Stan’s Obligatory Blog

8/27/2012

I know I’ve said this before…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:09 pm

…but this is great.

Today was yet another practice climb at the 777 Tower in downtown Los Angeles. And again, I did new best time. There’s nothing not to like about that.

As always, I rode the train there after work. It’s so easy and pleasant. I got there a few minutes early, got signed in and ready to climb. This time, I went first into the stairwell. Everyone else there at the time said I would pass them, so they said I should go first. So I started up. By the time I was at 7 or 8, there was a guy catching up behind me. He came up right behind me at about 10, so I stepped to the side and asked if he wanted to pass. And he sort of croaked out, “I’m just trying to keep up with you”, so I went back to the inside and kept going. He shadowed me up to about 20 before he fell off the pace.

I’d made up a card of split times aiming to be at the top by 8:10. I was on schedule at 10 and 20, but by 30 I was a couple seconds off. I also noticed one odd thing. from 30 to 40 I altered my normal stepping pattern in order to switch which leg was doing more work. And at 36, I suddenly found myself hitting the landing on the wrong foot. So the second flight between 35 and 36 had an extra step in it. I had to do a quick adjustment to get back on track, and I made a mental note to pay attention to that the next time up.

When I got to 40, I was still a few seconds behind schedule, but I could see that I still had a chance at a good time. I started to wind it up at about 46, picking up the pace a bit, and at 48, I started a full-on sprint. I ran the last two floors, and then did the traditional face-plant on the 50th floor landing. When I looked at my watch, I saw that I’d done an 8:19, which is a good four seconds faster than my previous best time. And I realized later that this marks the first time I’ve gone under 10 seconds per floor for a large building climb.

After just a few minutes rest, I rode the elevator down and headed up again. The second time, I was planning on going slower. I paid attention, and I saw that, while most of the building is 23 steps per floor, divided into 12/11 flights, from 35 to 36 and from 45 to 46 are both 12/12. So I have to correct my chart for this building. Even going slower, the second time is a lot more painful than the first. Still, I made it to the top in 9:38, which works out to about 11.2 seconds per floor. The first couple races I did, back in 2009, I averaged about 12 seconds per floor, and I felt like I was gonna die! So doing 11.2 when I’m not particularly trying to go fast shows just how much I’ve improved in this insane little sport.

Overall, it was a fun evening.

8/26/2012

I hate it when this happens…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:02 pm

Tuesday is the day I have to submit my cookies and recipes for the L.A. County Fair. So, in honor of the occasion, I wanted to take the bike group for a ride out to and around the fairgrounds in Pomona. I made up batches of both cookie recipes to bring along to share.

In the morning, I was faced with the essential problem that a road bike is just not a good cargo vehicle. But I managed to figure out a way, using a small cardboard box, a rubber band, and some masking tape. I figured that as long as I didn’t hit any big bumps, it would be fine.

The ride out was pretty uneventful. Until we got to Covina. I noticed that my back wheel was way out of true, to the point that it was rubbing on the frame. So I stopped and got out my spoke wrench to true it back up. But when I looked at it, I saw that one of the spokes had pulled right out of the rim, and there was no fixing that with just a spoke wrench. So I fiddled with the spokes around the bad one to get the wheel straight enough to ride, and then I got ready to head home.

The plan had been to break out the cookies at our snack stop. But I wasn’t going to make it that far. So we found a Starbucks a couple blocks from where we were and we had a cookie-tasting. I’m pretty happy with how those recipes turned out.

After the impromptu stop, the group continued on the route. And John and I headed back to Pasadena, taking care not to put too much stress on the wounded wheel.

I hate it when things break like this. And this has happened before, and not that long ago.

38 miles.

8/22/2012

777-Up

Filed under: — stan @ 9:40 pm

Today was yet another trip to downtown to climb the 777 Tower. I was hoping to possibly beat my time from last week, but in reality, if I came anywhere close to it, I’d be happy.

We had a big group from the office going downtown today. We rode the train, and, as usual, it was a pleasant trip. The LED-crawl signs in the Metro stations told us about the upcoming phase-out of paper tickets for the train, so we got to all weigh in on how stupid we thing the TAP card system is.

We got to the building a few minutes early, got signed in, and we were in the first group up the stairs. I used my same set of split times from last week today. I made it to 10 and 20 a few seconds ahead of schedule. At 30 and 40, I was about 5 seconds behind. I put on a burst of speed from about 46 to 50, and I made it to the top in 8:28. That’s 5 seconds slower than last week, but still in the same ballpark, so I’m happy with that.

