Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

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2/28/2012

Last practice before Las Vegas and the Stratosphere

Filed under: — stan @ 10:36 pm

Tonight was my last big practice session before going to Las Vegas this weekend to climb the Stratosphere Tower stairs. I had read Kristen’s account of climbing the Hancock building in Chicago, and I liked her idea of setting milestones and time goals along the way as a method of knowing whether or not one is ‘on pace’. So I thought I’d try that this evening.

I took a guess, and figured that the few short hallways along the way up the Aon building probably add up to about 30 seconds or so of non-climbing time. Using my best time of 9:48 as a guideline, I figured on about 9:15 of actual climbing time for the 56 floors. That gave me 9.9 seconds per floor on average. So I made up a little chart with milestones and time goals. The floor milestones represent the places where the stairway changes, except for 32, which is just the halfway point of the practice climb. And this is what I got:

Floor Time goal
20 2:38
24 3:33
32 4:52
42 6:31
44 7:05
60 9:45

I wrote this up on a little piece of paper, and I put some packing tape on it to protect it from sweat. Then I rubber-banded it to my arm.

As it turned out, I was pretty close. At 20, I was at 2:35. At 24, I had 3:32, and at 32, the watch said 4:55. All this was good. In retrospect, I think I could have cut the time points down to just 20, 32, and 44. There really wasn’t much point in having two time points separated by just a few floors. And I’m pretty sure that looking at the watch that many times cost me a couple seconds. I also found out after the fact that I’d whacked my arm against something, possibly the fire hose pipe that runs up the landings from 24 to 42. It’s really sore and bruised now, but I have no memory of hitting it on anything. But in the end, I came out at 60, and after doing the traditional face-plant on the floor, I saw that I had 9:51. That’s only three seconds off my best time, and very close to my goal time. So that was a Good Thing all around.

I spent a few minutes on 60 looking at the sunset. It wasn’t quite as nice as the one from last week, but it was still nice to look at. Then I took the elevator back down and got dressed to go home.

It was a good outing, and I feel pretty much ready to attack the Stratosphere stairs.

End of an era

Filed under: — stan @ 6:45 am

I canceled our DirecTV service today. Kathleen and I used it to watch the Oscars on Sunday. And I got to thinking that before that, the last thing I can remember watching on it was Punkin Chunkin back at Thanksgiving. We used to use it to watch “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”, but since we got Hulu Plus on the Roku last July, we watch those over there. And Lucinda pretty much only watches streaming things from Netflix on the Roku. For as much as we’ve used the DirecTV since last summer, it works out to something like $60 an hour for the few things we’ve watched on it. It’s just not worth it.

So that’s that.

2/25/2012

Everything is more interesting with the word ‘naked’ in front of it

Filed under: — stan @ 5:41 pm

Today’s adventure was a trip downtown to see “Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles” at MOCA. Having seen some of his work before, and reading the reviews of this exhibit, we knew we had to see it.

We rode the train downtown from Pasadena, and it felt odd to me to be on the train, going downtown, and not dreading having to run up the stairs at a 60-story building. I guess I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Still, the Civic Center subway station is pretty far underground, so we took the stairs up.

The exhibit was a lot of fun. Weegee sounds like he was a real character. They said that his accent was the inspiration for Peter Sellers in his portrayal of Dr. Strangelove. He also developed methods of distorting photos in strange ways. It was a lot like he invented a physical version of Photoshop. And he said that people think anything is more interesting if you put the word “naked” in front of it.

After Weegee, we wandered around the rest of the museum. It’s kind of a grab bag of all different things, but then we came around the corner and saw a painting by Cy Twombly. We know about him from having read John Waters’ book, Role Models.

“Isn’t Cy Twombly beyond a doubt still the most cutting-edge artist working today, even if he is over eighty years old? According to my close friend and former museum curator Brenda Richardson, he can make even the most seasoned art collectors and accessions committees seethe in skepticism and rage over his work.”

And we could see why.

Also, there was a painting by Roy Lichtenstein that included a note for him to call. I don’t recall if he ever did.

