Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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San Diego weekend

Filed under: — stan @ 9:18 am

On Saturday, Lucinda and I went to San Diego to visit my father. When we do this, we make a point to find one or more other things to play tourist with while we’re there. This time, we went to La Jolla Cove again to see the seals, and we went to the “Science of Aliens” exhibit at the Air and Space Museum.

It was a nice weekend, and we’re thinking about going back in February when the seal pups are being born. Nothing like baby seals to brighten up one’s day.


Any questions?

Filed under: — stan @ 9:15 am

Here are the two official pictures from the Sears Willis Tower stair climb. The first is right at the start. I’ve got my metronome set for my pace, and I’m feeling strong and fresh.

The second is at the top, 102 stories later. At that point, it was a struggle just to keep moving. The funny part is that, judging by the shadows in the second picture, the photographer was using a flash. Yet I have no memory of his being there, or of seeing the flash. As I said, it was miracle enough that I was still upright and moving at that point.

Any questions?



Filed under: — stan @ 8:51 pm

This afternoon, Kathleen and I went to Loyola Marymount to see the “Deadly Medicine” exhibit about how the Nazis used eugenics as justification for the Final Solution. As one would expect, this was a horrifying topic, but one that we should know about.

It all started innocently enough, with basic research into genetics. This then led down the proverbial ’slippery slope’, and people found that they wanted to use genetics to try to explain all the ills of humanity. Then it was just a short step to deciding that certain people should not be allowed to reproduce. And then the Nazis took that a step further and decided to ‘euthanize’ people they considered ‘unfit’. It all began with good intentions and ended horribly.


The rest of our little vacation

Filed under: — stan @ 1:07 pm

It wasn’t all just stair-climbing agony. We made our long weekend in Chicago into a little adventure.

We flew out on Friday. In what was going to turn out to be a harbinger of things to come, our flight was delayed two hours. Something about the airplane having to be fixed in Portland, so they had to find another plane to take us to Chicago. But once we got going, it was a pleasant enough trip. When we got there, we got our subway pass and took the train to our hotel, which was pretty near O’Hare. Then my old friend Deirdre and her husband Marc came and took us to dinner at Morton’s Steak House. We thought the mid-America ambiance was just the thing. It was a fun evening.

On Saturday, we headed downtown and I registered for the climb Sunday morning. Then we went and did a bit of sightseeing. That was our second big delay. At one point, we’d ridden the train up north a bit, and when it was time to come back, we had to take a detour, since they were rebuilding the track on the southbound side. But I like trains, so it was all right. When we got back downtown, we met the stair climbing group at the Elephant and Castle for dinner.

Sunday morning was the stair climb. Ow. After that, we went back to the hotel, and I got cleaned up and changed. Then we went back downtown. We had pizza for lunch at Giordano’s, which was right around the corner from the tower. Then we got on the Metra train for the ride up to Libertyville to visit Kathleen’s aunt and uncle. We spent the night there and had a nice time visiting.

On the Metra train, I noticed that the cars all had plaques saying that they were designed and built in Chicago. I thought that this was rather refreshing, since there’s not much that’s made in the U.S. any more these days. But then I noticed the bottom of the plaque that said they were built by Nippon Sharyo. Sheesh.

On Monday, we went back to O’Hare for the trip home. Once again, the airplane needed fixing. Everyone was grousing about the delay, but looking out the window, I could see the mechanics opening up the engine to work on it. So I figured that it’s better for them to take their time on that, so we didn’t complain. And they finally got it fixed and we got on to go home. As always, when I put on my seat belt, I found myself wishing airline tickets were sold by the pound. I’d save a lot that way.

The trip home was pleasant, and we only got in about 1/2 hour late, since they pad the schedule for flights out of O’Hare.

Overall, it was a most excellent little adventure.


Nowhere to go but up…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:25 pm

Time for yet another stair climb. This time, it’s a ’short’ one. 50-something stories up the Figueroa at Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles.

I did a practice climb up this building last week. It was all right. About like the Wells Fargo building that we practiced in before the U.S. Bank Tower climb in September.

There was an article I read recently that describe competitive stair climbing as ‘masochism in perhaps its purest form’. This is somewhat appropriate here, since this climb is a fund-raiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. And my old friend Bob “Supermasochist” Flanagan (nota bene: His story is somewhat NSFW) lived 43 years with the pain of CF.

So if you can, please make a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It’s a good cause.


It’s 103 stories above Chicago…

Filed under: — stan @ 4:15 pm

..we’ve got a CTA subway pass, half a granola bar, it’s freezing cold and we’re wearing shorts.

Hit it

So today was the big adventure. The stair climb up the Sears Willis Tower in Chicago. All the way up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

I got up very early to be able to make it there for the 7:00AM start. There wasn’t a lot of time to think about what was about to happen. But when I thought about it, I felt like this:

Wile E Coyote

I got in line at the back of the ‘Elite’ group. I knew there was no chance I’d be able to keep up with them, so I just didn’t want to be in anyone’s way. When it was my turn, I turned on my metronome and trotted into the stairwell.

