Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Our Anniversary

Filed under: — stan @ 11:08 pm

Today is our 17th anniversary. It’s the actual day and everything. So after we dropped Lucinda off at Aunt Maggi’s house, we went up to Long Beach.

On the way, we stopped off at Westminster Mall. Cathy used to work at the Republic Federal Savings branch there, so we wanted to see what had moved in to that space. We were surprised to see that the space looked almost unchanged, even though it is now the ‘City Hall at the Mall’ for the city of Westminster. The vault was even still there. It was a fun little trip down Memory Lane.

After the stop at the mall, we went to the old McDonnell Douglas plant down the street so I could recreate the picture from my going-away party there, back in 1984.

When we got to Long Beach, our plan was to have dinner at Hamburger Henry. While this may seem an odd choice, it has great sentimental value for us. Our wedding was in Long Beach, and Cathy spent most of the evening visiting with relatives and friends there. So she never had a chance to eat her dinner. And when it was all over, she was hungry. So we headed out at 1:00AM looking for something to eat. We ended up at Hamburger Henry.

While we were there, we noticed that a lot of the people there were dressed in costumes. Then we realized that it was the Saturday night before Halloween. In all the wedding planning, that had never occurred to us. And we said that maybe we shouldn’t have changed before going there. We would have fit right in, dressed as a bride and groom.

So we got there, but there was something else there. We asked at some of the neighboring stores, and they told us that Hamburger Henry had been gone for something like eight years. The land was just too valuable to use for just selling hamburgers, so the owner had leased it to a developer and the old place was gone.

We ended up having our burgers at another place nearby. It was still a fun evening. And we got to meet a hot-pink dog while we were there.

On my mother’s grave…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

Today we took Lucinda down to Orange County so she could spend the night at her Aunt Maggi’s house. On the way, we stopped off in Huntington Beach so we could visit my mother’s grave. When I was a kid, my mother used to talk about how she was looking forward to the day when I was grown and would have grandchildren for her to dote on. Sadly, she never got the chance. She died in 1994, five years before Lucinda was born.

I’ve told Lucinda about her, and since we were going to be passing near the cemetery, we stopped off so that she could meet her other grandma. She said that she felt sad that she never met her grandma. I told her about how excited and happy her grandma would have been if she’d had a chance to meet Lucinda.


Our 17th Anniversary

Filed under: — stan @ 9:50 pm

It’s our 17th anniversary. Wait – no, it’s not. That’s not until next Saturday. But Lucinda is going to her aunt’s house for the weekend, so we decided to do our official big night out tonight so she could come along. She wanted to go to “the restaurant with the moving floor” – L.A. Prime at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Doesn’t everyone let their six-year-old choose how they are going to celebrate their anniversary?

So we made a reservation and headed down there. We’ve gone there for New Year’s Eve before, but I think this was the first time we’d gotten there before dark. Just outside on the street we saw the remnants of a day of filming. There was a rack of odd-looking mopeds and lots of strange-looking potted plants on the sidewalk. The hotel people told us that it was for “Mission: Impossible III”. Since I doubt we’ll see that, we will probably never know if they were right or not.

Once we got inside, we headed for the restaurant. As always, the food and service were superb. The view was only so-so this time, since it was a foggy evening in L.A. But Lucinda still had a fun time going around looking out the windows. And after dinner we all headed to the revolving lounge to look at the moving floor.

Overall, it was a fun evening


Magic: The Science of Illusion

Filed under: — stan @ 10:45 pm

Today we took Lucinda and her friend Lucy to the California Science Center for the Magic Exhibit.

We saw the ‘disembodied head’ illusion, the ‘heavy crate’ illusion, the ‘levitating chair’ illusion, and a whole host of card tricks. It was a fun time. There are more pictures in Lucinda’s photo album.


Mother on Fire

Filed under: — stan @ 6:42 pm

mother on fire
Today we went to see Sandra Tsing Loh’s new show, “Mother on Fire“.

Sandra Tsing Loh and I have similar backgrounds. We’re both half Chinese and half German. We both got degrees in Physics from major universities. We both spent some time working in the aerospace gulag of Hughes Aircraft. But then she went off into performing arts and writing, while I became a computer nerd.

Her latest show is about parenthood, and particularly about the travails of trying to get her daughter into a good school in Los Angeles. Having just been through that particular crucible last year, we were primed for a good time. And she did not disappoint. The show was a hoot, with stories about the Los Angeles Unified School District, where the kids eat candy and are stalked by an obese mountain lion in the hallways, to a bidding war over a house in La Cañada and talk of moving to Utah. It was hugely entertaining and tremendously funny.

