Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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11/17/2018

Earthquake Tour with Atlas Obscura

Filed under: — stan @ 8:38 pm

Today was the latest version of the San Andreas Fault tour with Atlas Obscura. This is about the fifth time we’ve done this tour, which is based on Sue Hough’s book, Finding Fault in California: An Earthquake Tourist’s Guide. Back in 2014, Sue took our office on a tour based on her book, and I knew immediately that this tour would be a hit with the Atlas Obscura crowd.

The first stop was the McDonald’s in San Fernando, which has a nice little fault scarp between the drive-through and the parking lot. This is a remnant from the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. After that, we headed up the 14 Freeway, passing over the famous interchange that fell down in 1971, and then again in 1994, and then on to the Antelope Valley. We stopped at the scenic overlook by Lake Palmdale, and then took a short walk up the hill to see the famous road cut where the freeway cuts through a hill that was pushed up by motion on the fault.

WE stopped for lunch at Charlie Brown Farms in Littlerock, and then we went on to Pearblossom. We stopped for a photo-op at the signs marking where the fault crosses the road. There was a pair of signs there that someone installed decades ago, but those signs were vandalized some time in the last year or so. So Morgan and I had made a new pair of signs, which we took a field trip to go and install back in May. The new signs are still there, and still look nice and clean and new. After that, we went just a short distance down the road to go see the Pallett Creek trench site, which was the birthplace of the relatively new science of paleoseismology.

Heading up into the mountains, we stopped to dig a bit in some fault gouge in a road cut near Big Pines. Then we went through Wrightwood, and on down into Cajon Pass. That was the final stop, at Lost Lake, which is a small sag pond. It’s a pretty unlikely place for a lake, which is the charm of it. After that, we headed back to Pasadena.


8/17/2018

The Corpse Flower

Filed under: — stan @ 5:34 pm

Last week, there was great excitement around here because one of the Corpse Flower plants at the Huntington looked like it was about to bloom. Kathleen and I went there to see it, and we were ready to go back as soon as the flower opened. But it never happened, and in the end they dissected the flower to try and see why it didn’t bloom. But then on Thursday, we heard that one of their other plants had bloomed unexpectedly, so at lunchtime on Friday, I rode my bike over there to go see it.

It’s reputed to be the biggest flower in the world, and yes, it’s big. It was roped off, which made it hard to lean in close enough to smell it. I was able to just pick up a little bit of the famous smell of the flower. But still, ever since I first heard about this plant on an episode of “Nature” on PBS back in 1986, I’ve always wanted to see one. And now I’ve finally had the chance.

7/7/2018

More Failure

Filed under: — stan @ 8:56 pm

Last February, we went to see the Museum of Failure when it was set up in an old warehouse in the Arts District. I recently found out that after that closed, they set it up at Hollywood and Highland. So today we went to see it. A lot of the exhibits were the same as before, but there were a good number of pieces that were not in the old museum. Each one had a card next to it that described what it was and why it failed. And always snarky comments about each failure.

One good bit was the small room at the back with pens and Post-It notes so that people could anonymously confess to their own personal failures. Some of them were really hilarious. Kind of like PostSecret.

After that, we went and had a very nice dinner in Hollywood at Off Vine.


6/15/2018

The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library

Filed under: — stan @ 3:47 pm

Last week on “The Daily Show”, Trevor Noah mentioned that they were going to have the Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library in Los Angeles for two weekends. Since I took Thursday off to go to Santa Cruz to fetch Lucinda, I also took Friday off, just because I have a ton of leave that needs to be used. So I figured that today would be a good day to make the trip to West Hollywood to go see this.

Right at the entrance, they had the Trump Nickname Generator. Everyone ran the generator, and then was given a little nametag. Mine said that my Trump nickname was “Total Amateur Stan”.

Next to the nickname generator, there was a timeline of Trump twitter, all the way back to his first tweet on May 4, 2009. There was a display analyzing his tweets by the number of mentions of people, of numbers of times he used particular words, and topics that tweets were about.

Possibly the highlight of the museum was the little Oval Office set, complete with American and Russian flags, a desk, and a golden toilet. Everyone wanted to get their picture taken sitting on the golden toilet.

In the corner, they had the Trump Inauguration cake. The cake was made of styrofoam, covered in fondant icing, with only a small sliver of actual cake in one spot on the bottom layer.

The “SAD!” retrospective was also very funny. Just a sampling of the many things Trump has deemed to be “SAD!” over the years.

Overall, this was all tremendously funny. It had to be, since the actual underlying reality of it is pretty horrifying.

6/14/2018

And then this happened…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

Last September, we took a trip to Santa Cruz to move Lucinda into her new home-away-from-home at UC Santa Cruz. And today was the other bookend for that experience.

