Tag Archives: southern california

Santa Anita Canyon hike

Santa Anita Canyon hiking trip

So the other day, we went on a hike through the Santa Anita Canyon. It’s just east of Los Angeles. And it’s beautiful. We hiked for hours; I ached for days after (yep, I should exercise more). The day was cloudy and rainy and we ended up soaked (seriously, I looked like a drowned  cat), and it was a perfect day. It was a great moment with new friends.

Enjoy the pictures! And if you ever get the chance to hike through that area of the Angeles National Forest, you absolutely should! Especially if it’s raining!


Long Beach Comic Con

Long time nerd; first time Comic Con attendee.

And I’m headed to Long Beach to hang out at the Long Beach Comic Con. Because I hear it’s small and a good place to start the whole con experience.

Plus they have several Guild panels and a Womanthology panel. I couldn’t pass those up!

So for the first time in my life, I will be at the con and not merely following other people’s experiences. I’m a little nervous about being there alone, but I think if there’s any place where that’s not going to be a super weird thing, it’s a con.

Check back here or my twitter feed or my tumblr, if you want to follow my experiences at a con.


I don’t really understand what the rest of the U.S. means when they talk about “Autumn”. In Southern California, we call it “Fire Season”. It’s the time of year where fines are issued for people with land they haven’t cleared of brush. The weather warms up again after a brief cool down from the summer heat. And we all tie down anything light weight.

When I read about the reds and oranges of the fall colors, I think of flames devouring hundreds (or thousands) of acres and the (increasingly more frequent) local community. The crisp air comes from the excess of electricity in the air that puts everyone on edge. And the trees fall, along with their leaves, pieces of roof, and the occasional semi-truck from the strength of the Santa Ana winds.

So I decided, since my roommate lives where this Autumn thing everyone raves about takes place, to fix my lack of knowledge. I’m spending a week in Kentucky to experience the fall everyone outside of the American Southwest seems to know. I expect there will be many pictures. Many will probably end up on tumblr and flickr with links and further posts here.

Please fill me in on this phenomenon, if you know about it! I might need a few pointers.

GRE – the last standarized test

freeway sunsetSo this morning before work, I stopped into my local GRE testing center to take what I will now always refer to as “The Last Standardized Test”. It isn’t for everyone (suckers who want to get into medical school or go on to become lawyers), but it is for me!

I’m very excited about this. Realistically, there is a small chance I will have to retake the exam, because ETS (the company that makes it) just revised the exam. As in they switched over last month. But my scores using the old system fell into the necessary range for the grad schools I’m applying to, so as long as my scores transfer well, I’m done!

Which is great because I hate standardized tests. I always have. In first grade, my mom had to come in and talk me down from the fit I threw so that I could take the test. Part of my difficulty stems from viewing the exams as essentially a waste of time I could be reading. But I have also always had a problem knowing what to answer because the questions are frequently worded vaguely.

I know making us reason through the question is the point, but this becomes quite problematic with the regional differences of the exam creators and Southern California. Autumn is not the time that leaves change color and fall from trees; it’s the time of year the open spaces (and more often houses) burn. And no one ever includes how very itchy, static electricity accompanies the fall winds. And of course you can wade across a river and creeks are dry more often than not.

I’ve been quite resistant, but I sat through the dumb exam. I had everything against me too. I didn’t get enough sleep; I hadn’t studied enough; I was stressed because I couldn’t print out an admission ticket; I got stuck in traffic; I didn’t eat breakfast; I didn’t have any caffeine. But apparently, that’s what I needed in order to just complete the task.

But now all of that is behind me. Now I just have to finish my applications. Minor hurdles…

Driving in Southern California

Driving during sunsetI drive forever to get to work. Ok, so that may be an exaggeration, but I definitely drive around 80 miles round-trip. Everyday. And because I work on location after school, I miss morning traffic completely and the worst of the afternoon rush. But still, it’s about 2 hours each day, unless the traffic gods are particularly spiteful or gracious.

The traffic becomes more erratic during the summer. I blame the tourists, since my route overlaps the fastest way to travel the 6 hour(ish) drive from Las Vegas, NV to the Pacific Ocean.