When NIck got to the top, he hammed it up for the camera a bit. We got some souvenir pictures on 50, and then we headed back down to do it again. Chris was right behind Nick, and Morgan was along just about a minute later. Looking down the stair shaft, I could see her glove on the railing. And Karina made it up the stairs too, which is not bad for a first-timer. She’s come with us to Millikan at Caltech, but that’s only 10 stories. This was her first time doing a big building.

The second time up, I planned on taking it easy. Chris shadowed me all the way up until about 45. That’s when another guy passed us, and I decided I was going to race him the rest of the way up. In the end, I got 9:53, which is not too bad for just loafing on the stairs.

It was a good outing.

8/19/2012

Remembering the Blacklist

Filed under: — stan @ 12:44 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was another art excursion. This time, we rode to the garden in front of the Fisher Art Museum at USC to see Blacklist. This is an art installation about the Hollywood Blacklist from the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s and early ’50s.

It’s been hot all week, so I thought that going down into Los Angeles might be a bit cooler than Pasadena. So we rode down Huntington Drive and into downtown L.A. From there, we followed alongside the new Metro Expo line down to USC, where we pulled in to the garden in front of the museum. We spent a little time there, walking around and reading all the quotes carved into the stones. On one hand, it’s hard to believe that such things happened in the United States. But on the other hand, a lot of the things they were saying back then are the same things we hear today, only with the word “communism” replaced by “terrorism”.

After taking in the art, we rode out a bit on West Adams, and then north to Larchmont, where we stopped for bagels at Noah’s. Then it was home by way of Silver Lake. The ride back to Pasadena trends uphill, and the temperature went up right along with the elevation. But it was still a fun ride.

44 miles.

8/18/2012

Go For Broke: Gyoza Style

Filed under: — stan @ 9:58 pm

Last year, we came to the Nisei Week Festival in Little Tokyo to see the gyoza eating contest. And it was both hilarious and horrifying. So of course, we had to come back again this year. And this year, the number-one ranked eater in the world, Joey Chestnut was going to be there. Last year’s winner, Pat Bertoletti, and also the number-two ranked eater was also there.

There was lots of fanfare before the actual contest started. As they did last year, they had one seat in the contest up for auction to benefit the Nisei Week Festival. This time, there was fierce competition for it, and the winner paid $400 to sit in the last seat. He said he was from Australia, and he’d done some eating contests there, so he wanted to try this one.

When the contest started, it was quite a spectacle. Bulging cheeks, chomping jaws, and everyone doing the little body wiggle that apparently helps the food to pack down better into their stomachs. Looking at their faces, it’s pretty plain that they’re doing something difficult and painful. In many ways, athletics are all about pushing the limits of the human body, and I suppose stuffing massive quantities of food into it is just another limit to be pushed.

This time, nobody suffered a ‘reversal of fortune‘. When time was called, everyone stood up and finished swallowing the last of what they’d stuffed in their mouths. And then the judges counted plates and tabulated the results. In the end, Joey Chestnut had won and set a new record with 264 gyoza in ten minutes.

As I said, it was both hilarious and horrifying. And that makes it a must-see in my book.

Stair Nerd

Filed under: — stan @ 9:34 pm

Back in March, when I was at the Aon stair climb, there was a reporter from the L.A. Times there. He
was going to do an article on stair climbing to run in the late summer, and he was looking for general information. He was also preparing to climb the Aon building that morning. So I got a chance to talk to him, and I explained my basic method that I worked out in practice. It’s a way to climb the stairs with a minimum of wasted steps, also with the load balanced as much as possible between the two legs.

So today, the article came out. And I got first and last mention. That’s pretty good. I’m the nerd of the stairs:

www.latimes.com/health/la-he-stairs-20120818,0,7480034.column

8/15/2012

Rant du jour

Filed under: — stan @ 11:02 pm

Lately I’ve been going downtown for stair climbing practice a lot. I’ve been doing it for about two years now, and I’ve found that the train is a very easy and convenient way to get there. They sell a Metro Day Pass ticket at the vending machines for $5, and that’s just the thing if you’re going to be taking four trains or more. Since going to the skyscrapers on Bunker Hill or Figueroa St involves both the light-rail Gold Line and a short ride on the subway, the Day Pass is the way to go.

So I started thinking that maybe getting a TAP card might be useful. That way, I wouldn’t have to stop at the ticket machine every time before going downtown. I thought it just might be simpler.

