Stan’s Obligatory Blog


The Griffith Park Tea House

Filed under: — stan @ 7:17 pm

Yesterday, I read about how some unknown artists had popped up a little Japanese-style tea house on an old concrete pad on top of one of the peaks in Griffith Park. Apparently, it was done on the sly in one night, and from the pictures I saw, it looked like it was very nicely done. Since it was unclear how long it would be there, I figured it was something we should go see immediately. Fortunately, Morgan and Jason from my office were up for it, and we headed over there this afternoon.

The instructions on how to find it from Modern Hiker were for starting out from the observatory, but parking there is always a problem, and coming from Pasadena, it’s just easier to start from the other side of the park, by the Old Zoo. We headed up the trail just like we did back in March, when we went to Mt Hollywood to see the marathon lights. When we got to the part of the trail that goes around just below Taco Peak, we looked up, and the tea house was there. Just a short distance up the trail, we came to the spot and saw it close up. There were quite a few people there to see it. I guess everyone had the same reaction to hearing about it.

The artists had left pencils and little wooden chips to write wishes for Los Angeles on, but all the wood chips had been used. We went inside to see them all hung on the pegs and read what people had written. It was all very nicely done. The construction of the house was first-rate, and it really looked like it belonged there. It’s unclear what will happen to it, but at least we got to see it when it was still fresh.

It kind of reminded me of Amir’s Garden, which is another place in the park that was built by one man with a vision. So on the way down, we took a route to go through there. It was nicely cool and shady there, as the garden is irrigated with what I can only assume is reclaimed water. But it was very nice there. Then we took a very steep trail down the end of the ridge to get back to the trail that would bring us back to our starting point. It was a good little afternoon adventure.

Route map and elevation profile


Planetary Alignment

Filed under: — stan @ 9:11 pm

I’d read recently that Venus and Jupiter were having a conjunction in the western sky, and that tonight would be their closest approach. From what I’d read, I figured that they might both fit in the same field of view in my telescope, so I took it out to the sidewalk this evening to have a look.

I set up on the sidewalk in front of our neighbor’s house, where I had a good view through the trees to the west. And they were there, very close together. I was able to see both in the same view if I used my lowest-power eyepiece. Then I hooked the camera up to the telescope and tried taking some pictures. I started out with a 1/50 second exposure, and then went up from there. When I got to a 1 second exposure, the Galilean satellites of Jupiter became visible, so I declared victory. So here it is. Two planets in one photo. Doesn’t happen every day.


Towerthon 2015

Filed under: — stan @ 4:29 pm

It’s June, and time again for the two-hour suffer-fest known as the San Diego Towerthon. Climbing a 20-story building is really no big deal in my book. But doing it over and over and over for two solid hours is a whole different experience. Last year, I managed to climb the building twenty times. This time, I wasn’t feeling quite so confident, and I didn’t think I could manage that. But I wanted to see how close I could come to it.

When it was time to go, I started my watch as I headed in the door for the first time. The rules of the event are that your two hours begin then, and as long as you’re in the door and climbing when the two hours runs out, you get credit for the last climb. So I started up the stairs. My target pace was 4 1/2 floors per minute. This used to feel like a very slow pace, and it used to be that I could climb a 50-story building five times in a row at that pace without slowing down.

I managed to do the first three or four climbs averaging about 4 – 4 1/2 minutes each time. But after that, I started to slow down. It was very hard to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. It was hot in the stairwell, and we were all suffering. They had powerful fans on the landings at 7, 11, and 16, and those helped a bit. It got to where when I came to those floors, I went up the flight below the fan on all fours to stay low and get the maximum cool air exposure. Still, I was dripping sweat and soaking my clothes.