If you’re in Los Angeles, go see this show.


Inkslingers’ Ball

Filed under: — stan @ 10:08 pm

It’s September, which means it’s time for the Inkslingers’ Ball. This is easily the best tattoo convention in Los Angeles, and it’s my sentimental favorite. We’ve been going to it since ‘95, and it’s always great fun.

I went on Friday night and also on Saturday. Cathy joined me for Saturday night. I have a whole circle of friends that I know from these events that I never see anywhere else, so it’s always a fun time to see them and catch up.

When Cathy got there, we went and had dinner at Fabioulus Cafe, which is just down the street from The Palladium where the convention is held. After that, we went back and wandered around, visiting with our friends there. We saw Erica, who has a whole tattoo sleeve of My Little Pony. We also ran into our old friend Lisa, who has lots of nice tattoos and is also a very interesting intellectual. We got to visit with Roberta and Hurley, who we’ve known for almost 20 years now. Also, we did some shopping there. We bought a set of ‘Vacation in Hell’ refrigerator magnets, and Cathy bought a couple of new shirts.

Overall, it was a very fun time. The pictures are here.


Lake Tahoe, 2005

Filed under: — stan @ 5:08 pm

Here’s the story of our family vacation at Lake Tahoe this summer. I have links to some of the photos here, but if you want to see all the photos, they are here.

Saturday, August 20

We decided to do something a bit different this year, and fly out of Ontario airport instead of LAX. It turns out it’s actually a bit closer to our house, and Southwest Airlines has a one-stop, no-plane-change flight to Reno from there. And they were running a special, so it was cheaper than LAX.

In the airport gift shop, we saw a romance novel, Gone with the Nerd. Yikes. When did nerds become characters in romance novel, and why wasn’t I notified of this?

After a brief stop in San Jose, we took the short hop over the Sierras and landed in Reno. We stopped for dinner at Carrow’s near the airport, and then we drove over the mountains to South Lake Tahoe. We got to Grandpa’s house there at about 8:00. I made a quick run to Raley’s to get food for breakfast and that was the end of our day.

Sunday, August 21

We woke up this morning and had to take another trip to Raley’s to get some Orajel. Lucinda’s six-year molars are coming in, and she needed some help. Also, we had realized that we had forgotten to bring books for her bedtime stories, so we had to find a few of them, too.

After that, we went to do our favorite hike up to Cascade Falls. As always, Lucinda didn’t really get interested in it until we got to the part of the trail that was on the rocks. But she enjoyed it after that.

The chipmunks came around while we were sitting up at the falls, but we made sure that they couldn’t get into the pack this time. Last year, they got into the pack and ate our chocolate chip cookies.

When we were starting back down, my phone rang. Turns out Sprint has a good signal up there on the mountain, so Lucinda got to talk to Aunt Maggi while we were hiking back from the falls.

After the hike, we went to the pool, and Lucinda showed us what she had learned in her swimming lessons this summer.

That evening, we had dinner at The Broiler Room at Caesar’s. The food was good, as always, and they had the usual flourish at the end with the chocolate-covered strawberries and dry ice.

Monday, August 22

Today we made a trip to the Attic, which is the local hospital thrift store. We cleaned up the owner’s closet a bit and donated some old clothes and other items. Then we had lunch at Carrow’s. The staff at this particular restaurant seemed really quite lax for some reason. But it was all right. We were on vacation, after all.

After that, we went to the K-Mart to buy some new bathroom rugs and other furnishings for the house. While we were there, we heard The Cure, and we reflected on how strange it was that a band that was considered so alternative and edgy when we were young was now being played at K-Mart. And we felt a bit old. Then we went back home and went to the pool for some more swimming.

Dinner tonight was at The Horizon casino’s Josh’s restaurant. We remembered this restaurant as having a great dessert cart, but they didn’t have the cart this time. The desserts were still good, but we missed getting to see them before ordering. Also, while we were there, we noticed that the music in the restaurant was almost completely easy-listening versions of ’60s standards. Again, we felt a bit old.

On the way out of the casino, I had a look around the blackjack tables. The last time we were there, they didn’t have anything for less than $10 a hand, which is just too much for my taste. This time, they had several single-deck tables for $5 a hand. They’d even loosened up the rules a bit by allowing double-downs on hard 8 and 9. But then I noticed that they also changed the rules and only pay 6-5 for blackjack. Years ago, I wrote a program to play blackjack and figure out how the game works. Turns out the player who uses basic strategy wins something like 42% of the time, the house wins about 56%, and 2% are ties. If the house pays 3-2 for when the player gets blackjack, it all works out that then the player is almost even with the house. By changing the blackjack payout, they take a big bite out of the player’s expectation value. So I didn’t play this trip.

