Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Hike

Socks, boots, stakes, extra layers for warmth, extra water, ibuprofen. Ready to go hiking with my grandson!

So we set out for our adventure. (His mother drove us to the trailhead and went along  just to make sure we didn't get into trouble.)

Although it is not as old as the Hoh forest on the Kitsap Peninsula, the Point Reyes forest has much of that same "land that time forgot" aura.

The initial hike plan had to be modified, but we still managed nine miles in about four hours, plus an hour spent eating sandwiches and watching the Pacific Ocean sparkle in the winter sun.

Monday, December 28, 2015

From the Pits of Despair to Astronomical Heights

Sunday, December 27

Aren't search engines the best serendipity enablers? Google Maps took "attractions near me" and interpreted it as "La Brea Tar Pits", only 15 minutes away, and it was! Parking, another matter ...

We stopped on the way for breakfast at Tom n Toms, a Korean coffee chain with a decidedly different menu than that other company. Persimmon freezes, sweet potato lattes, fresh-baked stuffed pretzels. Watch for these guys, we think they will knock another hole in the dominant caffeine vendor's market share.

Wiltern Building
Across the street, a strangely green movie theater caught our attention. It definitely could challenge the oft-decried (and now demolished) "blue building" in Ballston, Virginia, that was home to a number of Marymount University's departments.

La Brea Museum 

Takeaways from the downtown park/ interpretive center/ ongoing archeological dig at the La Brea Tar Pits :
  • Sabertooth cats are not related to tigers. Housecats are genetically closer -- but Tess has agreed not to keep one as a pet. Dire wolves are off the list, too.
  • Bison fossils in the pits even have fly skeletons caught in their pelts!
  • Grad students working in the muck and ooze to excavate fly skeletons are gifted with great dedication to their field of study, not paid enough, or both.
After lunch, we  carpooled up to Mount Hollywood's flanks and stood patiently on line for the bus to the summit under clear skies and mild temperatures.

The Griffith Observatory is an art-deco structure with two great domes housing a planetarium and a 12 inch refracting telescope that supported state of the art astronomy in 1904. More of a recreation and education center than an observatory these days, it is still a favorite destination for locals; the Cafe at the End of the Universe is one of Wofgang Puck's restaurants, one of the theaters is named the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, and the bust of James Dean in the field commemorates the facility's role in Rebel Without A Cause.

Looking down on current-day Greater Los Angeles spread out from horizon to horizon, it is hard to believe that so much understanding of the universe was gained here before advancing technology and light pollution drove astronomers farther and farther from the city, first to Mount Wilson and then beyond.

Less than half a century later the Hubble space telescope has shown us even more wonders, and the ASKAP in Australia has supplanted the great Arecibo antenna in Puerto Rico.  Next, the James Webb space telescope. What beauty will we find?

I visited the 200 inch telescope Mount Palomar once in my youth, and saw the U of A build several specialized telescopes at Kitt Peak and on Mount Hopkins. Spending more of my life observing distant galaxies and less engaging with my own world would have been very different.

I might have had and passed on to my children more common sense, perhaps? As we queued up for the shuttle bus down the mountain, the sun sank toward the horizon and -- as they do on desert mountains, I know this -- temperatures plunged. Huddling together, we successfully staved off hypothermia until the bus arrived.

We celebrated our close escape with dinner at the House of Pies. Tomorrow, we head north to Castro Valley after profusely thanking Brian and Katie for a memorable Christmas visit.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Life in the City of Angels

Very late wakeup this morning for some reason.

Midday found us gathered under a clear sky at a dog play park in the hills overlooking Los Angeles. Poptart showed off his apparently unlimited energy by racing after tennis balls; Cocoa glided quetly next to us and did her best to ignore male suitors. The most persistent, though, received a quiet but savage snarl that sent all but one packing immediately. We intervened on her behalf with the one who was too clueless to get the message.

