Stan’s Obligatory Blog

7/12/2014

We’re a family now!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

Today was Kathleen’s and my wedding. We’ve been planning this for some time, but the planning process was put on hold over the winter when my back went to hell. But now that it’s back to normal, we decided to forge ahead, and we’ve spent the last two months planning this day. The event was held in Carla’s back yard. After two years of Sunday bike rides, I’ve heard lots about the tribulations Carla experienced with getting the yard redone, and so when she volunteered it for our wedding, we were very happy. We spent a lot of time working out the decorations, and all of yesterday putting them up. And along the way, we arranged for tables, chairs, a DJ, and professional bartenders. So by the time the actual day came along, we were pretty tired, but still excited.

We consulted with a Unitarian minister for our ceremony. She pointed us in the right direction, and we wrote it ourselves. We thought it would be appropriate if Kathleen and I both walked in with our respective kids along, since they’re part of the new family we’re forming here. I’d asked the minister if there were particular sides for the bride and groom to stand on. She said that there is some traditional way it’s done, but she’s been doing all same-sex weddings lately and can’t remember what the traditional arrangement is. I thought that was a nice sign of the times, and we decided to just wing it. The actual ceremony was only about five minutes or so. We wanted to keep it concise and to the point.

Afterward, it was time to eat. We’d arranged to have the Lobos Truck do the food. We’ve seen them at ArtWalk and other events, but we’d never eaten there, owing to their always having a long line. We took that to be a recommendation, and the food turned out to be pretty good. The only downside to it was that it took a fairly long time to serve everyone, since they cooked each one to order. But it was good.

The bartenders came from Goose on the Rocks, and they did a very good job. They kept track of everything, mixed and served, and they were just good to have there to keep an eye on everything. They’d given us a shopping list of supplies to get, and it turned out to be pretty conservative. We’ve got a lot of booze and such left over. But that’s all right.

Music was by DJ Oda, and he played music the whole time, including making some impromptu mashups later in the evening.

Our cake was my by our friend Karina from my office. She’s become quite a good baker, and knows how to make a cake that looks great and also tastes great. And the cake she made for us was a winner all around.

So it turned out to be a good party.

7/9/2014

First time out for the new season

Filed under: — stan @ 9:05 pm

Stair practice started this week. It’s at 400 S. Hope St in downtown Los Angeles. That’s the building formerly known as Mellon Bank. Now is has a new name, and we’re in a different stairwell, so my old chart doesn’t quite apply. It’s still the same number of steps, but things are slightly different. It appears that the new ownership also renumbered the floors, since the building didn’t have a 13th floor before, and now it does. But it’s still 22 steps per floor, and from lobby to 2 is 49 steps. So that means that climbing to the 25th floor is in fact an honest 25 floors of climbing.

I climbed the building five times tonight. The first two, I went up to 25. The door to the elevators to go back down was on 20, so those times, I had to walk back down from 25 to 20 to get out. So after that, I figured I wanted to give my knees a break, so the next three times, I only went up to 20. I was pretty much just taking it easy, aiming for 12 seconds per floor, or five floors per minute. That’s my ‘brisk, but not punishing’ pace. Good for the first time out. The last time up, I was talking with some new-to-the-sport climbers, and I took some time to try and explain techniques for not wasting steps on the landings, and ways to balance the load between the legs. All in all, it was not bad for the first time out.

7/6/2014

Glendora Mountain for the 4th of July

Filed under: — stan @ 1:21 pm

It’s become traditional that they close Glendora Mountain Road for the 4th of July weekend. I guess that’s to keep people from driving up there and setting the mountain on fire with fireworks. But in any event, it makes for a nice place for bike riding on that weekend. So we were going to take advantage of it.

We rode out the Glendora and headed up the road. At the gate, we just lifted our bikes over and started up the hill. The ‘hill’ in this case is about 8-9 miles of about a 5% grade. Not terrible, but enough that we gain a lot of elevation by the time we reach the top. It was pretty hot today, and for the first time in a long time, I ran out of water. Fortunately, Pat knew where there was a park with a drinking fountain at the bottom of the hill. So we all stopped there and refilled our bottles before heading home.

It was a nice ride, and we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of it. We met one guy on the road who had ridden his bike from Huntington Beach just to ride the mountain while the road was closed.

55 miles.

7/4/2014

Echo Mountain for the 4th

Filed under: — stan @ 2:05 pm

Since my back has finally recovered from the troubles I had over the winter, I wanted to see if I could hike again. So this morning, I met up with Karina and her friend for an easy hike up Echo Mountain. This is the first time I’ve tried a decent hike since we’d hiked Mount Wilson last October, during the government shutdown.

