Stan’s Obligatory Blog

2/16/2012

Like I said, this is a little creepy…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:57 pm

It’s Thursday, and I was able to go downtown at lunchtime to do stair practice at the Aon building. That’s the usual practice climb from 4 up to 60. Today was my second time climbing with the sticky football gloves. I decided that when I’m using them, I sound like a dog playing with a toy. Lots of panting and little rubber squeaky noises. But they work really well for getting a good grip on the railing to help pull me up the stairs. So that’s a good thing.

When I got there, Theo was there. He is very fast, but he likes to walk down to the ground-level door to start. So when we got to the 4th floor, he went to walk down, and I headed up. My goal was to make it to 60 before he caught me.

I’m getting pretty good at the footwork to change leads so that I equalize the loads on each leg. Since most of the flights are 11 steps, that means that one leg will work harder than the other when you do double steps. So I’ve worked out a way to switch which leg leads off so that I even out the load. And I can feel the difference. It’s getting close to being automatic, which is a good thing. And it’s also good in that I switch leads every even-numbered floor. So that’s a useful mental distraction. When I get to 6, I think about having to switch leads, and that I don’t have to switch again until 8. I don’t think about having 54 more floors to go. So that distraction is a Very Good Thing.

I had a look at my watch at the halfway point at 32, and I was just under 5 minutes. So that meant I was on track to do a time just under 10 minutes. And when I got to 54, I had another look, and it was just under 9 minutes, so I knew I had to hit it to have a chance to beat my time from Tuesday. Also, I was concerned that Theo was going to catch me. So I managed to put on a burst of speed for the last few floors before coming out on 60 and doing the traditional face-plant on the floor. When I looked at my watch, I had 9:50, which is 2 seconds slower than on Tuesday. And like I said before, this is a bit creepy.

But no matter. This year, I’m doing times that I thought would be impossible last year. So there’s really nothing to complain about here.

2/14/2012

This is great, and for more than one reason this time…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

Tonight was yet another stair practice at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. And as always, I was dreading it all the way there on the train. I got a bit of a late start, due to some computer problems with My Pet Project today, but I finally managed to get out the door. Kathleen was coming downtown, too. I told her I was planning on doing one run up the building for time, and then I’d walk up it again with her.

There was some sort of problem on the Metro Red Line tonight. I rode the train to the 7th St station, and that was fine. But when I got off, there was an announcement on the PA. I missed the first part of it, and all I heard was “delays – Metro apologizes for any inconvenience.” They also had the announcement as a text crawl on the monitors in the station, but it seemed that no matter which monitor I looked at, all I ever saw was, “Metro apologizes…” So I figured I was there, so I might as well hit the stairs and get it over with. The last I’d heard from Kathleen was that she was getting on the train at 5:26, so she would be there about 6:00, plus whatever the delay was.

I headed up to the building and got ready to go. I’d gotten a pair of the rubber-palm football gloves that Mark recommends, and I was going to try them out tonight. So I started my watch and headed up. The gloves made little rubber-squeaky noises on the railing all the way up. I was just sort of cruising, but when I got to 56, I had a look at my watch and realized that I had a chance to do a good time if I really hit it for the last four floors. So I made some faster rubber squeaky noises and ran up the last four flights. I stumbled out of the stairwell and flopped on the floor. And when I looked at my watch, I saw 9:48, which is yet another best time for me. Can’t complain about that at all.

I rested for a few minutes and then went back to the lobby to wait for Kathleen. As it turned out, she was caught in the train delay, and she didn’t get there until 6:40. She asked me if I’d noticed anything different on the 52nd floor, but in my stair-climbing fog, I hadn’t. So we headed up the stairs again. Since I was going slower, I figured I’d see whatever it was this time.

When we got to about 40, the guards made the announcement that practice time was almost over. So I went ahead a bit and stopped at the intercom at 49 to call them and see if we could have an extra five minutes to finish. The guys said it was all right, so I continued on up to 52. That’s where I saw my Valentine on the wall, next to the fire hose valves and the floor number sign. It was the sweetest thing ever, and even better, because it meant that she’d had to climb the building before to install it. She said later that she’d come to practice late last Thursday to put it up, so that it would be there for me today.

