Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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3/4/2012

The Coughing Game

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 pm

This year’s Scale the Strat stair climb was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I took almost 40 seconds off my best time for the tower. But on the other hand, I blew out my throat and lungs breathing the extra-dry desert air, and I ended up coughing so much that I couldn’t race on in the finals on Sunday. And on the third hand, Saturday was Lucinda’s 13th birthday, so she got to have a fun weekend in Las Vegas with Trinh. So overall, it was a good weekend, even if I didn’t get to do my best performance on the stairs.

We headed out there on Friday morning. The idea was to get there before dark. We stopped at Alien Fresh Jerky in Baker, since the girls all like their jerky. I don’t really get the appeal of jerky, but the place is amusing. When we got to Las Vegas, we got checked in to the hotel, and the girls went off on their own. Kathleen and I went up the tower to scout it out. I’ve been on a mission to get a fully-detailed layout of the stairs there, and I wanted to have a peek into the stairwell at the top to count the steps on the last two flights. I figured they’re be the same for all eight levels of the pod at the top of the tower.

After the scouting mission, we all headed over to Circus Circus for dinner. I got the obligatory prime rib that I always look for in Las Vegas. And after dinner, the girls all got some faux-ice-cream thing that I tasted and thought was horrible.

Saturday morning came, and I’d made up my preliminary map of the stairs. And based on that, I figured out split times that I’d need to make for the three major landmarks on the climb. The first was the first rest area, 1/3 of the way up the tower shaft. The second was the other rest area, which is about 2/3 of the way up the shaft, and the final landmark was the first fire refuge level at the bottom of the pod, right at the top of the tower shaft. I made up split times, aiming to be at the top in 11 minutes. Then I wrote them on a little card and safety-pinned it to the back of my glove, so I could see it at the same time when I looked at my watch.

I made the first landmark about 10 seconds ahead of schedule. The second and third landmarks were right on schedule. I managed to put on a burst of speed at the end, and I stumbled out of the stairs in 10:43, which is 37 seconds faster than my previous best time for this climb.

After the climb, Kathleen was signed up to do the Sky Jump off the tower. So we got cleaned up and headed down there. They got her suited up, and I had a seat on one of the lounge chairs they have set up by the landing area next to the tower. When they announced that it was her turn, I turned my big zoom lens up and shot a bunch of pictures as she came down. It was over pretty quickly, but she said it was fun, that is, it was fun after she got over having to take that first step off the edge.

Saturday evening, we went to the Peppermill for dinner with the whole West Coast Labels/X-Gym stair climbing team. All afternoon, I’d had a bad case of the Climber’s Cough, brought on by breathing the dry desert air in the stairwell. But by dinnertime, it seemed to be getting better.

After dinner, we headed downtown so that the girls could do the zipline on Fremont St again. But when we got there, my cough came back, worse than before. I’ve coughed a lot after stair climbs, but never before so hard that I thought I was in serious danger of barfing. When I nearly lost my dinner on Fremont St, I knew I had to pack it in. So Kathleen and I gave the girls enough money for cab fare back to the Stratosphere, and we headed back to our room.

By this time, I was starting to have serious doubts about running in the finals on Sunday morning. But I figured I’d just go to sleep and see how I felt in the morning.

Sunday morning came, and I felt slightly better. But my throat was pretty raw, and all my chest muscles were sore from all the coughing. That was when I came up with a plan to salvage the situation. I knew that running all-out was out of the question. But on the other hand, I’d wanted to do a scouting trip up the stairs to get an accurate map and step count. And since I’d qualified for the finals, I had my ticket into the stairs. So I wore my shorts that have pockets, and I brought along a pen and a notepad. When it was time to start, I started out like normal, but as soon as I was up the first couple of flights, and out of sight of the starting line, I pulled out the notepad and started writing notes. I counted the steps on every flight, which was pretty easy, since the majority of the climb is just 20-step flights, with a landing and a 180-degree left turn. At the second rest area, I even took a minute to look over the side of the stairs and contemplate the 250 or so feet of empty space below my feet. That was impressive. I shan’t be looking at that again, I think. At the end, I walked up the last flight and strolled out of the stairwell, notes in hand. It was a bit of an odd way to end the race, but at least I got some useful information out of it.

After the climb was over, I went over my notes, and I quickly determined several things that we’d all been wondering about:

  • How many steps are there?
  • How high is the climb itself?
  • How many floors are there in the pod?

And the end product as a complete chart of the stairs. The observation deck level of the tower is 855 feet above street level. It turns out that the 3rd floor, where they start the climb, is 47 feet above street level. So the climb is 808 feet, and 1,372 steps. This is, as I’ve been saying, about the equivalent of a normal 60-story building. So even though they said it’s “108 stories”, they’re exaggerating. And the published step count of 1,455 is wrong. And finally, there are 8 levels in the pod. So this will be an aid to planning and computing split times for future climbs.

The last thing we did on Sunday afternoon was to go to New York New York to ride the roller coaster there. Kathleen and I rode it last year when we were here for the stair climb, but we couldn’t ride it when we were there in May, owing to the wind being too strong that day. So we finally all got to ride it. It’s a pretty good ride, even if the 200-foot lift hill at the beginning gives me the willies.

