Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Dress rehearsal

Filed under: — stan @ 10:36 pm

Tonight was the “Kickoff Party” at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. This was an event to try and drum up interest for the stair climb at the end of March. And for the occasion, they opened the stairwell door on the ground outside the building, so we could practice doing almost the entire climb. The normal practice sessions rn from 4 to 60, but tonight we could go from ground level up to 60. They were also keeping the stairs open an hour longer than normal tonight.

I rode the train downtown after work. My plan was to do the climb once for speed, to practice my footwork for changing which leg was leading every other floor to even out the loads on them. After that, I planned on going up a couple more times to take pictures, kibitz and just play tourist.

My first time up was a pretty good run. My time was 10:49. I had a look at my watch when I was passing the place where we start the normal practice runs, and it was at 42 seconds at that point, so this was about the equivalent of doing the regular practice course in 10:07. Not my fastest time, but still a good solid pace.

After a few minutes recovery, i went back down. The second time I just walked up to the 4th floor to check the count of steps there. This time, I came out with 80. So I walked back down and counted it again. It was 80 every time, so that means I must have made a mistake when I counted them the other day. It also means that the full count is 1,378 steps from the ground up to the landing at the door to the roof. So I think this is where the published count of 1,377 came from. They probably sent somebody up to count the steps, and when he got to the door that said “ROOF” he figured that was the end of it and stopped, without counting the last flight up on the outside of the door.

I started up the stairs for the second time. I walked up with Mary, and I took some pictures along the way. I particularly wanted to get some pictures from the top of the middle section of the stairs, which is about floor 42. The stairway shaft is wider in that section, and it’s possible to look up and down about 260 vertical feet in the shaft. I thought this might make for some dramatic pictures. I got one dramatic shot of Mary by bracing the camera on the railing and using a long exposure. I’d heard that they might get Norman to come take pictures, so I think that the landing around 42 would be a good place for him to set up. His pictures at the CFF climb last December were great.

Near the top, I heard a loud panting sound coming up behind me. I know I’m pretty loud when I’m going full speed, and Jeff is pretty loud, too. But this time it was Madeline. She was really going, and she told me later that she’d set a new personal best tonight.

I went back down again. I was waiting for Kathleen to get there, since I’d told her I’d walk up with her once. But it was cold just standing around, so I decided to go up again just to keep warm. This time, I got to 42 and I could hear someone coming up. This time it was Veronica, and she was on her third of five times up the stairs. But she was still moving very fast. And both of those pictures looking down the stairway shaft give a sense of just how endless the stairs seem when we’re climbing them.

When I got back down, I was still waiting for Kathleen. I thought she was stuck in traffic somewhere. But then I saw her coming down the escalator. She had gotten there while I was walking up the third time, and she just started up the stairs. She said that she didn’t think I’d have my phone with me, so she didn’t try to call to tell me she was there. Oh well. We still got to visit with everyone, and afterward we went to have a little dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s, which is inside the U.S. Bank Tower, just a couple blocks away.

It was a fun evening. And climbing the tower three times wasn’t hard at all. The trick was to just take it easy and just play tourist the second and third times. I was climbing it in something like 20 minutes, even with stopping to make notes and take pictures. And it was good practice, since I was still able to practice my footwork and turns.


The Hot Spring

Filed under: — stan @ 4:30 pm

It’s the last Sunday of the month, so it’s time for our ‘longer’ ride. This time, we rode out to Encino to see Los Encinos State Historic Park. This is the one that I discovered some years ago when I was building a web site with a list of all hot springs in California. Looking at the list, I noticed that one of them had a latitude and longitude that put it inside the city of Los Angeles. So I looked it up, and we rode there one time.

The route there was as direct as I could make it, since the park is quite a bit farther away that we usually ride. Not much remarkable happened on the way there, aside from when I got a flat. When I was fixing it, I noticed the cords peeking through the tire tread, so I figured it was time to finally get a new tire.

It turned into a very nice day, and it was quite warm and sunny by the time we got there. We had a look around the park and read the historical markers before heading back. We took the bike path along the Metro Orange Line for the trip back across the Valley. Our snack stop was at Panera in North Hollywood.

