Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Disneyland again

Filed under: — stan @ 10:58 pm

Today was a school holiday for Lucinda, so even though we’d just gone to Disneyland two weeks ago, I told her I’d take her again.

As always, we started out in California Adventure. We rode the rockets, Mulholland Madness, and the jellyfish rides. Then we had lunch and got some soft-serve ice cream before heading over to Disneyland.

We hadn’t realized it, but apparently Veterans Day is a big school holiday, so every high school kid in southern California was at Disneyland. It was as crowded as we’ve ever seen it. So instead of riding the Pirates of the Caribbean first, we headed straight for Big Thunder Mountain. Lucinda rode that last time and liked it. Alisha was a little apprehensive at first, but about halfway through the ride, I heard her yelling something like, “This is awesome! Let’s do it again!” So when we got off, I was glad that I’d gotten us Fast Passes for it. We were able to just walk back around and get right back on.

There’s nothing quite like riding a roller coaster with two ten-year-old girls. There is a lot of screaming. I’ve not traditionally been one to not hold on and put my hands up in the air on these rides, but I had to this time. Just so I’d have my hands free to hold my ears. Next time, I’m bringing earplugs.

After that, we went and rode the Matterhorn. The line was pretty long for that, and they didn’t have Fast Passes for it. Then we did Star Tours, which is my personal old favorite. Then we walked back to do Big Thunder Mountain again. Along the way, we stopped and picked up passes for Space Mountain, but they turned out to be useless, because they were for 9:40 that night, and there was no way we were going to still be there that late. So when we went to Big Thunder Mountain, I talked to the people running the line there, and they gave us a pass that was good for any one ride in the park, and they also let us do the Fast Pass line for Big Thunder Mountain again. So we rode that two more times for a total of four for the day.

Next, we walked to Toon Town to ride Gadget’s Go Coaster. Lucinda thinks this ride is kind of tame now, but was the first coaster she rode, back in August. So it’s something of a sentimental favorite.

By now it was dark and starting to get cold. We decided to use the pass they’d given us at Big Thunder Mountain to do Space Mountain. Lucinda was nervous, but we were able to calm her down and get her on the ride. And she loved it. Since that ride is completely in the dark, I couldn’t get any pictures, but there was a lot of screaming. They take pictures of each train right at the end, and our picture showed me sitting and holding my ears. Like I said, next time I’m bringing earplugs.

It was a very fun day. After the requisite stop at the gift shop, we went and had dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. We got our picture there, so I can add it to my track-my-progress collection.

The rest of the photos are in her album.


Marking a half-century…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

I’m not generally one for big birthday parties. But this year was special. It’s a big round number with a zero on the end. And I get to join AARP now. So it seemed worth a party.

I got two briskets from HOWS market and spent all day Saturday smoking them over an oak fire. Since I decided I no longer hate Texas, it seemed appropriate to have central-Texas-style barbecue at my party. And it turned out quite well.

Lucinda isn’t used to having large numbers of people in our house, but she adapted all right. And she beat everyone at pinball. She even set a new high score tonight.

It was fun having all my friends over, and my tattoo artist Shannon did a special belly dance and gave me a certificate for a free tattoo session with her.

Overall, it was an excellent way to mark a half-century.


Halloween night at Chez 1134

Filed under: — stan @ 10:57 pm

Here’s the recap on our Halloween night.

Lucinda dressed as a zombie jester and went out with one of her friends and the neighbors. I set up my telescope in the driveway and handed out candy and and looks at Jupiter and the nearly-full moon.

When Lucinda got back, she weighed her bag, and she had five pounds of candy. We spread it out to do the inventory.

It was a fun evening for both of us.



Filed under: — stan @ 10:36 pm

Wednesday was a Staff Development Day in the Pasadena schools, so Lucinda and her friends had a day off. And so I took Lucinda and her friend Claire to Disneyland. Since Lucinda had made a big breakthrough at our last trip to Disneyland, she was ready to try out some more roller coasters.

