Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

6/29/2014

Another San Fernando Earthquake tour

Filed under: — stan @ 1:59 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a tour to see some sights related to the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. It’s a slightly longer ride than usual, but that’s all right since it’s the last Sunday of the month. And we had a nice treat today, with Vikki joining us for the first time in a long time. After all these years, she’s back working in the earthquake business, so she wanted to come on the earthquake-themed ride.

We headed out across Eagle Rock and Glendale, and up through Burbank. Basically, we got on Glenoaks and just kept on going. We rode through the auto-wrecking ghetto of Sun Valley, all the way to San Fernando, and the McDonald’s there. There is a little hill in between the drive-through lane and the parking lot. That little hill was part of the mapped surface rupture from the 1971 earthquake. When they built the McDonald’s, they just smoothed it over and planted grass on it. It’s one of the nicer-landscaped fault scarps around.

Just beyond the McDonald’s, we turned and headed toward the mountains. The old VA hospital was essentially destroyed by the 1971 earthquake, and it was never rebuilt. The functions done there were all moved to the newer facility in Mission Hills. That’s the place we visited last year, since one of the buildings there was used to play the American Embassy in Tehran in the movie “Argo“. And the old VA hospital grounds in San Fernando were turned into a county park. It’s a pretty big and very attractive park, and there’s really no sign of what used to be there.

Coming back, we headed back down Glenoaks, and then turned up La Tuna Canyon. As always, the five-mile uphill ride was a joy. Sort of. Still, it was a fun ride, and I’ve finally seen where the old VA Hospital was.

56 miles.

6/14/2014

The chocolate tour

Filed under: — stan @ 6:57 pm

A few weeks ago, we signed up for a tour of chocolate and candy shops in Beverly Hills. It sounded amusing. And today was the day.

We began in front of Sprinkles cupcakes, where we got to sample a mini-chocolate cupcake. It turned out to be the same kind of cupcake that I’d gotten from the cupcake ATM there when we did the bike club ride to see it. It was pretty good. It was about as good as a bought cupcake could be.

The second stop was at Sugarfina. They had lots of interesting-looking unusual candies, as well as a ‘Candy Concierge’ desk in the back. They also had sparklers for cakes. I think that sounds like a fun variation on candles.

It wasn’t as stop on the tour, but we passed by a place that makes fresh ice cream using liquid nitrogen. That sounds entertaining.

The next stop was at Edelweiss Chocolates. They are apparently famous for two things. First, their chocolate-covered marshmallows. And second, for having the little conveyor-belt machine in the back that inspired the famous “I Love Lucy” episode back in the 1950s.

After that, we took a fairly long walk to get to Lette Macarons, where they were quite careful to explain to us that macarons are different from macaroons. And then we got to sample some. They were all right, but I guess it’s just not my thing.

Next was Vosges Haut-Chocolat Boutique, where we started off sampling a chocolate truffle with a dusting of curry on it. That was a bit odd. They also had a lot of chocolate with bacon and other odd things in it. There were little dishes with small fragments to sample, so we got to try a lot of different variations. They also had the “Sommelier Crafted Water” there. Hmm.

The last major stop was Beverly Hills Brownie, which was pretty much what you’d expect. The brownies we sampled were pretty good.

And that was the candy tour. No Oompa-Loompas, but still pretty entertaining.

6/12/2014

Another field trip

Filed under: — stan @ 9:49 pm

This week, an email was sent to everyone in my office, inviting us to come and see the trenches that Kate Scharer has been working in on the San Andreas Fault. The location was near Lake Elizabeth, a bit north of Los Angeles. This is the southern end of the Carrizo Plain segment of the fault. So a group of us made arrangements to go up there for the morning.

The route up there went up San Francisquito Canyon. That was the site of the Bouquet Canyon Road Race in 1978, which I’ve long regarded as the single most miserable day I’ve ever spent on my bike. And it was also the site of the St Francis Dam disaster, which is an interesting bit of local history.

It was a nice day, but kind of windy up there on the fault line. Kate had her dogs with her, and they were running around, trying to get us to play with them. That, and they also like to go down into the trench to lie down on the cool dirt at the bottom. Kate took us on a tour of both trenches, pointing out the layers and where they were broken by past earthquakes. She showed us where the breaks could be traced from one trench to another. She also pointed out ancient animal burrows and worm holes.

After the trench tour, we took a walk up to the top of a small rise near the trench site. From there, we could take in a full 180-degree view of the fault zone.

On the way home, we stopped briefly at the site of the former St Francis dam, just to marvel at how big is was, and to try and imagine what it was like when it all came crashing down.

It made for an interesting morning.

6/8/2014

The Gold Line Extension tour

Filed under: — stan @ 1:54 pm

Route Map

Today’s bike ride was a repeat of our tour of the Metro Gold Line Extension. It’s been four months since we last did it, so we wanted to see how the construction is coming along.

