Stan’s Obligatory Blog


gonzo gustation

Filed under: — stan @ 9:48 pm

Some years ago, I read a very funny book called Eat this Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit. It was hilarious. So when Kathleen found out that there was going to be an IFOCE-sanctioned eating contest right here in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, I knew we had to go see it.

The contest was gyoza eating. The time was 10 minutes. The record was somewhere over 200. So this promised to be quite a spectacle. When we got there, the announcer was stirring up the crowd and getting everyone ready for the main event. There were two tables. One for amateurs, and one for the professional eaters. One seat at the amateur table had been reserved to be auctioned off for charity, and the winner paid $60 to sit in it.

They had a big parade and introduction of the pros. All were ranked in the top 50 in competitive eating. Like professional wrestlers, they all made their own distinctive entrances, and each had a theme song. The eating hadn’t even started, and this was already a tremendously entertaining spectacle.

Then it was time for the contest. The announcer counted down, and the eating commenced. And it was epic. I’d figured out that they would have to average something like one gyoza every 2.5 seconds to even have a chance at winning. But I really had no idea what that would look like. But I saw that that translated into the gurgitators stuffing many gyoza into their mouths at once. The chewed a little bit and then washed it all down with a little bit of water or whatever was their drink of choice.

One thing that I think would have made this better would have been a large clock to count down the time. The announcer counted down, first by minutes, and then by seconds the last minute, but I think that having a large clock would have really helped the drama. In any event, he counted down the last 10 seconds and called time. Apparently, the rules allow for the contestants to stuff as much food as they want into their mouths before time is called. As long as they swallow it, it’s all all right. So the final seconds had all the contestants stuffing massive numbers of gyoza into their mouths, and they ended up looking like demented chipmunks with their bulging cheeks.

Along the way, only one contestant suffered a ‘reversal of fortune‘, and that was the guy who had won the charity auction for the final seat at the amateur table. Well, regardless, he had a unique experience.

When it was all over, they tallied the results, and the winner had eaten 264 gyosa. That works out to an average of one gyoza every 2.36 seconds for the 10 minutes of the contest. Just the thought of that makes me queasy. At last, I’ve found a sport that’s even more insane than the one I like to compete in.

It was a fun little outing.


Well, this is nice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

Today was yet another stair climbing practice at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. 42 stories, and, well, a weird sort of ‘fun’.

There was a big group today, and by the time I got there, there were already many, many people on their way up the stairs. Of course, that meant that there were many, many people for me to pass. So I headed on up.

It’s kind of a mixed bag for me when there are a lot of people on the stairs. On the one hand, I get a psychological boost from passing people. But on the other hand, passing people tends to break my rhythm and slow me down. So it’s good and bad at the same time. Last fall, when I was doing the U.S. Bank tower stair climb, there were several times where I had to pass people, and it sometimes took me several flights to get past them. This was frustrating, since the flights are very short, and if you don’t get past someone on the first flight, you have to take the long way around on the landing, and you lose most of the ground you gained. So this time, I resolved that I was not going to lose ground. Any time I was forced to pass on the outside, I was going to just have to put on a little burst of speed. Just enough to get past them on one flight. Yes, that hurt. But it was better than the frustration of having to spend several flights passing.

I only looked at my watch at the 7th and 20th floors. At the time, I could see that I was on track to do a decent time. I was hoping to do as well as I did last Monday, or maybe a second or two better. But when I got to the top, I saw that I’d done it in 7:21. That’s a full seven seconds faster than my time last Monday, and 45 seconds faster than my time last year.

This is great!


Downtown art

Filed under: — stan @ 11:42 pm

It’s Art Walk night in downtown Los Angeles again. We missed it last month, but this time we didn’t have any conflicts. So Lucinda and I went downtown for it. We met up with Kathleen, who brought Melissa and Emily along.

The first order of business was to find the fabled gourmet food trucks. Every time we go, it seems like they are in a different place. This time, they were all in one parking lot at the north end of the gallery district. We wandered around, looking at all the choices. Kathleen and I both decided to have the Guerilla Fried Chicken. It was a bit odd, and very good. Never had fried chicken with bearnaise sauce before. We followed that up with an ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel ice cream. Yum.

