I’ve been a bit quiet here the last week or so, you may have noticed. I wish I could say it was because I’ve been scribbling some amazing new physics in my notebooks, or drawing several new pages for the book, or producing some other simply measurable output, but I cannot. Instead, I can only report that it was the beginning of a new semester (and entire new academic year!) this week just gone, and this – and all the associated preparations and so forth – coincided with several other things including working on several drafts of a grant renewal proposal.
The best news of all is that my new group of students for my class (graduate electromagnetism, second part) seems like a really good and fun group, and I am looking forward to working with them. We’ve had two lectures already and they seem engaged, and eager to take part in the way I like my classes to run – interactively and investigatively. I’m looking forward to working with them over the semester.
Other things I’ve been chipping away at in preparation for the next couple of months include launching the USC science film competition (its fourth year – I skipped last year because of family leave), moving my work office (for the first time in the 12 years I’ve been here), giving some lectures at an international school, organizing a symposium in celebration of the centenary of Einstein’s General Relativity, and a number of shoots for some TV shows that might be of […] Click to continue reading this post →
There is a CicLAvia tomorrow*! I’m out of town right now (see next post) but I hope to make it back in time to enable me to go along at least for a little while. It looks like a fun route (see snap of map to left; click to enlarge), although it will be quite hot, so if you go, take it easy. The website is here, and you can find more information (like the 9-4 time) and so forth.
Here’s what almost ruined my morning on Monday. I decided to cycle the Brompton all the way into work, and went a different way as a change of scenery. At some point, my bike chain started making quite the racket, with a jarring action as I pedalled, but there was nothing visible wrong with the chain, and the gears seemed to be working just fine in terms of shifting – but the problem persists in all gears: The chain keeps trying to jump off the rear wheel every few inches, and then pops back on again. I could not see the problem at all, and I had to get into work for a meeting. My working theory was that I’d stretched the chain somehow so that it no longer fits the bike, but none of the tools I had were going to be able to help with that.
Happily, that different way I’d chosen meant that I could struggle on for a bit longer (enough to get me out of traffic, and do a bit of coasting when I could) and then walk the Brompton over from the end of Virgil to the subway stop at Wilshire and Vermont and complete my journey using the Red and Expo lines.
It is Commencement day today at USC! In celebration of that I thought I’d post a picture of my colleague Krzysztof Pilch and I, being a bit silly. We each have one of those excellently practical Brompton bikes (splendidly finished in British racing green, of course) you sometimes have read about here, and Krzysztof suggested that we take a picture or two of us in academic robes riding our bikes. Krzysztof had his academic full gear ready because […] Click to continue reading this post →
By the way, for those of you in the area, don’t forget that the LA Times Festival of Books comes to the USC campus again this month. It is next week – the 12th and 13th April. The book prizes ceremony is the night before, as usual. on the 11th, and as usual there is an interesting selection of finalists in various categories that you can see online here, for example.
(Happily, there is no clash with a CicLAvia this year! – You might remember the craziness last year – The next Ciclavia is this coming Sunday, the 6th, and it is along Wilshire again. Sadly, I will not be able to attend since I must be away on a trip and do not return until the afternoon on Sunday, leaving little time to get on my bike and get down there. Do head there and enjoy it… the Wilshire route is particularly nice.)
I bought myself a treat for the new year, after much deliberation and hesitation. I hesitated because it is not something I needed, but definitely something that would improve things a bit. It is a stand at which to do repairs and general maintenance on the bike. I really don’t like fiddling with things like adjusting gears, changing and balancing wheels, and so forth when the bike is on the ground. You have to wrestle with it a bit as it squirms around, and for a long, subtle task (like adjusting gear shifts and so forth as I had to do recently), it can be tiring on the back too. So I bought a nice stable stand (pictured*), and […] Click to continue reading this post →
(Riffing on two earlier posts.) So I’ve been doing a bit of metalwork. I decided to make some adjustments to the frame of one of my several bags that fit onto the Brompton’s front bag attachement, to use it as support for a small bag. The metalwork involved me simply sawing off the side extended aluminium bars and leaving only the central part of the support frame. You can just see it in the enlarged version (click). There are times when I do not want to have a large bag on the bike, or even medium sized. Usually, then I have the small bag on my shoulder across the chest, and that works well, but nothing beats riding with nothing on your back or shoulder. So this is my solution, and one of my leather handbags fits quite well (with the aid of a strap I made from parts bought in a hardware store, and two tiny bungees with hooks, that you can’t see) on to the neatly detachable frame. Happens to match the seat/saddle nicely, all complementing the British racing green colour.