I took a small cup of water at the top at the end of each climb, and I stopped briefly at the bottom at 30, 60, and 90 minutes in to swill some Gatorade that I’d brought along. That helped a little bit. But by the last half-hour, my socks and shoes were completely soaked. My shoes were heavy, and my feet were making squishy noises like I’d stepped in a puddle. Yick. By that time, I’d lost count of how many times I’d gone up. So I just kept on going. I was going slow near the end, but I didn’t stop. And when I got to the top and my watch said something like 1:52, I knew I’d have time for just one more climb. I rode the elevator down, and headed back up for the last time. I knew that it didn’t matter much how fast I went on the last time, but I wanted to get to the top as soon as possible, since it meant that I could stop. So I kept up my pace, and even had a little bit left for a burst of speed at the end. And then, like I’d promised myself, I got past the timing mat and immediately collapsed on the floor. And apparently, Madeleine was there to take a picture. I don’t even remember seeing her there.

So the final tally was nineteen climbs. That’s 361 floors, about 4,560 vertical feet, 1,390 meters. Truly a unique experience. And in the end, that was good enough for 3rd place in the 50-59 age group. Only four people older than me did more. So I can’t complain. All told, it was a good outing.


The Miniature Engineering and Craftsmanship Museum

Filed under: — stan @ 6:32 pm

A few weeks ago, my friend Bruce sent me a link about a museum in Carlsbad that exhibits working models of airplanes, boats, trains, and so forth, with miniature working engines. Since I was headed to San Diego this weekend for the Towerthon, I thought this might be a good side trip.

The museum is in an unassuming industrial-looking building kind of off the beaten path. Fortunately, I had Waze to tell me how to get there, or I would have had trouble finding it. When I got there, I went inside, and immediately saw the featured exhibit. A tiny scale model of a supercharged V-8 engine. Apparently, it’s fully functional. Yikes. I wandered around the museum, looking at all the tiny engines. There was a board with some tubes attached to it that said it was three miniature steam engines. They were so small I had to look carefully to see them at all. At the back of the museum, they had a model of the Wright Flyer, and a working model of a P-38 fighter. Then, along the back wall, they had a display of miniature steam engines, all hooked up to a compressed air supply, and the sign said that they would run the engines and give a tour of the machine shop at 2:00. Since that was just a few minutes away, I decided to stay and see it. When the time came, they turned on the air, and all the little steam engines started running:

After looking at the tiny model of the Titanic’s engine, we went into the machine shop. The first stop was the “Do-Nothing Machine”, which was featured on Roadside America last year. Our guide described it as “a cat toy for humans”. It was pretty funny:

Next, they showed us four different tiny working engines. There were two different gasoline engines, one Stirling engine, and a fourth of a type that I didn’t recognize at all. Here is the first gasoline engine running:

The last part of the tour showed us another radial airplane engine that they are building there. They even had a model of the model to show us how the inside of the crankcase worked. I’d always wondered how cylinders in a circle could turn a crank, and now I know.

This was one entertaining little museum. At least for anyone with a mechanical and geek bent.


“Can we all get along”

Filed under: — stan @ 5:39 pm

Whenever police misconduct is in the news, the story of Rodney King comes up. He was really the first high-profile case of the modern era where police doing bad things were caught on video. At the time, that was a first, but now, we’re seeing it over and over, and it’s shining a light on something that the police really don’t want people to see. Because of that, and the L.A. riots in 1992, Rodney King became an icon. I’m sure he never wanted to be a household name. After that, he lived his life in a fishbowl, which must have been very unpleasant. Still, the ordeal he went through led to some positive changes for society.

I recently found out that, after several years of being unmarked, Rodney King has a proper headstone. So today’s ride was to go see it, and to remember the reluctant icon.

It was a good day for riding, and we had a pretty big group this time. Apparently, Father’s Day is a big occasion at Forest Lawn, and the place was packed. When we got there, we rode all the way to the back. It’s about a mile from the front gate to the back section where Rodney King is buried. His new marker is nice, and it’s kind of fitting that it features the one line he’s remembered for. In all his time in the media spotlight, he never said much. Maybe he didn’t want to say anything, and maybe nobody ever asked him what he thought. But there is still the one line he is remembered for, and apparently, most people remember it wrong. I looked up on Youtube and found the video clip, and he did in fact say, “Can we all get along”. So there it is. Like the headline on an obituary, to have one’s entire life summed up in one line.

