Stan’s Obligatory Blog


The reluctant icon

Filed under: — stan @ 5:11 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the old Toluca Lake route, with a stop at Forest Lawn to pay respects to an icon of our times. A very reluctant icon, to be sure, but still someone who had a major effect on Los Angeles and its culture. We were going to see Rodney King.

The ride out was pleasant. It was a nice day, and we made good time. Along the L.A. River bike path, I noticed that they’d put up new LED street lights. Maybe that will take care of the problems they were having with homeless people digging up the wires under the old street lights to sell the copper.

When we got to Forest Lawn, we made our way up the hill, almost all the way to the back of the cemetery. The entry in wasn’t very specific about the location, but I was able to figure it out from looking at the pictures. He does not have a marker yet, probably because he died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. The whole Rodney King story is really quite sad. I don’t think he deserved any of the bad things that happened to him, but at the same time, it’s complicated. After all, it was all the bad things that happened to him as a person that led to some real reforms in the LAPD, and that has been a real improvement for the city of Los Angeles. In the end, he will be a footnote in the history books, but on the other hand, that’s more than just about any of the rest of us will ever be.

Continuing on, we rode into Burbank. We passed the Starlet apartments, which had their sign repainted. It looks quite nice now, and not nearly as down-and-out as it used to. Besides the faded colors on the old sign, I always thought the thing that made it was the rough splotch of paint across the pool, almost certainly covering up the word ‘HEATED’ that must have been there before.

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s, which is a good place to stop on a hot day. The tables outside are shaded, and really quite pleasant.

The route home took us up into La Cañada, and then back across Altadena to the start. It was a nice ride.

45 miles.


They can’t all be gems…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:59 pm

Last year, we hiked up Echo Mountain on the 4th of July to watch the fireworks. The big Rose Bowl display was right below us, and we could see the shows at Dodger Stadium, Exposition Park, and even all the way down to the Queen Mary. It was impressive. So we decided to do it again this year.

We set out on the hike a little earlier this time, in hopes of getting a better spot on the top of the mountain. It wasn’t as hot as last year, and the hike wasn’t bad at all. I’d gotten the MapMyHike app for my new iPhone, and I set it to record the trip up the mountain. When we got to the trail junction near the top, the sign said it was 2.7 miles back to the start, but the GPS on the phone said we’d gone 3.7. I thought this was odd. It was hard to believe that all the guidebooks compiled over decades could be that wrong. But either way, at that point, we were at the top.

There was already a good crowd up there, and we ended up setting up camp in the same place as last year. That was all right, and we spread out our picnic that we’d brought. Then, when night fell, we were ready to watch the fireworks.

On the way up, we’d noticed that it was hazier than last year, but we thought that might dissipate after sundown, when the inversion layer over Los Angeles goes away. But when the fireworks started, we could see that there was a layer of low clouds that were obscuring our view of a good bit of the show. We could see the lower fireworks, but ones that went higher in the air went into the clouds, and we could only see the glowing bits that fell down from them. And then, just as we were absorbing all of this, the marine layer decided to move in. In a matter of minutes, low clouds condensed below us, and blotted out the entire city. So that was that.

We gathered up our things and headed down the mountain, along with the hundreds of other people up there. We’d brought real flashlights this time, and that worked out well. And it made for an odd sight on the trail, with a line of several hundred people with flashlights all walking down the trail.

So overall, even though the fireworks were a bit of a dud, it was a nice time.


Levitated Mass

Filed under: — stan @ 7:32 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a route out to Hancock Park and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the new “Levitated Mass” installation outside the museum. We’ve been reading about this for some time, since it was apparently a major undertaking to bring the rock to LACMA from the quarry in Riverside. The rock was too big to fit under a lot of overpasses, and too heavy for some bridges, so it had to take a very circuitous route to get to the museum. And now it’s installed just outside. So we went to see it.

Starting out, right away, Chris got a flat. Then we continued on, into downtown Los Angeles. When we got to Chinatown, we met up with GT, who had ridden in from Burbank. And he promptly got a flat, too.

While GT was fixing his tire, we got to see the guy pushing the cart with the roasted pig on it. That was an odd sight.

There was a big line outside one of the buildings downtown, but with no outward indication of what could be so popular at 9:00 on a Sunday morning.

Passing L.A. Live, we saw the outside of the X Games, as well as some oddly-dressed people who were on their way to the convention center and the Anime Expo.

When we got to the park, the rock was right there. There was a guard posted by it. He insisted that we could only walk under the rock, and we couldn’t ride our bikes through. I’m not really sure what that was supposed to help, but that’s what we did.

After looking at the rock, we left the park, passing the giant chrome Lenin-head at 4th St and La Brea. Then we rode across Hancock Park to the Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. We had snacks there, and then we headed home by way of Benton Way in Silver Lake.

