Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Page 18 of 49« First...10«1617181920»3040...Last »

1/4/2012

Here we go again…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:00 pm

I told Lucinda we could go to Disneyland once before school starts up again next week, so today was the day. There were five of us this time. Myself and Kathleen, Lucinda, and Kathleen’s daughters, Trinh and Melissa. As you might expect, once we got to Disneyland, Kathleen and I were on our own, and only saw the girls a couple of times in passing throughout the day.

Our day was fun. It was a bit on the crowded side by our standards, but we still managed to ride Space Mountain twice, Thunder Mountain four times, Matterhorn twice, and over at California Adventure, we rode California Screamin’ twice together, and I did it three more times in the single-rider line. Which brings my total up to something like 86 rides on that roller coaster. Nope, I still don’t believe it either.

At one point, California Screamin’ broke down, and we got to watch them evacuate the train from the top of the big hill. I’m glad we weren’t on it then. I don’t mind riding the train down that hill, but I think walking down it on the steps would give me the willies.

At the end of the day, we met up with the girls, and we went for our usual dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. From the sound of it, they managed to do a lot today, too. So overall, the day was a success.

1/2/2012

Floats!

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

Since we’d spent the morning going to see the horses, afterward, we took a walk over to see the floats. They park them down the street from my house, and they’re on display for the afternoon after the parade, and the next day. Since that generates a lot of traffic, the parade people give everyone in my neighborhood free tickets to go see them.

One of the floats had a little replica of Mt Rushmore, complete with Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Elvis. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right…

The RFD-TV float had Trigger and Bullet prominently displayed. The Paramount Pictures float had the classic USS Enterprise. And we got to see the La Cañada float with the flying pigs that we saw on last Sunday’s bike ride. And finally, we got to see the big Natural Balance Pet Foods float with the wave tank and the surfing dogs.

It made for an amusing afternoon.

The Rose Parade

Filed under: — stan @ 9:06 pm

So today was the Rose Parade. Which means we’re on virtual lockdown here.

We began the day by going outside at 8:00 to watch the B-2 fly over the parade route. That marks the beginning of the parade. Since we’re at the end of the route, the actual parade doesn’t get here until about two hours later.

When 10:00 rolled around, we took a walk out and around the neighborhood. The horses in the parade all end up here, and they bring the horse trailers here to pick them up. So we got to see the little miniature horses, the Wells Fargo wagons, and several cowgirl groups. And of course, the cleanup people with their shovels and rolling trash cans. I even saw one horse with an on/off switch. Wonders never cease.

12/31/2011

Last post of 2011

Filed under: — stan @ 10:36 pm

So here we are at the end of the year again. It’s been a fun year, so we decided to return to the place where we began it last year. Takami in downtown Los Angeles. This is a very nice Japanese fusion-culinary-mashup place on the 21st floor of 811 Wilshire Blvd. Right across the street from the Aon building. Our table was on the semi-enclosed patio, so we had a great view of downtown, and since there was a radiant heater above our table, we weren’t cold.

We ordered a whole bunch of different things off the appetizer and robata menus. Everything was very good, and we finished with the semi-molten chocolate cake. It was all good, and we had a good time.

12/20/2011

End of the year wrap-up

Filed under: — stan @ 6:50 am

It’s that time of the year. Time to go back and see what we’ve been up to all year. And then cram it all down to one side of one sheet of paper.

12/12/2011

The Wettest Place on Earth

Filed under: — stan @ 10:29 pm

Kathleen and I took a trip to Disneyland today. We’d planned this a couple weeks in advance. What are the odds it’s going to rain? Note that that statement is a close cousin to “How hard could it be?”, like I say before all my stair climbs. So today it rained. Not the hardest rain we’ve seen around here, but enough that it was very wet, and it was quite cold by SoCal standards.

On the other hand, this meant that there weren’t that many people there. So the uncomfortable cold and wet was offset by the lack of lines. It was a lot like the very wet day we spent at Universal a last year. Note the picture of the queue for California Screamin’. I’ve never seen it that empty before. We were able to just walk up and get on. And I did just that. Seven times. On one of them, the sky opened up and it started raining hard right in the middle of the ride. Getting hit in the face with raindrops when you’re going 60mph on a roller coaster is a uniquely unpleasant experience.

One of the good aspects of Disneyland is that there are a lot of indoor rides. We rode Space Mountain four times, and the longest wait was about 15 minutes. So that wasn’t bad at all. Even the line for the newly-revamped Star Tours was only about 20 minutes. Kathleen even got me to go to the Tiki Room. She said it was something that fascinated her as child, and I could see why. Although I found the singing flowers to be a bit nightmarish.

We finished the day off with our traditional dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. It was a day of tradeoffs, but all around, it was fun.

12/3/2011

Did I ever mention that this sport is insane?

