Monday, February 28, 2011

Malibu Canyon road

These are from Malibu Canyon road, east of Malibu.  Very pretty mountains.  That big cross in the first one is at the entrance to Pepperdine University.

Destination is Malibu Creek State Park, to hike to the old set of the M*A*S*H show.  So stay tuned, don't touch that mouse!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu

Earlier this week I was on the pacific coast highway through Malibu, heading to a hike in the Santa Monica mountains north of Malibu.

This highway goes through some great scenery, but as you can see it's hardly untouched wilderness, at least not down by the road.  This is just north of L.A. (just north of Santa Monica, to be specific):

You've probably heard about beach houses in Malibu that sell for outrageous prices.  What I don't get is, why would anyone pay such big bucks, when this is your back door?  It's right on the highway, which is 4-6 lanes moving at up to 60 mph, just a few feet from the back of the house:

Here are a few photos taken as we passed through the commercial district of Malibu:

Someone's house high on a hill... but again, right above the highway.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My car starts the drive back without me

When I started planning my trip to return to Canada, it occurred to me that I really didn't want to drive the whole way across the continent again.  Three times was already around one more time than I needed to do it.  No need for a fourth.

The first two times were definitely worth it- I took two different routes, and saw lots of the continent that I had never seen before; the landscape changing gradually through the windshield and side windows of the car.  The third time was a good drive, but definitely more of a grind as I'd been that way before.

I got some quotes to have the car shipped and checked to see what airfare would be on top of that, and I decided to ship it.  It's more expensive to do it this way, but buys me another 10 days or so in beautiful, warm, sunny southern California.  It also saves me 9 days on the road (I don't drive long hours when travelling alone, as I want to be off the road at night, avoid rush hours in cities as much as possible, and don't want to get over tired for safety reasons.).

The car was picked up tonight.  Here it is getting loaded on the truck:

If all goes according to plan, the car should arrive in Ottawa around the time I do, which is March 7.  It heads to Phoenix from here, then makes it's way up to Detroit, where it gets transferred to a Canadian hauler for the last leg through Ontario, if I understand correctly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

An old and scary highway

The day I stopped by Chinatown I was a passenger (not a driver, thankfully) on one of California's oldest highways, which is now part of State Route 110.  It dates back to the 1940's at least, when cars were fewer in number, and way slower.

I found this highway terrifying.  This is what one of the on-ramps looks like:

Take note.  The vehicle in front of us on the on-ramp is stopped.  At a stop sign.  There is no merge lane at the end of this very tight ramp, and traffic, all 5 lanes of it (one direction, 10 lanes all together) is going around 65 mph.  Traffic is usually heavy on L.A. highways, but even when it's "light" that's not always a good thing, as it can speed things up to 75 mph.

Below is a view of an exit ramp on the same road from above (I was visiting Elysian park with a friend, and the highway bisects one portion of the park).  You can't see it in the photo, but there is almost no deceleration lane.  Note that there are no shoulders on the road either.

That ramp is incredibly tight, and as soon as you are around that corner you're on a residential street.

Here is exhibit #3:

See those ramps on the left of the photo, just as the road exits the tunnel?  That's an off-ramp and an on-ramp.  Immediately you are on a residential street on exiting the highway (right behind that tree!)  No deceleration lane on the exit or acceleration lane on the on-ramp.  Just stop and wait at the on-ramp for a pause in traffic (but not too long... you won't get one!), then you go from 0 to 65 mph as fast as you can.

The only good thing about this road is that no trucks are allowed on this ancient portion of highway.  One of the reasons for that is that they can't exit on these ramps.  I read something on the internet about a truck getting stuck when it got on the road by accident and tried to exit-- it couldn't make the turn on the tight ramp.  I don't know how they eventually got it out of there, I guess they'd have to stop traffic and back it up onto the highway again.

Supposedly there is talk of preserving this road as a historic landmark.  I don't know what I think of that. It is an interesting road, to see what they looked like back in the 1940's, although I bet they had shoulders then that have since been taken over as additional lanes.  Some folks even find it fun to drive, but not me.  No margin for error, with impossible manoeuvres required, at speeds it was never designed for.

Friday, February 18, 2011


As I mentioned in my last post, I stopped briefly in Chinatown (Los Angeles) last weekend.  Here are a few photos.

Decorations were still up from Chinese New Year:

I liked the name of this business- above the awning the sign says "sincere gifts".

This is L.A.'s city hall in the distance:

Dragons on the gate into Chinatown- not a great photo, taken into the sun:

I found the groceries and artery-clogging deep-fried dim sums I was looking for, so a productive visit.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dot-matrix sky writing

When I was in Chinatown last weekend, I spotted this in the sky on the way back to the parking lot:

The left-hand side of the message was already illegible.  My best guess is that it's advertising a single by Renegade Foxxx called Waydown.  (Thanks, Google).

