Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Three hours on Sunday morning

Filed under: — stan @ 4:06 pm

On Friday, the L.A. Times had an article about “Three Weeks in January“, which is an art installation on the wall outside LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. It’s the brainchild of Suzanne Lacy, who originally created it in 1977 to raise awareness of rape in Los Angeles. The installation features a map of the city, with reported rape cases plotted, as well as a continuous storytelling soundtrack with people telling their rape stories. It’s all rather disturbing and haunting, which I guess is the point. So of course, when I saw this, I thought it would make for an interesting riding destination for Sunday morning.

It was kind of cold and cloudy, with the forecast saying there was a slight chance of rain. But the route we were taking is one that is never more than about 2 miles from the nearest Metro Rail station, so we had a bailout plan, if it became necessary.

We took the direct way downtown, down Huntington Drive and Main St. We stopped off to look at the art project for a bit before continuing on through downtown. Looking back, we got a good view of all the skyscrapers, and Jeff and I both took a moment to remember all the pain of climbing the stairs in all those buildings. Then we turned on Adams to head west for a bit. It started to rain a bit then, but it was very light, and it only went on for about 10 minutes. So we just kept on going.

I found a little back way from West Adams up to Larchmont. It was a little roundabout, but the streets were quiet, and we had lights to cross all of the major streets, so it worked well. Our snack stop was at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont.

The route home went up Benton Way in Silver Lake, which is a nice, steep little hill. Always fun. Then we rode across the L.A. River and up Eagle Rock Blvd. That was when Silvio started having trouble with his chain skipping. We stopped to try to adjust it a bit, but in the end, it turned out that one of the pins was coming loose, and the chain was about to break. So he had to ride very carefully the rest of the way. He managed to make it up the Colorado hill, and after that, he turned off to go visit a bike shop.

It was a pleasant ride.

41 miles.


More fun on the stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 7:02 pm

Since I had to take Lucinda to art class after work today, I went downtown at lunchtime to do the Aon building practice climb. On Tuesday, I’d done my best time yet, as well as made some useful observations about the stairs and how to climb them more efficiently. So today I wanted to try implementing those ideas and see what happened.

At the beginning, I experimented with doing a quick stutter-step on each main floor landing to switch which leg was leading off on each floor. But this quickly turned out to be too much trouble. So I fell back to switching sides about every five floors. That’s long enough to start to notice that one leg is working harder than the other, so it’s a good time to switch.

The stairs change at floor 20, but it turns out that it’s still 22 steps to get to 21. The mechanical floor starts just above 21, so from 21 to 24, it’s 24 steps between floors. There’s also a short hallway, and several fire doors. Those will be propped open on race day, so they don’t cause much trouble.

On the middle section with the wide landings from 24 to 41, I deliberately took an extra quick step on most of the landings to switch which leg led off on every floor. I figured this wasn’t a problem, since I had to cross the big landing anyway, and I can do it with one long step or two short quick steps, and the time is about the same.

When I got to 50, I took a look at my watch, and it said something like 8:30, so I knew I was pretty much on the same pace as on Tuesday. I was hoping to beat my time today, and I managed to pull out a little sprint from 57 to 60. But after I finished gasping for air and looked at my watch, I saw that I’d gone two seconds slower. Still, that’s not terribly significant here. I’m pretty consistently doing times that seemed impossible last year.

As I find myself saying a lot these days, “there’s nothing not to like about that.”


I think it’s time to say again, “This is great!”

Filed under: — stan @ 10:28 pm

It’s Tuesday, and that means stair practice at the Aon building in downtown L.A. As always, I rode the train there, and as always, I was dreading it all the way there.

I got to the building and signed in. Then I went to the stair entrance on the 4th floor to get ready. I had decided that I was going to try to be more conscious of the steps today, and try to see how much larger the mechanical floor are, as compared to regular office floors. I figured that would give me something else to think about besides, “What the HELL was I thinking coming here and doing this again.

This building was built in the early ’70s, and the steps are 7.5 inches each. Regular office floors have 22 steps between them. For most of the building, these are in the form of two 11-step stairways with a landing and 180-degree turn between them. I’ve worked out how to do the ‘one foot on the landing’ turns, so each 11-step flight is basically six footfalls, twelve for one floor. And I noticed that that means that if I start off with my right foot, the fact that it’s an even number of footfalls per floor means that I’ll always be starting off on my right foot. But because it’s two flights, each with an odd number of steps, there’s double steps, with one single at the end of each flight. And it worked out that the single step was always on the same leg. In practical terms, that means that of the 22 steps I have to lift my body for each floor, one leg is doing 12 of them, and the other leg is doing 10. And that difference adds up after 10 or 20 floors. So I figured out to do a little stutter-step about every five floors, so that I’d switch which leg was leading and having to do more work. This may have helped even out the load on each leg. In any event, it kept my mind occupied and thinking about something other than how much all this stair climbing hurts.

