Stan’s Obligatory Blog



Filed under: — stan @ 11:09 pm

It’s New Year’s Eve, and time for a nice dinner out at Takami in downtown Los Angeles. This is the Japanese sushi and robata restaurant on the 21st floor of a building in the middle of downtown. So there’s good food and a nice view, including my two favorite buildings, Aon Center and the U.S. Bank Tower.

We rode the train there this time, since it’s easy, fast, and avoids driving on New Year’s Eve, which I think is a worthy goal. And the restaurant is right around the corner from the Metro station, so it’s convenient, too.

We had some orange-ginger martinis to start. They were quite good. And the Takami Edamame. It’s just like regular edamame, but sauteed with butter and soy sauce. Then we ordered a selection of different things and had a little bit of everything.

Since part of the dining room is out on the terrace, I got a few pictures of downtown from up there. I also made a point of taking a picture from Union Station on the way home. We could see the U.S. Bank Tower with the crown lit up red and green for Christmas, and also the Lindbergh Beacon on the top of Los Angeles City Hall.

It was a fun evening out, and we were home by 10:00, so that makes for a perfect New Year’s Eve.


A piece of history

Filed under: — stan @ 8:49 pm

This weekend, we were in San Diego to visit my father, and on the way home, we stopped in at the Marine Corps air museum at the Miramar Air Station. We go by this every time we go visit, and I’ve been wanting to see it for a long time.

They had a full range of airplanes on display there, ranging from WW II, through Korea and Vietnam, and right up to the present. The even had a captured Huey helicopter from Iraq. One of the helicopters on display was used in the evacuation of Saigon in 1975.

They have a small building there with some more exhibits in it. It was a real grab bag, from medals and space mission patches to POW uniforms to strange things that soldiers make out of spent shell casings. It was an interesting collection of items.

Even though I’m not really big on military things, I really enjoyed seeing this museum. It’s a great collection, and I think they have plans to expand it in the future. They also have an air show in the fall, which I think would be interesting to see.


This was a nice treat

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

A few weeks ago, I got some email from Trepany House about upcoming shows at the Steve Allen Theater. We’ve been there before to see talks on science and skepticism, and they also have some small theater productions there. So I was kind of surprised to see that Eddie Izzard was going to be performing there for two weeks in December. Kathleen is a big fan of his, and she’s seen him here in L.A., as well as in Las Vegas. He’s a pretty big name, and those shows were all in big theaters. So it sounded like fun to see him in a theater that’s only a little bit bigger than my living room.

The mailer said he was in the process of developing a new show, so we were one of many test audiences. But the show didn’t sound like a rough draft. He did about an hour and a half, which is a long time by stand-up comedy standards. He was very funny, and hugely entertaining from start to finish.

This show was a winner.


A John Waters Christmas

Filed under: — stan @ 11:04 pm

Back in October, we went to see Aimee Mann at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. And when we were there, we saw a poster for “A John Waters Christmas” coming in December. I pulled out my phone and bought us tickets on the spot. And tonight was the night.

The Wilshire Ebell is a small theater a bit west of downtown, and it’s pretty nice. The seats a perhaps a bit cramped, but it’s small, so that’s a plus. This is our third time going to see John Waters in the last couple years, and it’s our first time for his Christmas show.

In his 1987 book, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, he has a chapter titled “Why I Love Christmas”, and it was hilarious. His show tonight covered most of what was in the book. as well as a not of newer aspects of Christmas that he’s grown to love. He also played music from his Christmas record. As always, the show was great. He’s hugely entertaining to listen to, and we had a great time.


Last race of the year

Filed under: — stan @ 5:35 pm

Today was the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation stair climb in the Figueroa at Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles. This is their third time doing this event, and it’s also my third time doing it.

I’d been getting a bit discouraged in practice over the last month. I was having a lot of trouble getting back up to the speed I was doing in practices back in the summer. But today was my chance at redemption.

They had the competitive climbers line up first, and we sorted ourselves out roughly by how fast we all thought we’d go. At the start, I was trying to convince Veronica that she should start ahead of me, but she didn’t want to. So I started right behind Ryan, who nearly caught me on the stairs at the 2010 climb, so this was good. We’re pretty evenly matched, so each of us was hoping to beat the other.

