Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Newton’s Nemesis

Filed under: — stan @ 10:06 pm

Route map

Update: Here is the ride profile

Today’s ride was Gene’s “Newton’s Nemesis” ride, which is a ride up and down the canyons above Sierra Madre, Arcadia, and Monrovia. It’s not a super-long ride, but it’s hard. Newton is the hillclimber in our group, so Gene made this route just so that he would have a chance to show us just how good he is at it.

We started out from Victory Park. Only one guy drove his car there, but then he realized that he couldn’t park there today because of the preparations for the Rose Parade. So he had to move his car, and Gene brought his bike along. Then we started the ride, heading east up Sierra Madre Blvd. We passed the area set up for the post-parade float viewing. Then we turned left at Michillinda and headed up the hill.

The first canyon climb was up above Sierra Madre. It went up a steep hill in a canyon, making a loop and coming out on the same street where we started. Then we rode down Mountain Trail almost to the freeway before heading east a little more to get to Santa Anita. Then we turned left, up the hill again.

Climbing up Santa Anita, we rode up another steep canyon road there. This was probably the hardest climb on the ride. I had to say ‘uncle’ and shift there. Then, when we got to the top, we came back down, ending up on Highland Oaks and Foothill.

Going left on Foothill, we crossed into Monrovia. Usually we ride across on Hillcrest, but this time, we rode up yet another steep canyon. Here, we saw three deer snoozing on someone’s front lawn. They were ignoring us until I stopped to take pictures. Then they got up and left.

On the last canyon climb I had a little laugh about the cars I saw parked in front of one of the houses. When you put a cover on a car, nobody can see what kind of car it is, so it no longer functions as a status symbol. Unless you’re this guy and you get car covers with “BMW” printed on them. Then you can prevent sun damage and still make sure everyone knows you have a BMW. Of course, I didn’t peek under the cover to see if maybe it was really a Hyundai or something under there…

After the last canyon, we rode out through Duarte and took the San Gabriel River bike path up to the mouth of the canyon above Azusa. Then we went south through Azusa and back west to Monrovia, where we stopped for a snack at Planet Cookies. It was pretty good. Then we rode home.

I rode part-way across Pasadena with Vikki just to see the masses of people who were already camping out along the Rose Parade route. I think they’re nuts. But that’s just me.

47 miles.


Skeptics lunch

Filed under: — stan @ 6:03 pm

Back when I first got on the Internet in 1991, it was a different place than it is today. It was pretty much all text-based, and mailing lists were a big deal. I got hold of the master list of mailing lists and I was looking through it to see what looked interesting. Along the way, I saw a list called Skeptic, which was about discussion and debunking of the paranormal. I think that sort of thing is a grand old time, so I signed up. And I’ve been on that list ever since.

There’s not always all that much on-topic discussion there, but it’s still a good time for socializing. So when Wade from Boston said he was going to be visiting Los Angeles for the holidays this year, the local listmembers made a point to arrange a gathering.

There were seven of us there today. It was a fun time, with stories about traveling to strange parts of the world, looking at some of Dave’s photos, and of course Magic Dave pulling out his cards and doing tricks. One of the tricks even involved a deck of ESP test cards. We all know there’s no such thing as ESP, but it was still a good trick.

Overall, it was a fun time.

In the pictures:
1. Dave and his cards.
2. Scott W.
3. Dave doing his mindreader trick: “Your card is named Phil”
4. “Feeling the vibrations”
5. ESP test cards
6. Dave and Wade doing the card and yarn trick
7. Dave’s card finale
8. Scott W., GJ, Ben, Scott P., Stan,Dave, Wade


Filed under: — stan @ 4:56 pm

…or why you should not automatically follow directions from Google Maps.

I was going down to Huntington Beach today to meet my friends from the Skeptics mailing list, so I asked Google how to get there. I mostly wanted to know how far it was. I used to live around there, so I pretty much knew how to get off the freeway to get on Beach Blvd.

When I saw the directions, there was a funny bit at the end, so I zoomed the map in to see. WTF? How and why is that more direct than just taking the ramp down to Center Ave, taking a left and then right on Beach? WTF?


And then there was one

Filed under: — stan @ 10:25 pm

It occurred to me today that I’ve never written anything about Ripley. She’s the ‘forgotton middle child’ of our dogs. We got her back in 1995 when we first moved to this house. She’s a corgi/cocker mix, and she’s the sweetest and mellowest dog we’ve ever had. When she first came to live with us, she decided that she was my dog. I don’t know why, but she picked me. And before we had Lucinda, Ripley was the ‘practice baby’ for me to hold.

