Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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10/1/2011

More odd things I see when I’m riding my bike

Filed under: — stan @ 3:16 pm

This morning I went for a little ride. My usual route makes a big loop, and I pass by the Rose Bowl on the way home. It’s not unusual to see some sort of event going on there, but today’s was a bit different. The road had countless thousands of muddy footprints on it, and I saw people running, covered in mud.

When I got home, I looked it up. (Can anyone even remember how life was even possible before we had the Internet?) It was the Gladiator Rock’n-Run. I rode along part of the course just to see what they were doing, and it actually looks kind of fun. And I hate running.

And then, to top it off, I finally got to see the Altadena Wallabies on my way home. There were two of them out in the front yard today. So overall, it was an amusing morning.

30 miles

9/23/2011

Are there stairs on Nantucket?

Filed under: — stan @ 10:20 pm

Today was the day for the YMCA “Stair Climb for Los Angeles“, formerly known as “Stair Climb to the Top”. This is the climb up the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. About 75 floors, 1,018 feet, and 1,500 steps to the top. This was my third time doing this event.

This morning, while I was getting ready for work, I stepped on the scale. It said 170, which is about normal for me these days. But when I was riding my bike to the office, I was thinking, “one hundred and seventy pounds”, and thinking that that phrase just might be the first line of a limerick. So by the the time I got to the office, I had this:

One hundred and seventy pounds
That shouldn’t be cause for a frown
Though the stairs are so long
My legs are still strong
And I’ll make lots of loud panting sounds

I left work a little bit early to go home and pick up my stair climbing gear. Then I went to the Gold Line and got on the train to go downtown. Along the way, Morgan, Jason, Chris, and Irving from my office at Caltech all got on. This was quite novel. We had a whole crew to go climb the stairs tonight.

After doing a fair number of these events, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who are regulars at this. So this made for a fun time visiting before it was time to climb. But as our start time approached, the usual feeling of dread began to creep in. The first time I did one of these things, I went into it with an attitude of “How hard could it be?” And by the time I got to the 25th floor, I had realized that this is the hardest athletic thing I’ve ever done. So now I know what I’m getting into. And I know that I’ll hit the wall at about the 45th floor, and I’ll be thinking, “What the HELL was I thinking signing up for this again”. Or in limerick form, that looks like this:

Passing the forty-fifth floor
I don’t think I can climb any more
Cross-eyed in pain
This sport is insane!
“Yet I must go on,” I swore

Morgan’s friend Chris had started right behind me, and he shadowed me all the way up. He’s very strong, but this was his first race, so he’s still learning how to pace for the long run. I had a look at my watch at about the 25th floor, and it said something like 4:15, so I knew I was on target. At 55, it was just a little bit over 9 minutes, so I was still on track. But the last 20 floors were pure hell. They always are. It’s just the nature of the beast. By the time we got to 60, my lips were tingling, and I had tunnel vision. At least that helped me to not look at the floor numbers. The highest numbered floor is 73, and there there are about two more before the finish line on the roof. When we came out on the roof, I flopped down on the big steel window-washer crane track. It was a big steel girder, and it was nice and cool. I just laid on it panting for several minutes.

To the finish line we sustained
Endeavoring not to wane
Collapsed on the floor
Panting and sore
I can’t wait ’til I do this again

In the end, my time was 14:11. Once again, I fell short of my goal of going under 14 minutes. But on the other hand, I did improve my time by 23 seconds over what I did last year. But last year, I got a medal for 2nd place, and this time I was 8th. There were a lot more people doing it this year. So I finished 8th out of 111 in the men’s 50-59 category. Still, I did some math, and my time was in the 94th percentile among men, 97th overall, and 93rd percentile in my age group. Nothing not to like there. And working out my power production:

77kg * 310m * 9.8 = 233926J
233926J / 851sec = 275W
275W * 0.001341 = 0.37hp

While it’s not the 0.4hp I managed in practice, it’s still good, since this climb was longer than the practice climbs.

Overall, there’s nothing not to like about this. And I looked through the results, and even though there were over 2,000 people participating, there were only 6 guys my age or older who went faster. And at my age, that’s a Good Thing.

It was a fun time.

9/11/2011

Time for the County Fair again

Filed under: — stan @ 8:49 pm

It’s the end of summer, so it’s time once again for the Los Angeles County Fair.

I didn’t win a ribbon this year. But if you want to try, here are the recipes I entered:

Blueberry Muffins
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

In any case, they didn’t get a ribbon, unlike last year’s entry.

It was a nice day for the fair. It’s usually very hot there, but today was nice. We went there with Lucinda and her friend London. Being the age that they are, Kathleen and I figured we’d send them off with some money, and we’d only hear from them when they needed more.

Right inside the gate, we were assaulted with the stands offering Everything! Totally! Fried! Yick.

First off, Kathleen and I headed over to the Culinary Styles area. I wanted to see if I’d won a ribbon, since they don’t publish the results. I didn’t win anything, so we moved on. We stopped in to see the garden model railroad. It was amusing to see that they had a lot of familiar Los Angeles sights rendered in miniature there. After that, we wandered over to get some Dr Bob’s Ice Cream. Then, we went into the pet area, since they had a pen with some wallabies in it. Not your usual pets, but interesting and cute.

