Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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8/13/2019

The Transit Museum

Filed under: — stan @ 9:09 pm

Today was a day involving a lot of subways. First, we rode the subway to Brooklyn to go to the Transit Museum, which tells the history of the subway system in New York. I’ve been there before, but only in 1985. The exhibits include lots of old trains, and even some so old that they were in regular service the last time I went to the museum.

We stopped in at the Transit Museum gift shop. I got an antique metal strap from a retired subway car. And also a hat and shirt with the number “1″. I’ve long said that the IRT number1 train is my spirit animal.

Then we rode the Q train back to Manhattan. We rode it all the way to the end of the line. This was largely because the last three stations on the line are new, part of the Second Avenue Subway. This is the newest subway line, and I had to see it, since I can still remember everyone talking about how it was the Next Big Thing, and how it was Coming Real Soon. And that was when I was in high school in 1976. But they finally got some of it built and running. Riding it was like seeing a unicorn in the wild.


8/12/2019

The Met and the NHM

Filed under: — stan @ 9:09 pm

Today was a big walking tour around Manhattan to see the two big things we wanted to see. Kathleen wanted to go to the Met, and I wanted to go to the Natural History Museum. The Hall of Dinosaurs there was one of my most favorite things when I was a kid.

At the Met, we saw the “Camp” exhibit, which was very entertaining. Then we walked across Central Park, stopping for lunch at the boathouse for lunch. At the NHM, we saw the two big dinosaur halls, and also the special T-Rex exhibit, where we got to see the new vision of T-Rex with feathers.

All around, it was a fun day.

8/11/2019

Playing tourist on the Lower East Side

Filed under: — stan @ 8:43 pm

Today’s adventure was to play tourist in Lower Manhattan. We started with dim sum in Chinatown, which was good. After that, we walked a bit to get to the Tenement Museum. We took the “Hard Times” tour, which was recommended as a good overview of the sorts of experiences and problems that recent immigrants had to deal with. And seeing the tiny apartments inside the building – yikes.

After the tenement tour, we went to the Eldrige Street Synagogue. This dates back to around the same era as the Tenement Museum. And we never knew that there was a large Jewish settlement in northern China in the late 19th century, populated largely by Russian Jews.

After the museum tours, we walked back to the World Trade Center and took the ferry back across the Hudson to Hoboken.

8/10/2019

Visiting Stamford

Filed under: — stan @ 8:43 pm

This summer’s big trip was a visit to the East Coast. First, to Stamford, Connecticut, where Melissa is having her White Coat Ceremony. In the Physician Assistant program, this marks the end of the first year of classroom instruction, and the beginning of about a year and half of real-world experience with doctors and patients. It’s a Big Deal.

We started out our day at LAX, which is generally not the way one wants to start any particular day. And today was a brilliant example of that, since when we got there, we quickly found out that our 9:30AM flight had been delayed until 3:15PM. Fortunately, I’d come prepared with my MacBook and a few movies. So we watched “Pandas” and “Long Shot” while sitting in the terminal at LAX.

We finally got underway at just a bit after 3:00, finally getting to JFK at about 11:45PM. The plan had been to take the train to Stamford, but because we were getting in so late, Melissa was able to drive into the city to pick us up.

In the morning, we all headed up to Sacred Heart for the ceremony. It was nice, and the 39 students all looked very pleased.

The next day, we played tourist a bit around Stamford. We went to the Stamford Nature Center. We got to see feeding time for the little river otters.

The original plan was to take the train to New York after the Nature Center, but I had contacted my old high school friend Steve to see about when we’d be able to get together. And it turned out that not only does Steve have a very nice boat, he keeps it at a marina in Stamford, just a half-mile from the hotel where we were staying. So we arranged to stay one more night in Stamford, and then we went sailing with Steve on Saturday. That was a nice and unexpected treat.

After sailing, we rode the train into New York. The, two subways and a PATH train later, we came out in Hoboken to visit with my old friend Gordon.

So far, it’s a pretty fun trip.

7/30/2019

I didn’t think it was possible that city services could be *too* good…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:44 am

Last night, a big branch broke off one of the trees across the street from our house. This happened at about 10:30 or so, and I made a note to call Pasadena Forestry first thing in the morning to have it taken care of. We went outside for a look, and I took some pictures. I was kind of excited that I finally had a reason to use my Big Serious Flash on the camera. The branch that broke off was about 8 inches thick or so, and it fell down on the street, blocking about half the street. Fortunately, our street has very little traffic, so this wasn’t a problem.