When I got home, I had 59 1/2 miles, so I rode around the block once, just to make it a nice round number.

60 miles.


The culprit revealed

Filed under: — stan @ 6:06 pm

A few days ago, I posted a bit about how Sadie, the new dog in our house managed to break off the bottom of one of the fence boards and get out of the yard. I had to do a quick repair to keep her from getting away. But this morning, I could see that she’d already started gnawing or clawing or something on the patch, and she was getting through the wood. So I had to come up with something. I had a look in my workshop junk drawer, and I found a stainless steel switchplate. That was just about the right size for what I needed, so I attached it to the wood with some screws. So let’s see her gnaw through that.


The Great Escape

Filed under: — stan @ 8:44 pm

We have a new dog staying with us. She’s been here for about a week now, and she’s been getting into some trouble. Today, she found the cracked board at the bottom of the driveway gate, and somehow managed to break off the cracked part and get out through the hole. I was impressed by this, since I didn’t think she’d even fit through that hole, but both dogs got out and were running around the neighborhood when I got home from work. Suzie came running back when she saw me coming home, but I had to chase Sadie down and bring her back. Then I locked them in the house while I patched the hole as best I could do on such short notice. I’m reasonably sure she won’t be able to get through that any time soon.

More stairwell math

Filed under: — stan @ 8:17 pm

Today was another practice at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. I wanted to practice my footwork for changing which leg was the lead on the first and third major portions of the stairway. I also wanted to do some more counting, since I want to know the actual count of steps.

As always, I rode the train there. When I got there, I did one thing differently this time. Before starting up, I followed Theodore down the stairway to the ground floor. He started his run from there, but I just walked it and counted steps. It’s 82 steps from the ground up to the 4th floor where the main stairway begins.

At the mechanical floors where the stairs reverse direction, I paid attention again, and there are exactly two floors that are different from the standard 22 steps per floor. Those are on 22 and 42, and they are both 24 steps. Aside from that, it’s 22 steps per floor all the way up to 60.

If you look at the picture of the building on the Glass Steel and Stone web site, you can see two dark floors. Those are the mechanical floors at 22 and 42. I counted the windows to be sure that those are the right numbers.

When I got to 56, I looked at my watch, and it said 9:30. So I knew I wasn’t going to break any records today, but I was on track for a good time anyway. I managed to put on a little sprint from 57 to 60 before doing the traditional face-plant in the hallway. After a few minutes, I had a look at my watch, and it said 10:05. Five seconds slower than my best time so far. Not bad.

On the train home, I did some math, since I now have accurate step counts from the ground all the way to the roof door above 62. And here’s the story:

82 steps from BL to 4
22 x 56 = 1,232 steps from 4 to 60
4 extra because the mechanical floors at 22 and 42 have 24 steps
24 from 60 to 61
28 from 61 to 62
10 up to the roof door

Right off, this means that the published count of 1,377 steps for the whole climb is wrong. It’s close, but not quite right. I think the actual count will be just shy of 1,400. I wrote to Vanessa at the Lung Association, and she’s going to try and find out how long that last flight after the roof door is.

This started me wondering if the step counts on other climbs are also inaccurate. The U.S. Bank Tower climb is said to be 1,500 steps. But that building was built in 1989, and since about 1980, the building code has specified that steps are 7 inches. Doing some math:

1500 x 7 = 10500 inches
10500 / 12 = 875 feet

The U.S. Bank Tower is 1,018 feet tall. We climb to within about 8 or 10 feet of that level, since the finish line is just below the helipad on the roof. So clearly it has to be substantially more than 1500 steps.

So that’s my stair-geek story for the day. And on the way home, I saw a funny electrician’s truck. “Shock-a-Doodle Doo! Don’t let this happen to you!”


The Metro Bike Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 11:56 pm

Since it rained on Saturday, and the forecast called for rain on Monday, I thought it was prudent to plan for the possibility of rain on Sunday. So the Sunday bike ride was the route that goes 42 miles through Los Angeles, but never is more than two miles from the nearest Metro Rail station. That way, we have a bailout option if the weather decides to go bad on us.