Filed under: — stan @ 7:38 pm

It’s December, and time for the second edition of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Climb for Life. This is yet another charity skyscraper stair climb. And of course, I had to be there, along with Kathleen, Lucinda, and all our stair climbing friends.

The venue was the Wilshire-Figueroa building in downtown Los Angeles. It’s only a 53-story building, which is rather modest by our standards, but it’s still hard enough to climb. So far this year, I’d been going slightly faster in practice runs than last year, so I was going in to this with (relatively) high hopes.

At last year’s event, They didn’t have a photographer in the stairwell to capture the pain and suffering, so I’d talked to Chanda from CFF about this, and she said I could arrange for something. I put out a call on the Light Chasers photography mailing list, asking if there was anyone who wanted to try their hand at this. In the end, three guys showed up. One took pictures around the start and in the lobby of the building, one was on the 21st floor landing, and one was on the big landing at 49, right below the finish line on 51. I figured that that would make for good pictures.

When it was time to go, I made sure to go to the back of the line of the ‘elite’ climbers. I wanted some people to pass, since that helps me to get motivated. Usually, when I finish a climb like this, I have no memory of the people taking pictures, but this time I was actually aware of them, since I’d arranged for them to be there, and I knew where they would be. At 21, I remember Norman leaning in to take a picture as I went by, and I remember thinking it was odd that he was shooting with just the dim ambient light in the stairwell. At 49, I saw the flash of Luther’s camera, but I don’t recall seeing him as I went by.

I managed to put on something of a final sprint from 49 to 51, and I stumbled out of the stairs with a time of 8:33. This was all right. It was a full 9 seconds faster than my race time last year, and it was essentially equivalent to my best practice time this year. I waited on 51 until Lucinda came out, and then I waited a bit more until Kathleen got there.

When we got back down, they were posting the results. They updated them several times as more people finished, and in the end it was time for the awards. My 8:33 was good for 11th overall out of 180 runners, and I was 3rd in the 50-59 age group. Lucinda’s time of 15:14 was good for 3rd in the 19 and under group.

After everything wrapped up, we joined the whole West Coast Labels stair climbing group for lunch at Bottega Louie.

It was a fun time.

The pictures from the 21st floor are here: http://www.nsapc.com/climb/
The photos on the 49th floor are here: http://www.1134.org/gallery/main.php/v/stairclimbing/cff2011/

And the full race results are here


11/11/2011

The rest of the trip

Filed under: — stan @ 5:18 pm

Here’s the story of the rest of our trip to Chicago for the Sears Willis Tower stair climb.

We flew out from Long Beach on Jet Blue, just like last year. I’m still very happy with the service we get with them. We arrived on time in the late afternoon, we got our subway passes for the weekend, and then headed over to our hotel and checked in.

For dinner on Friday, we rode the train down to Wicker Park. In one of those cosmic coincidences, the train car we were on was number 2249, which just happens to have been my time climbing the tower last year. When we got there, we had dinner at the Blue Line Lounge. I’d found it through Yelp, and it sounded pretty good. I got a chicken pot pie, which looked impossibly huge when it came, but I manged to eat it all, and it was very good.

On Saturday morning, we rode the train downtown to go pick up my race packet in the Willis Tower lobby. My old high school friend Stu came over and met us there, and we all walked over to Greek Town for lunch. That was fun, since this was the first time I’d seen Stu since he came to my wedding in 1988.

After lunch, we took the bus to the Museum of Science and Industry. I’ve only been there twice before. Once when I was a kid in 1967, and once in 1978 when the USCF Cycling Nationals were in Milwaukee, and I’d qualified to race in the 25-mile time trial. So it had been a long time since I’d seen the museum. It looked totally different, since they built an entire new building where the old parking lot used to be. Sadly, by the time we got there, the U-505 submarine tour was sold out, and the line for the coal mine tour was as long as for Space Mountain at Disneyland. So those things were off our list, but we still had a nice time there.

For dinner, we went back downtown to the Elephant and Castle to meet up with Mark and the rest of the stair climbers for our pre-race dinner. We had a good turnout, and it was a fun time.

Sunday morning was the stair climb, and since I already wrote about it, I don’t need to tell the story here. After the climb, we went back to our hotel, got cleaned up and checked out, and then rode the train back downtown for lunch before walking over the Union Station to ride the Metra train to Libertyville to visit with Kathleen’s aunt and uncle.

On Monday, we all went to the Chicago Botanic Garden. I’d not have thought of going somewhere like that in late autumn, but there was still a lot to see, even though it was late in the season. We spent a few hours there before we had to go to O’Hare for our flight home.

When we got to the front of the security line, I saw that they had a backscatter X-ray machine there. Having studied physics in college, the idea of X-rays on my skin doesn’t sit well with me. It may well be that it’s not harmful, but it’s a pretty new technology, and I don’t really want to be one of the guinea pigs. So I told them that I didn’t want to go through it. And they sent me to the Group W bench, or something like it. The place they reserve for troublemakers. So Kathleen and I both got the full-body TSA grope. But we finally made it through. The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful.