After the museum, we walked around Bunker Hill a bit. It’s very quiet on weekends there, but I got some nice photos of buildings reflecting each other in the late-afternoon sun. Then we rode Angel’s Flight down the hill and got on the subway to come home.

It was a fun afternoon.

2/23/2012

They can’t all be gems

Filed under: — stan @ 7:12 pm

I went downtown at lunchtime today to do the stair practice at the Aon building. So far this year, I’ve been going pretty well at this, turning in times that are about 30 seconds faster than I was doing last year at this time.

As always, I was dreading it all the way down there on the train. When I got there, I got changed and I didn’t wait around before starting up. There were a few people who started before me, but I caught and passed them within the first ten floors. And then I was alone the rest of the way. I took a look at my watch at 32, and it said something like 5:10. So I knew this was not going to be a record-setting climb. But amazingly enough, I was able to pick up the pace a bit, and I did the second half of the climb faster than the first half. I looked at my watch again at 54, and it was right around 9 minutes. So I knew I had a fighting chance to come in right around 10 minutes, and I managed to pick up the pace some more for the last four floors. And after taking a couple minutes to catch my breath, I looked at the watch again, and I saw that I’d done 10:03. It’s a measure of how much faster I’m going this year compared with last year that I look at that time, and I think, “Meh, that’s only so-so.” But last year, I was struggling to get under 10:30. So there’s really nothing to complain about here.

I took a couple of minutes to look at the view. I took a picture of the same view from last time, but it’s really not the same without the spectacular sunset colors.

On the way back, I had a few minutes to wait at the 7th St/Metro Center station, so I had a look at one of the new Expo Line trains parked in the station. We’d seen a test train running on the new line last Sunday. So I guess they’re getting close to opening it.

All in all, it was a pretty good outing, even if I didn’t get a new best time.

2/21/2012

Bright city lights and endless staircases

Filed under: — stan @ 10:03 pm

It’s Tuesday, and time for another practice run up the Aon Center stairs in downtown Los Angeles. Last week, I’d done my best time yet at 9:48, so I wanted to see if I could beat that.

I’d washed my gloves over the weekend to restore their stickiness, and wow, did it ever. They really gripped the railing, and the little rubber-squeaky noises were louder than ever. I made a point of not trying to think about going fast, but rather just to concentrate on doing the proper footwork for the least steps. That makes climbing more efficient, and it’s also a useful distraction from the thinking, “OMG!!! What the HELL was I thinking signing up for this again!

After all these practice runs, I’m getting pretty good at the stepping pattern. I only got confused once, around the 54th floor. And I’m usually pretty cross-eyed and confused by that point anyway. I had a quick look at my watch at the halfway point at 32, and it said something like 4:50, so I was on track. I passed 9 minutes at about 54, and I managed to put on a little kick at the end, from 56 to 60. I came out of the stairs and did the traditional face-plant on the floor. And when I looked at the watch, it said 9:50. Not the fastest, but the second-fastest, and not bad at all for just showing up to do the climb without really trying to set any records.

After a few minutes, I went to look out the windows for a bit. And it turned out that tonight had a very nice sunset. So I found a dark corner of the 60th floor and braced the camera on the window sill to take some pictures. I also went to the other side to get some pictures of the other skyscrapers on Bunker Hill, since we’ll be racing up the U.S. Bank Tower in the fall, as well as practicing at Wells Fargo and One California Plaza.

All told, I’m having a really good practice season right now. Not really trying for speed, but still consistently doing times that I could only dream about last year. There’s nothing not to like there.

Working out my power production:

1236 x 7.5 = 9270 inches = 772.5 feet
9270 x 2.54 / 100 = 235.5 meters
235.5m x 77kg x 9.8 = 177677 joules
177677 joules / 590 sec = 301 watts
301 watts = 0.4 horsepower

Yup. Nothing not to like here.

