Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Back to the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 9:02 pm

It’s January, and that means it’s time to start practice climbs at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. The race is on April 6th, and the building is gracious enough to let us practice twice a week on the race staircase from now until the event on April 6th. And tonight was the first practice session.

The entry point to the stairs is the 4th floor, since the only doors below that level are on the outside of the building. In the past, we climbed from 4 up to the vacant 60th floor. But since last year, they finally managed to rent out the 59th and 60th floors, so now we get to climb up to the vacant 55th floor. That’s five floors an about 70 feet less vertical distance, but it’s still enough to hurt.

Since tonight was the first practice, there was a bit of confusion, and the guards at the bottom told us we were only going to go to 54. So I planned my run accordingly, and when I heaved myself up onto the landing at 54 and stopped my watch, the door was closed, and there was nobody there. So I went up one more floor, and the door was open there, and one of the building guys was sitting on the stairs waiting for us. So my time was a little off. I had 9:14 for the climb to 54. That’s an average of about 11 seconds per floor, so if I’d gone to 55, it would have been about 9:25. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great, either.

We went back down and then came up again. The second time, I went a lot slower. I maintained a steady pace, but I wasn’t trying to push it, and my time of 12:44 shows it.

I was thinking about going home after two, but Mary said she was going to go up again, so I decided to go along just for the walk. I went a little ahead of her, and held the fire doors open for her. Some might have thought I was being chivalrous, but I really just wanted an excuse to stop and catch my breath. The third time I didn’t even time, so I have no idea how long it took. I was just glad to see 55 so I could stop and go home.

As an aside, I’ve been taking the train downtown for practice climbs for three years now. And every time I’m walking through Union Station to get to the subway, I have to walk past Wetzel’s Pretzels. The place seems popular. There’s often a line there. But for some reason, the smell of it just makes me want to retch. So I try and hold my breath walking by there, and I hope that the wind doesn’t blow the smell down into the subway. So imagine my horror on the way home when I saw a big sign announcing that they’re opening a new location in the Hope St entrance to the 7th St Metro station. Yick. Now I get to be assaulted by that smell at both ends of the subway.

Anyway, it was a good outing. I even brought along some of my award-winning cookies to share with the other climbers, the building guards, and also the people from the Lung Association who were there to promote the event. I figure I haven’t seen most of them since last year’s race, so it was an excuse to tell the story of winning the blue ribbon again.



Filed under: — stan @ 11:09 pm

It’s New Year’s Eve, and time for a nice dinner out at Takami in downtown Los Angeles. This is the Japanese sushi and robata restaurant on the 21st floor of a building in the middle of downtown. So there’s good food and a nice view, including my two favorite buildings, Aon Center and the U.S. Bank Tower.

We rode the train there this time, since it’s easy, fast, and avoids driving on New Year’s Eve, which I think is a worthy goal. And the restaurant is right around the corner from the Metro station, so it’s convenient, too.

We had some orange-ginger martinis to start. They were quite good. And the Takami Edamame. It’s just like regular edamame, but sauteed with butter and soy sauce. Then we ordered a selection of different things and had a little bit of everything.

Since part of the dining room is out on the terrace, I got a few pictures of downtown from up there. I also made a point of taking a picture from Union Station on the way home. We could see the U.S. Bank Tower with the crown lit up red and green for Christmas, and also the Lindbergh Beacon on the top of Los Angeles City Hall.

It was a fun evening out, and we were home by 10:00, so that makes for a perfect New Year’s Eve.


Bill ‘n’ Ed’s Excellent Green Houses

Filed under: — stan @ 3:15 pm

The last bike club ride of 2012 was a sightseeing trip out to Studio City to see a couple of green houses. Not like the green house we went to see in La Crescenta, but green houses. Apparently, Bill Nye The Science Guy and Ed Begley Jr live a few doors apart on a street in Studio City, and they’ve had a friendly rivalry to see whose house can have the lowest ‘carbon footprint’. Since the sorts of things to achieve this, like solar water heaters, photovoltaic panels, and low-water-use lawns are visible from outside, I thought this might make for a good sightseeing trip.

