Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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The Sea World Circus

Filed under: — stan @ 11:36 pm

Lucinda and I went to San Diego this weekend to visit with Grandpa and also to visit Sea World and also go see the seals at La Jolla Cove. We went down on Saturday and went to Sea World first.

We rode the sky ride, and while we were on that, we noticed the big stadium they have facing out on to Mission Bay. We hadn’t noticed that before, so we decided to go see the show there. It was a show that was entirely circus acts, with no animals at all. Aside from the obvious caveat that humans are indeed animals. It was still pretty entertaining, even though there were no leaping dolphins.

A bit later in the day we went to see the “Blue Horizons” show, which also had a lot of circus acrobatics, but this time with the addition of dolphins and a pilot whale. I took a bunch of pictures in search of some dramatic action shots, and I think I got some good ones.

When we left, we went to visit with Grandpa for a bit before bed. Overall, it was a fun afternoon.


Topiary Tour – Go West

Filed under: — stan @ 9:08 pm

About a year ago, I had the idea of putting together a theme ride to see examples of topiary, since I’d seen a number of them here in Pasadena and as far east as Glendora. We did this tour back in March. Then we discovered a new piece in Glendale, and I started to think about making a second Topiary Tour. And after some pointers from friends, one tip from Google, and an accidental discovery, I had enough examples to put together a second Tour. So today was the day.

We headed out across Eagle Rock and Glendale and into Burbank. Then we turned west and headed to the south entrance to Burbank Airport, where there is a topiary airplane. It was a pretty good example of topiary.

Leaving the airport, we headed south to our next stop. But along the way, I spotted a sort of cartoon lizard in a car peeking over a fence. So we stopped for a look and found a boneyard of carnival rides. That was very deeply weird, and really pretty entertaining.

Continuing south, we got to our second stop. A Shell gas station in Burbank with a topiary sea serpent and two winged horses. They looked a bit like My Little Pony with wings. The serpent was a bit sparse, but the others were pretty good.

Our next stop was a topiary Bugs Bunny in Toluca Lake. Then we stopped for snack at Priscilla’s. That left only one more topiary stop, which was the dolphins that we’d found in March. I had to get a souvenir picture riding the dolphin.

After that, we headed home, but on the way back through La Cañada, Don spotted one more in front of a house on Berkshire Drive. That made for a nice end to our Topiary Tour.

46 miles.


A fun Tuesday night adventure

Filed under: — stan @ 11:34 pm

On Monday, I was just poking around the net looking to see if there were any good movies that Kathleen and I could go see on Tuesday night. And I spotted John Waters in a banner ad on the L.A. Weekly site. We’re both big fans of his, so I had a look. It turned out he was speaking and doing a book signing at a theater in Little Tokyo. So we just had to go.

On my way home from work, I stopped at Vroman’s in Pasadena and picked up his new book, Role Models.

I rode the train downtown, since the theater is just two blocks from the Little Tokyo station. On the way I got to read the first chapter of the book, where he talks about how he likes Johnny Mathis. As I suspected, it was hilarious.

When I got there, I met up with Kathleen, who drove in from the Valley. We went and had a quick dinner around the corner. Then we went over to the theater. We saw my friend Sherri and her friend there, and the four of us went in. John Waters came out and read three short excerpts from his book, and then he sat down to talk with Carrie Fisher. They were very entertaining and funny, and it was all well-worth the trip.

Afterward, he greeted fans and signed books in the lobby. Overall, it was a most excellent weeknight adventure.


A hot spring in Los Angeles

Filed under: — stan @ 7:53 pm

Today’s bike ride was a trip out to Encino to Los Encinos State Historic Park. Some years ago, I was contacted by one of the volcanologists at the USGS Volcano Hazards Program for help setting up a web site. Her research involved the chemistry of water in natural hot springs as a clue to what is going on below the ground. She sent me a list of all the known hot springs in California, and I noticed that one of them was in L.A. I looked up the coordinates and found that it was at Los Encinos Park in Encino. Of course, my first thought was that this would make for a good sightseeing bike ride. The spring itself is not very hot. The water temperature is about 79 degrees Fahrenheit and the water flows down into a small lake where there were ducks and geese. The water is all fenced off, so we weren’t able to feel it.

It was a perfect day for riding. We headed straight west, across Glendale and into the San Fernando Valley. We took Moorpark St most of the way, although we had to do a short stretch on Ventura Blvd. When we got to the park, Kathleen was there. She lives nearby so she came over to meet up with us. That was a nice treat. We looked around the park a bit before heading out for the trip home.

