26 June 2014


Today is the last day of school for my son at the Bay Academy, a Middle School, which covers grades six through eight.  When I was in grades six through eight, the school type was Junior High School.  I first learned about the term "Middle School" when I read some Junie B Jones books while volunteering for Everybody Wins!  Power Lunch.  It seems like yesterday that Son started Middle School, but it's been three years.  I am sure Son has many memories of his own of the Bay Academy experience, but here are some my aging brain can recall.

Starting with Middle School, my son for the first time had to take school bus to get to school.  Before that, I mostly walked him to school and dropped him off at the school door.  Near the beginning, through some bad calculation, he was directed to go to a bus stop further away.  It was the first stop of the bus route.  Luckily, I found out the same week and found the second stop, mere blocks from our home.  The bus was mostly reliable but a few times it never showed up, or came really late.  I had to rush home and come back with the minivan and fill up the car with whichever kids wanted to come along.

The bus route used to be serpentine, turning here and there to pick up kids in different areas.  Once or twice I "raced" the bus and won.  It was an unfair race since I took the most direct route whereas the bus had to go all over to all the dispersed stops.  In later years, the school had enough funding for more buses and my son's bus went straight to school from his stop, so no more racing.

I really wanted my son to know the subway system better and embrace it.  I love public transportation, warts and all.  The perfect chance came along when there was a strike of school bus drivers.  In the beginning, I rode the subway with son then ran back home.  Next step was to ride in a different subway car from his.  Lastly, he rode by himself altogether and just called home after he got to school.  He still hated the subway, for all the waiting and standing etc but at least he knew how to get to school and back.

With the school not within walking distance, I only attended a few PTA meetings and such.  I don't remember what the occasion but one time I parked on the street parallel to Emmons Avenue by the Belt Parkway and got a freaking ticket!  Emmons Avenue is the commercial strip in the area so the next street over had parking meters that stay in effect until 10 PM or whatever.  What a robbery!

Maybe thanks to my period of unemployment, I was able to help chaperone two trips, first one to the Discovery Center in Times Square for the Bodies exhibit and one more recently to the New York Stock Exchange.  I also helped the PTA with its monthly bake sale.  The kids bought snacks as if there was no tomorrow!

I do run to the area of Bay Academy every now and then.  The foot-bridge over Sheepshead Bay is one of my favorites.  I probably continue to visit the area every now and then and let my son know about any changes.

07 April 2014


Here's something for Top-Of-The-Arch!!!  At first I thought the number eleven in the middle of the word is unnecessary, but then I realized it does belong there.  Seriously, wouldn't HOC77KEY be better?  Or maybe even HOCLJKEY ?  Do you know what I'm driving at?

30 March 2014


I love exploring different parts of New York City, especially places that are not too well known, places that are out of the way, in the middle of nowhere.  Some time ago I heard about the Red Hook Crit, a bike race in the Cruise Ship Terminal in Red Hook.  It was advertised as an unsanctioned race.  I misinterpreted "unsanctioned" as meaning it was an illegal race, like drag-racing on the street or squatting in an abandoned building.  It may have started that way, but nowadays "unsanctioned" really means the bike race is not recognized by some authority group of the cycling world.  I am not much of a competitive cyclist so I don't have too much interest in the event, other than that it's out of the way and is held at night, which is in stark contrast to the NYRR foot races of Central Park.  The Crit these days also have 5K races, one for men and one for women.  Now that's something I can get excited about!

Last year when I finally made some trips to Red Hook, to visit Fairway and Steve's Key Lime Pie, I drove past the Cruise Ship Terminal but there doesn't seem to be a way to get inside, at least not without raising suspicion from the authority.  I want to see what it's like inside, but it seems I would have to book a cruise trip to do so.  Money is tight, so the next best thing was to volunteer for the event.  I signed up to be course marshal for the 5K races, which was scheduled from 6 pm to 8:30 pm.