After that, we got down to wandering the galleries and looking at the art. As always, there was a wide variety of things on display, ranging from meh to good to very disturbing. I like the disturbing ones. We wandered around until the galleries started closing down, which was around 10. It was a fun little Thursday night outing.


They can’t all be gems

Filed under: — stan @ 10:27 pm

Today was another stair climbing practice session at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. So far, I’ve been doing very well at the practice climbs, since I’ve taken more than 30 seconds off my time from last year. But sadly, today was not another record for me. This time, I made it up the 42 stories in 7:33. This is 5 seconds slower than last time.

After seeing my time, I wanted to try again to see if I could do better. What was I thinking? I’m very goal-oriented, and my goal in these things is to make it to the top of the stairs. After that, it’s really hard to get motivated to do it again. So the second time up was hell. Not Hell, but just hell. Just sort of a low-grade “what was I thinking, doing this again” sort of thing. I started out strong, but by the time I got to the 20th floor, I knew that this was not going to a record-setting climb. But I toughed it out and made it to the top. I was about a minute slower than the first time, but that’s all right.

They can’t all be gems. Still, that’s pretty good compared to my time from last year. And (dare I say it?) I think I’m on track to do the U.S. Bank tower climb in 14 minutes or so. That would be great.

On the way out, I had a chance to look up a the U.S. Bank tower. And I had a brief “what the HELL was I thinking when I signed up for this?” moment. But then it passed. So overall, this was a good evening.


Meet me in the stairwell

Filed under: — stan @ 9:12 pm

Today was yet another stair climbing practice session at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. 42 floors. 577 feet. I have no idea how many steps, but probably about 900*. Yes, it was time for more ‘fun’.

I didn’t have to go anywhere afterward, so I rode the train in from Pasadena. For some completely unexplained reason, they lowered the price of the Metro Rail day pass from $6 to $5. Well, I can’t complain about that. The train dropped me off at Pershing Square, and I walked over to the downtown YMCA.

I tried a new experiment today. Every time I’m going to go practice, I always wish I had something to wear that had a way to carry my wallet, camera, keys, and so forth. And today I just realized that I have lots of such things. I wear them every time I go bike riding. So, armed with this knowledge, I brought one of my Caltech bike jerseys along to wear for the climb. And it worked well. I had to put the camera in a plastic bag to protect it from the sweat, but aside from that, the scheme worked well.

There was a good group there for the practice session. When I got there, there were a lot of people already on their way up, including at least one fireman in full gear. I stood at the bottom for a few minutes, wondering what the hell I was thinking when I’d decided to do this yet again. But I finally started up the stairs. I passed a lot of people on the way up, and I made it to the top in 7:28, which is a good two seconds faster than last week. Even though going a second or two faster isn’t all that significant, it still beats last Spring. When I was practicing at the Aon building, I was going six seconds slower every time. That was frustrating. So I’m not complaining at all now. This is good.

* That’s based on 577 feet divided by the typical skyscraper stair step height of 7.7 inches.


Again with the Big Donut

Filed under: — stan @ 12:37 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the route out to La Puente to see the Donut Hole. The last time we did this ride was back in January. That was the day we saw the Weinermobile. It was a perfect summer day for riding.

ON the way out, we passed the original In-N-Out Burger location in Baldwin Park. The sign is all that’s left now.

At the Donut Hole, there was an empty bucket of apple filling. That was perfect to balance the camera on for our picture.

Continuing on, we passed the house with the plastic reindeer permanently mounted by the driveway gate. It was right around there where I first heard my bike making a little ticking noise. When we got to a nice shady spot, I stopped and had a look. That was when I saw the staple stuck in my tire. So Carla took the camera and got my flat tire picture.

On the way back, we stopped off to see the big new Huy Fong Foods building in Irwindale. They’re coming along nicely, and when it’s done, they’ll be able to make veritable oceans of hot sauce there.

When we rode up the bike path through Santa Fe Dam, we could see that there was still quite a bit of water coming down from the mountains. For August, this is remarkable.

Our snack stop was at Merengue in Monrovia. Then we headed home. It was a nice ride.

44 miles.


More practice

Filed under: — stan @ 9:42 pm

Today was the second day for stair practice at One California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. This is a 42-story building, and it’s just enough to get to that Pain Point. So of course I wanted to go and climb it, since it’s ‘fun’.