We rode downtown by way of Huntington Drive and Mission Road, and we passed by the little street that I’d seen a few weeks ago when I was out riding with Carla. We’d noticed that there was a little street called “Supreme Court”, and we thought that was funny. But at the time, we failed to noticed that the next street was “Superior Court”. I suspect that this was not a coincidence.

We rode through downtown Los Angeles, so we stopped off at LAPD headquarters to have a look at the “Three Weeks in January” art installation that we’d seen last week. As we expected, there were more reported rapes plotted on the map.

Continuing through downtown, we saw the crazy guy on the bike we’d seen last week. He was riding down Spring St yelling.

When we got to one of the turns on the route, we came around the corner and found a very large fallen-over tree blocking our way. But that was all right. It meant that the traffic on that street was going to be less than usual, so that’s not a bad thing.

Our stop was at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. There was a very cute tiny dog on the table next to us.

We rode back through Silver Lake, and then up Figueroa St through Highland Park. It never did rain, but we stayed on the route so that we were never far from a Metro Rail station. All told, it was a good ride.

42 miles.


Pulp Shakespeare

Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

Last week, I saw a review of “Pulp Shakespeare“. This is a play that is a ‘re-imagining’ of “Pulp Fiction“, if it had been written by William Shakespeare. It had been years since I’d seen “Pulp Fiction”, but this sounded amusing. And since we’d seen “Hamlet” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” last summer, we were relatively ‘up’ on our Shakespeare. So I got tickets, and we sat down and watched the movie again before going. And yes, it was truly hilarious. All the dialogue had been reworked into faux-Shakespeare, and they worked in a lot of well-known Shakespeare quotes in the mix. But the story and characters were pure “Pulp Fiction”. They even adapted the music, so the show had a lot of the same music, but reworked into an appropriate style to maintain the 16th-Century Elizabethan feeling.

All told, it was a great show, and I recommend it highly. We may have to go back again before it closes.


This is getting a little creepy…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:47 pm

This is so consistent that it’s getting a little creepy. We’re three weeks into stair practice at the Aon building for this year’s stair climb. And every week, the same two things happen:

  • On Tuesday, I beat my previous best time by an average of seven seconds;
  • On Thursday, I go two seconds slower than I did on Tuesday.

This has happened three weeks in a row now, and I find it remarkable that it’s so consistent. On the other hand, I find it very hard to visualize taking seven seconds off my time every week from now until the end of March. That would have me doing the practice in 8:50 on the Tuesday before the race. And that would put me at a pace that’s just not something I think is possible. So my streak is going to end. But let’s see if I can keep it going for a couple more weeks. That would be really great.

Once again, I spent the whole train ride downtown dreading what I was about to do. But I had a useful mental diversion this time. I’d worked out a way to switch leading legs on the first and third major portions of the stairs. This is the part where there is about 16 stories in a row of 22 steps per floor, divided into two 11-step flights. This works out to five double steps and one single on each flight, and 12 footfalls per floor. This means that the left and right leg are working in a 6:5 ratio, and that unevenness builds up after a few floors. So I’ve been doing a little skip-step every few floors to switch which leg starts off, so as to even out the load. But today, I wanted to try a new scheme that I thought might be a bit smoother and not break my rhythm. The plan for today was to switch legs on every even-numbered floor. I figured that would be easy to remember. Normally, my rule is that if I do a single step onto the landing, then I pivot and start the next flight with a double. And if I do a double onto the landing, I start the next flight with a single. The difference this time is that I was going to reverse that on every even-numbered floor. On those floors, if I did a single onto the landing, I turned and started off with a single. And if I did a double, I did a little reach and started the next flight with a double. This had the effect of switching which leg was doing the two singles per floor. I got confused a couple of times on the way up, but I think with a little practice, I can probably do this without having to think too hard. And I did notice that it helped a lot to even out the load on each leg.

