01 April 2018

"PARK" ART-RUN WITH A TWIST

A week from today I'll lead a run that spells out the word "PARK", but with a twist.  In place of the letter "A" is the logo of the Prospect Park Alliance.  I made a test run some weeks ago and the result is shown below.  I learned some lessons and they were applied to the Gmap-Pedometer link at https://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7218671

There is a Facebook event to RSVP but you will need to ask to join the PPTC Members Discussion group, https://www.facebook.com/events/1463953043734534/.  If you don't have a Facebook account, or rather not join the group, simply show up at the side of The Picnic House at 9 AM on Sunday April 8, 2018.  That would be the left side when you face the building from the road.  Note that the word is spelled backward, starting with K and so on, so that when it's done we'll be near some businesses for coffee and such.





The better-designed map in Gmap-Pedometer above saves a side trip to the edge of the park to connect the R and the "A".  Also, the "A" is better executed with no extra lines on the left side.  When I did the run, the Green Market was in full bloom and there was only narrow path to go between the park and the arch.


Here is very wordy instruction for making R and K.

Start at the bottom left of the letter K, which is the side of The Picnic House. Follow the road to a T intersection then go right until you hit another T intersection then trace your way back to the other T intersection. Note that as there is no street corners like when we run on the street, I try to make use of the road intersections as often as possible.
Go up to the next intersection but don't actually touch it. I want a little gap between the top of the K and the bottom of the R. Again trace your way back to the T intersection. Make your way diagonally across the meadow. You should finish at another T intersection. The K is done!
To make the R, make your way across the meadow again, also diagonally to another T intersection on the other side. First do the bottom of the R by going down toward the top of the K, but don't actually arrive at the intersection because I believe the letters look better if they don't actually touch each other. Turn around and go up the road, follow the curve to form the top of the R as well as the right side. Again look for another T intersection then make your way across the meadow one last time. Go up the right side of the R one more time toward Grand Army Plaza.
I love serifs and probably will make them for the K and the R in the actual run.  Just stick with me if you want it done.


"A" is a bit more challenging because a few times it involves stopping the watch and resuming it.

So we finished the R should have traced our way back to the top right corner of the R. Take the path that goes under West Drive toward Grand Army Plaza. Where the letter P is on the map, pause your watch/app then run through the arch, past the fountain, all the way to Plaza Street East. The letter R on the map means you resume the watch/app. Run back toward the arch but along Plaza Street West. Don't cross the street to the side of the Green Market. Instead, go to the fountain, then pause the watch/app again. Run to Plaza Street West and Lincoln Place then resume. Run back to the arch one more time, along Plaza West but this time go as far east of the plaza as you can. Go across the street back into the park to where the letter P is and pause. One more time run through the arch, past the fountain, and onto Plaza Street East, but a little distance off the other point you made earlier. Resume watch/app. Run back to the arch along Plaza Street East. Do not cross the street to the Green Market. Instead go to the fountain and pause watch/app. Run to Plaza Street East and Butler Place then resume watch/app. The really difficult A is finally done!
Run along Plaza Street East to Vanderbilt, turn right to go up Vanderbilt to St. Marks Avenue. Turn right to go along St. Marks then turn right into Underhill Avenue. From Underhill, turn right into Park Place. Go past Vanderbilt a few step and stop watch/app. The whole thing is done!
To have a rounder letter P, do not wait until you are actually at the corner of Underhill and St. Marks to turn. Instead, run on the northern side of St. Marks and start crossing St. Marks when you are about the length of three cars from the corner. Likewise, don't start going straight down Underhill after making the turn. Run to the western side of Underhill and aim for the middle of the block. Execute similar maneuver for the turn at Underhill and Park Place.





21 January 2018

NYRR FRED LEBOW HALF-MARATHON 2018

I think Fred Lebow's spirit doesn't like me.  Back when there was an NYRR Manhattan Half-Marathon I ran it twice.  It was cold, very cold, but I run better in cold weather so I had a Personal Record with the first Manhattan Half.  There was no medal, maybe even just a shirt.  Not even a tech shirt, I think.  I'm sure I can dig it up.

At some point it became the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half-Marathon.  I signed up one year and it snowed that day so the race was declared a fun run, an unscored event.  I didn't even bother to go fearing it may be slippery.  Some years later I signed up again and again bad weather happened.  That time the entire race was cancelled but if runners wished they could go to the temporary NYRR office to pick up the medals.  It was a win-win situation for everyone - the runners got some mementos and NYRR didn't have to store the medals, or worse, toss them out.  I got the medal but of course it was quite meaningless.  I happened to work not far from the NYRR office so it was no big deal to go get the medal, even though I didn't earn it.