Ripley is easily the best-behaved dog. She’s never been a problem in any way. Her only remarkable ability is her eye/snout coordination. She can snap dropped food right out the air before it hits the floor. Sometimes she even catches flies right out of the air and eats them.

Ripley has never been an ‘only dog’, but it looks like she’s going to have to be the only one for a while now.


Goodbye Bella

Filed under: — stan @ 11:38 pm

Our little puppy Bella died last night. We have no idea what happened to her, but yesterday morning Cathy found her burrowed into the cushions of the couch. She was alive, but comatose. Cathy took her to the emergency vet and they said that she appeared to be suffering from liver failure.

When our regular vet opened, Cathy took Bella up there, and they put her on an IV to help her blood pressure and they confirmed the diagnosis. They said that it looked like she had eaten something that poisoned her. They kept her there overnight, but they said that there wasn’t really anything they could do. She would either recover or die. And she died last night.

We’re all very sad about this. Bella was a sweet and loving dog, and we’re going to miss her a lot.

When Cathy took Bella to the vet, Lucinda told us that she didn’t want to talk about it, so she doesn’t know yet that Bella died. We think she probably knows on some level, but she just can’t deal with it yet.

This is a very sad day for us.


Our annual report

Filed under: — stan @ 11:14 am

Corporations put out an annual report. We put out our holiday letter. I always see lots of hits in the server logs around this time of year from searches on “Christmas letters”. So just in case you’re curious, here’s the condensed version of our year.



Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

Today’s bike ride was my old ‘Lake Hollywood’ route. Gene convinced the club to do it as a regular Saturday ride. So I had to go along, if for no other reason than to see the looks on everyone’s faces when they saw the hill up to the Hollywood Sign.

It was a sunny day. A bit chilly by SoCal standards, but nice.

We started out from Victory Park in Pasadena and headed west. On Yosemite Dr in Eagle Rock, we had to stop because Sandy got a flat. I whipped out my camera and took a picture for the Flat Tire Gallery. Then we continued on down to the L.A. River and across into Los Feliz and Silver Lake.

The Shakespeare Bridge was decorated for the holidays. Then from there we rode Franklin Ave across Hollywood. At Beachwood, we turned right and headed up the hill. This is the street that goes almost directly up toward the Hollywood sign. We rode up to the stone gate that marks the entrance to the old Hollywoodland development, and then we turned left on Belden Dr. At this point I told everyone, “You may or may not spot any celebrities around here, but by the time you get to the top of this hill you’ll be seeing stars.”

Belden Dr climbs up the west side of Beachwood Canyon, and it’s pretty steep in places. Probably around 15% or so. Then we turned on Flagmoor and it got even steeper. When we crested the hill we were all panting with the exertion. Somehow, I managed to make the hill without having to shift out of my Stupid Gear that I usually ride up hills. It’s a 39×17, and I stubbornly insist that it’s a fine hillclimbing gear.

Passing Wolf’s Lair Castle at the top of the hill, we rode up to Mulholland Dr. We stopped there to regroup, and I took the little side trip up Mulholland to just below the Hollywood Sign. Then we all headed down the hill, past Lake Hollywood, and then up one more groaner of a hill to get to Wonder View. I took out my camera to get a picture of the view of the Hollywood Reservoir and downtown Los Angeles. Then we headed down the hill into Burbank.

The snack stop was at Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake. I had the requisite bagel and orange juice. Then we headed back by way of Griffith Park and into Glendale. I snapped a couple of pictures as we passed by the Dreamworks offices. Then we took Glenoaks across all the way to Chevy Chase, including the short but steep hill at the end.

Turning left on Chevy Chase, we headed up the hill. We went right on Linda Vista and up to the crest of the hill. That was where Figueroa St crosses, and I noticed that the sign was misspelled. It said ‘Figueora’. Heh.

We rode down Lida into Pasadena, riding around the Rose Bowl and stopping to peek into the big tent where the are building the floats for next week’s parade. Then we took Orange Grove back to the park.

It was a very pleasant ride.

43 miles.

My old hunting dog

Filed under: — stan @ 12:12 am

This is the story of the resurrection of my old racing bike. The frame broke from metal fatigue about two years ago. When it broke, it was like losing my old hunting dog. I wanted to get it fixed because this bike and I have a great history together.

