Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

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9/29/2014

Three seconds

Filed under: — stan @ 9:50 pm

Tonight, I was once again going for two times up the PwC building, and aiming for two climbs at as steady a pace as I could manage, and tonight, the magic worked. My second time up was only three seconds slower than the first, and both were right on the target pace of five floors per minute. So that worked out well. And after that, I climbed it once more, but I didn’t bother to time it, since it was just recreation.

9/24/2014

A nice, steady pace

Filed under: — stan @ 9:42 pm

Tonight was the second evening of practice at the PwC building in downtown Los Angeles. Once again, my goal was to do two climbs at a steady pace, aiming to be at the top in 10 to 10 1/2 minutes. And this time, I did better at pacing. I slowed down a bit the first time up, and so I had more in the tank for the second climb, and I was able to do the second climb only 14 seconds slower than the first. I was pretty happy about that. And then the obligatory third time up the building, just because there was time.

9/22/2014

Back to the PWC

Filed under: — stan @ 10:24 pm

No rest for the weary. Even though last Friday was the U.S. Bank stair climb, today was the first evening practice for the CFF stair climb in November. And what’s more, this is also a good opportunity to get ready for the Sears Willis Tower stair climb in Chicago.

The climb is 51 stories, 1,181 steps from the sidewalk to the 51st floor of the Wilshire-Figueroa building, aka ‘PwC’, for their new anchor tenant, PricewaterhouseCoopers. And yes, I know that means it’s only 50 stories by the numbers, but the 49th floor is a double, so it works out to be the equivalent of 51.3 time the typical floor in the building. My plan is to try for two times up, aiming for about 10 to 10 1/2 minutes each time. Each time up is almost exactly half the height of the Sears Willis Tower.

I went a little too fast the first time, and I wasn’t able to go quite fast enough the second, although the two times average out to my target pace. And after that, I went up one more time at a leisurely pace, just because it was there.

That’s a big telescope

Filed under: — stan @ 5:50 pm

Tonight’s adventure was a trip up Mt. Wilson with the Obscura Society for an evening of looking at the stars with the 60-inch telescope. We headed up to the top of the mountain, where we were met by our guide, Shelley Bonus. She led us in to the telescope and told us the history of it while we were waiting for nightfall. And once it was fully dark, we were able to get started. And since Matt from the Obscura Society had suggested bringing baked goods along for the evening, I brought a batch of my blue-ribbon-winning chocolate cookies. They disappeared fast, so I guess that’s a good sign.

Shelley explained that the telescope has its strong and weak points. It’s great for observing stars and small star clusters. Because it has such a long focal length, it is best run at what would be considered impossible magnifications for a small amateur telescope. There was one night back in 1997 when the air was very still and I was able to run my 8-inch Celestron up to 300X. But normally, about 100X is as far as I can go. But with the 60-inch, we were routinely running close to 400X, and the image in the eyepiece was rock-solid and clear.

We started out with Epsilon Lyrae. Splitting the two double stars is a test of the resolving power of any telescope, and the big telescope did it easily. And while we were in the neighborhood, we had a look at M57, The Ring Nebula. This is another thing I’ve looked at with my telescope, but it was much bigger and more detailed here. We also had a look at the Dumbbell Nebula, but it wasn’t such a great sight. It’s a relatively large object, so it didn’t fit well into the field of view a high magnification.

We looked at a couple of globular clusters, which were very nice. They actually looked like balls of stars, rather than the round patches of fuzz they look like in smaller telescopes. And we ended the evening with a look at Neptune. It was nice and big and blue, and its moon Triton was clearly visible. Triton has a visual magnitude of about 13, which is beyond the reach of my little 8-inch telescope, but it was obvious here.

All in all, it was a good evening of nerdy fun.

Addendum: I didn’t make the connection until the next day, but I knew Shelley before. Back in 1990, I took a class at UCLA Extension called “How to Perform Stand-Up Comedy”, and she was the instructor. But because it had been so long, and being in a completely different context, I didn’t put it all together at the time. But in any event, it was a very weird coincidence.