We went to California Adventure first, where we rode Mulholland Madness. They both enjoyed it. Next, we went to Toy Story Mania, and we got Mr. Potato Head to remove his ear. Then it was time for lunch, followed by Soaring over California.

Next, we walked across to Disneyland. As has become our tradition, we went to Pirates of the Caribbean first. After that, we got Fastpasses for the Haunted Mansion and then walked over for a look at Big Thunder Mountain. They watched the train go by and decided they were up for it. So we waited in the very short line and then rode it. They both had a good time, although it was difficult to take pictures on the ride.

By then, it was nearly time for our appointment at the Haunted Mansion, so we walked back and did the ride. It was decorated for Halloween and Christmas together, just like last year.

After the Mansion, we went to Toon Town to ride Gadget’s Go Coaster. This was the coaster that we persuaded Lucinda to try last time, and the reason she’s decided that she likes coasters now. We had fun riding it, and then they decided that they wanted to try the Matterhorn. The line wasn’t bad, and we got on in about 15 minutes. They both liked the ride, and decided that they wanted to do it again. So we got back in line. The second time, we rode the other side, so we got two different Matterhorn experiences.

Finally, they were curious about the Innoventions building, so we went in. They played some video games and did a little karaoke of one of the songs from “High School Musical 2″.

By then, it was time to leave. The park was filling up, due to “Mickey’s Trick or Treat Party” that was going on that evening. So it was a good time to go home.

We had a nice dinner at the Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney and then we went home. It was a long, but very fun day.

The rest of the pictures are in Lucinda’s photo album.


Pre-disaster sightseeing

Filed under: — stan @ 3:46 pm

Last Friday, I went to a talk at Caltech about debris flows, and how they are almost certainly going to happen this winter because of the Station Fire. The speaker made mention of one particular house in Sunland. She said that the house had been destroyed by debris flows in 1978, and that it was then rebuilt in exactly the same place. Because of this, it is expected to be destroyed again when the rains come. So of course, I immediately looked up the address and worked out a bike route to get there and see it.

I took the direct route there, since I didn’t feel like riding through Burbank and Sun Valley on a weekday. And riding up Foothill Blvd through La Crescenta and Tujunga was no picnic, either. But I made it to the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon and got to take in the charred mountain vista. It was impressive. Then I rode up into the little private neighborhood on the north side of the canyon. The fire had come down to within about 100 feet of the houses there, and the burned area looked pretty devastated. And when I found the house, I could see why it had been destroyed. There is a large drainage area above it, and it’s situated in a narrow part of the canyon. And there is no debris basin above it. Anything that comes down from that drainage gets funneled through the canyon where the house is. I suppose the owners know this. Aside from mud and rocks destroying the house every 30 years, it looks like a very pretty and idyllic place to live.

On the way out, I saw two news trucks parked at the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon. The first rain of the season is predicted for tonight, so they may be setting up to see the first mudflows.

It was an interesting little sightseeing ride.

38 miles.

Addendum: Here’s the Google Maps view of the terrain there, and you can see that there are two big canyons north and northwest of the house, and both those merge into the narrow canyon where the house is. Check it out.



Off to watch the races again

Filed under: — stan @ 9:20 pm

On Sunday, Lucinda and I went down to Carson to watch the final day of racing at the Elite National Track Championships. We’ve been going to this for the last few years, and it’s always a fun afternoon.

When we got there, we saw my old racing friend Cleve at the video camera by the finish line. He and I used to ride races in the New York area, and particularly, the Tuesday and Thursday evening races they used to have at SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island.

The first races we saw were the men’s team sprint finals. And then it was the highlight of the day: The men’s Madison final. This is always a fun race to watch. It’s very hard to keep track of what’s happening, but there’s so much action that it’s just fun to watch anyway. The race is 200 laps, so it lasts a while, which is different from most other track events. So it’s good all around.

