UCLA band geeks get free trip to Hong Kong

I kinda wish I was still an undergrad and still in the UCLA Marching Band. I quit when I needed to get a job and the football team was no longer in the running for a national championship. Free travel was always an opportunity that came with skill and seniority, but I don’t ever remember having any international travel opportunities. I’d love a free trip to Hong Kong, even if it interferes with midterms.

From the Daily Bruin:

The UCLA Marching Band sent a 57-member ensemble to Hong Kong to join lights, floats and thousands of other musicians to usher in the Year of the Dog on Sunday.

The Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade, in its 11th year, covered the streets of Wanchai’s waterfront and electrified Hong Kong’s famous skyline.

Marching band Director Gordon Henderson was initially in disbelief when he got the invitation from the Hong Kong Tourism Board – he thought that it was some sort of prank.

After making his way to what he thought was the location of the Hong Kong Tourism Board in Los Angeles, he was even more convinced that his leg had been pulled.

Oh, and if you can guess what instrument I played, I’ll buy you a drink at the next b.la reader party.

Heading to the San Gabriels? Get There Early.

So yesterday, we took a hike to Switzer Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains, arriving there at roughly 2pm. At the trailhead there are a few moderately sized parking lots, probably enough to house fifty vehicles.

When we got there every spot was full. Every. Single. One of them. Which was awkward, as we had to wait around in the lot for someone to pull out, and then take their spot. I guess I had no idea that this particular trail is this popular.

But its for good reason. It’s a great hike and a great environment – I saw lots of families, Europeans and small groups along the trail. Lots of people out there.

I have been to the San Gabriels a few times, normally during the week and this was the first time I made it there on the weekend, and was really surprised that it was this packed. Is that normal? Is it the same all over or are certain trails more impacted than others?


I really can’t remember what language I first started speaking or understanding. I want to say that it was Spanish. That way I can say English isn’t my first language. It doesn’t really matter because being bilingual is a part of my everyday life. That said, like many other second generation Chicanos and other Latinos in LA I speak Spanglish and code-switch like crazy. I’ll start a sentence like, “Hey mom, I’m going to the store para comprar tortillas.” Or there are phrases I just can’t say in English because the sentido (meaning) is all wrong.

I love hearing others go back and forth from one language to another, but seeing it in print (such as Don Quixote in Spanglish) makes me love my bilingualism even more.

Sign on the right found outside a church in Huntington Park.

A Riot of Their Own

Riot~Police~1.JPG.jpgReaders of the Pasadena Daily News may have seen an article on Saturday with the innocuous headline “Hundreds of PHS Students Rally Against District Staff Reductions.” The article hints at some serious stuff, but in the end downplays what the police classified as a “miscellaneous disturbance.” However, a close friend of mine manages the Visual Arts and Design Academy at Pasadena High School, and yesterday he gave me the full lowdown on what he described as full-scale rioting on the PHS campus.

According to him (and the News), Pasadena School Board has disbanded the PUSD police force due to budgetary constraints, while at the same time reducing the number of security guards districtwide. This leaves PHS with no police force and four security guards. For 2,700 students. Despite the fact that the full security staff was still on board, troubles and fighting began Thursday once word spread of the impending cuts. Students planned a walk out on Friday to protest what they saw as a threat to their safety and education. Unfortunately, armed with advance warning of the impending walk out, the principal of PHS made the decision to lock everybody in rather than calling just calling the Pasadena police to hand out truancy tickets to the protesters (giving students the chance to make their statement while providing them with consequences). At that point, “everything went to hell.” Some students began climbing fences, setting trash cans on fire and charging security guards. Students not involved in the ruckus were afraid to be on campus. Eventually the Pasadena police responded in force (as did the media helicopters) and things settled down, and now the staff and students and parents are anxiously wondering what’s going to happen a week from today when students return to a new semester and fully reduced security staff.