2/19/2012

A bit of forgotten history

Filed under: — stan @ 10:52 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a sightseeing trip to Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles to visit the grave of Lincoln Perry. Mr Perry was the first black movie star, and he is remembered for his character, “Stepin Fetchit”. His movies are rarely seen any more, and when they are, most of his performance is edited out. His character embodied all the worst racial stereotypes of the day, and he’s widely regarded as an embarrassing footnote now. But still, he was the first black actor to become a millionaire in the movies. So his is a conflicted legacy.

We rode south through San Marino and San Gabriel, and then west along the 60 freeway to get to East Los Angeles. When we got to the cemetery, there was a guard at the entrance. He said we couldn’t just go riding in there, but we explained why we were there, and he was very accommodating. He led us to the section that findagrave.com had told us was where Stepin Fetchit was buried, and he helped us look for the grave marker. But after about 10 minutes of all of us walking around looking, we couldn’t find it. So there is a distinct possibility that his grave is unmarked. The guard told us that we could call the office during the week and ask them, and they would know.

After the sightseeing stop, we headed west to downtown Los Angeles. We rode across the 4th Street bridge, which gave us a very nice view of all the skyscrapers where I’ve had the incomparable experience of climbing the stairs. Then we turned south, where we saw a test train running on the new Metro Expo Line.

Our snack stop was at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. And after that, we headed home by way of Benton Way in Silver Lake, and then up Figueroa Street.

It was a nice, if slightly-longer-than-usual ride.

49 miles.

2/16/2012

Like I said, this is a little creepy…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:57 pm

It’s Thursday, and I was able to go downtown at lunchtime to do stair practice at the Aon building. That’s the usual practice climb from 4 up to 60. Today was my second time climbing with the sticky football gloves. I decided that when I’m using them, I sound like a dog playing with a toy. Lots of panting and little rubber squeaky noises. But they work really well for getting a good grip on the railing to help pull me up the stairs. So that’s a good thing.

When I got there, Theo was there. He is very fast, but he likes to walk down to the ground-level door to start. So when we got to the 4th floor, he went to walk down, and I headed up. My goal was to make it to 60 before he caught me.

I’m getting pretty good at the footwork to change leads so that I equalize the loads on each leg. Since most of the flights are 11 steps, that means that one leg will work harder than the other when you do double steps. So I’ve worked out a way to switch which leg leads off so that I even out the load. And I can feel the difference. It’s getting close to being automatic, which is a good thing. And it’s also good in that I switch leads every even-numbered floor. So that’s a useful mental distraction. When I get to 6, I think about having to switch leads, and that I don’t have to switch again until 8. I don’t think about having 54 more floors to go. So that distraction is a Very Good Thing.

I had a look at my watch at the halfway point at 32, and I was just under 5 minutes. So that meant I was on track to do a time just under 10 minutes. And when I got to 54, I had another look, and it was just under 9 minutes, so I knew I had to hit it to have a chance to beat my time from Tuesday. Also, I was concerned that Theo was going to catch me. So I managed to put on a burst of speed for the last few floors before coming out on 60 and doing the traditional face-plant on the floor. When I looked at my watch, I had 9:50, which is 2 seconds slower than on Tuesday. And like I said before, this is a bit creepy.

But no matter. This year, I’m doing times that I thought would be impossible last year. So there’s really nothing to complain about here.

2/14/2012

This is great, and for more than one reason this time…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

Tonight was yet another stair practice at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. And as always, I was dreading it all the way there on the train. I got a bit of a late start, due to some computer problems with My Pet Project today, but I finally managed to get out the door. Kathleen was coming downtown, too. I told her I was planning on doing one run up the building for time, and then I’d walk up it again with her.

There was some sort of problem on the Metro Red Line tonight. I rode the train to the 7th St station, and that was fine. But when I got off, there was an announcement on the PA. I missed the first part of it, and all I heard was “delays – Metro apologizes for any inconvenience.” They also had the announcement as a text crawl on the monitors in the station, but it seemed that no matter which monitor I looked at, all I ever saw was, “Metro apologizes…” So I figured I was there, so I might as well hit the stairs and get it over with. The last I’d heard from Kathleen was that she was getting on the train at 5:26, so she would be there about 6:00, plus whatever the delay was.

