Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Final Stages Of Flight

I took this set of photos today on our last day of our post-Christmas vacation in Morro Bay.  I suppose these are not the first birds that ended up in the sand but it certainly is the first time I noticed them.  Walking around Morro Rock for about a half hour this morning, I found these images very much part of the natural process of life.  The sand in the beach around Morro Rock is the finest I've seen in California and it forms a nice contrast to the bodies of birds in various stages of decay.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Week Into Winter...

...and it's 65 deg F earlier today along the central coast of California. The weather during our annual post Christmas trip to Morro Bay is typically cold, but not freezing. Normal cold here is the low temps hitting the 40s with winter winds and requiring a heavy jacket and mittens. But today, we hit the tidepools at Moonstone Beach around 1030 am and it was the most beautiful day I've ever seen here, mild breeze and some tourists, but not too crowded. The local roads with lots of out-of-state license plates can only mean one thing. People from faraway places like Idaho, Montana and Illinois are seriously considering moving to the Golden State as I type this blog entry. In fact, you could have convinced me it's summertime except for the fact that the elephant seals (above) are all over the San Simeon beaches, where they give birth to their pups from December through January. And if a winter day like today isn't enough to convince these snowbirds to move here, the national broadcast of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game next week will put any remaining doubts to rest.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music That You Can Dance To

Kids and I went to Amoeba Music the week before Christmas and I got the usual stash of cheap vinyl but Sam got a couple CDs -- Sublime and Def Leppard.  Of course, he asked to Def Leppard in the CD player as I negotiated the drive home from LA on a crazy holiday weekend.  Then it occurred to me that I very seldom hear Def Leppard on the radio except for an occasional song on 96.7 KCAL.  However, everytime I hear a Def Leppard song -- Pyromania, Rock Of Ages and especially, Pour Some Sugar On Me, I have visions of a stripper pole dancing.  So my hypothesis is this:  At any one time, there is always a Def Leppard song playing on some strip club somewhere in this crazy planet.  I can't prove it but I think what makes me formulate this hypothesis is that even in the movies, every time there is a scene with a strip club, Pour Some Sugar On Me is playing in the background.  Every freaking time.  It's been a few years since I've been there but I'm sure they play that song at the Bare Elegance men's club in Hawthorne at least a dozen times a day.  (Bare Elegance was less than a mile from my office when I used to work at Hughes Space & Communications -- and I get in free with my company badge.  How cool is that.) Now, if only I could find my AC/DC album to play "You Shook Me All Night Long".

Monday, December 26, 2011

Relic Of An Analog World (Part 2)

This is literally, the first public pay phone I've seen all year.  Back in the day, I used to memorize where all the pay phones were along my rides so I have this mental map of where they were all along the Foothill communities of Altadena/Pasadena to Duarte/Monrovia.  I always had quarters in my seat pack just in case I need to call for emergency services or contact someone.  This phone is by the restroom just outside the Ahmanson Building at LACMA.  What's even more dated is that phone directory hanging just below the phone itself.  I can't imagine these units being that much profitable to be maintained by the phone company. In fact, of all places, it's strange to see one inside the LACMA campus.  I would think most museum visitors have enough disposable income to afford a cell phone.  Either way, I'm not sure my kids even know how to use one.

Christmas Morning Ride

I distinctly remember Christmas mornings when we lived in Pasadena.  We would either drive around or ride our bikes and it never fails.  I would spot several kids out on the streets, bright and early, usually between 8 and 9 am, riding their brand new bicycles.  It almost became a game where the object is to spots as many kids (and sometimes adults) with their new bikes.  And those new rides are pretty easy to spot -- clean paint, shiny chrome, dark brand new tires.  Fast forward to Christmas morning, 2011 in Rancho Cucamonga.  Around 9am today, I decided to take a short 21 mile ride to Upland and back, just to get burn off some of that ham, eggrolls, apple cider, wine and cake.  But much to my disappointment, all I saw was one kid on a new Razor scooter on Etiwanda and Banyan -- in fact, I specifically rode on the Pacific Electric Trail to see if any families are out riding.  Nada.  Saw a few runners but that's about it.  On my way back, I took Baseline Road and as I waited for the light to turn green on Haven, a Dodge station wagon pulled alongside and I hear the windows rolling down.  My next thought was I don't want to have to deal with a bunch of characters making some wise-ass joke about cyclists or worse, getting hit with objects.  Over the years I've had my share of verbal encounters with occupants of these metal coffins on wheels (called cars) -- and the last thing I need is some redneck to ruin my Christmas ride.  (Years ago, riding down Foothill Blvd, I was once hit in the helmet with a snowball that originated from a pickup truck with a truckbed full of snow.)  Instead, I heard with a couple nice, "Merry Christmas" greetings.  Although it took me a couple seconds to get re-oriented that this was a friendly, I did respond back with a "Merry Christmas, too, man."  I think I need to chill a bit.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

California Design (Pacific Standard Time #6)

