Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

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3/11/2014

My Vertical Kilometer

Filed under: — stan @ 9:43 pm

Since I’ve found that stair climbing doesn’t aggravate my back problems, I thought I’d try an experiment tonight and do a vertical kilometer. I did this last year as part of my preparations for the vertical mile climb. My friend Morgan did this a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I was trying for a modest, but consistent pace, like I did last year. When I did the vertical kilometer last year, I only had a spread of 42 seconds between my fastest and slowest climbs. Looking at my times this time around, you can see that I’m just not in the condition I was in last year. And with my back problems, I’m not pulling on the railing, since I don’t want to do anything that twists my spine. Still, I was able to make the vertical kilometer pretty easily. It’s only five times up. 255 floors, 5,630 steps. Easy.

3/10/2014

The Crappiest Place on Earth

Filed under: — stan @ 8:22 pm

This morning, Kathleen and I took a tour of the Hyperion sewage treatment plant on the beach just south of LAX. This outing was organized by the Obscura Society. We’d been on their “Field Trip Day” last fall, as well as trips to Pinball Forever and the Bunny Museum. So when we got the notice about a trip to “The Disneyland of Poop“, well, we just had to sign up.

The tour began in their visitor center, where they issued us hairnets and hard hats. Then, we got on a tram, just like at Disneyland, for the ride around the plant. We saw the big settling tanks, and the tall digesters, all of which were mercifully covered. We stopped in to the building where they load the sludge on trucks to be taken to the farm that DWP owns in the Central Valley. They said it’s used to fertilize the crops there, which are then sold for animal feed.

Next, we went to see Headworks. This is the first stage of processing, where the raw sewage is passed through coarse screens to filter out large solid objects. They said they get a lot of candy wrappers, and also a fair amount of money. And indeed, we saw a dollar bill that was raked up by the automated screen-scrapers. They told us the money is sanitized and ends up back in circulation. And here, I always thought “flushing money down the toilet” was just a figure of speech. But it’s a real thing. Mostly, though, the rakes were just continuously pulling up a foul-looking and smelling glop of toilet paper and such. Yick.

The final stage of treatment is the clarifying tanks. By now, the water is clean enough that the tanks can be open, and there were ducks and seagulls in them. At the end of the tour, we came back to the visitor center, and we went upstairs to see their little museum. They had a piece of 12-foot sewer pipe to stand in, just to get an idea of just how much sewage they process every day.

Lastly, we got a tour of one of the labs with a marine biologist who works there. She showed us a fish tank with specimens of the sorts of fish and other creatures that live in Santa Monica Bay. It is the biologist’s job to be sure that the outflow from the plant doesn’t damage the undersea habitat.

So, after all that was done, it was only about noon. Since we had taken the whole day off, we thought that going to the real Disneyland might be a fun way to round out the day. So we went from “The Crappiest Place on Earth” to “The Happiest Place on Earth”. This adventure sort of bookends the whole human experience in a way.

3/4/2014

204 Floors

Filed under: — stan @ 9:25 pm

Tonight was yet another stair practice session at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. I still think it’s a bit odd that, even though just walking is still painful for me due to my back going to hell and all, climbing stairs doesn’t hurt. And I’ve noticed that when I’m done, walking is better for about two hours before the pain returns. I can’t explain it, but I’m not complaining. Most people might think that climbing 204 floors of stairs to get two hours of back pain relief was not a good trade-off, but as I always say, “how hard could it be?”

There was a good crowd there tonight. Everyone was back from last weekend’s race at the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I skipped that one this year, since a trip to Las Vegas always involves a good bit of walking, and I thought that would just be too painful. But I got to hear everyone’s stories about the weekend, and Lisa was wearing wings on her shoes.

I paid a little more attention to the signs on the doors in the stairwell tonight. It looks like they let out into the utility hallway on most, but not all floors. Since floor 55 is empty, and it lets out on to that floor, that’s where we climb to.

I went up four times. The first two were at my vertical mile pace from last year. The last two were social climbs. I timed them, but nobody was trying to go fast. Still, it was a fun time.

3/2/2014

The Metro Rail Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 3:28 pm

Some years ago, the Sunday bike club ride was rained out. This happens from time to time, but that time, it happened when we were in West Hollywood, which is about 20 miles from home. We managed to make it two miles or so back into Hollywood, and then take Metro Rail home to Pasadena. After that, I made up a route for us to ride on days when the weather is questionable. I called it the “Metro Rail Tour”, and it’s a route from Pasadena and through Los Angeles that manages to never be more than a mile or two from the nearest Metro Rail station. That way, we have an exit strategy in case it starts raining. We’ve done this route a number of times over the last few years, but today was the first time we had to actually use the exit strategy.

