Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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3/30/2014

Weekend in San Diego, and a few stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 8:38 pm

This weekend, we took an overnight trip to San Diego to visit my father, and along the way we did a bunch of other stuff.

The trip started off Saturday afternoon, when we headed down to San Diego. We visited with my father for a bit before we all went to dinner at The Prado in Balboa Park. We had a nice, fancy dinner out, and Trinh got an extra dessert, since Sunday was her birthday.

On Sunday morning, we managed to convince Lucinda, Trinh, and Melissa all to do the Lung Association stair climb with us, so we had five of us signed up to do it. It was a short one, only about 30 stories. The climb was from the lobby to 32, but the building skipped 13. I wanted to go back in and do a proper survey, but the organizers were kind of being redacted about it, and they wouldn’t let me go back in. But we did make the Channel 10 news that night:

www.10news.com/news/fight-for-air-climb-was-an-extreme-sport-for-some-an-emotional-day-for-others-03302014

After the stair climb, we headed back to our room to get cleaned up. We didn’t stay for the awards, but I found out later that I managed to place 3rd in the 50-59 age group. Not bad for coming back from not being able to walk a couple months ago.

Finally, we all went to La Jolla Cove to see the baby seals. The pups are generally born in February, so they were still pretty small, and really, there’s nothing cuter than baby seals.

3/23/2014

Visiting Seattle for the Big Climb

Filed under: — stan @ 9:00 pm

Back in November, when we were on our way to Chicago to climb the Sears Willis Tower, we got word that registration was opening for the Big Climb in Seattle. Everyone said it’s a good event and a fun time, so we signed up for it. Months came and went, and in the meantime, my back when to hell. But the trip is all arranged and paid for, so we decided to go on it anyway. I’d never been to Seattle before, and I’ve got both friends and family there, plus it’s a chance to play tourist.

On the way there, when we were flying over (I think) about Reno, I saw a little black wisp rising out of the clouds. It looked like a Dementor from Harry Potter. I got out the big lens for my camera, and close up, it looks like it was probably a military jet. It just looked strange, since it was going almost straight up out of the clouds.

A bit farther, I started to see the stratovolcanoes of the Cascades. I was trying to spot Mt Lassen, since that’s the one Cascades volcano I’ve climbed and seen up close, but I couldn’t locate it. I did see Mt Hood, with Portland right next to it. And that told me that we were near Mt St. Helens. And within a minute or two, we were flying right over it. I managed to get a pretty good picture of the crater.

When we got to Seattle, we made our way to our hotel, which turned out to be right downtown, and only two blocks from the Columbia Center tower, which we could see out the window. That night, we met up with my cousin Irene for dinner.

Saturday was our day to play tourist. In the morning, I took a little walk while Kathleen was getting ready. The “Field Trip” app on my iPhone told me about the Arctic Building, which was around the corner from our hotel. It said that the tusks on the walrus heads were originally made with real ivory. Yikes. I also poked my head into the downtown Transit Tunnel. It was odd seeing buses and trains sharing the same tunnel, but it seems to work, and we had occasion to ride the train later that day.

Our one real outing of the day was to Lake View Cemetery to visit the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee. No trip is complete without a celebrity grave tour. We also played tourist a bit, going on an underground tour that’s not the original one, but a spinoff located nearby. It was pretty entertaining. (I’d link to them here, but their web site crashes my browser. Hey, guys! Getter a better web developer!) We also visited the Gum Wall and rode the Seattle Monorail, both of which we found through Field Trip.

Finally, we met up with my old friend K.D. for dinner. She and her partner Amy were among the first to get married after Referendum 74 passed in 2012.

On Sunday morning, it was time to climb. We walked up to the building and found our group. I took it easy going up. My plan was to do my regular easy pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute, which would get me to the 73rd floor in about 15 minutes. But it ended up taking only about 13:45. I was a little surprised by that, but when I went up a second time with PJ to do a survey of the staircase, the reason became clear quickly. The floors in Columbia Center are only about 11.4 feet each, where most office buildings are 13 – 13.5 feet. So I was doing my regular easy pace of 1 vertical foot per second, and that translated into more floors per minute than it would have in another building. And of course, I made a chart for future reference. We also found that once again, the published step count and climb height for the event were incorrect, and it was actually higher and more steps than the event had claimed.

After doing the stairs, we got cleaned up and met up with Irene for lunch before heading back to the airport. All told, it was a fun trip.

3/15/2014

Helter Skelter

Filed under: — stan @ 5:46 pm

Since I took Lucinda to the Museum of Death last year, I got us tickets to go on the Dearly Departed Helter Skelter tour. I’ve gone on their regular Tragical History Tour many times, as far back as 1990, when it was still called the Grave Line Tour.