I had a look at the TAP web site, and it said:

Using TAP couldn’t be easier. When boarding a Metro bus or other participating transit systems, simply tap your card on the farebox located at the bus entrance. Listen for the beep and look for the message on the farebox’s display screen confirming your card’s validity. When tapping for Metro Rail, place your card flat on the reader, wait for the green light, listen for the beep, and look for the “Go” message on the validator.

Sounds simple, right? It said also that the card can be loaded with both a cash value for single rides, and one or more Day Passes. So I got to thinking, the card reader just says yes or no, and it doesn’t have any buttons on it. So if my card has both on it, how does it know which to use when I go through the turnstile. Sure, most of the time, I’m going to need the Day Pass, but there are times when I don’t. So how does it handle that? I wrote to them:

So if I put a day pass on my card, and I just ride one train, I’m still using the day pass? The FAQ says I can put both that and a cash value on the card, but there’s no indication of how to tell it which one to use when I’m going through the turnstile.

And this was the answer:

As the day pass is a more powerful fare, the day fare is always read before the cash fare.

More powerful fare???? Why I outta…

So at this point, I figured that the card with Day Passes would still be more convenient for days when I need that. And I can just pay cash for single rides on the rare occasions when I need that.

On my way in to the office, I stopped off at the ticket machine at the Allen station to get a card to use that evening when I went to stair practice. The machine gave me an option to get a card with a Day Pass on it. I didn’t see an option to get a card with more than one Day Pass on it. But I did see an option to add passes to an existing card. So I ran my credit card and got the TAP card with the single Day Pass on it. Then I followed the instructions to add value to the card. It gave an option to add a Day Pass. One Day Pass. There was no button for ‘How many do you want?’

So now I’m irritated all over again. I wrote to them again and asked about this:

I got the card with a day pass on it. But I’m going to be going downtown 2-3 times a week for the next couple of months. So I wanted to add more passes to it. The machine would only let me add one pass per transaction. Why is that? If I have to stop at the machine and do a full transaction for every pass I add to the card, how is that easier or more convenient than buying a paper ticket each time?

How can I add multiple passes to the card at one time?

And this was the answer:

You can add more than one day pass at a vendor site, such as a check cashing location or a Metro Service Center.

So now I have to make a special trip somewhere? Sheesh:

The machines allow for buying multiple paper tickets. Why not this? Seems simple enough. If I have to go somewhere else to do this, or have to do one transaction per pass on the machine, I might just as well just keep using the paper tickets.

And they said:

The paper passes will be phased out by the end of August. You may load up to 8 passes at the machines as well as the vendor.

So I can put 8 passes on the card at the machine. I wrote back and asked how:

But how do I do that? I couldn’t find anything to do more than one at a time.

You just keep doing an new order for each day pass at the vending machine.

So I have to do a single transaction for each pass each time. And this is easier than just buying a ticket each time how?

Also, according to this, in two weeks, I’m going to be forced to use the card. And so I’ll have to carry two of them. One for Day Passes, and one with just cash value for single rides. And because the cards are identical, I’ll have to figure out how to keep track of which one is which.

Jean-Luc Picard thinks this is stupid

At this point, I kind of lost it. I wrote back to them:

I realize that you’re not the one who designed the system. But can you
pass on to them that that’s just plain stupid.

I know it’s not your fault, but seriously, they thought to put in a
‘buy more than one paper ticket’ option, but not ‘add more than one
pass to a card’?

As a computer person, I think whoever programmed that should be taken
out back and beaten.

And they said:

We will gladly forward your input and suggestions to the development team. Any feedback is good feedback. :)

Well, this was a pleasant surprise

Filed under: — stan @ 10:29 pm

Today was yet another practice session at the 777 Tower in downtown Los Angeles. 50 stories, 1,138 steps. I’d done a new best time on Monday, and I went in today hoping just to recreate that time.

At the start, I didn’t have anyone else around me. I just headed up, using the same time targets as on Monday. I made it to 10 right on schedule. At 20, I was still on schedule. When I got to 30, I was five seconds behind, but that’s about the amount of time I spent going down the little hallway on 23. And at 40, I was seven seconds behind schedule. I kept going, and starting at 46, I managed to speed up. Just a little at first, but up to a full run the last two floors. I ran up on to the landing at 50, and then I saw that I’d done 8:23. Which was not only as fast, but a full seven seconds faster than on Monday. Which is great. That means I made up something close to fifteen seconds on the last four floors. Can’t complain about that.

After a bit of rest, we regrouped and headed back down to do it again. This time, the plan was go slower and take it easy. I was experimenting some with different stepping patterns to even out the load on both legs. This time, Nick was right behind me most of the way up. But then at about 43, he decided to go faster, and he passed me. I just let him go. I did make a small effort to speed up at the end, but I couldn’t catch him. In the end, he did something like 9:23 and I had 9:41.