A couple weeks ago, Lucinda asked if I would come to Santa Cruz to help her move out and bring her home. At first I thought this would make for a grueling day or two days, but at the same time, I realized it was an opportunity to spend a day with her. As she’s growing up, opportunities for things like that become more rare. So I worked out a plan. I would fly to San Jose in the morning, and then rent a car there. I was able to set it up with Hertz that I could rent the car at San Jose Airport, and then bring it back the next day to their office in Pasadena. So the plan was to pick up the car and drive it over the hill to Santa Cruz. Then we loaded up all her stuff into the car. We stopped off in downtown Santa Cruz for lunch, and then we headed for home.

We took the 101 south for a good bit of the trip. We had to take some small roads to pick up the 101 in Prunedale. Then we went south on the 101 for what seemed like forever. Along the way, I told Lucinda that I wanted to take a short side trip to the Carrizo Plain to see Wallace Creek. That’s a very desolate and remote place that is famous among seismologists. To get there, we had to take Highway 58, which I expected to be like Highway 46 that I took home last fall. But no. Highway 46 was divided and almost like a freeway, while Highway 58 was like a narrow, winding country road. We took that for a very long time before we came to the turnoff. That was a small, but well-paved road. But we were only on that for a short distance before we had to turn off onto a small dirt road. At least it was pretty well-graded, so it wasn’t a big deal. But as city people, we’re just not used to be out in the middle of nowhere and being all alone for as far as we could see in any direction.

There’s a small guest book at the site, and it looks like it gets a visit about once every week or two on average. I wrote us into it, and then we walked up the trail to go see the famous creek. Well, actually, ‘creek-bed’. It only has water in it on fairly rare occasions when it rains. But it was impressive. The channel is pretty deep, and the offset where it crosses the fault is really obvious. The sign said that they figured out that the offset of that creek-bed represents 3,800 years of earthquakes, and that led to knowing that the San Andreas is moving an average of about 1 1/3 inches a year.

We walked a little bit down the trail to see a pair of smaller offset creek-beds. They were channels that were offset by about 30 feet in the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake. They weren’t as big and obvious as Wallace Creek, but it was still impressive to be able to see how much the ground moved in one event in 1857.

When we finished at Wallace Creek, we continued east on the 58 to get to the 5 freeway at the Buttonwillow offramp. That’s a little cluster of gas stations and food places to cater to people traveling between northern and southern California. We had some dinner there, filled the car up with gas, and then we headed home. And yes, it was nice to get to spend a day with her doing this.

6/9/2018

Spahn Ranch with Atlas Obscura

Filed under: — stan @ 2:05 pm

Today I got to go on yet another Atlas Obscura tour, this time of Spahn Ranch. This was a movie ranch a long time ago, and later was notorious for the Manson Family living there for a time in 1969. And now it’s a county park. A few years ago, I took Lucinda on the Dearly Departed Helter Skelter tour, so this was sort of a companion piece to that.

We walked up the hill to the back of the ranch, where there were a couple of rusted hulks of cars that were stolen and abandoned there in 1969. Apparently, they would steal cars to get the engines, which they used in building dune buggies.

Next, we walked down to the large flat area next to the road. This was where the Spahn house had been. When the land was converted into a park, the county came in and covered that whole area with several feet of new dirt, I suppose to discourage people from hunting for artifacts there. Then we walked down into the creek-bed. There were large trees down there, as well as the famous little cave where Life magazine staged a photo of the Manson Family in 1969. And of course, we all had to get photos sitting in front of the little cave. Overall, there wasn’t a lot here that I hadn’t heard about before, but the whole point was to get to see the places where it happened.

5/26/2018

Earthquake Tour Again

Filed under: — stan @ 7:11 pm

This Saturday was the fourth time I’ve been part of leading the San Andreas Fault tour with Atlas Obscura. The last time I did this was in October of last year, and my partner that time was Morgan from the USGS office. But this time, she was offered a chance to go to a conference in Japan, so Nicholas was my partner for the tour. We also had a special guest along this time. Back in April, Kathleen and I had gone on the Nastie Nellie Oleson Tour with Alison Arngrim in Hollywood. This was tremendously entertaining, and along the way, I told Alison about the earthquake tour. She was interested, but the tour was already sold out. But it turned out that Sandi had held one seat in reserve in case Nicholas or I wanted to bring a guest, so Alison got the guest seat for the tour.

After a quick tour of the Seismo Lab, we headed up to the fault scarp at the McDonald’s in San Fernando. I also went inside to get some iced tea and to use the bathroom. That was where I saw what I can only assume is an unfortunate typo on the soap dispenser.

