Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Noodling around for real this time

Filed under: — stan @ 6:01 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was titled “Just Noodling – 1″. Apparently it’s the first in a series.

We started out going east for a bit to Michillinda, and then south to Huntington. Then we rode all the way into El Sereno before turning off onto a little side street. Then we went up a steep hill. On the way down the other side, that was where I saw “The Bowman”. At the bottom, we took a right and rode up an even steeper hill. I almost said ‘uncle’ and shifted to a lower gear, but Gene said that there was an even steeper hill coming up later, so I didn’t want to spoil the fun.

At the top, we stopped to catch our breath for a minute before taking in a nice long, winding downhill that came out at the bottom right by the Pasadena Freeway and the Audubon center at Debs Park. Then we took a little side trip up the street there to see a giant dragonfly sculpture before doubling back and getting on the Arroyo Seco bike path.

The bike path entrances are blocked by metal pipe hurdles. I guess that keeps people with motorcycles out, but it meant that we had to do a bike portage. They were a little too tall to bunny-hop over. Then when we got on the path, it was very pleasant, although it was a bit weird to be riding bikes in a river bed. We rode for a bit and then portaged off the path at Hermon Park.

There was a dog park there, and adding an Only-in-L.A. touch, there were posters for a dog film festival. “Sit. Stay. Roll Film.” We also were amused by the separate ‘Small/Shy Dog’ area of the dog park.

Leaving the park, we rode over a series of the nastiest speed bumps ever before coming out at Monterey Road. We went right, up a hill. That was where Makoto and I got lost. We missed a turn and ended up back down on Huntington. So we had to turn around and go back, and then ride up Via Marisol up and over the hill, only to end up back at Monterey Road again.

Then we went right again and went up another nice, steep hill. Again, I almost said ‘uncle’ and shifted, but Gene still said the worst was yet to come. At the top, we crossed into South Pasadena and went down a big hill. At the bottom, we started up another hill, and Gene said that this was the hill we’d been waiting for. But it wasn’t steeper than the others. The only bad thing about it was that there was no shade, and it was pretty hot by this time. But aside from that, it was fine. At the top, we saw some funny lawn sculptures and the South Pasadena water tower. Then we headed down the hill.

At the bottom we came out on Monterey Road again. I think there was probably an easier way to get there, but hey. We do this because it’s fun.

We went on Monterey a bit to get into South Pasadena, were we stopped at the little coffee shop that has the Twinkies on the counter. Today they had bothTwinkies andDing Dongs there. I got a bagel. While we were sitting there, another couple rode in and we were looking at the woman’s bike. It was a little bike. She said she is 4′ 11″ and the bike has an extra-small frame with 650 wheels instead of the usual 700. It looked correctly proportioned, but the chainrings looked kind of big on it.

The rest of the ride home was Gene’s route across San Marino. When we got to Huntington, I took off and rode out to Monrovia just to add a little more distance. When I got to Shamrock Ave I stopped and got a picture of the antique gas station there. The pump price was 33 1/2 cents per gallon, which is about a 1970 price.

The rest of the ride home was the standard route across Sierra Madre. When I got home, I had 49.3 miles, so I rode around the block a couple of times just to get to 50. It was a nice ride.

50 miles.

Addendum: Here’s a profile of the route, as recorded by Newton’s very fancy bike computer.


Bitus ad Infinitum

Filed under: — stan @ 11:45 pm

Yesterday and today there was some filming on campus at Caltech. There seems to be some sort of shark theme. I saw a cart with four fiberglass shark fins on it, and I also saw some people wearing plush shark costumes. This seemed a bit strange, so I brought my camera today. On my way in this morning, I saw a sign on the lawn for “Bight University”, with two sharks on it and a faux-Latin motto. They were set up and filming on the bridge over the pool by the library. I also saw a guy walking around in a shark costume. I have no idea what this is all about, but it looks pretty silly.

Cold War Memories

Filed under: — stan @ 1:08 pm

The other day, Paul Roberts stopped by my office to visit. Paul worked at the Seismo Lab for many years before he retired to pursue a new career as a teacher. Over the years, he has found lots of great Cold War memoriabilia. And this time he brought me a small stack of civil defense booklets from about 1960. So they have joined our collection.