Continuing on, we stopped for snacks at Priscilla’s. Then we headed home, across Glendale. GT’s friend Lura got a flat, so I doubled back for a quick picture for the Flat Tire Gallery. Then we rode up Verdugo and home through La Cañada. It was a nice ride.

45 miles.

Route map and elevation profile


Icehouse Canyon

Filed under: — stan @ 4:53 pm

Today was time for another hike. The plan was to climb Lookout Mountain. I was curious to see the remains of Michelson’s 1924 experiment to measure the speed of light. I’d done that same experiment in physics lab in college back in 1981, so I thought it would be an interesting piece of history.

We’d both read the writeup, and we paid close attention to the instructions of how to get to the start, but neither of us really paid close attention to the part about how to find the trail. Usually, it’s pretty obvious, and we didn’t expect that this would be any different. But when we got there, there were just two fire roads, and we walked some distance down both and didn’t see anything that looked like a trail going where we needed to go. So, after 2 1/2 miles of walking in different directions, and also seeing a cute little baby skunk, we gave up and went to Icehouse Canyon.

Icehouse Canyon was the starting point for the hike up Cucamonga Peak that we did last fall. This time, we just planned to go to the saddle and back, so it wasn’t going to be as long and as hard as Cucamonga was. But today was a hot day in June, rather than a cool day in November. There was no snow on the ground. There was water running in the creek, and there were millions of bugs.

At the top of the saddle, we sat for a bit and had lunch. There were a lot of people on the trail. That’s a good thing. Having the nice mountains in our back yard is one of the great things about Los Angeles, and I like seeing more people coming out to enjoy them.

On the way down, we walked into a huge cloud of bugs, which turned out to be some sort of ladybug convention. I’ve never seen so many ladybugs in one place. And near the bottom, people who were heading up were telling us that there was a rattlesnake next to the trail, so we paid attention. The rattlesnake was a relatively small one, probably only 2-3 feet long. It was coiled up on a rock next to the trail. We gave it an appropriately wide berth and continued on down. At the bottom, there was a big tour bus in the parking lot from a Korean hiking club in L.A. I guess that explains why there were so many big groups of Koreans on the trail today. Despite the heat and the bugs, it was a fun hike.

Route map and elevation profile


Burger Tourism

Filed under: — stan @ 1:54 pm

Last fall, we rode out to Baldwin Park to see the replica of the original In-N-Out Burger stand that they built down the street from their In-N-Out University and company store. This past week, I realized that if we did that same route in the other direction, we’d get to the In-N-Out museum right around 11:00, and it’s open from 11-2 Thursdays through Sundays.

We started out from Victory Park and headed east. We rode through Monrovia and Duarte to get on the San Gabriel River bike path. We took that to Irwindale, where we rode past the Huy Fong Foods sriracha hot sauce factory, and then south into West Covina.

We stopped for snacks and such at Panera in West Covina. Then we continued south to La Puente, making a big loop that brought us back to Baldwin Park. Unfortunately, our timing was a little off, and we got to In-N-Out at 10:45. Since we had a few minutes to wait, and it was pretty hot by then, I went and rode through the regular In-N-Out drive-through and got some iced tea. The drive-through is a big part of the total In-N-Out experience, and just because I was on a bike wasn’t going to stop me from experiencing it.

By then, it was 11:00, so we rode back under the freeway to the In-N-Out museum. Karen was our docent, as it were. She said that she is a regular In-N-Out crew member, but she spends three hours of her shift working at the replica of the original stand, greeting visitors, answering questions, and generally telling the story of how In-N-Out got started. She took our picture in the drive-through at the replica, and she showed us the washing machine that they used in the old days to wash and spin-dry the french fries before they cooked them. She also showed us a picture of the guy whose job it was to sit out back and peel potatoes by hand. After the potatoes were peeled, they cut them into fries by hand with the same machines they use today. It was all an interesting piece of history.

The ride home from Baldwin Park was mostly uphill, but not unpleasant. It was a warm day, and summer is definitely on its way.

43 miles.

