Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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3/18/2008

Hummingbird update

Filed under: — stan @ 11:13 am

baby hummingbirdLucinda is home sick from school today, and I’m home with her. So we went out in the back yard to check on the baby hummingbird. It’s getting more feathers, and it pretty much fills the nest. Since I’m getting a pretty good collection of photos, I made a separate album for them: www.1134.org/gallery/hummingbird

3/16/2008

What ever happened to Barton Springs?

Filed under: — stan @ 10:52 pm

Today I went to the Nuart to see “The Unforeseen“. This is a documentary about land use and development in Austin, Texas. We lived there for four years from 1991 to 1995, and were witness to a bit of the debate over development there. In particular, there was a big controversy about development in the Barton Creek watershed. The environmentalists said that it would degrade the water quality of the water in Barton Springs, which feed the city swimming hole. There was a big referendum campaign when we were there, with the city voting to stop the development. So then the developer had the state legislature pass a bill to overrule the city. This bill was vetoed by Governor Ann Richards. But then, when George W. became governor, they passed it again, and he signed. And apparently, all the bad predictions have come true. The film included underwater views at the springs in 1996 and 2004, and the difference in the water clarity was stunning.

As much as I’ve always said that I hated living in Austin, there’s really nothing wrong with the place. It just wasn’t where I wanted to live. But I was always curious about what had happened with the Barton Creek development issue, since that was such a large part of local politics during our time there.

And one other treat was that I got to meet Carol, who I’ve known online for several years but never met in person before. So that was fun.

Fargo Street 2008

Filed under: — stan @ 9:46 pm

Sunday’s bike ride was down into Echo Park in Los Angeles to see and possibly attempt the Fargo Street Hill Climb. This is an annual event where people attempt to ride up the steepest street in Los Angeles. It’s about 33%, which is terrifying by bicycle standards. Last fall, after I beat Newton up Turnbull Canyon I was thinking I would make another attempt on Fargo Street this spring. But with the unpleasantness at home and such, I pretty much gave up on that. But it was still fun to go watch.

The day was chilly, and rather windy. It felt like we were fighting a headwind all the way there. That made the ride down there a bit of a trial. But when we got there, we got to see the spectacle of people trying to climb that hill. The first picture is one I took of a guy trying the hill. The second picture is the same as the first, but rotated so that it is actually properly oriented. Look at the wall of the garage in the background. That gives an idea of just how steep this hill is.

A couple of guys in our group tried, but neither one made it. I think the farthest the made was about 3/4 of the way up, which is about how far I got when I tried it in 2005. And you can see how that turned out for me in the bike photo album. I was curious about two things: I thought that letting some air out of the tires to make them soft would help with traction on the hill. Gaurav tried this, and he said that it did help, but he still just wasn’t able to make the top. The second was my idea of riding part-way up and then stopping to do a trackstand to rest for a bit. I was curious to see if I could do a trackstand on a hill that steep. I rode one block over to Baxter Street and tried it. But the hill was just too steep, and I couldn’t deal with it. So that was that for any thoughts I had of trying it this year. Maybe next year, when things are better. I’ll practice on Nolden Street in Eagle Rock.

After watching for a while, we headed home. Not surprisingly, it felt like we had a headwind going back, too. Still, it was a fun ride.

39 miles.
cycling

3/15/2008

Ride to Paradise

Filed under: — stan @ 7:16 pm

Route slip

Today’s ride was the “Kenneth Village” route through Glendale, with a stop a Paradise Bakery. It was a fairly nice day, but a bit chilly by SoCal standards.

We started off headed up to La Cañada. On the way, Doug got a flat. This marks Doug’s third consecutive appearance in the Flat Tire Gallery.

After fixing the flat, we continued on up the hill, and then down Hospital Hill, and the long downhill into Glendale. Then we took Mountain and Kenneth across Glendale to Paradise. I had my usual two chocolate éclairs. They have the best éclairs there.

Next, we rode over into Griffith Park, which was where we saw the woman on roller skis. That’s something you just don’t see every day here. Then through the park and past the Mulholland Fountain, left on Fletcher, and home by way of Eagle Rock and South Pasadena.

By the time we got back, the sun had finally started warming things up. But even with the chill, it was a fun ride.

46 miles.
cycling

3/14/2008

The Art Ride

Filed under: — stan @ 11:27 pm

Tonight is Art Night in Pasadena. And there was a group doing a bike ride around to visit all the museums. So, in the interest of getting out of the house and having some fun, I put the light on my bike and headed over there.

