Stan’s Obligatory Blog


A day with the animals

Filed under: — stan @ 8:48 pm

On Sunday after the Towerthon, we spent the day playing tourist in San Diego. In our case, that meant having breakfast with my father, and then going to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. It was a perfect day to be outside, so that worked out well. Lucinda asked if she could do the zipline this time, so we got tickets for her and London to do that.

It was a fun and entertaining day. Highlights included feeding time for the meerkats, the new lemur exhibit, where Kathleen got closely inspected by one of the residents, and the baby antelope running around it its enclosure. Pictures of the zipline adventure are in Lucinda’s album. And the best of the animal pictures I took that day are here.



Filed under: — stan @ 8:33 pm

This past weekend was my second attempt at the San Diego Towerthon. And it was a mixed bag. Fun in a weird sort of way, but also funny in a weird way.

Last year, I’d gone in to this race with no expectations. I’d never done an endurance stair climb before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. And I think I did pretty well. I climbed the staircase from 1 to 25 seventeen times. That was enough times that I was able to later make the staircase chart from memory. And, more importantly, I calculated later that if I’d done it eighteen times, it would have been a vertical mile. More on that later.

So for the past year, I’ve been thinking about the vertical mile as a goal and a challenge. And I even did it once at one of the Aon building practice sessions in downtown L.A. last March. So I went into this race with a goal of doing the vertical mile.

A few days before the race, I got an email from P.J. saying that they’d had to change the course for the race, and that we were only going to be going up to 24 this time. The organizers had already said that they were going to make up some sort of special award for all climbers who went a mile or more, so they wanted to know how many times up would make a mile with the shorter climb. I ran the numbers and came up with 18.6, which meant climbing the staircase 19 times. I worked out a pace for that, and I set an alarm on my watch for 6:20, since that was how fast I’d have to do each lap, including the elevator ride down and the run from the lobby to the staircase entrance outside.

So race day dawned, and when I was in line and about to go, my friend George told me that he’d measured the steps in the staircase, and they were a bit taller than I’d figured in my calculations. They were something like 7 3/8 inches instead of 7. At that point it was too late to redo the calculations, so I just started up the stairs. I think that’s why I look a bit haunted in the starting line picture.

All the way up the first time, I kept thinking about how the taller steps threw all my careful calculations off by about 4%. Which is enough to notice over a 2-hour climb. Still, I made it up on target, and I managed to keep on pace for about 5 or 6 climbs. But then I started to fall of behind. Expectations are a terrible thing. Once I knew I was off my planned pace, I kind of lost the will to go on. And my lap times for the middle set of climbs were kind of slow. I managed to perk up a bit towards the end, but by that time, I’d lost count of how many times I’d been up the stairs. You can see in the pictures the wear that going up that staircase over and over caused.

At the end, I got to the top and then immediately flopped face-down on the floor. The top of the climb was an unfinished floor, and we discovered that our sweat-soaked shirts made sort of prints on the concrete. These were dubbed ’sweat angels’. After a suitable recovery time, we got together for a team picture before heading down for the awards.

When the posted the results, I found I’d climbed the staircase 17 times. Not bad, but not a mile. And when I had a few minutes, I recalculated, and found that with the taller steps, 18 times up made a mile on this year’s course. So I really didn’t need to aim for 19, and if I’d aimed for 18, I might have made it.

The really funny bit came later, when I was on the train leaving downtown to go back to my father’s place. I wondered just how close my 17 climbs last year were to a mile, since the steps were taller than I’d thought. So here’s the calculation:

Climb from 1 to 25 -> 506 steps
506 x 7.35 = 3,719 inches = 310 feet
310 feet x 17 climbs = 5,270 feet

This is just short of a mile. But on every lap, there were four steps we had to go up when we got out of the lobby. So doing 17 laps meant climbing those four steps 16 times, and they were about 6.5 inches. So those steps added:

16 x 4 x 6.5 = 416 inches = 35 feet

5,270 + 35 > 5,280

So the funny thing is that I actually did the vertical mile last year. But because I’d thought that I hadn’t, it became a year-long obsession. I talked about it, and other climbers took it on as a goal as well. And the whole thing took on a life of its own. Which I found tremendously funny.

Overall, even though I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, I really can’t complain. It was a good experience, and good fun.

Full results are here:


Filed under: — stan @ 1:51 pm

On Saturday morning I had to take the bus and train to get to downtown San Diego for the Towerthon. I looked up the schedules and fares on the San Diego MTS web site. And then, when I got on the bus and asked for a day pass, the driver said it was $7.

