Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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4/2/2015

We’ll meet again…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…
But we’ll meet again, and I’ll climb the stairs…

(Apologies to Ross Parker and Hugh Charles)

Tonight was the last practice at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. In past years, we had two practices a week for three months leading up to the race there next Saturday, but for some unknown reason, this year they only held six sessions. So most of us hardcore-nutball-stair-climbers were disappointed, but we still showed up. I’m still working on building my fitness back up after the troubles with my back last year, and other issues. Each time I came downtown, I’ve been doing five climbs. The practice course runs from 4 to 55, which is 51 floors, 1,186 steps, 690 feet, and 210 meters. So doing five climbs makes for a vertical kilometer. With my reduced speed this year, it’s an attainable goal, but just barely. The Vertical Mile is right out. Still, I’m making some progress.

The other times I came here for evening practice, my goal was always to do five climbs. The first one, I always aimed for my vertical mile pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute, which gets me to the top in about 11:15-11:20. Then for the subsequent climbs, I just tried to see how close I could stay to that pace, and it usually wasn’t all that close. By the fifth climb, I usually didn’t even bother timing it. But tonight, I was feeling a bit stronger, and I’d remembered to bring along a quart bottle of Gatorade.

The first time up, I managed 11:16, which was right on target. The second time, I kept an eye on my watch for splits. At the mechanical floors on 22 and 42, I lost a few seconds going through the fire doors, but I still felt strong enough to dial the pace up for a few floors afterward to make up the time. And I came out at the top in 11:18, which I was pretty happy about. The third time up, I was starting to drag a bit. I was falling behind the pace by the 20th floor, so I just kept an eye on how far behind I was, with the idea that I just wanted to make the top in under 12 minutes. Having three climbs all under 12 minutes would be the fastest I’ve gone at this since last year, and I managed to make it to 55 in 11:48.

The fourth time up, I was really feeling it. I knew there was no chance of making it under 12, so my goal became to make it as close to 12 as I could. And 12:33 was still not bad, considering that the last few times I’ve done this, my fourth climb was in the 14-16 minute range. So with all that done, I went back down and got ready to do it a fifth time. This time, I started my watch, and my only goal was the make it in under 13 minutes. When I got to 45, I could see it was going to be close. But just knowing that when I got to the top, I could stop. So I was able to put on a burst of speed for the last four floors, and I came out on top at 12:54.

Overall, I was pretty happy with this evening. It’s the best I’ve done in a long time. But on the other hand, I still have a long way to go to get back to the level I was in 2013. For comparison, about a year and a half ago, I was able to do five consecutive 51-story climbs, averaging under 11 minutes each time. That’s not even a pipe dream now. But I’m going to keep plugging away at it. We have the Aon race a week from Saturday, and then the San Diego Towerthon in June.

3/22/2015

Climbing the tower

Filed under: — stan @ 10:51 pm

Sunday was the big day. We got up early and got dressed to climb lots of stairs. We walked over to the building from our hotel. When we got there, we met up with our group and got ready to go. This event is very well-run. It has to be, since they have something like 6,000 people doing it. We went off in the first group to go up, which was nice, since it meant that the stairwell was relatively clear. Pretty much everyone in front of me was going faster, so I really didn’t see anyone on the way up, aside from a few people who passed me. As I’ve been doing, I didn’t go particularly fast. But I maintained a steady pace, and I didn’t stop. I figure there’s no point stopping. There’s no scenery to look at in a stairwell. So I just kept going until I got to the top.

When I got to the top, I walked around and looked at the views. This is one of the few races where we come out in an observation deck level in the building, so there are views to look at on all sides. So I just hung out there until Kathleen came out of the stairs. Then we took a picture together before heading back down.

At the bottom, we didn’t hang out for very long. We had to get back to our hotel to get cleaned up and checked out. And then we were going to meet my cousin Irene for lunch before heading back to the airport. We rode the train to near where she lives, and then we went to lunch from there. Afterward, we got back on the train for the short ride to the airport. When we got there, we went looking for some food we could get to bring aboard with us, since it was going to be dinnertime when we were in the air. In the process of scouting out the SeaTac airport, I was very amused to see that Sub Pop had a store there. Overall, it was a fun trip.