Fast forward to this week.  The cold grip finally let go, even if just temporarily, and the weather was beautiful.  No way there would be a cancellation or any interference from snow.

I have this week-long bout of cough that interrupted my sleep the past few nights.  The night before the race I couldn't sleep, perhaps from unnecessary worry, and the coughing made it worse.  At one point I woke up at 3 AM then went back to sleep.  Next thing I knew I woke up at 7 AM!  Pachelbel's Cannon in D as an alarm tune used to be able to wake me up before but I guess this morning my body just decided to ignore it.  The race was to begin at 8 AM, but the thing with NYRR races is that there are long corrals and staggered start times, so for a slowpoke like me it meant 8:30 or worse.  So I went to the race anyway.  Of course, just my luck, as soon as got out of the house, I saw that a subway train just pulled into my station.  So I spent some time waiting for the next train.  Thanks to a Facebook post, I knew that there would be no train going uptown to the 103rd Street Station, which would put me closest to Race Day Central.  The alternative would be to take the #1 train from Columbus Circle then get off at 103rd Street and Broadway, or something like that, and make the mad dash from there across a few avenues.  I didn't feel like running so soon so I stayed on the D train and went to 125th Street then waited some more for a downtown train.  I discovered today that those countdown clocks that the MTA installed relatively recently don't necessarily tell the truth.  If there's a delay the "3 minutes" until arrival just stay 3 minutes even if you've been waiting anxiously for more than 3 minutes.

At lost last I dropped off my stuff at bag check and ran for the start line.  The course started at 94th Street and West Drive then loop around at 72nd Street, repeated, then repeated again but ended in the 103rd Street Transverse, basically two and a half loops between 72nd Street and 110th Street.  When I entered the park, people were already doing their first loop.  Fearing there was no more start mat, I ran for 94th Street.  Mat was still there, I thought I was all set.  Soon I saw here and there a few clusters of cheer zones with teammates from Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC).  A good word here and there really helped.  As usual there were a few pairs or trios of runners who run-walk and somehow kept playing leap-frog with me.  I went along with the "race" but deep down I know it was really pointless.  I was one whole loop behind them, at some point they would just go left to finish and I would proceed to the right for my last loop.

The time came.  I started to count the number of "competitors" left on the course.  They were mostly walkers.  I was worried that Aid Stations would disappear soon, understandably, so I stopped for water at the foot of Harlem Hill.  And proceeded to walk up it.  There was so much running I could do with the mediocre running program I've been doing.  I had a short chat with an old member of PPTC, Aaron, although I couldn't find him in the team result list later on.  He wore a PPTC shirt with the design from years ago.  I learned that he was a member for some 35 years!  At the top of the hill I resumed running and passed a few more people.  We all run our own races and somebody already won but it's still good to have some targets to pass.  At Cat Hill I again walked it.  Downhill from there and it was already Mile #12.  Just another mile and 0.1 to go! I made sure I would at least run non-stop from that point on.  Finally, I reached the end and as a bonus got medalled by a PPTC team member.  I finally ran the NYRR Fred Lebow Half-Marathon and earned its medal!

Some time later, I found out my time couldn't be located.  They had me as a participant but with no finish time. As if I didn't run it.  Later in the evening, the result database showed that I finished the run in 3:47.  That's probably just gun time, starting from 8 AM.  Strava says I ran 2:47, but even that included the half-mile run from the 103rd Transverse to the start mat at 94th Street.  Strava also showed that I started running on the other side of some pond, straight across the pond to the West Drive.  I actually started running shortly after dropping off my bag on the Transverse.  Chances are my time should be 2:40, still bad compared to the 2:30 I got last year, at other half-marathons.  I guess even though the start mat was still in place, it wasn't set to record anything.  I thought maybe it was there as a checkpoint, since runners were required to pass by that point 3 times.

Just to see how things work, I'm going to write to NYRR to see if my time can somehow be corrected.  If it can be done, great, if not no biggie.

So I was able to run in a race even though I was half an hour or so late.  I normally arrive an hour early just to be safe.  I don't recommend seeing my experience as encouraging people to be tardy.  It is unfair to the organizers if they have to wait around longer than necessary.

12 January 2018

DO NOT ALWAYS LISTEN TO GOOGLE MAPS

I love Google Maps.  Maybe Waze too, if I take the trouble to use it.  The Google universe is just too hard to resist.  I often wonder how we got around in the past without these GPS-enabled digital assistants.  However, there are times when you don't necessarily need to listen to Google Maps and such.

