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.