I also paid attention to the mechanical floors again. This time, I only counted two that had more than the standard 22 steps. Just from 22 to 23 and 42 to 43 were 24 step each. The others were all 22.

All this thinking about stepping patterns and such really helped to keep my mind off the usual “What-the-HELL-was-I-thinking-doing-this-again”. This was a good thing. when I got to 57, I looked at my watch and saw 9:40, and I knew I was on track for a good time. So I managed to put on a little burst of speed to make it to 60 and do my usual face-plant on the floor. But when I looked at my watch, it said 10:01.72, which is only 0.02 seconds off being exactly two seconds slower than on Tuesday.

Remarkable. But I’m not complaining one bit. This is great!


What I said last week…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:03 pm

It’s practice time at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, and like I’ve been saying a lot lately, “this is great!”

I was really not looking forward to this today. But I didn’t want to miss the chance to practice on the actual stairs where we will be racing in March. So I figured that I’d use this chance to pay attention some more to the layout of the stairs, and practice switching leads on the first and third sections of the stairway to balance the loading on each leg.

I paid close attention this time, and I realized that in the practice climb from 4 to 60, there are only three floors that are larger than the standard of 22 steps per floor. They are from 21 to 22 and from 41 to 43. Those three are 24 steps, where all the others are 22. It’s interesting how I’d noticed that the mechanical floors were larger than the standard, but at the same time, they seemed like they were a lot bigger. Two extra steps per floor really isn’t all that much. I think the illusion comes from the fact that from 20 to 24 and 40 to 44 the steps change and go from counter-clockwise to clockwise. So each of those interludes feels like one big floor, even though its actually several individual floors.

This also allows me to compute the number of steps in the practice climb:

56 x 22 = 1,232
1,232 + 6 = 1,238 steps
1,238 x 7.5 = 9285
9285 / 12 = 774 feet of climbing

Knowing the layout of the stairs has helped me to sort of mentally break up the climb into smaller chunks, which makes it easier to deal with.

So today, I was just going up the stairs, not really trying to set a blazing pace. I noticed that on the first section that it only took about four or five floors before I noticed that one leg was working much harder than the other. So I remembered to do a little stutter-step about every four floors to switch which leg was leading. That was also a useful mental diversion.

When I got to 50, I had a quick look at my watch and saw that I was on track for a good time. So I kept going, and managed to put on a little burst of speed from 57 to 60. I stumbled out of the stairs and flopped on the floor. When I looked at my watch, it said 9:59.74. This is the first time I’ve been under 10 minutes for this climb, although by the rules I’ve established, I really have to round that to an even 10 minutes. Still, this is 10 seconds faster than my previous best that I did last week. Nothing not to like there.

Working out my power production gives:

9285 x 2.54 = 236 meters
236 x 77 x 9.8 = 178,086 joules
178,086 / 600 = 297 watts
297 watts = 0.398 horsepower

Not too bad.

On the train home, I worked out another possible way to switch leading legs between floors. One that will not require any fancy footwork. I’m going to try that out on Thursday.

This is great!


Living in a Modern Way

Filed under: — stan @ 7:40 pm

Since today is a holiday, Kathleen and I went over to LACMA to see “California Design, 1930–1965: Living in a Modern Way“. We’d seen a little bit of this last fall when we saw the Tim Burton exhibit, and we’d been meaning to come back to see it.

We went there a bit early, just on general principles, and that turned out to be a good thing. Today was a Target Free Holiday Monday, so the museum was free, and it was packed. Still, we had a good time looking at all the odd objects in the exhibit, from the Airstream trailer that looked like an aluminum lucha libre mask, to a 1938 digital clock. We also saw a propaganda poster that looks just like things we see today, an original 1959 Barbie doll, and a video with Walt Disney demonstrating how a nuclear bomb works with mouse traps and ping-pong balls. It was a weird assemblage of stuff.

After that, we wandered around the rest of the museum. We went looking for Magritte, since I like surrealism. We also saw the big “Metropolis II” installation. That had little cars and trains zooming around the giant model city. It was kind of hypnotizing to watch, although it was kind of loud.

It was a fun afternoon.

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