We rode up into the Sepulveda Dam recreation area and took the bike path there up to the Metro Orange Line. When they built the busway, they built a bike path parallel to it, so we took that all the way to the end of the line in North Hollywood. We had a snack stop at Panera Bread there, and then we continued on. They built a bike path down Chandler Blvd all the way into Burbank, so we took that. Then we turned south to get to the L.A. River. That was where we saw “Chuck Norris Rules” and the awesomely ridiculous limousine.

We rode the L.A. River bike path down to Fletcher, and then took Eagle Rock Blvd north. That was where Sage got a flat. One of the guys helped change the tube, but when he pumped the tire up, it blew out. Turned out there was big cut in the tire. So we had to put a tire boot in it before changing the tube again. But then we made it home just fine.

58 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 5:56 pm

On Saturday afternoon, I took Lucinda to the Grammy Museum. They have an exhibit about Michael Jackson that she was interested in seeing. They had some of his costumes there, along with letters, handwritten song lyrics, and various other items from his life.

On the other floors of the museum they had other exhibits related to music. I thought the highlight was the exhibit about the ’60s, which focused on Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. They had Jim Morrison’s Boy Scout membership card. Just the idea of Jim Morrison as a Boy Scout made my brain hurt.

Another Disneyland first

Filed under: — stan @ 11:15 am

Over the last two years, I’ve taken Lucinda to Disneyland many times. It started out as something for us to do that she would enjoy. But over time, I grew to like it, too. And yesterday I went there on a date for the first time ever. Kathleen came over in the morning and we headed down. My friend there was going to meet us at the gate, but he got stuck fixing the dragon and had to send one of his friends out to let us in. But we got in and got our day going.

We hadn’t thought about the fact that it was Friday before Memorial Day. The parks were pretty crowded. At least compared to what I’m used to from bringing Lucinda on random weekdays. We picked up passes for Soarin’ over California and then walked back to try out California Screamin’. The line wasn’t long and it was fun enough that we did it twice. I tried to take an upside-down picture in the loop, but I just got a nice shot of the seat in front of me. It’s tough to get the timing right with digital camera lag.

We headed over to Disneyland and picked up passes for Space Mountain. We figured we’d save them for later. But the line wasn’t too long, so we went in it and rode it once. After that, we did the Matterhorn, Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates. After all that, it was almost time for our passes to Space Mountain. We rode the train around to Tomorrowland, since I’d never been on the train before. When we got there it wasn’t quite time for our passes. So we waited in the regular line and rode once, and then took our passes and went around to ride again to finish our day. Both times we made a point to be in the front row to feel the wind. Since you can’t really tell how fast it’s going in the dark, the wind is the only real clue. And besides, it put us in a better position for the final picture.

At the end of the day, we went and had dinner at the Jazz Kitchen, since that’s become my sort of constant backdrop to see my progress. And I think my life has rebooted quite nicely.


True crime, right in my back yard

Filed under: — stan @ 5:49 pm

Today, Kathleen and I took the Esotouric ToursPasadena Confidential” true crime tour. This is a bus tour around Pasadena and South Pasadena to visit sites of all sorts of horrible happenings. And it was hosted in part by Crimebo, the Crime Clown, who made balloon animals and told stories of death and mayhem.

It seems that back in the ’50s, there were a lot of married men who were secretly gay, and who ended up murdered by tricks they’d brought home. There were also a fair number of people who just went off their nut and killed their families. And I’d always wondered where Sirhan Sirhan grew up.

This tour is not for everyone, but if you like the Dearly Departed Tour and the Museum of Death, you’d probably like this as well.


Cue the “Chariots of Fire” music…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:39 am

Here’s my finish-line picture from Saturday. And actually, I don’t think I look all that bad. Sure, I was in a lot of pain at the time, but I’ve seen much worse.

I talked with Erik, and we’re starting our planning for September and the U.S. Bank tower. You can see it behind me in the picture. Last year, I did it in 15:07, and we’ve set a goal for this year to go under 14 minutes.


Three American sex symbols

Filed under: — stan @ 5:45 pm

Today was the last Sunday of the month, and time for our monthly ‘longer ride’. This is to allow us a chance to do some sightseeing that’s beyond our usual 40-45 mile range. And today’s ride was a trip out to the Pierce Brothers cemetery in Westwood to pay respects to three American sex symbols:

  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Bettie Page
  • Farrah Fawcett

Between the three of them, they covered the decades from the ’50s all the way through the ’80s.

It was a perfect spring day for riding. We headed out across Eagle Rock and then down, over the L.A. River, and into Hollywood. That’s where we saw Tinkerbell and some super-hero that I don’t recognize. Riding down Hollywood Boulevard is always an amusing and surreal experience.

Continuing on, we took in a small part of the Sunset Strip, and then crossed into Beverly Hills. We saw the Menendez murder house and the Witch’s House. The Witch’s House was recently renovated and has a nice shark mailbox out front now.