We headed out by way to Hollywood. After riding most of the length of Hollywood Blvd, we turned up Nicholls Canyon. That’s where we saw some interesting artworks in front of a couple of the houses. At the top, we turned left on Mulholland.

We took a short side trip up Torreyson Dr to see the Chemosphere house, just because it’s so distinctive. Then we headed down the hill into Studio City. The route got a bit hard to follow at times, since intersections in the hills tend to be somewhat ambiguously-marked. But Jeff had programmed the route into his Garmin, so that told us when we got off course.

After crossing Laurel Canyon Blvd, we got to the street and saw the houses. They were pretty obvious with the front-yard landscaping of native plants and big solar panels on the roofs.

Our snack stop was at the gelato place in Studio City. Carla got a very artfully-done cup of hot chocolate.

The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful. We took the southern route across Glendale and over the pedestrian bridge across the 2 freeway. On the way back into Pasadena we saw some sort of antique car club on its way to somewhere. That was odd, and the cars were very smelly. Apparently, catalytic converters were not invented yet back then.

It was a pleasant ride, and we managed to avoid the rain.

49 miles.


It’s a Wonderful Ride – Again

Filed under: — stan @ 9:25 pm

It’s the last Sunday before Christmas, so it’s time for my “It’s a Wonderful Life” theme ride. It was kind of damp and cold this morning, but it’s not supposed to rain until later, so we can still go riding.

We headed out from the park and rode across Eagle Rock into Glendale. Then we went south to get to Forest Lawn. When we got there, we headed up the hill to where Jimmy Stewart is buried. When we got to the top, we were briefly harassed by a security guard there. She seemed to think that we should not be allowed to visit the cemetery on bicycles, and that we should come back in a car. I did mention that CVC section 21200 does explicitly say:

A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a
highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions
applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division

This didn’t make much of an impression.

But fortunately, John is a good diplomat, and he convinced her that we were not there to cause trouble, but we just wanted to pay respects to Jimmy Stewart for Christmas. So that worked out all right.

After that, we rode over to Paradise Bakery. Sadly, they didn’t have any chocolate eclairs today.

Our second and last stop was in La Cañada, which meant riding up the long hill up Verdugo Rd. But once we got to the top, it was downhill to our sightseeing stop, the house that played the Martini family home in Bailey Park. As you can see from the picture today and the picture from the movie, the house really hasn’t changed much at all. And in the third picture, I put George and Mary Bailey on the porch, just because I could.

It was a nice ride.

37 miles.


A piece of history

Filed under: — stan @ 8:49 pm

This weekend, we were in San Diego to visit my father, and on the way home, we stopped in at the Marine Corps air museum at the Miramar Air Station. We go by this every time we go visit, and I’ve been wanting to see it for a long time.

They had a full range of airplanes on display there, ranging from WW II, through Korea and Vietnam, and right up to the present. The even had a captured Huey helicopter from Iraq. One of the helicopters on display was used in the evacuation of Saigon in 1975.

They have a small building there with some more exhibits in it. It was a real grab bag, from medals and space mission patches to POW uniforms to strange things that soldiers make out of spent shell casings. It was an interesting collection of items.

Even though I’m not really big on military things, I really enjoyed seeing this museum. It’s a great collection, and I think they have plans to expand it in the future. They also have an air show in the fall, which I think would be interesting to see.


Editorial-page snark

Filed under: — stan @ 7:50 am

The other day, the L.A. Times had an article about the toll roads in Orange County are having trouble making enough in tolls to cover their expenses. It reminded me of a similar article they ran back in the ’90s about a toll road in Mexico that was not used as much as expected. So the owners kept raising the tolls until they were astronomical, and nobody used the road.

Seriously, in the case of toll roads, maybe lowering the tolls might help, since people do have a choice in matters of which road to take. And raising the tolls will just tend to drive more people away. But in any event, the article on Monday just inspired a little bit of snark, so wrote a quick letter, and they published it today:

So the toll roads are not collecting enough in tolls to cover their expenses. They raise the tolls, and revenue still fails to meet projections. Why don’t they try lowering the tolls to increase revenue? That worked well for taxes — oh, wait.,0,2878867.story

First time since 2006.


