Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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F-104 on a stick!

Filed under: — stan @ 1:17 pm

Today’s bike ride was a trip out to Burbank and North Hollywood. It was a aviation theme, with sightseeing stops at a Lockheed F-104 mounted for display in a park in Burbank, not far from the former Lockheed plant where it was designed and built. And a visit to the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation at Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood.

The ride out there was pretty straightforward. When we got to Burbank, we met up with GT, and he told us about a place he knew that was not far from our route. He said there was a house there that looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie, and that the house across the street has giant desert tortoises living in the front yard.

We got to the park on Olive Ave, and had a look at the airplane. The F-104 seems to be the living embodiment of the engineer’s old adage about being able to make a brick fly if you put a big enough engine on it. After that, GT showed us the way to the odd house and the tortoises. I’d expected them to be just snoozing, but they were pretty active, lumbering around the front yard of the house.

From there, we rode up into North Hollywood to see the Shrine to Aviation. This is located appropriately, being in the part of the cemetery that is just off the end of Runway 15 at Burbank Airport. So there are airplane going by overhead all the time.

Here’s a little video taken out the right-side window of a jet taking off from Burbank. The cemetery is the green area that the plane goes over right after the end of the runway, and the shrine is directly below.

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake. Then we got on the L.A. River bike path. That morning, we’d heard about there being a spectacular tanker truck crash and fire at on the 134 freeway, and we rode right by there. Part of the freeway was still closed, and it was pretty obvious where the fire had blackened the overhead ramps for the interchange.

Finally, on the way back through Highland Park, we ran across a steel giraffe in a yard there.

It was a nice ride.

47 miles.


Turn it up to eleven

Filed under: — stan @ 8:02 am

In today’s obituaries, Jim Marshall has died. He was the designer of the famed Marshall amp that spawned the loudest music ever heard on Earth.

…no rock image was more over-the-top than that of KISS’ four members performing in front of some 40 Marshall cabinets.

Of course, they didn’t need that many.

“Hendrix used three 100-watt amps and three stacks,” their inventor Jim Marshall once said. “KISS go a lot further, but most of the cabinets and amps you see on stage are dummies. We once built 80 dummy cabinets for Bon Jovi. They all do it — it’s just backdrop.

“It would be stupid to use more than three 100-watt amps, wherever and whoever you are.”

The whole story is here:,0,1105011.story


More limits of artificial intelligence

Filed under: — stan @ 5:54 pm

I was tending to the Earthquake Notification Service admin email today, and I found this in the incoming mail queue:

From: Associate Email Administrator
Subject: Your email has been discarded.

Your email sent to [redacted] with subject line of: 2012-04-05 20:23:55 (Md 3.2) PUERTO RICO REGION 19.1 -65.1 (5121e), contains inappropriate content within the subject or body of the message and has triggered the Aflac Associate message filters. The message was discarded because of the inappropriate content.

So I went and had a look at the message, just to see what it was they might be complaining about. And here it is:

Subject: 2012-04-05 20:23:55 (Md 3.2) PUERTO RICO REGION 19.1 -65.1


Geographic coordinates: 19.142N, 65.070W
Magnitude: 3.2 Md
Depth: 90 km
Universal Time (UTC): 5 Apr 2012 20:23:55
Time near the Epicenter: 5 Apr 2012 16:23:55
Local standard time in your area: %localtime

Location with respect to nearby cities:
88 km (54 miles) NNW (334 degrees) of Little Harbour, Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
89 km (55 miles) N (351 degrees) of CHARLOTTE AMALIE, US Virgin Islands
90 km (56 miles) NNW (328 degrees) of ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands
126 km (78 miles) NE (49 degrees) of Carolina, PR



The face of fraud

Filed under: — stan @ 6:27 am

This is a truly pathetic story.

Remember Rosie Ruiz? She was the ‘winner’ of the 1980 Boston Marathon. But after she won it in record time, some investigation showed that she had not run the whole course, and had just jumped back into the race at the end. Further investigation showed that she’d also cheated in the New York Marathon, which was where she did the time that qualified her for Boston.

