Stan’s Obligatory Blog

9/4/2011

Glendale Vistas again

Filed under: — stan @ 12:16 pm

Today’s bike club ride was an old route we haven’t done in quite a while. It’s the “Glendale Vistas” route, and it goes up into the hills above Glendale. I broke my bike on this ride four years ago.

It was not a bad day for riding. It was promising to get hot, but not nearly as bad as some other days have been. There’s not a lot to say about this route. It doesn’t go to any weird sightseeing spots. The most excitement we had was at the stop at Paradise Bakery. They have the best chocolate eclairs there.

After the eclair stop, we headed up into the hills. That was where I got the picture of Alan doing the ‘walk of shame’, pushing his bike up the hill.

It was a nice ride, even if we didn’t do any odd sightseeing along the way.

41 miles.

9/3/2011

Neon lights, but not so much water as last time

Filed under: — stan @ 11:30 pm

Last December, we took the Museum of Neon Art’s Holiday Lights tour. And as it turned out, that was the night it was pouring rain in Los Angeles, which is not so good if you’re riding in an open-top sightseeing bus. So tonight, we went to do the summer version of the neon tour, and it seemed like a pretty good bet that it wasn’t going to rain.

The museum has moved out of the old bank building on 4th St in preparation for their move to Glendale next year. So the tour began in Chinatown. There is a lot of nice neon dating back to the 1930s there, and it was always a stop on the tour, so it seemed like a good place to start. While we were waiting to go, we wandered around and took pictures of the neon as the sun went down.

When it got dark, we all loaded up the bus and headed out. They took us downtown to see all the old theaters on Broadway, as well as a number of other old neon signs in the area. Then we had our first stop of the tour, at The Golden Gopher. Word is that Gopher has the oldest liquor license in L.A., and it’s apparently one of very few that allow for take-out. And the little gophers inside were cute.

Leaving downtown, we headed up across Echo Park and Silver Lake into Hollywood. There is a lot of neon and other electric signage in Hollywood, so that was a natural for the tour. Eric was our guide for the tour, and he was very entertaining, telling us stories about the different signs along the way, as well as maintaining a constant patter about which historic buildings have been converted to loft housing. There’s a little video excerpt you can see there that will give a taste of what the tour is like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhA6D6DzZh0

It was a very fun evening.

9/2/2011

Remembering the ’80s

Filed under: — stan @ 11:30 pm

On Friday night, we started off our long weekend at the Hollywood Bowl. They were having a “Totally ’80s” nostalgia show with Berlin, The Fixx, The B-52s, and The Human League, so we joined about 18,000 other 50-mumble-year-olds and we partied like it was 1983.

Parking at the Hollywood Bowl is the stuff of nightmares, so we did the un-L.A. thing and rode the train. Riding on the Metro, as it were. That worked out well, except that Kathleen got stuck in traffic on the way to the subway station, so we were a bit late. When we got there, Berlin was already playing… “The Metro“. And Terri Nunn still looks great, even 30 years later. They played a short set, and then Terri was the MC for the remainder of the evening.

Second up was The Fixx. I wasn’t all that familiar with them, aside from what was played on KROQ back in the day. But they still looked good, and the played all the songs we knew.

The B-52s were up third, and they stole the show. Fred Schneider has gotten old, but they can still rock. Funny thing was, “Party out of Bounds” just doesn’t sound the same when it’s played by a bunch of middle-agers. Still, they did a good long set, and as always, we knew all the songs. They had the crowd on their feet, which is not always an easy thing to do at our age. I was happy that I’d finally had a chance to see them play, since I missed my first opportunity, back in1980. I was in college at the time, and they were playing at a tiny little club in Houston, Texas. But the show was on a Sunday night, and it was the Sunday night before my first big exam in Physics 311 – Quantum Mechanics. At the time, I thought it was probably a good idea to skip the show and study. So now, 30-something years later, I finally got to see them.

Finally, The Human League rounded out the show. They did all right, although they played a couple of actual new songs. They should know that nobody goes to a nostalgia show to hear or see anything new. We’re there to relive old memories, and quietly weep for our lost youth. Still, they did a good show, and all around it was a fun evening.

Some things don’t change. We could still smell pot wafting by on the breeze. On the other hand, I’d be willing to bet that there was nobody there who got so drunk that they puked on their shoes, unlike if we’d had the same crowd and bands at a show back in, say, 1983. Another thing I thought was funny was seeing the glowing screens of hundreds of digital cameras in the crowd. It looked a lot like the old days, only with cameras instead of lighters. And I’m told now that there’s a ‘lighter app’ for the iPhone now, just so we can combine the best of old and new. Heh.

All told, it was a fun evening.

8/31/2011

Fortunately, things improved significantly

Filed under: — stan @ 9:26 pm

Today was my first practice session at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Los Angeles. Things got off to a bad start when I was walking over from the subway station, and I got bombed by a bird. Yick.