A very elegant solution, also allowing me to keep the bag on the bike all the time, still easily doing the quick fold, and to stably tow it when fully folded too (using the […] Click to continue reading this post →
Today’s CicLAVia was, in my opinion, almost perfect. It was always my dream for it (long before it actually got off the ground) to be an event that closed all of Wilshire from Downtown to the beach, to allow the city to celebrate car-free-ness on a regular basis. For me, having Wilshire be the route would make it a core location that meant the city was serious about the event, would mean a lot of participation linking East and West, and perhaps most importantly, would give a lot of room, since Wilshire is a really wide street. Perhaps that it is a long way off to have the whole of Wilshire be used, but they came close to the dream by having a Wilshire one today. The route ran from where Wilshire starts (at Grand) all the way out to LACMA at museum square at Wilshire and Fairfax. I rode it with a friend in the middle of the day and it was a lot of fun. See below for some of the things we did. Also, watch the timelapse video I made (embedded later) which has some fun stills embedded in it as well.
You might recall some of the things that I felt the need to mention concerned me after the last CicLAVia. In that post I was most concerned about the narrowness of the route (they only used half of Venice for much of the way) and the fact that the resulting compressed group of people got even more compressed with the numerous traffic stops that there were. It was unpleasant and possibly dangerous. Well, there was not a hint of that here. They had both sides of Wilshire open, and relatively few traffic stops. This meant a lovely free flow of traffic for people of all speeds, ages, and mode of transport. The other main concern I had was that the event did not leave enough time for people to explore the route, leaving a number of people stranded, which is not good for a lot of people who are infrequent riders – they’ve got to get home cycling in traffic that they might not be ready to do yet. Well, today they extended the time by two hours, making it run from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Brilliant. I suspect that helped also with the potential congestion since people participating get spread out over a longer time.
Overall, I must congratulate the organizers for a nearly perfect event. Now if only we can have Wilshire open all the way to the beach for a CicLAVia, I’d be in heaven.
(Actually, just a few weeks ago I did my own all-Wilshire CicLAVia when I was heading to a couple of events at Westwood and Santa Monica. I started out planning to take my bike on the 720 bus but ended up giving up on the whole thing – there was a dreadful 45 minute hole in the schedule that made me horribly late for the first event and too many pushy people fighting to get on when the bus did show up – so I just cycled the whole way. It was a lot of fun, and helped me let off steam…but I’d love to participate in a whole group of LA residents doing it one day…)
So I am late in noting that there is another (much sooner) CicLaVia today! And it is the one I always thought should happen, right from the beginning – it runs right through the center of the city, down Wilshire Boulevard. (Well, my hope is that one day it can run all the way to the beach down Wilshire, but maybe that’s in the future). I note that the times have been improved, by the way. It is from 9:00am to 4:00pm, which is great. So it seems that this is one of the major things they did to improve the event. (See my post from April about various issues that came up.) Fantastic! See the website for [..] Click to continue reading this post →
Here’s a timelapse video of the CicLAVia ride from Sunday 21st April. (I’ve done one for each of the past rides as well, so search on “ciclavia” for them if you wish.) My thoughts about the ride were posted back on the day, and there’s lots of discussion at that post on some of the issues I raised, so go and have a look if you like, and feel free to join in. I did the ride on the Brompton, as usual, and this time I was accompanied by my colleague Krzysztof Pilch, who was riding one as well. We even saw a few others on the way, which was nice.
The video is a bit flawed, not the least because at some point the top of my bag started puffing up a bit and blocking part of the view. Also, I’ve not laid on some funky music like the fancy folk do, so it is quite silent. But there it is as a record of most of the 13-15 mile route from Downtown to Venice beach: […] Click to continue reading this post →
Well, I’m exhausted, and so am certainly not going to give you a full report on everything right now. I hope to do another post with my usual time-lapse video of the ride some time later (but soon). They are uploading from my camera right now. All I will give you right now is a shot of the crowds at a typical stop along the route. Also, I will say a few words that will probably get me into trouble.