I rode this bike for 29 years. I made Category 2 on it. I rode up Mt Washington on it. I even rode it through Death Valley. And I was on it for my greatest ride ever.

So here is the story of my old bike.

Back in 1977, I was a USCF Junior racer, and I rode with the North Jersey Bicycle Club. We had the good fortune to be coached for a year by Eddie Borysewicz. He had just moved to the U.S. the previous fall after coaching the Polish Olympic team in the ‘76 Montreal Olympics. He was missing being involved in bike racing, so he asked a local bike shop where he could find a racing club, and he showed up at one of our meetings. He agreed to coach us for a year to get back into it, and it was a great experience for all of us.

In our early-season training camps, he noticed that I was sitting kind of strangely on my bike. He decided that because of my build, I should have a frame with a special geometry, and he sketched it out for our club’s framebuilder. At the time, most of the riders in our club rode frames built by Pepe Limongi, but I couldn’t afford his work. But he had an understudy who was learning framebuilding, and he fit my budget. His name was Cuevas, and he later went on to great acclaim as a framebuilder.

So I wanted to get my bike fixed. After some searching, I found Bill Rider, who is a framebuilder here in the L.A. area. I contacted him and inquired about fixing my frame. He said that he could do it, and he came and picked it up. The first photo shows the frame after I stripped it down. The second shows a closeup of the fatigue crack. Bill had to replace both the top and down tubes. The top tube was pitted with rust. The last photo shows the bike after I reassembled it. We tried to duplicate the original color. Overall, he did a very nice job.

So now I can ride Old School again.


Still more stuff I see while riding my bike

Filed under: — stan @ 8:39 pm

I saw this on my way home from work today. Sadly, my Canon’s batteries were dead, so we have just a crappy camera-phone picture. But still, we can look and wonder, “what the hell is that?”


Glendora Mountain

Filed under: — stan @ 2:37 pm

Route map and photo locations

The weather forecast for Sunday looked grim by SoCal standards, so I went riding today. Vikki had organized a ride with some of her triathlon friends to go up Glendora Mountain Road. It was cool and overcast. The forecast was for rain, starting in the afternoon.

The ride started at Encanto Park in Duarte. I’m a firm believer in not driving my car to go to a bike ride, so I rode out there to meet them. Along the way, I saw the Sierra Madre Rose Parade float. They were moving it somewhere, so I passed it as it was driving slowly down Sierra Madre Blvd.

When I got to Encanto Park, everyone was there and almost ready to go. After some introductions and chat, we started out on the ride to Glendora. We had to take a detour around some construction on Sierra Madre Blvd, but soon we go to Glendora Mountain Road. The road is closed to cars, and we had to lift our bikes over the gate to get through. But then it was nice and quiet.

Once we hit the hill, the group broke up. A couple of faster guys went ahead, and I ended up riding with Christina. She told me about riding the leg of the Furnace Creek 508 that climbed Townes Pass into Death Valley. That made for a good story.

On the way up the hill, we passed a group of road-luge guys who were walking up the hill. Then a little later we saw a guy with a bike who was carrying a big broom and stopping to sweep sand and mud off the road. We were almost to the top of the hill when it began to rain in earnest. At that point I said ‘uncle’ and turned around. I passed the rest of the group who were still going up, and I rode back down into Glendora.

It rained on me all the way back down the mountain, which was extraordinarily unpleasant. It was cold and wet. Yick. When I got to the bottom and had to start pedaling again, my knees hurt from the cold. I was wearing a piece of bubble wrap under my jersey as a Hoover Blanket. Bubble wrap is a great insulator. I pulled it out and tore it in two. Then I wrapped a piece around each knee. My tights held the bubble wrap in place. And then my knees were warm and comfy again.

I continued on, but it was quickly apparent that I needed the Hoover Blanket to stay warm. So I started looking for something to use. Finally, I found a temporary ‘No Parking’ sign that was lying on the sidewalk. I brushed the dirt off of it and put it under my jersey. Then things were good again.

I snapped a picture of a bus-shelter ad for a Christian credit union. I thought that was funny. But I guess that they’d be good to borrow from, since they probably would have reasonable interest rates.

In Monrovia, I met up with a guy who had the same bike as mine. He was the first person I’ve ever seen riding the same bike, and we both agreed that it was a great bike and a great value. He was going a good speed, so we rode together all the way back to Pasadena, and I told him about the regular Sunday ride, since I think he’d enjoy riding with that group.

Overall, it was a pretty good ride, aside from the part riding down the mountain in the rain.

52 miles.

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