Monday, November 30, 2009

Snow in the San Gabriel mountains

There has been snow in the San Gabriel mountains for the past couple of days.  This was taken this morning from my apartment window, I think it's Mount Baldy but like I mentioned before, I could be wrong.

Beach flower

Saw these blooming down at the beach on yesterday's ride.

"Aren't you cold?"

I went on my bike club's ride yesterday.  We do the beach bike path that follows the south bay of Los Angeles, starting at Marina Del Rey and finishing in Torrence, around 25 miles round-trip.

On the way back, one of the other women asked me, "aren't you cold?".  Nope.  It was 20C (68F), and sunny, and we were riding at a good clip.  That's me on yesterday's ride above, that's what I was wearing.  She was dressed in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, with a second T-shirt over top the first one, and I'm pretty sure she had shoes and socks on too.  Guess I'm still a rugged Canadian... for now.

That's a sand berm behind me, they build them for the winter on the beach.  I think they're to stop sand from shifting with the winter winds.  I've heard they put up snow fencing too to contain the sand but I didn't see any of that up yet.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

40% chance of thunderstorms

I darkened this in Photoshop to show the clouds a bit better, but it was a pretty dramatic sky this morning when I got up, the clouds were surrounding the Los Angeles basin like this, these are the ones that were lurking in the mountains that are southeast of downtown.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not raining!

It hasn't rained here since October 14.  I was worried then that, with two consecutive days of rain, that the "rainy season" had begun, but all remains dry for 42 consecutive days now, with nothing more extreme than the risk of partial cloud in the long-range forecast.  Today's version of "the sky is not cloudy all day" is pictured at the right.

Temperatures are in the low 80's this week, warm and dry.  Today it peaked at 78 (~25C), felt warmer though.  As I was walking home from the pool, a young woman wearing one of those cellphones that looks like a hearing aid was complaining to her invisible companion, "it feels like it's 90".  She then elaborated, "no, it ISN'T 90, it just feels like it".

Yikes.  The weather here is beyond perfect and there's always someone who's not happy with it.  In her case, if she'd worn shorts and a T-shirt instead of long pants and a sweater, perhaps it would help her cope with the "heat".

That's the funny thing here though- everyone is out and about in their fall fashions.  Last week when I was at the Beverly Center (upscale mall in Beverly Hills) I felt very "different" walking around, but couldn't put my finger on why.  After all, I was wearing my nicest and very respectable shorts, and my expensive ladies-boutique-procured T-shirt.  Then I started studying my fellow patrons... they were dressed in long pants, jackets, sweaters, boots, the occasional scarf, and largely in black.  It was in the high 70's that day too!  I had walked there, and even on the shady side of the street I was on the cusp of breaking a sweat in my T-shirt and shorts.

I don't know how they do it!  I don't know why they do it!  You do occasionally need long pants and a light jacket (evenings, early mornings), but why not make the most of a perfect climate and dress for the relentlessly perfect southern California weather, instead of pretending it's Boston or New York City?

Well, I'm going to make the most of it, and you won't hear me complaining about a dry 78 degrees anytime soon.  I might be getting spoiled, but I'll never be that spoiled!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The witch's house

I'd biked by this house a few times but never noticed it until someone at the bike club mentioned it.  It just kind of fits in with the stately mansions of Beverly Hills somehow, although once it catches your eye you do a double take!  The Spadena house was built for a movie studio in 1921 and appeared in several silent films, and then was bought in 1926 and moved to this site and it became a private home.  Supposedly they're a prime trick-or-treating target at Halloween!

Monday, November 23, 2009

High heels and the American Music Awards

I enjoyed this year's American Music Awards, and I don't mean on T.V.  I was there.

A bike-club friend of mine, who is also new to town, had two tickets and invited me to go.  It sounded like fun, but what to wear?!?!  I'd moved here on the whatever-fits-in-the-backseat-of-a-Corolla packing strategy, and my finery (what little I own) did not make the trip with me.

I found the quintessential little black dress at Nordstrom, where luckily a sale was on.  I got the shoes on sale there too- do you see them?  They're HEELS!  I don't think I'd worn real heels since high school.   I call them training heels since they helpfully have a little strap on them that not only serves a fashion purpose, it helped hold the darn things onto my unskilled feet.  The jacket I have on (it was late afternoon and getting a bit nippy, plus I am getting a bit soft) is my Beverly Hills bargain from my shopping trip last week.

I ended up doing more walking in the heels than I would have hoped, as parking was a nightmare, despite the fact that my friend had researched the situation ahead of time.  Then, once we arrived, they were dividing up the attendees by seating area and having them stand in these incredibly long outdoor lines, which we then had to walk to and then walk to the end of, before being slow-marched back to the theatre.