I recently had to be somewhere near Prospect Park, where there's a station for the Q train.  I live near the D train and can switch to the Q at the Coney Island terminal.  Alternatively, I can also catch the Q if I go the other way, but I'll have to go further for the transfer.  Google told me to go to Coney Island but I knew better.  It was early morning, like 5:30 AM or so.  There was hardly anyone going toward Coney Island but there were many people going to work, or whatever, toward Manhattan.  So I took a Manhattan-bound train and felt safer with many more people on the train.  Sure, it took longer to get to the Q later on but safety first.

Occasionally, I have the need to go from the area of Bayshore, NY to Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn.  The straightforward route is to take the Southern State Parkway to the Belt Parkway.  And fight traffic near Wantagh and Meadowbrook Parkways.  Normally I opt to take the Robert Moses Causeway to Ocean Parkway (the one on Jones Beach Island that runs parallel to the Southern State, not the tree-lined boulevard in Brooklyn that is the route of the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon).  I still have to hit the Meadowbrook in the end but it is a lot more relaxing.  It adds some distance to the trip and may not save any time, even with the smooth ride, but for me it's worthwhile.

Similarly, I usually avoid the Belt Parkway section near the JFK Airport by taking 133rd Avenue.  Or use Avenue J to avoid a section of Flatlands Avenue.  Or a combination of northbound roads to avoid the Cross Island Parkway.

The town of Leonia, NJ recently appeared in the news for their attempt to control traffic that flood their neighborhood during rush hours because of people using Waze and such.  With the new local rule in effect, drivers can be fined $200 for using streets that are now available only to local residents.  Great solution for the town but it sucks to be those drivers going through.  In general, drivers and arseholes who don't yield to anyone, so there were reports of people not even able to get out of their driveway because of the constant flow of traffic.  In the ideal world, some combination of state and town traffic agents would help control traffic flow.  I am sure money is a problem, who will pay for what.  Whatever, now we have some local rules that effectively ban the alternative routes and drivers will just have to suffer on the highway.

06 January 2018

OUTLOOK RULE - ADDRESSED TO ME

I just sorta cleaned up my Apple iCloud mailbox.  Basically I sorted it by Unread then clicked the first item, scrolled down a bit to find the next bunch of unread messages, held down the Shift key and clicked one message, to select a big block of messages.  On the right window I had the option to set them all to Read status, just so I don't have to see the thousands of messages flagged as Unread.

For work I have a process to organize my Outlook mailbox that is a bit more elegant.  First I created, just one time of course, a folder named for me, let's call it Addressed To Blah.  Next I set up a rule that named where my name is in the To or Cc box.  The action is to move all such messages into the folder created above.  In the picture it's called Addressed To Blah.  When you work in a corporate environment, your name may be added to multiple distribution groups.  Some are really relevant to your job, others not so much.  At past jobs I wasted some time wading through all these emails to find the one that were assigned to me specifically, which usually means an answer is required or the issue at hand is really relevant to me.  I wish I can give credit to whoever came up with this rule, as I am sure I read it somewhere years ago.  With this rule in effect, the first thing in the morning I would first look at my own folder and take care of any issues that need my attention.



You can go one step further by setting this Addressed To Blah folder as the folder that's opened up when Outlook first starts.  The Options is under Advanced / Start Outlook in this folder .  This folder is already so useful, why bother even looking at the Inbox folder when Outlook first launches?  Put out any fires in your own folder first then go look at the other folders.  Chances are they are just noises, but as a responsible corporate employee, you want to at least know what's out there.



04 January 2018

PPTC RUN BROOKLYN

Running is supposed to be an inexpensive sports.  All you need is some set of clothes and a pair of sneakers, right?  Not so if you figure in all the races you register to run in.  If you live in Metro NYC and participate with the running community long enough, you may already know about NYCRuns' volunteer program, from which you earn credits for their races.  Relatively new is NYRR's volunteer program with their OpenRun.  Every ten times volunteering for OpenRun gets you into one of the lesser highly-demanded races for free.  I have to stress the OpenRun part because volunteering at NYRR regular races do not get you any free races.  At most you get guaranteed entry into one of their highly-desired races but you still have to pay.

One other way to kinda get free races is through the Prospect Park Track Club's Run Brooklyn program.  There are a few conditions to be met, like being a paying member of the club and running only Brooklyn races, but if you are the lucky person chosen for one of the money prize, it's worth a try.  Read more at

http://pptc.org/runbk/

I just updated the big list this evening.  If there are any Brooklyn races you know about but is not listed, please let me know.