Pop Tops

This afternoon The Man and I went to Pt. Dume to take a walk on the beach. I usually look for beach glass, as it’s one of the few things you’re actually allowed to take off the beach these days (it is trash, right?). I didn’t find a single piece of glass, which I suppose is a good sign. But what I did find was this:


It’s an old pull ring from the top of a can. These haven’t been used for at least thirty years in the States. Anyone know if they’re still common elsewhere in the world? Or has this little piece of alumninum been sitting on this beach all this time? Frankly, I don’t miss these things – I’m old enough to have a scar on my foot from getting cut by one at the beach in the sand.

Not just a flashlight – it’s also a science lesson!

Sure there’s lots of dumb commercials for crap you wouldn’t need if you lived to be 100. And then there’s the Faraday Flashlight.

Wasn’t I just reading how most LA residents are ill equipped with regard to emergencies? Everyone agrees a flashlight is essential, and nothing is quite as maddening as a flashlight with dead batteries.

This flashlight doesn’t use them! Instead it uses Faraday’s Law of Induction, which I this case creates energy by moving a coil of wire into and out of a magnetic field.


Just the mention of this would be plenty cool, but – wait for it – the actual equation is featured in the commercial!

Show your support! Go and buy the thing at
faradayflashlight.com if you want, but apparently the light isn’t exactly blinding–


And no I don’t get a kickback.

These Are The People In My Neighborhood

So my wife Susan and I went for a four-mile Sunday stroll from our Silver Lake home all the way along Sunset Boulevard to the Hollywood Farmers Market on Ivar ‚Äî just because we’re crazy like that. We loaded up on produce then hopped the No. 2 bus back home. That whole walking/public transportation thing is cool, like a never-ending theatrical unfolding on the go. You should try it some time.

One of the technicolor players we passed was the gentlemen pictured below who proclaims himself “El Circo Loco.” I’ve had occasions previously to drive by as he struts and frets on the southwest corner of Sunset and Golden Gate. Passing him this time as pedestrians he was kind enough to interupt his matinee of music and dance for Susan to snap some pictures. After tipping him he picked up where he’d left off and so did we (click images to biggify).

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2006/01/ecl1-thumb.jpg http://blogging.la/archives/images/2006/01/ecl2-thumb.jpg

Unexpected Saints & Car Karma

I am thankful. It took a day or two, but I am thankful to be alive after a hit and run accident that totaled my sweet car (which had just TWO payments to go til I owned it outright, dammit!).
Thursday night I was coming home from a meeting in Bev HIlls around 5pm. Traffic was kind of thick, thirty miles per hour or so on Fountain. I was traveling east when out of nowhere, a blue sports car shot out through the intersection, RIGHT in front of me….literally seconds from a huge collision with me. Everything slowed down in my mind…except him and my car.
I jammed on my brakes and skidded right….into a stop sign which I cleanly sheared in two. All my airbags deployed. Stunned, I staggered from my smoking car. The weasel never even stopped to see if I was alive.
Amazingly, a wonderful knight in shining armor named Kris Beverly…yes sistah, they do exist in Hollywood… followed the stupid fucks who caused the accident. Kris chased them til they realized they were being followed and high-tailed it out of the area. He got their license plate, the make of the car and then he and another witness, Brian, verified enough details so that the officer who did the police report listed it as a hit and run accident. Lucky for me, since I could only remember the color of the car.
The weird thing is that in cases like these, they don’t pursue the perps. They put out a warrant for a hit and run on his plate, and when he tries to renew registration or sell his car, he’ll have to deal. In the meantime, my insurance company has to pursue him.
I’m really bruised up, my back, hips and neck are out of whack….but now the that the mental fog has cleared, I’m super thankful for all the people who came to my aid that afternoon. At least ten people came out of their apartments with water, blankets, cell phones and concern. It really made me realize that… although there are exceptions to the rule, most people do care enough about the plight of a stranger to offer help. There are angels out there and some of them protected me. And for that I am thankful.

Happy Lunar New Year, L.A.!