The first stop was the new Arcadia station. They have made visible progress, although the tracks are not yet built there. They’re put in the tracks down the center of the freeway, though. And they’ve started construction on the big parking structure next to the station.

The Monrovia station is coming together. The tracks to the east of it to Duarte are in, and they look like they’re almost finished ballasting and leveling the new tracks there.

Heading east on Duarte road, we were stopped at the light at California when Metro bus pulled up alongside us and the driver proceeded to harass us. He said we were not ’sharing the road’. I snapped a picture of the bus as he pulled away to document the time this occurred and the bus number. We caught up with the bus down the road, but the driver was nowhere to be seen. Still, I got the numbers on it, and I told every one that I felt a letter coming on.

The far point of the ride was when we rode through Azusa and a bit of Glendora. We saw the two Azusa stations under construction. The first one is pretty far along, while the second one seems to still be just a sign saying it’s coming.

On the way back, we saw the site of the Irwindale station. There’s still not a lot there, but it’s definitely more than last time.

Addendum, June 17:
After we got home, I spent some time reviewing the relevant sections of the Vehicle Code. I even found a “Bike Pocket Guide” on the Metro web site that explicitly says that what we were doing was proper and appropriate. Then, I contacted the City of Pasadena Bicycle Coordinator to find out who I should contact a Metro about this incident. He supplied me with a name and address. So here is the letter I wrote to Metro about their jerk driver who harassed us: metro-harassment.pdf

44 miles.

6/3/2014

The Destruction of Money

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

A few weeks ago, I signed up for yet another tour with the Obscura Society – L.A. This time, it was a tour of the Federal Reserve in downtown Los Angeles. This is where they handle distributing cash to all the banks in southern California, and all the way to the casinos in Las Vegas. So even though they don’t actually print money there, they do handle astoundingly large amounts of it. And in addition, this is where money goes to die. As the cash passes through there, bills that are too worn are shredded.

We saw the room where they sort the money, picking out counterfeit bills, and putting the stacks of bills into the machine that inspects them. Apparently, the machine automatically detects and shreds the worn-out bills, and the shreds are just blown up a pipe into the ceiling to some sort of trap up above.

They showed us the carts they move money around on. Each cart holds something like 460,000 bundled bills, so a cart holds anywhere from $460,000 to $46,000,000. After we’d worked that out, they showed us the vault. It looked like the last scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, only with carts full of money instead of wooden boxes. At that point, I ran out of zeros to count with. That vault had to have held a couple billion dollars in cash. Yikes. No wonder security at the building is tight.

At the end, they had us fill out a little survey and gave us each a small bag of shredded money to take home. It was a unique little adventure.

Towerthon – Addendum

Filed under: — stan @ 10:10 am

After my first time doing the Towerthon in 2012, I made up the stair chart for the building, and I used that to estimate how far I’d climbed that morning. And my estimate came out to be just a bit under one mile. And this is where I got the idea of doing the two-hour Vertical Mile.

This became a bit of an obsession for me the next year. I made a couple of attempts at practice sessions at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, and I finally managed to do it one evening.

Of course, in the end, the joke was on me. In that at the 2013 Towerthon, George had gone in and measured the steps at the building, and it turned out that they were about 3/8 inch taller than my original estimate. And that 3/8 inch multiplied by the 8,602 steps I’d climbed actually meant that I’d done the mile that first time. But because I’d thought I’d fallen just short, it became an all-consuming obsession.

Along the way, a few other people tried doing the Vertical Mile, and the idea sort of took on a life of its own. Even to the point where the 2013 Towerthon made up special shirts to be given to all finishers who managed to climb over a mile. And this year, they did that again. In this year’s building, 22 climbs made a mile. And my friend Leland managed to do it. This was his first time doing the Vertical Mile, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that apparently my name as become associated with the idea. So once again, I’m glad to have contributed something to this insane little sport of ours.

6/1/2014

Tasmanian Devil!

Filed under: — stan @ 5:52 pm

Today, we went to the San Diego Zoo. We’d read that they have a new Australian exhibit that has actual Tasmanian Devils on display. None of us had ever seen one before, and many Americans don’t even realize that the Tasmanian Devil is a real animal. So that got us interested.

We were also hoping to see the pangolin, since I’d read about it and seen a short video of it in National Geographic, but it turned out we missed it. There in only one pangolin at the zoo, and it’s the only one in captivity in the U.S., and they only bring it out once a day for about 15 minutes, and we missed it. So I guess we have a reason to go back again.

There were something like four Tasmanian Devils there. We could only see three of them, and they were all sleeping. Even the most ferocious animals are cute when they’re sleeping.

We wandered around some more, and we saw lots of other cute, furry animals. We went to see the pandas again, and we finally got to see the baby panda that was born back in 2012. Of course, he’d basically full-grown now. But we got to see him.

It was a nice day to be outside, and we’ll have to do it again some day. And next time, we’ll be sure to get there in time to see the pangolin.

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