25 February 2015


Would it not be nice if you can make some money from all those hours you spend on Candy Crush and its ilks?  Well, you cannot, or at least I don't know that, but there is a group of apps, under the mPoints umbrella, that can actually make you some money.  Note that I did not say the apps will make you rich.  If there is one, I don't know yet.  But these mPoints apps can make you, say, $5 every few weeks.

I first learned about the mPoints network while playing What's The Phrase.  The game is sorta like Wheel of Fortune, where you take turn guessing letters of a phrase and solve it.  Let's say you play a game with someone and lost so you started a new game.  The action earns you a few points.  You play some more games and guess the correct phrase with just a few letters revealed.  That is called a Dedicated Achievement and earn you even more points.  Just opening the app at least once a day gets you 5 points.  You get the idea.  Just using the app as you normally would and you get points that accumulate toward different rewards.  I mostly go for $5 or $10 Amazon gift cards but if you have the patience you can save enough for Chromecast and other high-point items.

Next I started using Challenges, which tracks distance one covers on foot etc.  For me, it's basically a GPS tracker to help me log kilometers as I run or walk.  The app also supports an honor system whereby you can enter manually distance you walk or run etc.  I'm too lazy for that and rather just use the apps outdoor and let the gyroscope do the calculation.  As you may have guessed, yes you earn points for open the app at least once a day but you also get extra points for greater time duration.  For example, running 30 minutes get some points but logging an hour gets you even more.  Other Achievements include working out in the early hours, on the weekends, x days in a row.  Just use it and you get points.

While Challenges offer many activities to choose from, I use mostly Running, Walking, and Cycling.  Sometimes having too many choices turn you off, if that's the case you can use Pedometer by Runtastic.  Pedometer only records walking and is great for using indoor.  You can just hold the phone in your hand and swing it around to simulate motion but of course you would only deprive yourself the exercise of walking.

Crackle is another mPoints app that I use, although not as frequently as I want.  You basically watch movies and TV shows with Crackle to earn points.  You end up investing more time, at least 20+ minutes with shows and upward of an hour and a half with movies.  Yes, shows and movies have ads wedged into them so your watching experience is interrupted, but it is a small price to do things legit.

All mPoints apps have the check-in functions whereby you can log your presence near stores and such on a map to earn points.  Some businesses offer more points than others, so sometimes I would plan my exercise runs to pass by the high-point places.  I suppose the app's goal is to get you to patronize the business but you don't have to.  Right in my house I can log into a Rite Aid and a 7 Eleven every hours until the daily limit is reached.  Sure I buy stuff from them as needed, but you don't have to buy anything each time you check-in.

The check-in function must be popular enough so that mPoints spin it into its own apps, mPlaces.  mPlaces doesn't do anything too useful other than let you check-in.  Sure it provides a map that may be able to help if you are lost, but the whole point of mPlaces is checking-in.  Unlike the old check-in that limits 15 visits per day, mPlaces allow up to 25 visits.  There are also many ways to earn bonus points inside the app.  My favorites are the Challenges, whereby you need to visit certain locations as specified by the challenges.  For example, one past Sports Challenge required visiting a sports arena in addition to finding special coins that review certain sports ball.  I walked a little extra distance to visit Madison Square Garden but strangely it didn't register.  Luckily, before the Sports Challenge ended, I happened to be in St. Louis and was able to walk by Edward Jones Dome to clinch the challenge.  I love walking around in new places so mPlaces along with either Challenges or Pedometer do me much good.  If you drive though, mPlaces is smart enough to not allow you to check into places.  Good thing, we have enough distracted drivers as is.

Now go forth and earn some beer money with the various mPoints apps out there!


15 February 2015


At my current job, I travel frequently. Every time I pack for the trip, I am tempted to plan to not bring back some clothes, as a way of getting rid of excess clothes.  I don't buy clothes that often but I do inherit old ones from relatives and the collection grows slowly.  So far I only actually left behind only some socks that became unfit.  I also plan ahead and try to be a green traveler, by doing the following:

  • I bring along a stainless steel tumbler to drink water etc from.  If needed, I would also use it to hold water with tooth-brushing.  Starbucks has a bring-your-own although I have yet to participate.
  • Usually by the second day I would have a disposable cup from lunch to use with tooth-brushing.  The hotels provide cups, whether glass or plastic, but I'd rather re-use a disposable cups a few times.  One time I accidentally dropped a glass cup, ugh, all the more reason to re-purpose a cup from breakfast.
  • If the hotel provides silverware and the office has cereals, I would borrow a spoon to go with breakfast at work.
  • I take home all opened shampoo travel-sized bottles and unpacked bars of soaps for use at home.  I have a good stack of them to last for a while.
  • Whenever the option is there, I take mass transit to work, even though my employer provides a car for every trip.  Even when I have to get from the airport, with luggages, to the hotel.  It helps that I travel relatively light.  A weekly pass for the local subway, when used to get to the hotel, saves money from a taxi ride, which burns oil.
  • Most offices I visited have recycling bin for paper etc.  As I picked up free magazines or touristy pamphlets, I brought them to the office for recycling.
  • I always hang a Do-Not-Disturb sign and avoid having my room cleaned everyday.  I re-use the hotel towels for the entire stay, which is mostly one week long.  Another reason for the Do-Not-Disturb sign, "If it's yellow, let it mellow.  If it's brown, flush it down. " I have nothing more to say on the topic.

