Friday, December 31, 2010

Lava flow in the Mojave desert

The lava flow wasn't too hard to find- it was about 17 miles east of Baker, just like the guidebook said it would be.  You could see a mass of brown rock lying on the ground where the volcano had dumped it whenever it was formed- I can't remember exactly when, but I think maybe a million years ago?

That's the lava flow on the right:

Finding a way from the road in to see it was another matter.  Nothing is marked- the guidebook would say "turn onto an unmarked road at around mile 17, followed by a right turn onto a dirt track, and look for the inviting-looking spot to park about 0.2 miles down the track".  Thing is, there really were no roads, marked or otherwise.  We found a track that might have been the "road" we were looking for and went down it, and parked when it looked like it was dangerous to go further.

This is the edge of the lava flow, there is a sand wash at the base of it:

This is the surface of the lava flow once you're up on top of it.

Close up of a lava blob:

Here are some more photos of the edge of the lava flow, on the way out.

A rock at the edge of the lava flow, you can see the "wet" flowing pattern in it:

We then went back down the road in the direction we came in.  We had no luck finding the other "road" we were to go down, so we parked the car on the main road and just hiked in across the desert to see the flow at another spot.

Again, that's the lava flow on the right.  Behind it is some mountains.

It's pretty high in this spot, maybe as high as a 3 storey building:

I found it interesting.  It's definitely off the beaten path.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Mojave desert

Here are a few photos of the Mojave desert.  We were hiking to a lava flow- I'll have photos of that in the next post.  These are taken a little east of Baker, in the Mojave National Preserve.  It's around 3 hours northeast of Los Angeles on Interstate 15, and an hour an a half before you get to Las Vegas.

The Mojave reminds me a bit of the landscape of the James Bay lowlands- low weather-beaten shrubs, most plants seem to grow to about waist-high.  It is full of plants- it's not just sand.  There are clusters of mountains, with large flat areas in between.

I think these mountains below are volcanic- they were near the lava flow.

This area below where the ATV's or 4-wheel drive vehicles have been going is a wash, a dry waterway that gets filled with runoff when there is a heavy rainfall.

Stay tuned- the lava flow is next up, and I think it was pretty cool!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Road trip! Mojave desert, Vegas and Phoenix

Before Christmas a friend and I took a little road trip to the Mojave desert, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Photos to come as I go through them... in the meantime, can you spot my Corolla in this photo of the Mojave desert?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Flooding in Los Angeles

Some of you may have heard that Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California has been getting an unusually high amount of precipitation for December.  Wednesday was the last day of a six day storm (storm here just means constant rain, at times heavy).  I had to go out during one of the heavy showers.  I'd been out in heavy rain before in L.A., but I'd never seen a road flood like this.

I should have taken a video as the photos do not capture how fast it was flowing and how deep it was.  It was the whole width of the right lane.   This is Fairfax Avenue near the Farmer's market, and I needed to be on the other side of it.  I couldn't get across.  I could have done so without dying, but I would have been shin-deep in water and would have risked falling due to the speed it was moving at.  It wasn't a localized area either, the road was really functioning as a river.

Some larger vehicles were blasting through it here and there:

The infrastructure just doesn't handle rain very well here.  I've been out before in heavy rain and the eaves troughs of large buildings sometimes empty directly onto the sidewalk, and you have to leap a large fire-hose like blast of water that is pointed directly over your path.

Of course, it could just be that southern California is turning me into a wimp.  It's back to sunny and temps of around 18C / 65F, which is what I signed up for, so it's all good now.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cool gingerbread houses

I was in Phoenix briefly last weekend and I saw an exhibit of movie-themed gingerbread houses.  These two were my favourites.

You can't really tell in the photo, but the "Up" house was even levitating, it was somehow balanced on a narrow thingy of some sort underneath.  Isn't it amazing?