So we climbed the rest of the way up to 60. We came out and then rode the elevator back down. And then we got changed and headed out for a nice dinner at Engine Company 28, just around the corner on Figueroa St. All told, it was a very nice Valentine’s Day.

2/12/2012

Playgrounds

Filed under: — stan @ 3:30 pm

Today’s bike club ride was one we’ve only done once before. A while back, I was looking at Roadside America, and they had a bit about a park in West Covina that has a full-sized model of an F-86 Sabre jet in the playground. I thought that this might make for an interesting sightseeing pairing with the sea monster playground at Vincent Lugo Park in San Gabriel.

Sadly, the park in San Gabriel is still under construction. The city parks department says that the sea monsters will not be altered, but the rest of the park is being rebuilt. And so, for the time being, we can only look at the monsters from a distance.

Heading east from there, we rode out to West Covina, where we saw the F-86. Interestingly, the plane is made of solid cast concrete, so I’m not sure it would pass muster for playground equipment safety today. But the F-86 was used in the Korean War, so this model probably dates back to the early 1960s, when we didn’t worry about such things.

Our snack stop was at Panera in West Covina. Then we rode home by way of the Santa Fe Dam Nature Area.

It was a nice ride.

42 miles.

2/11/2012

Roller Derby!

Filed under: — stan @ 11:07 pm

Recently, Kathleen and I have watched a number of documentaries about the revival of roller derby. And it looks like something fun to go see. The L.A. Derby Dolls recently changed their policy to allow all ages to come to their bouts, so asked Lucinda if she wanted to go. And tonight we all went to see the show.

Getting there turned out to be a big ordeal, but that was just because of some problems on the road, and ordinarily, it’s not all that bad of a trip. We got there just before they introduced the skaters before the bout started. Next time, we’ll plan on getting there earlier. They had a whole vendor area, as well as food trucks outside. Truck Norris was even there. Inside, they had the banked track set up, with sort of standing-room bleachers set up around it. The regular tickets are general admission, and there are no seats. But because of the way the platforms are set up, it wasn’t a problem. We found a little bit of space along the railing and let Lucinda and London take that, while we stood behind them. So we could all see just fine.

At the start of the match, they explained the basic flow of the game, so it made some sense. And there was a lot of fast action. The announcer said that at least one of the jammers is a speed skater in her other life. And it showed when they got going. It was a lot of fun to watch. At half-time, they had a bout a 30 minute break, with a band playing in the vendor room. Lucinda and London went and bought themselves some shirts. It looked like they had a good time there.

All in all, it was tremendously entertaining.

2/7/2012

Like I said…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:46 pm

I went downtown for stair practice at the Aon building tonight. As always, I was dreading it the whole way there on the train. But when I got there, I just decided to start up the stairs and see what happened. And I did another personal best for the practice climb from 4 to 60. On the way up, I was mostly focusing on doing the footwork to even out the load on each leg, while maintaining the most efficient way to climb the stairs. But when I got to 56, I looked at my watch and saw 9:25, so I knew I had a chance to beat my previous best time of 9:56. So I somehow managed to pull out some extra energy to make a run up the last few flights before coming out at 60 and doing the traditional face-plant on the concrete floor. But it was worth it.

After a couple minutes rest, I went back down and started up again. This time, I walked down to ground level and then walked back up. I’d brought some paper and a pen, and I made notes all the way up. I noted the number of steps on each flight, the direction of the turn at the end of the flight, whether it was a 90-degree or 180-degree turn, and the length of the few flat sections. So now I have the information to make a complete map of the stairs from the ground floor up to the door to the roof. Presumably, this will even allow me to calculate the total number of steps I’ll have to take to get to the top. What can I say? I’m a nerd. I like to analyze the world in this way.

