Stan’s Obligatory Blog

10/28/2012

Down for the Count 2012

Filed under: — stan @ 7:35 pm

It’s the Sunday before Halloween, so that means it’s time for our annual ride out to Culver City to visit Bela Lugosi’s grave. We’ve been doing this ride since 2007.

It was a perfect day for riding. A bit cool at the start, but it warmed up nicely. We rode down Huntington Drive into downtown Los Angeles. That morning, I’d seen that some of my stair climbing friends were running in the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon in downtown. I thought that might be a problem for us, since part of our route was on streets that were closed for the course, and we’d have to cross the course twice. But we figured we’d just deal with it when we got there. And when we got to the first crossing, at 3rd and Spring St, we’d just pulled up and stopped when I saw my friend Veronica running by. There were something like 15,000 people running in this race. What are the odds? Anyway, we were able to walk our bikes across the course there and continue on. We took Main St all the way down to Pico before taking a right to get over to Flower St. That brought us down to West Adams Blvd, where we had to cross the race course again. But by this time, runners were pretty sparse there, so it wasn’t a problem.

We rode out on Adams and later Rodeo Rd to get to Culver City. When we got to the cemetery, we rode up and over the hill to get to The Grotto, where Bela is buried. After that, I took a little side trip to see the Del Rubio Triplets. The last time we’d been there, Elena and Eadie were there, with a blank space between the, waiting for Millie. But Millie died last year, so now they’re together again.

On the way back, we passed Culver City City Hall. That reminded me of the “Get Smart” episode where KAOS wanted to steal the plans for the Anti-Anti-Anti-Missile-Missile. We stopped at Noah’s Bagels on Venice Blvd. While we were there, I had a close look at my bike to see why my front derailleur was not working. And it quickly became obvious that the cable housing had committed suicide in a very messy way. At least it all made sense.

The ride back took us through Hancock Park, Koreatown, and Silver Lake. It’s like a trip around the world, by bike. I have no idea what the vanity license plate “BAD PUN” means. But in any event, it was a fun ride.

54 miles.

10/21/2012

Big Donut!

Filed under: — stan @ 4:14 pm

Today’s bike ride was the route out to La Puente to see the Donut Hole. That’s the donut place with the big drive-through donuts on each end of the building. One of the classic examples of programmatic architecture.

It was cool and cloudy, and sort of drizzling at the park. When I got there, I was the only one, probably because everyone thought it was going to rain. But looking to the south, away from the mountains, I could see clear skies. So I figured I just start out and see if I found anyone else along the way. And sure enough, when I got to the Rio Hondo bike path part of the ride, I found Michael and Allyson. They had gotten to the park late, and were trying to catch the group. But since the entire group consisted of me at that point, that was all right.

We stopped off for a photo-op at In-N-Out University in Baldwin Park. That’s the In-N-Out Burger headquarters building that they built across the freeway from their original location.

Continuing on, we go to the Donut Hole and took some pictures there. I tried to take a bite out of the donut, but it was just too big to fit in my mouth.

The ride back was pretty uneventful. We stopped for snacks at Merengue in Monrovia. Then, on the final ride home, it started to rain in earnest. I was dismayed, but not terribly surprised by this. But fortunately, it only lasted for about 3 blocks. So overall, it was a nice ride.

43 miles.

10/20/2012

Eeek

Filed under: — stan @ 6:15 pm

Today I went with Lucinda to go see the spiders at the Natural History Museum. We’d gone to see them two years ago, but we missed them last year.

We rode the train there this time. And now that the Expo light rail line* is running, it was an easy trip. There was even a USC football game today, and it was still no problem. Hooray for progress.

When we got there, we went in to see the spiders first. They were big and creepy-looking, as we’d hoped. A lot of people are afraid that the spiders will drop on them, but they really don’t move much. They just pick a spot to build a web, and then they just sit there. There was one spider that somehow had ended up standing on another spider’s web, and for a minute it looked like they might get in a fight, but the interloper backed off and moved away.

After the spiders, we went inside to see the new Dinosaur Hall. They’re redone the whole dinosaur exhibit there, and it’s pretty good. It’s nowhere near as big as the Hall of Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but it’s still way better than their old exhibit. And they did have one place where they had a painting of the current vision of a velociraptor with feathers. Sure, that kind of blows the whole ‘bloodthirsty killer dinosaurs’ idea from Jurassic Park, but that’s the Advance of Science for you. They’re still killers, but they’re much cuter and cuddly-looking with feathers.