One thing I thought was a bit odd, though. On the way back, at least four times, we passed very close by other airplanes flying the other way at nearly the same altitude as us. I thought it was unusual for air traffic to pass close enough that we could look out the window and recognize the airline flying by.

3/21/2015

Playing tourist in Seattle

Filed under: — stan @ 9:35 pm

The Big Climb wasn’t until Sunday, so Saturday was our day to play tourist in Seattle. In the morning, I took a walk over to the storefront that had an exhibit about the tunneling project they are doing there. We’d heard about this last year, when the big news was that the tunneling machine, Bertha, had gotten stuck on something. Apparently, she got unstuck, and is again tunneling away. I was interested to see that they said that this whole project was set in motion by the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake in Seattle. The Nisqually Earthquake is one that I’ve always felt close connection to, even though it wasn’t in southern California. This was the earthquake that caused a tremendous surge of traffic to the USGS earthquake program web servers, and most of them were crushed by it. But the two that I ran survived. And that made my reputation around the office. So it was an exciting day. But aside from that, apparently, this earthquake caused a fair bit of damage to the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was built in the early 1950s, and the engineers had to strap steel girders to it to stabilize it so it wouldn’t fall down while they were boring the tunnel to replace it. So I asked the docents at the museum where I could see the temporary repairs, and it turned out that they were down the street, almost right next to our hotel. So I walked over there to see them. And I was also glad to see that the temporary repairs were providing good nesting spaces for birds.

After that, we went to Pike Place Market. That’s the big tourist attraction in Seattle where they have the fish market with the flying fish. And we were not disappointed. We saw the flying fish and more. It was a fun time.

Finally, we went back to Pioneer Square to take the original Underground Tour. Last time, we’d taken the other underground tour, which was also fun and entertaining, but this time, we wanted to take the original, just to see something different. It was obvious that this tour had been operating a lot longer than the other one. The spaces they took us through had wooden walkways constructed for the tour, while the other tour was much more rough and wild. Each has its place and charm.

Finally, we went and had a nice dinner at Wild Ginger. Then back to our hotel to sleep and get ready for the Big Climb in the morning.

3/20/2015

Visiting Seattle Again

Filed under: — stan @ 9:48 pm

It’s March, and time to visit Seattle for the Big Climb again. We did this last year, and it was a fun time, so we signed up again.

We flew there on Friday morning on JetBlue out of Long Beach. That little tiny airport is so easy that it made up for having to get up too early to get there early in the morning. We made it to Seattle by lunchtime, and we took the train from the airport to our hotel in Pioneer Square. Our plan was to play tourist for the afternoon and then meet up with my cousin Irene for dinner. I’d read recently about the EMP museum there, and I thought we should pay a visit. We’d seen it last year when we rode the monorail, but we didn’t have time to go inside then. So that was our plan for the afternoon.

We rode the train to the end of the line downtown, and then got on the monorail to get to the museum. Going in, we didn’t quite know what to expect, but once we were inside, we realized it was a great collection of odd and interesting stuff. We started off with the “Star Wars” costume exhibit. We’d both seen a similar exhibit some years ago at the Fashion Institute in downtown Los Angeles. After that, we wandered through the gallery about the history of Nirvana, complete with hand-written notes on songs and guitars smashed by Kurt Cobain at the end of shows.

Wandering upstairs, we found a gallery about music videos. They had an exhibit about variations of music videos. The “Gangnam Style Without Music” video was funny, and they had examples of “literal music videos”. Look them up on YouTube. They’re hilarious.

Heading back downstairs, we saw the gallery of costumes and artifacts from fantasy and magic movies, including costumes from “The Wizard of Oz”, some of the “Harry Potter” movies, and others. Then we went down to the bottom level for the horror movie gallery, where we saw Simon Pegg’s bloody shirt from “Shaun of the Dead”. All told, the EMP museum was great fun, and well worth the visit. Next time we’re going to plan on getting there earlier so we don’t run out of time.

After that,we rode the train back and met up with Irene for dinner, and we made plans for playing tourist on Saturday.

