Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Here we go again

Filed under: — stan @ 3:50 pm

Back in 1995, the first year I was at my job, we had two government shutdowns that lasted a total of almost four weeks. And now, here we go again. So I’m at home, sitting on the back porch, reading. While I was sitting there, I noticed the hummingbirds coming and going around the feeder, so I got my camera and set it up on a tripod with the remote shutter release. I held the control while I was reading, and whenever I heard a hummingbird come by, I snapped a few pictures. And 118 pictures later, I got a good one.


Off Vine

Filed under: — stan @ 9:44 pm

I recently rediscovered my old favorite restaurant from the late ’80s in Hollywood. Off Vine is in a little house on Leland Way, just – wait for it – off Vine St. When I saw that they have regular half-off special on Mondays, we made plans to go.

This was my first time there since 1996 or so. And it was every bit as good as it ever was. So now that we’re well-fed and had a nice evening out, I’m ready for the government and my job to turn into a pumpkin.


Dead Man’s Curve

Filed under: — stan @ 4:32 pm

About a week ago, I saw an article and photo set where a photographer had climbed down into Fryman Canyon, below Mulholland Drive, and photographed the rusting hulks of cars that had crashed there and never recovered. The article made it sound like these are not visible from up on the road, but I wanted to go see anyway.

It was a nice day for rriding. We headed out by the usual route through Eagle Rock to get to Hollywood. We rode almost the full length of Hollywood Blvd, and then headed up Nichols Canyon. This is a nice, quiet little canyon road with very little traffic. That took us up to Mulholland, where we headed west. We passed Wonderland Center, which was the subject of another sightseeing ride some years ago. Then we got to the Fryman Canyon Overlook. Looking over at the terrain below the infamous curve in the road, I could see how things could go bad there. We couldn’t see anything down below on that side, so we headed on over to the actual spot in the road to have a closer look. On the west side of the curve, there was very dense brush growing just down the hillside from the road. And I could see how that could easily hide all manner of things. I supposed maybe some day I’ll have to put on my hiking shoes and go down into the canyon for a look.

Our stop was at the gelato place in Studio City. They have apparently gotten on the ‘gluten-free’ bandwagon. Sheesh. And on the way home, we saw what was apparently a despondent plush stuffed monkey who hung himself from a truck bumper. Well, at least that’s more tasteful than the ‘truck nuts‘ that we thankfully don’t see much here in L.A.

50 miles.


Battling my inner demons

Filed under: — stan @ 10:23 pm

So it’s the end of September, and time to climb the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles again. And oddly enough, it never gets any easier. After all the practice sessions, climbing the Wilshire-Figueroa building 68 times, I was as ready as I was going to ever be. I’d worked out split times based on a pace of 5 1/2 floors per minute, which felt reasonable in practice. I thought I had a chance of being able to maintain that pace all the way up the 75 floors.

I got a phone call in the afternoon from George. He had run early, with the elite group, and he’d turned in a very respectable 13:49. That’s about seven seconds faster than my best time in that building. He also told me that I’d made a couple of errors in my stair chart. George has a great eye for detail. So based on what he told me, I went back and adjusted my split times.

I rode the train downtown just like every other time, and I walked over the YMCA to get changed and ready to climb. And when 4:00 rolled around, I was in line and ready to go.

The first 30 or so floors were fine. I kept to my pace, and I didn’t have trouble passing people. For the most part, the message is finally getting out to allow faster climbers to pass on the inside. But the hardest part was still to come. About the 55th floor or so, I was suddenly overcome by a crippling wave of “What the HELL am I trying to prove here?!?!?” And that’s something that makes it very hard to go on. I managed to keep moving, but I must have slowed down quite a bit. My schedule was to get to the top in about 13:45, and it ended up being 14:47. That’s my second-slowest time ever for this building. Still, I can’t complain too much. I’m still quite a bit faster than the Average Bear. I was something like 120th out of about 2,900 people. But I know that if I could just maintain focus, I’m sure I could go a lot faster.