It was a nice day to be outside. We did the hike at a reasonable pace. Not quite as fast as we’d done it last October, but brisk nonetheless. At the top, we found some shade, and I broke out the chocolate muffins I’d made last night. And then we came back down. I was a little worried about the going down part, but my back did just fine. So I guess that means I’m ready for more hiking.

6/29/2014

Another San Fernando Earthquake tour

Filed under: — stan @ 1:59 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a tour to see some sights related to the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake. It’s a slightly longer ride than usual, but that’s all right since it’s the last Sunday of the month. And we had a nice treat today, with Vikki joining us for the first time in a long time. After all these years, she’s back working in the earthquake business, so she wanted to come on the earthquake-themed ride.

We headed out across Eagle Rock and Glendale, and up through Burbank. Basically, we got on Glenoaks and just kept on going. We rode through the auto-wrecking ghetto of Sun Valley, all the way to San Fernando, and the McDonald’s there. There is a little hill in between the drive-through lane and the parking lot. That little hill was part of the mapped surface rupture from the 1971 earthquake. When they built the McDonald’s, they just smoothed it over and planted grass on it. It’s one of the nicer-landscaped fault scarps around.

Just beyond the McDonald’s, we turned and headed toward the mountains. The old VA hospital was essentially destroyed by the 1971 earthquake, and it was never rebuilt. The functions done there were all moved to the newer facility in Mission Hills. That’s the place we visited last year, since one of the buildings there was used to play the American Embassy in Tehran in the movie “Argo“. And the old VA hospital grounds in San Fernando were turned into a county park. It’s a pretty big and very attractive park, and there’s really no sign of what used to be there.

Coming back, we headed back down Glenoaks, and then turned up La Tuna Canyon. As always, the five-mile uphill ride was a joy. Sort of. Still, it was a fun ride, and I’ve finally seen where the old VA Hospital was.

56 miles.

6/14/2014

The chocolate tour

Filed under: — stan @ 6:57 pm

A few weeks ago, we signed up for a tour of chocolate and candy shops in Beverly Hills. It sounded amusing. And today was the day.

We began in front of Sprinkles cupcakes, where we got to sample a mini-chocolate cupcake. It turned out to be the same kind of cupcake that I’d gotten from the cupcake ATM there when we did the bike club ride to see it. It was pretty good. It was about as good as a bought cupcake could be.

The second stop was at Sugarfina. They had lots of interesting-looking unusual candies, as well as a ‘Candy Concierge’ desk in the back. They also had sparklers for cakes. I think that sounds like a fun variation on candles.

It wasn’t as stop on the tour, but we passed by a place that makes fresh ice cream using liquid nitrogen. That sounds entertaining.

The next stop was at Edelweiss Chocolates. They are apparently famous for two things. First, their chocolate-covered marshmallows. And second, for having the little conveyor-belt machine in the back that inspired the famous “I Love Lucy” episode back in the 1950s.

After that, we took a fairly long walk to get to Lette Macarons, where they were quite careful to explain to us that macarons are different from macaroons. And then we got to sample some. They were all right, but I guess it’s just not my thing.

Next was Vosges Haut-Chocolat Boutique, where we started off sampling a chocolate truffle with a dusting of curry on it. That was a bit odd. They also had a lot of chocolate with bacon and other odd things in it. There were little dishes with small fragments to sample, so we got to try a lot of different variations. They also had the “Sommelier Crafted Water” there. Hmm.

The last major stop was Beverly Hills Brownie, which was pretty much what you’d expect. The brownies we sampled were pretty good.

And that was the candy tour. No Oompa-Loompas, but still pretty entertaining.

6/12/2014

Another field trip

Filed under: — stan @ 9:49 pm

This week, an email was sent to everyone in my office, inviting us to come and see the trenches that Kate Scharer has been working in on the San Andreas Fault. The location was near Lake Elizabeth, a bit north of Los Angeles. This is the southern end of the Carrizo Plain segment of the fault. So a group of us made arrangements to go up there for the morning.

The route up there went up San Francisquito Canyon. That was the site of the Bouquet Canyon Road Race in 1978, which I’ve long regarded as the single most miserable day I’ve ever spent on my bike. And it was also the site of the St Francis Dam disaster, which is an interesting bit of local history.

It was a nice day, but kind of windy up there on the fault line. Kate had her dogs with her, and they were running around, trying to get us to play with them. That, and they also like to go down into the trench to lie down on the cool dirt at the bottom. Kate took us on a tour of both trenches, pointing out the layers and where they were broken by past earthquakes. She showed us where the breaks could be traced from one trench to another. She also pointed out ancient animal burrows and worm holes.

