Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

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3/31/2011

I broke the curse!

Filed under: — stan @ 6:52 pm

Today was yet another practice climb at the Aon building in downtown L.A. So far this season, I’ve been consistently going slower every time I do it. So today was my chance to turn things around.

There was a good crowd there to do the climb today. I let a few people start out ahead, just so I’d have some people to catch and pass on the way up. My plan this time was to make the first big mechanical floor by the three-minute mark, the second one around seven minutes, aiming to be at the 60th floor in less than 10 1/2 minutes. I set my metronome on 76 for this attempt.

I got to 20 and the first mechanical floor at about 2 1/2 minutes. The second one was just under 7. By then, I’d passed everyone who started in front of me. And this was now the hardest part of the climb. I find it very hard to keep going when I reach the 45th floor or so. But this time, I just kept thinking,

“It won’t hurt less if I slow down.”

My experience is that slowing down doesn’t make it hurt less. The only thing that does is to stop and rest, and I’m too competitive to do that.

Today I noticed one other milestone that I filed away for future reference. The stairs in the Aon building are all just bare concrete, but starting at the 58th floor, the landings have linoleum on them. So that’s a good landmark to indicate that The End is Near. Landmarks like that are good to have, since I try very hard to not look at the floor numbers. They just go by entirely too slowly.

When I stumbled out on the 60th floor, I stopped my watch and saw that I’d made it up in 10:23. I was quite happy about that, since that was faster than last time, and it was also three seconds faster than my previous best practice time, and five seconds faster than my best from last year.

Back at the bottom, I spent a few minutes talking with Vanessa from the Lung Association. This is her first year organizing this event, and I think she’s doing a very good job so far.

On the train back to Pasadena, I had the usual Climber’s Cough. I wanted to tell everyone on the train, “Don’t you want <koff koff> to take up competitive stair climbing <koff> so you can be healthy <koff koff> like me?”

Good times…

3/29/2011

Here’s real progress

Filed under: — stan @ 1:06 pm

Last Saturday was the anniversary of an important turning point in my life. It marked three years since Cathy moved out. I wrote about this after one year, and again at two years. It was helpful to stop and take stock and see how far I’d come in putting my life back on the rails. But this year, the day came and went and it wasn’t until today it even occurred to me that it was a significant date.

Now that’s progress.

3/22/2011

Well, at least I’m consistent…

Filed under: — stan @ 5:33 pm

Today was another practice climb up the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. This is the fourth practice this spring. This time, I dialed the pace down a bit on my metronome. I’d been running it at 80 and failing to keep up. So this time I set it for 76.

There was a pretty good turnout for the practice today. I got there late, so I was by myself at the start. Last time, I paid attention and figured out that the two big un-numbered mechanical floors are right around 22 and 44, which is right around the 1/3 and 2/3 marks of the building. These make good landmarks.

I got to the 1/3 mark all right. But just a little bit before the 2/3 mark, I was nearly overcome by a wave of “OMG what the hell was I thinking when I signed up for this,” And that sort of thing makes it hard to push through the pain barrier. Of course, the funny thing is, it still hurts just as much if you slow down.

Somehow, I managed to keep moving, and I made it to the top in 10;42. That’s two seconds slower than last time. Last time was, in turn, eight seconds slower than the time before, which was six seconds slower than the first time.

So each time, I’m going just a little bit slower than the last. At least I’m consistent.

3/21/2011

I can haz redistribution?

Filed under: — stan @ 8:00 am

Which kitteh are you?

Political Pictures - Economics Starring Kittehs and Pizza!
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3/17/2011

Perspective

Filed under: — stan @ 5:57 pm

Today I got an email with this link:

scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/03/what_the_hell_is_a_supermoon.php

They’re saying that the moon is going to be closer to the Earth than any time since 1992. So I did a little calculation to see how much bigger it would look. Turns out it will look like a quarter 8 feet away. Instead of the usual size of a quarter 9 feet 4 inches away. Look at the picture. The quarter on the left is bigger than the quarter on the right by the same amount that the moon will look bigger on Saturday.

Dramatic, isn’t it?

3/16/2011

Las Vegas is more than just stair climbing

Filed under: — stan @ 6:55 am

Here’s the rest of our weekend in Las Vegas.

On the way out, we stopped off in Primm to ride the Desperado roller coaster. We’d seen this last year, and since Lucinda and I have gotten into riding roller coasters, I wanted to try it. It was a whole lot bigger than California Screamin’, and the track was a lot rougher, but it was still fun.

Saturday afternoon, we went to see the Atomic Testing Museum. That was a fun time, and I highly recommend it.

On Saturday evening, we had dinner and then went to a wedding. Javier is one of the top stair climbers, and he was getting married at the chapel at the top of the Stratosphere Tower. All the top stair climbers were there. It was a nice time, and he looked very pleased. And no, we didn’t all take the stairs up to the chapel.

On Sunday after the race, we went over to Randy’s house, which is very close to the Stratosphere. Then we all went to Luv-It Frozen Custard. This is apparently a local favorite, and after trying it, I can see why. It was very, very good.

Finally, on our way out of town, we stopped off at New York New York and rode the roller coaster there. That one was smoother than the Desperado. It had a loop like California Screamin’, and it also had a barrel roll, which I’d never done before. That was a fun time.

After all that, we headed home. It was a very fun weekend.

3/15/2011

Kilotons o’ fun

Filed under: — stan @ 5:35 pm

On Saturday afternoon after the stair climb, we paid a visit to the the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. Since I like to collect Cold War memorabilia, this was right up my alley.

They had a special exhibit there about Las Vegas during the Cold War. Apparently, the nuclear tests going on just over the mountains were a big tourist draw. In the exhibit, they had a mannequin that had been nuked in one of the tests where they built towns out on the test site to see how ordinary houses would stand up to nuclear attack. They also had other artifacts from the 1950s nuclear testing era, and overall, it was a very entertaining collection.

Of course they had a gift shop. I got a DVD of a film about Lookout Mountain Air Force Station, which was the top-secret Air Force film studio that filmed all the atomic tests. We went to see that on a bike club ride last year. I also got a shirt with a picture of Miss Atomic Bomb 1957, and a couple of other little things.

All told, this was a very interesting and entertaining museum. It’s affiliated with the Smithsonian, which I find tremendously amusing, since it’s very hard to believe that anything in Las Vegas could be worthy of the august Smithsonian.

One quarter million…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:20 am

The M9.0 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan last Friday has caused a spike in interest in earthquakes. That’s pushed the USGS Earthquake Notification Service, also known as my Pet Project, past its latest milestone.

Yesterday, I saw that ENS had passed 250,000 subscribers. It still amazes me that something I invented is used by so many people worldwide.

After the M7.2 Sierra El Mayor Earthquake last year, it processed about 700 earthquakes and sent 4,600,000 messages. But at that time, that was enough that the system ground to a halt under the load. This time, the system ran fine the whole time. I checked the logs, and in the first 24 hours after the Tohoku Earthquake, it processed 308 events and sent about 4,500,000 messages about them. I’d done some re-architecture of the database last year to increase its performance, and the system ran fine this time.

3/13/2011

Viva La Staircase

Filed under: — stan @ 11:39 pm

This past weekend was the “Scale the Strat” stair climb up the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I did this last year, and it was a fun little adventure. To add some extra interest this time, Kathleen decided to try doing it, too.

We headed out on Friday afternoon and got checked in at the Stratosphere. When Saturday morning came, we were ready. We got our numbers and got ready to go. There had been some concern that they weren’t going to let me use my metronome on the climb, since they said that they were not allowing cameras, mp3 players and other such things on the climb. But I found the tower operations manager and showed her my metronome. She said that as long as it was attached to me and not hand-held, and it didn’t obstruct my hearing, that it was all right. So I was good to go.

