February 29, 2008

Free Colleges Classes

Years ago I learned from a fellow classmate in my Advanced Civil War class that senior citizens could take the class without paying tuition. At the time this did not apply to me and seemed a long way off. But now I take advantage of senior discounts, so I looked them up on the NVCC site. Turns out that Virginia residents over 60 can audit courses for free, and if income is low enough, they can even take them for credit.

And since students of accredited colleges are sometimes eligible for educational discounts (for example when buying software), the savings can add up. I'm signing up for an online desktop publishing course to learn more about Photoshop.

February 28, 2008

A Cold Day at the Beach

Frank's sister took us to several beaches while we were in California, but the temperatures were too cool for swimming or sunbathing. On February 18th, the day was windy and uncomfortably cold, even with Frank's jacket worn over my sweatshirt.

A Tree and the Sea

Looks like I'm taking the same shot over in different places.


Right: Laguna Beach

Below: The Pacific at Palos Verdes.

branches framing ocean

Meanwhile, Back in Basye

I've been posting photos from our California trip and I still have a few more, which I will post soon. I want to get as many as possible cropped and uploaded to Photoworks for their Leap Year sale tomorrow. (They sent me a code for 29% off on 2/29.) They do a good job on digital prints.

Today Frank is working on programming his new improved TIVO video recorder. We both have colds (or some sort of virus) and temperatures are below freezing outside so we have been staying inside most of the week.

Along with his TIVO machine, UPS delivered a new hard drive for my automatic Time Machine backups - the new Mac OS makes it easy to back up everything. My old portable hard drive is not adequate so I purchased a Platinum II HD. Formatted it last night and it and it works fine. I used FireWire to connect it because the lady at Blue Ridge Mac said that's the way to run Time Machine.

We're also working on taxes and I'm finishing a course at VU, downloading everything on my AOL websites for backing up, and I posted the Spiritual Singles calendar.

February 27, 2008

Homes Overlooking the Pacific

In Palos Verdes, there are hundreds of houses (maybe thousands) with a view of the ocean.

Pictures of Us on a Sunny Afternoon

At Point Vicente

frankSometimes the late afternoon light is a warm golden color that's nice for portraits. Here it was coming from over the Pacific Ocean.

We were on the path that runs between the visitors' center and the Coast Guard Station.


February 26, 2008

The View at Point Vicente

Here are some more photos that I took at Point Vicente Lighthouse.

Click here to see the ones I took last year (in my January 2007 archive).

Below: Looking out to sea, the Pacific seems serene.

pacific ocean
However, when the jetskiers come along, serenity is replace by noise and the fear that they will crash on the rocks.

Whale Watching

Whale watching is a popular pastime in Palos Verdes. Folks watch from Point Vicente or even pursue the migrating whales from boats. A census is maintained of numbers of whales spotted.

I snapped a couple of pictures of whales as they surfaced but from a distance they just look like bumps in the waves, unless you are lucky enough to catch the water spout like I did in last year's photo.

I wonder what the whales think of all this attention?

Copyright 2008

(The photo above had an unrecognizable whale in the middle. I drew in this guy using my touchpad and Photoshop.)

February 25, 2008

In the sky...

It's a bird!
It's a plane!small plane

February 24, 2008

Images of Wayfarers Chapel

Frank loves this elegant little church in Rancho Palos Verdes. He visits it every time we go to southern California, usually twice. (See pictures from last year's visit.)

The chapel was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a popular site for weddings.

Since a single image doesn't do it justice, I made a little video tour of the interior.

Overlooking the Pacific

Here we see a bird-of-paradise flower and a view of the Pacific Coast seen from the grounds of Wayfarers Chapel. And below, taken from a few steps back, is a photo that Frank took of me.

February 23, 2008

Laguna Beach in February

Trolley at The Grove

Frank's sister has lived near L.A. for a long time so she knows her way around. This is a big help when we visit, especially since the traffic in Southern California moves fast and furiously.

Vehicle traffic is restricted at The Grove, so there is an old-fashioned trolley line for shoppers who want a lift.

Outdoor Shopping, Los Angeles

statueWe went to the Farmer's Market and The Grove shopping area, not far from La Brea Tar Pits in L.A.fountain

Farmers Market reminds me a bit of Eastern Market in DC (as it looked before the fire). The Grove is a modern shopping area, upscale but family-friendly, with a European design influence.

An outdoor fountain dances with recorded music - click the arrow on the video below to take a look at the fountain in action. Kids love it!