The actual climb was about the same as always. Seems like no matter how fast or slow I go, it just plain hurts. But I was able to keep a good, steady pace, and I got to the top in 7:30, which is one second faster than on Monday.

There was one bit of aggravation today. The door is supposed to be open for us to get out of the stairs at the 41st floor, and the guards had forgotten to come and open it. I went in the elevator control room at the top level and found a phone. I called down to the lobby and they sent someone up to open it. While I was standing there, I noticed that there were four very large electric motors in the room that powered the highest bank of elevators, and there was a strong ozone smell in the room. Since the elevator room door was open to the stairs, it seems that the ozone was probably permeating the stairwell. Maybe that’s why I felt like what the bike racers in the ’70s used to refer to as ‘getting smogged’. Back in those days, we always wanted to be back from rides by 10:00AM. If we didn’t, our throats would feel like we’d gargled with Drano. But I suppose that nobody has ever really done a definitive study of skyscraper stairwell air quality. After all, the stairs are only supposed to be used for emergency evacuation, right?

Still, I did a decent time, so I’m not unhappy about that.


Monday evening fun

Filed under: — stan @ 10:59 pm

Monday evening was an exercise in contrasts.

First off, I went downtown for the first stair practice session at One California Plaza. This is a 42-story building, so it’s bigger than my usual practice sessions at Millikan Library at Caltech. I’d done this one once last year, so I was curious to see how I’d do on it this time.

There was a good group there for it. We all trooped over there and handed in our signed waivers to the building guards. Then the let us loose in the stairs.

Because the building is relatively short, the stairs were pretty much straight up. There was just one break in the middle for a big mechanical floor, I passed one or two people, and one or two passed me. But they were people who are very fast, so I can’t complain too much. And in the end, I got to the top in 7:31, which is a good 35 seconds faster than I did it last year. Nothing not to like there. And we got to ride the elevator back down this time, which was good. I’d said that I wasn’t going to walk down unless the building was on fire.

Afterward, just a bit of contrast, I went out to Burbank and met up with Kathleen at the Smoke House for their Monday night special. Prime rib, and 1/2 off wine. Again, nothing not to like there.

It was a fun evening.


Top five

Filed under: — stan @ 2:47 pm

A couple months ago, I found an article in the L.A. Times on “The Ten Best Houses in Southern Calfornia“. when I was reading, it, I realized that we could go see five of them on a single bike ride. I made up a route for this, and I test-rode it back in June. So today was the first time that I took the bike club group on it.

The first one was the Gamble House, which we pass all the time. Then we rode down into Silver Lake and then up the hill next to Griffith Park. Some of the guys missed the turn on Vermont and rode off up the hill into the park. I figured they’d realize that they’d missed a turn when they got to the Observatory. So I just waited down on Vermont. While I was waiting for them to come back, Carla showed up. She had overslept and gotten a late start. Finally, the rest of the group came back down the hill, and we all headed up to the Ennis House.

The third house was the Hollyhock House. That was an easy side trip. Then we headed across Hollywood, passing a sightseeing van that was stopped to look at the Michael Jackson Auditorium at the elementary school on Gardner Ave.

The Schindler House on Kings Road in West Hollywood was the fourth stop on the tour. Then we rode back into Hollywood and up toward the hills. We stopped off at the Studs Theater, which used to be the flagship of the old Pussycat chain back in the ’70s. David had to try his feet in John Holmes’ footprints in the concrete in front of the theater.

We rode up Nicholls Canyon to get to Mulholland Drive. Then we took a short side trip up Torreyson Dr to see the Chemosphere. That was the fifth and final stop on the house tour. Then we rode the rest of the way down Mulholland and down into Burbank for a snack at Priscilla’s. The rest of the ride was a direct path home by way of Glendale and Eagle Rock. We had a bit of fun right at the end when a guy on an electric-assisted bike passed us. We got on behind him and he motor-paced us for several miles, which was nice.

It was a fun little ride.

52 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 11:31 pm

We were at a backyard party on Saturday night, and someone noticed this little guy perched in one of the trees. I think this may be the first time I’ve ever seen an owl in the wild.

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