Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Page 1 of 3812345»102030...Last »

9/12/2015

Sea Turtle Trek with Atlas Obscura

Filed under: — stan @ 1:32 pm

Some years ago, I read that there is a colony of green sea turtles living in the San Gabriel River, near the power plant in Long Beach. The last time I went on the bike club ride to Seal Beach, I tried to look at the river there and see if I could see one, but I couldn’t spot any. So when I found out that Atlas Obscura was going on a tour of the Los Cerritos wetlands and to see the turtles by the power plant, I got us tickets right away.

We met at the entrance to the wetlands, right next to the San Gabriel River in Seal Beach. After a little introduction by our guides, we set off. It was about a mile of walking through the wetlands and around oil wells and such before we got to the power plant. The spot where we were going to look for turtles is right across the river from the power plant. But as we were crossing the bridge, someone spotted a turtle coming up to breathe right below us. Fortunately, I had my camera out and ready, and I snapped a few pictures before the turtle went back underwater. It looked like its shell was probably two or three feet long.

We continued on to the turtle-viewing area. Our guide spotted one turtle head coming up briefly when we got there, but the rest of the time we were there, we didn’t see any more turtles. On the way back, some people saw another turtle while we were crossing the bridge, but I didn’t see that one. So in the end, I only saw one turtle, but I did get a pretty good picture of it, so I can’t complain. This was still a pretty good adventure.


8/1/2015

Visiting San Diego – Again

Filed under: — stan @ 8:40 pm

This weekend, we headed down to San Diego to visit my father. We drove down, and I got Lucinda to drive about half of it. I like that, since I don’t really enjoy driving.

When we got there, we went up to visit Grandpa for a bit before dinner. We usually go to dinner at the Prado in Balboa Park, but this time, when I called them to adjust our reservation from four people to six, they said they couldn’t do it. It’s summer, and they’re just really busy. So we got on OpenTable and went looking. And the Marine Room in La Jolla could take us. We’ve been there before, but not for a few years now. But it was as nice as we remember. The only thing missing was the Chocolate Bomb. That was the thing that had a little bit of gold leaf on top of it. It was very good, but they don’t have it on the menu any more. But everything else was very good. And it was nice to visit.

5/30/2015

Dapper Cadaver for Obscura Day

Filed under: — stan @ 5:10 pm

Today is Obscura Day, and the Atlas Obscura people are putting on about 20 events all around the Los Angeles area. And one of them is a visit to Dapper Cadaver, which is one of the premier places for supplying horror movie props. Since Lucinda and I went on the Dearly Departed tour of Hollywood, as well as the Helter Skelter tour, and we also visited the Museum of Death. So I figured this would be right up her alley.

There was a pretty big group there for the tour. We were shown around the different rooms where they showcase the things they make there. There were lifelike animals, and deathlike humans. There was a an entire room dedicated to body parts and bodies in various stages of dismemberment.

Another room was dedicated to ‘things in jars’. Lucinda perked up when he showed us the baby skull in a jar that was used on an episode of “American Horror Story“.

In the end, there weren’t any props that we just had to have for our house, but we did pick up a catalog to take home. I got Lucinda one of their shirts, and everyone on the tour got a Dapper Cadaver shot glass for a souvenir. It was a fun, albeit horrifying experience. But that was the idea.

4/4/2015

The Dearly Departed Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 4:45 pm

Today, Lucinda and I went on the Dearly Departed Tour. This is the Hollywood tour that takes us to all the spots where the stars died, as well as a stop at the Pierce Brothers Westwood cemetery, which is the final resting place of many of the biggest stars in Hollywood. I took her on the Helter Skelter Tour about the Manson Family last year, so it seemed like it was time to do the regular tour now.

We had a nice brunch at Off Vine before the tour. That’s still one of my favorite restaurants. Then we headed over to the tour office on Sunset Boulevard. The tour showed us a weird collection of locations, including Bela Lugosi’s last apartment, the apartment in West Hollywood where Marilyn Monroe lived for a time, and the bit of sidewalk in front of the Viper Room where River Phoenix collapsed and died. In between, we had a stop at Pierce Brothers in Westwood, where we saw many of the most famous stars’ graves. And we weren’t even the only parent and kid group on the tour. There was a mother and son, about our ages, who were visiting from somewhere in the midwest. They had even gone so far as to be staying in the motel room where Janis Joplin died. They were making it a complete death-pilgrimage experience.