By the time we got back to Pasadena, it was getting a little hot. But all told, it was a nice ride.

43 miles.


Rock Lobster!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:37 pm

Tonight Kathleen and I went to the Greek Theater in Griffith Park to see the B-52s. We’d seen them last summer at a nostalgia show at the Hollywood Bowl, and it was enough fun that we wanted to see them again. It was a nice day today, so it looked like it was going to be a good night.

We got tickets in the side terrace area. I like that section, since the seats are cheaper than anywhere else except the benches in the back, and it’s raised up, so we get a good view of the stage. And as long as we get our tickets early, we get to be close to the edge, so we’re not that far off to the side. We did think it was funny that they had an entire section of seats there closed off, with camouflage netting over it, as if to try and make it so we wouldn’t even notice that there were seats there. The potted tree just added to the absurdity of it.

The show opened with Squeeze, which is another vintage band from the early ’80s. I’m not all that familiar with them, but once they started playing, I found that I recognized a lot more of their songs than I thought I would. They finished their set with their best-known songs, “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” and “Black Coffee in Bed”. And then it was time for the B-52s.

There was a brief break while they set up the stage, but the Greek runs a tight ship. They have to be finished by 10:30 or 11:00 due to sound restrictions in the area, so they don’t waste time.

Once again, the B-52s did a great show. It was a lot of fun, and it was almost as if it was 1980 again. Nothing not to like about that. They played all their well-known songs, although Kathleen was hoping they would play “Quiche Lorraine“, and I was pretty much resigned to the fact that they weren’t going to play “She Brakes for Rainbows“. Still, we enjoyed the show. I shot one short experimental video with my camera:

It was a good chance to quietly weep for our lost youth. All around, it was a fun evening.


All aboard the Magritte train

Filed under: — stan @ 6:52 am

A few years ago, I went to see an exhibit at LACMA about Rene Magritte. When we were there, we saw his famous painting, “The Treachery of Images“:

this is not a pipe

Magritte is known for sort of teasing the viewer with images that can be self-contradictory, like the pipe with the caption, “This is not a pipe”.

So I thought of this last weekend when I was riding the train to downtown San Diego for the stair climb. I saw this pull into the station:

this train is not red

Who knew that the San Diego MTS had a surrealistic bent?


New horizons in insanity

Filed under: — stan @ 5:24 pm

Today was a new adventure. We’ve gone to San Diego twice now for the Lung Association stair climb, and that’s been fun. But it’s been mostly an excuse for a weekend in San Diego and to visit my father. At 31 stories, the climb itself just isn’t all that hard. But this weekend was the first San Diego Towerthon. This was a stair climb up Columbia Center in San Diego. We were only going to climb up to the 25th floor, but this time, the race was to see how many times we could do that in two hours. This sounded both insane and intriguing to me. After all, back in my bike racing days, I always did better in longer races than I did in short ones. So I thought this would be an interesting experience.

The climb was early on Saturday, which made it difficult to plan to come down that morning. So I hitched a ride with some of my other stair climbing friends on Friday and spent the night at one of the guest rooms at my father’s place. In the morning, I took the bus to the trolley, and rode the train downtown. This was my first time riding the San Diego train, and it was really quite pleasant.

When I got to the building, I checked in and got changed. Then we lined up, and they sent us into the stairs. They had timing mats in the entrance and at the top, and the computer was going to time each of our climbs up the building, and we had two hours to climb, starting from the time when we first stepped on the starting line mat. When it was my turn, I started my stopwatch and headed up.

At the top, we came out in the hallway on the 25th floor. There were volunteers handing out bottles of water and towels. Then they had other volunteers operating the bank of six elevators doing a continuous shuttle from 25 down to the lobby. That worked out well, and we never had to wait more than 20-30 seconds for an elevator for the trip down. One of the elevator operators was a priest, and when he had a look at us, he reminded us that he was qualified to perform last rites, just in case any of us needed that service.

I’d planned on being conservative and taking about 6 minutes to climb the building. But that turned out to be too slow. In the end, I averaged about 5 minutes each time, and in retrospect, I think I could have gone faster. After all, look at the picture. I’m smiling. So that definitely means I could have been going faster.

In the end, I climbed the building 17 times. I was pleasantly surprised by that, since I’d thought I’d only be able to do something like 15 at the most. The stairway was very consistent, and I was able to adapt the stepping pattern I’d worked out at the Aon building last spring to find the minimum-steps method to climb. And because I went up it so many times, I was able to make a chart of it to add to my collection. Sadly, it’s pretty competitive in the over-50 age bracket, and the overall winner, with 21 climbs, was Michael, who’s in the first picture. And I was fourth in my age group. The number three guy also did 17 climbs, but he did them a little bit faster than I did, so he got the medal. But that’s all right. I still got a medal for being part of the West Coast Labels/X-GYM group, which was by far the fastest team there.