The awards were at the Nokia theatre, where they hold things like this, and the Emmys too.  It's big, and the stage was very impressive, there's a photo of it at the bottom.  Cameras weren't allowed, but there was lots of electronic camera and video happening up in the balcony where we were, and my friend had one.

The show was great!  Lots of popular artists played (Green Day, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert, Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Keith Urban, and others.)  When they announced Eminem was coming up it reminded us we were hungry, and luckily I had some contraband (they don't allow food either) tucked into my purse... M&M's!  How appropriate.  They sure hit the spot- the 3-hour show was at 5, and we had started travel and parking procedures just after 3, so with no intermissions one does tend to get a bit peckish.

It was a great evening, and my feet survived with only one superficial wound and one blister.  I still think heels are insane, but they did look awfully nice with the dress.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's fall

They actually do have maples here, with leaves that change colour and fall off (eventually).  These are on Carmelita Ave. in Beverly Hills.  The lighting isn't great as I went for my bike ride way too late in the day yesterday, the sun was already going down.  In the photo above you can see palm trees in the distance, I get a kick out of seeing red maples and palms together.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Revelations, animal-style

California has many fast-food chains that we don't have back home.  They're all on my list of things to try, but since I don't eat fast food very often, I hadn't gotten around to many yet.  On the day I wrote my NCLEX exam, I lunched at a Del Taco, but it was nothing to write home about (you didn't see a blog post about it, did you?).

Yesterday however, I made it to the In-N-Out Burger.  This is a California institution, with restaurants in Arizona, Nevada and Utah as well.  People rave about In-N-Out, waxing poetic about both burger and fry quality.

The most notable thing about this place is the menu.  For two reasons:  One, there are only four food items on it.  Hamburger, cheeseburger, double-double (a double cheeseburger) and fries.  Shakes and pop too, but that's it.  Simplicity!  No fumbling over a wall of cluttered illuminated screens.

The second reason is, that's not actually the whole menu.  There are variations you can get on these burgers, but part of the folklore around In-N-Out is that there is a "secret" menu.  You need to be in the know, to ask for one of these variations.

My burger, pictured above, is "animal-style".  It's got grilled onions, extra pickles and a special sauce, and possibly larger vegetables than standard, but since it was my first visit, who knows.  Other variations include "3X3" and "4X4" (extra patties on a double-double), "protein-style" (no bun!), "grilled-cheese" (cheeseburger, no meat!).  I think they have a veggie patty too, funny they don't advertise that one, but I guess vegetarians usually do their research anyway.

The other thing about this place, is the very subtle references to bible-verses that are hidden on the wrappers.  My burger came with revelations 3:20, which is "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."  Pretty funny verse, and perfect for a burger, but they don't mean it as a joke.  The family that owns the restaurant is a religious one and they have verses that are meaningful to them on the burger wrappers and cups (I looked it up on

My review:  Good burger, good fries, both fresh and very nice, not the best in the world but pretty good by fast-food standards.  Extra entertainment in the form of secret menu and stealthy proselytizing provides added value.  It was pretty cheap too.

In-N-Out Burger: Recommended.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I passed my exam!

I got a letter from the California Board of Registered Nurses today, I passed the NCLEX!

So now I am caught in the 3-way catch-22 of them not issuing me a license until I get a social security number, not being able to get a social security number until I get a job, and not being able to get a job without a license.  But, I'm not the first Canadian nurse to venture into this hostile territory, there has to be a way.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The evolution of a building mural

My apartment has a good view of downtown, and in the middle of the view is this building that has a huge advertising mural covering the entire side.  The building is on Wilshire Ave., and is actually a bit west of downtown.  The "before" photo above is the best one I have, if I'd realized they were about to repaint it I'd have taken a better one.

Around Halloween, they started painting over the old mural one-quarter of the building at a time, and after about four days the side of the building was completely white.  It then occurred to me to document the painting of the new mural with my rarely-used zoom lens:


It's an ad for the new videogame, Grand Theft Auto 5.  There's at least one other mural like this downtown, although on a smaller building.  It took about 2 weeks to paint this one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No dogs on the escalators

On my way to the farmer's market I walk through the local Nordstroms (dep't store, somewhat upscale). I always do a double take when I pass the escalators- there's a prominent sign asking that you please don't take your dog on the escalator, and to use the elevator instead for safety reasons.