2/5/2012

Molly Ivins *Can* Say That

Filed under: — stan @ 11:38 pm

Tonight, Kathleen and I went to Westwood to see “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins“. This is a one-woman show, with Kathleen Turner playing the part of the late Molly Ivins, talking about her life and experiences. I was familiar with Molly Ivins from my time in Texas. There are, in fact, liberals in Texas. They’re not plentiful, but they do exist. And Molly Ivins gave voice to them. She was very witty, and was something of a national treasure to the liberals, while the others still respected her, since she was a Texan, and you don’t talk ill about your family. So overall, she was an oddity, but an oddity who is sorely missed now that she’s gone. And Kathleen Turner did a very good job bringing her back to life on stage. This was a great show.

CVC Section 21453 Circular Red or Red Arrow

Filed under: — stan @ 11:07 pm

This is a rant. California license 4SHZ840, if you ever put your license plate into Google, this is why I was yelling at you.

First off, let’s have a look at a bit of the California Vehicle Code:

Circular Red or Red Arrow

21453. (a) A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subdivision (b).

(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.

(c) A driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication permitting movement is shown.

(d) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in Section 21456, a pedestrian facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal shall not enter the roadway.
Amended Sec. 1, Ch. 14, Stats. 2001. Effective January 1, 2002.

So I was out riding on Saturday morning. Coming home, crossing Lake Avenue on Mendocino Street. I had the green light, and I was coming through the intersection. And suddenly, there was a silver-gray Lexus coming across the intersection, right in front of me. If I was in a car, I’d have honked the horn at her. Being that I was on my bike, and had no horn, I yelled at her. She had her window open, so she heard me and stopped, looking a bit surprised. This sort of thing happens from time to time, and it’s generally not a big deal. She made a mistake on the road. I think it was most likely an honest mistake, and that she meant no harm. It happens to everyone. Nothing bad happened, so it’s all right.

So I kept going. Then she pulls up next to me and starts yelling at me from the moving car:

“I stopped at that light before I turned! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

People make mistakes. It’s just part of being human. We all do it from time to time. In this case, the mistake she made was a pretty minor one. No harm was done, so that should have been the end of it. A truly proper and gracious response on her part would have been to say something like, “Oops. I didn’t see you. Sorry about that.” This is very rare. In fact, in nearly 40 years of riding, I can count the number of times I’ve heard this from a motorist on the fingers of one hand. And still have several fingers left to spare. But that’s all right. It’s all part of the gig when you ride a bike. Still, for her to come after me and start yelling at me about how she didn’t do anything wrong and that, by implication, this is all somehow my fault, well, this crossed the line. This is no longer an honest mistake. This is acting like an asshole.

Now, I’m of the opinion that there are two kinds of people in the world:

  1. People who make mistakes, but are willing to own up to them;
  2. Assholes.

So I want to convey this to her, but I can’t give the fully-detailed and nuanced response above, since I’ve got to fit it in eight words or less as she’s driving away from me. So the abbreviated version came out like this:

“Through traffic has the right of way, ASSHOLE!”

By this time, she’s passed me, but she slows down, and I can hear her yelling at me more from inside the car. I can’t make it out. But by this time, I’m feeling more than a little threatened. After all, in any physical altercation between our respective vehicles, I’m the one who stands to end up dead.

So she pulls over a little bit ahead of me and stops. I see her starting to get out of the car, still yelling at me. I just ride past, and I say something to the effect that I don’t want to talk to her any more. I also made a point of showing her that I’d taken pictures of her and her car. Then I turned down the first side street. I put on some speed down the hill, and went down lots of little streets, just to lower the chances that I’d encounter her again.

There’s no good way to wrap this up. Yes, I think I lost my cool, and that didn’t help the situation. It’s just that people who won’t admit they made a mistake is a major peeve of mine. So driver, if you ever read this, this is how you managed to take a not-especially-bad situation, and turn it into something truly horrible and disturbing. And I sincerely hope to never, ever see you again on the road.

Big bougainvillea

Filed under: — stan @ 8:56 pm

This Sunday’s bike club ride was the route out to Glendora to see the Glendora Bougainvillea. The last time we went to see it, it wasn’t blooming that much. I’d read that winter is the time it blooms the most, so I thought we’d go see it again to see how it was doing.