Next, we found the arts building, so we could go see the Museum of Neon Art exhibit there. It was a small exhibit, mostly of old neon signs from their collection. At that point, I got a message from Lucinda. They’d gone on some rides, and they were out of money. And they wanted to buy themselves tails. So I told them to meet us outside, and I gave them some more money. We followed along to see the tails, and they were cute.

For lunch, we went to King Taco. Then, after having the pork carnitas, we went into the barn to see some baby pigs. We looked at all the animals, and ended up at the far end just in time for the pig races. That was amusing, and at the end, they gave us all coupons for a pound of bacon. Made from the losers, presumably.

The final act was to walk through all the exhibit halls and marvel at the endless rows of booths selling all manner of crap. In the end, I bought a hat, which was a fairly modest thing, compared to some of the stuff they were selling there.

It was a fun day.

9/5/2011

Parking isn’t Rocket Science…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 pm

Last Sunday, we went to the “Spinal Tap” show at Hollywood Forever. Going to one of these screenings has been on our list of things to do for a long time. And we had a nice time – once we got in. The process of getting in was so aggravating and so frustrating that we ended up wanting to never come to another event again.

The process of scanning the tickets and parking passes at the gate had something very, very fundamentally wrong with it. Tickets were sold online, and they were the print-at-home kind with a bar code. So when you get to the gate, all they have to do is scan them and you’re done. There is no reason why it should take 3 minutes to scan the tickets for one car. If the people at McDonald’s ran their drive-through like that, they wouldn’t get fired. They’d be taken out back and shot.

There was a line coming out of the gate and down Santa Monica Boulevard. At Gower St, the line turned and went down the street. We spent 45 minutes waiting in line on Gower St, not moving one inch. Because every time a little room opened up in the main line on Santa Monica Blvd, cars coming down Santa Monica Blvd would fill it in. The only motion on the Gower St line was when people in front of us gave up and bailed out.

We finally bailed out and ended up on Santa Monica Blvd going the other way. There was a short line there for people turning left into the entrance, and we got in that way after waiting just a few minutes. Because the guy directing traffic at the gate was giving equal priority to the line of 10 cars on Santa Monica turning left and the line of 200 cars on Santa Monica turning right into the gate.

This was stupid.

There was no reason why this should have been such an ordeal.

How it really should be done:

There should be just one line. Put us a sign at the entrance that says something like, “Line for Cinespia forms on Gower St”. Put up a sign at the southwest corner of Santa Monica and Gower that says the same thing. Put a security person there to watch over it and direct.

Now that there is just one line, send someone down the line to check that everyone has their tickets. There is no reason why the people with the scanners should be fumbling with money. That slows everything down. Any car that does not have the proper tickets gets a yellow Post-It on the windshield. When they get up to the turnoff into the gate, have someone meet them there and sell them the tickets or whatever that they need. By the time they get to the scanners, they should have everything in place to be scanned. There is no call to hold up everyone else because someone isn’t prepared.

This sort of thing just isn’t Rocket Science. It’s not that hard. It would make for a more pleasant experience for the attendees, and far less verbal abuse for the people working the gate.

9/4/2011

A fun evening*

Filed under: — stan @ 11:05 pm

On Sunday night, we went to Hollywood Forever for one of the Cinespia movies. Tonight it was “This is Spinal Tap“. It was a fun evening, with one big exception. And that was almost enough to make me never want to go to another of their shows again. But aside from that, it was a fun time. We brought a little picnic dinner, along with the chairs we got for going to “Hamlet” and “The Captains” back in July. So we had a nice time. After the movie, we visited the photo booth and got our picture taken with Stonehenge.

* I’ll write about the utter idiocy that was the line for parking in another post.

9/3/2011

Neon lights, but not so much water as last time

Filed under: — stan @ 11:30 pm

Last December, we took the Museum of Neon Art’s Holiday Lights tour. And as it turned out, that was the night it was pouring rain in Los Angeles, which is not so good if you’re riding in an open-top sightseeing bus. So tonight, we went to do the summer version of the neon tour, and it seemed like a pretty good bet that it wasn’t going to rain.

The museum has moved out of the old bank building on 4th St in preparation for their move to Glendale next year. So the tour began in Chinatown. There is a lot of nice neon dating back to the 1930s there, and it was always a stop on the tour, so it seemed like a good place to start. While we were waiting to go, we wandered around and took pictures of the neon as the sun went down.

When it got dark, we all loaded up the bus and headed out. They took us downtown to see all the old theaters on Broadway, as well as a number of other old neon signs in the area. Then we had our first stop of the tour, at The Golden Gopher. Word is that Gopher has the oldest liquor license in L.A., and it’s apparently one of very few that allow for take-out. And the little gophers inside were cute.

Leaving downtown, we headed up across Echo Park and Silver Lake into Hollywood. There is a lot of neon and other electric signage in Hollywood, so that was a natural for the tour. Eric was our guide for the tour, and he was very entertaining, telling us stories about the different signs along the way, as well as maintaining a constant patter about which historic buildings have been converted to loft housing. There’s a little video excerpt you can see there that will give a taste of what the tour is like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhA6D6DzZh0

It was a very fun evening.