Another perfect day in the City of Angels.  This time of year, it's a definite problem just driving down the street with crazed last-minute shoppers and other people who need to be somewhere yesterday.  So LACMA is probably the least crowded of all LA institutions today where those who finished their Christmas shopping early soaked in this perfect winter day in Southern California.  This is my 6th Pacific Standard Time tour stop where California design in being showcased in the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA.  This one did not disappoint and to my surprise, photography was allowed throughout the exhibit with the exception of the re-creation of the Eames House living room.  So of course, I snapped away starting with what greets visitors (top) as well as what brought up the rear (bottom).  And in between, was a visual buffet of what California design was all about.  As I snaked my way through various items, I cannot help but think that this kind of design, especially the architecture, could never have originated in the east coast.  Bright, open, clean, optimistic.  The fact that it was sunny outside and in the 60s in December has everything to do the design attributes of everything that originates from California.  Artists and designers are definitely influenced by the geography and the climate of where they do their creative work.  It may be winter solstice in the northern hemisphere but if you're here, there is good reason to be out visiting a place like LACMA.  It's also the first day of my winter vacation and after working hard most of the year, I needed a day like today.

The red item above is called an Ice Gun, c. 1935.  The description reads "The ice gun's aerodynamic form resembles the streamlined trains and automobiles of the 1930s.  It provided cocktail party theater:  the thirsty gunslinger would pull back on the cone-shaped lever, drop the ice cubes in the opening at the top, release the trigger, and crushed ice would fall into the waiting glass."  Now, that is cool.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

(1000) Milestone

For all practical purposes, it's a thousand miles.  That's how much I've logged on my Trek Madone as of today, December 18, 2011.  When I spent the money in August, I knew it was the one motivator that will get me to ride more -- the thought that I paid more than I can justify for this road bike.   While this is just a fraction of the 4000 miles I used to ride annually (in the mid 90s), I'm still pretty excited about getting back into what I used to think defined my identity.  Most in my social circles were from cycling -- and Maura and I developed life-long friends through the sport.  So this milestone is something I will take into 2012 -- doing something that Maura and I truly enjoyed.  She would have loved the riding around Rancho Cucamonga and Claremont.  And sometimes, when I'm feeling really good, I just imagine racing her to the top of Shinn Road on the way to Mt. Baldy.  Although she used to always beat me up those hill sprints, these days the thought of racing her is my way of keeping myself going.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ride Or Die

Time to take out the knee warmers, arm warmers and full-fingered gloves.  I froze going down Day Creek Blvd on Thursday morning -- and that was even before the winds from the north picked up.  It's been in the mid-40s in the mornings here and I've just been too lazy to ride on Saturday mornings.  Been opting for afternoon rides, when the sun is up (but unfortunately, more vehicles on the road as well).  With the cold, rain, wind and short days, it's either ride the rollers indoors or brave the elements.  Having been off the bike for at least a decade, I know I will need some booties and ear bands and maybe, even a rain jacket.  When I got back to riding in April, I promised not to get too driven about this but I should have known myselft better.  It was tattooed on the calves of this hardcore racer I knew from Pasadena -- it simply said "Ride or die."

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm Off This F***ing Bandwagon

For two whole NBA seasons, I had a pair of season tickets to that other Los Angeles team, the Clippers to see the great Oklahoma star Blake Griffin.  A buddy at work convinced me to split the 41 home games and I was not one bit disappointed with the seats we got just above the home tunnel to the locker room.  It was a great way to go out on the town and I took family and friends to the Staples Center to see an NBA game and the great rising star Blake Griffin.  But this NBA lockout over the summer and the commissioner's gigantic ego and bully tactics pretty much convinced me that I'm not spending a penny on the NBA.  And when Chris Paul was force-fed into the Clippers by the league office, that was the last straw.  Not a stinking penny, Mr. Stern.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This American Life

A few years ago, I was subscribed to Meet The Press (with the late, great Tim Russert), Lens Work Publishing, VOD Cars, The Moth, This American Life and roughly ten other podcasts.  It's interesting how some podcasts had grown tired but others had endured.  I do think, that the attributes of a good podcast include both the production and content.  Others have excellent content but are somewhat cheaply done.  However, This American Life is probably the best of all the podcasts that I've ever listened to.  I can still remember the first time I heard T.A.L. on the radio.  It was a Sunday evening and I decided to head to the gym to get a late workout.  I was living in Pasadena and got to 24-Hr Fitness but I was just captivated by the storytelling.  I sat in my car for a good half hour listening to 89.3 KPCC until T.A.L. ended and I've been hooked ever since.  The format is perfect -- an hour, just a little more than an average commute to work; and after 5 years of listening to the show, I think of the host, Ira Glass as a friend who I get to talk to every Sunday evening.  If there is ever any public radio show that is worth giving to, T.A.L. is it.  And more recently, I found out that the show has really broad appeal.  My 13-year old son, Sam had been downloading several dozen episodes on his iPod and even has his own favorites.  Everybody loves a good story.  My top ten episodes are as follows:
1) #361 Fear Of Sleep
2) #178 Superpowers
3) #393 Infidelity
4) #81 Guns
5) #379 Return To The Scene Of The Crime
6) #110 Mapping
7) #442 Thugs
8) #339 Break-Up
9) #414 Right To Remain Silent
10) #443 Amusement Park

12/19/11 Update:  I decided to donate to This American Life, finally.  Been listening to NPR for years and have never joined or become a member.  However, This American Life defines our culture as we know it today and I truly believe this show must go on and be appreciated by future generations.

