Stan’s Obligatory Blog


An experiment

Filed under: — stan @ 6:33 pm

Today was another practice climb at the Aon building in downtown L.A. This coming weekend is the Stratosphere Tower stair climb, and I wanted to try a small experiment. The Stratosphere people are, for some unknown reason, picky about letting people bring any sort of electronic devices with them on the climb. Now I can understand why they might not want people carrying cameras and such that they could drop, but they said I can’t bring my metronome. That’s how I keep track of my pace, so I needed to find another way to do it. So I set the timer on my watch for 11 seconds and did the practice climb with that going. The idea was that I would hear the little beep presumably at about the same point on the stairs between each floor. And this worked out all right. The only times it got thrown off were at the big floors at 22 and 44, where they have the elevator motors and other mechanical equipment. Those floors are about two or three times the height of the other floors. But still, the timer worked well, so that’s going to be my plan for this weekend. I know already that they don’t have a problem with watches, since I wore mine for the climb last year.

The bad news was that the practice climb took us 10:40, which is a bit slower than last time. This is troubling. I’ve done three practice climbs, and each has been slower than the last. Something about that just don’t seem right.

Still, it was a good time. Now I’m ready for the weekend.


It’s springtime…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:20 pm

It’s springtime at Caltech. Which means it’s time for the ME72 engineering contest. I enjoy watching this whenever I can, since it’s always good geeky entertainment.

This year’s contest was to build machines to collect bottles and cans for recycling. The bottles and cans were spread around on the concrete, and they also had some on a set of ‘terrains’ for the machines to drive on. The terrains included a shipping pallet, some rocks, sand, and water. At the far end of the playing field, each team had three boxes for each of plastic, steel, and aluminum. They got points for getting the containers down to the boxes, more points for getting them in the boxes, and still more if they could do all that and get their machines back to the starting line before the end of each 5-minute match.

Each team built two machines for the task, and as always, some of the machines were designed solely to interfere with the operation of the other team’s machines. So we got to see some good machine clashes, which is always a hoot. In the end, Team BRB won with a good basic strategy. They had one machine that quickly scored at the start of the round, and then it and the other machine would attack and pin down the other team’s machines so that they couldn’t score. And that strategy brought them the trophy in the end.

All good geek fun.


Still more frontiers in the kitchen

Filed under: — stan @ 9:46 pm

In the continuing quest to find fun things to do with the giant mint plant I have growing in my garden, we made frozen mint daiquiris on Saturday night. We’ve been making mojitos since last May, so it was time to try branching out a bit. And they were quite good.


The Stonehurst Cottages

Filed under: — stan @ 6:35 pm

Today’s bike ride was a sightseeing trip up to Sun Valley to see the Stonehurst Cottages. These are a set of houses and a community center built in the 1920s by a local mason who collected all the stones from the nearby Tujunga Wash. I read about them in a recent issue of Los Angeles magazine, and they sounded like an interesting thing to see.

We rode out through Glendale and Burbank and up into Sun Valley. When we turned off Glenoaks, we saw a giant pair of hands by the side of the road. This turned out to be a prop warehouse. They had a lot of weird stuff sitting outside, and I’m sure there were even more strange things inside.

We took a looping roundabout route through the Stonehurst neighborhood so that we could pass by all of the houses. The map on the city web site shows which ones are original and which ones have been modified over the years. We also saw a beer-keg mailbox, which was amusing.

The route back went through the horse neighborhood and out onto Sunland Blvd. Then back by way of Tujunga to our snack stop at Goldstein’s Bagels at the top of Hospital Hill. Then it was downhill all the way back to Pasadena.

It was a fun little ride.

45 miles.


Still my favorite art museum

Filed under: — stan @ 7:52 pm

Today, Kathleen and I went downtown to the Museum of Neon Art to see their new exhibit for the 30th anniversary of the museum. And there was a special extra this time, too. They had a small exhibit in the lobby of night photos of neon, and I had two pictures that were in it. So now, not only is MONA my favorite art museum, I actually got to participate in the exhibits in my own small way. And that’s good fun.