I had $6 on me. Fortunately, one of the other people getting on the bus had a dollar. She said that the same thing had happened to her recently, so she thought it was good karma to help me out.

Here’s a screenshot of their web site where it clearly says $5.

If they’re going to change the fares, they really should update their web site to reflect the change.


Playgrounds Again

Filed under: — stan @ 4:34 pm

Being a member of AAA, I get their monthly “Westways” magazine, and a recent issue had a little feature about unusual playgrounds in the Los Angele area. So that got me thinking that it was time to do the Playgrounds bike ride again. And today was the day.

It was a perfect day for riding. Cool and overcast at the start, with the clouds burning off and having some nice sunshine by the time we finished.

We rode down to San Gabriel to see La Laguna de San Gabriel at Vincent Lugo Park. We’d been there recently on our way to East Los Angeles to see the giant tamale. Then we headed east across the San Gabriel Valley, out to West Covina to see the F-86 Sabre jet at Puente Park. The article said that it’s a real airplane under there, and that it’s just been filled and coated with concrete. I was knocking on it, and I suppose there might be an actual airplane under there, but for all practical purposes, it feels like a solid cast-concrete model of a airplane.

Our snack stop was at Panera in West Covina. After that, we headed home. In Arcadia, I found yet another house where the mailbox was decorated as a miniature of the house. I like seeing those.

It was a nice ride.

43 miles.


Glendora – Times Change

Filed under: — stan @ 5:20 pm

Today’s bike club ride was our old route out to Glendora. There’s not much to see along the way, but I did notice one thing different. The house of the number-one railfan is for sale. That’s kind of sad. So here’s what the house used to look like:

37 miles.


The Grade-F Streets of Los Angeles

Filed under: — stan @ 1:46 pm

A few weeks ago, there was an article in the L.A. Times about how many of the streets of Los Angeles are in really bad shape. In particular, they mentioned Rimpau Blvd in Hancock Park. I had a look at the interactive web map showing all the streets in the city and their grades, and I saw that part of Rimpau was repaved last year, and graded “A”, and then the section just a few blocks away was graded “F”. So I thought this might make for an amusing sightseeing trip.

The route out was our usual route through downtown Los Angeles, and then out on West Adams. We took a short side trip to Lafayette Square to look at the old mansions. Then we headed up into Hancock Park.

The grade “A” section of Rimpau was indeed very nice. Smooth pavement, no cracks. Then, when we crossed 3rd St, I saw the original builder’s stamp in the street’s concrete. The street had not been repaved since being built in the mid-1920s. And it showed. There were big cracks, holes, ruts, and it was rough. So that’s what a grade of “F” looks like.

After looking at the failed street. we headed up to Larchmont and Noah’s Bagels. We sat outside and had some snacks. Then we headed home. Along the way, we saw a police car kiddie ride, a car with a pink moustache, people getting ready to go kayaking in the L.A. River, and a sign on the hillside above Glassell Park that said “GLASSELLLAND”.

It was a nice ride.

44 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 2:11 pm

It’s the last Sunday of the month, and we’re still not having our usual summer heat. So for the ’slightly longer than usual’ ride for this month, we rode to Claremont. If it were hot, going inland like this would be very unpleasant, but today was just perfect.

The ride out there is pretty straightforward. Almost no hills, and not a lot of sightseeing along the way. But we did pass the L.A. County Fairgrounds. I’ve started development on a new set of recipes to enter in the baking contest at this year’s fair.

When we got there, we went to Le Pain Quotidient. We sat outside on the patio, near the fountains and sculptures.

All told, it was a pleasant, and pretty uneventful ride.

57 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 6:33 pm

The new attraction on the L.A. waterfront is the battleship Iowa. It’s been parked there for about a year now, and a good bit of it is open as a museum. So we went to see it today.

The tour is self-guided, and takes in most of the upper part of the ship. We got to see a lot about the history of the ship in World War II, and later on in the Cold War. I recall thinking it was a bit odd that in the ’80s they were refitting several of the old battleships for active duty again. But they put cruise missiles on them, complete with nuclear warheads. And they had the Phalanx super-duper gatling gun to defend the ship from incoming missiles.

Here’s a video of a demonstration of the Phalanx in action:

All told, it was an interesting afternoon.