Dogs in stores! It seems to be more the rule that they are allowed here, as I've never seen a sign saying "we're dog friendly", but very occasionally see one that says no dogs except for guide dogs allowed. That said, you don't see them too often while shopping, but I have been sniffed by small and expensive canines while browsing the sale racks.

In other shopping experiences, I was in Ralph's (ubiquitous grocery store) a while back and was looking for carrots. I found them, but they were organic, and I was just looking for regular, toxic carrots. Couldn't find them anywhere... and then it dawned on me... they were all organic! Organics in the grocery stores here aren't segregated into their own overpriced aisle, they're just the norm, and not expensive either. Not everything is organic, and I haven't really studied the situation, but I know that at least 80% of the veggies I have bought here in the past 2 months have been organic, and I hadn't been seeking them out.

The evenings have been getting cooler for the past few weeks, so I've been looking to buy a little jacket, the kind I never wear in Canada because the mildly cool season lasts around 10 minutes so I don't really need one, and I find that everything they have on the racks is just too darned warm for the evening temperatures. Hoods, fur, heavy. Hmmm. I'll keep working on this one. I'd ask, "what do the locals wear", but I've been checking them out and they are dressed way too warmly for the temperatures, so this won't be easy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Griffith Park hike to Hollywood sign

There's a hiking group that hikes three times a week in Griffith Park, which is a large park at the eastern edge of the Hollywood Hills. They usually do night hikes, so I hadn't gone out with them yet since I'm quite keen on seeing the landscape. Yesterday however, they had a Saturday morning hike to the Hollywood sign.

The weather was fantastic (as it almost always is), pretty clear, not too hot. It was a big group- I didn't count but it looked like 35-40 people.

Here's the group at the start of the hike, heading onto the first narrow trail (not sure if this is the one called "ankle-breaker" or not):

A view of the landscape along the way. Do you see the fence at the top of the outcrop? Both Runyon canyon park and this one have obvious traces of human activity everywhere, pipes or tanks or power lines or stretches of really ugly fences. You get used to it though, kind of how in the arctic sometimes I'll take a photo of a breathtaking vista, only to notice once I go to process it that it's strewn with plastic bags and decomposing diapers, that I was oblivious to because they're everywhere. None of that stuff here though, but still, not a complete wilderness either.

Through those trees is the San Fernando Valley:

Another portion of the trail:

Here is a view of Burbank. Disney Studios are on the left hand side, in the middle. The Burbank airport is visible in the upper left:

There were four dogs hiking with us, here are two of them:

We're here! You can't go right up to the sign, it's fenced off, but this is right behind the back of the sign:

This is the Hollywood reservoir:

On the way back:

After the hike around 12 people went out for lunch. I'll go again with this group, they say the night hikes are beautiful to see the city lights, especially at the time of the full moon.

Friday, November 13, 2009


It's not often you see cumulous clouds here, but they were out there over the hills this morning.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Berlin Wall

It's the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall, and some pieces of it are on display here on Wilshire Boulevard, across from the art museum. Someone had left a typewritten thank-you note to "Ronald Regan" [sic] with a fresh rose under the segment with his portrait.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Runyon Canyon Park

Runyon Canyon Park is a couple of miles due north of me, and I'd wanted to go here since I arrived. It's a steep hike though, so I wanted to wait for cooler weather. Today was a great day, it was only about 16 C at the start, but with the exertion of the climb I was hot and sweaty very fast!

There's a good view of the Hollywood sign early on:

More cacti, I just love them:

More proof that I am really here:

Here's some of the trail. Some of it like this is wide and easily walkable:

Some of it is steep, narrow, sandy and deadly- the portion near the top on this hill has a really difficult loose surface.

This is near the end of the trail. I liked the clouds, and the cactus clumps that are here and there:

Lots of dogs on the trail, although it looks like they didn't make it into the photos. The dogs here are so cute- most of them are expensive-looking miniatures, and they were barrelling happily along the trails. The park is largely off-leash for dogs, so they shoot out from behind bushes all over the place.

Erosion seems to be a problem on the trails- I'm surprised, that since it is such a heavily used urban park, that they don't put stairs in some of the more difficult areas. One or two spots do have them, but they could use more. Just to save the landscape, never mind the poor stumbling hikers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The canals of Venice

Venice is a neighborhood adjacent to the beach, and the canal district is just a couple of blocks east of the ocean. According to Wikipedia, "The district is noteworthy for its man-made canals built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his 'Venice in America' plan." It says that they fell into disrepair for around 40 years but were renovated in 1992. Pretty nice real estate now! You can walk on pathways along the canals, and there are lots of bridges to cross over and easily get around the neighborhood.

A lot of the houses have very nice landscaping. Here's part of a yard with a cactus theme: