Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Office spelunking

Filed under: — stan @ 6:59 pm

We’re redoing the computer room at my office. So the last couple of weeks have been very busy. We got new racks for the computers, and we’re putting them in in a single row across the room. Being that we do earthquakes, everything has to be bolted down. So today I did a little spelunking. The guy who usually does this was on vacation today, so I brought a change of clothes and a flashlight. Besides, as I always say, “how bad could it be?” I crawled around in some seriously tiny caves in Texas, and got very, very dirty, and that was fun.

The foundation of the building is kind of weird. It’s not just a big open crawlspace. It was a kind of a maze to get there, but when I got under the computer room, it was pretty obvious. The air conditioning ducts run under there, so they take up a good bit of the height, which is far from generous to begin with. So yes, it was pretty difficult and not too pleasant. And the caves in Texas were all wet inside, so the dirt was all in the form of mud, which doesn’t raise dust like the bone-dry dirt underneath the office. Yick. But I bagged my bolts and got that rack attached to the floor. In any event, it certainly made for an unusual day, although I did feel kind of dirty and dusty for the rest of the day.


Tour de Topiary

Filed under: — stan @ 5:52 pm

Today’s bike ride was the Topiary Tour West. I’ve actually found enough topiary around here to make two complete tours. Today marks the first time we’ve done the western route in over a year. It was just me and Carla today, so we headed out across Eagle Rock.

The first topiary stop was at the south entrance to Burbank Airport, where they have a topiary jet airplane. It’s pretty nicely done. Then we headed south, passing the kiddie-ride boneyard on Clybourn Ave on our way to the second topiary stop, which was a pair of winged horses and a sea monster at a gas station in Burbank.

Next up was the topiary Bugs Bunny on Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake. Then we stopped off at Priscilla’s for a snack.

Coming home, we went up Glendale Blvd to see the topiary dolphins at a gas station there. Then it was time for the four-mile uphill to get to La Cañada. Then down the other side of the hill to see the topiary giraffe family on Berkshire Drive.

Coming back into Altadena, we passed the topiary baskets on Mendocino Ave, and finally, the giant topiary rabbit in front of the Bunny Museum.

It was a fun little ride.

48 miles.


Are there stairs on Nantucket?

Filed under: — stan @ 10:20 pm

Today was the day for the YMCA “Stair Climb for Los Angeles“, formerly known as “Stair Climb to the Top”. This is the climb up the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. About 75 floors, 1,018 feet, and 1,500 steps to the top. This was my third time doing this event.

This morning, while I was getting ready for work, I stepped on the scale. It said 170, which is about normal for me these days. But when I was riding my bike to the office, I was thinking, “one hundred and seventy pounds”, and thinking that that phrase just might be the first line of a limerick. So by the the time I got to the office, I had this:

One hundred and seventy pounds
That shouldn’t be cause for a frown
Though the stairs are so long
My legs are still strong
And I’ll make lots of loud panting sounds

I left work a little bit early to go home and pick up my stair climbing gear. Then I went to the Gold Line and got on the train to go downtown. Along the way, Morgan, Jason, Chris, and Irving from my office at Caltech all got on. This was quite novel. We had a whole crew to go climb the stairs tonight.

After doing a fair number of these events, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who are regulars at this. So this made for a fun time visiting before it was time to climb. But as our start time approached, the usual feeling of dread began to creep in. The first time I did one of these things, I went into it with an attitude of “How hard could it be?” And by the time I got to the 25th floor, I had realized that this is the hardest athletic thing I’ve ever done. So now I know what I’m getting into. And I know that I’ll hit the wall at about the 45th floor, and I’ll be thinking, “What the HELL was I thinking signing up for this again”. Or in limerick form, that looks like this:

Passing the forty-fifth floor
I don’t think I can climb any more
Cross-eyed in pain
This sport is insane!
“Yet I must go on,” I swore

Morgan’s friend Chris had started right behind me, and he shadowed me all the way up. He’s very strong, but this was his first race, so he’s still learning how to pace for the long run. I had a look at my watch at about the 25th floor, and it said something like 4:15, so I knew I was on target. At 55, it was just a little bit over 9 minutes, so I was still on track. But the last 20 floors were pure hell. They always are. It’s just the nature of the beast. By the time we got to 60, my lips were tingling, and I had tunnel vision. At least that helped me to not look at the floor numbers. The highest numbered floor is 73, and there there are about two more before the finish line on the roof. When we came out on the roof, I flopped down on the big steel window-washer crane track. It was a big steel girder, and it was nice and cool. I just laid on it panting for several minutes.

To the finish line we sustained
Endeavoring not to wane
Collapsed on the floor
Panting and sore
I can’t wait ’til I do this again

In the end, my time was 14:11. Once again, I fell short of my goal of going under 14 minutes. But on the other hand, I did improve my time by 23 seconds over what I did last year. But last year, I got a medal for 2nd place, and this time I was 8th. There were a lot more people doing it this year. So I finished 8th out of 111 in the men’s 50-59 category. Still, I did some math, and my time was in the 94th percentile among men, 97th overall, and 93rd percentile in my age group. Nothing not to like there. And working out my power production:

77kg * 310m * 9.8 = 233926J
233926J / 851sec = 275W
275W * 0.001341 = 0.37hp

While it’s not the 0.4hp I managed in practice, it’s still good, since this climb was longer than the practice climbs.

Overall, there’s nothing not to like about this. And I looked through the results, and even though there were over 2,000 people participating, there were only 6 guys my age or older who went faster. And at my age, that’s a Good Thing.

It was a fun time.



Filed under: — stan @ 7:32 pm

Last week, I saw an article in the Times about how some coyotes had moved into a burned-out house in Glendale. I thought this sounded interesting, and it could be yet another theme for a sightseeing bike ride. I’d also recently found out the location of the fabled Altadena wallabies, so we had an animal theme today.

The wallabies are just a bit up the hill from Pasadena. They’re apparently not always out, but today we could see one through the fence. Just a wallaby-shaped silhouette. Sort of like the Wallaby Protection Program. But we did see it.

We went up and over the hill to get to Glendale, and just when we were almost to the coyote house, I broke a spoke on my back wheel. I managed to true the wheel enough to keep going, but it was still a big gimpy.

The burned-out house was at the top of a pretty steep hill. It was a nice setting, but the house is a mess. We didn’t see any coyotes, partly because they tend not to come out in the daytime, and also because they were probably underneath the house, and we couldn’t see down there.

Our snack stop was at Paradise Bakery in Glendale. After that, we took a side trip up to Sport Chalet in Burbank so I could fix my wheel. I got a replacement spoke and sat down to fix it. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to do, and we were back on the road again. Still, with the general gimpiness of my bike, we took the direct way home.

It was a nice ride, aside from the broken spoke.

35 miles.


Well, I really can’t complain…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:30 pm

Today was another practice run up the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve been doing well at this so far this season, setting a number of new personal records, so I was hoping to pull yet another rabbit out of my proverbial hat tonight. But sadly, it was not to be. I didn’t go faster than I did on Monday. On the other hand, I didn’t go slower,either, so I really can’t complain about that at all.

This time, it seemed like there were a lot more people there than before. There was a long line for the sign-in at the YMCA. When we got over to the building, there was a long line outside waiting for the stairs. Why is it that the single most painful athletic thing I’ve ever done draws such a crowd?

When they finally let us in, I stood at the bottom of the stairs for a few minutes. There were a lot of people in our group, and I wanted to give them enough time to spread out before I came up and tried to pass them. And that strategy worked. By the time I was passing people, they were all spread out, and it was pretty easy to get by. That’s my ideal situation, since passing people gets me motivated to go faster.

I had a look at my watch at 27, and it said 4 minutes and a few seconds. That was good. That meant I had a chance at going under 9 minutes again. And like Monday, when I got to 50, I was at 8 minutes. So I did the best I could to put on a burst of speed at the end. I managed to do a little bit, and I sprinted the last two floors up to 55. I got up there and immediately dropped to my knees on the landing, panting like a dog. But when I looked at my watch, it said 8:59. Not faster than Monday, but not slower, either.

And I really can’t complain at all about that.


Did I mention that this is great?

Filed under: — stan @ 10:53 pm

Today was another practice run up the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. I set a new personal record last week when I climbed the 55 stories in 9:03. And today, I did 8:59. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, “This is great!”

I rode the train downtown, and it was a pleasant journey, as always. I walked over to the YMCA and got changed, and then went and got in line at the Wells Fargo building. When they let us in, I waited a couple minutes before starting out, since I wanted the group to spread out a bit before I had to pass them. It’s always easier to pass one or two people at a time, as compared to passing a big crowd all at once.

I tried hard to not look at the floor numbers, and that was helped a bit by the fact that It took me about 35 floors to pass everyone from the group that had started before me. When I got to 28, I looked at my watch. It said 4:24, and that was a good sign. I knew then that I had a chance at going under 9 minutes.

When I got to 50, I looked at my watch again, and it said 8 minutes. So I knew I had a chance. I kept going at my same pace until I saw 53, and then I did my best to put on a burst of speed. Which was a Tremendous Effort, but I suppose was not really all that fast. But that didn’t matter. I heaved myself up on to the landing at 55, and my watch said 8:59.

Did I remember to mention that this is great?

On the way home, I saw a cloud of what looked like some several hundred bats flying over 5th St in downtown L.A. That was odd, since I wasn’t aware of any bat colonies here, unlike the one we went to see when we were visiting Austin in July. According to Curbed L.A., they’re swallows.

When I went down into the subway station, I got there just in time to see the train leaving. The video monitor said there would be another train in 5 minutes. And 5 minutes came and went. 10 minutes came and went, and 15 minutes came and went. So I amused myself by taking some pictures of the neon art in the Pershing Square Metro station. But finally, the train came. And I got to go home.

It was a good evening. Did I mention that this is great?


Time for the County Fair again

Filed under: — stan @ 8:49 pm

It’s the end of summer, so it’s time once again for the Los Angeles County Fair.

I didn’t win a ribbon this year. But if you want to try, here are the recipes I entered:

Blueberry Muffins
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

In any case, they didn’t get a ribbon, unlike last year’s entry.

It was a nice day for the fair. It’s usually very hot there, but today was nice. We went there with Lucinda and her friend London. Being the age that they are, Kathleen and I figured we’d send them off with some money, and we’d only hear from them when they needed more.

Right inside the gate, we were assaulted with the stands offering Everything! Totally! Fried! Yick.

First off, Kathleen and I headed over to the Culinary Styles area. I wanted to see if I’d won a ribbon, since they don’t publish the results. I didn’t win anything, so we moved on. We stopped in to see the garden model railroad. It was amusing to see that they had a lot of familiar Los Angeles sights rendered in miniature there. After that, we wandered over to get some Dr Bob’s Ice Cream. Then, we went into the pet area, since they had a pen with some wallabies in it. Not your usual pets, but interesting and cute.

Next, we found the arts building, so we could go see the Museum of Neon Art exhibit there. It was a small exhibit, mostly of old neon signs from their collection. At that point, I got a message from Lucinda. They’d gone on some rides, and they were out of money. And they wanted to buy themselves tails. So I told them to meet us outside, and I gave them some more money. We followed along to see the tails, and they were cute.

For lunch, we went to King Taco. Then, after having the pork carnitas, we went into the barn to see some baby pigs. We looked at all the animals, and ended up at the far end just in time for the pig races. That was amusing, and at the end, they gave us all coupons for a pound of bacon. Made from the losers, presumably.

The final act was to walk through all the exhibit halls and marvel at the endless rows of booths selling all manner of crap. In the end, I bought a hat, which was a fairly modest thing, compared to some of the stuff they were selling there.

It was a fun day.

Yet another ‘theme’ bike ride

Filed under: — stan @ 12:27 pm

Since today is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and all of America is holding various events to mark the occasion, I thought that we at Foothill Cycle Club should join in. So today’s bike ride was a route to visit the World Trade Center memorial at the Los Angeles Fire Department training center near Dodger Stadium. We’d been to see this once before, but I knew that they were going to be having some sort of event going on there today.

We rode out, across Glendale, and then down the L.A. River bike path. Then up into Elysian Park, where we took a short side trip into Echo Park to stop at Chango Coffee.

Leaving Echo Park, we had to go back up a pretty steep little hill. I’d checked out that part of the route in Google Maps Street View, and it really hadn’t looked all that steep there. But everyone who rides with me knows that that’s just how it goes. We’ll find ourselves riding up a wall, all the time while I’m saying, “But it looked flat on the map!”

Rolling down past Dodger Stadium, we came to the LAFD training center. And yes, they were having a big event going on. They had fire trucks, news vans, and a big crowd gathered. We stayed for a little while to listen to the speakers, and then we headed home. The route back was pretty direct, taking Broadway out of downtown, and then up Huntington Drive.

When we got back, it was just me and Carla, and I had only 38 miles. So we took another little side trip to try and see the Altadena wallabies. They weren’t out when we went by, but at least we know where they live now, so we’ll go back another time.

It was a nice ride.

42 miles.


Four tenths of a horse!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:28 pm

Today was another practice run up the 55-story Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. Last time, I set a new personal best with a time of 9:11. And today I beat that. This is great!

I went down there after work with Morgan from my office. She did the U.S. Bank climb last year, and she’s hoping to improve her time, too. We got changed and headed over. They let us in in groups of about 10, at intervals of one or two minutes. I don’t know why they do this, but this gives me a goal for each climb. I let my group go ahead, and then I want to catch and pass all of them. Once that’s done, I see how many I can catch from the group that started in front of us. It’s nice to have goals.

On the way up, I tried not to look at the floor numbers. The landings all look the same. The only thing that changes is the floor numbers, and they go up much, much too slowly. I took a quick look when my watch said I’d been going one minute. I figured I had to be at least on 8, and I was pleased to see I was on 9. So then I tried not to look until I got into the twenties. At 27, I took a look at my watch, and I was at four minutes and a few seconds. That was good, since that’s just about the halfway point. I was around 50 when the watch ticked over 8 minutes. I was hoping at that point that I might make it to 55 before 9 minutes, but the last two floors are bigger, so that added a few seconds, and I came up on the landing at 55 at 9:03. Still, that’s 8 seconds faster than last time, and 25 seconds faster than my best time last year. Nothing not to like there.

Morgan got to the top just a little after me, so I had my camera out to record the occasion. She looked pretty weary at that point, but that’s not surprising at all.

So I did some math:

700ft = 213m
170lb = 77kg
77 * 213 * 9.8 = 160730J
160730J / 543sec = 296W
296W * 0.001341 = 0.397Hp which rounds to 0.4Hp Yay!

Did I mention that this is great?


Parking isn’t Rocket Science…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

Last Sunday, we went to the “Spinal Tap” show at Hollywood Forever. Going to one of these screenings has been on our list of things to do for a long time. And we had a nice time – once we got in. The process of getting in was so aggravating and so frustrating that we ended up wanting to never come to another event again.

The process of scanning the tickets and parking passes at the gate had something very, very fundamentally wrong with it. Tickets were sold online, and they were the print-at-home kind with a bar code. So when you get to the gate, all they have to do is scan them and you’re done. There is no reason why it should take 3 minutes to scan the tickets for one car. If the people at McDonald’s ran their drive-through like that, they wouldn’t get fired. They’d be taken out back and shot.

There was a line coming out of the gate and down Santa Monica Boulevard. At Gower St, the line turned and went down the street. We spent 45 minutes waiting in line on Gower St, not moving one inch. Because every time a little room opened up in the main line on Santa Monica Blvd, cars coming down Santa Monica Blvd would fill it in. The only motion on the Gower St line was when people in front of us gave up and bailed out.

We finally bailed out and ended up on Santa Monica Blvd going the other way. There was a short line there for people turning left into the entrance, and we got in that way after waiting just a few minutes. Because the guy directing traffic at the gate was giving equal priority to the line of 10 cars on Santa Monica turning left and the line of 200 cars on Santa Monica turning right into the gate.

This was stupid.

There was no reason why this should have been such an ordeal.

How it really should be done:

There should be just one line. Put us a sign at the entrance that says something like, “Line for Cinespia forms on Gower St”. Put up a sign at the southwest corner of Santa Monica and Gower that says the same thing. Put a security person there to watch over it and direct.

Now that there is just one line, send someone down the line to check that everyone has their tickets. There is no reason why the people with the scanners should be fumbling with money. That slows everything down. Any car that does not have the proper tickets gets a yellow Post-It on the windshield. When they get up to the turnoff into the gate, have someone meet them there and sell them the tickets or whatever that they need. By the time they get to the scanners, they should have everything in place to be scanned. There is no call to hold up everyone else because someone isn’t prepared.

This sort of thing just isn’t Rocket Science. It’s not that hard. It would make for a more pleasant experience for the attendees, and far less verbal abuse for the people working the gate.

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