Look what came in the mail today

Filed under: — stan @ 1:54 pm

count fair time
It’s going to be that time again. The L.A. County Fair is coming this fall. I’ve got a couple of new recipes under development. And there’s still room on the wall of my kitchen for more ribbons.

I see that they have the 2010 winners cookbook out now. So I can finally get to try out the recipe that beat me out for first place.


Glad we cleared *that* up

Filed under: — stan @ 8:55 am

Trader Joe’s had these nice ribeye steaks on sale the other day. This is the first time I’ve seen something like this with an explicit nutrition information panel on it. But I’m glad to see that the ingredients list is simple and clear.


There’s nothing cuter than baby seals

Filed under: — stan @ 10:39 pm

This past weekend, Kathleen, Lucinda and I took a trip to San Diego. We went down on Saturday morning, and after lunch with Grandpa, we went to the cove and saw the baby seals. The pupping season for the seals runs from the end of January to the beginning of March, so we wanted to see the newborn seals on the beach.

It was a fun time. There were quite a few babies there, and I was able to get some good pictures.

After seeing the seals, we walked over to Sunny Jim Cave and took the walk down the tunnel to the cave.

It was a fun weekend.

The seal pictures are here:

baby seal

Lucinda’s pictures from the weekend are in her photo album.


A veritable walk in the park

Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

As part of our weekend in San Diego, I managed to convince both Lucinda and Kathleen to try a stair climb. The Lung Association had one there at the Omni Hotel downtown. It was a short one – only 31 stories. And as I always say, “How hard could it be?”

We went down there on Sunday morning and got our numbers. Then we wandered around a bit before we found the starting line, which was a the back door outside behind the hotel’s main entrance. There was a group of firemen in full gear getting ready to go. They let me go ahead of them, although a few had already started up. I went first, and Lucinda and Kathleen started just after me.

I caught and passed the firemen about halfway up. I also passed a couple of other people. I’d set my metronome on 90. I figured I needed to crank the pace up, since the race was so short.

I thought that the finish line was on 32, so I’d planned on starting my final sprint to the finish at the landing just above 30. But then it turned out that the finish was on 31, so I only got in a short burst at the end before I came out at the top. I took in the view for a couple of minutes before Lucinda and Kathleen got there. They both said that it wasn’t as hard as they’d expected.

After that, we all went back down to the bottom to see the results. My time was 4:03, which was all right, but not spectacular. For a long time, I was in second place in the 50-59 group, but then two guys in the last group to climb beat my time and pushed me down to 4th. So no medal for me this time. But Lucinda got one. Her time was 7:13, and that was good for 3rd place in the 10-19 age group.

Overall, it was a fun time.

Results are here:


Practice makes pain

Filed under: — stan @ 10:02 pm

Today was the second practice climb at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. Erik and I headed down there at lunchtime with hopes of trimming some seconds off our time from last Tuesday.

I set my metronome on 80 again, in hopes of being able to maybe keep up with it better this time. But for some reason, I’m having a hard time getting into the right mental space to deal with the pain of stair climbing. When I got to about the 30th floor, I felt like I was gonna die. Erik had started about 10 seconds behind me and he caught up with me around the 40th floor. We stayed together the rest of the way to 60, but I was really struggling.

When we got to the top, I adopted my usual curled-up-panting-on-the-floor posture for a bit. Then we took in the view and talked with some other people who were climbing the stairs too. They were people who worked in the building, and they were not signed up for the race.

In the end, I had 10:32, which is 6 seconds slower than last week. But since Erik started behind me, that means at least he made our goal of doing a better time than last time.

Regardless, it was a good lunchtime adventure.

When we went back to the car, I noticed the building across from where we parked.

Argue Pearson Harbison & Myers

There’s a lawyer named Mr Argue? Talk about destiny…

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