Alta Loma Music

My kids started music lessons at Alta Loma Music this fall and from what I've observed so far, it's worth it. JJ started in November and Sam started in December.  So far, JJ performed in the Christmas program with other students and I think that's the best part of their music program -- the experience of playing with other kids.  JJ (above left) played bass guitar to "Last Christmas" and although, he's performed in front of an audience before with his middle school band, this was a first.  Small group in front of a full auditorium (Upland Women's Club).  There is another student showcase in February and I expect Sam to be part of that performance.  So far, his progress is to the point where he can play full songs (Radiohead's "Creep" and U2's "With Or Without You").  I would recommend Alta Loma Music to any parent interested in having their kids exposed to music of all kids -- the staff is very friendly, accommodating and all my experience had been positive.  And so far, my kids' interest in music just about doubled up.  Last Sunday, instead of watching TV, JJ insisted on jamming with me because he was bored.  And yesterday, when I got home from work, Sam was banging on the drum kit and before I can even think of making dinner, I found myself picking up the guitar and playing a couple beats.  Music is a drug.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adapting. Finally.

For the first time since moving to the 909, I did feel like I belong here.  On my business trip to Colorado a couple weeks ago, I did not feel the urge to fly from Burbank, which is fairly convenient from work.  And when I got back a few days later, driving down Archibald Avenue certainly felt like home -- much like how I used to feel driving up Altadena Drive after a long absence.  I can certainly attribute this change to riding the streets of Rancho Cucamonga on my bike, which I've always believed to be the best way to get to know a city.  As a result of trying to figure out where to ride, I've known all the small streets I need to take to get from point A to point B.  I vaguely remember going through the same process when we first moved to Pasadena.  I explored every corner of the foothill communities from Sierra Madre all the way to La Canada in order to get a feel for the area.  The other aspect of settling in is getting into certain routines -- in particular, places to eat.  At least once a week, the kids and I go to specific restaurants, pretty much out of habit -- CPK, King's Fish House and Rubio's.  And finally, ever since the kids started taking private music lessons at Alta Loma Music, we've gotten to know some friendly locals.  I just know it will be hard to leave the area when both kids go off to college but I have at least 7 more years before I have to worry about that.  For now, this is home.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Lioness Rules

Forget Adele.  The lioness still rules British soul.  I got the Amy Winehouse's posthumous release "Lioness: Hidden Treasures" from Target last night.   The reggae-fied track "Our Day Will Come" (track 1) will probably get the most radio play but her version of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" (track 4) is better than any that's ever been recorded.  This fact of life that where there's genius, there's self-destruction, really sucks.  Wish she had recorded more songs in her short, tormented life and career.  My other favorite track is Girl From Ipanema (track 7).  This is the freshest approach of this bossa nova classic since Astrud Gilberto's finest hour.  The CD insert also reminds me of the time when buying recorded music was more than just clicking a button on iTunes.  This release contains a full 20 pages of photographs, production notes, personal notes and lyrics.  Yes, fucking lyrics! And to think I considered just downloading the album from iTunes. What was I thinking.  Somewhere in the ether, Amy is still singing and drinking away and we're just too far away to appreciate it but this release will do for now.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

50 Things I Like About Cyclng

1. The feel of the wind blowing in my face.
2. Going fast downhill.
3. I can eat anything I want after riding.
4. The feel of endorphins after a good ride.
5. Most of my good friends are from the cycling community.
6. Memories of Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon in the 1989 Tour de France by 8 seconds.
7. My Trek carbon fiber bike.
8. Riding the empty roads on a Sunday morning when most people are still in bed.
9. Glendora Mountain Road
10. Buying bike tools.
11. I forget the stresses of work as soon as I get on the bike.
12. Watching my son get excited about riding his road bike.
13. Looking at the carved legs of women who race bikes.
14. Riding behind female cyclists.
15. Flying down city streets at 30 mph on a group ride
16. Going faster than cars during rush hour traffic
17. Memories of Andy Hampsten winning the 1989 Giro D'Italia in the snow
18. Looking for vintage bikes on Craigslist
19. Watching my bike odometer log several hundred miles during the year
20. The Montrose Ride
21. Following the Tour de France every morning in July.
22. Shaving my legs and wearing shorts to show off my calves.
23. The classic lines on an Eddy Merckx steel frame
24. 'lAlpe d'Huez
25. Screaming down Pacific Coast Highway on a weekend passing dozens of cars
26. Shimano Index Shifting (SIS)
27. Reaching the top of a long, steady climb
28. Bike-friendly cities like Boulder, Colorado
29. Commuting on my bike via the bike path at the beach
30. Riding down Manhattan Beach in the summer
31. The faces of riders after the Paris-Roubiax race
32. The humor of Bob Roll
33. Phil Liggett's play-by-play of European bike races
34. Titanium components
35. The smell of barbeques during summer rides.
36. The smell of fireplaces during winter rides.
37. Campagnolo
38. Knee warmers and arm warmers that come off easily
39. Clipless pedals
40. Watching a match sprint at the velodrome
41. The bell lap of a criterium
42. The feeling of accomplishment after riding 100 miles
43. Tailwinds
44. Waiting at a traffic light side-by-side with cars
45. Watching a professional team ride the team time trial
46. The Rose Bowl ride on Tuesday and Thursday nights
47. Sitting on a good wheel at 30 mph
48. Topping 50 mph going down Mt Baldy
49. The Tour of California
50. Getting a Coke Slurpee at 7-Eleven after a long ride