The bottom line is that I remain a huge supporter of cicLAvia, and the idea that it is planting in everyone’s minds – getting out of your cars and cycling. This is especially important for a city like LA. And it is not just for all the environmental reasons, to do with energy use, air quality, and so forth. I can go on about those but I won’t. See earlier posts for that sort of thing. It is also because many people get to properly see their city in these events, which is really important. You can’t see it from a car – and I don’t just mean all the buildings and wonderful hidden gems I sometimes talk about, but I mean the other people who live in the city with you. That’s a big deal, and an important one for when it comes to how we all work and live together. I’m also very excited that the organizers tried this cross-city route, linking East and West, getting West side based people involved in the fun. And overall I enjoyed today a lot… I love the event and will keep coming and keep supporting it.
There’s a busy weekend coming up. Somehow, two of the largest events on the LA calendar have been put on the same weekend – rather unfortunately in my opinion. The LA Times Festival of Books (held on the USC campus) is on Saturday and Sunday, and I’m excited about that (as you know I am every year). I recommend exploring the site for the things you might visit (including the book prizes shortlists – awards will be given out tonight, including special ones to Margaret Atwood and to Kevin Starr!), and then go along and have some fun – all in the name of books, reading, and the worlds that are opened up through books and reading. It should be a great day or two out, and the extra great news is that you can take the subway there. The Expo line goes right up to ten feet from the Festival. You step off at the USC/Expo stop, cross from the platform to the sidewalk, and there you are! Books! Food! Music! Etc…
CicLAvia, another event that brings thousands of people together in the city, is on Sunday. It is extra exciting this year since for the first time it has a route that fully fits with where I think the event should be in the life of the city – it runs from […] Click to continue reading this post →
Well, it was a lot of fun, once again. There was a huge turn out, and pretty much perfect weather for it (not the extreme heat of a week or two ago, for example). I was not part of a group this time, and so I was able to explore with a fair amount of random abandon this time, starting at MacArthur Park metro stop, heading downtown and then all the way to Exposition Park, where I stopped at USC to print something out at my office (a long report I need to read), then head back up to downtown, through the City Hall (and new Grand Park) area into Chinatown. That got me thinking about baked buns, and so having returned back past City Hall, stopping briefly at Grand Park to look at one of the many places where there were concerts, I made my way to Little Tokyo to this place I like to find red bean buns and had one during a short stop in a square.
It was nice to sit and listen to all the conversations, and look at all the people (in family groups, friend groups, solo, etc) enjoying the city. Just as I was leaving to head to the East LA leg a fellow came over with his two sons (on a bike with a tralier for one of them, if I recall) and asked if I was a scientist. I wondered for a moment what […] Click to continue reading this post →
…and the new route for this time has a leg that runs down to USC and Exposition Park! There’s also a deeper run into East LA and into Chinatown! Check out the map and other information here. See previous posts for reports and time lapse videos…
The new line rocks! I went down there with my Brompton on the earlier side of things, this morning. I took the Red Line and changed seamlessly to the Expo Line at Metro/7th, and it was an excellent ride. I really do think (as I said in the previous post) that this is part of a major transformation for the city. This is a transformation with regards things like energy usage, congestion, community, air quality and all those wonderful things public transport helps with.
Of course, at the outset there is something truly right, to my mind, about being able to easily connect from downtown to Exposition Park and the Science and Natural History Museums, the African American Museum, and of course USC – All major Los Angeles institutions clustered together and now connected back to the newly beating heart of it all. From USC, I can now easily connect to the music center, LA Live, MOCA, any number of my favourite restaurants, bars, cafes, and other places I love downtown, and then float on home on the Red Line, or off to Pasadena or Boyle Heights on the Gold Line. This is so exciting to see come to pass. I’ve been dreaming of trains running along Exposition Boulevard between USC and the Museums and the Rose Garden for many years now, and it is now a reality. Stepping off the train today at the Expo Park/USC stop was just magical.
I recorded some footage of my travels on it today for you and edited it all together into a ten minute film. You can see it in the embed below. Consider it an invitation to […] Click to continue reading this post →
Only ten hours until the Big Transformation! The Expo line will open to the public at 5:00am tomorrow (Saturday). I think that this first major thrust to the West, connecting downtown to USC, Exposition Park and the Museums, and points West to Culver City, should be truly transformational for not just the locations involved, but the city at large.
