Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Nerd Fight!

Filed under: — stan @ 8:24 pm

Today when I was reading my mail, I saw the Caltech calendar for the week, and it said that today was the ME72 engineering contest. This is the course where students are issued a ‘box of junk’ and have to use it to build a machine to compete in a contest. It’s sort of a ‘final exam’, but even though there’s a winner and a bunch of losers, it’s really more about the experience.

This is the first time in many years that I’ve made it out to watch. Sadly, most years I only find out about it after it’s over. So it was a treat to get to go see the contest again.

Today’s contest was to take a short length of chain and carry it somehow up a plastic mesh slope. The machines competed two at a time, and many of them included features to actively interfere with the other machine. So this made for great entertainment.

Many of the machines had wheels with little sprockets on them to engage the mesh and let them climb the mesh. But the mesh was pivoted at the top, like a carnival ladder climb. So a machine that climbed high on the mesh could fall off, and several did.

Another strategy was a small grappling hook. One machine had a hook that it fired up the mesh and then used a string to hoist the chain up to the hook. At the same time, it had a net that it launched sideways to cover its opponent. Unfortunately, launching the hook proved problematic. When it worked, it worked very well. But if it missed, then it was all over for that machine. In the end, they made it to the semi-finals, but the hook misfired, so they didn’t make the finals.

The final round was between two climbing machines. Both were two-part devices, with one piece to climb with the chain, and a second piece that could move around and try to interfere with the opponent’s machine. So this made for an exciting final round. The two climbers went up the mesh, but the smaller one got the jump and was higher. For a time it looked like it might fall off, but the hooks on the wheels managed to hold on to the end, and the designers got the trophy.

This was great nerd fun.


San Dimas South

Filed under: — stan @ 9:59 pm

Route map

Today’s bike ride was Gene’s “San Dimas South” route. This is a ride through the east San Gabriel Valley, and over just a little bit of the hills by Bonelli Park. It was a perfect day for riding. Warm and sunny.

We headed east from Victory Park, out to Arcadia. When we turned right on Holly St, I suddenly started channeling Bing Crosby, singing:

“Oh by gosh by golly
It’s time to take a right on Holly”

This was kind of silly.

Continuing on, we went east into Duarte and Azusa, and then headed south a bit into Covina. Then we got into the hills in San Dimas. We rode up Via Verde and down the other side into West Covina. This time we did the ‘extra credit’ section of the ride, which involved riding up some small streets with big houses on big hills. One of the houses even had a goat pen outside, which was kind of odd.

At the end of the ‘extra credit’ we regrouped at Grand Ave. Then we noticed that Jon was missing. I went back to look for him so I could take a picture if he’d gotten a flat. But it turned out he had just taken a wrong turn. So with the group reassembled, we headed for home.

In West Covina, we stopped at Panera for a snack. There was a long line there the last time we were there, but this time it was empty. That was kind of weird, but we got quick service this time, so it was all right.

From West Covina, we headed back through Baldwin Park and El Monte. Along the way, I saw one abandoned couch, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a picture. I also saw the liquor store with a big bottle-shaped sign. That was pretty funny.

We went through Arcadia and past the back side of the L.A. County Arboretum. There are always peacocks roaming around the houses there, but I didn’t get any pictures of them this time.

Finally, we rode back into Pasadena and back to the park. It was a very pleasant ride.

50 miles.


Turnbull Canyon

Filed under: — stan @ 10:57 pm

Route map

Today’s bike ride was down to Whittier and over Turnbull Canyon. This is a nice little piece of wilderness in the middle of the city. It was a bit chilly in the morning, so I left a few minutes early to warm up a bit and make sure I was dressed properly. I rode up to Lake and Woodbury and back. Along the way, I found a pair of abandoned couches for the Abandoned Couches Blog. And I also saw an Edison substation that I’d never noticed before. It was in a building that was made to resemble the houses around it. The only real clue was the little sign saying “Edison Substation” and the very thick bundle of wires going into it.

I rode down to Victory Park to meet the group. We rode east from the park, into Arcadia, and then south, passing through El Monte and Industry to get to Whittier. Then we went left on Beverly and rode up to Turnbull Canyon.

The climb up from the west side is perhaps a bit steeper than on the east side, and we’ve done it both ways in the past. Today, we all just rode up to the top. The group broke up on the way up, but we regrouped at the top. Then we headed down the other side. As always, I got the ’steel rollercoaster’ feeling on the down side. It was kind of fun.

At the bottom, we turned left and started for home. That was when I heard a phone ringing, and I was relieved that it wasn’t mine. Instead, it was another guy who had the pleasure of trying to ride and talk on the phone at the same time.

A bit farther along, we realized that we were missing a person. They had been with us when we started down Turnbull Canyon, but they were gone when we got to the bottom. So Gene and Philippe went back to find her. It turned out that one of her cleats had come loose, so they had to stop and try to tighten it before they could come back to rejoin the group.

Coming up Peck Rd, we went through Arcadia and into Monrovia, where we stopped for a snack social at Planet Cookies. And that was also where I saw Stan’s Vac and Sew. I always stop for a photo when I see places that have my name on them.

After the stop, we rode home through Arcadia and back to the park. The ride was a tiny bit longer than the usual Sunday rides, and with the little warmup I did beforehand, I had my Magic 50.

53 miles.


Got pole?

Filed under: — stan @ 9:42 pm

I saw this on Susie Bright today. It’s the end of the world as we know it. And in this case, that’s a Good Thing.

Pole Dancing Parties Catch On in Book Club Country

And of course, we have to remember that Cathy is also quite good on the pole. Maybe we’ll have to get one for our house…

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