Saturday, October 31, 2009

Farther! Higher! Slower! Nichols Canyon again

Well, if I flunk my licensing exam at least I'll have had all these nice bike rides, and a blog to remember them by. And actually, the brain needs to get out on a daily basis anyway, so good thing it has so many nice places around here to go!

I went back to Nichols Canyon today, and did the full distance of this road. It's a steady uphill, a relentless 5+ km of climbing. Not sure the exact distance as my bike computer has been acting up and not registering all the distance I do, but probably less than 6 km anyway. But still- that's one big hill! There is a tiny spot where there is a gentle downwards slope near the top of the hill.

Here's a view of the canyon from around halfway up. Isn't it beautiful?

Facing the other direction, here's the road heading up:

Some nice real estate in the canyon:

Here are some cacti that were growing at the side of the road. I'm such a Canadian hick, I still get a kick out of seeing desert plants growing wild:

If anyone's into maps, here's my route, it continues northward from my map from the Oct. 3 ride:

I was pretty close to the famous Mulholland Drive, some other time I'll take a turn and head over that way.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Santa Monica and Venice Beaches

It was such a beautiful clear day today, I decided to drive down to Santa Monica beach and try the bike path there. Click on any of the photos to see them bigger.

I started out at the Pier, where the amusement park is:

I then headed north first. Here is a wide view of the beach, click it to see it bigger:

I think this one gives an idea of just how wide (deep?) the beach is- look how far those walkers are from both water and the buildings at the edge of the beach:

These apartments overlook the beach:

So do these, I wonder how stable the geology here is in an earthquake? Might not want to park there in that case either:

Beach houses, and my little bike, that gets into more photos than I do (circumstantial evidence that I'm here!):

Two views from near the northern end of the path:

I liked this little short palm tree. Is it a midget, or just a young 'un? I'm not very well schooled on the life cycle of the palm:

I then turned around and headed back past the pier, south, to Venice beach. Here's what the path looks like down there, it's still along the beach:

These buildings are along Ocean Front Walk on Venice beach:

There's a skateboard park, and these guys move fast so it was a very lucky shutter click that caught this skateboarder:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Filming something

On the street beside MacArthur Park, they had closed the street and were filming something, maybe a commercial? It had a water truck, a taxi, a bank and Santa Claus. Maybe not a commercial? If you see any scenes in anything that have those elements, I was there.

MacArthur Park: A low-cal, no cavities, urban oasis!

I checked the internet, and there is no consensus on what the cake left out in the rain is all about, but MacArthur Park is a lovely little park. It has a fair number of down-and-outers hanging around, but everyone seemed happy, sober and peaceful.

The park is bisected by Wilshire Boulevard. These two photos are from the northern segment:

The one below is of a building by the pond which is in the southern segment. I liked the symbols on the side, not sure what they mean either (it's just a place of mystery, MacArthur Park is!)

So are these Azaleas?

These flowers are everywhere in L.A. I'd assumed they were azaleas, but now I'm not certain, I've been checking the internet and there are so many varieties I can't make a match for sure. Whatever they are, they are hanging over the sidewalk all over the place. I can't think of a nicer thing to be decapitated by while walking.

Wind damage

It was really windy yesterday, and I've heard there are even trees down in some parts of town. Here, it seems to be mostly palm fronds all over the place. The pictures here are from Plymouth Blvd., one of my favourite streets in Hancock Park.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Actually, you CAN get good help these days

It was very windy today, and one of the downsides to having no screens is that things can get blown in. They rarely do; I'm on the 9th floor so almost everything is below me. But today's winds were creating quite the updraft, and leaves and dirt were coming in quickly before I got the windows closed.

But what to do about the mess!?!? A perfect job for plucky little Roomba, who with a push of a button and a cheery little chirp was right on the job.

I love my robotic vacuum cleaner. This place was really clean when I moved into it, and that's the perfect situation for a Roomba, if you run it once a week or so it just stays on top of things. I recommend 'em!

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's when I open my mouth, eh?

I was chatting with someone I hadn't spoken to before at the bike club today, and she asked right away, "are you Canadian?" She said she could tell by my accent.

That's the first time that's happened to me here. I'm aware of having a slightly different accent from most others around here, but I don't know if they notice. I was wondering too, if I was talking to a Canadian, would I notice the difference from the others, or is it so ingrained to me as the default accent, that I wouldn't spot it? I tend to think the latter.

