Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Well, I’m still trying to go low-car…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:22 am

But between being a half-time single parent having to ferry Lucinda around, and then having a girlfriend who lives in Santa Monica, I’m really racking up the miles on the the middle-age-mobile. I think I’ll still come in under 10,000 for the year, but it’s a far cry from the days when I drove less than a 1,000 miles a year.


More on my Pet Project

Filed under: — stan @ 7:12 pm

earthquake map
There have been a lot of earthquakes this afternoon. In particular, there have been these three big ones:

M7.3 2009/10/07 23:13:49 -13.145 166.297 33.3 VANUATU
M7.7 2009/10/07 22:18:26 -12.554 166.320 35.0 SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS
M7.8 2009/10/07 22:03:15 -13.052 166.187 35.0 VANUATU

In the Earthquake Notification Service, also known as My Pet Project, subscribers can pick their own location and magnitude criteria for notification, but the general rule is that the larger the earthquake, the more people want to know about it. And anything over M7 will generate a lot of mail. So I went and poked through the logs to see just how many messages it’s sent in the last few hours.

It’s currently not quite 7:00PM here in Los Angeles. I looked at logs back to 2:00PM, which is about when these big events started coming through the system. And the notification system has sent 642,590 messages in that time. That averages out to about 36 messages a second for five hours. No wonder some ISPs with automatic filters have blocked our mail servers as suspected spam sources.

Just for perspective, the system has sent about 775,000 messages in the past 24 hours. And this is not a record. The 24-hour record for the system is 943,833 messages in 24 hours, and that was set last Saturday.


Off to watch the races again

Filed under: — stan @ 9:20 pm

On Sunday, Lucinda and I went down to Carson to watch the final day of racing at the Elite National Track Championships. We’ve been going to this for the last few years, and it’s always a fun afternoon.

When we got there, we saw my old racing friend Cleve at the video camera by the finish line. He and I used to ride races in the New York area, and particularly, the Tuesday and Thursday evening races they used to have at SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island.

The first races we saw were the men’s team sprint finals. And then it was the highlight of the day: The men’s Madison final. This is always a fun race to watch. It’s very hard to keep track of what’s happening, but there’s so much action that it’s just fun to watch anyway. The race is 200 laps, so it lasts a while, which is different from most other track events. So it’s good all around.

The last event of the day was a women’s Madison. This is the first time I’ve ever seen women riding one of these races, and they did very well. In the end, Team Vanderkitten gained a lap on the pack. They rode very well and clinched the victory. I hope they make the Madison an official women’s event in the future. These women showed that they were up to it.

It was a fun afternoon. It was about as much fun as it’s possible for me to have when someone else is riding the bike.


A Man Called 1/3 Horse

Filed under: — stan @ 6:46 am

I was curious, so I did a bit of math. Climbing the U.S. Bank Tower required lifting my body weight 1,018 feet in 15 minutes and 7 seconds.

162 lb = 73.6 kg
1018 feet = 310 meters
73.6 kg x 9.8 m/s**2 x 310 m = 2.24 x 10**5 joules
15 min + 7 sec = 907 sec
2.24 x 10**5 joules / 907 sec = 247 watts
247 watts = 0.331 horsepower

That’s just the power to lift my body weight, and I’m neglecting the energy that went into running on the stairs, passing people, and panting like a dog. So my actual power output was a little bit higher.

I think that’s pretty good for being nearly 50 years old.



Filed under: — stan @ 9:55 pm

This afternoon was the YMCA Stair Climb to the Top up the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve heard about this for years, and I’d always wanted to try it. So now was the time. Unlike the AON Tower stair climb last April, this one was held on Friday afternoon. This meant that riding my bike there was not really an option, since it was going to be dark by the time I went home. Friday traffic is the stuff of nightmares here, so I rode the train. The Pershing Square Metro station had some nice neon art in it. And of course, I took the stairs both in and out of the subway. Never too early to start warming up.

I walked over to the Ketchum Downtown YMCA and registered. Then I went into the locker room and changed. The YMCA is up on Bunker Hill, while the entrance to the building is down on 5th St. So I walked down the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the starting line. At the time, they were running the “Highrise Heroes” division, which is to say, firefighters in full gear. I rather doubt any of them turned in great times, but just the fact that they were able to make it to the top carrying all that stuff was impressive.

After the last firefighters had gone, they ran the individual age groups, starting with the 10-14 and 15-17 groups, and then working down from 60+. When they called the 40-49 men to the line, I got in line about 3/4 of the way back. I figured that would give me more guys to catch and pass. That’s how I get motivated in these things. I just focus on catching the guy in front of me. It’s sort of like that old joke about the bear: “I just have to outrun you.

When it was my turn, I started up the stairs, doing two steps at a time. Back in April, I managed to maintain that pace for 32 floors. This time, I did nearly the entire thing two steps at a time. A few times, I dropped back to single steps to try and catch my breath. Which turned out to be fool’s errand, as you can see from the picture. That was taken about floor 50 or so. I was very deep in oxygen debt from the start.

At the top, I ran out of the stairwell onto the roof. Once I’d passed the timing pad, they gave me a bottle of water and a little medal to say that I’d made it. Then I immediately sat down and proceeded to pant like a dog. After about five minutes, the pain subsided, and I figured out how to hold the camera steady enough for a nice souvenir photo from the roof with the sunset over Hollywood in the background. Then I headed back down the other stairs to the 69th floor elevator lobby. We had to ride down to 54 and then get the express elevator back to the lobby.

