Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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4/30/2011

Third time around

Filed under: — stan @ 4:48 pm

Today was the Lung Association’s “Fight for Air Climb” up the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. 63 stories, 1377 steps, 858 feet from street level to the roof. Back in 2009, this was my first competitive stair climb. At the time, I’d entered it on a lark, just because I was curious what it would be like to climb that many stairs, and also because I thought it would be novel to stand on the roof of the building. Now, two years later, I’m doing this one for the third time. I guess that means I like it, even though it’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Lucinda and Kathleen were both doing it, too, just like the little one we did in San Diego. We all went downtown together. We were with Mark and his West Coast Labels team, which is a great thing. We got to go in the first group with the elite runners at 9:00. In my case, that meant that there were fewer people to pass on the way up, which generally makes for a faster time. Kathleen and Lucinda made a point to start at the back of our group, since they weren’t planning on going terribly fast. Still, it meant that we’d get to all meet up again at the top.

When it as time to go, I trotted into the stairs and started climbing just like always. Once again, I left my metronome off for the first half of the climb. I just went at a comfortable but reasonably fast pace until I got to about the 30th floor. Then I turned the metronome on and used it as a target pace to maintain. Along the way, I passed a few of the people who’d started in front of me. At the 60th floor, I saw Randy’s wife, Lynn. She took pictures as I went by. I guess that the fact that I even noticed that she was there maybe meant that I wasn’t going fast enough. From there, it was just a couple more floors. When I saw the light from the roof door, I managed to find a little bit extra for a final sprint up onto the roof. As soon as I passed the timing mat, I got down on the ground and panted for a few minutes. Then I spent a few minutes looking at the view before I saw Lucinda come out of the stairway. We sat down and had some water while we waited for Kathleen. It was a nice day, and it was a good day to be up there.

When Kathleen got there, she sat down and rested for a few minutes before we all headed back down the other stairs to the party on the 60th floor. While we were there, I saw two girls with some very nice and large tattoos, so I went and found Oz and Randy so we could all do a picture of the tattooed stair climbers. By then, word came up from the ground that they were posting the times.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my time was 11:45, which was only three seconds slower than last year, which is pretty much the same speed. While I’d have liked to go faster, it apparently wasn’t in the cards this time. But that was all right. In the end, it was good for 3rd place in the 50-59 age group, and 19th overall, out of 547 runners. I can’t complain about that. Lucinda did well, also. Her time was 20:57, which was good for 3rd in her age group, and was also faster than more than 50% of the women there. That’s not bad at all. So we both got a little podium time at the end. And Mark and the West Coast Labels group got the fastest times in almost all the age groups.

Overall, it was a fun outing. Now we will take a break and come back in the fall at the U.S. Bank tower climb.

Full results are here: https://www.runraceresults.com/Secure/RaceResults.cfm?ID=RCPJ2011

4/27/2011

Translating Raymond

Filed under: — stan @ 10:51 pm

Tonight, Kathleen and I went to see a preview screening of “Exporting Raymond“. This is a documentary about adapting and remaking “Everybody Loves Raymond” in Russia. I’m not a big TV watcher, so I’m only dimly aware of this show, but I hear it was quite popular for a long time. And the story of trying to translate it into Russian culture was very entertaining.

The film was made by and centers around Phil Rosenthal, who was the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. He narrates the film, and he’s in almost all of it, as it chronicles his trips to Russia to advise the producers there about casting and acting to re-create the show.

In the end, it’s just a silly sitcom, but to see it this way with Phil as your guide, it’s really hilarious. Phil was at the screening, and he took questions at the end. He was just as funny in person as in the film. So overall, we really enjoyed this.

4/14/2011

Downtown art

Filed under: — stan @ 11:27 pm

Lucinda’s been on Spring Break this week. So she’s had an unpredictable schedule, and tonight she decided to spend the night at her friend’s house. Which meant that I had an unexpected free evening. So I called Kathleen, and we made plans to meet up in downtown L.A. for the Art Walk. I’ve heard about these things for years, but this was the first time one fell on a night when I could actually go.

I rode the train downtown and we met at the Museum of Neon Art on 4th St. We joined up with the night photography group there, and we all headed up Spring St to the Los Angeles Times, where they were having a ‘popup event’ in the parking lot. We saw lots of nice photos by Times photographers, and we also took some photos of our own. I was kind of fascinated by the Wells Fargo building sign reflected off the One California Plaza building.