By the time I got to about 15, Veronica had made up 30 seconds on me, and so I let her go by. I’d made up split times, aiming to be at the top in about 8:30, and I was on schedule when she passed me. I decided to try and at least keep her within earshot as we continued up. At the six minute mark I was still on schedule at the 37th floor, but I could see that Veronica was slowing down, and I was gaining on her. I caught her at 49, and ran past her up the final two floors. That was a special moment. She’s passed me many times, but this was the first time I managed to pass her back.

At the top, I did my usual lie-down-on-the-floor thing. I can’t really call it a ‘face-plant’ any more, since now I know what a real face-plant looks and feels like.

I stayed up at the top until Lucinda came out. Then Kathleen came up. She said she’d been on the 46th floor landing with the camera, and she’d taken pictures of us as we went by. I, of course, had no memory of having seen her. Or anyone else for that matter.

We all rode the elevator back down to the lobby. By that time, they were already starting to compile times. Ryan told me that I’d beaten him by one second. So it turned out that we were pretty evenly matched. My time was 8:38, and that was good for third in the 50-59 age group. This was more than 10 seconds faster than I’d done in any of the practices, so that’s good, even if it’s still slower than my race time last year.

When they did the awards, because Mark was the overall winner, they gave him the winner’s trophy, and pushed the 50-59 age group awards down one place. So I got the second-place medal, which is always a nice thing.

After everything was done, most of the West Coast Labels team walked across the street to Engine Co 28 for lunch.

It was a nice time.

Addendum: The average floor in this building is 23 steps. Doing some math:

1,181 / 23 = 51.3

So the climb is the equivalent of 51.3 ‘regular’ floors. Doing more math:

8:38 = 518 seconds
518 / 51.3 = 10.1

So I averaged 10.1 seconds per floor, which is not too bad for doing more than 50 floors. And working out power production:

689 feet = 210 m
210m * 76.5kg * 9.8 = 157437 joules
157437 joules / 518 seconds = 304 W
304 W = just a bit over 0.4 hp

Can’t complain too much about any of that.

Addendum: Results are here:



Filed under: — stan @ 6:43 pm

A few weeks ago, we were on our way to the Wilshire Ebell Theater to see Aimee Mann, when we passed the Hayworth Theater and its marquee announcing “Silence! The Musical“. We were curious, so we looked it up, and it sounded like fun. It’s a musical based on “The Silence of the Lambs“, complete with singing Agent Starling, singing Hannibal Lecter, and a chorus of sheep singing and dancing on stage. So we got tickets, and tonight was the night.

The theater is just on the other side of MacArthur Park, not far from downtown Los Angeles, so it was pretty easy to get to. There’s a parking lot next to it, so that was very convenient. Our seats were on the side, on the third row, so we were up close for everything. And as we’d hoped, the show was hilarious.

Before we went over, we found the movie on Amazon streaming and started watching it. It had been many years since either of us had seen it, so we wanted to have it fresh before seeing the show. And almost all of the non-singing dialogue in the show is verbatim from the movie script. But then Agent Starling and Hannibal Lecter break into song and the sheep start dancing, and, well, it’s just hilarious.

This is easily as funny as “The Book of Mormon“, and also comparable to “Pulp Shakespeare“. I recommend it highly, but hurry. It’s only there for another week or so.

Here’s a little preview on youtube with the original New York cast:


So here’s what else we did last weekend

Filed under: — stan @ 6:22 pm

Last weekend’s trip to Chicago was more than just stair-climbing agony. We played tourist and visited, too.

We got in on Friday evening. For some reason, JetBlue doesn’t fly to O’Hare any more from anywhere in southern California. So we ended up on United, which meant flying out of LAX. Yikes. And paying $50 to check our bags. Yikes again. But aside from that, it was all right. And on the way in, I got a good view of downtown and the Sears Willis Tower. Once more, yikes.

Friday night, we got on the train and went for dinner at the Blue Line Lounge again. We’d gone there last time and liked it.

Saturday morning, we had to go downtown to pick up my packet for Sunday’s race. While we were there, we saw some of our stair-climbing friends, and I got to contemplate once more what was in store for Sunday morning.