I also noticed one other thing about this. The middle portion of the building, from 24 to 41 is a bit different. There are still 22 steps per floor, but they are divided up with 10 steps, a landing with a 90-degree left turn, three steps, another landing, and then 9 steps up to the next floor. So the landings on the floors are big, and there’s no way to do a pivot turn. You pretty much have to take an extra step. But because it’s easy to do double steps with 90-degree turns, it ends up being the same 12 footfalls for each floor. But one of those footfalls is a non-climbing one on the big landing. And so you end up with 11 climbing steps per floor, six on one leg, and five on the other. And if you don’t do a stutter-step every few floors, one leg is doing significantly more work than the other. And that’s bad for business.

The other thing I wanted to pay attention to was the mechanical floors. These are where they keep the elevator motors, air conditioning blowers, and other such things. I’ve always had a sense that these floors are a little taller than regular floors. So I counted steps when I got to the first one at 20. And it turned out that from 20 to 24, the floors were 24 steps apart. That’s not a huge difference, but it is a little bit more. And the mechanical floors from 41 to 45 were also 24 steps each.

The top of the practice climb is at 60, and I stumbled out of the stairwell and flopped down on the floor. I was very pleased to see that my time was 10:10, which is a full 8 seconds faster than my previous best time.

After recovering for a bit, I walked up the stairs the rest of the way to the roof door, just to see how many steps there were. It was 24 steps to 61, and 28 to 62. Then there were 10 steps more to the roof door. After that, there’s just the last flight up to the roof, and I didn’t open the door to count them, since the guards at the building have been very nice to us, and I don’t want to cause trouble. But that last flight is probably something like 12 or 16 steps.

And that’s my report from the stairwell. Back to you in the studio…


Big ideas that just never caught on

Filed under: — stan @ 1:45 pm

Today’s bike club ride was an architecture tour of sorts. The L.A. Times had an article last week about Wallace Neff and his ‘bubble houses’. This was an idea for a way to build circular dome buildings quickly and cheaply. The article said that a lot of bubble houses were built in the 1940s and ’50s, but that only one still exists today, and that one is on Los Robles Ave in Pasadena. This got me thinking about a theme for the ride, and I thought of another sort of round house: the geodesic dome. This was another big idea that just never really caught on. And I also knew where there is a dome home, just below the Hollywood sign in Hollywoodland. So, armed with a theme, I made up a route.

We rode out across Eagle Rock and then over the L.A. river into Silver Lake and Hollywood. Then we turned up Beachwood Canyon and the fun started. The road up the ridge on the side of the canyon is very steep and winding. I tell everyone that I guarantee they’ll be seeing stars by the time they get to the top.

After a brief rest and regroup, we rode along the ridge to the geodesic dome home. We looked at it a bit before continuing on to the Hollywood sign. Since we worked so hard to get up there, we figured we should go see it while we’re there. Then it was down the other side to Lake Hollywood, and the other steep hill to get over into Burbank.

We stopped for snacks at Priscilla’s, and then headed back down the L.A. river bike path. The route back took us through Highland Park and South Pasadena until we got to the bubble house on Los Robles Ave. It’s an odd-looking thing, but it’s a little bit of history, so it was interesting to see.

It was a nice day, and all together a nice ride.

47 miles.


Why do I keep doing this?

Filed under: — stan @ 8:11 pm

Today was the second practice at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. On Tuesday, I’d set a new personal best for the practice climb from 4 to 60. But, since practice is a good thing, I’m back again.

As always, I was dreading it all the way downtown on the train. I was dreading all the way up to the moment I pushed the button on my watch and started up the stairs. After that, I was in too much pain to be thinking about dreading it.

For some reason, there haven’t been many people coming out to the practices yet. So all the way up, I only saw one other person. It’s hard climbing like that, all alone. I like having people to pass.

At 60, I stumbled out of the stairs and took a couple of pictures. My time was 10:20, which is two seconds slower than on Tuesday, but still faster than any of my practice times last year. So there’s nothing not to like there.

I also did some actual measurements on the stairs. The steps at Aon are 7.5 inches tall. They say the full climb is 1,377 steps, and doing the math gives:

1377 * 7.5 = 10328 inches
10328 / 12 = 860 feet

This agrees well with the published height of the building as 858 feet. Based on this measurement, it seems that the standard stamped-steel staircases at Wilshire-Figueroa, Wells Fargo, and One California Plaza are all 7 inches per step. I’m told that this is the current building code value, and the Aon steps are only steeper because it was built back in the early ’70s, and the code was slightly different then. So all this time, it’s not been our imagination that the stair climb up the Aon building is harder than the others. Good to know.