Overall, it was a nice weekend. And we didn’t even get stuck in much traffic on the way home.

2/28/2012

End of an era

Filed under: — stan @ 6:45 am

I canceled our DirecTV service today. Kathleen and I used it to watch the Oscars on Sunday. And I got to thinking that before that, the last thing I can remember watching on it was Punkin Chunkin back at Thanksgiving. We used to use it to watch “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”, but since we got Hulu Plus on the Roku last July, we watch those over there. And Lucinda pretty much only watches streaming things from Netflix on the Roku. For as much as we’ve used the DirecTV since last summer, it works out to something like $60 an hour for the few things we’ve watched on it. It’s just not worth it.

So that’s that.

2/11/2012

Roller Derby!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:07 pm

Recently, Kathleen and I have watched a number of documentaries about the revival of roller derby. And it looks like something fun to go see. The L.A. Derby Dolls recently changed their policy to allow all ages to come to their bouts, so asked Lucinda if she wanted to go. And tonight we all went to see the show.

Getting there turned out to be a big ordeal, but that was just because of some problems on the road, and ordinarily, it’s not all that bad of a trip. We got there just before they introduced the skaters before the bout started. Next time, we’ll plan on getting there earlier. They had a whole vendor area, as well as food trucks outside. Truck Norris was even there. Inside, they had the banked track set up, with sort of standing-room bleachers set up around it. The regular tickets are general admission, and there are no seats. But because of the way the platforms are set up, it wasn’t a problem. We found a little bit of space along the railing and let Lucinda and London take that, while we stood behind them. So we could all see just fine.

At the start of the match, they explained the basic flow of the game, so it made some sense. And there was a lot of fast action. The announcer said that at least one of the jammers is a speed skater in her other life. And it showed when they got going. It was a lot of fun to watch. At half-time, they had a bout a 30 minute break, with a band playing in the vendor room. Lucinda and London went and bought themselves some shirts. It looked like they had a good time there.

All in all, it was tremendously entertaining.

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.

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.

12/3/2011

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


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.

8/29/2011

Once more to the Magic Kingdom

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

For the past three years, I’ve made a point of taking Lucinda to Disneyland just before school starts. Partly because it’s a nice way to end the summer, and partly because our friend who works there has a pass that doesn’t work during the high days of summer. So today was the day. We went twice last year, and those were the days when we got Lucinda to ride California Screamin’ for the first time. And the second time last year was the day when we rode it 21 times. That was a very absurd, but also very fun day.

Lucinda is getting older now, so it’s not the same as it was a few years ago. This time we went with her friend London, and my girlfriend Kathleen. That way, I would have company, and the two girls could go off on their own and do whatever they want. So where I used to have a whole set of pictures of her on the various rides, now I just have a few. I got one when we got there, just before we went in. We ran into them around mid-day at California Screamin’, so I got a picture of them on the front row of the train, coming around the last turn. And then I got one more at the end of the day, when we had our traditional dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. They told us about what they did and what rides the rode, but I have no pictures.

Kathleen and I had a nice time. We rode Space Mountain four times, California Screamin’ four times, and we also got to ride the newly-redone Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain, and Pirates. So we were not lacking for fun. We also got to see the Phineas and Ferb show, which is new. My friend Nick at work is an old friend of the creator of Phineas and Ferb. So I’ve heard a bit of the history behind the show and the characters. And I’m sure that the fact that there is now a show at Disneyland means that Dan is sleeping on a very big pile of money now. And that it’s well-deserved. We like Phineas and Ferb.

Overall, it was a very fun day.

8/11/2011

Downtown art

Filed under: — stan @ 11:42 pm

It’s Art Walk night in downtown Los Angeles again. We missed it last month, but this time we didn’t have any conflicts. So Lucinda and I went downtown for it. We met up with Kathleen, who brought Melissa and Emily along.

The first order of business was to find the fabled gourmet food trucks. Every time we go, it seems like they are in a different place. This time, they were all in one parking lot at the north end of the gallery district. We wandered around, looking at all the choices. Kathleen and I both decided to have the Guerilla Fried Chicken. It was a bit odd, and very good. Never had fried chicken with bearnaise sauce before. We followed that up with an ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel ice cream. Yum.

After that, we got down to wandering the galleries and looking at the art. As always, there was a wide variety of things on display, ranging from meh to good to very disturbing. I like the disturbing ones. We wandered around until the galleries started closing down, which was around 10. It was a fun little Thursday night outing.

7/22/2011

More new frontiers in the kitchen

Filed under: — stan @ 7:17 pm

Last weekend, when we had our picnic at Lake Travis, one of the things we got at Central Market was jalapeños stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. Yum. They were good. So today I decided I’d try making some at home.

The ones we bought were halved, stuffed, and then wrapped. I took a slightly different approach, slitting the pepper on one side and stuffing it, but leaving it essentially whole. Then I wrapped a half-strip of bacon around it and stuck a toothpick through it.

I cooked them on the barbecue, which may not be the best way to do this, since the dripping bacon fat caused a lot of flames. It may be that hot oven might be the best way to do this.

They were quite good. Lucinda and I both liked them. Clearly, more experimentation is in order.

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