Fortunately, after that, things improved. I walked over to the building and we all lined up. For some weird reason, they wanted to let us into the stairs in groups of 10, at something like 1-2 minute intervals. I’m not sure what that was supposed to accomplish, but I guess it doesn’t matter. When it was our group’s turn to go, they opened up the door, and we started up.

I waited about a minute or so before starting. I knew that the group in front was going to get spread out pretty fast, and that that would make for easier passing. And when I got going, I just concentrated on catching and passing everyone who had started in my group. It was kind of hard getting around some of them, but I only ended up taking the long way around on a landing once. So I was able to maintain an efficient course up the stairs.

I took a quick look at my watch at the halfway point. It said something like four minutes and a few seconds at that time. So that was good. I knew I was on track for a decent time. My best time for this last year was 9:28, and I was hoping to better that today.

By the time I got to about 35, I’d passed everyone who started in my group, and I was catching some of the stragglers from the group ahead of us. But the last 20 floors were kind of lonely. That made it hard to maintain the pace. But I looked at the time again, and that got me going, since I knew I had a decent chance to do a good time.

By the time I got to 50, I was really hurting. My lips were tingling. And I was getting that ‘tunnel vision’ thing I’ve heard other stair climbers talk about. But I managed to keep going up to the landing at 55. I stopped my watch, and I saw 9:11. That’s a good improvement over last year’s time, although to be fair, last year we were able to go up one more floor to the landing below the roof. This time, they had the last flight of stairs blocked off with caution tape. So that would have added about 10 seconds more, but even with that, I’m still going a good bit faster than last year.

Doing some math:

700ft = 213m
170lb = 77kg
77 * 213 * 9.8 = 160730J
160730J / 551sec = 292W
292W * 0.001341 = 0.39hp

That’s not a record, but it’s my second-highest recorded power output.

This is great!

8/29/2011

Once more to the Magic Kingdom

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

For the past three years, I’ve made a point of taking Lucinda to Disneyland just before school starts. Partly because it’s a nice way to end the summer, and partly because our friend who works there has a pass that doesn’t work during the high days of summer. So today was the day. We went twice last year, and those were the days when we got Lucinda to ride California Screamin’ for the first time. And the second time last year was the day when we rode it 21 times. That was a very absurd, but also very fun day.

Lucinda is getting older now, so it’s not the same as it was a few years ago. This time we went with her friend London, and my girlfriend Kathleen. That way, I would have company, and the two girls could go off on their own and do whatever they want. So where I used to have a whole set of pictures of her on the various rides, now I just have a few. I got one when we got there, just before we went in. We ran into them around mid-day at California Screamin’, so I got a picture of them on the front row of the train, coming around the last turn. And then I got one more at the end of the day, when we had our traditional dinner at the Jazz Kitchen. They told us about what they did and what rides the rode, but I have no pictures.

Kathleen and I had a nice time. We rode Space Mountain four times, California Screamin’ four times, and we also got to ride the newly-redone Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain, and Pirates. So we were not lacking for fun. We also got to see the Phineas and Ferb show, which is new. My friend Nick at work is an old friend of the creator of Phineas and Ferb. So I’ve heard a bit of the history behind the show and the characters. And I’m sure that the fact that there is now a show at Disneyland means that Dan is sleeping on a very big pile of money now. And that it’s well-deserved. We like Phineas and Ferb.

Overall, it was a very fun day.

8/28/2011

Barbie

Filed under: — stan @ 1:59 pm

It’s the last Sunday of the month, so that means it’s time for the slightly-longer Sunday morning bike club ride. This is our chance to go places that are a little farther away than normal. So today’s ride was out to Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, to pay respects to Ruth and Elliott Handler, who were the founders of Mattel Toys. They are respectively credited with inventing the Barbie doll and Hot Wheels. Even though those are just toys, they made a mark on the world.

We had a smallish group today. It was forecast to be hot, and I think that scared some people off.

The route took us through downtown Los Angeles, and then out along West Adams, roughly paralleling the new Metro Expo line. We got to see it along the way. It’s coming along nicely, and it will probably be ready to open pretty soon.

In Culver City, we saw the hill with the Culver City stairs. A lot of the competitive stair climbers I know practice there. By the number of people going up there on a Sunday morning, it looks like a popular place.

There was construction on Sepulveda Blvd down near Fox Hills Mall. That was a bit unpleasant. But we made it to Hillside Memorial Park just fine. The Handlers are buried in the far back of the cemetery. Elliott died fairly recently, so he just had temporary marker next to Ruth’s. They are also buried next to their son, Kenneth, who was the namesake of the Ken doll.

On the way back, we saw a fountain in Culver City that seems to be popular with little kids. We stopped for a bagel at Noah’s on Venice Blvd. It had turned out to be a perfect day. It was about 76F, with a nice breeze off the ocean.

We took a new variation of the route back this time, going on 4th St through Hancock Park. This allowed us to take a one-block side trip to see the House of Davids. There was an article in the Times recently about this. The owner wants to sell the house and move away. Apparently, he is dismayed that his house is more famous than he is. Go figure.