3/16/2015

It’s that time of year again

Filed under: — stan @ 6:21 pm

And front door squid is excited…

3/15/2015

The Wistaria Vine

Filed under: — stan @ 4:18 pm

Years ago, I saw an episode of Huell Howser’s show where he visited the giant wisteria vine in Sierra Madre. And now that I’ve been living two miles away from it for 20 years, I figured it was time to go see it. So today was the “Wistaria Festival” in Sierra Madre. They deliberately spell it that way, although I have no idea why. But they have a big street festival in the center of town, and the yard where the vine is growing is open for tours.

The story is that the vine came in a 1-gallon pot, and it was planted about 120 years ago. It grew up and over the original house, crushing it. A new house was built off to the side, and the owners constructed a steel trellis for the vine to grow on, and it now takes up two whole lots. The festival is timed to coincide with the relatively short time it spends blooming every spring. So we went to the festival and had lunch before heading up the hill to see the vine. And yes, it’s big. It covers most of the space between two houses. It’s not obvious from the street, since I’d ridden my bike down the street by the vine a few weeks ago, when I was scouting out where the trail to Jones Peak started. After taking in the vine, we walked back down the hill and browsed around the festival a bit more before heading home.

Update on the NoHo Barrel

Filed under: — stan @ 1:17 pm

Today’s bike club ride was another trip to North Hollywood to check out the barrel-shaped restaurant. We’d gone to see this in January when it was being renovated, but I’d read recently that it was finished and open for business. So it was time to go see it again.

There’s a spot on Riverside Drive where businesses park their trucks as advertising while they’re not being used. There’s the “Hot Topless Maids” van, and today there was also a junk-hauling truck. And thanks to reality TV, apparently now “Extreme Hoarding” is a thing.

When we got to NoHo, the barrel was all out in the open and nicely refinished. We were able to peek in the windows and see the inside, and it really looked pretty good.

After looking at the barrel, we continued on up Vineland Ave to Chandler, where we stopped for snacks at the Panera across the street from the Metro Red Line station. That was where we’d caught the train home three weeks ago when the ride was rained out.

Heading back on the Chandler bikeway, we came across a big group of people running around in circles carrying medicine balls. I guess that’s one of those fitness boot camp things. I think riding the bike is just more fun. And we get to cover a lot of ground. And today, I finally got my photo-op riding the shaggy dog sculpture in Burbank. That makes for a companion to the time I got to ride the rattlesnake sculpture in Rattlesnake Park or when Lucinda was a little kid and like to ride the little fox sculptures in the park downtown.

On the way back on Riverside Drive, we saw that apparently Rene Magritte has a hamburger stand now. It must be, because the sign clearly says “Not a Burger Stand”.

44 miles.

Here’s the route map and elevation profile.

3/13/2015

The view from Mt Hollywood

Filed under: — stan @ 11:10 pm

A couple days ago, I ran across this article:

la.curbed.com/archives/2015/03/spotlights_los_angeles_marathon_route.php

The plan was to put up 27 powerful searchlights along the Los Angeles Marathon route from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica, and have them turned on for about 90 minutes on Friday night. Of course, in their artist’s conception, it looked pretty cool. While it remained to be seen how good it would look in person, I was curious.

I figured that any suitably high overlook would be mobbed with people trying to see, so I thought that hiking up Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park might be a good alternative. There’s usually a small crowd up there on any normal night, but regardless, I figured the fact of having to hike several miles to get there would ‘thin the herd’ a bit. So in the end, I went there with Karina, Morgan, and Jason from my office, and we hiked up the back side of the mountain.

This was my first time hiking this mountain since 2011. We went by way of the ‘anklebreaker trail’. I don’t know why they call it that, since it’s not a bad trail by any means. In any event, it was a fine way to get up the mountain, and we were at the top in just about one hour. At the top, there were a lot of people. More than on a regular evening, but still nothing like the crowds that had to be down below at the observatory. Looking down, I could see the road up to the observatory, and it was packed solid with cars, and nobody was moving. So I was glad not to be there.

We broke out some snacks while we were waiting for the 8:40 to come around. I put my camera on the tripod and took some test photos of the city lights, just to get a feel for how different exposure times would come out. I started at 1/30 and went up to a full second, and I figured that the longer exposure would give the best results. Fortunately, between the tripod and the remote shutter release, I was able to keep the camera very still for the shots.

