Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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This was supposed to be “The Vertical Kilometer”

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

Tonight was the last time at the Bank Formerly Known as Mellon building. So wanted to try something different. I did the math, and it turned out that climbing up to the 20th floor twelve times would total 990 meters of climbing. So if I did that, and then just continued up three more floors on the last time, that would make a vertical kilometer. I haven’t done anything like that since the Towerthon.

I started out doing my regular relaxed pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute. That got me to 20 in about 4:20 – 4:30 each time, and I was able to maintain that pace for the first five climbs. The next two, I slowed down slightly, but then, on the eight time up, I kind of fell apart. Climbs 8-11 were very hard.

They close the door to the stairway at 7:15. I think that’s kind of silly, since they advertise the practice session as lasting until 7:30. So I was racing that deadline when I headed up for the 11th time at 7:08. I made it to the top, took the elevator ride back down, and ran back to the start just in time to hear the click of the latch as they closed the door. So the Vertical Kilometer was not to be tonight.

And that wraps it up for stair practice at the Bank Formerly Known as Mellon building. Next week, we start at Wells Fargo.


Here we go again, again

Filed under: — stan @ 9:08 pm

It’s Monday, and time for another installment of, “who thought this was a good idea?” So I got on the train and headed downtown to join in the fun. As with last week, the plan was to aim for 11 seconds per floor for the first three climbs, and then just keep going, but taking it easy for three or four more times.

I was a little tired from yesterday’s bike ride, so I wasn’t feeling terribly energetic at the start. I managed to come in pretty much on schedule, but just a fraction over 11 seconds each time. But that’s all right. And I ended up doing the staircase seven times total.

On the way home, I had a pleasant surprise. For years now, when we get back to Union Station, we have to walk up out of the subway to get to the Gold Line back to Pasadena. And for years, I’ve said that the monitor at the top of the stairs coming out of the subway doesn’t need to be telling us when the next train to North Hollywood is. If we’re coming out of the subway, that means we’re not going to be taking the subway, and the information about when the next subway train leaves is completely useless. So for years, I’ve said that it would be useful to know when the next Gold Line train is, since it would be good to know if we have to run for it, or if we can take our time, since it’s a bit of a walk to the Gold Line platform. And this evening, I came up the stairs out of the subway, and there it was. The monitor was telling me when the next Gold Line trains left. Finally, Metro did something that makes good sense. Something that’s non-moronic. This almost makes up for them putting Big Belly solar-powered trash compactors underground in a tunnel at Union Station.


The George Harrison Stump

Filed under: — stan @ 1:50 pm

This week, there was an item all over the news about how the George Harrison Memorial Tree in Griffith Park had been killed by an infestation of beetles. So of course we had to go see this.

It was an overcast day, which was nice, since that meant it probably wouldn’t get too hot. We rode out by our standard route to get to Hollywood and Griffith Park. Then we rode up the hill to the observatory. Once we got there, we took a short rest, and then I started looking for the stump of the tree. It was at the far end of the parking lot, right by the start of the short trail up to the top of Mt Hollywood. In all the times we’ve been up there, I’d never noticed it before. But it was in a separate planter, with a plaque on a rock marking it. So it’s kind of sad, but also kind of funny.

Continuing on, we rode up Mt Hollywood Dr. We passed the spot where the sightseeing shuttle bus brings people for a sideways view of the Hollywood sign. Then, we rode down the other side, into Burbank. We stopped for snacks at Priscilla’s, and then we headed home by way of the L.A. River bike path, and then up Figueroa St. In Highland Park, it actually started raining a bit. That was odd, considering the season, but it wasn’t enough to require us implementing our exit strategy. So overall, it was a nice ride.

47 miles.


Turning up the heat slightly

Filed under: — stan @ 9:24 pm

Time for another stair practice on the 20-story building downtown. Tonight’s plan was to turn up the pace slightly, and aim for 11 seconds per floor for the first three times up the building. That pace is about equal to my best climb at the U.S. Bank event. I just wanted to see how that pace felt, and see if I could maintain it three times up the short building.

My times for the first three climbs were right on target, so I can’t complain. And then I did it three more times, just because it was there. Good fun.


Time to get moving

Filed under: — stan @ 9:17 pm

Now that our wedding is done, and we’re back from our trip, it’s time to get moving again. So tonight was yet another practice on the stairs at the Bank Formerly Known as Mellon, in downtown L.A. Tonight, my plan was to do it three times up to 20, aiming for five floors per minute. And then after that, I did it three more times, just taking it easy.


The Golden Fire Hydrant

Filed under: — stan @ 11:47 am

Being in the earthquake business, I wanted to do a little bit of sightseeing on Saturday morning before we had to head for home. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was the one that started everything in motion that led to the modern-day US Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program, so it was an event of great significance to all of us.

There are a lot of stories from that earthquake, but the story of the Golden Fire Hydrant was one I always liked. The city was in flames, the water mains were all broken, but somehow one hydrant had water and saved part of the city. And every April 18th, they have a little street party and give it a fresh coat of gold paint. So I had to go see it.

It was easy to get to. I just got on the outbound J-Church light rail line and got off at the 20th Street stop. The fire hydrant was right across the street.

I took a few pictures, and I also looked around the park a little bit. While I was waiting for the train back, another guy at the station told me the story of the park. Apparently, it had been a Jewish cemetery originally, but when San Francisco decided to move all its cemeteries to Colma, the community there agreed to the move on the condition that nothing be built on the site of their former cemetery. So the neighborhood got a nice little park out of the deal.

And that was the last real bit of sightseeing for our trip. It was a fun week.