Three by Junior

Filed under: — stan @ 7:44 pm

Today’s bike club ride was yet another architecture tour. I’d gotten a link to an article on Zillow about modern-style houses that are for sale, and one of them was a house in Altadena that had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. I’d heard of other houses he’d built in the L.A. area, so I looked up where they were, and we had a theme for the ride. We’ve done the “Five Wrights” route before, so this is sort of a companion piece to that.

The route was basically a combination of the old Toluca Lake route and the Mt Hollywood route through Griffith Park. We rode out by way of South Pasadena, then over the L.A. River and into Los Feliz. The first house was the Farrell House on Lowry Rd. We’d been by there before, but never noticed it. So we stopped and had a look. It had some stylistic elements that were reminiscent of the “textile block” houses that Frank Lloyd Wright designed.

The second house was the Sowden House on Franklin Ave. We’ve seen this one before, but never looked at it in any detail. This one looks like a Mayan temple, much like the famous Ennis House.

After that, we rode up into Griffith Park and stopped for snacks at The Trails. We found a table in the sun, and it was quite pleasant. Then we continued on up the hill and down the other side of the park. We rode past Travel Town and then across Glendale.

One the way up the long hill on Verdugo Rd, we passed a group of trees that someone decorates every year. Then we rode up our old favorite, Hospital Hill. At the top, I noticed the sign on the cross street. When you wish upon a hill…

We rode down through La Cañada and into Altadena. The last house was the Dorlan House, and like the others, it’s right by where we’ve ridden by a hundred times, but we’d never noticed it before. It had a nice modern and sleek style to it. And it turned out that when Carla was house-hunting, she’d been to an open house there, so she was able to describe the inside to us.

All in all, it was a good architecture-geek ride.

45 miles.


Glendora Mountain

Filed under: — stan @ 7:16 pm

Today was a nice day for riding, so I went with Carla and Silvio, and we rode up Glendora Mountain Road. We didn’t go all the way to the top, but we went about 5 1/2 miles up the hill. Enough to get a very nice view. It wasn’t as gloriously clear as the first time I rode up there, but it was warm, and no sign of rain. Unlike another time I was up there.

Along the way, I could see where road crews had patched cracks with tar. And then where they’d written their names with the tar. That was odd.

There were a lot of motorcycles out, since it was a nice day for riding for them, too. So I took some pictures as they went by. When I was a kid, that sort of thing looked like great fun. Now I think it looks terrifying. But still interesting to watch.

When we got to our turnaround point, we stopped to take in the view for a bit. Then we headed back down. We went home basically the same way we’d gone out. It was a pleasant ride.

50 miles.


This was a nice treat

Filed under: — stan @ 10:47 pm

A few weeks ago, I got some email from Trepany House about upcoming shows at the Steve Allen Theater. We’ve been there before to see talks on science and skepticism, and they also have some small theater productions there. So I was kind of surprised to see that Eddie Izzard was going to be performing there for two weeks in December. Kathleen is a big fan of his, and she’s seen him here in L.A., as well as in Las Vegas. He’s a pretty big name, and those shows were all in big theaters. So it sounded like fun to see him in a theater that’s only a little bit bigger than my living room.

The mailer said he was in the process of developing a new show, so we were one of many test audiences. But the show didn’t sound like a rough draft. He did about an hour and a half, which is a long time by stand-up comedy standards. He was very funny, and hugely entertaining from start to finish.

This show was a winner.


A John Waters Christmas

Filed under: — stan @ 11:04 pm

Back in October, we went to see Aimee Mann at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. And when we were there, we saw a poster for “A John Waters Christmas” coming in December. I pulled out my phone and bought us tickets on the spot. And tonight was the night.

The Wilshire Ebell is a small theater a bit west of downtown, and it’s pretty nice. The seats a perhaps a bit cramped, but it’s small, so that’s a plus. This is our third time going to see John Waters in the last couple years, and it’s our first time for his Christmas show.

In his 1987 book, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, he has a chapter titled “Why I Love Christmas”, and it was hilarious. His show tonight covered most of what was in the book. as well as a not of newer aspects of Christmas that he’s grown to love. He also played music from his Christmas record. As always, the show was great. He’s hugely entertaining to listen to, and we had a great time.

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