Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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2/20/2014

A quick stair-climbing session

Filed under: — stan @ 10:18 pm

On Thursdays, I have to take Lucinda to art class at 5:00, so I can’t get downtown for the beginning of stair practice. It runs from 5:00 to 7:00, and on these nights, I don’t get there until about 6:00. So I was only able to do two times up the building. At least, this time I was able to do my ‘brisk but modest’ pace, and get to the top a few seconds ahead of my 11:15 target. And the second time, I managed to put on a little bit of speed at the end, just to make it up in less than 12 minutes. So given that I’m still borderline-crippled by my ongoing back problems, I really can’t complain too much.

2/19/2014

Cephalopd fancy

Filed under: — stan @ 9:54 pm

Last fall, when we went to the Los Angeles County Fair, we stopped in a booth selling metal artwork. That’s where we picked up the little steel squid that hangs on our front door.

Around Christmas time, I noticed a little Santa hat hairclip that was just clipped on the edge of a lampshade. Since it wasn’t doing anything, I took the clip and put it on the squid. And like all manner of silly ideas, this took on a life of its own. We started planning for Valentine’s Day. I made a little heart-magnet, and we decorated the squid again. So now, moving on, we’re ready for St. Patrick’s Day. And we’re on the lookout for some bunny ears.

2/18/2014

Still going at it…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:09 pm

So today was yet another evening on the stairs. Three times up 51 floors. Great fun, isn’t it? Today was special, since Kathleen had to go to a training class for work that was near downtown, so we met up at the building to do the stair practice.

The first time up, I was just trying for my ‘brisk, but modest’ pace. That would have gotten me to the top in 11:15, so I was pretty close. I went up again, just to do it, and then a third time that I didn’t time.

It’s kind of nice, in that climbing major stairs does something so my back doesn’t seem to hurt for an hour or two afterward. I have no idea why that would be, but I’m not complaining.

2/15/2014

More things that are not what they seem

Filed under: — stan @ 3:54 pm

When Kathleen got home Friday night, she said we needed to take a walk up the street. There was a movie crew working there, and they’d turned the old St. Luke’s Hospital into a mental institution. So we walked up the street and saw the big fake concrete wall and gate. It was pretty realistic-looking. I went back to see it the next morning, and I was able to see the 2×4s and sandbags behind it.

I always like seeing the old place dressed up as different things. It usually plays a hospital, but it’s also been used as a generic crime scene, as well as a courthouse.

It’s always fun to see how they make the illusions look real.

2/13/2014

The Vertical Kilometer

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

Tonight’s staircase adventure was going to be my friend Morgan’s second attempt at the Vertical Kilometer. Last week she got to the building a little late, and ran out of time. This week, she was going to be downtown a little early, so she could start climbing right when practice opened at 5:00. I was going to get there late, since I had to take Lucinda to art class after work. So while Morgan was heading up the stairs at 5:00, I was just getting on the train for downtown. The plan was to meet up at the building so I could pace her up the fourth and fifth times.

She texted me each time she started a lap, and she was starting up the third time when I was about to get on the subway for the final three-stop ride to the 7th St Metro station. I got to the building at 6:03, and she had just finished the third lap. So after some Gatorade, we headed up for her fourth lap. I’d brought my camera along, since I figured this would be a good chance to get some more good action shots in the stairwell.

When we were at about the 50th floor, we heard some people coming up behind us. And then Veronica and Madeleine went flying past us. Veronica went so fast the camera’s autofocus gave up. I went up to the next landing to have a little more room, and I was able to get a good action shot of Madeleine.

The final climb was a grind. Morgan was tired, but she knew she had it in the bag. We started up the final climb at 6:30, and we had until 7:00 to finish, so she had it made. Still, it was hard. Just look at the fourth picture. But she made it, and she even perked up a bit for the last few floors. At the top, we got a souvenir photo, and then we headed for home. It was a good stair outing.

2/11/2014

Four-peat

Filed under: — stan @ 9:54 pm

It’s Tuesday, and time to go downtown and do battle with the Aon bulding staircase again. I’m trying to take it easy, but still get in some climbing without messing up my back. The practice climb course is 1,126 steps from the 4th floor up to 55. That’s 690 feet, or 210 meters vertical. My goal for this evening was just to be able to do it four times. I’ve not done that much in one session yet this year, and not since my back went to hell last fall.

The plan was to try for my vertical mile pace from last year. I was able to maintain that on my first climb last Tuesday, but not tonight. I started to fall behind by the 35th floor or so. And instead of getting to 55 in 11:15, it took 11:41. Oh well. I can’t be too disappointed, since as recently as four weeks ago I couldn’t even walk around the block. So I’ll take progress where I can.

The second time up, I went a little slower. I walked up alone, just doing an easy, steady pace. After that, when I got back to the bottom, I saw Jeannie, so we walked up together for my third climb. We just walked and talked all the way to 55. And the last time, I saw Nathan at the bottom. He was heading up for his fourth climb out of a planned five. He was going to do the Vertical Kilometer. So I walked up with him for the fourth time. When I got back to the bottom, I had enough time that I could have done it again, but I figured I didn’t want to push my luck. Four climbs still adds up to a half-mile vertical, and I’m trying to build back up slowly.

Maybe by April I’ll be able to go fast again, but for now, I’m just glad I’m physically able to do it at all.

2/9/2014

Dumb Starbucks

Filed under: — stan @ 4:39 pm

Yesterday, I saw this article on LAist:

http://laist.com/2014/02/08/dumb_starbucks_thats_the_actual_nam.php

I’m a big fan of funny art installations, and that’s basically what this is. I figured it’s probably not going to last too long, so I made plans to go see it today with the Sunday morning bike club group.