As soon as I crossed the border into New York State, people would often ask me to say something twice, they wouldn't understand me the first time. I however usually understood them, but not always. It happens to me here quite a bit in California too, a store clerk will have to pause and compute what I said. They rarely ask me here to repeat something, but they obviously have to replay my words in their heads to figure it out.

When I watch TV (which isn't that often), the "American" TV accent, if it's not someone who's being obviously regional (like Texas or the south), sounds more Canadian to me than American. Is that because so many Canadians work in TV? Is it because our accent is a more neutral variant on the North American one, so ours is closer to the "average"? Or is it that we watch so much TV, we've soaked up the generic television accent? Hmmm. Maybe a bit of each.

I don't think I stand out here as being glaringly Canadian, but who knows. Today someone noticed. My cover is blown.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The little old lady from Pasadena

When that song came on the radio this morning, it occurred to me that not that long ago, I didn't know where Pasadena was. I mean, I knew it was somewhere in California (after all, Canadians are pretty steeped in American cultural references), but now, not only do I know it's one of the oldest and nicest suburbs of L.A., I've actually been there. Further, when the song advises us "she's the terror of Colorado Boulevard", hey, I know where that is too! My understanding of American culture is thus measurably enriched, only five weeks into the adventure.

On the cross-continent drive here, at least a couple of times a day I'd see a turnoff for some town or another that I recognized the name of from pop culture... Lodi, Youngstown, Omaha and Boulder spring to mind.

The Los Angeles and Hollywood references are everywhere, of course. Next week, I'm planning to go visit MacArthur Park, to see what all that that sweet green icing melting down is all about. It's just down the street, and I heard it's a nice park, with a beautiful pond that supposedly was full of guns and knives when they temporarily drained it a while back.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ulnar Nerve Entrapment

I'm pretty sure I'm developing a repetitive stress injury in my elbow that is affecting a nerve in my hand.

This summer, I started developing some numbness in my right pinky finger and ring finger. I could tell it was from bicycling (I was doing between 50 and 60 km a day on good days), so I tried to watch the way I was leaning on the handlebars, and made sure to take pressure off regularly and rest often. It would wax an wane, but I usually had some numbness in those fingers.

My first time on the group bike ride out here, I met a woman who was recovering from surgery on her elbow. She was a video game tester, and her symptoms sounded exactly like what I had been experiencing during the summer (but since I had not done much biking at that point since moving here, I was feeling OK again.).

It's called ulnar nerve entrapment, and it's similar to carpal tunnel, but a different nerve, and affecting the 4.5 and 5th fingers instead of the 1-4.5th fingers (the ring finger is shared by both nerves.). On one webpage they listed computer use and "avid cycling" (oops) as causes.

I'm much better here in L.A., and never really numb any more, but only because I have not been biking as much. This week I went for 3 bike rides (although two were only medium-length) and I am feeling it just start to act up again, so I will have to be careful. Computer use also affects it, so I'm being careful with positioning and not doing too much at once there too. There are also some exercises I found that I will start doing, and sleeping position matters too, have to be careful not to sleep with the arm bent.

It should get better with time through rest, proper exercises and sleep positioning. I'll just have to go for more walks (and of course lots of swims) instead of too much biking for a while. I'll still do at least the weekly ride with the club though.

Pan Pacific Park

Compared to a city like Ottawa, Los Angeles doesn't have a lot of parks, at least not scattered throughout the city. It has some that look large and nice up in the hills, but I haven't made it out to those yet.

However, one of it's larger urban parks is handily located right across Third Ave. from my apartment complex. I'd walked past it many times, but today was the first time I went for a walk through it.

It's mostly a sports park, although it has walking trails shaded by trees running through it too. I didn't have my camera with me (my camera is a little too large; I feel like a junior paparazzi lugging it around, so it stays home more often than it should. I plan on getting a smaller, more inconspicuous one soon). However, I thoughtfully lifted this image from Google maps for you, click it to get a larger view.

The local population was thick on the ground, frantically recreating at activities like soccer, basketball, baseball, jogging, and birthday parties.

