Stan’s Obligatory Blog

4/22/2012

Castle Green

Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

Today was the springtime Castle Green tour day. Castle Green is an old hotel in Pasadena that has been converted into apartments. It’s a unique place. I’ve been here for the tour once before, but that was years ago, so it was time to see it again.

The tour starts when we walk into the lobby. The sign said that the lights were deliberately left exposed without glass globes so that we could see that they were using electric lighting, which was a new thing when the building first opened.

We walked up the stairs one floor at a time, stopping to see the apartments that were open for the tour on each floor. We got to see one apartment that Tim Burton used to live in. That was most likely back in the days when Old Town Pasadena still smelled of urine, and was a relatively cheap place to live.

The building and decor in Castle Green are very interesting and amusing. We enjoyed seeing how each apartment was decorated. I particularly liked seeing how each person who has one of the end apartments decided to decorate the round room in the turret at the south end of the building.

We made our way up one floor at a time, until we came out on the roof. After that, we went back down to see the rest of the first floor, and also the one open suite in the basement.

It was a fun afternoon.

Fern Dell and the Haunted Picnic Table

Filed under: — stan @ 8:41 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the “Fern Dell and The Trails” ride to Griffith Park. This is the first time we’ve done this one since last summer.

It was cool and overcast when we started out. We had a good-sized group today. The route out took us through Eagle Rock and then down to the L.A. River and Silver Lake. We had to take a small detour there, since there was a sign that said that Glendale Blvd was closed for a short stretch. So we went up Riverside to detour around it. Then we headed up Hillhurst into Griffith Park.

The ride up to Griffith Observatory is always a joy. That is, it’s a joy if you like riding up steep hills. It’s a pretty hard climb, but we got to the top all right, and we rested for a few minutes on the lawn there. Then we headed down Western Canyon Road to Fern Dell and The Trails.

The cafe was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. There was a line, and about half the tables were full. That was kind of unusual. I also had a laugh at the stuffed crow nailed to the roof of the building. Shades of the Dead Parrot. I also thought it was funny that they made a point of telling us that the plastic utensils are biodegradable, even though they looked and felt like regular plastic. And I was also amused by the choice of sugar, liquid sugar, raw sugar, and honey.

When we left The Trails, we had to ride back up the hill into the park, and this time, we continued on all the way up Mt Hollywood. When we got to the top, my phone was making its ‘barking sea lions’ sound for an incoming message. Carla said that Silvio had gotten a flat on the way up. So I rode back down to find them. When we got his tire fixed, we started up again. Just over the top, John and I stopped to have a look at the ‘Haunted Picnic Table‘. This is a pretty good prank. The guy who made that story up made a very convincing-looking fake L.A. Times web page for the article. The key is that ‘rn’ can look like an ‘m’ in the location bar of your browser. So we stopped for a photo-op with the crushed picnic table before headed down the hill.

At the bottom of the hill, I heard the sea lions barking again. This time, Carla said that Silvio’s tire had blown out back up near the top of the hill. So we turned around and rode back up the hill to find them. About halfway up, we found everyone else coming down. They said that Silvio was throwing in the towel. He was walking down the hill, and had called home for a ride. So the rest of us continued on.

There were some fire engines and an ambulance parked by the river where the bike path starts. I have no idea what they were doing there, but they looked like they were doing something.

We rode down the bike path all the way to the end where Riverside goes over the river and turns into Figueroa. From there, we rode up Figueroa into Highland Park, and then across the arroyo to South Pasadena.

All told, it was a pleasant ride. It was supposed to be about 45 miles, but with all the extra riding up and down Mt Hollywood, when I got home, I had 49.5. So I rode back down the block once just to make it come out to a nice round 50.

50 miles.