I headed up to the building and got ready to go. I’d gotten a pair of the rubber-palm football gloves that Mark recommends, and I was going to try them out tonight. So I started my watch and headed up. The gloves made little rubber-squeaky noises on the railing all the way up. I was just sort of cruising, but when I got to 56, I had a look at my watch and realized that I had a chance to do a good time if I really hit it for the last four floors. So I made some faster rubber squeaky noises and ran up the last four flights. I stumbled out of the stairwell and flopped on the floor. And when I looked at my watch, I saw 9:48, which is yet another best time for me. Can’t complain about that at all.

I rested for a few minutes and then went back to the lobby to wait for Kathleen. As it turned out, she was caught in the train delay, and she didn’t get there until 6:40. She asked me if I’d noticed anything different on the 52nd floor, but in my stair-climbing fog, I hadn’t. So we headed up the stairs again. Since I was going slower, I figured I’d see whatever it was this time.

When we got to about 40, the guards made the announcement that practice time was almost over. So I went ahead a bit and stopped at the intercom at 49 to call them and see if we could have an extra five minutes to finish. The guys said it was all right, so I continued on up to 52. That’s where I saw my Valentine on the wall, next to the fire hose valves and the floor number sign. It was the sweetest thing ever, and even better, because it meant that she’d had to climb the building before to install it. She said later that she’d come to practice late last Thursday to put it up, so that it would be there for me today.

So we climbed the rest of the way up to 60. We came out and then rode the elevator back down. And then we got changed and headed out for a nice dinner at Engine Company 28, just around the corner on Figueroa St. All told, it was a very nice Valentine’s Day.

2/12/2012

Playgrounds

Filed under: — stan @ 3:30 pm

Today’s bike club ride was one we’ve only done once before. A while back, I was looking at Roadside America, and they had a bit about a park in West Covina that has a full-sized model of an F-86 Sabre jet in the playground. I thought that this might make for an interesting sightseeing pairing with the sea monster playground at Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel.

Sadly, the park in San Gabriel is still under construction. The city parks department says that the sea monsters will not be altered, but the rest of the park is being rebuilt. And so, for the time being, we can only look at the monsters from a distance.

Heading east from there, we rode out to West Covina, where we saw the F-86. Interestingly, the plane is made of solid cast concrete, so I’m not sure it would pass muster for playground equipment safety today. But the F-86 was used in the Korean War, so this model probably dates back to the early 1960s, when we didn’t worry about such things.

Our snack stop was at Panera in West Covina. Then we rode home by way of the Santa Fe Dam Nature Area.

It was a nice ride.

42 miles.

2/11/2012

Roller Derby!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:07 pm

Recently, Kathleen and I have watched a number of documentaries about the revival of roller derby. And it looks like something fun to go see. The L.A. Derby Dolls recently changed their policy to allow all ages to come to their bouts, so asked Lucinda if she wanted to go. And tonight we all went to see the show.

Getting there turned out to be a big ordeal, but that was just because of some problems on the road, and ordinarily, it’s not all that bad of a trip. We got there just before they introduced the skaters before the bout started. Next time, we’ll plan on getting there earlier. They had a whole vendor area, as well as food trucks outside. Truck Norris was even there. Inside, they had the banked track set up, with sort of standing-room bleachers set up around it. The regular tickets are general admission, and there are no seats. But because of the way the platforms are set up, it wasn’t a problem. We found a little bit of space along the railing and let Lucinda and London take that, while we stood behind them. So we could all see just fine.

At the start of the match, they explained the basic flow of the game, so it made some sense. And there was a lot of fast action. The announcer said that at least one of the jammers is a speed skater in her other life. And it showed when they got going. It was a lot of fun to watch. At half-time, they had a bout a 30 minute break, with a band playing in the vendor room. Lucinda and London went and bought themselves some shirts. It looked like they had a good time there.

All in all, it was tremendously entertaining.

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