Stan’s Obligatory Blog

9/14/2014

what if?

Filed under: — stan @ 5:52 pm

On Sunday afternoon, we took a trip to Santa Monica to go to a talk and book-signing with Randall Munroe of XKCD. He has a new book out: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. It’s a collection of his what if? columns, and it’s all very entertaining.

The basic format was a conversation between Randall and Wil Wheaton. They talked about the book, about science in general, told stories, and took questions from the audience. It was a fun time, and at the end, we all lined up to get our books signed by Randall. And I got to thank him for the little bit of geek fame I got from when he mentioned my Pet Project in the mouseover text for this cartoon: http://xkcd.com/723/

A ride to Hollywood

Filed under: — stan @ 1:12 pm

This past week, I’d read about Mel Brooks getting his hand prints in concrete in front of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The article said he’d worn a prosthetic finger, just so his hand prints would have eleven fingers. I thought this would be worth a bike ride to go see, so off we went.

It was a nice day, but promising to get very hot later on. We rode over to Hollywood and joined the throngs of tourists in front of the Chinese Theater. But the guard there told us that the actual piece of concrete that Mel Brooks was on was tucked away in a back room to cure for about eight weeks before it would be hard enough to be put out on the walkway in front of the theater. So I guess we have to come back later.

Leaving Hollywood, we rode up Outpost Dr, which is a very steep hill that goes up to Mulholland Dr. From there, we rode down Mulholland, stopping at the overlook above the Hollywood Bowl. There is a drinking fountain there, so we were able to refill our bottles. We also stopped for a look at the vineyard planted on Mt Lee, just to the left of the Hollywood sign. It’s pretty obvious, so I still can’t quite understand why we never noticed it before. Then we continued down into Cahuenga Pass and over the hill into Burbank.

We stopped for snacks in the shade at Priscilla’s, and then we headed for home. It was getting very hot by then, so we decided to alter the route and not go home by way of the big hill in Glendale. Instead, we headed down the L.A. River bike path, and home by way of York Blvd into South Pasadena. By the time we got there, we were all kind of suffering in the heat, so we stopped off at my office at Caltech for a few minutes to cool off and get some ice water. That perked us up enough to make it the last few miles home.

43 miles.

9/13/2014

The Mt Lowe Railway tour

Filed under: — stan @ 12:26 pm

After doing the hike up Mt Zion two weeks ago, I was ready for more. Karina couldn’t go today, but Kathy could, so we made plans to meet up and do part of the Mt Lowe Railway tour. When I did this last fall with Karina, we walked up Echo Mountain and then all the way up to the location of the old Alpine Tavern. This time, the plan was to go not quite so far, but to make a loop of it.

We met up at the top of Lake Ave, by the Cobb Estate gate. From there, we walked down Loma Alta Dr to Chaney Trail and walked up that road to the actual start of the trail, which was the Sunset Ridge fire road. At the start, there was a sign with a map, showing the route of the old railroad, and some of the points of interest along the way. We took the fire road up the ridge to the Cape of Good Hope, where the fire road meets up with the old Mt Lowe Railway roadbed. From there, we turned and took the railroad route back down through Flores Canyon to Echo Mountain.

At Echo Mountain, we found a small spot of shade under a tree and had a look around. We were joined by Stella, who was hiking with another group. Like most dogs, she was happy to find a bit of shade to lie down in. Looking to the southwest, we could see the big plume of smoke from a brush fire burning in Silverado Canyon in Orange County.

On the way down, there was a sign asking for people to go to Facebook and ‘like’ the Friends of Echo Mountain. Apparently, if they get enough likes, they will get some sort of funding to do trail maintenance and other good things.

By the time we got down, it was getting pretty hot, but since we had started out at 7:15AM, it was only about 11:15 when we got down, so we missed the hottest part of the day. So overall, it was a fun hike.

Here’s the route map

9/10/2014

Down to the wire

Filed under: — stan @ 9:43 pm

The big race up the U.S. Bank building is less than ten days away, and everyone suddenly thinks they need to get downtown and practice. So the line was extra-long today. I was only able to get in three climbs. The first two were reasonably consistent, but I didn’t even bother to time the third one. But I did bring along some Post-Its to hack the ‘DO NOT GO UP’ sign on the third floor landing.

9/8/2014

Last few sessions

Filed under: — stan @ 9:23 pm

My goal for this evening was to do a set of four climbs up the building, trying for as even a pace as possible. I did this reasonably well last Wednesday, but this evening, it didn’t work out so well. Oh well, they can’t all be gems.

9/3/2014

I wanted to try for a consistent pace tonight

Filed under: — stan @ 9:15 pm

Tonight’s stair adventure was yet another session at the Wells Fargo building in downtown L.A. Tonight, I wanted to try for four climbs, and to try and do a consistent pace for all of them. That meant not trying to go particularly fast the first couple times up. Last year, I was able to do this easily, but this year, it’s been a lot harder.

On the way through Union Station, I noticed that the monitor that’s supposed to display the Gold Line comings and goings, was instead just showing a screenful of error messages. At least Metro has the sense to be running Linux.

When I got to the building, I got in line, and headed up the stairs. I was aiming for my Vertical Mile pace, which is 4 1/2 floors per minute. In this building, that would get me to the top in about 11:45 or so. I went a bit faster the first time, but I was deliberately not pushing the pace. The second time, I was just about on pace. The third and fourth times, I was a bit off, but not by much. And my average for the four climbs works out to be almost exactly my target pace. So, overall, I’m not unhappy with this evening.

8/31/2014

Lafayette Square

Filed under: — stan @ 1:52 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to see the mansions in Lafayette Square. We’ve been to see them before, but it was a nice day, and it would probably be cooler heading west.