The first thing I noticed was that the steps there were taller than other buildings I’ve climbed. The stairs at Millikan Library where I practice are 6.4 inches. Most skyscrapers have steps that are about 7.7 inches. These felt like they were over 8*. By the time I got to about 30, I knew that my pace was set too high, and I was burning out. I adjusted it down some, but there was no easy way to do this.

Along the way, I was passed by two other runners. This was a first. I’ve never been passed before. But by that time, I was happy just to still be moving, so I didn’t worry too much about how fast I was going.

When I got to 75, I was hit with the realization that this was as high as I’d ever climbed before. And there were still 28 floors to go. By then, it was a struggle for survival just to keep moving. Somehow I managed to keep going up. When I got to 100, I perked up a bit, since the end was in sight. I managed to do the last three floors at a decent pace and somehow stumbled across the finish line. There was a photographer taking pictures on the last flight up, and I have no memory of seeing him there. After I got across the line, they handed me my finisher’s medal and a bottle of water, and I curled up on the floor for a few minutes to work on paying down my oxygen debt.

At the top, Randy and I took a few minutes to look at the view and to go and stand in the little glass booths that stick out the side of the building. Then we went back down. They had some results available already. This time, I’d remembered to start my stopwatch at the start, so I had an idea of my time. I’d been hoping to do about 20 minutes, but that was not to be. The computer gave my time as 22:49, which was about what I was expecting from what my watch said. Still, that was good enough to be in the top 10%, which is not too bad for bein’ 51 and all. But now I have the goal of improving on that next year.

It was a fun little adventure, albeit in a kind of weird way. It’s hard to describe something so incredibly painful as being ‘fun’. But it was.

* They say it’s 1,353 feet from the lobby to the skydeck, and 2,109 steps. That works out to 7.7 inches per step, but these steps felt taller than the ones I practiced on last Tuesday.


Yet another day at Disneyland

Filed under: — stan @ 10:21 pm

Today was a holiday for some of us, but not for our friend who works at Disneyland. So we were able to go and have a day there.

Right away, we headed straight into California Adventure to ride California Screamin’. One of the ride operators even remembered us from the last time we were there, when we rode it 21 times.

The place was kind of crowded, so the lines were longer than we were used to. We rode the big roller coaster twice. Then we had lunch and went back to ride it again. After that, we headed over to Disneyland. The line for Space Mountain was too long, so we skipped that. We went to Tom Sawyer Island for a while. Then we rode Pirates, Thunder Mountain, and the Matterhorn. By then it was starting to get dark, so we went back to California Adventure and rode California Screamin’ two more times.

It wasn’t our best day at Disneyland, but it was a fun day none the less.


You can’t hire someone to practice for you

Filed under: — stan @ 10:01 pm

Today was the first practice climb for the Cystic Fibrosis stair climb in December. Coincidentally, it’s also just a few days before the Sears -er- Willis Tower climb on Sunday. Since practice is generally a good thing, I made a point to go.

The building is the Wilshire-Figueroa building in downtown L.A. It’s ‘only’ 51 stories. A veritable walk in the park by comparison. But still enough to hurt. I’ve been practicing at Millikan Library at Caltech, so I was looking forward to doing 50 stories in one stretch, instead of having to stop and take the elevator back down after every 10 stories. I’d also figured out what I think is a more efficient way to do the turns, and I wanted to try it out today.

The stairs are pretty standard-issue steel stairs. The steps averaged about 7.5 inches, which is pretty normal for these buildings. There are railings on both sides most of the way. It averaged 22 steps between floors. 11 steps, a landing, and then 11 steps up to the next floor. There was one short corridor at the 21st floor. Otherwise, it was just one continuous staircase all the way up. Doing a bit of math gives a total of something like 1150 steps for the whole climb. We finished on the 51st floor. I don’t know yet if the actual race will go to the roof.

I set my metronome at 75, which is a bit slower than I’ve been doing. I thought that the more efficient turning method would make up for the slower pace, and it did. My goal was to get up in about 9 1/2 minutes, and I made it in 9:32. So I think the new method is working. It would have worked better if there had been an even number of steps between floors, but it still saved me quite a few steps along the way.

So it was a good time, and good practice for this weekend’s adventure.


La Tuna Canyon and the Mole Machine

Filed under: — stan @ 11:06 pm

Today’s bike ride was the classic La Tuna Canyon route, with a short detour in Glendale to see the giant steampunk drill Halloween display. We’d been by here two weeks ago when construction had just started. So we wanted to see it in its finished state.

We got to meet Peter, and he treated us to a full tour of how it worked and how it was built. The talking animatronic figures were especially impressive. I took a short video of the rotating drill tip and the talking skeleton and crow in the cockpit.

After that, we continued on the ride. The climb up La Tuna Canyon was fun, as always. Just below the top, Don got a flat. And to add just a little more excitement, we spotted two new topiaries today. A giraffe family in La Cañada and a pair of baskets in Altadena. These will be added to the Topiary Tour West route.

It was a fun ride.

44 miles.


Fire in the sky

Filed under: — stan @ 7:19 am

I went outside this morning and saw this.

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