I scanned in two items so far. The first is a collection of newspaper articles from the late ’50s that were reprinted in a 1960 booklet titled “Can We Survive an Atomic War?”. It provides an optimistic view that the United States could survive a nuclear war with only about 160 million deaths, tops. Given that the total population of the U.S. was only 179 million in 1960, this doesn’t sound all that optimistic. They also note:

Of course, even if you lived safely through the H-bomb attack…your troubles would just be beginning.

Yup. Got that.

The second item is a cheery little pamphlet from 1958 called “Facts about Fallout Protection”. It tells the basics about what fallout is, and what sort of shelter is necessary for protection. It doesn’t talk too much about the specifics how how to make a shelter, but it does mention that “Your family’s favorite canned foods can be a morale lifter” when you’re hunkered down in there.

So enjoy the fond memories. I’ll post more when I get around to scanning the other booklets.


Black is back

Filed under: — stan @ 12:07 pm

Some years ago, I wrote up a little page about the alleged General Motors conspiracy to replace streetcars with buses and force people to buy automobiles. I came to the conclusion that this is a myth. I don’t claim to be a real historian. I just summarize the story and provide links to the sources that I read.

I was recently contacted by a writer named Edwin Black, who is writing a book that deals at least in part with this story. Mr. Black is apparently a fervent believer in the conspiracy story. He asked to talk to me about this story and why I believe it is a myth. He then spent about an hour haranguing me over the phone. It appears to me that he is one who sees conspiracy everywhere. I wrote up a report about this. Mr Black recently found it and left some comments. The funny thing is, if you read the comments that he left on my post, it seems to me their tone almost exactly matches his phone demeanor. It’s the same harangue all over again, and it only reinforces my impression that Mr. Black is a crank and a bully:

  • “Your report about our phone call is almost a complete fabrication.”
  • “you have not examined any of the court documents”
  • “your reporting of our conversation is [a] fairy tale”

If I’d known that this was going to happen, I would have recorded the conversation. Although I’m hesitant to call it a ‘conversation’. The term ‘extended harangue’ seems more fitting. I stand by everything I wrote, but neither of us can prove what was actually said.

I went looking to see if anyone else has had a similar experience with Mr. Black. Roderick Long wrote a review of Mr. Black’s book War Against the Weak and found himself being verbally attacked by Mr. Black. Mr Long writes:

“This past weekend I received a very strange email from the author, distorting the content of my review and accusing me of being part of some sort of conspiracy to defame him.”

He posted the message and his rebuttal for us to see.

The choice bit:

“There has been no defamation by me of Spencer – only a defamation of me by you… Now kindly remove all such references from the Internet, cease your campaign of falsity, and spread the word amongst your colleagues that I know the true definition of defamation, libel and slander.”

Sound familiar?

And perusing reviews of some of his other books, it seems that I’m not the only one who gets the impression that he tends to be a bit over-the-top. Here are some reviews of his book IBM and the Holocaust, in which he posits that IBM was not just complicit, but actually aided in the Holocaust:

“…he often tells his story not in the subtle hues of genuine scholarship but in the Day-Glo paint of the potboiler”

“Struggling to force his evidence into a box in which it does not fit, Black ratchets up his rhetoric”

“…inflated and pompous rhetoric that characterizes the entire text”

“Black relies extensively upon the careful research of Aly and Roth but consistently ignores any evidence that contradicts his own argument.”

“To Black, however, an IBM conspiracy is omnipresent. After a negative review… He demanded a retraction and then set forth the following calumny: ‘Does Mr. Hayes personally know of anyone who has reviewed my book for any publication who has taken money for historical consultation from Nazi companies involved in concentration camps, or their defense attorneys? If so, the names of these Nazi-era corporate clients should be disclosed in any of these reviewers’ author blurbs’”

“Rather than an astounding work of scholarly research and intellectual courage, IBM and the Holocaust is the product of a somewhat fevered brain.”

Anyway, I’m trying to just be amused by this whole thing. I’ve had encounters with cranks before, and my advice to Mr. Black would be that if you don’t want to be thought of as a crank, the first step is to stop acting like one.


Lida at Lunchtime

Filed under: — stan @ 8:12 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride at lunchtime was a short jaunt up into La Cañada by way of the Rose Bowl and Lida St.

We started out taking Union St west through Old Town. Then we went down Rosemont to the Rose Bowl and rode half of the route around it. On the far side, we went up the hill and got on Lida St, which we took all the way up the hill to Figueroa, where we went right. That was where we saw the sign for “Rock Slide Ahead”. That added a nice wild touch to a ride in the city.