4/18/2012

It’s been 100 years

Filed under: — stan @ 8:35 am

So it’s time for the Gin and Titonic ice cube tray. We got one of these recently, and here it is in action:

4/15/2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

This week’s bike club ride is a theme ride with a kind of silly theme. It’s April 15th, and that’s a day that many people associate with something painful. So I thought it was time that we go and ride up Mountain Lion Hill again. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done outside of a skyscraper stairwell. But then, I’d been reading this past week about Glen Bearian, the bear that came down out of the mountains to feast on Costco meatballs from suburban freezers in Glendale. I looked it up, and the neighborhood where he was stealing meatballs is not far from the mountain lions on Pine Glen Road. So a theme emerged. I had lions and bears. All I had to do was find a tiger and we would have the holy triumvirate of Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!

Tigers are kind of thin on the ground here in southern California, so in the end, I had to settle for a school in Glendale with a tiger mascot painted on the wall by the front door. Close enough. And we were off.

We rode up into La Cañada and down Hospital Hill into Montrose. And then the long uphill grind up Briggs in La Crescenta. That’s a hard hill, and when we got to the top, the fun was just beginning. That was where we got to Pine Glen Road and Mountain Lion Hill. That’s about a 20% grade, and it goes on for a good while. But at the top, we got a very nice view. Then we headed down Pine Cone Road.

The next major turn was on Santa Carlotta in La Crescenta. But it appears that they’ve changed the street signs since the last time we were there. We missed the turn, and when I got to within sight of Foothill Blvd, I knew something was wrong. I turned around and headed back up the hill, and I got all the way to the top without finding it. It turns out the turn was on Orange, and then the name changed a block later. But that meant I was back on the route.

A turn down Boston Ave brought me to the neighborhood where the bear was found. They had a big rolling sign set up to remind anyone to call 911 if they saw a bear.

Our snack stop was supposed to be at the little bakery on Ocean View in Montrose, but it seems to have changed owners, and it’s not open on Sundays any more. So we ended up at the Coffee Bean across the street. We got a table in the sun, so it was pleasant.

After that, we rode down into Glendale to pass by the school on Broadway, just so we could complete the triumvirate of Lions and Tigers and Bears. Then it was home across Eagle Rock and up the Colorado hill back into Pasadena.

It was a slightly shorter ride than usual, but with the hills, it was still good.

36 miles.

4/14/2012

When girls collide

Filed under: — stan @ 10:02 pm

It’s time for another visit to the Doll Factory to see the L.A. Derby Dolls. We enjoyed this a lot the first time we went, so we’re back for more.

We made a point to get there a bit earlier this time. Partly to find a better viewing spot on the rail, partly to have time to get dinner from one of the food trucks there, and also to have a chance to see the vendor area. We had a look at the Blue Velvet cupcakes, gourmet cookies that were almost as good as the ones I make at home, and lots of roller derby clothes for sale. Then we went outside and got some burgers from the Mesohungry Truck.

Coming back inside, it was almost time for the game to start. Tonight’s match was between two of the Derby Dolls teams: Fight Crew vs Sirens. I don’t know how they decide who is going to be on what team, but it seemed that the Fight Crew was outmatched. The game was interesting and exciting, but in the end, it reminded me of my college days, watching Rice football games. Those games were never even close. Still, the whole thing was tremendously entertaining. And we’ll definitely be going back again in the future.

4/8/2012

Did I ever mention that my camera rocks?

Filed under: — stan @ 3:54 pm

It was a warm, sunny afternoon. And the hummingbirds were out and about. So I got my big zoom lens and sat on the swing on my back porch to see if I could get some pictures of them. And I’m very pleased with my camera.

This camera is the sixth Canon I’ve owned, and they’ve all been great. I’m still getting to know this one, but even now, I’m getting great results from it.

F-104 on a stick!

Filed under: — stan @ 1:17 pm

Today’s bike ride was a trip out to Burbank and North Hollywood. It was a aviation theme, with sightseeing stops at a Lockheed F-104 mounted for display in a park in Burbank, not far from the former Lockheed plant where it was designed and built. And a visit to the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation at Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood.