On Saturday afternoon, we had tickets for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tour of the Chicago River. Sure, it’s a bit chilly this time of year, but we were prepared. So we bundled up and took the tour.

I’d been reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and I just finished it before we left on Saturday morning. It’s the story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and the intertwined story of H.H. Holmes, who is regarded as one of the first American serial killers. A good bit of the book is about Daniel Burnham, who was the chief architect of the fair, and also is one of the pioneers of steel-framed skyscrapers. So there’s one tie-in with the weekend’s activities. At the end of the book, Larson said that Burnham died in 1912, and that he and his family are buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. So of course I checked the map and saw that we could go there after the boat tour.

We rode the Red Line north out of downtown, and then we walked over to Graceland. By this time, it was about 3:30. When we got there, there was a sign saying that the cemetery was closing at 4:15. So we didn’t have much time. As it turned out, the pond was all the way at the back of the cemetery, and I almost ended up having to run there to get there and back before closing. But I made it and got my photos.

After the cemetery visit, we took the Red Line back downtown to meet up with the West Coast Labels team for our night-before dinner at the Elephant and Castle.

Sunday morning was the stair climb. I wrote that up separately, so I won’t go over it again here. After that, we went back to our hotel and got packed up to leave. Then we took the Blue Line back downtown again. We had lunch at Giordano’s, which seems to be one of the few places downtown that’s open on weekends. Even McDonald’s was closed. We saw a crew filming something downtown. It was funny because they were spraying fake snow. We see film crews with fake snow here in L.A. all the time, but I think that fake snow in Chicago is funny. Sort of like how people there wonder why there are tanning salons in L.A.

After lunch, we walked over to Union Station to get the train to Libertyville to visit with Kathleen’s aunt and uncle. Once again, I chuckled about the railroad cars and their builder’s plate:

Engineered & Manufactured by
American Passenger
Rail Car Company
Chicago, Illinois

Nippon Sharyo, Ltd

Who says American industry is on the decli… oh.

Monday was some more playing tourist before it was time to go home. We took a walk with the neighbor’s dog for a bit, and then we went downtown to the Art Institute of Chicago. They have a very good collection there. From Seurat to Grant Wood to Cy Twombly. A full range of art and art-like things. We spent the afternoon there until it was time to go to the airport for our flight home.

All told, it was a fun trip.

Pictures are here:



Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

It’s November, and that means it’s time to go to Chicago for the stair climb up the Sears Willis Tower. The beast hasn’t gotten any smaller. I’ve gotten a bit faster this year, though, so I thought that this might be the year I could break the 20-minute barrier.

On Saturday, we took an architecture tour on a boat on the Chicago River. This gave us a good view of the tower, and it gave me a chance to think about the insane thing I was going to be doing in the morning.

On Saturday evening, we met up with the West Coast Labels team for the pre-climb dinner at the Elephant and Castle. That was a nice time. Then we headed back to the hotel to try and get a good night’s sleep before the next morning’s ordeal.

In the morning, I got up and took the train downtown. I didn’t get up extra-early to make the 7:00AM start. I thought it was probably more important to get sleep, although in the end, perhaps that wasn’t the best idea. I ended up starting up the stairs at about 8:40, and the traffic in the stairwell was like the Harbor Freeway at 5:00 on a Friday. I had to push through many groups of people. Nobody passed me, but I can’t even begin to estimate how many people I passed. And I was going at a pace that I consider slow. I’d brought my metronome out of retirement for this climb. I was planning on doing 11.6 seconds per floor, which is a modest pace, but one I thought I could maintain all the way up to 103.