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

After The Winds

I was out of town when the winds hit.  I knew LAX was shut down temporarily.  I know of people who drove for a couple hours Friday night looking for a restaurant to have dinner -- but most places were still without power.  What's ironic about this windstorm is that Rancho Cucamonga, which normally gets these gusts from the high desert, seemed to have fared better than Pasadena, which is nestled in the foothills of San Gabriel mountains.  In fact, as I rode my bike through Rancho last Friday, there were few downed trees, mainly off Hillside Avenue between Haven and Archibald.  On my Saturday morning ride, going up Day Creek Blvd to the house was tougher than usual due to some residual winds.  I was going 7 mph on this hill where I normally go up at 10 mph.  And then there's Duarte (above) where along a few miles on Route 66, all the street names were blown off their mounting frames.  Sometimes, nature just needs to remind us who's the boss.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Sunday Ride

The climb from Campus Ave in Upland to the top of Shinn Road in Claremont is only 4.7 miles.  I was first introduced to this climb riding with a dozen guys from the Cycling Connection bike club in Rancho Cucamonga a couple months ago and since then, it has become part of my regular Sunday loop to Claremont and back home to Rancho.  I remember my first time -- this older guy Les, who I'm guessing is in his mid-60s just kicked my ass.  I blew up at the climb hit Euclid Ave in the San Antonio Heights area.  I did not know what to expect and of course, just was in too big a gear for what did not seem like a steep grade.  Today is my 5th time up Shinn Road and I finally found the right gearing combinations at the different legs of this climb.  The key is to not blow up at Euclid Ave and pound the big ring past Mountain Ave to get enough momentum for the rest of the way to Shinn Road.  Thinking back when I used to go up Angeles Crest or GMR, it did take at least 5 tries before I got the optimum gearing selection.  Given my time constraints, a 35-mile Sunday ride is probably all I can handle if I am to be semi-useful for the rest of the day.  Gone were the 65-mile Sunday rides I used to do with Maura in the 90s.  The last 10 miles of the loop is also low risk in terms of just finishing the ride on the Pacific Electric Bike Trail which I pick up at Claremont Village and take all the way to Etiwanda Ave.  Today, I finally felt like I'm beginning to appreciate more what the area has to offer.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Jam Band

Early Christmas presents for the boys.  Sam's electronic drums and JJ's Schecter bass from Guitar Center means Santa came early.  Honestly, I never thought I'd be jamming with my two kids but it's looking really promising.  JJ and I jammed to Radiohead's Creep earlier this evening while Sam was setting up the drum kit.  They had been taking lessons at Alta Loma music and I have to say, making music beats video games any day.  I'm happy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Three Days In Boulder

If I ever move out of California, there are only two other states I would consider -- Hawaii and Colorado.  The latter is a haven for cyclists, athletes and anyone who loves the outdoors.  Not all of Colorado is habitable though, in particular, Colorado Springs is just way too full of religious fundamentalists and born again Christians who want to convert the entire country to their point of view.  However, Boulder, is the polar opposite not just for the politics but for the cycling culture.  Everyone is fit, drive a Subaru or a Prius, shop at Whole Foods Market, ride a bike and just overall progressive.  My kind.  So a business trip to Boulder is one I'd never turn down and in the 10 years I've been traveling there, I've never experience a full-blown snowfall.   Until this week.  I arrived Wednesday night and it was the calmest of winter evenings -- 55 deg F, not a cloud nor any wind.  By 10pm though, I started seeing snow flakes floating about in the thin mountain air.  By Thursday morning, we got 8-10 inches of snow and while this makes for an interesting drive for Californians, these Boulder residents were hardly bothered.  In fact, as I drove around 8am, I counted about a couple dozen cyclists commuting in the snow!  Then I found out later that they plow the bike paths clear before the first commuters hit the trails.  Now that's progress.  Bikes before cars.
I don't think I've ever seen any of my car thermometer go below 31 deg F -- and that was New Year's Eve at Zion National Park in 2007.  However, this morning as I drove to the DIA, my Ford Focus rental car read a frigid 16 deg F.  I'm not even sure my California cars are calibrated at this low end of the scale.  But the beauty of Boulder was just apparent this morning when there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the ground was white and unfortunately, I had to go back home.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sam's Growth