The ride out there was pretty straightforward. When we got to Burbank, we met up with GT, and he told us about a place he knew that was not far from our route. He said there was a house there that looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie, and that the house across the street has giant desert tortoises living in the front yard.

We got to the park on Olive Ave, and had a look at the airplane. The F-104 seems to be the living embodiment of the engineer’s old adage about being able to make a brick fly if you put a big enough engine on it. After that, GT showed us the way to the odd house and the tortoises. I’d expected them to be just snoozing, but they were pretty active, lumbering around the front yard of the house.

From there, we rode up into North Hollywood to see the Shrine to Aviation. This is located appropriately, being in the part of the cemetery that is just off the end of Runway 15 at Burbank Airport. So there are airplane going by overhead all the time.

Here’s a little video taken out the right-side window of a jet taking off from Burbank. The cemetery is the green area that the plane goes over right after the end of the runway, and the shrine is directly below.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bePj5Btick

Our snack stop was at Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake. Then we got on the L.A. River bike path. That morning, we’d heard about there being a spectacular tanker truck crash and fire at on the 134 freeway, and we rode right by there. Part of the freeway was still closed, and it was pretty obvious where the fire had blackened the overhead ramps for the interchange.

Finally, on the way back through Highland Park, we ran across a steel giraffe in a yard there.

It was a nice ride.

47 miles.

4/6/2012

Turn it up to eleven

Filed under: — stan @ 8:02 am

In today’s obituaries, Jim Marshall has died. He was the designer of the famed Marshall amp that spawned the loudest music ever heard on Earth.

…no rock image was more over-the-top than that of KISS’ four members performing in front of some 40 Marshall cabinets.

Of course, they didn’t need that many.

“Hendrix used three 100-watt amps and three stacks,” their inventor Jim Marshall once said. “KISS go a lot further, but most of the cabinets and amps you see on stage are dummies. We once built 80 dummy cabinets for Bon Jovi. They all do it — it’s just backdrop.

“It would be stupid to use more than three 100-watt amps, wherever and whoever you are.”

The whole story is here: http://www.latimes.com/news/custom/scimedemail/la-me-jim-marshall-20120406,0,1105011.story

4/5/2012

More limits of artificial intelligence

Filed under: — stan @ 5:54 pm

I was tending to the Earthquake Notification Service admin email today, and I found this in the incoming mail queue:

To: ens@usgs.gov
From: Associate Email Administrator
Subject: Your email has been discarded.

Your email sent to [redacted]@us.aflac.com with subject line of: 2012-04-05 20:23:55 (Md 3.2) PUERTO RICO REGION 19.1 -65.1 (5121e), contains inappropriate content within the subject or body of the message and has triggered the Aflac Associate message filters. The message was discarded because of the inappropriate content.

So I went and had a look at the message, just to see what it was they might be complaining about. And here it is:

Subject: 2012-04-05 20:23:55 (Md 3.2) PUERTO RICO REGION 19.1 -65.1

== PRELIMINARY EARTHQUAKE REPORT ==

Region: PUERTO RICO REGION
Geographic coordinates: 19.142N, 65.070W
Magnitude: 3.2 Md
Depth: 90 km
Universal Time (UTC): 5 Apr 2012 20:23:55
Time near the Epicenter: 5 Apr 2012 16:23:55
Local standard time in your area: %localtime

Location with respect to nearby cities:
88 km (54 miles) NNW (334 degrees) of Little Harbour, Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
89 km (55 miles) N (351 degrees) of CHARLOTTE AMALIE, US Virgin Islands
90 km (56 miles) NNW (328 degrees) of ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands
126 km (78 miles) NE (49 degrees) of Carolina, PR

Sheesh.

4/4/2012

The face of fraud

Filed under: — stan @ 6:27 am

This is a truly pathetic story.

Remember Rosie Ruiz? She was the ‘winner’ of the 1980 Boston Marathon. But after she won it in record time, some investigation showed that she had not run the whole course, and had just jumped back into the race at the end. Further investigation showed that she’d also cheated in the New York Marathon, which was where she did the time that qualified her for Boston.