We spent a little time looking around the rest of the museum before we had to go home. On the way out, we stopped to peek into the building where they stashed the space shuttle. Then we got on the train to go home. It was a nice afternoon outing.

* Also known as the ’slightly lighter shade of blue line’.

10/19/2012

Another good article

Filed under: — stan @ 5:49 pm

There is an article in this week’s L.A. Weekly about stair climbing. They describe it as:

…the hardest sport no one’s ever heard of.

And a bit farther in, they say:

“…running as fast as you can up dozens of flights of stairs is an ungodly painful thing.

Yes. That’s about right.

Unlike the L.A. Times article last summer, I wasn’t in this one, but Mark was prominently featured. He’s the biggest cheerleader for this insane little sport, so there’s really no one else more qualified to talk about it. And he knows everyone who’s anyone in the field.

Read all about it here: http://blogs.laweekly.com/arts/2012/10/competitive_stair-climbing_us_bank_tower.php

10/17/2012

And it begins again…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:37 pm

Here we go again. This evening was the first of six practice climbs up the Figueroa at Wilshire building in downtown Los Angeles. This is in preparation for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s stair climb in December. I came in with two goals for this evening. The first was to practice my pace that I intend to use for the Sears Willis Tower climb in two weeks. The second was to do a survey climb to take notes and make a chart of the staircase.

As usual, I took the train downtown. The 7th St/Metro Center station is right across from the building, so you can’t beat the convenience.

I’d made up a little card with split times to pin on my glove. As I did at the U.S. Bank Tower climb, I just wrote down the floor numbers where I intended to be at the 2, 4, 6, and 8 minute marks. Because I didn’t have a chart of the staircase yet, I had to do a bit of guesswork there. But it turned out that my guesses were pretty close to the mark.

I started out first, since I didn’t think anyone there was going to be going much faster. Lisa started right behind me, and she ended up passing me at about the 30th floor or so. At the two-minute mark, I was 10 seconds ahead of schedule, so I slowed down a bit. I’m trying to just internalize how it feels to go at a pace of 11.6 seconds per floor. That pace feels quite modest to me now, and I think I can maintain that for 100 floors.

At the end, I did do a little sprint to the finish, starting at 47, and breaking into a run at 49. The finish line for the race is on 51, and Lisa and I came out in the janitor’s closet up there. We looked around a bit to remember where the freight elevator was, and then we rode back down to the lobby.

The guard in the lobby told us that he’d been told we weren’t going to be using the elevator to come down. We explained to him that we were just doing what we’d done the last two years, and besides, I have a policy that I’m not walking down the stairs unless the building is on fire. And I forgot to bring matches along tonight. So we talked to Rebecca from CFF in the lobby and she said she would talk to the building manager about it.

I got my notepad and pen, and Lisa and I headed back up for a second time. The staircase if pretty much standard-issue for a newer building. The steps are 7 inches, stamped steel. The two floors from 4 to 6 are odd, with each being a set of two 13-step flights. That’s a problem, since 13 is a weird number, and it messes up my stepping pattern. But after that, it settles into a nice 12/11 pattern. This is just like the 777 Tower, and I worked out a good way to do that. There is a left turn and very short hallway at 21, and then it reverses. Still right-hand turns, but the stairs switch to an 11/12 pattern. This is good, since I can still use the same stepping pattern. That pattern stays consistent all the way up to 49, where there is a big landing and the little place I call ‘the petting zoo‘. At that point, it’s two more floors, and they’re both bigger than normal, so they’re the equivalent of a bit more than three regular floors. At 51, I continued on up, just to take notes on the rest of the staircase, even though it’s not going to be used in the race. I just figured I’d take it in for the sake of completeness.

So it turns out that this building is nearly a copy of the 777 Tower staircase. It’s 1,181 steps for the race from 1 to 51, and 689 vertical feet. Compare that to the practice climbs at 777, which were 1,139 steps and 664 feet. And this climb is almost exactly half the climb at Sears Willis.

The chart to the stairs is here: http://www.1134.org/stan/stairs/figueroa-wilshire-la-stairs.pdf

10/14/2012

Just another Sunday bike ride

Filed under: — stan @ 6:25 pm

This weekend was the big move of the space shuttle Endeavour from LAX over to the California Sciencenter in Exposition Park. This was supposed to start on Friday and finish by Saturday evening. We’d all seen on its flyover last month when it was delivered to Los Angeles on the back of a 747. I thought it might be interesting to ride down to the park Sunday morning and just see if we could see it then.