The ride out was pretty straightforward, aside from my getting a flat on the way into downtown L.A. It turned out that I’d picked up a little thorn in my tire. But at least it wasn’t a mystery.

We had to take a little detour in downtown, since Spring St was closed between Grand Park and City Hall for some sort of music festival. So we took Grand Ave, passing by the Wells Fargo building that we practice stairs in lately.

On Flower St, there were some small plywood boxes, all labeled “DANGER”. It looked a bit like it should have said “Tasmanian Devil” underneath, but we really have no idea what the big deal was with them.

At Lafayette Square, we took a quick turn through the neighborhood. Then we continued on to Larchmont and our stop at Noah’s Bagels. After that, we headed back, across Hancock Park and Koreatown. That was where Steve got a flat. Since this was his first time riding with our group, I took a picture for the Flat Tire Gallery.

Overall, it was a pretty pleasant ride.

44 miles.

8/30/2014

Mt Zion

Filed under: — stan @ 2:43 pm

After doing a short ’shakedown’ hike last summer, I think I’m up for hiking more again. So today was the day. I met up with Karina and Kathy and we headed up to Chantry Flat. Karina knows a route from there that goes up Santa Anita Canyon, over the summit of Mt. Zion, and then back down another part of the canyon. And perhaps most importantly, since Santa Anita Canyon usually has a small stream flowing in it, most of the route was through forest, so there would be shade.

We tried to get an early start, since parking is very limited at Chantry Flat. We got up there before 8:00, but we still ended up having to park about 1/2 mile back down the road. Then we started out, walking back up to Chantry Flat, and starting down the trail, which began with about 1/2 mile downhill into the canyon. At the bottom, we saw where the stream should have been, had we not been in the middle of an epic drought here. What was supposed to be a flowing stream was just a stream bed, with occasional little pools. Most of the bed wasn’t even visibly damp. Which is why I thought the guy with the fishing pole was being perhaps a bit too optimistic. But he did find a fair-sized pool, although I’m not sure there were any fish in it.

We hiked a good way up the canyon, and then we turned and headed up the side of the canyon, toward Mt. Wilson. There was a little side trail that went up to the top of Mt Zion, which was nice. it was one of the few times we came out of the trees and got a view. After that, we went back to the trail junction and sat down in the shade to have our lunch.

The trail back switchbacked down the south face of Mt Zion. There were some spots where there was a view, which was nice, but it was also getting pretty hot by then. At the bottom of the canyon we came through Hoegees Campground, and a bit farther along, we saw a small cave in the rocks. I went in it a bit just to see how far it went. Finally, the trail came out back at the junction at the bottom of the canyon, below Chantry Flat. From there, we had to walk back up to the road, and then down the road to where we’d parked. In all, it was about 8 1/2 miles or so.

8/27/2014

It’s getting harder to get motivated for this for some reason…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:01 pm

Tonight was yet another session at the Wells Fargo building. Four times up the staircase. The first time, I was trying for a moderate pace. I just don’t have the will to really push the pace these days. The second time, my only goal was to make it to the top in less than twelve minutes. By the end of that climb, I was pretty tired. So the third time up was a real slog. And the fourth time, I didn’t even bother to time it. Still, I made it up. Four times is a vertical half-mile. So I really can’t complain too much. But still, it’s a long way since the times when I could do five climbs in a row, at a consistent and brisk pace.

On the way home, I saw the message board in Union Station was having trouble displaying the times for the Gold Line trains. Back in July, I was happy to see that Metro had finally given in to common sense and set the board to display useful information for once. But tonight, something was wrong. Not only did it not know when the trains were running, but it didn’t even remember the name of the line. Well, I still appreciate the thought.

8/24/2014

A bit of aerospace history in Burbank

Filed under: — stan @ 12:41 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a trip to Burbank to see a bit of aerospace history. The site of the former Loughead -er- Lockheed plant, next to Burbank Airport, and also to see the F-104 on display in George Izay Park in Burbank. The F-104 was one of many innovative airplanes that came out of the Lockheed Skunk Works.

We rode out across Eagle Rock and Glendale to get to Burbank. I stopped for a quick photo-op with a topiary along Victory Blvd. And then we took a left on Olive Ave to get to the park, and the photo-op with the F-104-on-a-stick. Everything is more fun if it’s on a stick, I think. From there, we headed north, and we took a short side trip to see the big desert tortoises again. They were pretty active today, and we even saw some of them sparring. Apparently, they do that by drawing their head back into their shell, and then ramming the front of the shell into another tortoise. It made an odd clacking sound. We don’t know why they do that, but it probably has something to do with mating.

From there, we continued on to Burbank Airport. The old topiary has been replaced with a new one. We’ve been to see it before, but the last time we saw it, it was looking pretty bad. So they’ve replaced it with a new one. And we took a moment to look around. All the parking areas at the airport, as well as the Fry’s across the railroad tracks, and the lots on the other side of Hollywood Way all used to be the Lockheed plant. And it’s all gone now. All that’s left is the credit union. And I’ll put in a plug for them here. I’ve been banking there for almost seven years now, and it’s great. Great service, great rates, and I recommend them highly.

We stopped to peek in a the kiddy-ride boneyard on Clybourn Ave. We all thought it would be the perfect setting for the climactic scene of a mad-killer-clown horror movie. Then we headed down to Priscilla’s for snacks.

On the way home, we went through Highland Park. That was where we saw the house with the Transformers in the front yard. That was odd, but a good photo-op. All together, it was a fun ride, with lots of odd sights.

45 miles.

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