February 22, 2008

La Brea Tar Pits

When I was a child I was fascinated by prehistoric animals and read all the children's books our library had on geology and fossils. One of places often mentioned was the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and pictures showed ferocious sabre-toothed tiger and huge mammoths and mastodons. These were the most memorable of the ice-age animals forever preserved in the tar and eventually dug out.

Today the tar pits are in downtown Los Angeles, surrounded by buildings and traffic. Parking can be expensive but you can enter the park for free and admission to the Page Museum is reasonable.
This photo shows a pond which was created when asphalt was removed from the tar pits to be sold for street paving. The large models of mammoths were added later with dramatic intent. Bubbles of methane gas rise up in the pond, adding a spooky effect. This is a case where an artist could make a more convincing image than my photograph by changing the background from buildings to trees.

Ice Age Animals Brought to Life (visually)

I recall that someone told me there wasn't much to see at the La Brea Tar Pits. They must have missed seeing the Page Museum! It has a wealth of exhibits: a film, hundreds of fossils of ice-age animals, models showing what the animals looked like, a lab with windows so you can watch workers cleaning bones...

A few words of caution: children might be frightened by images of animals suffering a panicked death trapped in the tar, or by models of predators eating other animals. (Heck, some adults will be scared too!)

Below Left: Bison Skeleton, ice-age variety with large hump
Right: Woolly Mammoth re-creation

LA County Art Museum

Los Angeles County Art Museum was having "free community weekend" on Presidents' Day Weekend and we lucked into getting some tickets. We made our museum visit fairly brief because we had already visited the nearby La Brea Tar Pits and we were getting tired.

This photo shows an installation of street lights as art.
LACMA plaza

February 21, 2008

Friendly Faces

Lunch with the Big Boy

We stopped at Bob's Big Boy in Torrance. We don't have Big Boy Restaurants in Virginia but we have found them in other states.

Civil War California

At the Catalina Island Museum we learned that the island was briefly the site of a Civil War encampment. Apparently the Union wanted to prevent the Confederacy from establishing ports on the western coast, and Catalina was one logical port. Also, southern California was full of secessionist sympathizers, and the U.S. needed to keep California from supporting the Confederacy.

Then while we were in the Los Angeles area, we visited the Drum Barracks, a Civil War site named after an important officer, Richard Drum. The building was part of a camp established by the U.S. Government in January 1862.

What impressed me about the site is that the buildings were basically prefabricated in the east and shipped to California by boat (a long, long distance, there being no Panama Canal in those days). Lumber was not available in the Wilmington/L.A. area then as forests of large trees were far away. After the war, the site was sold back to the previous owners and they sold off the buildings except for one, which remains there today. The other buildings were removed to places unrecorded.

Drum Barracks Museum, Los Angeles

Not far from the museum is the Banning House (pictured at left), residence of Phineas Banning, who sold the land for the barracks to the U.S. Army. We did not have time to tour the house. Later I read that Banning's sons eventually purchased Catalina Island (1892) and developed it successfully, only to be set back by a devastating fire in 1915.

Speaking of Catalina...

I see that the Sierra Club has a work-week scheduled for Catalina Island in April. And UCLA has an archaeology program scheduled there this summer.

Fun on Catalina Island

We flew back to Virginia today. During the flight I was able to work on a bunch of photos on my laptop, so expect more pictures tomorrow. Here's one of Frank and his sister.

You know you're in a fun tourist town when everyone is inspired to act a bit goofy!

More from Avalon

Catalina has two towns; Avalon is the larger one. As you can see, it has plenty of birds.

I was amused by the sign on the chair outside the ice cream shop:
Do Not Steal
God is Watching

February 19, 2008

26 Miles Across the Sea...

Santa Catalina is Waitin' for Me...

At the museum in Avalon, we learned that Catalina Island is known for the decorative tiles made there. This squirrel tile is one of many decorations on the wall leading to the casino, which is not a gambling casino. Here the word casino is used in the original sense of a place of entertainment.
We had a nice lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the harbor. Then we wandered among the shops, many of which cater to tourists. We visited a few galleries including the Ruth Mayer Gallery, where we were greeted by the artist's son.

Link: 26 Miles (article about the Song)

Santa Catalina, The Island of Romance...

We took the Catalina Express boat from San Pedro to Catalina Island, AKA Santa Catalina. We disembarked at the lovely hillside town of Avalon. This would be a nice place to spend a few nights and there are plenty of hotels and restaurants.