After that, we walked back down Spring St to the galleries near MONA. In one of them, we saw a photography show by Jake Thomas, who played Lizzie McGuire’s little brother on the Disney Channel. He’s grown up now, and his photos were quite good.

One of the attractions of the Art Walk is that all the gourmet catering trucks come and set up shop along Spring St. We stopped in at the Lake Street Creamery truck and got some very good ice cream.

All in all, it was a very fun evening. Parking there was kind of an ordeal, but I didn’t have a problem, because I rode the train there. It was a good time.

4/13/2011

Susie Bright!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:31 pm

Susie Bright was doing a reading and book signing at my favorite book store, Book Soup. So Kathleen and I met up in NoHo and headed over the hill to go see her. We planned on getting there early, since I know from experience that they don’t have many seats at these things. As luck would have it, right after we got there my friend Nina Hartley showed up, so we staked out seats for ourselves and for Nina and her husband, Ira, also known as Ernest Greene.

Susie read a bit from her book, and she talked some about what went in to writing it. She also answered a lot of questions from the audience. In the process, we even got to meet Ali Davis, who wrote the hilarious book True Porn Clerk Stories.

At the end, we waited in line to meet Susie, which gave me a chance to talk with Ernest some more. We both like to collect Cold War memorabilia, and Kathleen and I had just been to the Nuclear Testing Museum in Las Vegas last month.

All in all, it was a very fun evening.

3/16/2011

Las Vegas is more than just stair climbing

Filed under: — stan @ 6:55 am

Here’s the rest of our weekend in Las Vegas.

On the way out, we stopped off in Primm to ride the Desperado roller coaster. We’d seen this last year, and since Lucinda and I have gotten into riding roller coasters, I wanted to try it. It was a whole lot bigger than California Screamin’, and the track was a lot rougher, but it was still fun.

Saturday afternoon, we went to see the Atomic Testing Museum. That was a fun time, and I highly recommend it.

On Saturday evening, we had dinner and then went to a wedding. Javier is one of the top stair climbers, and he was getting married at the chapel at the top of the Stratosphere Tower. All the top stair climbers were there. It was a nice time, and he looked very pleased. And no, we didn’t all take the stairs up to the chapel.

On Sunday after the race, we went over to Randy’s house, which is very close to the Stratosphere. Then we all went to Luv-It Frozen Custard. This is apparently a local favorite, and after trying it, I can see why. It was very, very good.

Finally, on our way out of town, we stopped off at New York New York and rode the roller coaster there. That one was smoother than the Desperado. It had a loop like California Screamin’, and it also had a barrel roll, which I’d never done before. That was a fun time.

After all that, we headed home. It was a very fun weekend.

3/15/2011

Kilotons o’ fun

Filed under: — stan @ 5:35 pm

On Saturday afternoon after the stair climb, we paid a visit to the the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas. Since I like to collect Cold War memorabilia, this was right up my alley.

They had a special exhibit there about Las Vegas during the Cold War. Apparently, the nuclear tests going on just over the mountains were a big tourist draw. In the exhibit, they had a mannequin that had been nuked in one of the tests where they built towns out on the test site to see how ordinary houses would stand up to nuclear attack. They also had other artifacts from the 1950s nuclear testing era, and overall, it was a very entertaining collection.

Of course they had a gift shop. I got a DVD of a film about Lookout Mountain Air Force Station, which was the top-secret Air Force film studio that filmed all the atomic tests. We went to see that on a bike club ride last year. I also got a shirt with a picture of Miss Atomic Bomb 1957, and a couple of other little things.

All told, this was a very interesting and entertaining museum. It’s affiliated with the Smithsonian, which I find tremendously amusing, since it’s very hard to believe that anything in Las Vegas could be worthy of the august Smithsonian.

One quarter million…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:20 am

The M9.0 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan last Friday has caused a spike in interest in earthquakes. That’s pushed the USGS Earthquake Notification Service, also known as my Pet Project, past its latest milestone.

Yesterday, I saw that ENS had passed 250,000 subscribers. It still amazes me that something I invented is used by so many people worldwide.

After the M7.2 Sierra El Mayor Earthquake last year, it processed about 700 earthquakes and sent 4,600,000 messages. But at that time, that was enough that the system ground to a halt under the load. This time, the system ran fine the whole time. I checked the logs, and in the first 24 hours after the Tohoku Earthquake, it processed 308 events and sent about 4,500,000 messages about them. I’d done some re-architecture of the database last year to increase its performance, and the system ran fine this time.