There's a community centre (I think that's what it is) at the north end of the park on Beverly Blvd. The Holocaust memorial is also at the north end, but it's blocked off, and according to some signs it sounds like it's in the process of being moved, I think they said to the site of the Holocaust Museum.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The proverbial stick of butter

OK, so while we Canadians could teach the Americans a thing or two about how to organize money (different colours for different bill denominations... brilliant and effective!), these guys sure know how to handle butter. I remember growing up, reading recipes in Mom's books, and wondering "how much is a stick of butter?", as that seemed to be the default amount of fat that so many recipes called for. It sure wasn't one of our Canadian bricks of it.

I have very rarely seen sticks of butter in Canada, but sticks are the default wrapping method here, and I have to give it both thumbs up. Look at those little measurements on the sides! Those are tablespoons! The rest of the measurements are in a handy list on the side, in case you forget a stick is half a cup.

All the brands are sold like this- at first, once I gleefully discovered the brand I'd bought was in sticks, I'd shake the boxes in the grocery store to make sure I was also buying sticks the next time, but they all rattle reassuringly, sticks are the norm.

Canadian dairies, are you listening?!?! :-)

This is my library card

They give you a wallet card too, but isn't this keychain library card cool? These keychain cards are new to me- the other one behind it is my discount card for the grocery store, and also serves as a War-Amps style key-return system- if someone finds your keys, they can drop them off at any Ralph's (and Ralph is everywhere) and they have your phone # and address to contact you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Subway ride to Pasadena

On Saturday I took the Subway to Pasadena. I really liked the subway- it was clean, easy to use, with lots of instructions over the intercom. I don't know when they built it but the stations are very new compared to places like Paris or Toronto, so it must be in the last decade or two.

I hope they extend it west soon- I got on the last stop on the Purple line, and it was still a ~45 minute walk from where I live, and I'm not that far west. It seems it would solve a lot of LA's traffic problems to have a subway that covers the west part of the city. I've read that the residents voted against one several times in the past! They want to keep their part of town inaccessible to outsiders, supposedly. That's not the official line, but probably is the real reason.

I transferred to the Gold line at Union Station. Union Station is as beautiful as every other station named Union in other cities, very elegant.

The Gold line runs above ground, so it was a very interesting ride. Of course, I hadn't brought my camera. I guess you'd call the Gold line a LRT, as it's not elevated except exiting downtown, and has many level crossings over roads, and runs down the middle of the road in one place. It has the right of way though, traffic is stopped either with a flashing "train" sign, or in the busier spots, arms (what do you call those things?) come down and block the road.

Pasadena is another leafy paradise. You can see the mountains, which are quite close there, at every intersection, with tree-lined streets and lovely architecture.

I have to go back out this way to write my NCLEX exam in a couple of weeks, so I'll try to remember the camera next time.

Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills

OK, these photos are of the famous part of Rodeo Drive, I took this street on my way home from today's soothing Beverly Hills bike ride, since I hadn't seen it yet. Lots of expensive shopping around here! Not sure what that little pedestrian street off it is called, seems to me it has some famous name but I can't find it's name on the map or in the guidebook.

I went past the northern city limit of Beverly Hills today. Conclusion: still not hilly, slight grade at the northern border. The more expensive and hilly properties north of there can't be part of Beverly Hills proper, I don't think, they're probably in Bel Air. I love Beverly Hills, I think it's my favourite spot so far, probably because the biking is so darned easy and pleasant there.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This is what hazardous weather looks like in California

They deliver mail on Saturdays!

Wow, another piece of culture shock- I came into the building through the mail room yesterday, and there was the mailman with all the boxes tipped open, distributing mail. I had wondered why I always seemed to have mail on Monday mornings, despite being pretty sure I'd checked the box sometime over the weekend (our mail gets delivered in the late afternoon).

What a great idea! Mail on Saturdays! One more thing to like about California.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

...and now it's humid

Back to beautiful summer today, but Ottawa-style... all that rain is evaporating and it's humid out today. It's only 26 C (79 F) right now but feels HOT because of it. I'm really enjoying it though- I was a little worried that "winter" was here after two days of rain. Building heat is still on (mine is turned off but it still gives off some residual heat).

It's forecast to be 91 tomorrow, 89 on Saturday, then back in the mid to high 70's after that, sunny every day ... I guess I won't ask for my money back just yet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It's been raining for around 24 hours now, off and on but mostly on.