9/21/2014

Big and small and smaller houses

Filed under: — stan @ 2:17 pm

Today’s bike ride was another architecture tour. This week, I’d seen an item on Curbed L.A. about “big and small house”, which was a 900-square-foot house designed by Anonymous Architects. It’s on top of a hill in Glassell Park in northeast Los Angeles. In making up a route to go there, I saw that we could then continue on and go see what used to be the smallest house in Los Angeles. It was sold, torn down, and rebuilt since we last saw it, and so it’s a wee bit larger than it used to be, but it’s still pretty seriously tiny.

We started out riding out through Eagle Rock and Glendale, and then down into Glassell Park. Then we turned and headed up a fairly steep hill to go see the big and small house. It was a hard climb, but the house is in a very nice setting, perched on the edge of the hill.

From there, we rode down the other side of the hill to Figueroa St, and then turned south, crossing the L.A. River to get to Riverside Dr. Then we stopped in at the former smallest-house-in-L.A. The house that used to be on that lot was about 300 square feet. The new house doesn’t look much larger, but it’s two stories, so it’s got to be a bit more.

Continuing up the L.A. River bike path, John got a flat, so we stopped at the Frog Spot to fix it. Then we continued on up the river to the end of the path, where we turned off into Glendale and went to Paradise Bakery. They still have the best chocolate eclairs anywhere.

Coming home, we went back across Glendale, traveling up and over the hill on Chevy Chase and Linda Vista to come out by the Rose Bowl. It was a nice ride.

42 miles.

9/20/2014

Mt Lukens

Filed under: — stan @ 3:20 pm

Mt Lukens is the highest point within the city limits of Los Angeles, and as such, it’s home to a lot of communications equipment for the Department of Water and Power, and other things like that. Since the seismic network uses some of the DWP network, we have a microwave link up there from the Seismo Lab. So I was curious to see it. I read a post on a hiking blog about climbing this mountain, and it sounded like a fun hike.

Karina is training for the New York Marathon, so she was busy going running, so Kathy and I did the hike. We started out from Deukmejian Wilderness Park in Glendale. The trail started out up the wash in the park, but quickly turned right and went up a steep ridge. The first couple miles were very steep, and pretty soon we were above the clouds. It was kind of gray and overcast down below, but it was a perfect day up on the mountain.

At the top of the ridge, the trail turned into a fire road for a bit along the top of the ridge before we met up with the Mt Lukens road. From there, it was an easy mile or so up the road to the top. At the top, we spent a few minutes looking at the view. To the south, it was just clouds, with some other mountains poking up through them, and to the north it was clear.

Going down, we took the Rim of the Valley trail, which came down a different ridge a bit west of the ridge we’d hiked up. The only really tricky part of the trip down was finding the turnoff, since the main trail goes down to Haines Canyon, and we needed to take the cutoff trail to get back to Deukmejian Park. The saving grace of the southern California mountains is that there are basically no trees, so it’s easy to see the different trails and where they go. So we turned off and headed down toward the park.

At one point, the trail went down into a canyon where there was actually a small stream. It was just a trickle, but it was actual running water. And there were big trees growing at the bottom of the canyon. From there, we had to climb up and out to get over the next ridge, and then we could see where we’d started. The last part of the route was an easy walk back down Dunsmore Canyon to where we started. In the end, it was nearly 10 miles in all, but it was a nice day, so it was a good time.

Here’s the route map: http://www.1134.org/routemap.php?xmlfile=mtlukenshike

9/19/2014

Tower running

Filed under: — stan @ 9:47 pm

Friday evening was time for the stair climb up the U.S. Bank building in downtown Los Angeles. 75 floors, and 1,664 steps to the top. I know. I counted them.

In contrast to past years, I wasn’t thinking about trying to prove anything this time. I just wanted to go up in a non-embarrassing time, and to enjoy seeing all my stair-climbing friends in the process. So my goal was to do about 15 minutes or so, since that’s a reasonably relaxed pace in my book.

I had to leave work a little early to get downtown for my schedules 4:00PM start time. When I was getting signed in, I got a message from Kathleen that she was starting up the stairs. Her start time was 3:30, so I thought that we might come out at the top at close to the same time. So I got changed and headed down to the starting line. When I got there, I was the only one there. That was decidedly weird. Usually, there’s a long line to wait in, but I just walked up to the start and went in.

