Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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10/30/2010

Spiders!

Filed under: — stan @ 9:18 pm

On Saturday afternoon, we rode the train downtown to go to the Natural History Museum to see the Spider Pavilion. It’s in the same outdoor tent that they use for the butterflies in the summer, so it’s a chance to see the spiders in a more or less natural-looking habitat.

The trip down there was a bit of an ordeal. There was a USC home game, so we thought it best not to take the car. Instead, we rode the train and planned on taking the DASH bus from the train station to the museum. Of course, that didn’t take into account the fact that the DASH bus was running an hour late because of all the traffic from the game. Things will be better when they get the Expo light rail line running.

When we got to the museum, I took a picture of Lucinda with the Megamouth shark. Compare this to the picture of her there in 2003. Next, we went to see their saber-tooth cat show. We’d read about this recently, about how they’d had to find a guy who could act as a puppeteer inside the cat suit to make the cat come alive. He did a pretty good job of it. Then we went to see the spiders. There were a lot of them, and they were quite large. Made for some good pictures, and lots of spooked kids. Apparently, there are still some butterflies in the tent, and several of the spiders had caught them and made a meal of them.

It was a fun afternoon.

10/11/2010

Air Force One and a trip into the belly of the beast

Filed under: — stan @ 10:37 pm

Monday was Columbus day, and that was a holiday for all of us who work for the government. So I thought it would be fun to take a trip out to Simi Valley to see the Reagan Museum and Air Force One.

They built a whole new wing on the building to house Air Force One. It’s set up on pedestals to look like it just might fly away at any moment. It was interesting to see the inside of the airplane and how it was set up. And the other exhibits were also amusing, including portraits of President Reagan made with jelly beans. Yikes. They also had a small piece of the Berlin Wall there, as well as a collection of other items, including the suit he was wearing when he was shot by John Hinckley, and a bejeweled saber from the Boy Scouts of Saudi Arabia. Who knew there were even Boy Scouts there?

They also had an exhibit of a miniature White House. Apparently, the model builders keep the miniature White House up to date. Looking in the windows, we saw pictures of President Obama and his family. That was a little jarring, since the rest of the day was a solid Republican experience.

All in all, it was a fun day.

9/24/2010

Good news, and bad news

Filed under: — stan @ 11:41 pm

This evening was the long-awaited “Stair Climb to the Top” at the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles.

I went into this event with the goal of cutting a minute off my time from last year and finishing the climb in under 14 minutes. Ambitious, yes. But I cut more than a minute off my previous year’s time at the Aon Tower climb back in April. So I thought it was within reach. And after the practice sessions at the Wells Fargo building, I thought I was on track for 14, or even maybe 13:45.

Sadly, this was not to be.

They had nearly twice as many people doing the climb this year. And the schedule slipped somewhat, so it was nearly dark by the time they started the individual categories. When they called us to the line, I tried to get near the front of the group. As much as I like passing people for the psychological boost, I’ve found that that slows me down quite a bit. I figured I was good for third place or so in my age group, so I wanted as few guys in front of me as possible. As it turned out, I passed a bunch of people, including all the 60-69 women who had started before us. There were a couple of times where I kind of got stuck behind groups of people and had to sort of elbow through to get by. When I got to the top, I passed by the people with the finishing medals and bottles of water and crawled under a table and curled up for a few minutes to catch my breath.

After a few minutes, my friend Susan got to the top. She had her camera with her, so we took a few pictures before they hustled us down off the roof to make room. We rode back down to the ground to join the party on the street outside the building. They had a cake in the shape of the building. We went to the little beer garden and waited for them to post the results.

In the end, my time was 14:34. That was the bad news. On the other hand, this was still 30 seconds faster than last year, and only three guys older than me went faster. That was good. Then my training partner Erik beat me by a full minute. That was bad. But I finished on a high note when I found out that I’d placed second in the 50-59 age group. There’s nothing like a little podium time to brighten up one’s evening.

Results are here: https://www.runraceresults.com/Secure/RaceResults.cfm?ID=RCLC2010

9/18/2010

County Fair Time!

Filed under: — stan @ 10:14 pm

Today was our trip to the Los Angeles County Fair. This promised to be extra-fun, since this time I actually have winner in the baked-goods competition.

Kathleen and I went there along with Lucinda and her friend. We rode the skyride across the fairgrounds. Then the girls rode a bunch of other rides. Kathleen and I just watched. Partly because we didn’t feel like swinging 130 feet in the air, and partly because we just didn’t want to spend the extra money on more ride tickets.

We got some Dr. Bob’s ice cream. As always, it was quite good.

After that, we walked over the “Culinary Styles” exhibit hall to see my cookies on display. That was great fun. If you want to try making them, the recipe is here:

chocolate-peppermint-cookies.pdf

We got some chocolate-covered bacon for Kathleen to try. As was the case last year, we all just thought it was a bit weird.

And of course, no county fair is complete without a mechanical bull ride for the kids. We also saw the 1200-pound pumpkin. Impressive, but it didn’t seem like it was good for much else. We also saw lots of cows, pigs, and goats. No county fair is complete without them.

The girls rode some more rides and played a few carnival games. Then, at the end of the day, we had six ride tickets left over, so Kathleen used them to ride the little flying ride. It looked like she had a good time.

The rest of the pictures are in Lucinda’s photo album.

9/15/2010

More adventures in the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 10:42 pm

Today was the fourth practice session at the 55-story Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. This time I’d decided to try another experiment. The last time, I’d dialed my pace up a bit to see what would happen. I did a good time, but it was a real struggle to keep up with the metronome the last 15 floors. So I wanted to see if I could dial the pace down a bit and still do a good time if I set it to something I could better keep up with.

This time there was a big crowd of people there to do the stairs. I waited until near the end to go. Partly because I find it psychologically gratifying to pass people, and partly because Mark was there. Mark is very, very good at this. And I wanted to be sure to go after him, since he was the one person there who I knew would pass me if I started first. So when I went, there were a lot of people ahead of me. I passed a lot of them, but I know that that slowed me down, since I had to take the long way around them on the landings, and that added a few seconds for each group I passed.

In the end, I did 9:46, which is a bit slower than last time, but I think that if I hadn’t had to pass so many people, I would have done closer to 9:30, which was my goal for the evening. As always, I looked and sounded like I was about to die by the time I got to the top. But that’s all right. After all, if you don’t sound like you’re going to die, it means you’re not going fast enough. So overall, it was a good outing.

One more practice next Monday, and then the event is next Friday.

And I’m still in need of some sponsors to make my fundraising minimum for the YMCA, so if you can, please stop by and make a small tax-deductible donation to them. It’s a good cause.

8/10/2010

A walk in the park

Filed under: — stan @ 10:59 pm

On Tuesday, Kathleen and I met up in the park to join the hiking group for an evening hike. I was a bit sore from Monday’s stair practice, but as much as I like to make fun of elementary school gym teachers, I was determined to ‘walk it off’. The hike was a relatively easy one, and it was a nice evening for a walk in the park.

About halfway up, we stopped for a nice view of downtown L.A. Including the building I’d climbed on Monday, and the one I’m practicing for for next month.

And apropos of nothing at all, when we got back and got ready to leave, I noticed that the odometer reading on my car was a palindrome.

8/9/2010

Another practice run

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

The YMCA downtown has been running a set of practice sessions for the upcoming stair climb. They started out on the Bunker Hill Steps, then moved to a 20-something story building, and today they moved to One California Plaza, which is 42 stories. I figured that this was getting into the range that would be enough of a challenge to be worth a trip downtown.

The run itself was pretty good. I passed a lot of people. We went all the way to 42 and then one more to the roof level. I’d guessed that I’d make the top in about 7:55. My time was 8:06, but that included the one extra floor I hadn’t counted on. So really, I was right on target.

The only bad part was that the freight elevator had croaked, so they made us walk down. Ow.

7/3/2010

Toy Story

Filed under: — stan @ 10:24 pm


On Saturday night, I took Lucinda and her friend to Hollywood to see “Toy Story 3” at the El Capitan theater. We’d gotten a mailer about it that said they were going to have a sort of carnival midway set up behind the theater for the kids to play in after the movie. Sort of like the “G-Force” attraction that they built last summer.

The movie was good. Sad in a lot of ways, but very well done. We all enjoyed it. And afterward, they played for a while in the little “Toy Story Fun Zone” carnival that they’d set up on the playing field behind Hollywood High School.

It was a very fun evening.

6/29/2010

The next big event

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

flyer
It’s time for the annual Stair Climb to the Top, up the U.S. Bank tower in downtown Los Angeles. I did this last year, posting a time of 15:07. This time, I’ve got some more experience from the Stratosphere and Aon stair climbs, and my goal is to go under 14 minutes.

This will hurt a lot. It will also be great fun.

As always, this is a fundraiser, this time for the YMCA in Los Angeles. So if you can, please make a small donation to them at my sponsors page.

6/25/2010

Disneyland for Graduation

Filed under: — stan @ 11:04 pm

Thursday was the last day for school for Lucinda, and her last day of elementary school. She’s off to middle school next year. So of course, that meant it was time for another trip to Disneyland.

We went down there and met our friend Mike, who let us in with his pass. He’s been telling Lucinda that she should try riding California Screamin’. He’s been telling her that for at least a year, but so far she hadn’t done it. I rode it back in May just so I could tell her what it was like. I thought that today would be the day.

When we got back there, I got us Fast Passes for it, and then we went to ride Mulholland Madness. That’s a kind of silly little rollercoaster, and it’s kind of rough. The brakes on it are very harsh. But with that as a warmup, we headed back to California Screamin’.

We went through the short line and got on. But at the last minute, Lucinda got cold feet and walked across to the exit platform. So it was just me and Maddy. I got out my camera and we were off. The first ride was a bit weird, since at one point I looked down and saw that my hat, which was on the floor by my feet was missing its band. I thought it had been blown off by the wind, so I spent the last 2/3 of the ride reaching down there trying to find it. So I kind of missed most of the ride.

In the end, it turned out that the hatband had come off, but it was sewed to the hat on one side, so it didn’t get lost.

Of course, this meant we had to ride it again.

The second time, Lucinda almost sat down to ride, but at the last second she walked across. She said she would ride it for sure the next time we come. In the meantime, I put my hat in the little pouch in front of the seat, so I knew it was secure, and I could pay attention to what was going on this time. I had one weird introspective moment when we were going down the big second hill. I was thinking, “I used to hate rides like this. But now… Wheeeeee!!!” I had the camera out to get an upside-down picture on the loop, and I also made a point to look out to the side just to watch the world flip over. That was novel.

After that, we walked over to Disneyland and rode the Matterhorn. While the girls waited in the line, I walked over to Space Mountain to get Fast Passes, but they were giving ones for 10:00 that night already. So I knew that if we were going to ride it, we’d just have to bite the proverbial bullet and wait in line. Which we did. And it was a fun time, even if we did have to wait 45 minutes for it.

Next, we rode Big Thunder Mountain twice, once through Pirates, and even did the Indiana Jones ride. Lucinda had done that one once before, about two years ago, and she didn’t like it then. But this time she thought it was all right.

Finally, after the requisite stop in the gift shop, we headed over the the Jazz Kitchen for dinner and a souvenir photo.

It was a very fun day.

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