When they turned on the searchlights, it wasn’t as spectacular as the artist’s conception. If there had been more haze, it would have been better. But I started taking pictures, and with some more experimenting, I found that by pushing the exposure time up to 6-8 seconds, I could get the lights to show up pretty nicely. So I took several photos looking toward the marathon start near downtown, and several more looking toward Santa Monica.

We looked at the lights for a little while before we had to head back down so we could be out of the park before the closed the gates at 10:30. On the way down, I stopped and took one more picture of the lights, this time with the mountain blocking the city lights. For that shot, I put the exposure up to 15 seconds, since I didn’t have to worry about city lights being overexposed.

On the way down, we took the fire roads most of the way. It was a little longer, but very easy to follow in the dark. And I got to try out the uber-powerful little flashlight I got last November, after Karina and I got caught in the dark on the way back from Cucamonga Peak. It worked quite well, so I was happy. This was a pretty fun little adventure.

3/8/2015

Another ride to Glendora

Filed under: — stan @ 12:50 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was our old route to Glendora. The main reason I wanted to do this was so we could stop in at the Gold Line station under construction in downtown Azusa and see the spot where Carla and I got to watch them thermite-welding the rails together last month. I was curious to see what the weld looks like now that it’s cooled and finished.

Right away, Michael got a flat before we’d even gone one mile. So we stopped and fixed that. A little while later, when we got on the San Gabriel River bike trail. There, I ran over something and I got a flat, too. After fixing that, we headed into Azusa and rode to the train station. We found the weld, nicely finished, and with writing on the side of the rail, recording who did it and when it was done. Rooting around in the ballast around there, we found some small chunks of slag from the ceramic mold and casting sand they used to make the form around the weld. We also found some chunks of what was essentially cast iron, from the excess molten metal that came out the sides of the mold during the welding process.

Continuing on, we rode into Glendora, where we stopped for coffee and snacks at Classic Coffee. Then we headed back by way of Cypress Ave, passing the Huy Fong Foods hot sauce factory in Irwindale, before riding over Santa Fe Dam to get back to the bike trail. And at that point, Michael got yet another flat. After fixing that, we figured it was probably best to just head home by the most direct route possible.

3/7/2015

Mt Lowe

Filed under: — stan @ 4:17 pm

I’ve been wanting to hike to the actual summit of Mt. Lowe for some time. I did it once, back in about 1985 or so, but that time, we started at Eaton Saddle, over by Mt. Wilson, so it was a very easy hike. This time, we were going to do it the harder way, starting at Lake Ave in Pasadena. Still, it turned out to be quite a bit harder than I’d anticipated.

The hike up to Echo Mountain was pretty easy. We’ve done that plenty of times before, and there’s not much to it. From there, we headed up the Castle Canyon trail to Inspiration Point. I’ve only done that once before, so I didn’t remember much about it. I didn’t remember that the hike from Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point is actually a bit harder than the hike to Echo Mountain. And it’s really quite steep at the end. But we made it just fine, and spent a few minutes looking at the view from up there before continuing on to Mt Lowe.

According to the map, it’s about 1 3/4 miles from Inspiration Point to the top of Mt Lowe. And as it turned out, it was reasonably steep, too. The trail wraps around the north side of the mountain, and there was even some snow on the trail there. But when we got to the top, there was a bench to sit on, and a very nice view in all directions. Looking down into the valley, I could see the Caltech campus, so the net time I’m stair-climbing at Millikan Library, I’ll have to take a minute to look up and see which peak is Mt Lowe.

On the way down, I fell once. It was the usual thing of slipping on some sand on a steep part of the trail. But this time, after slipping just about a foot, my foot caught on a rock, and I ended up rolling forwards. For a brief moment, I thought I might end up rolling down the hill, but I was able to stop the roll and avoid going over the edge of the steep slope. Still, my hat came off and rolled down the slope, where it ended up impaled on a yucca plant. I had to walk down to the next switchback, which was below the yucca plant, and then I was able to climb up on a tree and rescue my hat by knocking it loose with one of the hiking poles. Sheesh. But I figured that Indiana Jones never left his hat behind, either.

When we got back down, we had 12 1/2 miles, and I know I’m going to be sore from this. Here’s the route map and the elevation profile.

1134.ddns.net/routemap.php?xmlfile=MtLowe

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