I liked "Whoville" too:

I'll have more photos from my little trip to Phoenix and Las Vegas in the next while, so stay tuned...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Honkin' huge organ

Earlier in the month I went to a Christmas music concert at L.A.'s First Congregational Church.  It boasts "perhaps the largest musical instrument existing in any church in the world today", as they put it.  They have two large church organs, and for the concert they were being played together.

The console for the east organ is at the front of the church:

Below you can see the pipes and the top of the console of the west organ:

It was a great concert.  They have free noontime concerts sometimes at this church, I might go back for another listen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Irish Creme Hershey's Kisses review

I'm enjoying my role as a blog chocolate reviewer so much that I have acquired another property to review.

I really like these new (to me at least) Irish Créme Hershey's Kisses.  As the photo shows, they have an actual cream centre.  It's pleasantly creamy, although I think I would have gone for a plain cream flavour myself.  The Irish Créme tastes a little odd since it's totally non-alcoholic, but once you get used to that these are quite nice.  It's a two-thumbs-up concoction (again, both thumbs are mine.).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A bouncy house for the edgier child...

This was being set up on Sunday at Manhattan Beach in L.A.  It has a slide built in.  Shoots children straight into the gullet, I think.  You could already see a technician squirming in it's jaws, but he didn't really show up in the picture.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fifteen minutes of fame, by proxy

As I wrote a month or so ago, my car got a gig as a background actor on CSI (Original Vegas version).  On December 9 it aired, and my nondescript Corolla had it's big moments on the small screen.

Here it is in it's first scene.  This is part of the setup- we see the stressed-out woman who will be the primary murder victim buying groceries at night.  The camera breaks away and shows my car driving by outside the grocery store, for an establishing shot.  (It's not me driving it, my friend is a background actor and he borrowed it for the day.)

For the keeners among you, here's the video!

Then there's around 40 minutes of dullness until my car's next scenes, which are at the climax where they explain the crime.

Now, don't be distracted by the gun at the left, or the two murder-victims to be... see the backdrop?  That's my Corolla!

Here's the grocery bagger going down:

There's his body lying on the ground in front of... my car!  Phew, no bullet holes!

Here's the murderer shooting the woman one last time for good measure:

Again, video if you want to see it all go down:

OK, third scene.  My friend says this is filmed at an intersection that's kept open to regular traffic.  The three cars (there's a third that doesn't make it into the frame) drive to a gas station nearby where the assistant director gives them instructions on what to do when they go through the intersection.  One of the instructions is to drive carefully, as they're on regular streets and the car has fake plates on it (they switched it to Nevada plates for the day, although they never show up on camera.)  The assistant director was in the Corolla with my friend.

Anyway, the scene is of the killer, who is driving the van, being caught on surveillance video.  That's my car behind him.  The other three cars at the intersection are just people in L.A. going about their business as part of a show is being filmed in front of them.

There's my car after the van had turned out of the frame:

The video:

If you're wondering what a car earns for the day, it's $15 extra on the background actor's paycheque.  Yeah, that much!  I guess it's an economical way to provide cars for a set- have the poorest paid, lowest status workers bring them to work for an extra $15.  Still, my friend says it was a lot of fun.  As a Corolla-wrangler he was more a part of things and in a different way than he usually was as a background actor.  Funny thing is, that he didn't actually show up himself anywhere on this episode!  He had been playing a bystander at some daytime scenes when the bodies were lying around in the sun, but was cropped out of the shot in the end.   I had teased him before that they didn't really want him, it was the Corolla they were after...

Friday, December 10, 2010

The new M&M flavours: a review

Well, these flavours are new to me, anyway.  I haven't seen them in Canada, and only recently saw them down here:

As a public service, I purchased a package of each in order to review them for my readers.  You can see I am very keen about my work; both packages were already opened before the photography session could commence.

Cherry Cordial:  This is a larger and more irregular in size M&M, similar to the peanut butter ones in size and variation.  However, unlike peanut butter, there is no special centre, the chocolate itself is flavoured.  Colours are two shades of red.  I really like this one!  Very cherry like, similar in flavour to a mid-priced chocolate covered cherry.  This one gets two thumbs up (bear in mind, both thumbs belong to the same reviewer.)

