coming in, and she needed some help. Also, we had realized that we had forgotten to bring books for her bedtime stories, so we had to find a few of them, too.

After that, we went to do our favorite hike up to Cascade Falls. As always, Lucinda didn’t really get interested in it until we got to the part of the trail that was on the rocks. But she enjoyed it after that.

The chipmunks came around while we were sitting up at the falls, but we made sure that they couldn’t get into the pack this time. Last year, they got into the pack and ate our chocolate chip cookies.

When we were starting back down, my phone rang. Turns out Sprint has a good signal up there on the mountain, so Lucinda got to talk to Aunt Maggi while we were hiking back from the falls.

After the hike, we went to the pool, and Lucinda showed us what she had learned in her swimming lessons this summer.

That evening, we had dinner at The Broiler Room at Caesar’s. The food was good, as always, and they had the usual flourish at the end with the chocolate-covered strawberries and dry ice.

Monday, August 22

Today we made a trip to the Attic, which is the local hospital thrift store. We cleaned up the owner’s closet a bit and donated some old clothes and other items. Then we had lunch at Carrow’s. The staff at this particular restaurant seemed really quite lax for some reason. But it was all right. We were on vacation, after all.

After that, we went to the K-Mart to buy some new bathroom rugs and other furnishings for the house. While we were there, we heard The Cure, and we reflected on how strange it was that a band that was considered so alternative and edgy when we were young was now being played at K-Mart. And we felt a bit old. Then we went back home and went to the pool for some more swimming.

Dinner tonight was at The Horizon casino’s Josh’s restaurant. We remembered this restaurant as having a great dessert cart, but they didn’t have the cart this time. The desserts were still good, but we missed getting to see them before ordering. Also, while we were there, we noticed that the music in the restaurant was almost completely easy-listening versions of ’60s standards. Again, we felt a bit old.

On the way out of the casino, I had a look around the blackjack tables. The last time we were there, they didn’t have anything for less than $10 a hand, which is just too much for my taste. This time, they had several single-deck tables for $5 a hand. They’d even loosened up the rules a bit by allowing double-downs on hard 8 and 9. But then I noticed that they also changed the rules and only pay 6-5 for blackjack. Years ago, I wrote a program to play blackjack and figure out how the game works. Turns out the player who uses basic strategy wins something like 42% of the time, the house wins about 56%, and 2% are ties. If the house pays 3-2 for when the player gets blackjack, it all works out that then the player is almost even with the house. By changing the blackjack payout, they take a big bite out of the player’s expectation value. So I didn’t play this trip.

Tuesday, August 23

This morning, Cathy did some more cleanup in the owner’s closet in the house, and we made another stop at The Attic.

We also did some exploring around the house. The neighbor’s house had a bird’s nest built underneath the deck. Lucinda also found a lizard on one of the rocks.

Next, we went to Anderson’s Bike Rentals and rented some bikes for a ride along the lake. We got a little trailer for Lucinda to ride in. The bikes were worn, but well-maintained, and they provided helmets, a map, and a lock. Normally, Cathy and I don’t ride bikes together, since I tend to go a bit faster than she does, but having 50 pounds of trailer and kid attached to my bike slowed me down a bit, so we were almost evenly matched.

We rode the bike path north along the lake, stopping at the Stream Profile Chamber for a look at the fish. Then we took the path south through town. This part went through the auto-body ghetto. Every town needs to have wrecking yards and auto-body shops, but they are usually pretty well-hidden in tourist towns. We even passed the very smelly refuse recycling building and an apartment with a warning sign about a hazard we don’t have at home in L.A. The bike route went past all of this stuff, and it was actually pretty entertaining. In all, it was about a 20 mile ride.

For dinner, we went to Harvey’s casino. They have a restaurant on the top floor called “19″, which is their ‘nice’ restaurant. When we got up there, the view was impressive. And I realized that I’d forgotten the camera. D’oh! The menu was a bit odd. It was high-priced, but they had things like french fries and macaroni and cheese as side dishes. The dessert menu included “warm doughnuts with two sauces”. For their after-dinner flourish, they brought out a ball of pink cotton candy big as your head. I hate cotton candy. The smell of it makes me nauseous, but Cathy and Lucinda chowed down on it, and I once again was infinitely irritated that I’d forgotten the camera.

Wednesday, August 24

Today’s adventure was over the hill in Carson City. We went to the Nevada Railroad Museum, where we got to try riding and pumping an actual railroad hand car, as well as seeing the preserved trains there. We also saw an exhibit about the role of the Chinese in building the railroads in the west.

Lunch was at Applebee’s in Carson City, and after that we went and did some more shopping for new items for the house. We got some long wood screws so I could repair the front deck railing, as well as a new stereo for the house.

After that, we went back home and went to the pool. Dinner was at Evans, which is easily our pick for the best restaurant in South Lake Tahoe. I had the Grilled tenderloin of beef on gratin potato cake with garlic compound butter, sauteed spinach and port wine sauce. Yum. Lucinda and I shared a dessert. We even came in under-budget this time, with a bill of $99.99. It was good.

Thursday, August 24

Today I did the repair on the deck railing. It wasn’t too hard to do, but it was still a bit of an adventure, since I was using unfamiliar tools.

We did another hike today. The Hawley Grade Trail follows the route of a wagon road from the days of the ‘49ers. The hike was 3.8 miles, which was a bit long for Lucinda, but I functioned well as a mule for her to ride most of the way.

As always, after the hike, we went to the pool. Lucinda is finally able to swim on her own with her pool noodle or kickboard. She was also able to swim almost all the way across the pool by herself with no floatation devices. So the swimming lessons were a Good Thing.

Dinner was at the Four Seasons at The Horizon. The sign in the lobby has a picture of a nice prime rib dinner, but guess what wasn’t on the menu. D’oh!

After dinner, we went back to the house and watched “Racing Stripes”. I had noticed that one of the couches was coming apart, so I got out the little sewing kit and sewed it back together.

Friday, August 25

Lucinda said that she didn’t want to do another hike today, so we rented bikes again. This time we went to Lakeview Sports. Their bikes were not as well-maintained as at Anderson’s, and the counter guy was kind of a doofus. I had to oil the chains on both bikes, adjust the brakes, and tighten up the pedal cages before we could ride. Then we did basically the same ride as Tuesday, but in the opposite direction. We went past the lumber yard, where some graffiti tells us a bit about what the locals in Tahoe do for fun. We passed the Moose Lodge and also saw a coyote. This time, I brought along my little GPS unit and measured the ride, which turned out to be 19 miles. When we got back, the manager gave us a good discount on the rental, since I’d had to fix the bikes for them. He was apologetic about it, saying that their bike mechanic had been taken ill. Since their season only runs through the summer, they were having a hard time hiring a mechanic for just a few weeks.

We always have our last night’s dinner at Evans, and this trip was no exception. We picked different items from the menu, and as always, it was all good. Lucinda and I also shared the same dessert.

Our final bit of house maintenance involved rearranging the couches in the living room.

Saturday, August 26

This morning, we all got up early for the trip home. We drove over the mountains to Reno. Along the way, I collected a picture of a new sign for my Animal Crossings collection.

When we got to the airport, we had just enough time to check in and get on the plane. The trip home stopped in Las Vegas, so the plane was full of rowdy people on their way to a weekend of debauchery. I also got to do a bit of atomic tourism on the way. We got a view out the plane window of Frenchman Flat at the Nevada Test Site. This was the site of the 1957 “Priscilla” test, where the AEC built a town out on the dry lake bed and then nuked it with a 37kiloton bomb.

After the stop on Las Vegas, we continued on to Ontario, passing over the Solar One power plant near Barstow. It didn’t look like it was operating at the time.

Finally, we stopped off at the kennel on the way home to spring the dogs.

All in all, it was a fun trip.


Note to self…

Filed under: — stan @ 1:38 pm

Loading the sound drivers in FreeBSD:

kldload sound
kldload snd_driver

The computer then has a petit mal seizure for about 10 seconds while it loads the sound drivers. After that the sound system is ready to use.


Net-less Vacation

Filed under: — stan @ 8:42 am

We’re off to Lake Tahoe for a week at Grandpa’s vacation house. We’ve got Lucinda’s kickboard and goggles so we can go to the pool and she can show us all that she learned in swimming lessons this summer. We’re going to do the little hike up to Cascade Falls. And I’ve still got the phone number of our favorite restaurant saved in my phone. Sadly, I’ll be without Net access for the week. But I’ll have pictures and such when we get back.


40 miles for a bagel

Filed under: — stan @ 8:40 pm

Today’s ride was out to San Dimas to the bagel place there. The day was overcast and cool, which was kind of a nice change from the heat we’ve been having recently.

We rode out the usual route on Arrow Highway and then went down Barranca to Cypress and out to Lone Hill. We stopped for a snack at the Bagelry there. Then we took Gladstone Foothill back to Duarte. In Azusa I saw what looked very much like a little Stonehenge next to the Sav-On there.

Continuing on through Duarte, we passed the ‘nun crossing‘ sign that I found last week. I noticed that there is a church across the street, so perhaps that’s why the sign is there.

In Arcadia, Steve, Newton and Spencer continued on Foothill for no apparent reason. I followed the route slip and turned up Highland Oaks. Liz decided that she didn’t feel like doing the climb up to Grand View, so she turned off at Orange Grove. So I continued on up the hill. I took a little detour up Santa Anita to see if the sign on the Chantry Flats road said when it would be open again. Then I rode across Sierra Madre on Grand View Ave.

Back in Pasadena, I turned off on New York Dr and took that up into Altadena. I took Mendocino across all the way to Fair Oaks, and then went north a bit and took Mariposa back. At Lake and Mariposa, I passed the ‘Websters Universe’. Webster’s Liquor, Gifts, Pharmacy, Toys, and Office Supplies. All in a line of five adjacent stores.

Across the street from there was the Underground Arts Society, which has nice artists’ receptions at the beginning of each month.

From there, I took my usual back-street route home.

51 miles.


Last day as the accidental bachelor

Filed under: — stan @ 10:18 pm

A quick wrap-up of the last few days of my accidental-bachelorhood:

Sunday night, I had dinner with my uncle (if you look at the picture, he’s standing second from the right) and his family. We went to NBC Seafood in Monterey Park for a Chinese feast. It was fun. When we were leaving the restaurant, the Moon and Venus were up in the sky and very close together. So I propped my camera up on a pole and took a picture.

There is a church down the street that has a banner up advertising the “Gospel of the Simpsons”. It sounds funny, although not quite funny enough to get me to actually go to a church. But I think it may be significant that this is the same church that staked out their Rose Parade viewing area in front of the local gay bar last New Year’s Day.

And since today was my last family-less day, I went for another bike ride after work. I wore my Mark II homemade jersey to test it out. On the way home from work I remembered something I’d forgotten to do before I left, so I rode back to the office by the long, scenic way. Then I rode down through San Marino, passing Lacy Park. The little hill in the picture is the scarp of the Raymond Fault where it passes through San Marino.

After that, I rode across South Pasadena and then up to the Rose Bowl. I went around the Bowl twice, and then did the usual route home up by JPL. It was a pleasant ride.

26 miles today. The grand total for the week, including riding to work, is 269 miles. That’s pretty good. Back in my racing days there were weeks where I did 450 miles, but my average in those days was around 300. So it was a fun week, but I’m still looking forward to having a family again.