Marine Mammals and more

Filed under: — stan @ 5:17 pm

After leaving the Nike Missile Museum, we went just a short distance away to visit the Marine Mammal Center. This used to be another Nike Missile site, but it has been turned into a hospital and care center for sick and injured marine mammals. We saw seals and sea lions there. They sometimes have sea otters there, but there weren’t any today.

Leaving there, we headed back across the Golden Gate Bridge. And when we were about halfway across, traffic suddenly came to a dead stop for no apparent reason. We sat there for a few minutes, and when it became clear we weren’t going anywhere soon, everyone got out of their cars to look around. After a few minutes more, we noticed that there was no traffic coming the other way, so the northbound side of the bridge was completely empty. That’s got to be fairly rare, so we all started walking over there to take pictures of the nearly-empty bridge. And after a few more minutes, we saw some flashing lights, and a tow truck came across on the empty side of the bridge. They told us that we would be moving again in just a minute, so we all packed up and got back in our cars. We never did find out what had happened, but all the way back to our hotel, we could see the traffic headed for the bridge backed up all across the city.

For dinner, we’d planned to take the cable car over the hill to the wharf to go see the sea lions at Pier 39. But when we got down to Powell St, the cable cars were not running. They said that there was a problem with the cable, and it was going to take some time to fix. So instead, we took the F-line streetcar up Market Street and over to the wharf. We looked a the sea lions, and then had dinner there. It was a pretty entertaining day.

Cold-war nostalgia – The Nike missile site

Filed under: — stan @ 2:55 pm

One of my hobbies is collecting memorabilia from the Cold War, and visiting sites related to it. I’ve been to see the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona, and took a bike ride up in the San Gabriel Mountains to visit the remains of a Nike missile site there. Since we were in San Francisco, I wanted to visit Golden Gate National Recreation Area, since I’d read that an old Nike missile site there had been restored and turned into a museum.

The Nike missiles were intended to shoot down Russian bombers. The first iteration was the Nike Ajax, which was a slim missile with a conventional warhead. It was intended to shoot down bombers that flew higher and faster than regular anti-aircraft guns could hit. Later, as bombers got faster in the late 1950s, these were replaced with the Nike Hercules, which could fly higher and faster, and could carry a nuclear warhead.

The tour started in the little building where they had a disassembled missile for us to look at. We got to see where the solid-fuel rocket motor was installed, and where the nuclear warhead was mounted. Then we went outside to see the radars and the little building where the controlled the missile. In the days when the site was operational, those were located a couple miles away from the launch pads. Something to do with how the radars tracked the missile for guidance meant that they couldn’t do it well if the radar was right next to the launcher. Of course, when we were in the control trailer, everyone wanted to get a picture with the big red button marked “FIRE”.

The next stop was the building where they assembled the missiles. They had both an Ajax and a Hercules missile on display in there. And then we headed underground to the actual missile magazine. Each site had two magazines, each with six missiles in it. The showed us how the missiles were mounted on rails, and they were really pretty easy to move. In the center, there was a big elevator that could lift one missile up to the launcher above, which they demonstrated for us:

After they raised the missile up, we all came back outside, and they showed us how the launcher would raise the missile up to its launch angle, which was something like 85 degrees. Not quite vertical, since they didn’t want the first-stage booster rocket to fall back down on the launch site.

This was a fun and interesting little bit of Cold War history.

A stairway interlude

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 am

The Grand Hyatt is probably the swankiest hotel we’ve stayed at. When we were checking in, they were telling us about the amenities, including that there was a gym on the 35th floor. So on Friday morning, I went to the gym. Three times. I didn’t use any of the equipment. I just climbed the stairs to get there. The hotel stairs were just regular steel stairs, 17 steps per floor in a 9/8 configuration. Hotels have shorter floors than office buildings, so my times were pretty fast, even though I wasn’t really trying to go especially fast. But I was still pretty sweaty, and it was nice that they had towels at the gym.

For future reference, stairway 2B was the best one to take to the gym. I had to enter the stairs on 3, and they skipped 13. Stay fit at Hyatt!


Heading to San Francisco

Filed under: — stan @ 10:29 pm

On Thursday, it was time to leave Monterey and head to San Francisco. But before we left, I did a little sightseeing while Kathleen got ready to go.

I took a walk to the ATM to get some cash, and on the way back, I stopped in at the Cooper-Molera Adobe. We’d walked by it last night on the way back from dinner, so I wanted to see inside. There is a little museum attached to it, and a volunteer who told me the story of the house and how the family fit into the early history of Monterey. She also told me about how the remains of Hartnell Creek were visible behind the parking lot at Trader Joe’s, next to the adobe. That creek was the original reason the adobe was built where it was.

Leaving Monterey, we headed up the 101 toward San Francisco. We stopped for lunch in Gilroy. The idea of an entirely garlic-themed town was just too entertaining to pass up. And yes, they get into it. I had the garlic soup, we saw the garlic murals and banners, and we stopped in at Garlic World.

Continuing north, we took the 280 into San Francisco, passing the two big reservoirs there that began life as sag ponds on the San Andreas Fault. Then we found our way into the city and our hotel. When we got there, they told us that they were overbooked, so they asked if it was all right to move us to a higher floor, which was all right with us. We ended up on the 31st floor. So I asked them if I could take the stairs to get there. They said that that was all right, as long as I entered the stairwell at the third floor, since the doors on 1 are in the alley behind the building and are generally locked, and the second floor was mostly offices and meeting rooms.

We got checked in to our room and spent a little time looking at the views from our window before we headed out for dinner. Our plan was to ride BART across the bay to Berkeley to have dinner with my old friend Jim Ward. Jim is retired now, but back in 1979, he was the owner of Gauntlet, the first body-piercing shop in the world, in West Hollywood. Not many people have had a hand in creating an entirely new industry in our culture. We met up at his favorite Thai place and we had a nice dinner. He has a lot of interesting stories to tell.

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