Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Another survey party

Filed under: — stan @ 10:12 pm

Tuesday was a unique treat. I got a chance to go downtown to do a survey climb up the U.S. Bank Tower staircase. I’ve done this now for the Aon Center stairs, as well as the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. And both of those times, I found that the published step counts they quoted for promoting the stair climbs were wrong. So this was a chance to see if the 1,500 step count for this building was right. I suspected from the start that it was not.

A few months ago, I’d emailed the organizers of the Stair Climb for Los Angeles at the downtown YMCA to see if this trip could be arranged, and they came through. I was to be at the building at 10:00 on Tuesday morning, where I would meet Whitney from the YMCA and we would climb the building and take in the stairs.

We got checked in and got little adhesive visitor name tags to wear. The guard asked us if we wanted to take the elevator up to the top and walk down to count the stairs. We just looked at him like he was crazy. I walked down a 42-story building once and swore never to do it again. So we went outside and he opened up the door next to the sidewalk and we started up from there.

It turns out that this staircase is much more consistent than I’d remembered from the races I’ve done before. Most of the building was two flights per floor, 11 steps per flight, with right-hand turns. This pattern covered something like 47 of the 73 floors.

There was no 13th floor.

Oddly enough, 2 was missing, also. When we started up from the lobby level, the first floor number we saw was 3. And at 5, it settled into the regular 11/11 pattern all the way up to 46. Then there was one weird floor, and it was back to 11/11 until 58. At that point, there was the only fire door we encountered, and it switched to left-hand turns for a short while. Then it was back to the same pattern up to the last office floor on 71. The floors were numbered up to 74, and then there was just a short two flights up to the roof door.

By about the 50th floor, my shirt was totally soaked with sweat, and my adhesive visitor tag fell off. So I picked it up and stuck it to my notepad.

When we got to the landing by the roof door, the intercom box squawked at us and asked if we were ready to come down. This was a bit creepy until we saw the video camera on the opposite wall. They were watching, and they’d seen us on the monitor. So they said the guard would meet us at 71 and we could ride down with him.

On the train home, I added up the steps. I got 1,679 1,674 as the final tally. And that night, I made up a chart of the stairway. Now I know how to attack it to climb it in the most efficient and balanced way possible. And that’s a good thing. Not only will I avoid wasting steps along the way, remembering the stepping patterns is a good distraction to avoid the “OMG! What the hell was I thinking signing up for this again!” that I always get around the 45th floor.

So now we’re ready to race.

The stair charts I’ve made are all here:



Filed under: — stan @ 4:55 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip out to the Flyaway bus terminal at Van Nuys Airport to see the giant neon sculpture by Lili Lakich there. She was the founder of the Museum of Neon Art, and she is still involved in the art scene in downtown Los Angeles. Since it’s the last Sunday of the month, it’s time for the ‘longer’ ride, and a trip to Van Nuys fit the bill nicely.

It was a good day for riding. We headed out by the most direct route across Eagle Rock and Glendale, and then took Moorpark across the Valley to Sherman Oaks. Then we turned north and picked up the Metro Orange Line bike path out to Van Nuys. Along the way there, we thought we’d found Waldo. A short ride up Woodley brought us to the airport. And yes, the piece is big. It would have looked more impressive in the dark, but it was still a nice piece.

When we were leaving the airport, I got a message from Carla that she’d gotten a flat when she was leaving home, and she was going to meet up with us along the route back. As it turned out, we found her on the Orange Line bike path on the way back. We stopped at Panera in North Hollywood for snacks.

After that, we headed home by the straightest route possible from Burbank back to Pasadena. It was a pleasant ride.

58 miles.


Hey! Who broke the sun?

Filed under: — stan @ 7:36 pm

Today was a solar eclipse. Here in L.A., we’re too far south to see the full annular eclipse, but we still got something like 85% coverage, which was still fairly dramatic.

I got a little solar filter for my Meade 2045, which is my ’small and portable’ scope. I set it up in front of our neighbor’s house where there was a clear view through the trees. I was even able to get some pictures by just duct-taping my little Canon A560 to the eyepiece. So the first photo shows the sun just a few minutes after first contact. The second is at maximum coverage. And the third photo shows the little crescent suns projected on our neighbor’s house by the sunlight filtering through the trees.

It was good geek fun. All the neighbors came out to look at it. And now that I have the filter, I’m ready for the transit of Venus on June 5th.

The Pasadena Marathon

Filed under: — stan @ 1:20 pm

Today’s bike club ride was one that didn’t really go anywhere in particular, aside from up and down a bunch of hills. But we did have a brief sightseeing stop at the 15-mile mark of the Pasadena Marathon. My stair-climbing friend Veronica was running in it, and based on her previous time of 3:44, I figured she’d be passing the 15-mile mark at about 8:40. Which gave us just enough time to ride up there from our 8:00 start at Victory Park. And she was right on schedule, running by us at 8:40:28 on her way to a new personal best of 3:42:49.

After that, we continued on, riding up through La Crescenta, back down to La Cañada, and then up and over the big hills past Sacred Heart school, and also Patrician Way. It’s all one hill, but we rode up and down it twice by two different routes. Then we rode to South Pasadena for cold drinks at Kaldi’s.