Photos follow of our dinner at the original Bob's Big Boy, not far from the Warner Brothers studios.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas, communing, consuming

Excellent and enormous holiday meal prepared by Brian and Katie, greatly enjoyed in a full evening of feeding both minds and mouths. Remarkable to see my grandson engaging and sharing in conversation; enjoyable to watch Katie amd Brian working together, and surprising to hear both families talking about their return to attending church services. Guess I'd  better get over my issues with God's cheering squad, too.

Exhausting, though,  after my journey.  I slept until 11.

Friday, December 25, 2015

En la ciudad de Los Ángeles

Traveling solo is lonely sometimes, but it also allows a certain freedom to wander off the main track ... in this case, walking around service streets at 3 a.m. looking unsuccessfully for the Bob Hope USO at L.A. International. Online info points to the area near the LAX Theme Building, but I missed it.

LAX Theme Building

Update at 7:00 p.m. on 12/25

Rather than gawking at the tower, I should have been looking at the low nondescript buildings that -- except for the clearly displayed signs that I somehow missed -- looked like the construction offices for the terminal upgrade in progress.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The early bird ... gets delayed

Stumbled out of the gate on today's race west -- all Delta flights from BWI to ATL delayed, currently by an hour.

Many apologies to my good friends John and Barbara for unnecessarily rushing to the airport, and thanks for delivering me promptly to the departure unloading zone! ( I never know about airlines.)

TSA "randomly"chose me for the new mandatory patdown inspection. After four decades -- yes, the first time was in '73 -- I don't even bother to get irritated.

Update at 2:03 Eastern time

Good news -- Delta's scheduled 8:10 has departed for Atlanta, only 5 1/2 hours late. Bad news: Southwest has flat cancelled their flight. On hold waiting for a rep to look for a new direction in my wanderings.

Update at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time

Delta 1495 is on its way north, schedule to leave Baltimore about 5 p.m. The usually optimistic airline schedules show arrival in Atlanta's Terminal E about 50 minutes before the scheduled departure of the flight to San Jose from Terminal A. Jetway sprint time?

Update at 10:15 pm Eastern time

Memo to Delta Airlines. Re: Best practices for customer management. Corporate reputations depend on customer interaction experiences under stressful conditions. The worst outcome for both parties is one that forces repeated encounters to address the same issue.

 For the company, many employees waste time and communications resources, often at cross purposes, until the hapless dancers in the bureaucratic Caucus Race collapse at the sill of the Person Who Know How To Work The System ... thereby adding unnecessary stress to said Person's work experience. For the customer, the apparently incomplete and inaccurate guidance appears as corporate incompetence and -- even worse -- a refusal to consider the customer's issue as a serious matter.

Noted while browsing the twitterverse for options that United has at least gone to the trouble of stationing dogs in the boarding areas to calm stressed passengers. Not much, but more than I've seen from Delta this evening.

On standby with a long list of other marooned souls for departure at 11:37 pm.

Update at 02:10 Pacific time

Well, I made it -- and in style, last standby chosen, with cheers and best wishes of the season from the remaining marooned travelers in Atlanta. Even better,  the seat was one of the three that are just behind the 757's main door; I had miles of leg room, and was first off the plane when we arrived!

Still unresolved, whether my checked bag was delivered here, or went on to San Jose without me.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Westward bound again

A small personal record -- this will be the first year I have crossed the Mississippi five times, excluding business travel.  First destination is Castro Valley, via Atlanta and San Jose; second, Los Angeles for Christmas Day with Poptart and his trusty companions. Then, back to Castro Valley where my grandson is going to show me how to go wandering in the woods.

Forecast weather here at Valhalla Ranch for Christmas Eve is a high of 71F.  California? North 51F, south 57F. Guess I can leave the straw hat and bermudas tucked in the trunk of the car with the heavy coat, then; not much doubt which one I'll need when I return on the 3rd, but one can't be sure.

Why I need a time out