The elevator let us out in the lobby on 5th St. Which meant that we had to go back up the Bunker Hill Steps to get to the YMCA, where they had food, drinks, and race results. Bein’ a badass, I ran up the steps. Wow, did that hurt. I went into the locker room and changed back to my street clothes. Then I went to the little beer garden they had set up. They gave every finisher a ticket for a free beer. By then, I was hacking up phlegm at a furious rate. I talked to a woman who had won the 60+ division, and she said that that’s referred to as “Climber’s Cough”, and it’s a known phenomenon. In other words, it’s a Feature. She also told me about how there’s apparently a circuit of these stair climbs around the country. The one up the Stratosphere in Las Vegas sounds like a hoot. I don’t know if I’d be up for more traveling than that. Maybe San Francisco for the Bank of America building.

When they posted the results, I was pleased to see that I’d come in at 15:07, which was good for 7th place in the 40-49 division. I’d guessed that I’d be around 15 minutes. That time would have been good for 6th in the 50-59 division, and 5th place in 30-39. Apparently, us old guys are tough.

Since I wasn’t in the top three, there was not going to be a medal in my evening this year. So I headed back to the subway to go home. I still took the stairs, though.

It was a very fun adventure.

Update: The overall results are posted online now, and I was 28th out of 309 runners in the Open division. There were only five guys my age or older who went faster than I did. Results are here


And then there was one

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

Ever since I got my new car in June, I’ve been planning what to do with the old one. My old car has been with me for 19 years, and it’s been good. We had a lot of adventures, but it was time to move on. In the meantime, my dear friend Starlet needed a car, so I told her she could have it for a ridiculously low price because she’s my friend. So she came over today to pick it up. This is actually the first time we’ve met that was not at a tattoo convention.

So now I have room in my garage. For now, I guess I have parking space for all my bikes. And maybe someday, for another car belonging to someone special.

In the meantime, I know my old car is going to a good home, and I hope it can do some good for Starlet.


The stair climb is coming up

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

The U.S. Bank Tower stair climb is coming up on Friday. And I’m still short of my fund-raising goal. So if you think this is an amusing thing, please stop by their site and make a donation to the YMCA. If not enough people donate, they’ll take a pound of flesh from me. And while that would make me lighter, I rather doubt that that will improve my time climbing the stairs. (OK, they won’t really do that. But they’ll charge my credit card for the difference.)

A random ride to Whittier

Filed under: — stan @ 7:16 pm

Today’s ride was a new route that I made up, cobbled together out of pieces of other rides we’ve done in the past. The intention was to make a nearly-flat route that went mostly south from Pasadena.

We started out from Victory Park and headed south into Temple City, and then we got on the Rio Hondo bike path down to Whittier Narrows. There we went over to the San Gabriel River bike path to go south some more. We got off in Pico Rivera, where we took a short detour for a group picture at Dork St. Then we headed east into Whittier.

We got back on the San Gabriel River bike path to head back. We went straight north past Whittier Narrows and up to Lower Azusa Road. The path is slightly uphill the whole way, since it’s following the river. That was when I looked back and saw Scott helping Sage out with a little push to keep her going as fast as the rest of us. It was her first time riding with our group, and she said she was a little out of practice. I also got in the act to give Scott a rest. I practiced my Madison throws to keep Sage going, and together, we got her all the way up the hill to our snack stop at Merengue in Monrovia.

While we were sitting outside, a car drove up, and Vikki got out. This is the second time I’ve run into her in a weirdly unexpected way. Our snacks were quite good as usual. David really enjoyed his sandwich and plantain chips.

The ride home was pretty low-key. Mostly flat, except for the slight hill up through Sierra Madre. I stayed back, chatting with Sage and doing Madison throws to keep her going.

It was a fun ride.

45 miles.


Daybreak over the Santa Monica Freeway

Filed under: — stan @ 7:18 am

This morning, I had occasion to make a trip from Santa Monica to Pasadena. This is 28.2 miles through the belly of the beast in Los Angeles. According to Google Maps, they estimate 40 minutes at best. It took me 36 minutes, which was probably because the 36 minutes in question were from 6:26AM to 7:02AM. I can’t remember the last time I saw the freeways in Los Angeles so empty. It was like an end-of-the-world movie.


5/7 of the Right Stuff

Filed under: — stan @ 1:05 pm

Today’s bike ride was the old route out to San Dimas for a bagel, but reversed. The plan was to ride out there, get a bagel, and then stop off for minor sightseeing on the way back. A few weeks ago, I’d see a trailer park on Covina Blvd where the streets were named for the original Mercury astronauts. Or at least five of the seven original Mercury astronauts. There was no clue why Gordon Cooper and Wally Schirra didn’t get streets. I looked it up, and there’s a Cooper Court in San Dimas, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a Schirra St.

On the way back, I got a laugh out of the Chinese billboard for the Venitian in Las Vegas. I guess they’d heard about all those stereotypes about how much Chinese people like to gamble. Being Chinese, I can feel free to poke fun at the stereotypes, like when I see a Chinese restaurant with a health department grade of “B”.

Aside from that, there wasn’t much memorable about the ride. It was pleasant, but not remarkable.

42 miles.

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