It was a fun weekend.

Normally, for something like this, I post pictures, but I usually don’t like to have more than nine pictures for a single post. And I had well over that for this one, so I put them in a separate photo album:

Willis Tower
http://www.1134.org/gallery/main.php/v/stan/trips/chicago2011/

11/6/2011

Tower Highest

Filed under: — stan @ 12:52 pm

Sunday, November 6, 2011. It was the big day. Time to face the stairs at the Sears Willis Tower.

Yikes.

When I did this last year, it was a bit of a shock. I’d never climbed so many stairs before, and I really didn’t know what I was getting in to. It was sort of like my first stair climb all over again. But this time I was more ready. I had an idea of the torture I was in for, and I was mostly ready for it.

On Saturday, we’d gone to the Museum of Science and Industry, and they had a huge HO-scale model railroad, complete with a piece of downtown Chicago. Even in 1/87 scale, the tower is big.

They’d assigned me to start in the first group, between 7:00 and 7:30. But I decided that I wanted to go later. Partly so I could have some breakfast, since our not-very-expensive-but-kinda-swanky hotel room came with breakfast. But also because I didn’t want to be climbing at the back end of a line of guys who are all faster than me. That was how it was last year, and I ended up being alone the whole way, aside from two guys who passed me. That was hard. So this time I wanted to start in the middle of a bunch of regular people. It helps me psychologically if I have people to pass. It was that way back when I was a bicycle racer. I was a pretty good time trial rider, as long as I had people who started ahead of me to catch and pass. I just can’t get motivated to push hard unless I have some sort of metaphorical rabbit to chase.

We got to the tower at about 8:15, and I got in line. There was a mix of people around me, so I knew I’d have lots to pass. I saw Oz in line ahead of me. He’d already gone earlier and turned in some stupendously fast time, but he was back to do it again. This time, he was going to walk up alongside his son, who was doing it for the first time.

When I got to the front of the line, I remembered to start my watch when they said to go. It’s good to have an idea of how much time has passed while climbing. It helps me to know if I’m on schedule.

At the dinner last night, everyone had said that the steps here are steeper than normal skyscraper steps. I’d noticed that last year, but I thought it was just my imagination. So this time, as I went up the first flight, I slapped my right hand against the front of one of the steps to do a quick measurement. And sure enough, it was just about 1/4 inch taller than a standard step. I did that rough measurement a few more times on the way up, and it seems that the stairs in the lower part of the building are indeed about 8 inches per step, compared to about 7.7 in a standard building.

This time, I really wanted to avoid burning out too fast, so I started off deliberately going slower. But I’ve learned how to do the turns on the landings more efficiently, and when I looked at my watch at 10, it said 1:46, which meant I was on schedule.

I passed Oz and his son at about 35. They stepped to the side so I could go by, and Oz said something encouraging. I was already getting to be kind of out of it by then, but I kept going. I managed to maintain a pretty steady pace the whole way. I was using the railing more this time, which not only helped go a bit faster, but it was also something to lean on. So I managed to avoid going on all fours like I did for a time at about the 85th floor last year.

Near the top, I was running out of energy to put on the bursts of speed to pass people, and I got stuck behind someone for a couple of floors in the 90s. But when I saw 99, I knew we were near the end, and I managed to muscle past her, and I somehow found the strength to put on a final sprint of sorts from 101 to 103. At the top, I stumbled out of the stairwell and flopped on the floor. It was a few seconds before I realized to stop my watch. I just laid there panting for a few minutes and then managed to move off and find a wall to sit against until my breathing returned to normal. When I looked at my watch, it said 21:36. This was good, since I didn’t stop it right at the top. So I knew my time was certainly faster than that, and that time was over a minute faster than last year. This was good.

I spent a few minutes looking around at the view before getting in the long line waiting for the elevator back down to the lobby. When I got there, we went to the results table and got my time. It was 21:17, which was still short of my goal of 20 minutes, but still was a full minute and 32 seconds faster than last year. That’s almost a second per floor for the whole climb, and I really can’t complain about that.

On the way out, we saw that there were a couple of ambulances parked in front of the tower. I wonder why they were there…

Overall, it was a good outing.

10/15/2011

Tim Burton at LACMA

Filed under: — stan @ 10:55 pm

On Saturday afternoon, Kathleen and I went over to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the exhibit on Tim Burton.

The exhibit was great fun. They had examples of all his artwork, all the way back to notebook sketches from his high school days in Burbank back in the ’70s. And I’m sure he enjoys having his old artwork on display along with the teacher comments and rejection letters that it got back then. That sort of thing is always fun.

This is a very popular exhibit, so they had separate tickets for it. It was very crowded, and took quite a while to get through, since there were so many people there. But it was fun time.

Page 18 of 49« First...10«1617181920»3040...Last »

Powered by WordPress