Coming out on Chevy Chase, we went down the hill to Berkshire, and then went right to head back by JPL. We took a left at Windsor, where we stopped briefly to admire the fiberglass cow and the goose decoys. Then we took Ventura, Harriet, and Mendocino back across Pasadena.

At this point we were pretty high up on the alluvial fan of the San Gabriels, and so it was downhill all the way back to the office. We took Holliston down to Mountain, and then Wilson the rest of the way back. It was a very pleasant ride.

On the way home from work, I got a flat. It was a stupid flat, and very likely the stupidest flat I’ve ever gotten in over 30 years of cycling. There was a broken toilet in the underpass under the freeway, and my back tire just bumped into a small piece of it. Toilets are made from vitreous china, where vitreous is a $10 word that means glass-like. But I’d never stopped to think of the implications of that. That shards of broken toilet on the road could slice my tire open like a gutted bass.

Since I was by myself, I had to perch the camera on top of my backpack to take the required picture for the Flat Tire Gallery. Then I fixed the tire and finished riding home. I still can’t believe I got a flat from hitting a piece of a broken toilet. Sheesh.

18 miles at lunch, 26 for the day.
And one flat tire.


Gay Pride

Filed under: — stan @ 10:20 pm

Today we went out to West Hollywood for the Los Angeles Gay Pride Festival. Cathy and I believe that it’s important to expose our child to all kinds of culture, and also that it’s good for the soul for us to be in the minority from time to time. And besides, it’s just a lot of fun.

It was a perfect day, sunny, with a cool breeze. There were seagulls splashing in the fountains at the Pacific Design Center. When we got there, the parade had just ended, and there was a big crowd already. The outdoor dance floors were packed, and the thumping disco beat was all-pervasive.

They had lots and lots of food and drink booths. A few people were a little blotto, and we saw one man heaving in the gutter late in the afternoon, but overall it was a well-behaved crowd. There were booths selling real estate and gay-themed vacations. There was even a booth for a sperm bank marketing its services to lesbians who want children. It was all very cute in a weird sort of way.

We wandered around and took in the sights. Lucinda got a couple of beach balls, some balloons, and some other little trinkets. As always, it’s good to be a cute kid. She also enjoyed seeing all the costumes there. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were there and dressed in their usual outrageous costumes. Lucinda was wondering where they get their shoes, so we told her about the stores that cater to the drag queens. She also got to see boy-couples and girl-couples walking hand-in-hand and kissing under the trees, so it was truly something we don’t usually see in Pasadena.

And yes, there is perhaps no sadder and lonelier sight than the Gay Republicans’ booth. They are there every year, and every year they get ignored.

Toluca Lake and a stop at a race

Filed under: — stan @ 6:59 pm

Today’s ride was the classic Toluca Lake ride, with a stop at Bicycle John’s race in Glendale on the way back.

We started out going south on Sierra Madre into San Marino. Then we got on Monterey Road to go across South Pasadena into Highland Park. We took Ave 60 across to Figueroa.

As we were going down Figueroa, I saw a sign for “FUD”. My first thought was something like, “I didn’t know Microsoft was in the food business”. But no, it’s not that kind of FUD.

After Ave 50 and El Paso Dr, we ended up on Eagle Rock Blvd to get to Ave 36 and Fletcher. We passed the old Van de Kamp’s bakery. I noticed that the sign on the front said “Holland Dutch Bakery”. I suppose that’s to eliminate possible confusion with the Pennsylvania Dutch or perhaps Von Dutch. Yeah.

After crossing the Los Angeles River, we got on the bike path. This is the stretch where we always go very fast for no discernable reason. And today was no exception. I actually had to shift to a bigger gear to keep up. We rode all the way to where the path ends at Riverside.

Crossing the freeway, we got on Zoo Dr and rode through Griffith Park to Forest Lawn and into Burbank. We turned right at Barham and passed by Warner Bros, and then we stopped at Priscilla’s. As always, they have the best fresh-squeezed orange juice there. It’s definitely worth the extra $0.25 to get the large, and if they offered ‘Super-Size’ I’d even get that.

After the stop, we headed back on Riverside Drive past the equestrian center. Then we stopped off at Bicycle John’s race in Glendale. We went to see this race two years ago, too. When we got there, it was the Masters 35-39 group racing. I had brought along an extra $20 bill to donate as a prime. This time I made sure I had fresh batteries in my camera so I could get a picture of the riders sprinting for the prize. And it was a pretty good sprint. When I was a racer, I liked it when people donated primes for races, so I figure that I’ll do my part now that I’m older and have more money.