I ventured out again in it today (on purpose!). I had some errands that I wanted to run on foot, so I thought, well, I have three umbrellas, so why not.

I must be getting soft already- I started feeling uncomfortably wet and turned around! Figured that with 330 or so days of sunshine in a year, why suffer. It's not even a cold rain.

Can you see the wet pavement in the lower left hand corner of the photo? Things are serious. It's supposed to stop after noon though. The situation is being monitored.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This is the first rain I've seen since I was around the Colorado/Utah border on Sept. 14, almost a whole month ago.

I actually got caught out in it today! I was on my way to the pool, when it started raining pretty heavily, I even had my umbrella out. I brought three umbrellas with me to California. I only meant to bring two, but a third snuck into the car when I was packing. So, bring it on, I'm ready. You do see people using umbrellas here, but it's asian ladies using them as parasols in the sun, generally.

Hey, it's coming down heavily out there again right now as I write this. I'll spare you a video.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Visual proof I'm really here

I went on the bike club's ride today, no traffic troubles at all. It was overcast but not too foggy so I took my camera. Pictures weren't great so I'll only post a few. The weather improved during the ride but the ride leader was on a tight schedule due to an appointment, so I didn't stop to take better photos on the way back. There are actually beautiful views of Malibu and the Santa Monica mountains on this trail, but I'll have to get photos another time!

Below is a street in Hermosa Beach- not one of the more interesting ones, but we weren't stopping much and not for very long, so I took pictures where I could!

Here are two views of the Palos Verdes area from Redondo Beach:

About half the people on the ride do a longer route and go up into the Palos Verdes, but I find the 28 or so miles (44 km) on the beach ride to be long enough for me. I get elbow pain and hand numbness if I do too much riding at once.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Beverly Hills: Not hilly

I went on such a nice bike ride today. Around 25 km round-trip, in Beverly Hills. The city (I think they're their own city) of Beverly Hills starts just west of where I live, and I think I biked through most of it today. I'd been on the streets south of Santa Monica Blvd. before (except the famous parts, actually, that's still on the list for another day), but today also did the streets between Santa Monica Blvd. and Sunset Blvd.

This is a beautiful neighborhood, with huge houses, big lots, and lots of money. There is certainly a lot of money in Los Angeles. I'm amazed that every new neighborhood I venture into with my bike seems more upscale than the last, and it's not like I have been in too many shabby neighborhoods.

The streets are tree-lined, wide, and wonderful for biking. Here are two views of the leafy tunnel that is Maple Avenue (I don't recognize the trees as being actual maples, but they don't always plant the same tree the street is named after!). Beverly Hills (at least south of Sunset Blvd., which is most of it) not a hilly place at all- most of it I would call Beverly Flats, with a gentle Beverly Slope at the upper end of it.

Below is actually a part of Rodeo Drive, but a residential part:

Aren't the trees in L.A. wonderful? I'm actually finding the city to be quite beautiful. I loved this bike ride, I think it will become a regular outing. Here's a map of where I was:

Friday, October 9, 2009

My apartment

This is the back of my apartment building. I've circled my apartment in orange, you might have to click the photo to see a larger image to see the circle. It faces east.

Apartment living is a little different inside a gated complex. Since the grounds are surrounded by a wrought-iron fence, the buildings themselves aren't locked, and indeed, the doors are usually propped open with the breeze blowing through the main floor of the building. It gives a nice welcoming vibe on arrival. It also means no annoying security system via the phone, if a delivery guy has something for you, he just shows up at the door- and all delivery guys just leave boxes here outside your door if you're not home, I guess they don't have a problem with theft.

There are no screens on our windows. We don't have balconies either, but since we have lots of windows, and the weather is so perfect they are usually open, and there are no screens, it kind of feels like I am living in the great outdoors of California, even nine floors up! If you need to check the weather (and you don't), you just lean out the window and see how it feels.

With no screens, bugs fly in, but they fly out again too, I haven't had any accumulation, and no insect corpses, so they always find safe passage. I've found a couple of bird feathers by the windows, but have seen no birds inside while I am here!

Here are a few of the inside of the apartment- excuse the poor lighting, my photography skills are not great for indoor shots. The place is a little austere- I'm not buying much furniture unless I end up staying for a work contract!