It was overcast, and the skies looked like rain. We headed south, down Sierra Madre Blvd to Huntington Drive (Near the Metro South Pasadena station). We took that into downtown Los Angeles (Chinatown Station and Union Station). In downtown, we took a short detour to see the site of the new Wilshire Grand Hotel (Next to the 7th St/Metro Center station). This was in the news last week, when they poured something like 2,000 truckloads of concrete in 20 hours to make the foundation for the new 70+ story building.

When we got down by USC (Expo Line 23rd St Station), we felt a few raindrops, but that stopped after a few minutes. So we continued on. We turned north up Harvard Blvd (and the Metro Wilshire/Normandy Station), and then west to Larchmont Village, which is between the Metro Wilshire/Western and Hollywood/Vine stations. We had some snacks and then headed for home. The route back was along 4th St and 7th St, which parallels Wilshire Blvd and the Purple Line subway. Then we turned north into Echo Park. At that point, we were about as far from a Metro station as we would get on this route. And, of course, that’s when it started to rain. We pulled over for a quick conference under an overhang. I had a look at the map, and I saw that we were only about 1 mile from the Metro Chinatown station. So we worked out how to go, and we rode there through the rain. It was miserable riding in the rain, but knowing it was just a short distance helped a lot. Once we got there, we got on the train and headed for home.

Even though I hate getting rained on when I’m riding, I was glad that my route with the built-in escape worked well. And once the Metro Gold Line Extension is finished, we’ll be able to make a Metro Rail tour heading east for days when it might rain.

32 miles. Would have been 44, but that’s how it goes.

2/27/2014

Stairs – 2/27

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

It’s Thursday, and time for another shortened stair practice. I only went up the building twice. I could have done a third time, but I didn’t feel like it. Just two times, at a moderate pace. For some reason, the building management moved us to a different stairwell for practice now. One of the guards told me it was because some people were getting out of the stairs before the finish at 55 and disturbing the office tenants. That seems plausible, since this stairway should prevent that. The doors let out into a utility hallway, so there’s no direct path from the stairs to the office space. It’s still 11/11, but with right turns, and still the same 1,126 steps from 4 to 55.

2/25/2014

Stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 9:23 pm

Yet another session on the stairs. I went up four times, but I only timed the first two. After that, I just walked up slowly in a small group, and we just talked and took it easy all the way to the 55th floor.

2/23/2014

The Metro Gold Line Extension

Filed under: — stan @ 3:00 pm

Route Map

Today’s bike club ride was yet another sightseeing ride. This time, we toured the San Gabriel Valley to visit the construction sites where Metro is building the Gold Line light rail extension from Pasadena to Azusa.

The first stop was the Arcadia station being built at 1st Ave and Santa Clara St. On the way there, we saw the new bridges they built for the tracks to go over Colorado Blvd and Santa Anita Blvd. The station is coming along pretty well.

Continuing on to Monrovia, we saw the beginnings of the Metro station there. It’s right by the old Santa Fe depot, but there’s not very much built yet. We also saw the beginnings of the maintenance yard for the light rail line that they’re building in Monrovia.

The station for Duarte is right across the street from City of Hope, and it’s looking pretty close to being finished. This is just before the tracks cross over the San Gabriel River, so we turned north to get to the bike path bridge by Encanto Park. We took that across the river and into Azusa.

The big Santa Fe railroad bridge over Foothill Blvd is being rebuilt. The old bridge is a single track, so they are building essentially two more bridges on either side of it. This is because the part of the Santa Fe line from Irwindale and east is still an active freight line. The freight track is being relocated to the side a bit to make room for the double-track light rail line.

I stopped for a photo-op at the little Stonehenge-like thing on the corner behind the CVS store. Then we went up a block to where they are building the first of two stations for Azusa. This one is being built next to the old Santa Fe depot. The second Azusa station is the last one being built for this phase of the light rail line. It’s right on the border with Glendora, and it’s right in between Azusa Pacific University and Citrus College. I guess that was the idea. There’s a big sign there, but not a lot of activity yet.

Our snack stop was at the Corner Bakery in San Dimas. We’ve been by there a hundred times and never even noticed that it was there before. But it was right by the road we ride on a lot, so we’ll probably be stopping there again in the future.

We rode Gladstone St all the way back to Irwindale, where we took one little side trip to see the site of the Irwindale Metro station. There wasn’t much there, but the big stacks of concrete railroad ties indicate that they’re going to be laying track there soon.

That was the whole of our Metro light-rail adventure tour. We’re going to go on this ride again in a few months to have a look and see how much progress they’re making.

44 miles.

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.

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