I think that one of these times, I want to try another experiment. Once up this building is almost exactly 1/2 of the Sears Willis Tower in Chicago. I’m still in search of breaking 20 minutes there. That’s about 12 seconds per floor, on average. That used to be my race pace, but lately, when I’ve tried going that speed, it feels really slow. So I want to try doing two climbs here, and try to aim for 12 seconds per floor, and see if I can do that pace twice. It will be a good experiment.

All told, it was a good outing.

8/13/2012

The vertical quarter-mile

Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

Time for another stair climbing practice session at the 777 Tower in downtown Los Angeles. My goal for the day was to do it in 8:30 or less.

We had a good entourage. Myself, Morgan, Chris, and Nick all came along. We rode the train downtown, got signed in, and we were ready to climb.

I made up a little card of time targets to check my progress on the way up. Right from the start, Chris got behind me and shadowed me, just like he did at the U.S. Bank climb last fall. That was good, because it gave me a good incentive to keep up a brisk pace. And we did, all the way to 20, where he collapsed on the landing, gasping like a fish out of water.

At that point, I tried to maintain my pace. It was hard, but I kept it up. And when I got to about 30, I could see Nick was gaining on me. He was just about one floor below me. So that was what I needed to pick up the pace. I held him off all the way to about 45. At that point, I took a look at my watch, and I saw that my goal was within sight. So I put on a little burst of speed for the last three or four floors, and I came out on 50 with a nice time of 8:30.

After we all got to the top, we rested a bit before heading back down. At the bottom we rested a bit more before heading up a second time. The second time, we all planned on taking it easy. I experimented some more with varying my stepping pattern to even out the load between legs. All the way up, I just did an easy pace, but when I got to 45, I could see that if I ran the last five floors, I could make it to the top under 10 minutes. So I picked up the pace, all the way to a full run up the last two floors, and I came out on 50 with 9:58. I’d like to think that’s pretty good for basically just loafing most of the way up.

And doing a bit of math:

7 inches x 1,138 steps = 7,966 inches = 664 feet = 202 meters
664 feet x 2 = 1,328 feet = 404 meters
1,320 feet = 1/4 mile = 402 meters

For comparison, the world record for running 400 meters is 43.18 seconds. But when you turn that 90 degrees so that it’s straight up, it’s a little slower going.

So now we’re thinking about trying to put on a vertical mile race some day. That should be a nice bit of insanity.

8/12/2012

Sea World to end the summer

Filed under: — stan @ 9:32 pm

It’s the end of summer, and almost time for school to start again. So that means it’s time for a visit to San Diego to see Grandpa and play tourist. The plan this time was to go to Sea World, mostly to ride the new Manta roller coaster. Now, why they have roller coasters at Sea World is an open question, but whatever. It looks like fun.

We went down on Saturday to visit with Grandpa. We stayed in a guest apartment in his building this time, and that was great. It was just as big and comfortable as the Residence Inn suites we usually stay in, but it was right there in the same building. So that was convenient. We visited for a bit in the afternoon, and then we all went to Prado in Balboa Park for dinner.

On Sunday morning, while everyone was getting ready, I took in the stairs at my father’s building. It’s 20 stories tall. 316 steps from the first floor to the top. So I did that five times. My best time was 2:09.

We had lunch with Grandpa on Sunday, and then we headed to Sea World. When we got there, we went straight for the Manta. They said the wait was 45 minutes, but it turned out to be more like 25. And it was a fun ride.

After that, we headed over to see the penguins and the Wild Arctic exhibit. The little piece of Antarctica they have in the building there was full of penguins. But because it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it was winter in the penguin exhibit. So it was dark in there, and hard to get good pictures.

In the Wild Arctic, we got to see a polar bear facepalm. We also got to see a walrus, some beluga whales, and magellanic penguins outside. They’re cute birds, but very smelly.

We went to see the Sea Lions Live show, which is always fun. They didn’t have the sea lion jumping over a bar with a ball balanced on his nose, but it was still a good show.

At the turtle exhibit, we got to see big sea turtles gliding around the tank, and also a freshly-minted turtle turd. The fish in the tank seemed very excited by that. Yick.

The sea otters weren’t very lively. They were just floating on a little raft and snoozing.

And finally, Kathleen and I went back and rode the Manta again. The line was shorter then, and it was still a fun ride.

It was a fun day, and a fun weekend.

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