Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Walt’s for 21

Filed under: — stan @ 10:04 pm

Saturday afternoon, we all went down to Seal Beach. The occasion was the 21st anniversary of our first date. So we always go back to Walt’s Wharf to reminisce and marvel about how half the people working there now weren’t even born when we first went there.

They don’t take reservations for dinner, so we went down early. It was a nice day, so we figured we would put our name on the list and walk down to the beach for a while.

When we got to the beach, we saw the usual wildlife there. I got a nice shot of a wading bird in the surf. Lucinda wrote her name in the sand. Then we walked over to the concrete wall next to the pier. It was low tide, so we got to look at all the different shellfish clinging to the wall. That was interesting in a slightly geeky way.

On the way back to the restaurant, we stopped in a little shop that has lots of beach-theme stuff. Lucinda got a little fish fossil, and a fossil shark’s tooth. Her class has been doing a unit on fossils lately, so she wants to take them in to show.

When we went back to Walt’s, we were at the top of the list, and they gave us a table. We were upstairs, right next to the table where we sat on our first date.

After dinner, we walked back down the street to the little bakery we had passed earlier. We all got big desserts there. Yum.

And as always, we had a fun time.


Pinball mania!

Filed under: — stan @ 7:27 pm

I’ve been bemoaning that my pinball skills are kind of rusty. So this evening I went and played some more for practice. And for the first time in years, I rolled the machine over 1,000,000.

The machines from the late ’70s only registered up to 999,999 points, so it was always a goal to roll the machine over. For a while, I kept a little notebook log of every time I went over a million. That’s lost now, but I still have the little paper I taped to the machine back in 1989 when I set my personal best-ever score of 3,637,300.

Still, I was excited tonight. My final score was 1,912,210, which is not bad for being out of practice.


Suzie Q

Filed under: — stan @ 10:05 pm

While I was at the Safety Fair in Beverly Hills, Cathy called me to say that they were looking at a new dog to adopt, and they wanted me to come and meet her. So on our way back, Erik dropped me off in Burbank.

Suzie Q was a stray found living on the streets. We think she’s part Corgi and part Spaniel. She’s a small dog to begin with, and she’s pretty emaciated. She’s been in foster care for a little while, but she still needs to be fed more to bulk up. But she has a very sweet personality. And she’s not a big barker. So we all liked her from the start.

Suzie came home with us on Sunday afternoon. She’s getting along fine with Ripley, and we’re teaching her to use the dog door. Overall, we’re pretty happy to have her in our family.

Beverly Hills Redux

Filed under: — stan @ 9:54 pm

On Sunday Morning, I went out to Beverly Hills for their annual Safety Fair at the farmer’s market. I’ve been there before, and it’s usually a pretty fun time.

The people from Quake Cottage had their portable earthquake simulator there. Erik and I both rode it, and it was pretty realistic. Although I suppose when the Big One actually happens, what are the odds you’ll be sitting in a chair that’s bolted to the floor and has nice big handles to hang on to?

This year I didn’t see the gourmet tamales place there. But that was all right. I still had a nice carne asada sandwich for lunch, followed by a chocolate Nutella crepe. Yum.

And of course, we got to talk to lots of people, hand out earthquake information, and answer lots of questions. So overall it was a pretty good time.


Glendora Mountain

Filed under: — stan @ 9:32 pm

Route map

Today’s bike ride was planned to go up Glendora Mountain Road, and then down to East Fork and back out by way of Highway 39. The route map above is from the last time I went there. Today’s route was almost the same, except that we didn’t make it all the way up the mountain.

We met at Arcadia Park and headed east to Glendora. It was cool and overcast, but we thought the sun was going to come out.

In Glendora, we turned and headed up the mountain. Right away, we met up with some other riders coming down who said that the road was closed for construction about halfway up. So we just continued on, planning on going as high as we could.

Going up the mountain was nice. Kept us nice and warm. Everyone was smiles at the start, but then the group broke up. When we got to the closure, we just stopped for a minute to look at the view, and then we headed back down. For some reason, it had gotten colder since we started, and we all got kind of chilled on the way down. I had to put my Hoover Blanket back in for the descent.

When we got to the bottom, we went to the little French bakery that Gene knows in downtown Glendora. We had some snacks and sat for a bit before heading back.

The route back was straight west into Azusa, and then up Azusa Ave to the mouth of San Gabriel Canyon, where we got on the bike path and rode back down to the bridge into Duarte. Then we took the regular route home across Duarte, Monrovia, and Arcadia. When we got back to Pasadena, it was warming up a bit, and we even saw the beginnings of shadows. Of course, the sun came out right after I got home. Sheesh. Still, it was a fun ride.

50 miles.


Bikini wax

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

Today the parts I’d ordered for my pinball machine came.

I replaced the last worn-out rubber pieces and the broken target. Then I cleaned and waxed the playing field, complete with its bikini-clad girls, for the first time in years. And then I ran through the full self-test and replaced the last burned-out lights.

So now Lucinda and I can play. She’s getting quite good. She’s even learning to bump the machine. It’s very cute. She’s not strong enough to push it with her hands, so when she wants to bounce the ball, she body-slams the machine to get it to move. She’s made some impressive saves that way. I’m so proud of her.


San Dimas Race

Filed under: — stan @ 5:34 pm

Today’s ride was to go see the criterium stage of the San Dimas Stage Race. Vikki had been planning on riding in it, so we laid plans for an early start so that we could be there in time for the 8:30 start of the women’s race.