While traffic does steal a part of my soul, and there are more beautiful places to drive, I find the time peaceful. I cannot control the number of cars on the road, or the driving style/ability of others behind the wheel, so I decided to respond with patience to the road conditions. (Usually, though I have been known to yell at other drivers in my car to release my displeasure with their actions.) And driving in the summer always reminds me of the road/camping trips my family took when I was growing up. And though I don’t get to end up someplace beautiful like the Grand Canyon, or Zion, or Yellowstone, or Yosemite, or Sequoia, or Jackson Hole, I vicariously live through my imaginings of the adventures my fellow travelers are experiencing.  And I play the pastime of all road trips – the license plate game. Continue reading Driving in Southern California

Soaring through traffic

traffic flowsDriving to work in Southern California frequently results in more time to think. While I don’t trek through the heart of Los Angeles on the I-5, I do get the joy of sitting on another notorious freeway choke point.

The wide open spaces around the freeway make the drive bearable and offer a good view of hawks, eagles, and vultures soaring. The freeway even skirts a river, which provides a sight-line for the water fowl, like egrets and cormorants.

Watching the hawks soar while I’m sitting in traffic started the inquisition into why there seem to be so many birds of prey gilding around the freeway. Hawk watching afternoon trafficDue to the tin can like nature of the vehicles, the hawks can’t possibly be attracted by a potential food source. Vultures might show up to scavenge off those who quit before they reach their destination, but hawks prefer to hunt.

Upon arrival at home, I looked into what kept the birds soaring over the lost souls on the road for great distances. Turns out that what keeps the birds up is the same thing that helps in the creation of clouds – thermals.

Thermals, in this case, aren’t fashionable undershirts, but are movements in the air based on how the heat radiates from the ground. They are the circular movements of hot air up to the cooler air above. As the warm air rises to cool, hawks (and other birds) ride the current to give their wings a break. Once the warm air cools off, it can cause the clouds you see overhead.

Turns out the terrain explains why there are so many hawks hovering over our cars sitting on the freeway. The wide open spaces provide lots of space for the ground heat to dissipate into the atmosphere, offering numerous free rides to the beautiful predators hanging around.

So I guess traffic doesn’t have to be the bane of my existence after work. (Except for those 1 ½ hour treks).

Bookmark Soaring through traffic

My Day with the Mariachis

Last week my job asked if I would be a chaperon for a community service event. The students were supposed to come to pass out flowers to couples walking through Downtown Santa Ana, Ca (where the new job is located).

I agreed to wander around because I knew it would be a good time to get to know some of the students and become more familiar with a town I barely know. And it helped that it meant another day’s pay.

Have you ever agreed to something and realized later where the commitment will place you?

Me too. It happens most frequently when I’m trying to be helpful.

The afternoon started with me and another tutor waiting around 45 min. for any of the students to show. One of the girls did finally show around the same time our supervisor made it (but at least he’d told both of us he’d be there late). So the 4 of us joined the Mariachis late and began handing out roses for Valentine’s Day.

About 2 hours after we started walking through downtown, with me attempting to speak Spanish even 1/10 as well as everyone else in the group (who were all fluent), I looked around and couldn’t help but laugh. The last time I stood out so much in a crowd, I was in a tiny town 2 hours from Nairobi, Kenya.

I loved every meandering moment, understanding around 60% of what the other people in the group were talking about. I can’t tell you what songs the Mariachis played, but I can tell you they were very good musicians. I also learned a way to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” in Spanish and that my accent is as bad as I remembered.

If you don’t often get to take the opportunity to intentionally be the person who doesn’t belong, I recommend jumping at the risk. The fleeting discomfort of the intentional outsider moments is a fantastic way to strengthen your self-confidence. When you can’t completely understand what is happening around you, you become what you can rely on.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

First Day of Fall

Today is the first official day of fall, and it makes me happy. It means that school’s started up again, I’ve celebrated Mom’s birthday and my sister’s is around the corner with Halloween waiting in the eaves. It also means that the weather will be cooling off soon. And the trees are on fire.


I read about the fall colors in the rest of the country, and I don’t really understand that idea. But then the colors are described in terms of fire, as though the plants are on fire, which is an image I can get behind.

I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life, and when other people are looking out for snow as the year marches through September toward October, I keep the shorts on and an eye out for smoke. Autumn here is marked by the fall of embers instead of leaves, and the birds we see migrating through are the fixed wing and other modified water/retardant dropping aircraft.

And though it’s nerve wracking to watch flames march around where you live, there’s an element of comfort in the consistency of the seasons.

I orginially wrote this on the actual first day of fall, while the Station Fire was still uncontained and fires had started close to my parents’ house. Due to technical difficulties (namely the lack of internet at my grandmother’s house), I could not post it until this date.