The group met in the courtyard at One Colorado. It was a pretty big group. We started out riding to the Norton Simon Museum, which I’d never been to before. We had about 30 minutes there before going on to the Pasadena History Museum. The exhibit there was about the history of the purse. A bit odd, but very entertaining. Then, on to the Armory Center for the Arts. The collection there was more to my liking, with lots of very strange pieces, and some that were outright disturbing.

There was a short interlude at the main Pasadena Public Library. They had coffee and snacks there. A very nice woman I’d met on the ride bought me a chocolate-chip cookie there, which was very sweet. Both the woman and the cookie, that is.

Next and last was a double at the Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Pacific Asia Museum. The PMCA was very nice, and had a lot of interesting pieces. Also, I got a nice picture of Pasadena City Hall off the roof there. And that was the rest of our evening. By the time we all trooped over to the Asia Museum, it was 10:00 and they were shutting the doors.

Still, it was a very fun time.

3/13/2008

More baby hummingbird

Filed under: — stan @ 8:23 pm

baby hummingbird
I went up on the garage roof again today to get another picture of the baby hummingbird.

3/12/2008

More getting out of the house

Filed under: — stan @ 11:58 pm

I signed up for another cooking class this evening. This one was about vegetables and grains. Not as glamorous as the soufflé class I did last month, but it’s likely to have more wide application in daily cooking.

This class did not have a hands-on segment. It was just watching them prepare the food and asking questions. But it was still good. I got some new recipes and techniques to try out at home. And the roasted cauliflower was quite good. It seemed a bit of an unlikely thing, but was very tasty.

About halfway through the class, we got a small salad plate with samples of the first two dishes they’d made. And at the end, we sat down to sample all the others.

It was a fun time.

3/11/2008

Night hiking in Griffith Park

Filed under: — stan @ 11:18 pm

This evening, I did a night hike in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Since Gene’s accident last November, I’ve been trying to do a bit more weight-bearing exercise. And besides, this is a good excuse to get out of the house.

I joined a hiking club that I found through meetup.com. We met at the parking lot by the merry-go-round, and headed up the hill. When we started out, it was dusk, but there was still a fair bit of light. But it got darker as we went up. We saw a nice sunset over the Griffith Park Observatory on the way up.

By the time we got to the top, it was pretty dark, but that was all right. We took in the view of city lights all around us, and then we headed down. We had to be bit careful on the way down, since it was hard to see, but most of the hike was on dirt fire roads, so it wasn’t particularly tricky. And overall, it was a fun time.

An exercise in real-world engineering geekdom

Filed under: — stan @ 9:07 pm

It’s springtime, and time for the ME72 Engineering Contest. This year’s contest was a departure from the past ones I’ve been to. For the first time I remember, it was held outside, and this time, the contest was to build a machine to launch a small object across the field. They had a horizontal rope 30m from the launch pads, and 5m high. The machines had to send their payload over the rope. Beyond that, the longest distance would win.

The machines ran two at a time against each other. So the winner each time was the machine that threw its payload the farthest in that round. There were basically two types of machines used. Most were catapults of some sort, using rubber tubing as a large rubber band to store energy for the launch. They were basically large slingshots. Most of these machines used a small electric motor to stretch the rubber bands. Some had very short launching tracks to fit within the space constraints. Some had longer tracks that started out vertical and had to pivot downward to the proper launching angle. The machines had to fit within the horizontal area of the launch pads.

The second type of machine was a variation on a trebuchet. There were two of them in the contest, and they did very well. One of them was finally eliminated in a later round when its throwing arm buckled during a launch. They repaired it, but it just wasn’t the same, and it ended up losing.

In the end, it came down to Team Savage Rabbit against T.T.B. (Team To Beat). A catapult against a trebuchet. Both machines were very dependable, but in the final contest, the catapult shot its projectile just a little bit farther. The winning margin was only a few feet.

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon.

3/10/2008

More cooking adventures

Filed under: — stan @ 6:41 pm


Tonight, I made penne with chicken, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts in an asiago cream sauce. It was perhaps a fairly ambitious quick dinner, but it was good. And the fact that it was involved and complicated is a Good Thing. After all, I’m cooking a lot of very involved things these days as a way of attempting to assert some tiny degree of control over a world gone mad.

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