Well, that’s it for this week. Back at it again next Tuesday.


Here we go again…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:00 pm

I told Lucinda we could go to Disneyland once before school starts up again next week, so today was the day. There were five of us this time. Myself and Kathleen, Lucinda, and Kathleen’s daughters, Trinh and Melissa. As you might expect, once we got to Disneyland, Kathleen and I were on our own, and only saw the girls a couple of times in passing throughout the day.

Our day was fun. It was a bit on the crowded side by our standards, but we still managed to ride Space Mountain twice, Thunder Mountain four times, Matterhorn twice, and over at California Adventure, we rode California Screamin’ twice together, and I did it three more times in the single-rider line. Which brings my total up to something like 86 rides on that roller coaster. Nope, I still don’t believe it either.

At one point, California Screamin’ broke down, and we got to watch them evacuate the train from the top of the big hill. I’m glad we weren’t on it then. I don’t mind riding the train down that hill, but I think walking down it on the steps would give me the willies.

At the end of the day, we met up with the girls, and we went for our usual dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. From the sound of it, they managed to do a lot today, too. So overall, the day was a success.


First stair practice of 2012

Filed under: — stan @ 9:27 pm

They’re starting stair practice early this year. Today was the first session in preparation for the Aon Tower stair climb on March 31. It was the usual course, from the 4th floor to the 60th at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles.

I’ve done this particular stair climb many, many times now, since I did all the practice sessions last year and the year before. But somehow, it never gets any easier. On the train to downtown this evening, I was thinking that I really didn’t want to do this. So I decided that I’d just do it at a comfortable pace, not trying to break any records. Still, I’m going faster now than before. Today’s time was 10:18, which is a good three seconds faster than my best practice time last year. So I really can’t complain.

At the top, I took a few minutes to catch my breath and take a picture, then I took the elevator back down. It was fun. At least as much as the most painful thing I’ve ever done can be called ‘fun’.



Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

Since we’d spent the morning going to see the horses, afterward, we took a walk over to see the floats. They park them down the street from my house, and they’re on display for the afternoon after the parade, and the next day. Since that generates a lot of traffic, the parade people give everyone in my neighborhood free tickets to go see them.

One of the floats had a little replica of Mt Rushmore, complete with Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Elvis. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right…

The RFD-TV float had Trigger and Bullet prominently displayed. The Paramount Pictures float had the classic USS Enterprise. And we got to see the La Cañada float with the flying pigs that we saw on last Sunday’s bike ride. And finally, we got to see the big Natural Balance Pet Foods float with the wave tank and the surfing dogs.

It made for an amusing afternoon.

The Rose Parade

Filed under: — stan @ 9:06 pm

So today was the Rose Parade. Which means we’re on virtual lockdown here.

We began the day by going outside at 8:00 to watch the B-2 fly over the parade route. That marks the beginning of the parade. Since we’re at the end of the route, the actual parade doesn’t get here until about two hours later.

When 10:00 rolled around, we took a walk out and around the neighborhood. The horses in the parade all end up here, and they bring the horse trailers here to pick them up. So we got to see the little miniature horses, the Wells Fargo wagons, and several cowgirl groups. And of course, the cleanup people with their shovels and rolling trash cans. I even saw one horse with an on/off switch. Wonders never cease.


Turnbull Canyon to start the new year

Filed under: — stan @ 8:45 pm

January 1st fell on a Sunday this year. This meant that I could go riding on New Year’s Day, which I always consider to be good luck. And it also meant that there was no Rose Parade in our way. So the ride for today was the classic Turnbull Canyon route through Whittier.

The sun is low in the sky this time of year, so I like getting the long shadows photo when we’re riding down the Rio Hondo bike path. We had a couple of new riders along today, so we stopped off for the photo opportunity at Dork Street in Pico Rivera. Then we headed up Beverly Blvd into Whittier. By now it was quite warm, and it got even warmer as we rode up the long hill to the top of Turnbull Canyon. The view was quite nice today.

After we all got to the top and took a few minutes to enjoy the view, we headed down the other side. The route back was through La Puente, leading to our snack stop at Merengue in Monrovia. Sadly, they were closed for the holiday. So instead, we went to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf up the street. That was where I saw the two girls sitting at a table together, both talking on their phones. I guess it’s how we live now.

Coming back into Pasadena, we saw people setting up camp along the Rose Parade route, ready for the parade tomorrow morning.

It was a nice ride.

47 miles.

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