As we got back to Pasadena, it got quite a bit hotter. But it was still below 100, so it wasn’t as hot as we’d been expecting. There were big thunderclouds up over the mountains, which is not unusual this time of the year.

It was a nice ride.

55 miles.

8/25/2011

Bee redux

Filed under: — stan @ 5:16 pm

Didn’t I just do this? I just had a beehive removed from my garage last summer. And now there’s another one. This time, it was built into a little hollow space in the ceiling. The bees were going in and out of a little hole on the outside, in my neighbor’s yard.

I called All Valley Bee again. They did a good job last time, so I didn’t have a problem with using them again. They came out last Wednesday and sprayed the hive to kill all the bees. And today they came back to pry open the ceiling in the garage and remove the honeycomb.

This hive was quite a bit smaller than the one last year, and it didn’t take them too long to dig it out. Then they stuffed the space with fiberglass insulation and caulked the hole from the outside. So presumably, no more bees.

I asked them what happens to all the honeycomb they take out. Apparently, it’s considered toxic waste, since it’s all been doused with insecticide. So they have a special container they put it in back at their shop, and hazardous waste handler comes and takes it away for proper disposal. As long as they don’t ship it to China. But either way, they said they get a couple hundred pounds of it a day on average. Yick.

8/24/2011

Still going up

Filed under: — stan @ 9:29 pm

Today was the latest practice session at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. So far this season, I’ve been doing well at these, doing way better times than last year, and improving my times nearly every time out. So far, my best effort was 7:21 last week on Monday.

Today was not a very promising start. My knee was hurting a little bit yesterday when I did the Millikan Library stairs. So I took some ibuprofen before getting on the train to go downtown.

All the usual crowd was there. Again, I let a big group go ahead, just for the sake of having people to pass. I figure it’s good practice, and it’s also a psychological boost. So when I started up, there was a fair amount of traffic. But that was all right. I got past all of them by about the 20th floor, and then it was kind of lonely the rest of the way up. I’m really not sure which I like better.

I took a quick look at my watch at about 37, and I saw I was on track to do a good time. That was nice, and it sort of perked me up for the last 5-6 floors. And when I got to the top, I saw that I’d made it up in 7:16. This is my best time to date, and it’s five seconds faster than my previous best. And perhaps best of all, this marks the first time I’ve generated 300 watts of usable power in a stair climb:

77kg*175m*9.8 = 132,055J
7:16 -> 436sec
132,055J/436sec = 303W

And this works out to be just a tiny bit over 0.4 horsepower. This is great!

The only downside of the whole adventure was that the Gold Line was having mechanical problems. There was a a problem with the overhead wire and a couple of dead trains blocking one of the tracks, so they had to run single-track, and that turned the trip home into an epic journey. But it was worth it.

8/23/2011

Well, this certainly made for an interesting day

Filed under: — stan @ 8:16 pm

There was a fairly large earthquake in Virginia today. Magnitude 5.8, which was strong enough to be felt as far north as Toronto. This is an unusual event, and it brought the news trucks out to the office for the first time in quite a while.

My Pet Project told me about the earthquake first, with a message that it had been detected by the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center’s seismic network. Given that this was an unusual location for an earthquake that large, I wanted to get independent verification that it was real. So I had a look at Twitter. And sure enough, there were people talking about it already. So I had a look at the web servers to see that they were doing all right, and I checked on the ENS (aka My Pet Project) database to be sure it was doing all right. Then I headed across the street.

Channel 7 was the first to arrive. Seeing that first news truck after an earthquake is like seeing the first robin of spring. Soon, we had a large collection of them parked all around the building, and they filled up the media room for the quick press conference that was organized for the occasion.

It’s always entertaining watching the media frenzy after an earthquake. So it made for a fun afternoon. And ENS picked up over 2,600 new subscribers today. It still boggles my mind that something I invented is being used by more than 280,000 people.

8/22/2011

Regression to the mean is not always a bad thing…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:43 pm

Today was another practice session at One Cal Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. Last week, I’d made my best effort to date, climbing the 42 stories in 7:21. I was hoping to better that today.

There was a big group there for the practice. When they started letting us into the stairs, I didn’t try to get in front. I wanted a lot of people to pass this time, since that always gives me a good psychological boost. So I waited a few minutes before starting out. And I passed a lot of people. There was only one time when the traffic got thick enough to slow me down a bit, and I managed to get through that pretty fast. I had a quick look at my watch at the halfway point and saw that I was on track for a decent time.

At 41, I managed to pull out a little extra energy, and I sprinted up the last two floors. At the top, I stopped my watch and saw that I’d done it in 7:25. A classic example of regression to the mean. So it wasn’t unexpected, and I’m not unhappy. 7:25 is still my second-best time yet on these stairs. I’m consistently going much faster than I was this time last year.

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