Competitive stair climbing is an odd little sport. It’s done as a charity fund-raiser. There are no prizes, aside from cheap little medals and sometimes small trophies. There’s really nothing valuable at stake. So I guess nobody ever thought that anyone would think it worth the effort to cheat at this sport. But this time, someone did.

I was in the first wave of climbers, and we were done pretty early. And from the start, it the odds were on Jesse Berg to win. He’d won last year, and he is ranked as one of the top stair climbers in the world. So we were all surprised when we came down and saw the first set of times posted, and there was a name we didn’t recognize in first place, with a time that was 18 seconds faster than the course record. That record was set in 2010 by Javier Santiago, who is also one of the top-ranked stair climbers in the world.

Asking around, we found out that the unknown climber was a guy who worked for the building management company. When we saw him, we all immediately thought that he wasn’t capable of doing a time like that. Some of the guys went to talk to him, to ask him how he trained and to ask if he would climb the building again with them so they could see his technique. He said that he didn’t really train in any meaningful way. He said he plays basketball with his friends. Sheesh. At that point, he claimed he couldn’t climb again, due to having pulled his hamstring on the first climb. And he made a point of limping from that point on.

Needless to say, none of this passed the smell test.

Later on, another of our guys went to talk to him again, and specifically told him that we thought he had cheated. At that point, his friends started actually making veiled threats of physical violence if we didn’t stop saying we thought he’d cheated. And apparently, there was money at stake. He’d made bets with a lot of the other people who work at the building, and if he admitted to cheating, he was going to lose those bets.

When it was time for the awards, he made a point of limping up to the stage to get his first-place certificate and trophy.

This was all brought up with the race organizers, the timing company, and the building management. At first, they defended the guy. They really believed him when he said that he’d climbed the building in record time.

On Sunday, a friend of ours who is a sports writer contacted the guy to interview him about his ‘incredible performance’. We suspect that he figured out that people were on to him. But he still insisted that his time was real.

When the finish line pictures from the race were posted, we saw him coming out of the stairs, and based on where he was and who came out after him, he’s have had to have passed quite a few people we know on his way up. None of them remember seeing him. And anyone going that fast would have been pretty obvious.

On Monday, we heard through the grapevine that he’d confessed. That he admitted to using the freight elevator. But it turned out not to be true. But then, on Tuesday morning, we got word from the building management company that they had investigated, and they’d found that he did cheat. He was disqualified from the race, and ‘is no longer associated with the building’, as they said. We all presume that means he was fired from his job.

So here it is. The original sheet of posted results. The faker going up to accept the winner’s trophy. And then the revised results from the timing company’s web site, with the faker moved down to last place at the bottom.

Really doesn’t seem like it was a smart move on his part. And I guess on some level, our insane little sport has lost its innocence.

For another view of this incident, here’s a link to PJ Glassey’s writeup of it:

Addendum: This has made the local news:

Update 4/5/2012: Now it’s on the main MSNBC site:

Update 4/6/2012: Unlike Mr Cheater, this story has legs. Now it’s made the jump across the Atlantic to Britain:

Update 4/7/2012: And now, look at the number one result in Google for a search for Mr Cheater:

Update 4/11/2012: Now he’s made Hispanically Speaking News:


Historic Lafayette Square

Filed under: — stan @ 10:12 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a sightseeing trip to Lafayette Square in Los Angeles. This is a little pocket of old mansions just west of downtown, surrounded by much more downscale neighborhoods.

We rode downtown by way of Huntington Drive and Main St. We had to stop for a train by the L.A. River, but it was moving, and we soon got past it and rode through downtown. On the south end of downtown, we saw a test train on the soon-to-be-opened Metro Expo Line.

After a few miles on West Adams, we turned north and got to La Fayette Square. It’s largely closed off to the surrounding area. Most of the streets are blocked, and there are only a couple of ways in and out. We came in through a sidewalk entrance on the back side of the area. We rode around a bit, marveling at all the enormous old houses.

Our snack stop was at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. After that, we made our way home by way of Silver Lake and Eagle Rock, and up the Colorado hill back into Pasadena.

It was a nice ride.

42 miles.

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