Tuesday, August 23

This morning, Cathy did some more cleanup in the owner’s closet in the house, and we made another stop at The Attic.

We also did some exploring around the house. The neighbor’s house had a bird’s nest built underneath the deck. Lucinda also found a lizard on one of the rocks.

Next, we went to Anderson’s Bike Rentals and rented some bikes for a ride along the lake. We got a little trailer for Lucinda to ride in. The bikes were worn, but well-maintained, and they provided helmets, a map, and a lock. Normally, Cathy and I don’t ride bikes together, since I tend to go a bit faster than she does, but having 50 pounds of trailer and kid attached to my bike slowed me down a bit, so we were almost evenly matched.

We rode the bike path north along the lake, stopping at the Stream Profile Chamber for a look at the fish. Then we took the path south through town. This part went through the auto-body ghetto. Every town needs to have wrecking yards and auto-body shops, but they are usually pretty well-hidden in tourist towns. We even passed the very smelly refuse recycling building and an apartment with a warning sign about a hazard we don’t have at home in L.A. The bike route went past all of this stuff, and it was actually pretty entertaining. In all, it was about a 20 mile ride.

For dinner, we went to Harvey’s casino. They have a restaurant on the top floor called “19″, which is their ‘nice’ restaurant. When we got up there, the view was impressive. And I realized that I’d forgotten the camera. D’oh! The menu was a bit odd. It was high-priced, but they had things like french fries and macaroni and cheese as side dishes. The dessert menu included “warm doughnuts with two sauces”. For their after-dinner flourish, they brought out a ball of pink cotton candy big as your head. I hate cotton candy. The smell of it makes me nauseous, but Cathy and Lucinda chowed down on it, and I once again was infinitely irritated that I’d forgotten the camera.

Wednesday, August 24

Today’s adventure was over the hill in Carson City. We went to the Nevada Railroad Museum, where we got to try riding and pumping an actual railroad hand car, as well as seeing the preserved trains there. We also saw an exhibit about the role of the Chinese in building the railroads in the west.

Lunch was at Applebee’s in Carson City, and after that we went and did some more shopping for new items for the house. We got some long wood screws so I could repair the front deck railing, as well as a new stereo for the house.

After that, we went back home and went to the pool. Dinner was at Evans, which is easily our pick for the best restaurant in South Lake Tahoe. I had the Grilled tenderloin of beef on gratin potato cake with garlic compound butter, sauteed spinach and port wine sauce. Yum. Lucinda and I shared a dessert. We even came in under-budget this time, with a bill of $99.99. It was good.

Thursday, August 24

Today I did the repair on the deck railing. It wasn’t too hard to do, but it was still a bit of an adventure, since I was using unfamiliar tools.

We did another hike today. The Hawley Grade Trail follows the route of a wagon road from the days of the ‘49ers. The hike was 3.8 miles, which was a bit long for Lucinda, but I functioned well as a mule for her to ride most of the way.

As always, after the hike, we went to the pool. Lucinda is finally able to swim on her own with her pool noodle or kickboard. She was also able to swim almost all the way across the pool by herself with no floatation devices. So the swimming lessons were a Good Thing.

Dinner was at the Four Seasons at The Horizon. The sign in the lobby has a picture of a nice prime rib dinner, but guess what wasn’t on the menu. D’oh!

After dinner, we went back to the house and watched “Racing Stripes”. I had noticed that one of the couches was coming apart, so I got out the little sewing kit and sewed it back together.

Friday, August 25

Lucinda said that she didn’t want to do another hike today, so we rented bikes again. This time we went to Lakeview Sports. Their bikes were not as well-maintained as at Anderson’s, and the counter guy was kind of a doofus. I had to oil the chains on both bikes, adjust the brakes, and tighten up the pedal cages before we could ride. Then we did basically the same ride as Tuesday, but in the opposite direction. We went past the lumber yard, where some graffiti tells us a bit about what the locals in Tahoe do for fun. We passed the Moose Lodge and also saw a coyote. This time, I brought along my little GPS unit and measured the ride, which turned out to be 19 miles. When we got back, the manager gave us a good discount on the rental, since I’d had to fix the bikes for them. He was apologetic about it, saying that their bike mechanic had been taken ill. Since their season only runs through the summer, they were having a hard time hiring a mechanic for just a few weeks.