We rode around in the van for the whole morning, and we got to see most of the locations associated with the Manson Family murders in 1969. It’s a multimedia tour, too, featuring movie and TV clips from the time with people involved in the case, as well as songs written by Charles Manson. There was even a song he wrote that was recorded by The Beach Boys. It was all very interesting, at times horrifying, and very entertaining tour. A very good father-daughter bonding activity.

3/10/2014

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.

1/21/2014

Back to the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

I had to go downtown today to visit the Federal Building and pick up my new government ID card. I brought along my stair-climbing clothes in case I felt up for some stairs afterward. I’ve been going to physical therapy for a week, and I’m able to walk a bit now, so I thought it might be a good experiment to try if I felt up to it.

After I finished at the Federal Building, it was still too early to go to the Aon building for stair practice. So I walked down the block to L.A. City Hall. I’d heard that they have an observation deck on the top floor there, and I was curious to see it. I went and checked in at the front desk, and they told me how to get up there. I asked them if I could take the stairs. They just looked at me, even though I was standing in front of them with my “Elevators are for Wimps” shirt on and everything. But I managed to convince them that I was serious, and they showed me the way to the staircase.

The climb up wasn’t bad. I figured that if I could climb to the 27th floor at City Hall without any sciatica pain, then I was up for trying the 51 floors at the Aon building. When I got to the top, I took a walk around all four sides of the observation deck. It was kind of the Land that Time Forgot. They had signs on each side showing the major buildings and other landmarks. And it was pretty obvious that the signs date back to the late 1970s. The view of Bunker Hill had the current Aon building, completed in 1973 and the Bonaventure hotel, built in 1976, but was missing the Wells Fargo building, which was finished in 1983.

After that little sightseeing trip, I headed over to the Aon building and got changed for stair climbing. Right now, I’m just trying to practice walking upright so I can learn to do it reliably without pain. So I didn’t plan on using the railing while climbing. I walked up at an easy pace of about four floors per minute, just holding the railing for balance. And I was able to make it all the way to the 55th floor without any back or leg pain. So that was pretty good.

I rode the elevator back down, and I did it again. I went a little slower the second time up, but I was still able to stay upright. So it was a Good Thing. Still, I was kind of tired after the second time up, since I’m a bit out of practice now. So I thought I’d better stop at two. I’m going back to the doctor on Thursday, so I’ll wait for that before deciding if I’m going to go downtown for practice again that night.

12/31/2013

2013 Year-end Wrap-up

Filed under: — stan @ 6:47 pm

It’s the end of the year, and time for my annual wrap-up of the year’s adventures. And yes, being old-fashioned, I still print copies of this and mail them tucked inside physical cards. My personal rule is that the letter must fit on one side of one sheet of paper. So here it is, complete with links:

www.1134.org/xmas/xmas2013.html

11/16/2013

Code Name: Dalmatian

Filed under: — stan @ 4:27 pm

Today was the last race of the year here in Los Angeles. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s climb up the Wilshire-Figueroa building in downtown L.A. This year was the first time that we were going to race all the way to the roof, making the total climb 1,245 steps, or the equivalent of 54.1 ‘regular’ floors in this building.

We’ve been climbing this building since July, since it was the site for our practice climbs before the YMCA’s climb up the U.S. Bank Tower. And just last Monday, I reached my 100th climb up the staircase. In honor of this occasion, I emailed Rebecca, the event organizer, and I asked if I could get bib number 101 for today, since the race would be my 101st climb up the building for the year. She wrote back that she had planned on assigning the first 20 numbers in the order we’d finished last year, and I’d been 7th overall last year, so I was slated to be ‘007′. Hmmm. That was a tough one. But in the end, I told her that I thought ‘101′ was still funnier and more appropriate for the day, so she agreed to give it to me.

In the morning, we headed downtown to the building. Kathleen was going to do the climb, too, so we got checked in and ready to go. Being in the ‘fast’ group, I went up near the front of the line. We all know each other up there, and we sorted ourselves out by how fast we expected to be. Besides my 101st climb, my only other goal for the day was to beat George. So I started a few places ahead of him. I was maybe the 8th or so person off the line, and that worked out well. I didn’t pass anyone, and nobody passed me. I was even able to maintain focus the whole way up. I did have one small wave of ‘what-the-HELL-are-you-trying-to-prove-here’ at about the 35th floor, but I was able to press on through it by just concentrating on my goal of beating George. I knew that he was coming up the staircase behind me, so I knew that I had to stay ahead of him.