After the race was over, I met up with Kathleen and Lucinda. The drove down in my car. We went and checked into our hotel for the night, and that was when I realized that I’d developed a huge blister on my left thumb from swinging around all the left turns on the stair landings. Ow. And also, I thought it was funny that our room number was 408, which is also the exact number of floors I climbed that morning:

Climbing from 1 to 25 = 24 floors;
17 x 24 = 408

What are the odds?

The 408 floors add up to 8,602 steps. That times 7 inches per step means the total climb I did was just a bit over 5,000 feet. Yikes.

Results are here:

I also made a graph of how many runners did how many climbs. The bars represent the number of people who went up N times. The far left bar is the 26 people who climbed it once. And the far right bar is Michael, who climbed it 21 times. I’m fairly pleased to be pretty far out on the tail on the right-hand side of the graph:

bar chart


Glendora and enlightenment

Filed under: — stan @ 9:08 pm

This week’s bike club ride was an old favorite with a new twist. We’ve done the ride to Glendora many, many times before. But this time, on the way back, we stopped off at the Dhammakaya University in Azusa to see the giant golden Buddha they have there.

The ride out was pretty uneventful. Lots of straight and flat roads. When we got there, we stopped at Classic Coffee for a bit before heading back. When we were riding through the new Rosedale development, Stewart reminded us of the giant Buddha, so we took a small detour to go see it. The people there we happy to tell us about the place, and to give us some information about meditation there. Seems like a nice place, even if it’s in kind of an odd location.

It was a nice ride.

37 miles.


Art Walk again

Filed under: — stan @ 10:22 pm

On Thursday night, Kathleen and I went downtown for the monthly Art Walk again. We’ve gone several times before, and it’s usually a fun time. This is the first time we’ve made it there since March, and it was a nice night for it. It was a pleasant evening and not too chilly.

As always, when we first got there, we set off in search of the food trucks. This time, we got some wrap-things from Cheer Burger. They were quite good. And while we were waiting, we saw the manufacturers plate on the back of the truck. So now we know where food trucks come from.

After eating, we wandered around the galleries. We saw lots of things we liked, a few that we didn’t, and that’s about normal for these things. I do think that someday we will have to get one of those jellyfish-looking lighted sculptures to hang in the house. And we didn’t come home completely empty-handed. We bought one small print from an artist in one of the smaller galleries. It was an odd little drawing of an armadillo with flowers growing out of its back. It’s kind of a weird size, so I need to order a special frame to put it in.

All told, it was a fun evening.


Two Entertainers

Filed under: — stan @ 5:43 pm

Today’s bike club ride was another celebrity grave tour. We rode to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills to visit the graves of Lock Martin and Liberace. They are buried in the same section of the cemetery, but they are each remembered for things that could not be more different. Everyone remembers Liberace and his piano. But Lock Martin’s signature role was one where his face could not be seen. He was the seven-foot-seven actor inside the suit, playing Gort the robot in the 1951 film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.

We rode there by way of Eagle Rock, through Los Feliz, and then up and over Mt Hollywood. On the way there, Stewart got a flat on Eagle Rock Blvd. This marks his second appearance in the Flat Tire Gallery.

After riding over Mt Hollywood, we turned left and rode to Forest Lawn. We stopped there for a bit to admire Liberace’s signature and piano drawing on his monument. Then we continued on to our snack stop at Priscilla’s.

The route home this time was the one that goes up and over the Linda Vista hill in Glendale. When we’re coming home from the Burbank area, there’s really no way to get back to Pasadena that doesn’t involve riding up a pretty big hill. Some are bigger than others, but there’s always a hill. This route is the middling one. The hill is bigger than the easiest way back, but nowhere near the punishing grind that some of the other routes have. So we rode up and over, and down the other side to pass the Rose Bowl. And then home on Orange Grove.

It was a pleasant ride.

45 miles.


More adventures in duct-tape astrophotography

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

Today was the transit of Venus, and I was ready with my small telescope and solar filter. I was home most of the day because the big oak tree in my back yard was being trimmed. That took a good part of the day, and by the time they were done, it was just about time for the show. So I set the telescope up on the driveway and settled in.

My astrophotography rig, such as it is, consists of my Canon A570 camera attached to the eyepiece of the telescope with some packing tape. It’s pretty simple, but it works. The first photo shows the Sun just before the start of the transit. The second was taken when Venus was fully in front of the Sun, which was about 30 minutes in. The other photos were just taken at random times along the way. Sunset was just after the mid-point of the transit, so the last photo was taken just about the mid-point. And of course, while I was doing this, the neighbors were stopping by to look at it, and I even had some people who just happened to be passing by stop for a look.

All told, it made for a fun afternoon. And that’s a good thing, since it won’t happen again until the year 2117.

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