Mint Chocolate:  This one is also a larger and irregular sized M&M.  Colours are red, white and green.  The chocolate is flavoured mint, there is no mint centre.  I liked this one, but it didn't blow me away.  I'm not sure why- it's pleasantly minty, and chocolaty too.  Still, I have to go with my overall impression and give it one thumb.

And in case you haven't been following the recent developments in M&Ms as closely as I have, I also tried last spring...

Pretzel M&Ms:  These are quite tolerable, but nothing to write home about.  I prefer a chocolate covered pretzel, and I find these huge- too many calories in each one for the amount of satisifaction received.  No thumbs up for this one, but still, if there was nothing else available I'd probably devour a limited quantity.

Strawberried Peanut Butter:  This was a special 2009 flavour that was associated with a movie.  I tried them in early 2010 when they off-loaded them at the dollar store.  It was OK, but I preferred the regular Peanut Butter M&M, which I had only recently discovered.  No thumbs for this one either, as peanut butter is better.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Japanese BBQ

I've been meaning to wax poetic on my recent discovery of Japanese BBQ restaurants for a few days now, but every time I try I get lost in flashbacks.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I accepted a friend's suggestion to try a Japanese BBQ restaurant on my birthday.  It was only on arrival that I found out we had to cook our own food!

Each table has it's own grill built into it.  They bring you tongs, and thinly sliced marinated meats and seafood, and off you go, you do the rest yourself.  Veggies in foil packets can also be grilled.

This meat is so good, I think it could convert a vegetarian.  I think it's the best meat I have ever tasted in my life.  We had two marinated beef cuts of some sort, marinated shrimp, and Kobe beef that you dip in sauce after grilling.  I loved them all, but the marbled richness of the Kobe beef was especially good.

Wonderful stuff.  I don't even have the words to describe it.  I'll definitely be going back.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December rose

This is blooming right now outside my front door:

Sorry, Canada!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Griffith park at dusk

I was at Griffith Park at sunset again a couple of weeks ago.  Here are a few photos:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Baldwin Hills

I went for a hike on the morning of American Thanksgiving (a pre-emptive calorie burn) at the Kenneth Hahn recreational area, which is a state park in the Baldwin hills.  This park is only around a 10 minute drive south of where I live.

Like most hikes around L.A., this park's trails go up a hill.  The Baldwin hills are not as high as the Hollywood hills, but still have amazing views of the city, and from a different vantage point.

Here are a couple of photos of the hill on the way up- it's mostly grassy and open.

This I think is part of the "Olympic forest" but I'm not certain.  When L.A. hosted the Olympic games in 1984, they planted a tree from each participating nation in this park.  True to L.A. custom, nothing in this park is well signed, so I'm not sure if this group of trees is part of that forest or not, but it probably is.

The trail has great views in almost 360 degrees in places.  This is looking northeast towards downtown. You can see snow caps on the San Gabriel mountains in the distance.

Here's a closer-up of downtown with the mountains behind.

The photo below is looking north and slightly west.  The taller buildings in the right background would be Century City.  Santa Monica is in the left background, with the Santa Monica mountains behind.

Looking north, Hollywood hills in background, San Gabriel mountains behind.  See that tall building in the right middle ground?  I live near that.

Looking west and slightly north.  Malibu would be in the distant background.

To the south, oil wells!  Still pumping.  I think the land this park is on was part of the oil fields, and I think the park hopes / plans to take over the oil field that is still pumping once it's pumped out.  Not sure what that timeline would be.

I think this is part of the same park, but it's geographically separated at the east, and it and is irrigated and much more manicured.

The next three were taken on a minor trail at the top of the hill.  Some nice trees up there.

I liked this park, I'll go back.  There's another park a little south of it with a 300-step staircase, I want to go try that soon too.