After the trench tour, we took a walk up to the top of a small rise near the trench site. From there, we could take in a full 180-degree view of the fault zone.

On the way home, we stopped briefly at the site of the former St Francis dam, just to marvel at how big is was, and to try and imagine what it was like when it all came crashing down.

It made for an interesting morning.

6/8/2014

The Gold Line Extension tour

Filed under: — stan @ 1:54 pm

Route Map

Today’s bike ride was a repeat of our tour of the Metro Gold Line Extension. It’s been four months since we last did it, so we wanted to see how the construction is coming along.

The first stop was the new Arcadia station. They have made visible progress, although the tracks are not yet built there. They’re put in the tracks down the center of the freeway, though. And they’ve started construction on the big parking structure next to the station.

The Monrovia station is coming together. The tracks to the east of it to Duarte are in, and they look like they’re almost finished ballasting and leveling the new tracks there.

Heading east on Duarte road, we were stopped at the light at California when Metro bus pulled up alongside us and the driver proceeded to harass us. He said we were not ’sharing the road’. I snapped a picture of the bus as he pulled away to document the time this occurred and the bus number. We caught up with the bus down the road, but the driver was nowhere to be seen. Still, I got the numbers on it, and I told every one that I felt a letter coming on.

The far point of the ride was when we rode through Azusa and a bit of Glendora. We saw the two Azusa stations under construction. The first one is pretty far along, while the second one seems to still be just a sign saying it’s coming.

On the way back, we saw the site of the Irwindale station. There’s still not a lot there, but it’s definitely more than last time.

Addendum, June 17:
After we got home, I spent some time reviewing the relevant sections of the Vehicle Code. I even found a “Bike Pocket Guide” on the Metro web site that explicitly says that what we were doing was proper and appropriate. Then, I contacted the City of Pasadena Bicycle Coordinator to find out who I should contact a Metro about this incident. He supplied me with a name and address. So here is the letter I wrote to Metro about their jerk driver who harassed us: metro-harassment.pdf

44 miles.

6/3/2014

The Destruction of Money

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

A few weeks ago, I signed up for yet another tour with the Obscura Society – L.A. This time, it was a tour of the Federal Reserve in downtown Los Angeles. This is where they handle distributing cash to all the banks in southern California, and all the way to the casinos in Las Vegas. So even though they don’t actually print money there, they do handle astoundingly large amounts of it. And in addition, this is where money goes to die. As the cash passes through there, bills that are too worn are shredded.

We saw the room where they sort the money, picking out counterfeit bills, and putting the stacks of bills into the machine that inspects them. Apparently, the machine automatically detects and shreds the worn-out bills, and the shreds are just blown up a pipe into the ceiling to some sort of trap up above.

They showed us the carts they move money around on. Each cart holds something like 460,000 bundled bills, so a cart holds anywhere from $460,000 to $46,000,000. After we’d worked that out, they showed us the vault. It looked like the last scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, only with carts full of money instead of wooden boxes. At that point, I ran out of zeros to count with. That vault had to have held a couple billion dollars in cash. Yikes. No wonder security at the building is tight.

At the end, they had us fill out a little survey and gave us each a small bag of shredded money to take home. It was a unique little adventure.

Towerthon – Addendum

Filed under: — stan @ 10:10 am

After my first time doing the Towerthon in 2012, I made up the stair chart for the building, and I used that to estimate how far I’d climbed that morning. And my estimate came out to be just a bit under one mile. And this is where I got the idea of doing the two-hour Vertical Mile.

This became a bit of an obsession for me the next year. I made a couple of attempts at practice sessions at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles, and I finally managed to do it one evening.

Of course, in the end, the joke was on me. In that at the 2013 Towerthon, George had gone in and measured the steps at the building, and it turned out that they were about 3/8 inch taller than my original estimate. And that 3/8 inch multiplied by the 8,602 steps I’d climbed actually meant that I’d done the mile that first time. But because I’d thought I’d fallen just short, it became an all-consuming obsession.

Along the way, a few other people tried doing the Vertical Mile, and the idea sort of took on a life of its own. Even to the point where the 2013 Towerthon made up special shirts to be given to all finishers who managed to climb over a mile. And this year, they did that again. In this year’s building, 22 climbs made a mile. And my friend Leland managed to do it. This was his first time doing the Vertical Mile, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that apparently my name as become associated with the idea. So once again, I’m glad to have contributed something to this insane little sport of ours.

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