As it turned out, the move took a lot longer than anticipated. On Sunday morning, the word was that it was still not at the park. So when we got to the park, it was still about a mile away. We found some side streets and made our way over to King Blvd and Normandie. At that point, we could see the shuttle, and it was about two blocks away. We set up camp there, and we ended up staying there for something like 45 minutes, watching it travel those two blocks. But in the end, it went right past us, so we got a good look at it.

After spending so much time stopped, we decided to skip our regular snack stop at the bagel shop in Larchmont. Instead, we just headed back into downtown and home the way we came. It was a an entertaining ride.

40 miles.

10/10/2012

Hasa Diga Eebowai

Filed under: — stan @ 5:44 pm

playbill for
Last night, Kathleen and I went to see “The Book of Mormon” at the Pantages here in Hollywood. While we like going to see live theater a fair bit, it’s quite rare that we go see anything well-known or ‘mainstream’. But given what we’d heard about the show, we made an exception for “The Book of Mormon”. And we were not disappointed.

We started off the evening meeting up in North Hollywood and taking the train into the city. The Vine St Metro station is right across the street from the Pantages, so it was very convenient. We had dinner around the corner at Lexington Social House. It was quite nice, but the service was kind of slow. I think they could easily double their bar receipts if they just had a few more people working there to speed up delivering the drinks.

When it came time, we walked back around the corner to the theater. I’d never been inside the Pantages before. It’s really quite large and ornate. And soon it was showtime.

The show was hilarious. As an outsider, a good bit of Mormon theology sounds ridiculous. We’d been exposed to some of it in Julia Sweeney’s show, “Letting Go of God“. But at the same time, while they were poking fun at the Mormon religion, it was done in a good-natured way. Pretty much every religion sounds ridiculous to anyone not brought up in it. So they’re all about the same in that regard.

I really can’t describe the show. But it was easily one of the funniest musicals I’ve ever seen. There were some echoes of the “South Park” episode “All About Mormons”, but much larger and livelier. If you can, go see this show. It’s a hoot.

9/28/2012

At long last

Filed under: — stan @ 10:35 pm

For the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve had a goal of doing the U.S. Bank Tower stair climb in under 14 minutes. I first decided this in April, 2010. And it’s taken until now to actually do it.

Today was an odd day. Kathleen was scheduled for surgery in the morning. Not an emergency, but something that had been in the planning for some time, and today was just the day that was available on the schedule. So I spent the first part of the day with her at the hospital in Woodland Hills before heading downtown for the race.

When I got there, I got changed and ready to go. Morgan, Jason, Irving and Chris came in from Pasadena, and we all got in line together. In the starting-line picture, you can see that Chris was starting right behind me, and Irving was right behind him. The two of them ran up and got on my tail as soon as they started.

They were sending us off at close intervals, so there were a lot of people in the stairwell. Traffic was pretty heavy at times, and I had to push through groups of people several times. On the other hand, a lot of the people I knew from the practice climbs were there, and a couple of them gave me a little push as I went by them. I’d made up a split times card and pinned it on my glove. My goals for 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 minutes into the climb were floors 10, 23, 34, 45, 57, and 68. At 10, I was about five seconds fast, so I slowed down slightly. I was right on schedule at 23, 34, and 45. Chris stayed on my tail until about 40 or so before dropping off. And Irving stayed with me all the way to the top. I was a couple seconds behind at 68, but that was all right. I ran the last two floors from 73 to the roof. I remember seeing the flash from the photographer on the landing by the roof door. This was the first time I can recall even being aware that there was someone there. I thought that was odd, but I paid no attention to it. A lot of people stop and pose for the photographer, but I never do. And as a result, my finish line pictures at this event are always bad.

Stumbling out of the stairs, I went over to the big steel girder that the window washing crane rides on, and I laid down on it and put my face against the cool steel. That felt good. I was there for a short time when I realized I hadn’t stopped my watch. I pushed the button, and it stopped at 14:13. Since my time last year was 14:11, I knew that I had gone faster, but by an unknown amount. And after a few minutes, I was able to stand up again and walk down to 71, where they had water and apples for us.

