Temple Grandin comes to town


Behavioral scientist and champeen animal advocate Temple Grandin came to Pasadena’s Villa Esperanza to help celebrate its 50th year of aiding developmentally disabled children.

Grandin, who became nationally famous when profiled a decade ago in The New Yorker as the creator of humane cattle-processing techniques, is autistic herself. Her work as a professor, her ability to obtain a doctorate despite her disability, her charm and frankness, her cute cowgirl outfits — all have combined to make her a celebrity who truly deserves being in the public eye.

In her demeanor, and even in her looks, she reminded me of another genius: Dick Feynman, who, come to think of it, was somewhere (as perhaps we all are) on the autism spectrum himself.

Planning in Pasadena

Here’s a link to a reproduction of the resignation letter from his former post with the city of Los Angeles by Vince Bertoni, the newly named planning director of Pasadena — courtesy Curbed LA.

Pasadenans who care about such things seem a little bit taken aback by the timing of the announcement, though it has been a year since former Planning Director Richard Bruckner left to take over planning for Los Angeles County.

But people who have worked with Bertoni in the Windsor Square neighborhood — near Hancock Park — in which he lives have nothing but good things to say about his work there and his good match for Pasadena preservation, development and zoning controversies. We’ll see how he works out in what is a seriously challenging job, with a lot of competing pressures from many people with radically different visions of what Pasadena should look and feel like.

A brief history of Hawking


Stephen Hawking, the great English physicist who tries to spend a month every winter at Caltech, did a star turn at Beckman Tuesday night. And what a turn. What a testament to perserverance: can’t move, can’t talk, don’t whine: stay brilliant, and change the way we think about the universe.

His packed lecture and PowerPoint presentation — people lined up six hours before showtime to be with what one young man terrmed “the nerd pope” — was made possible through a computer on his wheelchair.

Didn’t go into his work as much this time — the stories were more about his life, especially as a young student at Oxford and then Cambridge. Got in some Oxford-bashing. Continued to dismiss the possibility of time travel. Brought down the house.

I took this picture in Dabney Lounge, where he had dinner with faculty before the main event.

Throat singing for Feynman


Caltech physicist Richard Feynman famously developed an obsession with the tiny northern Asia country sometimes known as Tannu Tuva.

Though he continued to try to travel there late in his life, his quest to actually get to the remote place was cut short by a series of illnesses.

He settled for getting to know some of the great artists of the region, the throat singers, who can belt out two notes simultaneously — one in the front of the mouth, another in the back of the throat.

This is Kongar-Ol Ondar, a master Tuvan throat singer who performed on Friday at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium as part of the TEDx event.

Richard Feynman lives!


Actually, Dick Feynman is sadly no longer with us.

But some who maintain his living memory around Pasadena have bumper stickers on their cars — “Feynman lives!” and “Tuva or bust!” My mom had the former on her own car until she died a year ago. And Dick’s great friend and literary and musical collaborator Ralph Leighton keeps those two bumper stickers on Dick’s old van, the one with the Feynman diagrams painted on it, which was on display at Friday’s Tedx conference, “Feynman’s Vision: The Next 50 Years,” a fantastic assemblage curated by Caltech with 1,000 attendees in Beckman Auditorium.

Spelling of “quantum”? Wasn’t enough room for the first U. Dick Feynman was no Jessica Alba, and I totally don’t hold it against him or his shade.

Trees history heritage preserve

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This morning at tree-sitting central the two protesters who were “allowed” up against this gate at the oak woodlands in northern Arcadia were directly into the sun from my lens, so I shot this guy off to the side.

By the time I got there, there were way more media types and sheriff’s deputies than protesters against the absurd plow-down of century-old oaks and sycamores to make room for a dirt pile. But there were a lot of real people, too — residents from the Highlands who didn’t want to see the trees taken down, either. We ran into several old friends, including one from our daughter’s class at Pacific Oaks pre-school, and Leslie was one of the neighbors carrying signs.

Did not see Daryl Hannah, and the deputies wouldn’t let us in to see the tree-sitters who snuck in last night to try to stop the chop.

This bird has flown


Do the two golf courses of Brookside count as open space for the city of Pasadena?

You have to pay to be out there, after all.

I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about open space lately, and this shot makes the courses look like parkland, anyway.

This egret was on the 14th fairway of the No. 2 course north of Washington up against the western bank of the Arroyo Seco. He had been standing in a puddle of water left from the rains until I came along. You often see egrets in the courses’ four water-hazard ponds — none of which are north of Washington — but out on the grass, not so often.

Scientology a Rose Parade ‘sponsor’?

A Pasadena friend who is a longtime (inactive) member of the Tournament of Roses just wrote me: “Larry, I was really appalled to see that the Rose Parade was sponsored by the Church of Scientology! This implies validity to the cult and at the same time defames the City of Pasadena as a naive and uncultured or uneducated place. … If they wish to enter a float … so be it. But sponsorship imparts collusion and partnership.”

Intrigued, and knowing that only Honda — and that, for the first time this year — is the official sponsor of the Rose Parade, I checked it out.

Sponsor? Nope. Some of the church’s bloggers think it was a sponsor, but they got duped. What the church, which has a big new presence on South Raymond Avenue in the Braley Building, really did was to buy an ad that ran for a few seconds at the end of KTLA’s telecast, which is famously done without commercials during the parade itself. And even some Scientology officials may be duped, believing that Channel 5 is the “official” television station for the parade, and so that means by placing an ad there it qualifies as a “sponsor,” as at least one church member raves about on a blog posting.

The little ad is a logo that reads: “Scientology. Know yourself. Know life.”

What’s next — a float sponsored by the Lutheran Hour?

Last of the 1st

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The best place to see Rose Parade floats up close is on Columbia Street, the border between Pasadena and South Pasadena, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

A bunch of us walked up from the party and gathered the fallen roses knocked off from hitting the barricades as the assembling floats rumbled over from Fair Oaks to Orange Grove. Ace builder Tim Estes was smoking a cigar on one of his beauties.

Here Princess Jeanne of Eagle Rock and Princess Martha of Madison, Wisc. practice their royal waves.