This has happened before:

http://www.1134.org/blog/2005/08/28/have-i-mentioned-that-pasadena-has-emgreatem-city-services/

http://www.1134.org/blog/2004/07/29/crack/

Both of those times, the fallen branch blocked our driveway. But this time, the branch wasn’t blocking anything to speak of.

So we went to sleep. And we were rather rudely awakened at 05:20 by a chainsaw about 50 feet from our open bedroom window. I looked outside, and there was a city crew there, cutting up the fallen branch. I went outside and asked them why they were doing this at 00-dark-whatever, rather than waiting until sunrise. They said that they had been told by the Po;lice Department that it was an emergency and needed to be cleared immediately. I called the police, and they said that one of the neighbors had called it in, and they pointed the finger at the Fire Department as to why it was deemed to be such an emergency.

But seriously, looking at the pictures, it’s pretty clear that this could have waited. By 6:00AM, I’d already written a letter to our city councilman.

And it’s also happened before that they sent a crew out in the middle of the night for something that really wasn’t an emergency:

http://www.1134.org/blog/2007/09/12/hey-look-no-branch/


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.


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.

8/21/2017

The Main Event

Filed under: — stan @ 8:03 pm

So, after two volcanoes, some sloths, thousands of tiny salmon, and dinner with Aunt Karen, it was finally time for the real reason for the whole trip. The total eclipse, and we had good front-row seats in the back yard of Kathleen’s brother Johnny’s house in Salem, Oregon.

We got stupendously lucky with the weather. It was a perfect, clear blue sky when we woke up. I set up my telescope with the camera on a little portable workbench on the back patio. With the clock drive going, the telescope tracked the sun as it rose.

I snapped a few pictures of the sun through the solar filter just to see what it looked like, and to get the camera settings right. I’d used the filter before for the transit of Venus, and also a partial eclipse in 2012. But since I’d never seen a total eclipse before, I knew that I’d be guessing about the settings when that time came.

First contact was about 9:00AM or so, and it looked just like every other partial eclipse I’ve seen over the years. We just watched as the Moon slowly marched across the face of the Sun. It wasn’t until it was probably 90% covered that we could really notice that the light was getting dim, and right at the end, it got cold, too. But then, when the actual moment of totality came, it was like a switch was flipped, and I suddenly realized just why people travel all over the world to chase eclipses. It was really quite spectacular.

I pulled the filter off the telescope, and took some photos. I’d set the camera for ISO 800, and started with a guess of about 1/60 second exposure. Then I increased the exposure on each shot, just to see what it would look like. Because I’d forgotten the remote shutter-release thingy at home, I had to set the camera on a 2-second timer. That way, for each picture, I’d press the button by hand, and then the telescope and camera had two seconds to stop wiggling before the shutter tripped. For a last-minute workaround, it worked reasonably well. And besides, the enforced wait between pictures gave me some time to just look up a the sky, slack-jawed at the sight of the solar corona.

As the Sun started to reappear, I snapped a couple more pictures, and by sheer luck, I got a reasonably good picture of the ‘Diamond ring’ effect right at the end of totality. All told, it was a good time, and was easily the thing that made the whole trip worthwhile.


8/20/2017

Lava River Cave

Filed under: — stan @ 5:25 pm

Today was our last day at Newberry Volcano, and we got up early to go and see Lava River Cave before it was time to head back to Salem for the eclipse.

The cave opens at 9, and we got there a bit before that, just so we could be in the first group to go tour the cave. The rangers gave a short talk about cave safety, and then we picked up our rental lights and headed down to the entrance. Even though it’s August, the inside of the cave was an even 42 degrees, so it was actually pretty chilly.

The cave itself was pretty big. Most of it was just easy walking. There were just a few places where the roof was low, and we had to stoop a bit. The floor of the cave was covered in sand. The rangers said that the sand was actually ash from the eruption of Mt Mazama, about 7,000 years ago. That eruption left a thick layer of ash over the whole of what is now central Oregon, and the ash was washed down into the cave by rain over the years.

The walk through the cave was about a mile to get to the end. The cave went on, but the ceiling was very low, and the sign said to turn around and go back. So that was our little cave adventure, and now it was time to head back to Salem to see the eclipse.

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