There were a lot more people doing the climb this year, and they had start times scheduled every 40 seconds from 11:00AM all the way to almost 2:00PM. I don’t know how they arrived at the order, but they had Kathleen going at 11:20, and I wasn’t scheduled to go until 1:24. So I got to see her off and then watched her progress on the monitor. They had cameras at the start and the finish, and also at about the 1/3 and 2/3 marks. I could tell that she was slowing down toward the top, but she kept going and made it up in 29:17, which is not bad for essentially no training at all.

When it was my turn to go, I turned on my metronome, which I set at 80 in a fit of optimism. And it was time to go. I’d read a paper about the fire safety design of the tower, and so I knew that there were enlarged landings at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks going up the tower core. This was useful, since they made for good landmarks. 1/3 of the tower is about the equivalent of 17-18 stories of a regular building, so the thirds made for manageable chunks of climbing.

About halfway up, I scraped my foot on the edge of one of the steps. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I was about halfway up that flight, I looked down and saw that the timing chip had fallen off my shoe. I looked back and saw it lying on the last landing. So I quickly ran back and picked it up. I carried it for a while before I figured out I could stuff it under my watch band. That set me back by at least 10 seconds, and possibly a bit more, but I managed to keep going and keep my pace. At the top I made a point to reach down and put my hand near the mat to be sure it would pick up the chip ID. Then I stumbled through the doorway and got down on the floor. I talked to the people running the computer to be sure they’d picked up my chip ID before I hauled myself out to a chair to sit down.

My time was 11:20, which turned out to be good for 28th out of 234 finishers, and it was also 15 seconds faster than my time from last year. So that was good, although I still wish I hadn’t had the chip-falling-off problem. Anyway, I made it into the top 50, so I qualified for the finals on Sunday.

On Sunday morning, I got ready to do it again. This time, I set the metronome on 76 in hopes that I’d be able to keep up with it better. My calculations said that that pace would still get me a good time if I could maintain it. I remembered this time to start my stopwatch at the beginning. My plan was do make the 1/3 mark by 3 minutes, the 2/3 mark at 6, and the top of the tower core at 9. Then the last 6 or so floors up to the observation deck would take whatever they took. But I’d figured out that the tower core climb is just about 725 feet, which is almost exactly the same height as the Wilshire-Figueroa building that I climbed in 8:42 last December. So I thought that this was a reasonable goal. Sadly, this was not to be. I made it to the 2/3 mark on schedule, but then my legs turned to lead and I kind of fell apart. I managed to keep moving, but it was a real struggle the rest of the way. In the end, I got to the top in 11:23, which is still faster than I went last year, but it wasn’t as fast as I know I’m capable of going.

So in the end, I was 3rd in my age group, just like last year. I can’t complain too much about that. All in all, it was a good adventure.

3/9/2011

An experiment

Filed under: — stan @ 6:33 pm

Today was another practice climb at the Aon building in downtown L.A. This coming weekend is the Stratosphere Tower stair climb, and I wanted to try a small experiment. The Stratosphere people are, for some unknown reason, picky about letting people bring any sort of electronic devices with them on the climb. Now I can understand why they might not want people carrying cameras and such that they could drop, but they said I can’t bring my metronome. That’s how I keep track of my pace, so I needed to find another way to do it. So I set the timer on my watch for 11 seconds and did the practice climb with that going. The idea was that I would hear the little beep presumably at about the same point on the stairs between each floor. And this worked out all right. The only times it got thrown off were at the big floors at 22 and 44, where they have the elevator motors and other mechanical equipment. Those floors are about two or three times the height of the other floors. But still, the timer worked well, so that’s going to be my plan for this weekend. I know already that they don’t have a problem with watches, since I wore mine for the climb last year.

The bad news was that the practice climb took us 10:40, which is a bit slower than last time. This is troubling. I’ve done three practice climbs, and each has been slower than the last. Something about that just don’t seem right.

Still, it was a good time. Now I’m ready for the weekend.

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