Filed under: — stan @ 6:05 pm

Last week, there was an article in the L.A. Times about how Chris Brown had painted cartoon monsters on the wall in front of his house, and how his neighbors were upset about that. And of course, my first thought was that we should go on a ride there to see them. So that’s what we did today.

His house is almost at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Hollywood Hills, just below Lake Hollywood. So I recycled the ‘Atomic Age Houses‘ route for most of the ride, and we headed out.

We rode the normal way across Eagle Rock to get to Hollywood. And then we turned off Franklin and headed up the hill. The streets there are typical Hollywood Hills streets. Narrow, winding, and steep. But then we came around the last bend, and just after the ‘ROAD ENDS 600 FT’ sign, we saw the monsters. There were several painted on the wall in front of the house, and more on the house itself on the upper levels. I really don’t get what the neighbors are complaining about. After all, they say that the monsters scare their kids. But how many of them also have DVDs of “Monsters, Inc” for their kids to watch?

After looking at the monsters, we had to backtrack down the hill a bit before we turned and headed up the main hill to the top, near the Hollywood sign. We passed Wolf’s Lair Castle, and then rode down the hill, past the dog park, and then up the big, steep hill behind the reservoir. And after all that, it was time for snacks at Priscilla’s.

The last part of the ride was a direct route home, across Glendale and Eagle Rock. It was a nice ride.

40 miles.


For the most part…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:43 pm

I ride my bike to work every day, and I’ve done that for all of the over 18 years I’ve been at my job. And for the most part, Pasadena is a pretty pleasant place to ride. I’ve worked out a route that avoids most of the busy streets, and it’s one that is such that both going in in the morning and coming home in the evening, the last part of the ride is downhill. So it’s pretty good.

Just one minor problem. In recent years, the city has gone to putting vehicle detector loops on most traffic lights in the city. And not all of them work correctly. And since it’s Bike Week in Pasadena, and the city is trying to encourage more people to ride bikes, I need to go on a bit of a rant here.

CVC section 21550.5 says:

(b) Upon the first placement of a traffic-actuated signal or
replacement of the loop detector of a traffic-actuated signal, the
traffic-actuated signal shall, to the extent feasible and in
conformance with professional traffic engineering practice, be
installed and maintained so as to detect lawful bicycle or motorcycle
traffic on the roadway.

I’ve corresponded with the city traffic light maintenance people about this issue, and they’ve gone and adjusted some of the sensors. This has helped in some cases, and the lights will work correctly for a time. But in each case, after about a month, the fixed lights go back to not working correctly.

Looking again at the CVC section 21800, we find:

(d) (1) The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.

So this is going to have to be my policy now. For signals that do not function correctly, I’m just going to have to treat them as if they were stop signs.

Just for the record, here are the intersections with lights that I go through on my way to the office:

  • Cooley Pl and Altadena Dr: Signal used to work. It worked from when they put in the detectors in 2003 until last year. I put in a request to fix it in October, 2012. They fixed it, and it stopped working again in April, 2013. It currently does not work. And there is no way to activate the left-turn arrow manually. The button for the ‘walk’ signal only activates the ‘walk’ sign, and it does not trigger the left green arrow. So if there is not a car here to activate the signal, I have no option but to cross illegally.
  • Mountain St and Allen Ave: This used to be on a regular timer, but they changed it a few months ago. Neither direction works for me.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Maple St: The northbound light works correctly. The southbound light never worked in the past. I put in a request to fix it in March, 2013. They adjusted it, and it worked for about a month. It no longer works correctly.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Corson St: The northbound light works correctly. The southbound light has always worked, until the last time they came out to adjust the southbound light above. Now it no longer works.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Walnut St: The detectors at this intersection have never worked for me.
  • Sierra Bonita Ave and Colorado Blvd: The detectors here do not work, and they never have.
  • Bonnie Ave and Colorado Blvd: The northbound left-turn detectors here work correctly. This is fortunate, since Colorado is a very busy street, and it would be very difficult to cross without the protected left turn. And there is no other way to activate the left-turn arrow.
  • Bonnie Ave and Del Mar Ave: The detectors both north and southbound have never worked at this intersection.
  • San Pasqual St and Hill Ave: This light is still on a regular timer, so it is not a problem.

Now that I wrote it all down, it seems that the list of signals that work correctly is much shorter than the list of ones that do not work.


Anyway, if I get a ticket for running any of these non-functioning lights, I will at least have a record of the issues I’ve filed with the city that I can use to argue that the lights are defective.

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