The last event of the day was a women’s Madison. This is the first time I’ve ever seen women riding one of these races, and they did very well. In the end, Team Vanderkitten gained a lap on the pack. They rode very well and clinched the victory. I hope they make the Madison an official women’s event in the future. These women showed that they were up to it.

It was a fun afternoon. It was about as much fun as it’s possible for me to have when someone else is riding the bike.



Filed under: — stan @ 9:55 pm

This afternoon was the YMCA Stair Climb to the Top up the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve heard about this for years, and I’d always wanted to try it. So now was the time. Unlike the AON Tower stair climb last April, this one was held on Friday afternoon. This meant that riding my bike there was not really an option, since it was going to be dark by the time I went home. Friday traffic is the stuff of nightmares here, so I rode the train. The Pershing Square Metro station had some nice neon art in it. And of course, I took the stairs both in and out of the subway. Never too early to start warming up.

I walked over to the Ketchum Downtown YMCA and registered. Then I went into the locker room and changed. The YMCA is up on Bunker Hill, while the entrance to the building is down on 5th St. So I walked down the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the starting line. At the time, they were running the “Highrise Heroes” division, which is to say, firefighters in full gear. I rather doubt any of them turned in great times, but just the fact that they were able to make it to the top carrying all that stuff was impressive.

After the last firefighters had gone, they ran the individual age groups, starting with the 10-14 and 15-17 groups, and then working down from 60+. When they called the 40-49 men to the line, I got in line about 3/4 of the way back. I figured that would give me more guys to catch and pass. That’s how I get motivated in these things. I just focus on catching the guy in front of me. It’s sort of like that old joke about the bear: “I just have to outrun you.

When it was my turn, I started up the stairs, doing two steps at a time. Back in April, I managed to maintain that pace for 32 floors. This time, I did nearly the entire thing two steps at a time. A few times, I dropped back to single steps to try and catch my breath. Which turned out to be fool’s errand, as you can see from the picture. That was taken about floor 50 or so. I was very deep in oxygen debt from the start.

At the top, I ran out of the stairwell onto the roof. Once I’d passed the timing pad, they gave me a bottle of water and a little medal to say that I’d made it. Then I immediately sat down and proceeded to pant like a dog. After about five minutes, the pain subsided, and I figured out how to hold the camera steady enough for a nice souvenir photo from the roof with the sunset over Hollywood in the background. Then I headed back down the other stairs to the 69th floor elevator lobby. We had to ride down to 54 and then get the express elevator back to the lobby.

The elevator let us out in the lobby on 5th St. Which meant that we had to go back up the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the YMCA, where they had food, drinks, and race results. Bein’ a badass, I ran up the steps. Wow, did that hurt. I went into the locker room and changed back to my street clothes. Then I went to the little beer garden they had set up. They gave every finisher a ticket for a free beer. By then, I was hacking up phlegm at a furious rate. I talked to a woman who had won the 60+ division, and she said that that’s referred to as “Climber’s Cough”, and it’s a known phenomenon. In other words, it’s a Feature. She also told me about how there’s apparently a circuit of these stair climbs around the country. The one up the Stratosphere in Las Vegas sounds like a hoot. I don’t know if I’d be up for more traveling than that. Maybe San Francisco for the Bank of America building.

When they posted the results, I was pleased to see that I’d come in at 15:07, which was good for 7th place in the 40-49 division. I’d guessed that I’d be around 15 minutes. That time would have been good for 6th in the 50-59 division, and 5th place in 30-39. Apparently, us old guys are tough.

Since I wasn’t in the top three, there was not going to be a medal in my evening this year. So I headed back to the subway to go home. I still took the stairs, though.

It was a very fun adventure.