I knew it was only a matter of time.  This week was a milestone of sorts.  First of, Sam rode his road bike with me yesterday from Duarte to Santa Fe Dam and back for 21 miles -- the longest he's ridden ever.  He's a natural just like his mother on the bike, effortlessly pedaling along, talking endlessly it seemed.  He hasn't ridden since school started and I had to raise the seat on his Specialized a full 2 inches so he stretched his legs fully.  It will be a while before he builds up his aerobic capacity to ride hard but it's all up to him and only a matter of time if he chooses to do so.  The other thing that's tough to swallow is this growth spurt that he's had this fall.  I've been hesitant to measure him to see if he's passed my 5'6" height but tonight, looking at the closet mirror in his room, it's obvious that he now just a tad taller.  He's only 13 but well on his way to probably 6 ft or more (not a stretch given that his maternal grandfather was 6'4"). Just not sure where time went but the little boy in the photo above (April 2002, Oahu) above now seemed like a very distant memory.  Even more distant is the toddler who started riding his tricycle as soon as he could walk (below).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keep Calm And Kill Zombies!

For this target practice as in real life, only hits in the zombie head count.

Four Strings (Are Easier To Play Than Six)

We got the bass off Craigslist a couple months back.  JJ wanted to learn bass so he started lessons at Alta Loma Music every Friday evening recently.  Somewhere in between, I started playing around as well and not only do I find playing bass really fun but also found it a bit easier since I don't have to deal with the harmonics like guitar playing.  Now, I pay attention to bass lines on songs and then try to figure out how to play it.  I've been playing guitar since I was 13 but playing electric bass is as much fun as I can remember in a long while.  Played without a pick, it's all about getting in the right groove with the rhythm of a song and slapping it just right.  I can now fully appreciate what funk is really all about.  So far, I've learned The Cure's "Fascination Street", Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" and Muse's "Uprising".  As JJ progresses with his playing, I can see a scheduling conflict using the only bass and bass amp we have in the house but for now, I'm happy to slap along when he's not using it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Silver And Black

No it's not an Oakland Raiders Silver and Black but my new pairs of Converse All-Stars in silver and black leather.  Just about every time I go to the Converse store in Las Vegas, I end up with a pair (or two or three).  I've heard of women who can never have enough pairs of black shoes.  I understand completely, ladies.  I feel the same way about my Converse All-Stars.  My addiction.  My new Chuck Taylors.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thanksgiving Lesson

My day started at 6am yesterday. I wanted to get some riding in before we headed to Vegas to spend Thanksgiving at my cousin Henry's house. We traveled with my parents, aunt, uncle and other cousin and ended up getting rooms at the Silverton Casino Hotel. My back hurt from driving 3 hours in my dad's nice but unfamiliar Ford Flex. A minor confusion with the reservations and it took a while to get things sorted out by my uncle. Given the crazy Thanksgiving weekend and all, I was patient and sat on the extremely comfortable couch in the hotel lobby. Kids milled about and 20 minutes, later, still no room. Next thing I heard was "Sir, you're not allowed to sleep in the casino." This kid rent-a-cop stood over me and waking up disoriented and all, I didn't even bother arguing the merits or justification of that rule or policy. The clock told me I had been out for 20 minutes, which means this is the longest I ever had to wait for a friggin room key. If they don't want hotel guests to fall asleep in their lobby, either get them their room keys sooner or provide uncomfortable couches or maybe some lighting that doesn't fool everyone into thinking it's night time. I did not realize until today that the whole incident was a lesson in being grateful for what I have. Now I know what it's like to be without a place to sleep. On this Thanksgiving day, I am thankful I have a home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

IE Sunrise, Nov. 22, 2011

"Sunrise Over The Inland Empire, Day Creek Boulevard and Wilson Avenue November 22, 2011" - I was lucky enough to have my camera this morning when I was driving down the hill to work this morning.  It rained most of last weekend but today was clear and clean.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Miss Idiocracy

I wish Sarah Palin was running in 2012.  From what I remember in 2008, the country was headed into a real life re-enactment of the movie "Idiocracy".  Besides, Saturday Night Live could use the bump in the ratings with Tina Fey sketches of the fool from Alaska.  Even when in the shadows of the Republican presidential goat rope, Palin is in the nation's consciousness.  Walking down Hollywood Blvd, I did not expect this DIY sign on the sidewalk.

Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail

I've been riding on the trail since April of this year.  I've taken it from I-15 all the way to Claremont.  I've taken my kids riding through sections of the trail during the summer.  Even the bike-friendly cities of Pasadena or Claremont do not have a Class 1 Bike Path, i.e., one that is completely separate from traffic.  So this puts Rancho Cucamonga above most foothill communities in the bike-friendliness scale.  Today, I found out that there is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that is an advocate for the Pacific Electric Trail, an 8-mile bike path through my adopted city of Rancho Cucamonga.  As I rode the trail crossing at Etiwanda Avenue this morning, there was a table set up with some folks handing out flyers informing trail users of what the city has to offer.  I chatted with the volunteers a bit about the new section that crosses Foothill Blvd and how I think it's a great asset to the city.  If I will ever introduce my kids to civic consciousness of some kind, this might be a great way to get them involved in the community.  I'm looking forward to attending the first meeting of Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail on December 13 at the Lions Center East and see where I can help out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Deacon's Bench

I never really knew what a deacon's bench was but I knew I like it the first time I saw it.  I went into the antique dealer in San Dimas mid afternoon and saw this bench on my way out.  It had a seat pad and pillows and a couple gift baskets sitting on top so it wasn't obvious.  I knew I wanted it but I spent a good 10 minutes trying to visualize where it would go in the house.  For one, I'm a sucker for Windsor chairs so it was an easy decision.  I'm guessing this is early to mid 20th century but I don't really care because now, I have something nice to greet me as I get up the flight of stairs after a long day at work.  (I do wonder how long it would take the kids to figure out it's a good place to dump their school packs or jackets.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thoughts On Sleep

I can sleep anywhere
I can sleep on the couch
I can sleep in a plane
I can nap at work
I can sleep while watching TV
I worry about falling asleep while driving
I can sleep in a hotel room
I sleep when I'm tired
I'm always tired
I can sleep at a party
I sleep after sex
I have sex after I get some sleep
I can sleep after a cup of coffee
I sleep better when it's not too dark or too quiet or too cold
I sleep less now than when I was younger
I worry about not getting enough sleep
I am sleep deprived
I can sleep anytime
I can sleep when I'm dead
I used to think that if I sleep less, I can get more done in this lifetime
I haven't gotten a full night's sleep since

Monday, November 14, 2011

Found Drawing

I can't remember when I did this drawing of a potted hydrangea plant but I attempted to put in some watercolor highlights and all I can remember is that it was a struggle.  I can draw ok but watercolor always kicks my butt down to the ground.  I think there is a technique to it and maybe I just need to take some basic classes to conquer my fears of the medium.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Publication

Cruising the magazine rack at the grocery store Friday night looking for candy with the kids, I instead found this new rag "Paved".  This is an interesting mixture of bike racing, personalities, photography, history and product reviews (including an 11 pound $14,000 bike).  I will want a subscription as soon as I figure out what other magazine to cancel.


Being off the bike for a while, I had forgotten how it is out there riding, wearing team colors and fancy bike and every Fred wants to challenge me for a race.  I don't get it.  I'm happily riding along at 17 mph most days and it never fails, I get a fixie rat trying to start a race with me.  Most times, I'm really not interested.  Once, going up Duncan Canyon in Fontana, this fixie rat was on my wheel, without me knowing.  Of course, he passed me at the top catching me by surprise.  Then as we descended, I thought about abusing him but held back.  Then something wonderful happened.  The rat dropped his phone and its batteries came out and all.  He had to go back and pick it up and I just smiled as I rode by.  I'm a big cycling advocate and will embrace and encourage just about anyone to get on a bike and enjoy themselves.  Commute, run errands, play, get in shape -- in a bike.  But something about this fixie culture is just not cool.  Its almost as if they just got bored doing tricks on their skateboard and now they want to get radical on a bike too.  I'm pretty friendly too when riding.  I'll ride at anyone's pace just to talk to them while riding but fixie rats aren't too friendly.  I suppose if they see some bike racer wearing team colors, they feel they're not the baddest guy on the road.  But in my mind, there's plenty of room for all.  I share the road.  Including cars.  A month ago, same thing happened.  I was catching up to a couple fixie rats down Etiwanda Ave and then all of a sudden they both decided to accelerate from 10 mph to around 20 mph.  I was just going my steady 17 mph and one of them kept on looking back as they pull away.  I could still hammer at 28 mph if I wanted but as before, decided against it.  Then something similar happened.  Fixie rats, if anything, don't wear helmets.  They're too cool for wear them and instead wear baseball caps or beanies.  The guy who kept looking back at me dropped his hat and by the time he noticed it, they were about 200 meters down the hill.  As before, I just smiled as I passed both as they pedaled back to pick up a baseball cap.  I've been riding long enough to know that there is a time for going fast (Saturday morning between Day Creek Blvd and Mills Ave), there is a time for going hard (hillclimbs) and there is a time for enjoying life (any other time).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Art For Schmucks