We had a nice time on the tour. And on the way home, I let Lucinda drive my car for the first time. It was actually her first time driving on the freeway, and she did pretty well at it.

2/1/2015

Baby seals!

Filed under: — stan @ 6:12 pm

This weekend, we all took a trip to San Diego to visit my father, and also to go see the seals at La Jolla Cove. Late January and early February is the pupping season, and there truly is nothing cuter than baby seals. I first saw the seals back in 2007, and we’ve been coming to see them almost every time we come to San Diego since then. And in particular, we always make a point of coming to see them when the seal pups are being born. There was a volunteer from the Seal Conservancy at the beach, and he pointed out the new pups and told us a little about them. Sadly, there are some people who actively dislike the seals, and like to chase them away. But fortunately, since marine mammals are protected, the courts have ruled that the beach can be closed to people during the pupping season.

After seeing the seals, we headed back to my father’s place. Along the way, we stopped off at the Torrey Pines Gliderport. I’d only seen that once before, back in 1985, and I remember it being pretty spectacular to watch the hang gliders soaring along the cliffs there. But sadly, there was nobody out flying today. Still, it was interesting to see it again.


11/29/2014

Sightseeing downtown San Diego

Filed under: — stan @ 9:17 pm

On Friday and Saturday this week, Lucinda and I went to San Diego to visit my father. He was sick for a while recently, and it’s only in the last month that he’s been feeling better. Since it’s a holiday weekend, the only Residence Inn that had suites available was the one in downtown San Diego. So we stayed there on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, I went out for a little sightseeing walk.

I’d seen the Star of India there before, but I hadn’t realized that it’s part of a larger maritime museum, and that they have both a Russian and a U.S. submarine on display there. All that, and an exhibit about sailors and tattoos. I think we will have to go there the next time we go.

A little farther down, I passed the Midway Museum. We went to see that some years ago. Next to that was the “Unconditional Surrender” statue. I’d heard about this, but not been to see it before.

Heading back to the hotel, I went through part of downtown to see the buildings I’ve climbed in past stair races. The One America Plaza building is the tallest in San Diego, and we all climbed it last March. The 550 Corporate Center building is only 20 stories, but it was the location for the 2014 Towerthon. I climbed that building 20 times in two hours that day.

I walked through the San Diego Trolley station, where I saw the Orange and Green Line trains. Again, I think that San Diego MTS is channeling Magritte. The trains say Orange and Green on them, but they are clearly Red.

The last building I looked at was Columbia Center. This was the setting for the 2012 and 2013 Towerthon. Both times, I climbed the building 17 times in two hours.

Back at the hotel, I got Lucinda up for breakfast, and afterward, we took a walk through Little Italy. They had a big farmer’s market going there. We got some fresh juices, looked around, and we were both a bit disturbed by the fresh sea urchins. Still, it was a fun time. And afterward, we went to visit with Grandpa.

7/12/2014

We’re a family now!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

Today was Kathleen’s and my wedding. We’ve been planning this for some time, but the planning process was put on hold over the winter when my back went to hell. But now that it’s back to normal, we decided to forge ahead, and we’ve spent the last two months planning this day. The event was held in Carla’s back yard. After two years of Sunday bike rides, I’ve heard lots about the tribulations Carla experienced with getting the yard redone, and so when she volunteered it for our wedding, we were very happy. We spent a lot of time working out the decorations, and all of yesterday putting them up. And along the way, we arranged for tables, chairs, a DJ, and professional bartenders. So by the time the actual day came along, we were pretty tired, but still excited.

We consulted with a Unitarian minister for our ceremony. She pointed us in the right direction, and we wrote it ourselves. We thought it would be appropriate if Kathleen and I both walked in with our respective kids along, since they’re part of the new family we’re forming here. I’d asked the minister if there were particular sides for the bride and groom to stand on. She said that there is some traditional way it’s done, but she’s been doing all same-sex weddings lately and can’t remember what the traditional arrangement is. I thought that was a nice sign of the times, and we decided to just wing it. The actual ceremony was only about five minutes or so. We wanted to keep it concise and to the point.

Afterward, it was time to eat. We’d arranged to have the Lobos Truck do the food. We’ve seen them at ArtWalk and other events, but we’d never eaten there, owing to their always having a long line. We took that to be a recommendation, and the food turned out to be pretty good. The only downside to it was that it took a fairly long time to serve everyone, since they cooked each one to order. But it was good.