After hanging around the bottom, visiting with everyone and handing out samples of my award-winning blueberry muffins, I saw Morgan from my office. I’d told her I’d walk up with her when she got there, so we went down and got in line. I told the people at the starting line that I was going to walk up with her, since I felt sort of responsible for the fact that she got talked into doing this crazy sport in the first place. So we walked up, making it to the top in just under 18 minutes. That was a new best time for her, and I thought it was reasonably leisurely. I stopped for water a few times, and I talked a lot. She later told me that telling her, “This is the floor where I lost the will to live” wasn’t particularly motivating. Oh well. Still, it was a good time, and it was interesting to see the stairway at a moderate pace.

So all told, it wasn’t one of my better outings on the stairs, but it was still a fun evening.

Full results are here:


Last call…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:12 pm

Tonight was the last practice session before the U.S. Bank Tower stair race on Friday. And I went with a plan in mind. When I did the 51-story practice staircase in about 9:15, it was a pace I described as “brisk, but not punishing”. So I’m thinking that that will be my pace for the 75-story bank tower race, since it’s a pace I can do for 50 floors and still be able to go on some more. That works out to about 5 1/2 floors per minute.

I rode the train downtown and got ready to climb. I didn’t stand around at the bottom much. As I always say, the stairs don’t get any easier if we wait around. And my first climb up was right on schedule, getting to the top in 9:21. And for the second climb, my plan was to maintain the same pace for at least the first half of the climb. That was kind of difficult, but I made it that far before slowing down. And I still did a reasonable time the second time.

The third time, I was slowing down some. But that was all right. And the fourth time I didn’t bother to time. So I guess I’m as ready as I’m going to be for the race this Friday.


The Glendora Bougainvillea

Filed under: — stan @ 4:02 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the route out to Glendora to see the Glendora Bougainvillea. The weather is nice, so we can ride inland now without it being too hot, so this seemed like a good choice for today’s ride.

The bougainvillea had more flowers on it than we’ve seen the other times we’ve gone to see it. That was nice. We also saw a big new development of townhouses right by where the Metro Gold Line light rail station is going to be in 2018 or so. And on the way home, we got to see some of the progress in building the initial Gold Line extension to Azusa.

It was a perfect day for riding.

40 miles.


County Fair time again!

Filed under: — stan @ 10:45 pm

It’s time for the 2013 Los Angeles County Fair, and time to go visit my award-winning blueberry muffins in the display case there. We got lucky this time, and it was a very pleasant day. Usually, it’s blazing hot out there in Pomona, but today was very nice. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade, and with a pleasant breeze.

We went to see my muffins first. The ribbon came in the mail last week, and I’m quite pleased that these are my first non-cookie prize winners. We spent a bit of time looking around at everything else there. I’m hoping they come out with a cookbook of the winning recipes this year, so I can try making the muffins that beat mine. I want to know what’s in them.

After lunch, we got some Dr. Bob’s ice cream, and then went and saw a show with dogs leaping in the air catching frisbees. That was entertaining. We also got to pet a hedgehog. Then we walked over to the old train exhibit. I’ve wanted to see that for a long time. And we saw a display case with some bent and broken rails from the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake.

We took a turn through the buildings where they have all the booths selling random stuff. I thought the teeth-whitening booth looked kind of creepy. Like something from “Alien”. And then it was time for the pig races. The pig races are entertaining, and we get a coupon good for a free pound of bacon. What’s not to like about that?

It was a fun afternoon.


When I’m sixty-four…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:22 pm

It’s stair practice again tonight, and I climbed the building four times tonight. Which means that since practice started last July, I’ve now climbed this building 64 times. That’s a bit over 8 miles vertical.

Tonight was a pretty good outing. I managed to get under 9 minutes on my first climb, so that was good. It’s still not the 8:32 I did in practice last year, but it’s still reasonable. And after that, I climbed the building three more times. The last time was a bit of a Death March, so I didn’t bother timing it.

One more practice, and then it’s going to be time for the race up the U.S. Bank Tower.