This is the second time I've seen sky writing in Los Angeles.  They do love their sky ads - weekends at the beach often have banners being pulled by planes, and blimps get in on the action too.

This sky writing is cool, it's some sort of dot-matrix technology.

Monday, February 14, 2011

M&M's Chocolate Trio

In honour of today being one of the four great chocolate holidays of the year, I bring to you yet another new (to me, anyway) M&M:

These are really good!  They're a triple-layer "premium" (as the bag says!) M&M.  The centre is milk chocolate, middle layer is white chocolate, and a thin layer of dark chocolate is on the outside.  A "soft shell" of multicoloured purple goes on the outside:

I really like these, very decadent.  The soft shell was a little weird at first, but I quickly got used to it.  Creamy, rich... mmmmmm!  Plus, I don't think they're a seasonal M&M, they were with the regular candy at the store, not the Valentine's Day stuff.  I hope they don't disappear on Tuesday.  Definitely a two-thumbs up concoction.  These are my favourite of all the new ones I have tried in the past few months.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Minus something, only worse!

Ah, the good old days.

When I used to work in (what's now) Nunavut in the early 90's, temperatures were delivered straight up.  In fact, scratch that.  Back then, because everybody knew it was cold out, nobody said it was minus 37.  It was just 37.  You knew that the minus was implied, and you knew it was cold out.  You also knew that if it was windy, it was that much worse.

Problem was, people down south were getting their temperatures served up with enhancement.  Now, -20 is a decently cold day in southern Ontario, but that wasn't enough suffering.  It was "minus thirty-seven with the windchill".  Somewhere along the way, the real temperature got dropped, and only the inflated, more horrific one was available.

Friends started telling me that it was as cold in Ottawa as it was in the central arctic.  "It was minus forty in Ottawa today!"  No, it wasn't, and in fact it never is, but it was impossible to convince them that -20 with a wind is still way warmer than real -40, especially when we had wind in the arctic too, and in the central arctic, you can get a stiff wind with your low temperatures.

So now, in the arctic, they add "windchill" to their temps as well.  "It's -67 with the windchill".

I find the numbers expressing how cold it really is out there are becoming somewhat meaningless.  Real -37 is so much colder than -20 with wind.

I also find it amusing how we always magnify a temperature to it's more extreme version.  In summertime, 30 degrees will be "feels like 38 with the humidity", but never "only feels like 20 with the breeze".  Similarly, on those brilliant April days in the arctic, you don't hear -20 described as "only feels like -5 in the sun", even though sometimes it really does!

We're Canadians, dammit.  We're tough.  We've got the numbers to prove it, and we'll adjust them in any way we need to to.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


On a roadside in the Hollywood hills...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Baldwin Hills stairs

In an industrial area, not too far south of where I live, there's a small park in the Baldwin Hills that has a large, 300+ stair staircase.

I should have gotten a photo of me on the stairs for perspective- these are giant stairs, they are difficult for short people like me to climb.  A lot of them probably have a rise almost as high as my knee.  That's why you see a trail carved out right beside them... for some folks, the stairs don't help too much in climbing the hill.

Still, I made it up in big giant steps.  Here's what it looked like from the top.  There's also a switchback road and switchback hiking trail that you can see in the photo below:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lights! Camera! Advertising!

And the Oscar for best advertising campaign 2010 goes to... Pixar!

This arrived with the morning paper today:

A full-size Buzz Lightyear poster.  Toy Story 3 is a contender for Best Picture, but speculation is that the heavy campaign is really to position Buzz and the gang for Best Animated Feature.  He's been in numerous newspaper and other ads in L.A. too.

The flip side of the poster is pretty funny- the Toy Story characters appear in mock posters for the previous winners in the Best Picture category:

Last year's advertising for "Up" was pretty impressive too.  It was a soft-cover picture-book with photos from the movie.  I wish I'd kept it, but being chronically on the road, I reluctantly put it in the recycling bin when I went back to Canada.

With all this pressure for my vote, it almost convinces me that I have one!  I guess enough of my neighbors do, that I get clobbered with the advertising too.  When it's as clever as Pixar's, I don't mind one bit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A proposition

When you enter the rental complex here on foot, you are greeted by this cheery, upbeat notice:

There's a law in California that was passed by plebiscite, proposition 65, that requires businesses to warn people if they might be exposed to certain chemicals that might cause cancer or reproductive harm on their premises.

I find the phrasing of this one interesting, particularly the "not limited to" part.  The chemical they have here that they actually have to tell you about is asbestos.  I know because I have rented here twice, and both times they specifically discussed that at the signing of the lease.  I guess you don't have to list every carcinogen on the notice though, and they have made a strategic choice on the ones to mention.