Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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The Crappiest Place on Earth

Filed under: — stan @ 8:22 pm

This morning, Kathleen and I took a tour of the Hyperion sewage treatment plant on the beach just south of LAX. This outing was organized by the Obscura Society. We’d been on their “Field Trip Day” last fall, as well as trips to Pinball Forever and the Bunny Museum. So when we got the notice about a trip to “The Disneyland of Poop“, well, we just had to sign up.

The tour began in their visitor center, where they issued us hairnets and hard hats. Then, we got on a tram, just like at Disneyland, for the ride around the plant. We saw the big settling tanks, and the tall digesters, all of which were mercifully covered. We stopped in to the building where they load the sludge on trucks to be taken to the farm that DWP owns in the Central Valley. They said it’s used to fertilize the crops there, which are then sold for animal feed.

Next, we went to see Headworks. This is the first stage of processing, where the raw sewage is passed through coarse screens to filter out large solid objects. They said they get a lot of candy wrappers, and also a fair amount of money. And indeed, we saw a dollar bill that was raked up by the automated screen-scrapers. They told us the money is sanitized and ends up back in circulation. And here, I always thought “flushing money down the toilet” was just a figure of speech. But it’s a real thing. Mostly, though, the rakes were just continuously pulling up a foul-looking and smelling glop of toilet paper and such. Yick.

The final stage of treatment is the clarifying tanks. By now, the water is clean enough that the tanks can be open, and there were ducks and seagulls in them. At the end of the tour, we came back to the visitor center, and we went upstairs to see their little museum. They had a piece of 12-foot sewer pipe to stand in, just to get an idea of just how much sewage they process every day.

Lastly, we got a tour of one of the labs with a marine biologist who works there. She showed us a fish tank with specimens of the sorts of fish and other creatures that live in Santa Monica Bay. It is the biologist’s job to be sure that the outflow from the plant doesn’t damage the undersea habitat.

So, after all that was done, it was only about noon. Since we had taken the whole day off, we thought that going to the real Disneyland might be a fun way to round out the day. So we went from “The Crappiest Place on Earth” to “The Happiest Place on Earth”. This adventure sort of bookends the whole human experience in a way.


204 Floors

Filed under: — stan @ 9:25 pm

Tonight was yet another stair practice session at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. I still think it’s a bit odd that, even though just walking is still painful for me due to my back going to hell and all, climbing stairs doesn’t hurt. And I’ve noticed that when I’m done, walking is better for about two hours before the pain returns. I can’t explain it, but I’m not complaining. Most people might think that climbing 204 floors of stairs to get two hours of back pain relief was not a good trade-off, but as I always say, “how hard could it be?”

There was a good crowd there tonight. Everyone was back from last weekend’s race at the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I skipped that one this year, since a trip to Las Vegas always involves a good bit of walking, and I thought that would just be too painful. But I got to hear everyone’s stories about the weekend, and Lisa was wearing wings on her shoes.

I paid a little more attention to the signs on the doors in the stairwell tonight. It looks like they let out into the utility hallway on most, but not all floors. Since floor 55 is empty, and it lets out on to that floor, that’s where we climb to.

I went up four times. The first two were at my vertical mile pace from last year. The last two were social climbs. I timed them, but nobody was trying to go fast. Still, it was a fun time.


The Metro Rail Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 3:28 pm

Some years ago, the Sunday bike club ride was rained out. This happens from time to time, but that time, it happened when we were in West Hollywood, which is about 20 miles from home. We managed to make it two miles or so back into Hollywood, and then take Metro Rail home to Pasadena. After that, I made up a route for us to ride on days when the weather is questionable. I called it the “Metro Rail Tour”, and it’s a route from Pasadena and through Los Angeles that manages to never be more than a mile or two from the nearest Metro Rail station. That way, we have an exit strategy in case it starts raining. We’ve done this route a number of times over the last few years, but today was the first time we had to actually use the exit strategy.

It was overcast, and the skies looked like rain. We headed south, down Sierra Madre Blvd to Huntington Drive (Near the Metro South Pasadena station). We took that into downtown Los Angeles (Chinatown Station and Union Station). In downtown, we took a short detour to see the site of the new Wilshire Grand Hotel (Next to the 7th St/Metro Center station). This was in the news last week, when they poured something like 2,000 truckloads of concrete in 20 hours to make the foundation for the new 70+ story building.

When we got down by USC (Expo Line 23rd St Station), we felt a few raindrops, but that stopped after a few minutes. So we continued on. We turned north up Harvard Blvd (and the Metro Wilshire/Normandy Station), and then west to Larchmont Village, which is between the Metro Wilshire/Western and Hollywood/Vine stations. We had some snacks and then headed for home. The route back was along 4th St and 7th St, which parallels Wilshire Blvd and the Purple Line subway. Then we turned north into Echo Park. At that point, we were about as far from a Metro station as we would get on this route. And, of course, that’s when it started to rain. We pulled over for a quick conference under an overhang. I had a look at the map, and I saw that we were only about 1 mile from the Metro Chinatown station. So we worked out how to go, and we rode there through the rain. It was miserable riding in the rain, but knowing it was just a short distance helped a lot. Once we got there, we got on the train and headed for home.

Even though I hate getting rained on when I’m riding, I was glad that my route with the built-in escape worked well. And once the Metro Gold Line Extension is finished, we’ll be able to make a Metro Rail tour heading east for days when it might rain.

32 miles. Would have been 44, but that’s how it goes.

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