Roland Reiss, Personal Politics: Sculpture from the 1970s and 1980s opened at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in September in the main gallery.  The show consisted of several of his sculptures -- more like dioramas, no different than what my kids did as elementary school projects.  Each of his pieces is intended to tell a visual disclosure that is not 100% clear at first but with a little bit of work, I eventually get it.  Which brings me to one of my long-standing complaints about surrealist art and that is, it requires too much work to appreciate.  Reiss' art is far from surrealism but in my mind, it requires just as much work to interpret and that kind of art is not necessarily for mass consumption.  Luckily for me, I was not too tired when I visited PMCA so it wasn't too bad at all.  Walking from piece to piece, I can't help but think of the movie "Dinner For Schmucks" where Steve Carrell's character builds dioramas from taxidermied mice.  Art should be easy to view and Roland Reiss' certainly isn't.  Maybe that is why, although unquestionably brilliant, he is not a household name.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Art Absorption

For as long as I can remember, I've been dragging both kids to museums all over -- either at home or when on vacation.  As soon as they can walk, we were off to LACMA or Exposition Park or Traveltown.  Although they have had an unusually biased number of visits to art museums.  I do not know if they will ever show any kind of affinity toward visual arts but they had been to most LA art establishments and even went on a quick tour of SFMOMA last year during a summer trip to the Bay Area.  I do not hold back in exposing them to modern art in particular, be it feminist (Judy Chicago) or graffiti (MOCA's Art In the Streets) or even what conservatives would consider vulgar (Hirst or Warhol).  I've always argued that it's a form of inoculation that I'd rather supervise than them finding out on their own.  The other thing is the younger one, JJ always complains about going to an art museum but almost every single instance, enjoys the exhibits and has a good time.  Given the fact that they don't teach any art in middle school, I will most likely continue to do this for a while.  In the picture above, both kids were clowning around the LACMA entrance in 2005.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Size (Actually Weight) Matters

I finally found over the weekend a copy of Dennis Hopper Photographs 1961-1967 at the Urban Outfitters in Rancho Cucamonga discounted at $30 (normally $70).  What's striking about this book, besides the photographic works of one of LA's own is it weight.  At 9.8 lbs, it's easily the heaviest book (art books or otherwise) I have in my library.  Which brings me to my little exercise.  Out of the hundreds of art books I have, I picked out several that looked like heavyweights (literally) and listed the ones that are equal to or greater than 6 lbs.  Here the empirical data:

1) Dennis Hopper Photographs 1961-1967 (9.8 lbs)
2) Picasso (8.2lbs)
3) Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990-2005 (8.2 lbs)
4) Cream 3 (7.2 lbs)
5) Chuck Close - Work (6.8 lbs)
6) Anthony Quinn's Eye (6.0 lbs)

I don't think there's any positive correlation between the weight of these books to the impact to the art world of the artist(s) represented in their respective pages. I don't think there's any positive correlation to anything other than where they sit on my bookshelf, i.e. at the bottom.  Otherwise, these 6 books alone, weighing in a combined 46 lbs could sag any non-reinforced shelving.  I don't think I will ever appreciate any artbook in electronic format viewed through these readers.  I'm old school when it comes to printed media.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Walking Dead

Man, am I hooked.  For the past year, both kids have been exhaustively seeking out every zombie movie out there.  JJ even got a reference book on the history of zombies from the black and white George A. Romero classic "Night of the Living Dead" to the funny "Shaun of the Dead".  But this weekend, we got the first season DVD of the AMC series "Walking Dead" and even I watched intently every episode in the first season as well as both Season 2 episodes aired tonight.  Walking Dead is different than most zombie material out there because there is somewhat of a story between the main characters, not unlike most drama out there -- except there's the backdrop of "walkers" that can emerge from anywhere at anytime. Walkers, obviously in reference to the fact that these zombies' body involuntarily move in response to human scent.  There are crawlers too and in tonight's AMC episode, one was referenced as a swimmer -- a zombie trapped in an water well.  What's really memorable about tonight's episode is that as the humans were trying to pull the zombie out of the well with a rope attacked to its upper torso, its lower body just cut in half from the fact that the tissue and bone structure cannot support its hanging weight.  I don't know if Walking Dead will ever bring to zombies what X-Files did to aliens but these first 2 seasons had been very well written and acted -- so far.  Several episodes had been adhering to the formula plot of a few of the lead actors/actresses go off into zombieland to retrieve something (guns, food, medicine, a redneck cuffed to a pipe) and in the process, the rest of the story develops -- usually something typical of a drama, the human side.  If you can get over the fact that zombies are fictional, at best, then Walking Dead is the most unusual of all dramas that television had ever produced.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Project Room Gallery at PMCA