By then, it was pretty hot, and the last part of the ride didn’t include any more big hills. We just rode home at a leisurely pace. It was a pleasant ride.

42 miles.


Derby time

Filed under: — stan @ 11:04 pm

Tonight was time to go back to the Doll Factory in Los Angeles to see another L.A. Derby Dolls match. This was our third time going, and we’ve enjoyed it every time. Like last time, the game was a bit of a blowout. But it was still a fun time.

We got some drinks and then dinner from the Mesohungry truck again. And I got a cookie from Freshly-Baked. It was quite good, and I know my cookies. Lucinda tried it and then she and London went back and they both got the ice cream sandwiches from them. As I said, their cookies are quite good.

The game was entertaining to watch, although next time I’m bringing real earplugs. The wadded-up bar napkins just didn’t quite cut it. Still, it was a very fun night. I recommend it highly.


Stand and Deliver in Turnbull Canyon

Filed under: — stan @ 4:01 pm

I got a robo-call from Lucinda’s school a few days ago that said that they were doing AP testing this week. That got me to thinking about Jaime Escalante and his calculus class. I remember reading about them in the summer of 1982, when ETS was challenging their scores and made them retake the test to prove that they really did know calculus. This story was the basis for the film, “Stand and Deliver“. So I planned out a ride to visit Mr. Escalante’s grave at Rose Hills in Whittier.

It was chilly this morning, and GT was cold when we were starting out. A little while later, we had to stop when Stewart got a flat.

When we got to Rose Hills, we were able to find the space pretty easily from the location given at But sadly, Mr. Escalante’s grave is unmarked. It seems odd for someone who had such an effect on the world.

Continuing on, we rode across Whittier and up Turnbull Canyon. After a brief stop at the top, we headed down the other side and turned for home. Our snack stop was at Merengue in Monrovia. By then, it had cleared up and turned into a very nice day. A good day for riding.

51 miles.


Saturday morning on my bike

Filed under: — stan @ 5:52 pm

I went riding on Saturday morning. Nothing special. Just a loop ride to nowhere in particular. But I did see a couple of funny mailboxes in Arcadia. One was a miniature of the house, and the other was a steam locomotive.

I rode through South Pasadena and saw a Gold Line train passing through. I don’t know what they’re complaining about there. That’s the quietest train I’ve ever not heard. And I’ve got very sensitive hearing.

Going by the Rose Bowl, there were the usual assortment of people running, skating, walking, and so forth. I did see one attractive and pretty heavily-tattooed young woman running there. That always makes my day. And on that note, I took a short side trip on the way home to visit Shannon.

It was a nice little ride.

29 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 10:31 am

I’ve worn earplugs in movies, at concerts, in bars, while mowing the lawn for the last 30 years. And you know what? It worked. I found this site with ultrasonic phone ringtones. You listen to them until you get up to a frequency you can’t hear any more. And then they tell you what that means. And in my case:

Or maybe you are a mosquito, you certainly can’t be human.

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 21.1kHz

Find out which ultrasonic ringtones you can hear!


Bombers in Burbank by Bike

Filed under: — stan @ 6:45 pm

After going to see the restored WWII bombers yesterday, I thought that this might make for an interesting bike ride destination for Sunday’s ride. I plotted a route, and we were on our way.

We rode along the Chandler bikeway in Burbank for a bit. There was a statue and display about the workers who built the railroad that used to run on the right-of-way where the bike path is now. We also took a short side trip to see the big desert tortoises in the front yard of a house there.

The bombers were parked around on the north side of the airport, so we had to ride all the way around to get to them. We stopped by the main entrance for a photo-op with the topiary jetliner there, and we also passed Jet Stream Liquors on Vanowen across from the airport.

When we got to Atlantic Aviation, we got to see the bombers parked there, but they were not open yet for tours. Still, we did get to see them. After that, we headed south to our snack stop at Priscilla’s. While we were sitting there, we heard a distinctive low-pitched propeller airplane noise overhead. We looked up, and the B-17 was flying right over us. I got out the camera, and few minutes later, the B-24 came by overhead. So we finally did get to see them fly after all.

On the way home, we tried a new route across Glendale and Eagle Rock. It was a nice change. When I got home, I realized that the route was a little bit longer than I’d expected, but that’s all right.

45 miles.


Bombers in Burbank 2012

Filed under: — stan @ 6:35 pm

On Saturday afternoon, Kathleen came with me to go see the Collings Foundation’s restored World War II bombers on display at Burbank Airport. This is my third time going to see them, and I still think it’s amazing and terrifying to think of what the guys who flew these planes went through.

This time, they also had a P-51 fighter plane there, and people were taking rides in it. The airplane rides were $425 per person for the bombers, and $2200 for a half-hour in the P-51. A bit beyond our means, but it still meant we got to see the P-51 fly. I had my camera on ‘fast action’ mode, but I had no idea that it would be quick enough to freeze the propeller of the plane when it was under full takeoff power. Wow.

We took the walking tours through the bombers, and I’m still amazed at how tight the space is in there.

The actual veterans who flew these airplanes in combat are getting pretty rare these days. There were only a couple on hand, and only one who was able to talk about his experiences. Soon, all we’ll have left are the books they’ve written and recorded interviews.

It was an interesting adventure.

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