Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

3/20/2016

Hogwart’s

Filed under: — stan @ 1:21 pm

This weekend, Kathleen was going to get a haircut, and she said she could see the towers of Hogwart’s at Universal Studios from the road. So I thought that this should be the Sunday Morning Ride’s sightseeing for this weekend. The route was our old “Toluca Lake” ride, with a brief stop at the intersection of Forest Lawn Drive and Barham Boulevard to look up and see the back side of Hogwart’s. As it turned out, it was kind of foggy this morning, and when we got there, it was still kind of misty, but then again, Hogwart’s is the sort of place that is perhaps best viewed through the mist.

On the way out, Carla got a flat. I volunteered to help fix it, since my years of working in bike shops, although being almost 40 years ago, still make me one of the fastest tire-changers in our Sunday morning group. So after just a few minutes, we continued on our way. We crossed over into Highland Park, where we saw a billboard advertising a street fair celebrating Figueroa Street, complete with Chicken Boy. And the billboard was right next to the actual Chicken Boy, so I had to stop and get a photo.

The plan had been to take the LA River bike path, but the city had closed most of it in anticipation of big El Niño rains that have not yet come. So we ended up taking Riverside Drive all the way up to Griffith Park, and then through the park to Forest Lawn Drive. We were still pretty far from Barham when I first saw the towers of the castle. And when we got to Barham, it was pretty plainly visible, even with the mist. I took a quick picture before continuing on to our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

The route home went across Glendale and then up Verdugo all the way to Hospital Hill, and then home by way of La Cañada. When we got back to Pasadena, Silvio, Carla, and I took a short side trip to see a fault scarp in Altadena. I’d read about trenching studies that were done there in the lat ’90s, and I was thinking about possibly including it on the next version of the Earthquake Tour for Atlas Obscura. The scarp was fairly big and obvious, but I’m not sure it’s quite worth making the side trip with the big group. Still, it was a nice ride.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile

3/13/2016

The Little Brown Church of the Valley

Filed under: — stan @ 2:31 pm

With all the talk about Nancy Reagan dying this week, the L.A. Times ran a short article about the Little Brown Church of the Valley in Studio City. This is where Ron and Nancy Reagan were married in 1952. So I thought this might make a good bit of sightseeing for the Sunday Morning Ride.

The route was basically the same as our Studio City for Gelato ride. Pretty much a straight shot west across Glendale and Burbank into the Valley,and west on Moorpark St to Coldwater Canyon. The church is just a few hundred feet north of Moorpark St. And it’s little all right. It’s a quaint little church.

Heading back, we stopped at the Gelato Bar in Studio City. I don’t remember how we found that place, but we stop there whenever we’re out that way.

To get home, we rode back across Glendale and up and over Chevy Chase and Linda Vista back into Pasadena. In the middle of Glendale, I noticed a street with some 1920s-vintage antique street lights. It was pretty obvious that they dated to before the ’30s, since the bases of the poles were decorated with a band of swastikas. So they clearly had to date from a time before the swastika was co-opted into a symbol of evil. The final bit of weirdness we saw was when we got back to Pasadena. There was a house on Orange Grove that had two little chihuahuas in the yard. The odd bit was they both had no front legs. But this didn’t slow them down much. They were both hopping around the yard like little kangaroos, guarding their yard just like dogs do. That was a very strange sight. But even though it was a bit weird, it was a pleasant ride.

43 miles.

3/8/2016

ME72 2016

Filed under: — stan @ 6:29 pm

Today was the ME72 contest at Caltech. This is the engineering class where the students get a box of junk and have to use it to make one or more machines to compete in a contest. I’ve been going to see this for as long as long as I’ve been at the USGS office at Caltech, and it’s always great fun. This year’s contest was the Tridroid Cup, where each team was supposed to build three robots to compete as a team to score points by putting small soccer balls through goals at the far end of the playing field. The two floor-level goals were worth one point, and the single raised goal was worth three points.

All the teams get the same junk to start with, but they all come up with different approaches to the problem. Most of them had machines with sort of a scoop on the front to be able to push the balls through the floor-level goals. The Caltech Armored Division team’s machines were very fast and manouverable, and they were able to score lots of points by just pushing lots of balls through the goals. But then one of them got stuck trying to drive over the divider down the middle of the field, which was a limitation of their low-to-the floor design.

Today’s contest was special in that it was the first time in 20 years of coming to see these things that I saw one of the machines catch fire during a match. Their machine was just driving across the floor when a small circuit board on it just suddenly caught fire. They smothered the fire with a wadded-up T-shirt, and the match continued.

In the end, it came down to the Blitzkrieg Bots against TBD. The TBD team had machines that could pick up several balls at a time and fling them through the high goal. At three points for each ball, they won lots of matches by just parking their machine in front of the goal and shooting balls through it. But the Bots had a low-slung ball-pusher machine, and a tall machine that they used to block the balls being flung at the high goal, and in the end, that divided strategy worked, and they were the winners. And the whole thing was very entertaining to watch.

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