8/28/2011

Barbie

Filed under: — stan @ 1:59 pm

It’s the last Sunday of the month, so that means it’s time for the slightly-longer Sunday morning bike club ride. This is our chance to go places that are a little farther away than normal. So today’s ride was out to Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, to pay respects to Ruth and Elliott Handler, who were the founders of Mattel Toys. They are respectively credited with inventing the Barbie doll and Hot Wheels. Even though those are just toys, they made a mark on the world.

We had a smallish group today. It was forecast to be hot, and I think that scared some people off.

The route took us through downtown Los Angeles, and then out along West Adams, roughly paralleling the new Metro Expo line. We got to see it along the way. It’s coming along nicely, and it will probably be ready to open pretty soon.

In Culver City, we saw the hill with the Culver City stairs. A lot of the competitive stair climbers I know practice there. By the number of people going up there on a Sunday morning, it looks like a popular place.

There was construction on Sepulveda Blvd down near Fox Hills Mall. That was a bit unpleasant. But we made it to Hillside Memorial Park just fine. The Handlers are buried in the far back of the cemetery. Elliott died fairly recently, so he just had temporary marker next to Ruth’s. They are also buried next to their son, Kenneth, who was the namesake of the Ken doll.

On the way back, we saw a fountain in Culver City that seems to be popular with little kids. We stopped for a bagel at Noah’s on Venice Blvd. It had turned out to be a perfect day. It was about 76F, with a nice breeze off the ocean.

We took a new variation of the route back this time, going on 4th St through Hancock Park. This allowed us to take a one-block side trip to see the House of Davids. There was an article in the Times recently about this. The owner wants to sell the house and move away. Apparently, he is dismayed that his house is more famous than he is. Go figure.

As we got back to Pasadena, it got quite a bit hotter. But it was still below 100, so it wasn’t as hot as we’d been expecting. There were big thunderclouds up over the mountains, which is not unusual this time of the year.

It was a nice ride.

55 miles.

8/23/2011

Well, this certainly made for an interesting day

Filed under: — stan @ 8:16 pm

There was a fairly large earthquake in Virginia today. Magnitude 5.8, which was strong enough to be felt as far north as Toronto. This is an unusual event, and it brought the news trucks out to the office for the first time in quite a while.

My Pet Project told me about the earthquake first, with a message that it had been detected by the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center’s seismic network. Given that this was an unusual location for an earthquake that large, I wanted to get independent verification that it was real. So I had a look at Twitter. And sure enough, there were people talking about it already. So I had a look at the web servers to see that they were doing all right, and I checked on the ENS (aka My Pet Project) database to be sure it was doing all right. Then I headed across the street.

Channel 7 was the first to arrive. Seeing that first news truck after an earthquake is like seeing the first robin of spring. Soon, we had a large collection of them parked all around the building, and they filled up the media room for the quick press conference that was organized for the occasion.

It’s always entertaining watching the media frenzy after an earthquake. So it made for a fun afternoon. And ENS picked up over 2,600 new subscribers today. It still boggles my mind that something I invented is being used by more than 280,000 people.

8/1/2011

Monday evening fun

Filed under: — stan @ 10:59 pm

Monday evening was an exercise in contrasts.

First off, I went downtown for the first stair practice session at One California Plaza. This is a 42-story building, so it’s bigger than my usual practice sessions at Millikan Library at Caltech. I’d done this one once last year, so I was curious to see how I’d do on it this time.

There was a good group there for it. We all trooped over there and handed in our signed waivers to the building guards. Then the let us loose in the stairs.

Because the building is relatively short, the stairs were pretty much straight up. There was just one break in the middle for a big mechanical floor, I passed one or two people, and one or two passed me. But they were people who are very fast, so I can’t complain too much. And in the end, I got to the top in 7:31, which is a good 35 seconds faster than I did it last year. Nothing not to like there. And we got to ride the elevator back down this time, which was good. I’d said that I wasn’t going to walk down unless the building was on fire.

Afterward, just a bit of contrast, I went out to Burbank and met up with Kathleen at the Smoke House for their Monday night special. Prime rib, and 1/2 off wine. Again, nothing not to like there.

It was a fun evening.

7/30/2011

Hollywood Sightseeing with the Krell

Filed under: — stan @ 6:29 pm

This afternoon, Kathleen and I went to Hollywood to see the exhibit at the Linwood Dunn Theater gallery. They were showing props and other artifacts from the 1956 movie, “Forbidden Planet“. In keeping with the theme from last Thursday, this movie was based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

We saw some of the equipment they used to make the all-electronic music for the movie, which was pretty unusual for 1956. We also saw some miniature models used in the filming, as well as the full-sized Robbie the Robot suit.

After this, we went to Hollywood Forever to do a bit more sightseeing. We went to Hollywood Forever, and I got some new entries for my Graves photo collection.

And on the way home, I saw some minor words of wisdom tie-wrapped to a pole.

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