Update: The overall results are posted online now, and I was 28th out of 309 runners in the Open division. There were only five guys my age or older who went faster than I did. Results are here


Fun at the County Fair

Filed under: — stan @ 9:41 pm

Today, I took Lucinda and her friend Claire out to the Los Angeles County Fair. We went out early in the day, when they were running the $1 special for tickets. It was a perfect day for the fair. It was hot, but only a normal sort of hot for Pomona. The heat wave of the last week finally broke, so we were able to enjoy the day.

The fair is known for some weird foods. And we were immediately reminded of this by the sign advertising chocolate-covered pickles. Yikes. We were not up for trying that. We did try the chocolate-covered bacon, which was decidedly weird. I kept thinking that the chocolate would have been better without the bacon. It wasn’t bad, but the bacon didn’t really add anything other than some crunch and just plain weirdness. And we also didn’t want to try the “Totally Fried Fair Special”.

We stopped by the food exhibit to see if I’d won anything with my baked goods. I hadn’t really expected to win, but I figured it would be an interesting adventure no matter what. And I did see my Black Walnut Bread on display, which was rather novel, even if it didn’t win anything.

They have a lot of concerts at the fair, and one I saw on the schedule was kind of amusing. Apparently, Creedence Clearwater Revival has been revived in some form, now 40 years later. But since the original name of the group had the word ‘Revival’ in it, what could they call it? “Creedence Clearwater Revisited“, of course.

Lucinda and Claire rode a lot of the rides, and they ran through many of the fun houses, too. We went and saw the farm animals, and they got to pet some sheep and goats. They also played a few midway games.

Through all of this, we could see the smoke plume from the Station Fire burning off in the distance. The wind was blowing the smoke away from us and up to the high desert, so the air where we were was fine. But it still looked kind of ominous.

Overall, it was a fun day.


Butterflies and a dinosaur

Filed under: — stan @ 6:07 pm

On Saturday, I took Lucinda and her friend to the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum so they could see the butterflies on the last weekend of the exhibit. They have the butterflies there every summer from the end of May through Labor Day. This was the first time I’d taken her to see them since 2004.

When we got there, there was a tremendous crowd of people in the the park, and we realized that there was a USC football game about to start in the Coliseum next door to the museum. This made getting inside a bit of an adventure, and if I’d known about this, we might not have gone today, but we were already there, so we made do.

The butterflies are in a large outdoor cage, sort of like a small aviary. They enjoyed seeing the butterflies flying around, and also finding some caterpillars, spiders, and other insects there. One of the docents helped them to find some of the more interesting sights, including the web of the spider that inspired E. B. White to write Charlotte’s Web.

Afterward, we went inside for the “Dinosaur Encounter“, where they had an animatronic dinosaur that came out and walked around the room. It was a pretty good effect. We’ve seen robotic dinosaurs before, most recently a few weeks ago when we went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, but this was the first time we’d seen one that actually walks around free. It was quite novel.

Finally, we spent some time looking at the gems and minerals exhibit before going home. It was a fun afternoon.


Onward and especially upward…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:57 am

I registered for the Los Angeles U.S. Bank Tower stair climb today. It’s on Friday, September 25th, and I’m hoping to make a decent showing there. When I did the AON tower stair climb back in April, I came in 24th out of 327 runners, and I’m hoping to improve on that this time. Given that my time for the 62-story AON tower was 12:50, I’m hoping to make the 73 stories of the U.S. Bank Tower in just a bit under 15 minutes. Based on the 2006 results I found online, this would put me at about 30th among the men and about 35th overall. Hey, I’m goal-oriented.

As with the other stair climb, it’s a fundraiser for charity, and I have to solicit donations to make my fundraising goal. In this case, the donations go the Ketchum Downtown YMCA, which I think is a good cause. I used to go training classes there back in the ’80s when I was an aerobics instructor. So this is my way of asking all my friends to consider making a small online donation.

I will be taking my camera along again, and I’m going to get some pictures from the roof of the building, and also probably an ‘action shot’ or two on the way up. Just so you can see how hard I’m running to get a good time.

And as always, there’s a LOLcat for every occasion:

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