107th%20Golden%20Dragon%20Parade.jpgIt’s Chinese New Year 2006 – Lunar New Year of the Dog 4703-4704 – and it’s the year of the Hot Dog! Don’t believe me? Check out this out from ChineseAstrologyOnline.com – 2006:

Year 2006 is a Chinese Red Fire Dog Year. Because Fire is equivalent to color Red in the Five-Element system, Year 2006 is also called Red Dog year. Also, since Fire is hot, we even can say 2006 is the year of Hot Dog.

You’re likely to Chinese New Year festivities starting up in Asian communities like San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Alhambra as well as Little Saigon (OC) and other places, but in Los Angeles, the longest-running celebration will be the one in Chinatown.

The 107th Golden Dragon Parade will also feature a Mah Jong Tournament (Hong Kong style rules) and an Import Car Show.

The 107th Golden Dragon Parade and Festival in Downtown Los Angeles (Chinatown)

•February 4, 2006
2:00-5:00pm – Parade
10:00am-9:00pm – Festival

•February 5, 2006
10:00am-6:00pm – Festival

The Experience LA website has great links to plan your travel via Metro, or if you want to download the event to Outlook (for this and other events).

Check out more Lunar New Year events going on, courtesy of about.com: Chinese New Year 2006 Festivals and Parades in Los Angeles/San Gabriel Valley

Huge cache of Crystal Meth(ane)…

Scientists have discovered a huge cache of frozen methane crystals 15 miles off the coast of Los Angeles atop a giant undersea mud volcano during a routine plumbing expedition. Although it may be hard to mine due to the proximity of shipping lanes and major cities, it would present a “near-limitless energy source.” The most interesting part of the discovery are the clams and other shellfish that are unique to the area. [Direct link to AP Story]

Kiss My Ashphalt

Dear L.A. Drivers Who Don’t Think Bikes Should Be On The Same Road As You –

I have every bit as much right to be on the road on my bike as you do to be on it in your car. And where there is no bike lane available, I am, indeed, contrary to your opinion, allowed to take up an entire car lane so that I may safely travel through the city. That is the law. It does not just apply when there’s seventy-five of me riding down Wilshire into downtown, but also when there is just one or two of me using the same public roadways that my taxes also pay for. And no, I am not going to go a half-mile out of my way to use the only pothole riddled “bike lane”, either. I’m staying right here, because I’m only going a few mph slower than you on this nice, smooth ashphalt.
Now, if you can just wait thirty seconds, then I’d be delighted to swerve out of your way at the next alley or side street. And if you don’t like it, then I also suggest you stop and consider that, if time is money, then you are wasting more of both pumping overpriced gas into your car. You will probably waste more time than you spent waiting for me to give up this lane, when you’re circling a mall parking lot trying to get the spot closest to the door.

And if you’re still determined to honk at me, yell at me, menace me, or deliberately try to clip me with your car, then you’re just a jerk and I hope that you get morbidly obese when gas prices go up too much for you to drive to the gym and use the stationary bikes there.

with love,

edit: this doesn’t refer to all drivers. just the ones that are deliberately hostile to cyclists who are riding carefully, as far to the right as possible without their handlebars hitting parked cars. this certainly doesn’t apply to cars who respond negatively to the cyclists who deliberately bait them, or who do not practice safe, considerate urban cycling – although, some of us get less considerate after being honked at for the fourth time in a day

No More Antitrust Laws?

Okay so I’m a crackpot. I freely admit it, so hold your namecalling please.

Lately I’ve been seeing commercials and billboards proclaiming the delightful merger between at&t and sbc. This on the heels of Cingular merging with at&t just last year, further limiting your choice of cell phone providers. This makes me wonder….

Since I am So Old, I remember way back in the dusty old last century when Ma Bell was forced to break into little tiny non-antitrust-law-violating pieces, thus giving birth to local phone providers (like Pacific Bell, which quietly got eaten up by sbc years ago).

I have been noticing a slow and utterly ignored progression of big fish eats little fish here, and I’m wondering

Whatever happened to the legislation that broke up these giant telephone/communications monopolies?

We still have Verizon, Cingular and T Mobile for cell phone service, but sbc ingested all telephone and dsl service long ago and now they are safely back in the bosom of at&t.

Am I just nuts? Is anybody else alarmed by this?