Getting close to the end

Filed under: — stan @ 9:19 pm

It’s Monday, and there are only three more practice climbs before the big race next Friday. So here we go again.

I headed downtown as usual, got changed, and I was ready to go. The plan was to push the pace on the first time up, and then just walk up a few more times just because.

I was aiming for 6 floors per minute the first time, but I was falling behind by a couple of steps each minute. And psychologically, that’s a bad place to be. It’s hard to hold off the ‘What the HELL am I trying to prove here?!?’ blues at times like that. Still, I managed to sort of hold it together long enough to make it to the top, coming out at 9:06.

The second time, I wanted to see if I could manage 4 3/4 floors per minute, which would get me to the top in about 10:50 or so. It was hard, but I managed to make it up in 10:56. Getting the second time in under 11 after trying for speed the first time is still pretty hard for me.

I went up a third time, just for sheer perversity. It was kind of a Death March, and I didn’t bother timing it. But I made it up.

I could probably have gone up one more time, but I just didn’t feel up to it, since the third time was so hard. So I went home.


Field Trip

Filed under: — stan @ 9:34 pm

A few weeks ago, I went to an event put on by Atlas Obscura where we went to a pinball museum in Orange County. While we were there, they mentioned that they were doing a ‘Field Trip Day’ excursion in Pasadena soon. This was put on in conjunction with Google, which has created a ‘Field Trip‘ smartphone app. So today was the day, and we headed over to Old Town to do some exploring on foot and seeing some of the history and culture around there.

We all met up in an alley behind Lucky Baldwin’s, where everybody got a little packet to start off with. It listed about 25 locations that were within reasonable walking distance. At each place, there was a flag and a small sign telling a bit about the place and its history and significance. One of the things in the packet was a list of questions to try and answer about some of the locations. This made it sort of a scavenger hunt, which added some entertainment value. And at some of the locations, they had actors dressed up as characters who had something to do with the history of the place. So it was an interactive scavenger hunt.

At the start, we headed out to the first few stops in the order they were listed on the sheet. One of the oddities was Gold Bug. I’d been by there, but never stopped to look in the windows. They have a lot of weird stuff in there. At Kendall Alley, we read the sign and talked to the officer to get the answer to the puzzle question for that location. Then we went across the street to the Blind Donkey to sample some beer.

We saw the Raymond Theater, which has been converted to condominiums. This was where the concert scenes from “This is Spinal Tap” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” were filmed. The Holly Street Livery Stable is a very old building that I’ve been by countless times, but never really noticed. But it’s a piece of history that it still standing.

At the old YWCA building, we met the architect, Julia Morgan, who designed many buildings for the YWCA in California. She told us the story of the building. Then we walked over to Pasadena City Hall and saw the Jackie Robinson memorial there. We also learned that his brother Mack was a runner, and that he’d competed in the 1936 Olympics, coming in second behind Jesse Owens in the 200 meter race.

From there, we went off the route, and we went to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The bit of history here was that this was where the 1983 “Motown 25″ TV show was filmed, and it was the first place where Michael Jackson performed the moonwalk. So of course, they had Michael Jackson there to teach everyone how to do it.

After that, we headed east, out of Old Town, where we stopped at the Pasadena Playhouse, where Tennessee Williams was holding auditions for their production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Again, this was an interactive adventure. And because we’d gone off the route, we got there ahead of the main group of people doing the tour. They started to arrive just as we finished there.

We stopped in the little coffee shop in Vroman’s Books to get some cold drinks. Then we started back, going by the Scottish Rite building, and the Pacific Asia Museum. Then we went to the Luggage Room, which is a restaurant in what was part of the old Santa Fe railway station in Pasadena. They were holding a little cocktail tasting on the patio, so we got to sample some odd cocktail flavors.

The last stop on the tour was at Rocket Fizz, which has a lot of decidedly strange and funny sodas. Not really historical, but interesting in an odd way. Then we headed over to the after party at Castle Green. And after the party, we walked over and had dinner at Cafe Bizou before going home. All told, it was an interesting and amusing afternoon adventure.

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