I was aiming for a pace of 6 floors per minute, and I was able to keep to that up to about 30. After that, I came up about 3 steps short on each 1-minute block. Still, I went faster than I’d gone all year in practice, so that was a good thing. I tried to sprint up the last two floors, and when I saw the light from the roof door, I was able to sort of run up the last bit to the roof. I don’t think I need to describe just how painful that was. But I made it to the roof, and my reward: collapsing on the concrete helipad there. I spent a minute or so lying down, and when I looked up, I saw George lying on the concrete a few feet away. After we’d both caught our breath, we took a picture together on the roof before heading back down.

When they posted the results, I saw that I’d done 9:29. This was reasonably good. I could have possibly gone faster, but it was still faster than I’d gone in any of the practices or other races this year. And more importantly, I beat George by 4 seconds. Not much, but enough. I ended up being 12th overall, which I can’t complain about, since there were something like 200+ people doing the climb. So overall, I was satisfied, even if I didn’t make the top three in my age group this time.

Now I get about six weeks off from stair climbing before practice starts up again in January for the Lung Association’s climb up the Aon building. Fun times.

Full results are here: raceresults.eternaltiming.com/index.cfm/20131116_CF_Stair_Climb_Los_Angeles.htm

11/4/2013

Time to play tourist, finally

Filed under: — stan @ 10:25 pm

Since we missed playing tourist in Chicago on Saturday, Monday was the day. We went to the Field Museum to see the exhibit about the 1893 World’s Fair. Since I’d been reading about that last year when we were here, it all fit together nicely.

We saw Sue the T-Rex in the main hall of the museum. Then we went to see the World’s Fair exhibit. It was interesting to see how the attitude of the fair seemed quite foreign to us. It seems that back then, nature, animals, and the world itself were all regarded as things to be used, rather than things to be studied or understood just for themselves. After that, Kathleen wanted to go see the Hall of Gems. And along the way there, we stopped in to see an exhibit about fracking for oil in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, followed by an exhibit of Nazi Propaganda. It was interesting, although it was a bit far afield from ‘Natural History’. But it did make a nice companion piece to the exhibit we went to see a few years ago about Nazi medicine. And parts of it were uncomfortably close to things we’re hearing and reading about today.

After all that, we went to the airport for the trip home. Despite the unpleasant beginning, this turned out to be a pretty good, if short, trip.

11/3/2013

Time to climb

Filed under: — stan @ 12:08 pm

Sunday morning came much too early. I was supposed to be downtown for a 7:30AM start up the building. We got up and headed over to the train station. There were puffed-up pigeons roosting in there, just trying to stay out of the cold wind. And on the train downtown, I noticed that there were many, many people on there way there for the Hot Chocolate 5k run. I couldn’t help but notice that they were all smiling and laughing like they were going to have a grand time, while I felt a bit like a lamb being led to slaughter.

Once we got downtown, we walked over to the building. Because we’d gotten in late, I had not been able to get my packet yesterday, so I found out I had to go talk to the people and get a new number assigned so I could run. By the time all that was done, it was almost 8:30 when I got in line. I started out at the same time as Michael from the WCL team, so we stood for a green-screen picture at the bottom. Then it was time to go. As has been the case all year, I just couldn’t face trying to go fast, so I just went up at a modest pace. 4 1/2 floors per minute. It’s fast enough that I pass about 90% or the people there, but not so fast that it’s seriously painful. Still, I got stuck in traffic in the stairwell. There were people with prosthetic legs and crutches climbing the building. While I admire their courage, do they really need an entire entourage around them, blocking the whole stairway for everyone else?

Anyway, I made it up in reasonable style. Felt pretty good at the top. No collapsing like a sack of potatoes this time. I spent a little time looking at the view and socializing, and then I headed back down. At the bottom, I rounded up some paper, a pen, a piece of cardboard and Jane and Steve to climb with me. The three of us got back in line and went up a second time. I took notes along the way so that I can fix up the chart that I made last year from PJ’s GoPro video.

After the second climb, I headed back down and we went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and ready to go to Kathleen’s aunt and uncle’s house.

11/2/2013

Off we go

Filed under: — stan @ 10:10 pm

On Saturday morning, we headed down to LAX again in hopes of actually getting to Chicago today. And despite the chaos yesterday, it seemed normal today, aside from the fact that Terminal 3 was still closed, and there was a solid like of police cars parked in front of it. Everything else was normal, and we got out on time.

Arriving in Chicago, we got our bags and took the train to our hotel. Then we rode the train into the city to have dinner at the Blue Line Lounge. That was supposed to be our activity for Friday night, but that didn’t work out. Still, I got to have the tarragon chicken pot pie. And after that, we headed back to go to bed, although I did take a minute to look at the Sears Willis Tower from the train platform.

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