My favorite of all the San Gabriel Valley arts institutions is the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) and today is the first Friday of the month -- meaning I take a slightly longer lunch and visit.  It feels like I've been to this museum a lot when it rains and today is no exception.  The drizzle prevented me from going to the third floor -- where I look at the views of the city I used to call home.  Being in Pasadena, it's no surprise the museum has an installation by JPL visual strategist (more on that title in a bit), Dan Goods in the Project Room Gallery.  This gallery, just across the bookstore, typically greets any visitor to PMCA before they enter the main gallery and from September through January 8, 2012, one can experience what the Juno spacecraft might run into when it reaches the atmosphere of Jupiter.  There is no explanation anywhere in the literature provided that justifies the sensory immersion one experiences inside this simulated Jupiter environment.  However, they provided a steady drone soundtrack within the installation which is part swamp, part computer-generated tones which is interesting but probably contains more sounds than what is actually on the planet.  Which brings me to the title of the person who created this art installation, JPL's visual strategist.  Looking up Mr. Good's bio, he does have an Art Center degree -- yes, that other Pasadena institution up the hill by Linda Vista and I do wonder how he interacts with all those left-brain types at JPL.  I've never seen any successful collaboration between artists and scientists at the working level but I think it would be an extremely cool job to be the visual strategist for a high-visibility lab.  I would probably appreciate the installation more if I was on some mind-altering drug but as an appetizer to the main gallery, which showed the works of Roland Reiss, the Juno  clouds and sounds sufficed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TJ Dinners

I feel really lucky my kids eat a fairly wide variety of food and as a result, dinners from Trader Joe's is typical.  I was just thinking that yesterday when 86% of what I served them was from TJs.  The 14% not from TJ is the steamed rice that went along with the Madras lentil (#1) and palak paneer (#2).  In addition, we've taken a liking to the Pasadena salad (#3), a combination of diced chicken breast, crispy noodles and diced almonds over a bed of lettuce.  But what surprised me the most was the mediterranean flatbread (#4) which the kids seem to prefer over pita bread to dip into the hummus (#5) to supplement the meal.  The entire dinner costs less than $20 and it relatively healthy and balanced eating.  Ok, a slice of pumpkin pie (#6) tipped it to around $26 but well worth it.  (Convenience definitely factors into the equation since the TJs off Haven Ave is on my way home from work.)

The Avila Adobe House

There are two places I've gone over the past couple years around this time of year in Los Angeles.  The first one is at the Autry Museum and the other one is a visit to Olvera Street.  The vendors in this LA landmark is the place to get Dia De Los Muertos stuff -- from postcards to calaveras.  This year, I took a detour to visit the oldest house in LA, the Avila Adobe house, built in 1818 by the city's first mayor, Don Francisco Avila.  The most noticeable feature is how much cooler it is inside the house given the outside temperatures hovering in the mid 70s.  The museum is free and can be explored in less than 30 minutes -- giving me plenty of time to go inside just about every store to browse.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2/8/07 Snapshot

On some days like today, I just miss talking to my best friend.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Time (2011)

I wanted to see "Puss N Boots" and JJ wanted to see "In Time".   I was tired after my ride up Mt Baldy this morning so going to a movie theater with 40 kids under 8 years old wasn't too appealing so I agreed to see the Justin Timberlake retro-futuristic movie.  In "In Time", time is both a commodity and a currency.  The premise is interesting enough where people had a fixed time to live after 25 years, unless of course you can afford to "buy" more time.  The movie was shot in LA, including Boyle Heights and the LA river with downtown LA as a backdrop and yet, they made you think it was somewhere in the east coast.  "In Time" is predictable at best but quite enjoyable.  I particularly enjoy the cars in the movie, mostly early to mid 60s Lincoln Continentals.  Yes, every citizen who can afford a car rode in a black LC.  It would really suck, suck big time if everyone drove a Linkin.  And if they did, I would ditch mine in a heartbeat.  Like most sci-fi movies, I basically have to abandon all logic and intuition.  My son, Sam actually had the most interesting observation.  How come no one can hack into this central computer where time is controlled?   I will probably end up getting "In Time" in DVD just because it's one of those movies I can watch over and over like those other bad sci-fi movies I like (Time Cop, Total Recall, Gattaca).

Centurion Lugged Frame

Nothing relaxes me more than spending Saturday morning taking a bike apart and cleaning out everything down to the frame and fork.  Having gotten up later than I would have liked, I skipped riding yesterday altogether and instead cleaned out the Centurion frame to get ready for my rat rod bike build.  This Japanese lugged frame from the 70s (including bottom bracket and headset) weighed in at 8.8 lbs -- which is really heavy compared to carbon or aluminum frames today.  However, the lug-work is exquisite to the point, I think, where it's definitely a work of art.  They don't make detailed design like this anymore.  This is the first time I've overhauled a bike in over a decade and I realized how much I miss the spending the time just alone to my thoughts.  A little different than alone thought while riding, which is a little less relaxing since I have to watch out for cars and other road hazards.  I will not repaint this frame but maybe put a clear coat on it to prevent further rust.  I knew the bike had good bones the minute I saw the Craigslist pic.  I do think that bike manufacturers will someday sell new bikes with this worn, distressed look, just like Fender and other guitar manufacturers sell "new" vintage stuff.

I will keep the original bottom bracket and headset.  I truly believe that these bearings have already settled into their housings and even though it's tempting to replace them, it really is better.  The ball bearings were perfect when I unpacked them with nice, thick grease that took a half hour to fully clean out.

The welded rear derailleur hanger is rare for a bike from the 70s.  Most mid-level bikes back then used clamp-ons which was not as mechanically rigid as these.  I do need to get some chrome polish to spot clean some rust spots.