We always have our last night’s dinner at Evans, and this trip was no exception. We picked different items from the menu, and as always, it was all good. Lucinda and I also shared the same dessert.

Our final bit of house maintenance involved rearranging the couches in the living room.

Saturday, August 26

This morning, we all got up early for the trip home. We drove over the mountains to Reno. Along the way, I collected a picture of a new sign for my Animal Crossings collection.

When we got to the airport, we had just enough time to check in and get on the plane. The trip home stopped in Las Vegas, so the plane was full of rowdy people on their way to a weekend of debauchery. I also got to do a bit of atomic tourism on the way. We got a view out the plane window of Frenchman Flat at the Nevada Test Site. This was the site of the 1957 “Priscilla” test, where the AEC built a town out on the dry lake bed and then nuked it with a 37kiloton bomb.

After the stop on Las Vegas, we continued on to Ontario, passing over the Solar One power plant near Barstow. It didn’t look like it was operating at the time.

Finally, we stopped off at the kennel on the way home to spring the dogs.

All in all, it was a fun trip.


Over the river and through the woods…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:50 pm

Today we took the train down to San Diego to visit Grandpa Schwarz. Riding the train is a pleasant way to go there, and it’s an arduous trip by car. The only bad thing(s) that happened were that we missed the first two trains. When we got to the Gold Line station in Pasadena, the train left just as we were coming down the stairs. We had to wait for the next train, and then when we got to Union Station, we looked out the window and saw the Amtrak Surfliner leaving for San Diego. So we had to wait for the next one.

Once we got there, we had a nice time. Grandpa picked us up at the train station and we all went to lunch. After that, we went back to his apartment. He played computer games and music with Lucinda, while Cathy and I looked through piles of old photos. I found a lot of pictures from my bike racing days back in the late ’70s, which was fun. I’ve scanned some of them for my photo album already, and I’m going to see about getting the slides scanned.

After a fun and relaxing afternoon, we got back on the train for the trip home. The train was crowded, so we ended up in the front car, which turned out to be entertaining. The engineer had the door to the cab open, so we could look out the front window. He also let Lucinda blow the train horn. So we had a fun trip back.

When we got home, we were all tired, but it was a fun day.


Body Art Expo

Filed under: — stan @ 11:31 pm

body art expo
This weekend is the big Body Art Expo at the L.A. County Fairgrounds. This is billed as “The World’s Largest Tattoo and Piercing Convention”. I don’t doubt that. They spend a lot on promotion to make it so that pretty much everyone in Los Angeles knows about it. So the sheer size of it is impressive. Still, perhaps I’m getting jaded in my old age. It’s just not as much fun as it seems like it should be.

I got there around 3:30 or so. I stayed until about 9:00. I had an acceptably fun time. Highlights included the girl with the corset piercing. She had one of the best outfits there. I also enjoyed seeing my friend Rick at The Mermaid’s Tale booth.

There was a barbershop booth there that was doing a brisk business with hot towel shaves. That was a bit odd. One funny bit was the massage booth with the big banner announcing “MASSAGE CONFORFAblE”. That looked like something straight out of And call me old-fashioned, but I still think The Jerky Hut looks strange at a tattoo convention.

Anyway, it was an amusing afternoon and evening.


Another tattoo show

Filed under: — stan @ 11:58 pm

queen mary photo album
I went to the Queen Mary Tattoo Convention today. Overall, it was a pretty fun time, even if there were some annoying aspects about it. The sources of annoyance were tripartite:

  • They stopped selling the online advance tickets when the doors opened. And they only took cash at the door.
  • The parking was full, and they didn’t have clear signs of where we should go.
  • They charged us $12 for parking, even when it was two miles away.

So by the time I actually got in the door, I was kind of annoyed. But all that dissipated once I got inside. I got to see several of my tattoo convention friends there. They had three levels of booths set up, along with a stage on the bottom level. The marching band was pretty funny. My friend won a raffle or something for a gift certificate for a tattoo at one of the booths, so I got to watch her get tattooed. She also got a bunch of free stuff handed out from the stage. They were giving out Jägermeister hats and shirts, and she decided that she was going to get one. So she flashed the MC. This brought a cheer from the crowd, and got her both a shirt and a hat. Then they announced that they had some other shirts that they would give to any girl willing to change into them onstage. So she got up on the stage. This delighted the crowd even more. Of course, I got pictures.

It was a fun time.

So here are my pictures from the day. Note that they are not entirely work-safe, thanks to my very dear and at the time somewhat inebriated friend.

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