Competitive stair climbing is an odd little sport. It’s done as a charity fund-raiser. There are no prizes, aside from cheap little medals and sometimes small trophies. There’s really nothing valuable at stake. So I guess nobody ever thought that anyone would think it worth the effort to cheat at this sport. But this time, someone did.

I was in the first wave of climbers, and we were done pretty early. And from the start, it the odds were on Jesse Berg to win. He’d won last year, and he is ranked as one of the top stair climbers in the world. So we were all surprised when we came down and saw the first set of times posted, and there was a name we didn’t recognize in first place, with a time that was 18 seconds faster than the course record. That record was set in 2010 by Javier Santiago, who is also one of the top-ranked stair climbers in the world.

Asking around, we found out that the unknown climber was a guy who worked for the building management company. When we saw him, we all immediately thought that he wasn’t capable of doing a time like that. Some of the guys went to talk to him, to ask him how he trained and to ask if he would climb the building again with them so they could see his technique. He said that he didn’t really train in any meaningful way. He said he plays basketball with his friends. Sheesh. At that point, he claimed he couldn’t climb again, due to having pulled his hamstring on the first climb. And he made a point of limping from that point on.

Needless to say, none of this passed the smell test.

Later on, another of our guys went to talk to him again, and specifically told him that we thought he had cheated. At that point, his friends started actually making veiled threats of physical violence if we didn’t stop saying we thought he’d cheated. And apparently, there was money at stake. He’d made bets with a lot of the other people who work at the building, and if he admitted to cheating, he was going to lose those bets.

When it was time for the awards, he made a point of limping up to the stage to get his first-place certificate and trophy.

This was all brought up with the race organizers, the timing company, and the building management. At first, they defended the guy. They really believed him when he said that he’d climbed the building in record time.

On Sunday, a friend of ours who is a sports writer contacted the guy to interview him about his ‘incredible performance’. We suspect that he figured out that people were on to him. But he still insisted that his time was real.

When the finish line pictures from the race were posted, we saw him coming out of the stairs, and based on where he was and who came out after him, he’s have had to have passed quite a few people we know on his way up. None of them remember seeing him. And anyone going that fast would have been pretty obvious.

On Monday, we heard through the grapevine that he’d confessed. That he admitted to using the freight elevator. But it turned out not to be true. But then, on Tuesday morning, we got word from the building management company that they had investigated, and they’d found that he did cheat. He was disqualified from the race, and ‘is no longer associated with the building’, as they said. We all presume that means he was fired from his job.

So here it is. The original sheet of posted results. The faker going up to accept the winner’s trophy. And then the revised results from the timing company’s web site, with the faker moved down to last place at the bottom.

Really doesn’t seem like it was a smart move on his part. And I guess on some level, our insane little sport has lost its innocence.

For another view of this incident, here’s a link to PJ Glassey’s writeup of it: http://www.flightclubseattle.com/2012/04/2012-aon-los-angeles-results/

Addendum: This has made the local news: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sports/Cheating-Accusation-in-Los-Angeles-Stair-climb-Fundraiser-146152105.html

Update 4/5/2012: Now it’s on the main MSNBC site: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46958185/ns/local_news-los_angeles_ca/t/stair-climb-champ-fired-alleged-cheating/

Update 4/6/2012: Unlike Mr Cheater, this story has legs. Now it’s made the jump across the Atlantic to Britain: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2125829/Miguel-Larios-Stair-climbing-champion-accused-cheating-took-lift.html

Update 4/7/2012: And now, look at the number one result in Google for a search for Mr Cheater:


Update 4/11/2012: Now he’s made Hispanically Speaking News: http://www.hispanicallyspeakingnews.com/notitas-de-noticias/details/latino-liar-stair-climber-believed-to-have-cheated-and-taken-elevator-durin/15081/

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