3/13/2011

Viva La Staircase

Filed under: — stan @ 11:39 pm

This past weekend was the “Scale the Strat” stair climb up the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I did this last year, and it was a fun little adventure. To add some extra interest this time, Kathleen decided to try doing it, too.

We headed out on Friday afternoon and got checked in at the Stratosphere. When Saturday morning came, we were ready. We got our numbers and got ready to go. There had been some concern that they weren’t going to let me use my metronome on the climb, since they said that they were not allowing cameras, mp3 players and other such things on the climb. But I found the tower operations manager and showed her my metronome. She said that as long as it was attached to me and not hand-held, and it didn’t obstruct my hearing, that it was all right. So I was good to go.

There were a lot more people doing the climb this year, and they had start times scheduled every 40 seconds from 11:00AM all the way to almost 2:00PM. I don’t know how they arrived at the order, but they had Kathleen going at 11:20, and I wasn’t scheduled to go until 1:24. So I got to see her off and then watched her progress on the monitor. They had cameras at the start and the finish, and also at about the 1/3 and 2/3 marks. I could tell that she was slowing down toward the top, but she kept going and made it up in 29:17, which is not bad for essentially no training at all.

When it was my turn to go, I turned on my metronome, which I set at 80 in a fit of optimism. And it was time to go. I’d read a paper about the fire safety design of the tower, and so I knew that there were enlarged landings at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks going up the tower core. This was useful, since they made for good landmarks. 1/3 of the tower is about the equivalent of 17-18 stories of a regular building, so the thirds made for manageable chunks of climbing.

About halfway up, I scraped my foot on the edge of one of the steps. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I was about halfway up that flight, I looked down and saw that the timing chip had fallen off my shoe. I looked back and saw it lying on the last landing. So I quickly ran back and picked it up. I carried it for a while before I figured out I could stuff it under my watch band. That set me back by at least 10 seconds, and possibly a bit more, but I managed to keep going and keep my pace. At the top I made a point to reach down and put my hand near the mat to be sure it would pick up the chip ID. Then I stumbled through the doorway and got down on the floor. I talked to the people running the computer to be sure they’d picked up my chip ID before I hauled myself out to a chair to sit down.

My time was 11:20, which turned out to be good for 28th out of 234 finishers, and it was also 15 seconds faster than my time from last year. So that was good, although I still wish I hadn’t had the chip-falling-off problem. Anyway, I made it into the top 50, so I qualified for the finals on Sunday.

On Sunday morning, I got ready to do it again. This time, I set the metronome on 76 in hopes that I’d be able to keep up with it better. My calculations said that that pace would still get me a good time if I could maintain it. I remembered this time to start my stopwatch at the beginning. My plan was do make the 1/3 mark by 3 minutes, the 2/3 mark at 6, and the top of the tower core at 9. Then the last 6 or so floors up to the observation deck would take whatever they took. But I’d figured out that the tower core climb is just about 725 feet, which is almost exactly the same height as the Wilshire-Figueroa building that I climbed in 8:42 last December. So I thought that this was a reasonable goal. Sadly, this was not to be. I made it to the 2/3 mark on schedule, but then my legs turned to lead and I kind of fell apart. I managed to keep moving, but it was a real struggle the rest of the way. In the end, I got to the top in 11:23, which is still faster than I went last year, but it wasn’t as fast as I know I’m capable of going.

So in the end, I was 3rd in my age group, just like last year. I can’t complain too much about that. All in all, it was a good adventure.

3/5/2011

Still my favorite art museum

Filed under: — stan @ 7:52 pm

Today, Kathleen and I went downtown to the Museum of Neon Art to see their new exhibit for the 30th anniversary of the museum. And there was a special extra this time, too. They had a small exhibit in the lobby of night photos of neon, and I had two pictures that were in it. So now, not only is MONA my favorite art museum, I actually got to participate in the exhibits in my own small way. And that’s good fun.

2/28/2011

There’s nothing cuter than baby seals

Filed under: — stan @ 10:39 pm

This past weekend, Kathleen, Lucinda and I took a trip to San Diego. We went down on Saturday morning, and after lunch with Grandpa, we went to the cove and saw the baby seals. The pupping season for the seals runs from the end of January to the beginning of March, so we wanted to see the newborn seals on the beach.

It was a fun time. There were quite a few babies there, and I was able to get some good pictures.

After seeing the seals, we walked over to Sunny Jim Cave and took the walk down the tunnel to the cave.

It was a fun weekend.

The seal pictures are here:

baby seal

Lucinda’s pictures from the weekend are in her photo album.

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