We rode out towards Hollywood by our usual route, only stopping once in Highland Park so Michael could fix his tire after running over a nail. And when we got to Dumb Starbucks, we saw that the word had gotten out. There was a line out the door and across the parking lot. And pretty much everyone thought it was pretty hilarious. Jeff and I even saw our stair-climbing friend Amber there.

As much as we wanted to see inside the place, we didn’t have time to wait in the line. So after a few pictures, we moved on. We rode across Hollywood and then down into Larchmont Village for bagels at Noah’s. After that, we came home by the usual route. It was an amusing ride. Reminiscent of the time we went to see the Kwik-E-Mart, and the time we rode to see Wilshire Boulevard dressed up as Tokyo, or 4th Street dressed as a New York City tunnel toll plaza.

41 miles.

2/7/2014

More electronics hacking

Filed under: — stan @ 7:06 pm

I recently found out I had some stupendous number of ‘reward points’ on my credit card. I had a look at what I could get with them, and I got this. It’s a little weather station, complete with an outside temperature sensor. So I set it up, and it works well. The only downside turned out to be that the outside sensor eats batteries. A pair of good AA batteries would only last about two weeks in it, which seems pretty pathetic for something that you’re supposed to be able to just set up and leave, like a clock. So I started thinking about what I could do about that. Since I’ve done things like this before, I figured I could rig something up.

One possibility might be to just put more or bigger batteries in it, so that there’s just more power behind it, and they wouldn’t have to be changed as often. But then I remembered that I’d found the remains of a little solar-powered flashing warning light after the wind storm in 2011, and it had two AA-sized batteries and a little solar panel to recharge them. So I thought I might be able to rig something up to have those batteries run the outside sensor, and set up the solar panel to recharge them every day.

The instructions for the weather station unit say specifically not to use rechargeable batteries in it. I think that’s probably because it’s a relatively high-current use, and rechargeables just don’t hold as much as regular batteries. But I did some tests, and I found that the unit could run just fine on a pair of NiMH rechargeable batteries. It just wouldn’t last very long. So it was time to rig up a charger.

I had to make some little wooden fake batteries to go in the battery compartment of the sensor, since it seemed that it would not run if I just hooked wires up to the battery compartment contacts. It seems to want some physical pressure on the contacts to work. So I made some fake batteries and I just ran wires out of it to an external battery pack.

Once that was working, I got the little solar panel and a diode and hooked the whole thing up with alligator clips, and I set it up on the window sill. I got it to work there, and even inside the window, I got a good 3.6V off the solar panel. So it charged the batteries whenever the sun was shining. I left it running like that for about a week. After that, I moved it all outside and set it up there with the batteries and and wires inside a cardboard box, and the solar panel on top. It ran fine for a week, so then I made it slightly more permanent. I put the sensor back on its bracket under the garage roof overhang, and mounted the external battery pack underneath it. I ran a wire across to the south side of the overhang on the garage roof, and I put the solar panel there. And what do you know? It works.

It’s been running on the NiMH rechargeables and solar panel for over a month now, and it’s worked flawlessly. On the other hand, I noticed something else annoying. I’d thought that the indoor unit was just a passive receiver for the signal from the outside sensor, but apparently they must talk back and forth. And because of this, the inside unit eats a pair of batteries about every 2-3 weeks, too. This is annoying, both because of the expense of the batteries, and also the fact that both units need to be powered off and reset to change the batteries, even if only one is being changed. It’s a Pain in the Ass, and it also will cost on the order of $20 a year for batteries alone for just the inside unit. So I went looking and found a little 3V plug-in power supply for $7.99 online. I don’t know what it’s supposed to power, but that doesn’t matter. I just clipped off the plug at the end of the wire, soldered some wires onto the contacts inside the battery compartment, and hooked it all together. And it works.

So now I’m set. The inside unit runs off regular house current, and the outside unit is running on batteries, but they are getting recharged by the sun every day. And it was a fun little project.

2/6/2014

A vertical kilometer attempt

Filed under: — stan @ 7:18 pm

I went downtown this evening for some more fun and frolic on the Aon building staircase. My friend Morgan was going to try for a vertical kilometer this evening. That’s five times up the practice course from 4 to 55. I did this here last year in my preparations for the vertical mile climb. I knew I was going to get there a bit late, so I said I’d pace her for the final ascents.

As it turned out, she got there a little late, and only had two laps in by the time I got there at 6:00. So we headed up at a slow, but steady pace. We ended up doing that twice, and then she decided that she’d had enough at four laps. There probably wasn’t enough time for a fifth anyway, but if she gets there closer to 5:00 to start, the vertical kilometer is in reach.

2/4/2014

Still feeling my way up the stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 9:34 pm

It’s Tuesday, and time for yet another assault on the Aon building staircase. My back has been worse this weekend, but still nowhere near the levels of pain I was having back in January, so I thought I’d make the attempt.

I got there relatively early, and I started up the stairs at my ‘moderate pace’ of 4 1/2 floors per minute. This time, I was able to maintain that pretty much all the way up. And today was the first time since last year that I did the 51-story climb in under 11 minutes. And it didn’t hurt my back, so I guess that’s all right.

I went up a second time, just taking it easy. I turned it up a little bit for the last few floors, since I saw that I had a chance to get to the top in under 13 minutes. After that, I went up a third time, just because I didn’t feel bad. Nathan was there, so we walked up together, talking and just taking it easy.

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