I hope it will change minds about what is possible for public transport in Los Angeles in a huge way (the old “it doesn’t go anywhere” complaint will be heard a bit less maybe?), and connect and enrich all the neighborhoods involved. (And yes, on the personal side of things I hope it ends up, in combination with the Red Line, being better than just sitting on the bus all the way. We shall see.)
There’ll be a special schedule for this opening weekend, with the line (free to travel on for the two days) stopping at 7:00pm. I was a bit scared by this for a moment, […] Click to continue reading this post →
It was a perfect day for cycling, back on April 15th when the 4th CicLAVia took place. (Sorry it took me a while to report on it.) A lot of people turned out, and it was as good as it has ever been! We set of from the HelMel area again and went to Bolye Heights and back, breaking for an excellent lunch at Guisados again. Just like last time. The photo below featuring the 4th Street bridge over the LA River is my favourite single photo of the event this time:
Ok… probably not to me, but I have been banging on about the idea for some time, since my 2007 post on Paris’ Velib, so maybe mine was one of the many voices that came to his ears eventually… So they are going to finally start a bike sharing program in Los Angeles! News story here, and the Mayor Villaraigosa will be talking more about it at the start of today’s CicLAVia.
This is fantastic news!!! With this, the opening of the Expo line in a couple of weeks, and a number of other things, it feels like a lot of my dreams for LA are coming true….
Don’t forget (if you’re in the Los Angeles area), 10:00am to 3:00pm tomorrow is CicLAVia. This is the fourth one. The weather looks like it will be perfect for cycling, and there’ll be even more stops for food and drink than before. More information at their website here (click here for the expanded route that debuted last time). See earlier posts (linked below) on the previous events, and I’ll re-embed one of the time lapse films I made so you can ride along with me:
My friend and colleague the author Aimee Bender wrote a piece for AFAR magazine recently about the process of her rediscovering Los Angeles over the years. Seeing it from outside the car, on foot, on a bike, and on the bus. You know, the way you see it a lot here through your Asymptotia-tinged spectacles. It appears in the March/April issue, and you can see it here. (I must say, that British guy she runs into seems like hard work… geez…!)
Well, after an hour and a half or so of struggle up (see previous post), a rest, some picture taking, and so forth, I headed back down from the Maroon Lake area, leaving the magnificent view of the Maroon Bells behind and coasting down back to Aspen on the Brompton. I found a nice way of mounting the camera on the bike bag near the handle and so made a video of the descent, so that you can share in the view. Guess who ran out of charge on the battery before getting to the end? Never mind… the most scenic bits are captured. Best to turn down the sound of the air rushing past […] Click to continue reading this post →
Toward the end of the week I gave in. Howie Haber had been regularly going on these long rides and suggesting that I come along. The one I would have done for sure, I said (truthfully) was the one with the tasty reward at the end – to Pine Creek Cookhouse – but the one that had been planned was two days after I arrived, and I did not think it was a good idea for me to do it without having acclimatized to the altitude. You may recall that a few years ago I did do that 12 mile route on a ride led by Howie, and it was fantastic. See the post here. So he asked me a couple more times to join a few riding up to Maroon Lake, which he was doing every other day, remarkably. It was a similar distance (well, a bit shorter – 10 miles) with perhaps a more steady, relentless climb to make up the 1500 ft altitude gain. But I did not get my mind into gear on the whole idea for some time (maybe especially since there was no tasty meal as a reward at the top). Then on Wednesday I gave in and stopped by Howie’s office and said I’d join him on Friday.
So Friday morning we set off, joined by a few others (including Josh Frieman), for a lovely ride. Pretty quickly we separated out into our various paces and pointed ourselves up the valley (I warned my co-riders at the beginning not to wait for me as I have a slower pace on the Brompton – the beauty in the photo on the right). I eventually got into a good rhythm and made steady progress. While I was not as strong as I was in 2008 (or perhaps not as well-motivated?), I still enjoyed it, although there were times when I did ask myself out loud “why am I doing this?!”, but that was usually after the dashing of false hope when I thought I was almost there only to round a corner and see the road stretching […] Click to continue reading this post →
CicLAvia this weekend was wonderful! Again, just like the inaugural one last year (see my postwith lots of pictures) it felt like it was as perfect an event as can be expected. There were droves of people out again enjoying themselves and connecting, plenty of great food, great weather, and lashings of good will.