As it turned out, Vikki missed the deadline to sign up, so she wasn’t racing. But she came on the ride anyway. Along the way, she told us that we could root for Caitlin as a proxy. Caitlin rides for Claremont Colleges Cycling, which is my sentimental favorite, so this was fine by me.

It was cloudy and cool in the morning, but we all figured it would burn off when the sun came out. So we started out from the park, heading straight east through Sierra Madre and Arcadia.

After a very brisk ride to San Dimas, we got to the race just before the start. Vikki introduced us to Caitlin, and we told her we were going to cheer for her as a proxy for Vikki. She seemed to think this was pretty funny.

The race was the women’s Category 3 and 4, and it was easily the biggest women’s racing pack I’d ever seen. There were probably about 40 riders. I went up to the stand and put in a $20 prime. The second picture shows the rider who took it. She managed to stay away solo for most of the race, picking up several more primes. But she never got more than 10-15 seconds ahead of the pack, and they caught her just before the last lap. Then it was a pack sprint to the finish.

After the race was over, we stayed for just a few minutes more. It was getting colder, and the sun never did come out. I talked for a few minutes with one rather heavily-tattooed racer. We traded some tattoo stories, and I told him how my plan was that my tattoos will always be covered when I’m dressed for riding my bike.

Coming home, we took the most direct route again. It was cold, so we decided to skip the stop at the bakery in Glendora. It wouldn’t have been much fun sitting outside in the cold.

When we got back to Pasadena, the sun finally came out. But by then we were done. Still, it was a nice ride.

45 miles.


A portrait of the toady as a young man

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

So I’ve been reading a lot lately about Alberto Gonzales and the firings of the U.S. Attorneys. And I remembered that I went to college with him. I didn’t know him at the time, but we were at Rice at the same time for one year. So I dug out my 1979 yearbook to have a look at his “senior box”.

The Rice yearbook gives all graduating seniors a little space to put anything they want in the book. So here’s Alberto Gonzales’s. Note first that in those days, he went by “Al”. I guess it wasn’t considered an advantage to be ‘ethnic’ yet. His box is pretty standard. It doesn’t give a lot of insight into his character. Unless you consider ‘bland’ to be a form of character. But perhaps that’s what’s necessary to be the President’s toady.

Anyway, it’s not really significant, but I found it slightly amusing.

Adventures in recycling

Filed under: — stan @ 5:45 pm

This year, I’ve been seeing a lot of public-service ads about how the bottle deposit has gone up to 5¢. This is because recycling rates in California have stayed low. And this is largely because they have made it monumentally difficult to get the deposit back.

They passed the bottle-deposit law back in 1987. At first it was 2¢, and almost nobody bothered to recycle. This was largely because there was no place to go to get the deposit back. So they raised it to 2½¢, and still, nobody recycled. At that time, they had a few machines outside grocery stores that would take bottles and cans. For every two, the machine would spit out a nickel. But it was slow, and the machines broke down a lot.

So now it’s up to 5¢, and I decided to try and see if it might actually be possible to get the deposit back now. So I looked up where I could go. There is a recycling center at a grocery store close to my office, so I went up there at lunch with 20 plastic bottles. The place is outside the store, on the edge of the parking lot. There was an attendent and a couple of homeless people there. It’s only open from 8:30 to 4:30. It smells bad. And then they wonder why only the homeless recycle bottles. Sheesh.

They have a machine that you can feed the bottles into. It scans them and counts them, and it’s pretty fast. So I fed it my 20 bottles. The instructions said to push the button when I was done. And it spit out a voucher for $1. That I had to take inside the store.

So I went inside the store and went to the customer service counter. They said I had to wait in a regular register line. So, after waiting in line, I finally got my damn dollar.

Was it worth it? I dunno. Given that it was a nice day and I just wanted to get out of the office anyway, maybe. And I rode my bike there, so it’s not like it cost me any gas money. But no matter how you slice it, it was a huge pain in the ass.


The lure of the silver ball

Filed under: — stan @ 8:28 pm

Back in 1984, I bought a pinball machine. It was a 1979 Bally Future Spa game, and I used to play it a lot when it was in an arcade in downtown Huntington Beach. For many years, it was the weird centerpiece to my bachelor living room, as well as a piggy bank. I never removed the coin mechanism, so I fed it quarters every night. And I managed to save lots of money that way.

Several years ago, I lent it out to a friend from work. He and his wife liked pinball, and they had two young boys, too. So the machine got some good use. But over time, it broke down and gathered dust. So last weekend, they brought it back to me. And I got out the schematics and started fixing it. Over the years, I’ve fixed this machine many times. It’s where I learned about electronics.

When I first tried it, it was stone dead. Some poking with a multimeter found that the main power supply fuse was burned out. So today I stopped off at Radio Shack and got a new one. Then the machine powered on. But the backboard lights were off, and the flippers didn’t work.

Part of the legacy of the time the machine spent by the beach is that a lot of the connectors are corroded from the salt air. This has been a problem for as long as I’ve had it. So I’ve managed to compensate by just wiring things together with alligator clips to bypass the worst of the corroded connectors. And after positioning three alligator clip jumpers, I was able to get the game to self-test and boot up. Then I played a couple of games.

Next, I replaced all the rubber pieces. My friend had bought a nearly-complete rubber kit for it a while back, so I put all those on today. I also noticed that the battery on the main board had come loose, which is why the game couldn’t remember the high score. So I soldered that back on with a little bit of wire.

The last details to take care of are some new rubber pieces for the four little posts, and a new target to replace the broken one. I ordered all these tonight. So pretty soon, I can introduce Lucinda to pinball. Don’t know if she’ll like it or not, but I think I’ll have some fun with it.

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