03 January 2018

MY I.T. TOOLBOX, NOW AND BACK THEN

When I first started in the Information Technology business, MS-DOS was the standard interface.  Sure the Mac already came out but Microsoft was already the king of the hill and most businesses use DOS-based applications, clunky as they were.  The nice thing with working with MS-DOS was that I was able to walk around with a few floppy disks containing some tools of the trade.  I am sure I still have those disks in the attic somewhere, finding them is another story.  I wish I write this particular post sooner, as now my memory of those tools are vague.  For sure I know there was Norton Utilities.  Recall that this was the DOS era, command line stuff.  You can type some command (NU ?) to launch Norton Utilities with a quasi-graphical interface, kinda like two Windows Explorer window so you can copy things left to right or vice versa, among other things that at the time would take many kludgy commands to execute.  However, you can also type some two-characters commands to do a bunch of other wonderful things.  I think it was TS (text search?) to scan through the entire 20-megabyte hard drive (whoa!) to find a certain series of characters.  Some other commands allow changing the date of a file, something that couldn't be done before!  Outside of the Norton Util bundle I recall two other commands.  BAC from Byte Magazine (or was it PC Magazine?) lets me backup files from the hard drive to multiple floppy disks.  The program would pause to wait for a new, empty floppy disk when one is full.  The other was some kind of print screen command.  Maybe it was one of those Terminate-and-Stay-Resident thingy that lives in RAM and comes to the foreground when you press certain key sequences.  Sheesh, I really forgot much of this stuff, not that they are needed any more, just something from a simpler time.

The toolbox for my current work are mostly hardware.  Sure I have access to some network drives where there are certain scripts or utilities but I think of them separately.  As I go from sites to sites, or projects to projects, to setup new computers, printers, etc I find it very helpful to have the following items handy.

Wireless service is nice but when it comes to imaging of computers via pulling files over the network, a physical Ethernet cable is still needed.  From time to time, I would need to borrow some existing computer's network connection to do my work.  On more than one occasion, it was much easier to disconnect the cable from the lender computer, snap it to a Ethernet coupler, connect the other end of the coupler to the computer I need to build.  The alternative would be try to trace the cable back to some jack that may require moving tons of stuff.  Back when Internet access involved dial-up service over regular phone lines, I used to have a few couplers for telephone cables.  Same idea with Ethernet couplers.  I got mine from Micro Computers in Queens, NY on Kissena Boulevard but they can be bought in most stores catering to technicians, so I would rule out Best Buy and such, unless you go through their web site.

If I have my way, I wouldn't need to drive to my work sites.  All my work sites would be reachable by NYC subway, or maybe even by PATH trains, so I wouldn't have to deal with traffic jam, parking, and other drivers.  But the nice thing with driving is I can keep in the car a bunch of things that I might need for work.  Like network cables, VGA cables, DP-to-VGA adapter, power cables, printer USB cables, etc.  I even have a keyboard with a PS/2 connection.  There was a time when the computer image I used did not have the proper driver loaded and mouse or keyboard connected via USB wouldn't be recognized.  Luckily the computer had a PS/2 connection and I was able to make it work with the PS/2 keyboard I keep in the car.  Sometimes old technology works better than the new ones!

Last but not least, attached to the lanyard that holds my work ID I have a pair of screwdrivers, Philip and slot.  They are useful most of the times, but occasionally I need to use something like the Eclipse Enterprise 20-in-1 Telescoping Magnetic Screwdriver, http://www.microcenter.com/product/206265/20-in-1_Telescoping_Magnetic_Screwdriver .  Call me Inspector Gadget if you wish, but I like to be prepared.  There's only so much MacGyvering one can do, in real life anyway.

02 January 2018

HEY GOOGLE

This evening I just started watching the old Arnold Schwarzenegger mover The Running Man.  Funny thing is I noticed from the text scroll in the very beginning of the movie says the story happened in 2017.  Just last year, in real life!  We certainly had some weird political events last year but thankfully no reality TV show that features someone running for their life.  Not last year anyway but who knows what is coming out this year or the next.

Something else that I noticed was that in one scene upon returning to her apartment a woman spoke to the "computer" to have the lights turned on, coffee machine start brewing, and the TV set to a certain channel.  Hello, Alexa!  Or Siri, or Google!

A Google Home Mini recently invaded my home and I've played a bit with it. Back when Siri first came out, I still had some non-iPhone and sorta wished I had one.  When I actually owned an iPhone, I barely used Siri.  With Google Home, I already played around with these commands and questions:

  • Who let the dogs out?
  • Who shot J.R.?
  • Why is the sky blue?
  • Play music from the 1980s
  • Good morning
  • What is being played at United Artist Sheepshead Bay?
  • Open the pod bay door
  • Sing Happy Birthday
  • Sing Old MacDonald
  • Sing the United States National Anthem (no dice there, I would need to subscribe to some music service)
I like the gadget.  Sometimes I wish "she" would somehow know the question is silly and be wisecrack about it instead of giving the scientific answer.  It's a great speaker too.