The day of the event it rained all day, at times heavily.  The foot races were re-scheduled to happen after the bike race.  I saw the notice but didn't interpret it correctly and arrived too early, with some time to kill.  I got to see more of the area and part of the bike race.  I took some photos of the track before the race started then recorded a short clip of the men's bikes as they zoomed by.  I was a bit lost as to where on the course I would be but was eventually given a vest and a flag and stationed near the Terminal Building.  My job was to keep people off the course and, if needed, guide the runners, but it was a looped course so the runners quickly knew where to go.  Most stayed closed to the curb on their left, to hug the curve when they had to turn 180° around.  There was only one guy who ran onto the course with a bottle to cheer his girl, perhaps.  As I approached him, a security guard already shouted to him to get off the course.

I can now cross the Cruise Ship Terminal off my exploration map. I plan to re-visit the area during the day another day to see the place without all the track hardware.

Welcome To Brooklyn.

The Women's Crit.

It is natural for Fairway to be a sponsor of the event.

Ass Savers!  For $5, you could have these Ass Savers "raincoat", just a rectangular sheet with a hole cut-out for the face to stick out, it looked kinda ridiculous.

28 March 2014


I first found out about the actor Alan Alda from playing TV Guide crossword puzzles.  "ALDA" makes a perfect entry for crossword puzzle.  It was back in the 80s so eventually, even without regularly watching the TV show M*A*S*H, I found out a little more about Mr. Alda.  Not much really, just that he played the character Hawkeye on the TV show.  Years later I also learned that the TV show lasted many years longer than the war that it portrayed, namely the Korean War.  But that's it, I didn't know anything else about Mr. Alda.

One day at the public library I came across Mr. Alda's book, "Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself".  It sounded like a funny thing, as someone I know often joked that talking to oneself is great, all the questions are appropriate and all the answers are correct.  Unfortunately for the Alda book, I just finished a bio by Carol Burnett.  The Burnett book was full of short humorous chapters whereas the Alda book had many long chapters.  Lots of background stories, mostly having to do with Mr. Alda's initial troubles coming up with the proper commencement speech.  It took me a long time to finish the Alda book and I didn't enjoy it.  Months later, I took another shot at Mr. Alda's books, this time it was "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed And Other Things I've Learned", in audiobook format.  Having the CD player doing the reading helped, not that the stories are not interesting.  I cannot recall much about the "Overheard" book, but I think it's mostly about Mr. Alda's adult life, with many speeches delivered to students etc after he was already famous.  "Stuffed", on the other hand, chronicles his childhood, then his early days going into show business on his own, M*A*S*H, Scientific American show, even his near-death experience in South America.  Early in the book we learned that when his first pet died, a taxidermist sorta brought it back to life, but it looked so different, even menacing, that it was worse to see the dead dog.  Near the end, Mr. Alda used that story in a commencement speech to illustrate things that cannot be replaced.  In-between there were many stories related to his mother's battle with mental illness and his days in the military, betting in horse-races, and my favorite, his pre-fame days of scraping together a living.

I am a frugal person so I easily identify with Mr. Alda's stories about his early days as a newly-wed, with a child or two, trying to make a living in New York City.  My father drove the taxi for many years, and so did Mr. Alda, many years earlier.  He quickly learned how dangerous it was, never know who would be a real passenger or a robber.  My late father occasionally fell victim to the grab-and-run types, or the farebeaters, and it always ruined his day.  At audition, Mr. Alda supposedly can do anything, have any skills required.  When it comes to height, he even asked what was the requirements, as if he can adjust his height to fit the role.  My favorite story of all is about his need to buy a new pair of pants, after he had a comfortable income.  He told his wife that he would go buy one, as if the cost of the pants would affect the family's meal plan for the week.  Old habits die hard, I suppose.

Mr. Alda had a chapter devoted to celebrity-worshipping.  He correctly stated that the whole thing makes no sense.  Just because someone is famous for one thing doesn't mean much in other aspects of life.  But people are crazy about celebrity and want to take advice from them.  Taking Mr. Alda's words, I suppose if we ever meet in real life, I should just say hi and move on.