Leaving Beverly Hills, we passed Century City, where Silvio had another of his fancy carbon-fiber spokes break. This happened last month, too. And again, the wheel went so far out of true that it was hitting the frame, rendering the bike unrideable. So he had to call home for help while we continued on our way.

When we got to Westwood, we spent some time browsing around the cemetery. Marilyn’s crypt is easiest to find, since it’s well-marked and always has fresh flowers. Bettie Page is buried in the grass nearby, and she also had some fresh flowers. Farrah is on the other side in the small section with vertical headstones. It’s almost all very-famous people buried in that section.

We looked around a bit more to see who else we could find. We liked the stone for Jeff Morris, although I had to look him up to remember who he was. I also made a point of showing Carla the spot where Frank Zappa is buried, since he has no marker.

Leaving the cemetery, we stopped briefly at the little park in Holmby Hills before heading up Benedict Canyon. We regrouped at the top before going down the other side on Coldwater Canyon into the Valley. Our snack stop was at the little gelato place in Studio City where we’d stopped the day we went to see Michael Jackson’s house.

From there, we headed straight home across Toluca Lake and Glendale. It was a very nice ride.

60 miles.


The 1,377 Steps

Filed under: — stan @ 2:42 pm

So today was the big event. The 63-story stair climb up the Aon tower in downtown Los Angeles. After all the practice runs and all the mental preparation, it was showtime.

Since I was scheduled to start in the first group, I had to be there by 8:00, so I got up early and took the Metro Gold Line downtown. I got out of the Red Line subway station about 10 minutes before 8:00. Kathleen had ridden the subway in from the Valley, and she was already there. It’s always good to have a personal cheering section at these kinds of things.

I got registered and got my number: 404-Not Found. Well, I got a chuckle from it anyway. We saw Susan from the Stratosphere stair climb and U.S. Bank stair climbs there. There were several people there who we recognized from Las Vegas. It’s apparently a fairly tight-knit group that does this weird little sport.

When 9:00 came they had us line up to start. I went pretty far back in the line. I knew that the front guys were going to go very fast, and I didn’t want anyone passing me. I haven’t been passed on the stairs yet at one of these things, and I didn’t want to start today. When it was my turn to go, I ran in the door and started climbing.

I was quite a bit more serious about it this time, compared to last year. I didn’t carry my camera along to get a pain-picture on the way up. All I had was my stopwatch and metronome. And in the heat of battle I forgot to start the stopwatch at the start. D’oh! But my end-of-the-line strategy worked, and I passed about six or eight other guys on the way up. Kathleen had taken the camera and gone up to the 60th floor. They had the door open there to watch us go by. She said I looked like I was in some pain at that point, but you can’t tell from the picture because of the blur. And when I saw sunlight on the last landing, I managed to find a wee bit more for a final sprint up the last flight. When I got to the top, two guys took my arms and sat me down in a chair. I guess I must have looked like hell at that point, but I don’t know. At least they didn’t feel the need to give me oxygen like some people. I stayed on the roof for a little while to look at the view. While I was there, Randy from Las Vegas took my souvenir photo with his iPhone. Then we went down the stairs to the 60th floor, where there was a little party going on.

I had some oranges and water, and my breathing returned to normal. I was talking with a guy from Sacramento who had seen my web site and bike riding stories. So we traded some bike stories and compared our experiences climbing the stairs. Then Erik showed up. He’d gotten there a little late so he didn’t get to start with our group. We all hung around on the 60th floor for a while before taking the elevator down.

At the bottom, they’d already started posting results, and I was very pleased at my time of 11:42. My goal had been to be under 12 minutes, so this was quite good. And in fact, doing the math shows that I was going as fast as my last practice run. The practice runs were only 56 stories, so the fact that I was able to maintain that pace for the extra flights was a Good Thing. Erik turned in a time of 11:45, which means that all our practice runs to learn the pace worked. And the fact that I beat him by 3 seconds was a nice bonus. And in the end, I was 3rd in my age group, and 24th overall. I was 24th last year, but there were a lot more people doing it this time, so overall, I’m pleased.

A little bit of math gives my power output to be 273 watts, or 0.37 horsepower.

Kathleen and I hung around and schmoozed some at the little street fair they had at the bottom. We got some bagels, and I got a little massage. Then we headed back to the subway to go home.

It was a most excellent little adventure. Now we’re looking ahead to the YMCA stair climb up the U.S. Bank tower in September. Onward and upward.

Update 4/25/2010: They have the final results posted here. I was 22nd overall out of 493 runners, and 3rd out of 20 in the men’s 50-59 class. It was a good outing.

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