In Palmdale, we took in the view from the overlook by the freeway, and then climbed up the little hill so we could look down into the famous road cut where the 14 freeway crosses the fault. Then it was time for our lunch stop at Charlie Brown Farms. After that, it was time for Pallett Creek. We knew that the mysterious signs that marked where the fault crosses the road had been recently vandalized after more than a decade of marking the spot. So I’d made a new sign, which we brought along to use for the photo-op, even if it’s not properly planted in the ground. Then we traveled the quarter-mile or so to the actual trench site next to Pallett Creek. It’s not much to see, but it’s a chance to talk about how Kerry Sieh invented the science of paleoseismology there, back in the 1970s.

Heading up into the mountains, we stopped at the road cut near Big Pines to dig in the fault gouge. Then a quick bathroom stop in Wrightwood before heading down the other side of the mountain into Cajon Pass. There, we got to see Lost Lake, a small sag pond on the fault there. I like Lost Lake just because it looks like such an improbable thing. A pond all by itself, surrounded by desert. We also were very lucky this time. To get to the lake, we have to cross four railroad tracks. On the way in, we saw a train that had just finished passing the crossing when we got there. And while we were at Lost Lake, I saw another train come by. But that one finished passing by just as we were leaving. Cajon Pass is one of the toughest stretches of railroad in the U.S., and the trains there tend to be very long, and very slow-moving, so we were lucky to have missed both of them this time.


2/10/2018

The Museum of Failure

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

A few months ago, I saw an item in the L.A. Times about the Museum of Failure, which was a temporary exhibit of products and ideas that were complete and abject failures. It sounded funny. Of course, then I forgot about, and when I looked at the article again, it said that the exhibit was only until February 4th. Crap. But on the off chance something had changed, I had a look at their web site, and it said something to the effect of, “we’re such failures that we failed to close on the 4th, and we’re here for two more weeks”. So we had a second chance.

There were lots of things that were just kind of silly, some were weird ideas that left us wondering, “what were they thinking?”, and some were downright horrifying. They also had a few video monitors up, playing commercials for weird failed products. Like who thought that orange-juice flavored cereal was a good idea?

They had one fairly large exhibit devoted to Donald Trump, who has presided over numerous failed products, a failed airline, and even a few failed casinos.

The lobotomy tools definitely fell into the ‘horrifying’ category. The stories of movies made for budgets in the millions, but total box office gross under $1,000 were just funny. And of course, they had one bit about Olestra, the failed fat-substitute that added the term ‘anal leakage’ to our vocabulary.

All told, this exhibit was hilarious.


10/22/2017

P-22 Day

Filed under: — stan @ 5:01 pm

This morning, when we were riding through Griffith Park, I saw a sign for the P-22 Day Festival. This was in honor of P-22, the famous Griffith Park puma. So after I got home, Kathleen and I went back to the park to go see it.

There were booths with exhibits about wildlife conservation, and mountain lions in particular. About plans to build a wildlife overpass over the 101 freeway, since crossing freeways is one of the most dangerous things that wild animals have to do. The had a stuffed puma that had been killed by poachers so we could see what it looked like up close.

It was an odd little event, but fun in its own way.

10/14/2017

San Andreas Fault with Atlas Obscura

Filed under: — stan @ 7:51 pm

Today was yet another edition of the Atlas Obscura San Andreas Fault Scavenger Hunt. This is the third time I’ve been doing this tour with Atlas Obscura, and it seems to be as popular as ever. This time, my partner for leading the tour was my friend Morgan from the office.

We all met at the Seismo Lab, and we started off with a quick tour of the lab. We saw the lobby exhibits about the history of earthquake study, the media center upstairs, and a small exhibit about Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg, who started the Seismo Lab and systematic study of earthquakes back in the 1930s.

The first stop of the tour was the small fault scarp next to the McDonald’s drive-through in San Fernando. This is a small remnant from the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.

The next stop was the scenic overlook and the famous road cut along the fault in Palmdale. When we were walking up the hill to look at the road cut, we ran across a tour group of students from Long Beach State. They were apparently doing about the same tour as we were, but traveling in the opposite direction.

We stopped for lunch at Charlie Brown Farms, which is still a deeply weird place. This time, I noticed that they had camel meat in the freezer. I suppose it tastes like chicken…

After lunch, we had a pair of stops close together. One at the signs marking the fault, and then at the Pallet Creek trench site, which was where the science of paleoseismology was born. The signs are kind of a silly stop, but it’s a chance for a photo-op. The trench site is interesting from the standpoint of it being important to the history of science.

Now it was time to go into the mountains. We stopped at the road cut that has the fault gouge on one side, and we showed everyone how the rocks in the sand could be crushed by hand. That’s always popular. Then we continued on to Wrightwood.

The last stop was at Lost Lake in Cajon Pass. Last year, it was suffering from three years of drought, and the lake had no water in it. But this time, it had some water, and was actually a lake.

And that was our tour.


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