I was aiming for five floors per minute, and I was able to maintain that pace pretty easily. Unlike other years doing this, there was very little traffic in the stairwell. One guy passed me soon after the start. I caught and passed him again about 30 floors later. And along the way, I passed a handful of people. I passed Kathleen somewhere in the high 50s. At that point, I was still on my pace, but my shoe had come untied at about 35, and by 58, I had to stop and retie it before it fell off. So I lost about 30 seconds doing that. But then I just continued on, and I came out on top with a time of something like 15:34. A little slower than I’d wanted, but, as I said, I’m not trying to prove anything.

After just a few minutes, Kathleen came out on the roof. We looked at the view and took a few pictures, and then headed down the other stairway to the big open space on 71. We had some water, took some more pictures. And then we took the elevator back down to the ground.

At the bottom, I saw some friends who had come up from Orange County to do the climb. So I joined them to go up again. By now, there was a line at the start, so we got to talk for a while while waiting to go. And then I went up for the second time. Part-way up, I got a message from Morgan that she, Jason, and Irving were all there. They had finished their first climb, and they were thinking of going again. So I said I’d go again with them as soon as I got back down. And when I got back down, the four of us got back in the line, and we headed up again. It’s kind of nice to take a leisurely-paced climb up the building. Not that there’s much scenery or anything, but it’s sort of like hiking up an industrial-looking mountain.

After three climbs up the building, I was done, so we got changed and headed home. It was a fun evening.

9/15/2014

Even though stair-climbing is an indoor sport…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:32 pm

Today was the next-to-last practice session at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. It was also yet another day in our latest heat wave. But I wasn’t too worried, since the staircase in that building is next to the elevator shafts, and it runs up the inside of the building. And it’s generally about the same temperature in there as it is in the rest of the inside of the building. And as it turned out, that was not the case today.

It was hot and stuff in the stairwell. They had the ventilation system running, but it was blowing warm air. And beyond that, the 55th floor where we get out was hot. Which seemed odd, since it’s a mechanical floor. It has no windows and no doors to the outside. But it was stiflingly hot anyway. So in the end, I only did two climbs up the building. It just didn’t seem worth the misery.

9/14/2014

what if?

Filed under: — stan @ 5:52 pm

On Sunday afternoon, we took a trip to Santa Monica to go to a talk and book-signing with Randall Munroe of XKCD. He has a new book out: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. It’s a collection of his what if? columns, and it’s all very entertaining.

The basic format was a conversation between Randall and Wil Wheaton. They talked about the book, about science in general, told stories, and took questions from the audience. It was a fun time, and at the end, we all lined up to get our books signed by Randall. And I got to thank him for the little bit of geek fame I got from when he mentioned my Pet Project in the mouseover text for this cartoon: http://xkcd.com/723/

A ride to Hollywood

Filed under: — stan @ 1:12 pm

This past week, I’d read about Mel Brooks getting his hand prints in concrete in front of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The article said he’d worn a prosthetic finger, just so his hand prints would have eleven fingers. I thought this would be worth a bike ride to go see, so off we went.

It was a nice day, but promising to get very hot later on. We rode over to Hollywood and joined the throngs of tourists in front of the Chinese Theater. But the guard there told us that the actual piece of concrete that Mel Brooks was on was tucked away in a back room to cure for about eight weeks before it would be hard enough to be put out on the walkway in front of the theater. So I guess we have to come back later.

Leaving Hollywood, we rode up Outpost Dr, which is a very steep hill that goes up to Mulholland Dr. From there, we rode down Mulholland, stopping at the overlook above the Hollywood Bowl. There is a drinking fountain there, so we were able to refill our bottles. We also stopped for a look at the vineyard planted on Mt Lee, just to the left of the Hollywood sign. It’s pretty obvious, so I still can’t quite understand why we never noticed it before. Then we continued down into Cahuenga Pass and over the hill into Burbank.

We stopped for snacks in the shade at Priscilla’s, and then we headed for home. It was getting very hot by then, so we decided to alter the route and not go home by way of the big hill in Glendale. Instead, we headed down the L.A. River bike path, and home by way of York Blvd into South Pasadena. By the time we got there, we were all kind of suffering in the heat, so we stopped off at my office at Caltech for a few minutes to cool off and get some ice water. That perked us up enough to make it the last few miles home.

43 miles.

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