I focused on hanging out with some friends, and so took fewer pictures this time, but there are a few. To the left is one of my favourites. It has City Hall nicely fragmented in a reflection in the new LAPD headquarters, with cyclists passing by on the route running along 1st street downtown.
[…] Click to continue reading this post →
For those of you located in the area, I should mention two events close to my heart that are taking place this weekend. One is the Dead Poets’ Slam, this Saturday at 7:00pm at the excellent Skylight books. This is one of the always great Smart Gals events, organized by Christine Louise Berry. She’s got together an excellent collection of readers to throw down against each other under this year’s theme, “Monarchs vs. Minions”.
You should know that these annual slams are slammin’. They are not simply people sitting around reading poetry, but animated passionate people really breathing living flame into the poetry and throwing it at each other for points and glory! There’ll be judges* giving out these points, famous victories, and fragments of the defeated left […] Click to continue reading this post →
A scene from Saturday in Grand Hope Park downtown Los Angeles. Several of us turned out to sit, picnic, and chat about being pedestrian in LA. It was about building communities, connecting with people, getting around the city, development, the homeless, the artists, the businesses, restoration, preservation, and so on and so forth. See the site here. I knew about it because Linda Pollack of Habeas Lounge contacted me because she wanted me to come and share a bit about how I use public transport in combination with walking and cycling (and she wanted me to do a bit of show and tell with my Brompton folding bike (you can see it in the picture). […] Click to continue reading this post →
Well, it is not often I get to say this, but Sunday’s CicLAvia event was, for me, completely perfect. It was simply about community, family, and enjoying the streets. It did not have an overtly political or activist vibe to it (as is often the case when you try to do some things a little differently from others in this town, like ride the bus or walk to the grocery store), and I saw a lot more people simply enjoying (and remarking on it out loud) the fact that they were out on the streets of the city than I saw people proclaiming rabid anti-car sentiments, as I’ve seen at bike-centric events before. I think the former feeling will go a lot further in making lasting change than the latter in the long run. There was some political content around, but it was largely confined to the steps of City Hall, where (when I passed) there were endearingly naive chants being led by a bloke with a microphone about “LA saying no to oil!’ and “no to coal!”. Don’t get me wrong – naive is not necessarily used as a derogatory term here. Noble dreams begin with a heavy dose of naivete, I believe. Hope, against the odds, for significant change, and so forth. (I could use the fully decorated version, naïveté, but it looks a bit pretentious to me today…)
So the event was mostly about people getting out there and enjoying the city streets, and sharing their enjoyment by doing it together. I was impressed with the turnout […] Click to continue reading this post →
The first CicLAvia is this Sunday! Don’t forget! The sudden Winter weather we’ve been having will have vanished by then, and it will be a lovely day. There’s a seven-mile route of city streets for you to walk, bike, run, etc. Should be fun!
Perhaps ironically, since I tune into BBC Radio 4 every day when in Los Angeles, I’ve not been listening to it or any other UK radio or news source while here in London at all. So imagine my pleasant surprise on Thursday when I came across what clearly looked like a docking station for bikes (as opposed to super-fancy bike racks, which I thought it was at first)! Sure enough, once I got closer I confirmed it – a bike sharing scheme was starting in London. By the next day I saw some more stations on my walks, and a truck driving along full of the bikes, presumably going to load up the stations. As it turned out, I learned later that the scheme started that very next day, and today I saw several people out riding on them!
I am a little disappointed about one thing. I wanted to try them out and be out there seeing the streets of the city from one of these bikes instead of on foot (as I have been doing a lot in the last several days), but guess what? […] Click to continue reading this post →
On Sunday in Morelia, Mexico, I was walking along the main street near my hotel and it seemed that something unusual was going on. The street was empty of cars, and some sort of event was going on. I saw a few cyclists here and there in the distance, but not the sort that look all hardcore and determined to go fast and determinedly on their way, but instead the more leisurely stop-and-smell-the-flowers sort. I wondered almost immediately if I had run into a local ciclovía, and a few minutes later, a sign confirmed this. Wonderful!
I’ve been waiting for such a thing to come to LA for a while now, since I heard of it last year when I part (and presented) in a public discussion downtown at the Artwalk about bike issues in the city, and had heard that it was becoming more widespread (it started in South America – Colombia) but it was an unexpected treat to find one right outside my hotel room! Here are three more picture. Click for larger view.