More adventures of the accidental bachelor

Filed under: — stan @ 12:47 pm

Years ago when I was a bike racer and dinosaurs roamed the earth I had a big wardrobe of bike clothes. Wild prints with bright colors, Egyptian temples, airplanes and all manner of things. They were all homemade by my mother, who liked to sew as a hobby. Now, nearly 30 years later, I only have a few of the old things left. Most wore out over the years.

So I decided to try a project for this week while the family is gone. I was going to learn to sew. Bike clothes are expensive. Also, I’d hate to be yet another bike rider wearing some team’s jersey that I have no connection with. Also, I want something that’s unique. So it’s time for a new adventure.

I’m not a total stranger to sewing. Back in 1991 when we first got Cosmo, I made a couple of dog beds for her. I made them myself because the one we bought at Petsmart didn’t fit right in the box I’d made, so I made two pillows and covers to fit exactly.

I have one homemade jersey from 1978 that’s still in good condition and fits correctly, so started there. I went to Jo-Ann Fabric and picked out a bright knit print. It has little planets and arrows that say “Planet Fun” on it. I got a big sheet of paper and laid it out on the floor to make a pattern to copy the basic design. I cut out a pattern and then cut the four main pieces.

I sewed the front and back pieces together and tried it on. It was too small. Crap. Fortunately, I’d anticipated some false starts. So I adjusted the pattern and re-cut the pieces. This time it fit properly. I sewed the sleeves on and then I put the collar and sleeve cuffs on. I made a mental note to sew the sleeve cuffs on first next time, since it was hard to do with the sleeve already attached. I put the zipper in the collar, which turned out to be much harder than it seemed like it should have been. I made another mental note to not sew the sides of the body together first next time. Then I made the pockets for the back. I put some elastic in and attached them to the back of the jersey. At this point I realized again that assembling the front and back parts first was a mistake. But in the end, I had a functional and comfortable, if not perfectly aesthetic, bike jersey. I wore it for the ride to Carbon Canyon last Saturday as my ‘proof of concept’.

So yesterday I set out to make another. I used the same fabric, since I really like the print. I made so many mistakes the first time, I wanted to make one with that fabric that is better-looking. So now my Mark II is almost finished. It came out much nicer than the first one. So I’ll probably be visiting more fabric stores in the future, especially when fall comes and it gets colder.


Glendale hills

Filed under: — stan @ 10:58 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was the hilly Glendale route that Gene came up with a few months ago. It’s a nice ride, but I’m still tired from yesterday’s ride, so the prospect of more hills was not as exciting as it usually is.

We started out going straight up Altadena Drive, which is a pretty good hill in itself. At the top, we came down Windsor Rd across the arroyo from JPL, and then we headed up into La Cañada. We passed the old fire station house and I noticed that there were little flame sculptures along the wall, so I got a picture.

At the top of the hill, we rode through the section where the road is closed due to a small landslide last winter. Then we went down the other side into Glendale.

From there, we went into the hill areas of Glendale on the south face of the Verdugo Hills. This area looks and feels just like the Hollywood Hills, but the roads are better. I guess Glendale has more money than Los Angeles for street repair. It was on one of these little roads back in a canyon where Tommy got a flat and became the latest entry in the Flat Tire Gallery.

Coming down out of the hills, we rode a bit along the base of the hills, and then down to Glenoaks Blvd. We took Glenoaks back to Paradise Bakery, where we stopped for a snack.

While we were sitting there, we noticed that Steve and Tommy were missing. They had been with us at the last turn, which was just a couple of miles back. We were just about to go look for them when they rode up and said that Tommy had had a second flat. Of course I was mortified that I’d missed being there to take a picture.

After the stop, we headed back across Glendale and up Chevy Chase. Then we turned off on Linda Vista and rode up over the hill. We stopped briefly at the top, since there was a bit of shade there. Then we rode down the hill to the Rose Bowl. At the Bowl, we took Washington and Lincoln back to Orange Grove, and then back to the park.

42 miles

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