15 March 2014


Dedicated to all the volunteer corral marshals at foot races.  I can draw better with pencils or dry-erase markers, but this was done in Draw Something 2 on an iPhone, literally fat-fingered.  The four drawings were then assembled into frames via Comic Life 2 on the Mac, with text added.

14 March 2014


Happy Pi Day, math-lovers!  Pi, symbolically known as π, is the special value 3.14159 yada yada yada, much used in math.  It is defined as the ratio of the circumference to the diameter.  The circumference of a circle is just the perimeter, i.e. that length of the line that goes around the circle.  Diameter is that constant distant between any two opposing points on the circle.  The number is unique and goes on forever without repeating.  Some people memorize it to many decimal places.  I fancy myself an engineer and only care about it for practical purpose, so 3.14 would do, 3.14159 is even better, but that's where I draw the line.

This morning when I went for a run I drew a different kind of line, thanks to my Garmin watch.  I like math and love running, but last year I was totally unaware of the approach of March 14, which in the U.S. and a few other places can be thought of as 314.  Like how we have 911 for September 11.  314, 3.14, Pi Day!  This year I planned for Pi Day and ran 3.14 km with the route showing the π symbol.  I didn't have a lot of time so I just ran within a few blocks, repeating the route a few times before completing the symbol.  I usually measure my runs in km so 3.14 km worked fine.  3.14 miles would take more time, which I don't have in these pre-dawn runs on a school day.

Happy Pi Day!  Maybe next year Rebecca Black will have a song about it...


08 March 2014


"Nhất Cử Lưỡng Tiện" is the Vietnamese phrase meaning "Lifting one hand to do two convenient things", or something like that.  I am not a big fan of multitasking but I do think of it from times to times.  So I run a lot and thought that maybe I can put my love of running to help some shelter dogs with their daily walks.  I actually registered through New York Cares to work with BARC but the date didn't work out and I had to withdraw.  Some weeks later I learned about Sean Casey Animal Rescue (SCAR) through my track club's Facebook page.  What's better with SCAR, 39th Street location, is that it's a bit closer to me.  I was able to help SCAR walk their dogs twice already.  The first time I had three separate dogs, the first two were very excited and didn't like to be leashed.  A few times they turned around to bite the leash, the second dog even gripped my coat sleeve for a while.  And they sure ran fast!  I couldn't keep up with them and had to rein them back.  Which only made them more upset!  The third dog was more mellow and just slowly sniffed its way around.  Yes, all three dogs did their doggy business and I proudly cleaned up after them.  It helped that I did diaper duty when my son was a baby.

Today I came back to walk dogs again.  My son and nephew came along to pet the furry friend.  They also helped take photos, which helped because SCAR rules state that the dogs must be held by the leash all the time so it would be really difficult to take a photo and have a good grip on the animal.  Also, by rules the dogs are to be kept away from other dogs, which is too bad because they sure love to interact with each other.  Each time I spot another dog nearby I had to hold the SCAR dog back or steer it to another spot.  Good thing I have no plan to use the SCAR dogs to meet women.  I'm only doing out of the goodness of my heart.

SCAR has two locations, 551 39th Street, and 153 East 3rd Street, both in Brooklyn.  I haven't been to the East 3rd Street location but was told that the dogs there are smaller.  You don't have to be a runner to help walk the dogs.  You just need to be strong enough to hold them in check.  Most of the times the dogs just like to sniff around slowly.  The times that the dogs trotted it may have been me who started the run.  Of course you have to be able to clean up after them.  Just be sure to get a pair of gloves from SCAR and lots of plastic bags.  Donate your time or donate money, whichever you can afford, or both.  Even better, adopt a dog or whatever animal that you may like.  I am not in a position to adopt a dog but maybe you are!

Charlie likes milk-bone treats.

Unnamed dog was easy to handle, I took her to nearby Sunset Park.