After watching the race for a bit, we left and headed back across Glendale. We took a southern route so we could pass by and see the sign at Hammered Liquor. Then we went down Verdugo to Eagle Rock Blvd again and headed home across South Pasadena and San Marino.

It was a nice ride.

45 miles.


An island adventure

Filed under: — stan @ 7:51 pm

Today we went out to San Dimas Canyon Nature Center Ho’olaule’a. The reason we were there was because Aunt Maggi’s church group was going to be doing a hula performance there. Hula for Jebus. It was an interesting thing. Hula as a vehicle for proselytization was just not something I’d ever thought of before, but apparently they are having fun doing it.

After the hula show, we went for lunch. On the way there, I saw the display of T-shirts about Spam, and I remembered that Hawaiians eat a lot of Spam. So I decided to get something made with Spam. But when we got to the food booths, the one place that had the Spam musubi was sold out. But they said that they had sent someone to get more Spam, and they would have it soon.

So we got a barbecued chicken and pork plate and shared it, while I watched for the Spam to arrive. When I saw them hoist the menu, I went over, and they were already selling them. It was basically like a large sushi made with Spam. The block of rice was about the size of a bar of soap with a slab of grilled Spam on top, and it was wrapped in seaweed. I got two. Yum.

On the way back, I stopped by and bought one of the “I (heart) Spam” shirts. I needed to have it. Another booth had a whole line of shirts that said “I Don’t Speak Spanish. I’m Hawaiian/Tongan/Samoan/etc”. This was something I could relate to. I’ve been mistaken for Mexican many times, and I even managed to pass as Mexican when I went to Mazatlan in 1984. But they didn’t have a shirt that said “I Don’t Speak Spanish. I’m half-Chinese and grew up in New Jersey”.

After lunch, Lucinda, Cathy, and Aunt Maggi went shopping at the booths there. I found a shady spot and sat down. They bought some necklaces and flower hair clips. All very cute. It was a fun time.



Filed under: — stan @ 8:45 pm

Yes, we have wildlife here in Pasadena. Today, on my way into work, I saw a big frog by one of the ponds at Caltech. There are lots of them in the ponds, but it’s fairly rare for the really big ones to come out of the water, and it’s even rarer to get one that is mellow enough to get close to.

My second wildlife encounter was on the way to Lucinda’s school for the music program. There was a skunk on Sierra Madre Blvd. I have a book called Flattened Fauna: A Field Guide to Common Animals of Roads, Streets, and Highways. It has illustrations showing how most of the common animals of North America look when flattened by cars. And this skunk was a textbook example. Perfect ventral presentation, completely flattened into the pavement, with only its tail fur still retaining a third dimension.



Filed under: — stan @ 9:00 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today’s lunchtime ride was a sightseeing trip over to Glendale. I saw a picture on Franklin Avenue of what has to be the best liquor-store-name ever: Hammered Liquor. So this was our destination for today.

We started out going up to Union St and taking that through Old Town, and then Colorado across the bridge and down into Eagle Rock. A right on Figueroa brought us up the hill, where we took the quiet way across Eagle Rock.

Coming back down onto the busy streets, we took Wilson over to Chevy Chase, and then right on Maple. And then, at the corner of Maple and Glendale, there it was:

Hammered Liquor

Hammered Liquor Store. I got out my camera and snapped a couple of pictures.

Continuing on, we made a little loop through Glendale and headed back towards Eagle Rock. We had to ride on Colorado for a few blocks to get across the 2 freeway, but then we took Yosemite across to Figueroa.

On the way back, we tried a new route variation. Instead of going up the long hill on Colorado, or up the steep hill on La Loma, we took a left on Brixton. The map showed that this came out at the top of the Colorado hill, but gave no indication of what the trip would be like. It turned out to be a nice quiet residential street. But the Law of Conservation of Hills required that we climb a bit. Instead of the long Colorado hill, we had two short, but very steep pitches. I don’t know how steep they were, but I almost had to shift out of my 39×17. But it was nice to come out at the top of the big hill.

When we crossed back over the bridge, I took a couple more pictures. Then the last part of the ride was back across Pasadena on Green St and then back to the office.

18 miles at lunch, 27 for the day.

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