The bartenders came from Goose on the Rocks, and they did a very good job. They kept track of everything, mixed and served, and they were just good to have there to keep an eye on everything. They’d given us a shopping list of supplies to get, and it turned out to be pretty conservative. We’ve got a lot of booze and such left over. But that’s all right.

Music was by DJ Oda, and he played music the whole time, including making some impromptu mashups later in the evening.

Our cake was my by our friend Karina from my office. She’s become quite a good baker, and knows how to make a cake that looks great and also tastes great. And the cake she made for us was a winner all around.

So it turned out to be a good party.

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.

5/22/2014

Open! – Another adventure with the Obscura Society

Filed under: — stan @ 11:39 pm

Ever since we got on the mailing list for Atlas Obscura, we’ve found the most interesting and odd things to do through them. That’s how we got to tour the Corriganville Movie Ranch, the Hyperion sewage-treatment plant, Pasadena Field Trip Day, and The Bunny Museum. Tonight’s adventure was “Locked – A Lock Picking Workshop”. Lock picking has been a minor hobby of mine ever since I read Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman! back in the ’80s. In the chapter about when he cracked the safes at Los Alamos during the war, he briefly described how to pick locks. And after reading that, I taught myself to do it, using a screwdriver and a paper clip. That was good enough to open desks and file cabinets, but not anything harder. Some years later, I was able to obtain a real lock picking kit, and I was even able to use it to wake Lucinda up when she overslept at her mom’s house one time.

We had a full crew for this adventure. Kathleen wanted to learn, Lucinda’s wanted to learn since that day back in 2010, my friends Steve and Morgan from work wanted to learn, and I wanted to learn how to do it properly, and what all those other funny picks in the kit are for. All these years, I’ve pretty much just used the one pick that most resembles the bent paperclip I first learned with. So I thought seeing it done by an actual lock-picking master would be good.

Our instructor for this was Schuyler Towne, who competes in lock picking contests, does security consulting, and leads workshops such as the one we attended. He was really quite a character, and very entertaining. And the class came complete with a set of basic picks, a tension wrench, and two locks to practice on.

He talked about the history of locks, and about how the basic pin tumbler lock we all use today dates back thousands of years, and has been essentially unchanged since the 1800s. He also talked about variations, such as locks with special pins in them to make them harder to pick, and about different types of locks, and how the principles of picking are very similar for all.

Defeating locks can be done in many different ways. He talked about the Kryptonite bike lock recall of 2004, and how Kryptonite basically shot themselves in the foot there. Apparently, the flaw that was discovered in their locks dates back a long time, and their original locks back in the ’70s were not vulnerable to it. But somewhere along the line, they switched to a slightly cheaper locking mechanism, and that’s where the trouble began. And in the end, I know that it cost them customers. They replaced my old lock for free back in 2005. But the new lock they sent me had a locking mechanism that was so poorly made, it barely worked, and it was very hard to open. So in the end, I junked it and bought one of their competitor’s locks, and it has worked well for nearly a decade now.

Another way to defeat locks is just to get an impression of the key in order to be able to copy it. He showed us how to take a quick impression by pressing the key into our wrist. And no, that’s not my house key. That’s the key to the practice lock from the class.

The last trick we learned was how to use an aluminum shim from a soda can to open padlocks and handcuffs. After all, one never knows what the day will bring.

Overall, this was a very good adventure, even if it was kind of a late night for a weekday. Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy the Obscura adventures?

3/15/2014

Helter Skelter

Filed under: — stan @ 5:46 pm

Since I took Lucinda to the Museum of Death last year, I got us tickets to go on the Dearly Departed Helter Skelter tour. I’ve gone on their regular Tragical History Tour many times, as far back as 1990, when it was still called the Grave Line Tour.

We rode around in the van for the whole morning, and we got to see most of the locations associated with the Manson Family murders in 1969. It’s a multimedia tour, too, featuring movie and TV clips from the time with people involved in the case, as well as songs written by Charles Manson. There was even a song he wrote that was recorded by The Beach Boys. It was all very interesting, at times horrifying, and very entertaining tour. A very good father-daughter bonding activity.

Page 1 of 3812345»102030...Last »

Powered by WordPress