It was a nice day for riding, and the ride out there was pleasant. The bougainvillea had some flowers on it. More than last time, but not as much as others we’ve seen. That may be because this particular plant is over a 100 years old.

In any case, it was a nice ride.

42 miles.

2/2/2012

I seem to be saying this a lot lately

Filed under: — stan @ 10:02 pm

This is great!

On Thursday evening’s stair practice, I did yet another personal best. I climbed the practice course from 4 up to 60 in 9:56. This is four seconds faster than my previous best, and about 30 seconds faster than the practice times I was turning in last year

I’m getting better at the stepping patterns I worked out to even out the load on each leg, and that seems to be helping. It’s also good from a mental standpoint, since it gives me something to focus on as a distraction from how much it hurts. So all around, it’s a Good Thing.

1/31/2012

Dress rehearsal

Filed under: — stan @ 10:36 pm

Tonight was the “Kickoff Party” at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. This was an event to try and drum up interest for the stair climb at the end of March. And for the occasion, they opened the stairwell door on the ground outside the building, so we could practice doing almost the entire climb. The normal practice sessions rn from 4 to 60, but tonight we could go from ground level up to 60. They were also keeping the stairs open an hour longer than normal tonight.

I rode the train downtown after work. My plan was to do the climb once for speed, to practice my footwork for changing which leg was leading every other floor to even out the loads on them. After that, I planned on going up a couple more times to take pictures, kibitz and just play tourist.

My first time up was a pretty good run. My time was 10:49. I had a look at my watch when I was passing the place where we start the normal practice runs, and it was at 42 seconds at that point, so this was about the equivalent of doing the regular practice course in 10:07. Not my fastest time, but still a good solid pace.

After a few minutes recovery, i went back down. The second time I just walked up to the 4th floor to check the count of steps there. This time, I came out with 80. So I walked back down and counted it again. It was 80 every time, so that means I must have made a mistake when I counted them the other day. It also means that the full count is 1,378 steps from the ground up to the landing at the door to the roof. So I think this is where the published count of 1,377 came from. They probably sent somebody up to count the steps, and when he got to the door that said “ROOF” he figured that was the end of it and stopped, without counting the last flight up on the outside of the door.

I started up the stairs for the second time. I walked up with Mary, and I took some pictures along the way. I particularly wanted to get some pictures from the top of the middle section of the stairs, which is about floor 42. The stairway shaft is wider in that section, and it’s possible to look up and down about 260 vertical feet in the shaft. I thought this might make for some dramatic pictures. I got one dramatic shot of Mary by bracing the camera on the railing and using a long exposure. I’d heard that they might get Norman to come take pictures, so I think that the landing around 42 would be a good place for him to set up. His pictures at the CFF climb last December were great.

Near the top, I heard a loud panting sound coming up behind me. I know I’m pretty loud when I’m going full speed, and Jeff is pretty loud, too. But this time it was Madeline. She was really going, and she told me later that she’d set a new personal best tonight.

I went back down again. I was waiting for Kathleen to get there, since I’d told her I’d walk up with her once. But it was cold just standing around, so I decided to go up again just to keep warm. This time, I got to 42 and I could hear someone coming up. This time it was Veronica, and she was on her third of five times up the stairs. But she was still moving very fast. And both of those pictures looking down the stairway shaft give a sense of just how endless the stairs seem when we’re climbing them.

When I got back down, I was still waiting for Kathleen. I thought she was stuck in traffic somewhere. But then I saw her coming down the escalator. She had gotten there while I was walking up the third time, and she just started up the stairs. She said that she didn’t think I’d have my phone with me, so she didn’t try to call to tell me she was there. Oh well. We still got to visit with everyone, and afterward we went to have a little dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s, which is inside the U.S. Bank Tower, just a couple blocks away.

It was a fun evening. And climbing the tower three times wasn’t hard at all. The trick was to just take it easy and just play tourist the second and third times. I was climbing it in something like 20 minutes, even with stopping to make notes and take pictures. And it was good practice, since I was still able to practice my footwork and turns.

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