At the beginning, I felt like I was going very slow. That feeling lasted up to about 50. At that point, I was starting to get tired, so maintaining the pace was becoming a little bit of an effort. By 75, I was having to push to maintain the pace, and by 90, it was getting grim. I don’t remember much about the last 13 floors. I was in a bit of a fog. I remember seeing the light coming through the door at 103. I stumbled up onto the landing and over the finish line. The timing mat was right in the doorway, and I tripped on it, and I went down like a sack of potatoes. I guess that means I’d picked the right pace, since I had nothing left at that point. Fortunately, my left foot made it on to the mat, so my time was recorded properly. I could hear the finish line people talking to the climbers coming up behind me to watch out and not trip over me, since I was sort of lying on the finish line. I stayed there for about 10 seconds before summoning the energy to get up on all fours and crawl out of the way.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of this, probably my most-dramatic finish yet. So I had to simulate it. I hope the picture gives you an idea of what it must have looked like. And it wasn’t until much later that I even noticed the scrape on my knee and forehead bruise I’d gotten from doing the face-plant. At least this, of all the races I’ve done, is the only one that finishes in a carpeted room. That’s better for face-planting than the bare concrete or linoleum that is usually at the finish of these races.

After about five minutes lying on the floor, I managed to get up and make my way to the elevator for the trip back to the lobby. When I got there, I sat down leaning against the wall for a long time. This was the most wiped-out I’ve ever been after one of these climbs. I had originally planned on walking up slowly a second time to do a survey to make a chart of the stairs, but by then, I knew that just wasn’t in the cards.

My time was 20:57, which is a solid 20 seconds faster than last year. But it’s still not sub-20. I think if I’d not had to fight traffic, I might have gone about 30 seconds faster, so that’s my plan for next year. If I get up early for the early start, then I only have to shave off another 30 or so seconds to get under 20.

So I’ll be back next year. And I’ll get you yet, Willis. And your little dog, too!



Filed under: — stan @ 6:15 pm

Today I went with Lucinda to go see the spiders at the Natural History Museum. We’d gone to see them two years ago, but we missed them last year.

We rode the train there this time. And now that the Expo light rail line* is running, it was an easy trip. There was even a USC football game today, and it was still no problem. Hooray for progress.

When we got there, we went in to see the spiders first. They were big and creepy-looking, as we’d hoped. A lot of people are afraid that the spiders will drop on them, but they really don’t move much. They just pick a spot to build a web, and then they just sit there. There was one spider that somehow had ended up standing on another spider’s web, and for a minute it looked like they might get in a fight, but the interloper backed off and moved away.

After the spiders, we went inside to see the new Dinosaur Hall. They’re redone the whole dinosaur exhibit there, and it’s pretty good. It’s nowhere near as big as the Hall of Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but it’s still way better than their old exhibit. And they did have one place where they had a painting of the current vision of a velociraptor with feathers. Sure, that kind of blows the whole ‘bloodthirsty killer dinosaurs’ idea from Jurassic Park, but that’s the Advance of Science for you. They’re still killers, but they’re much cuter and cuddly-looking with feathers.

We spent a little time looking around the rest of the museum before we had to go home. On the way out, we stopped to peek into the building where they stashed the space shuttle. Then we got on the train to go home. It was a nice afternoon outing.

* Also known as the ’slightly lighter shade of blue line’.


Hasa Diga Eebowai

Filed under: — stan @ 5:44 pm

playbill for
Last night, Kathleen and I went to see “The Book of Mormon” at the Pantages here in Hollywood. While we like going to see live theater a fair bit, it’s quite rare that we go see anything well-known or ‘mainstream’. But given what we’d heard about the show, we made an exception for “The Book of Mormon”. And we were not disappointed.

We started off the evening meeting up in North Hollywood and taking the train into the city. The Vine St Metro station is right across the street from the Pantages, so it was very convenient. We had dinner around the corner at Lexington Social House. It was quite nice, but the service was kind of slow. I think they could easily double their bar receipts if they just had a few more people working there to speed up delivering the drinks.

When it came time, we walked back around the corner to the theater. I’d never been inside the Pantages before. It’s really quite large and ornate. And soon it was showtime.

The show was hilarious. As an outsider, a good bit of Mormon theology sounds ridiculous. We’d been exposed to some of it in Julia Sweeney’s show, “Letting Go of God“. But at the same time, while they were poking fun at the Mormon religion, it was done in a good-natured way. Pretty much every religion sounds ridiculous to anyone not brought up in it. So they’re all about the same in that regard.

I really can’t describe the show. But it was easily one of the funniest musicals I’ve ever seen. There were some echoes of the “South Park” episode “All About Mormons”, but much larger and livelier. If you can, go see this show. It’s a hoot.

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