Route map and elevation profile


Ciclavia Pasadena

Filed under: — stan @ 1:41 pm

Today was the day that they had the first Ciclavia in Pasadena. We occasionally go to these on the Sunday morning bike ride, and since it’s right here, I figured we could go to it on the way home today. Our route was the old Mt Washington ride, just modified to come back by way of Old Town Pasadena to pick up the Ciclavia route. And as a special treat, I’d gotten a message that my old bike friend from college was going to be there. I haven’t seen Aaron since I graduated in 1982.

It was a perfect day for riding. We started out by heading up to La Cañada, and then down Hospital Hill and the long downhill through Glendale. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. It’s something like eight miles downhill and about 1,000 vertical feel. When we got down to Cypress Park and the L.A. River, we turned north and then took the short side trip up and over Mt Washington. Then we continued on through Highland Park and South Pasadena to get back to Pasadena and the start of the Ciclavia route.

I found Aaron and Sharon by a little bakery near Lake Avenue. It’s hard to believe that 33 years have gone by. But I’d like to think that we’re both holding up pretty well for being in our 50s.

It was a nice ride, and it was good to see Aaron again.

33 miles.

Route map and elevation profile


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.


Flying Machines

Filed under: — stan @ 6:28 pm

For twenty years, I’ve been getting the little catalog of PCC Extension’s courses in the mail, and I never paid any attention to it. But this time, Kathleen was looking through it, and she said, “Hey, they have some day trips and tours in here that you might like.” I picked it up, and had a look, and then I went online and signed up for the day trip and tour of Edwards Air Force Base. I’d gone there about 30 years ago to see the Space Shuttle land, but never went for a tour. I thought it could be interesting.

So I rode my bike over to PCC in the morning to meet up with the tour bus. I figured that it’s 1/2 mile closer than riding to work, so there really was no reason to take the car. And I figured that since PCC is a college, finding bike parking would be easy. I certainly had no idea how hard it was going to be. In the end, I found a fence on the edge of the parking lot and put it there. I’m still a bit dumbfounded that there was not one bike rack anywhere near that parking lot.

It’s a long ride up to Edwards, but we finally got to the gate. We had to wait at the entrance for the public relations guy to come out to meet us. While we were waiting, we had a look at the airplanes they had parked outside the gate. They told us later that they will eventually have a museum at that location.

When the public relations guy got there, he introduced himself and made the arrangements with the guards to let us in. Then he escorted our bus to the NASA flight research center. It used to be Dryden, but it was renamed after Neil Armstrong. We had lunch at the little food court there. Then we had a little time to visit the NASA gift shop, and to look at still more airplanes on display out front.

Then an Air Force bus came to take us on the actual tour of the base. They had a P-59 on display outside. They said it was the first jet-powered fighter for the U.S., but that it didn’t see combat. They said that the German jet fighters didn’t turn out to be decisive in the war, largely due to lack of suitable fuel for them to run on. So that was why our combat planes remained propeller-driven until after the war.

Then it was time for our tour of the flightline. We passed the headquarters building that they said was built in the shape of the B-2 bomber, and then we passed through the gate. They said that we had to put our cameras away at that point. The bus took us around to see airplanes in hangars being repaired, tankers parked outside, and lots of F-22 and F-35 fighters, each one parked under a tent-like canopy. We got to see a pair of F-22s taxi by after returning from a flight. They may be invisible to radar, but they were very loud.

At the start of the tour, they had promised us something extra, and we got that in the middle of the flightline tour. We stopped at a hangar where they have airplanes being restored for display in the museum there. The highlight of that was getting to see the F-117 up close. The guides said that it had had its radar-absorbing coatings removed, and the engine exhaust outlets were covered, since they said that some aspect of the design of the outlets is still classified.

After seeing the restoration hangar, we headed back outside. They took us on a tour of the rest of the base, including the base housing and schools, and even a Starbucks. I guess Starbucks really is everywhere. At the end, they dropped us off at the base museum. We had about 45 minutes there before it was time to head for home. It was all interesting in a nerdy way.

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