Back down on the ground, they had a little party going on the street by the building. A lot of people had downloaded the smart-phone app from Hallucination Sports and were trying to look up their times. And when I finally got it to work, they listed my time as 13:54. So I finally made my goal. Sadly, there were 150 guys in the 50-59 age group, and I was only good for 8th place. I really can’t complain too much, though. Even though I was nowhere near a medal, I’m still faster than the Average Bear. Also, I got to spend the rest of the evening visiting with my stair climbing friends, and handing out samples of my award-winning cookies.

Now, I’m turning my sights to Chicago for the Sears Willis Tower climb in November. I’ve had a goal of doing that one in less than 20 minutes, and that may be within reach now.

So overall, it was a good evening.

Full results are here: http://www.hallucinationsports.com/

9/24/2012

Another best time

Filed under: — stan @ 9:30 pm

Tonight’s practice at the Wells Fargo building was another best time for me. I didn’t exactly shatter my old record, but no matter what, going faster is nothing to complain about.

I rode the train downtown with Morgan, Chris and Jason, and when we got there, we got in line at the building. After a suitable wait, they let us in, and we started up. Chris shadowed me for quite a while. I don’t recall which floor he dropped off at, but I do remember seeing him staggering on the stairs when he fell off the pace. At least he didn’t go down like a sack of potatoes on the landing like he did one time at the 777 Tower.

I used my same split times card from last week, and this time, I managed to stay on schedule up to the six-minute mark at the 39th floor. At the eight-minute mark, I wanted to be at 51, but I got there at 8:08. Still, that’s not bad. I ran the last two floors, and flopped on the 55th floor landing at 8:49. This is one second faster than my time from last Monday. Can’t complain about that.

After a little rest, we headed up a second time, just for grins. Or perhaps grimaces. Anyway, the second time, I noticed that someone had put a series of Post-It notes on the mural above the 46th floor. The notes said:

JUST KEEP GOING UP

That made a nice counter to the “DO NOT GO UP” sign on the 3rd floor. So I had to stop for a picture. I wasn’t running for time the second time up, so I wasn’t worried about stopping for a couple minutes.

It was a good outing, and I’m just about ready for the race now.

9/19/2012

Grrr

Filed under: — stan @ 9:01 pm

Tonight was yet another practice at the Wells Fargo building downtown. It’s coming down to the wire, since the race is next week, so lots more people are showing up now. That made for a very long line this evening.

I went downtown with Morgan and Chris. We got there earlier today, but then again, so did everyone else. So we ended up waiting in line for close to half and hour before we got into the stairs. When they let our group in, the people around us all said I should go first, since they figured I’d end up passing all of them. So I had a clear stairway up to about 30 or so before I started catching up with the group that started before us. The YMCA has been good about encouraging people who are not going for time to stay to the outside, and to let faster people pass on the inside. But apparently, some people just haven’t gotten the memo. There was a guy I caught up to who flat-out refused to get out of my way. I came up behind him, and I somehow managed to speak and ask him to move over. He didn’t. I said it again. And then I reached forward and pushed him gently to the side, thinking that maybe he was listening to loud music and hadn’t heard me. But he still refused to move over. So I had to run past him and immediately cut in front of him to make the turn on the next landing. Chris was following me, and he said that the guy looked really unhappy about that. But really, what good does it do him to hold us up? It doesn’t make him go faster, and it doesn’t cost him anything to step to the side on the stairs and let us go by.

The same thing happened around 40. This time it was a woman who refused to get out of the way. I had to run the long way around the landing to get by her. So those things cost me probably close to 10 seconds.

Around 45, Johnny passed me. He was the only person who passed me, and I feel no shame about that. He came up behind me, and I stepped sideways on one flight to let him by. It’s a simple courtesy, and as long as I don’t end up taking the long way around the outside of a landing, it doesn’t cost me any time.

At the top, I flopped down on the landing and looked at my watch. It said 8:58. Still better than last year, but 8 seconds slower than on Monday. I’d tried a new method for setting split times tonight. I had a small note pinned to my glove just giving the floor numbers where I thought I should be at the 2, 4, 6, and 8 minute marks. I’d been on schedule up to the 4 minute mark at 28, but then I fell behind. I’m sure that the L.A. traffic I encountered in the stairwell didn’t help.

After a short rest, Morgan and I headed up a second time. We both took it easy. I made it up in 10:31, which was not bad for loafing along, and I still passed bunches of people.

It was an ‘OK’ outing. Not great, but still valuable experience.

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