31 January 2015


Photo hard copies, it is a hard thing to make.  Some years ago I got some coupon from Target, I think, that I splurged on an hp photo printer.  It was painful then, it was still painful when I tried to use it a few weeks ago.  Nothing particular about the hp printer itself, just the process itself that was painful.  Personally I rarely need a hard copy of a photo, but I know some elderly people who still like to have photographs in hand.  So I dug out my hp photo printer but alas the photo papers that would go into it had warped somewhat.  The printer took seemingly forever to recognize the paper, then when it finally started to suck the paper and painfully laid the ink on it, suddenly it stopped.  Paper jam!  If it is not one thing, it is another!

I gave up with the idea of printing the photos myself.  There is a Rite Aid store just a block away, maybe I'll use it.  Then I recalled how painful it was the last time I tried to print at this Rite Aid.  My feeble memory didn't tell me exactly what was wrong with the experience, just that it was not fun.  I did recall I ended up printing at another Rite Aid a little further away.

Maybe I would try online printing with Rite Aid.  Why, they even had a sale, some discount for printing 30 or more photos.  So I dutifully upload the photos and added them to my cart, checked out, then... boom!  Just some cryptic error that didn't tell what was wrong.  It just didn't work.  It was already late at night, I gave up.

A few weeks later, I gave photo printing another shot.  A new Walgreen just opened across the street from my beloved {sarcasm} Rite Aid, I'll give that a try.  Uh, except it wanted 35¢ per print for immediate printing, or 32¢ for one-hour printing.  It was already 4ish, the store would close at 6 PM, I hate the idea of perhaps having to wait the next day.  Knowing the Rite Aid online offer was 19¢ per print convinced me that Walgreen, instant gratification be damned, is not for me.  So I headed back to Rite Aid, insert the USB stick, and wham, "No photos found!"  Maybe Walgreen's machine somehow wiped the photos off my USB stick?  I gave up.  I found out just now that the photos are there on the USB drive, something just went wrong at Rite Aid.

Enough of this nonsense, in the end I went with Snapfish.com.  It'll take a few days for it to arrive in the mail, but it was relatively painless.  I did have to ask to have my password reset, since it had been a while since I last printed with Snapfish.  No email ever arrived, maybe I put in the wrong email address, luckily I was able to correctly guessed my old password.  Oh well, help keep the United States Postal Services useful by printing photos with Snapfish and such.  I pity the average technophobe having to deal with all this headache.

01 January 2015


Happy New Year, Cyberspace!  I've meant to get back into blogging, today, New Year's Day, is the perfect time.  Of course, it has to do with New Year Resolutions.  As an honest blogger, I already clearly pointed out, in the title, that some of these goals are far-fetched.  The far-fetched ones will be denoted with FF.  Here we go!

  • Back to blogging!  Hopefully this blog post is the start of a long streak.
  • Lose twenty pounds.  Work, bad eating habits, etc got me back at 200 pounds. I need to lose the extra weight for the Long Island Marathon in May anyway.
  • Borrowing a page from Jonathan Coulton, I want to try his Thing A Week.  No, I cannot write songs or play instrument, but once a week I'll do something artistic.  In my book, that would include comics, caricature, animation, origami, GPS art, haiku, limerick, Cubeecraft, etc.  FF
  • Among the Thing A Week project will be a Where's Waldo large drawing featuring any Facebook friends who agree to be drawn.  FF
  • Scan a few complete yearbooks for my high school.  FF
  • Get more uncluttered.  FF
  • Find a more permanent job.  This current one will end, supposedly, end of the month March.
  • Be more connected with people in real life or outside of Facebook.
  • Learn to play the harmonica, via YouTube videos.  FF
  • Learn Spanish AND get better with the Mandarin Chinese, via podcasts, movies, and newspapers.  FF

That's it!  Let's see if any of these goals will be completed by Jan 1, 2016.

12 November 2014


In my family, I am not The Traveler, that is the one family member who travels all over the world, to all the fun or interesting places, for leisure.  However, with my current job, I did get to travel to a few places to work.  Work is, well, work, with the 9-to-5 or something along that line, but usually in the evening I get to enjoy the city/town a little bit.  On occasions, I stay over the weekend and get to appreciate local culture in a more leisurely way.  I started to work-travel back in August and meant to blog about the experience but life got in the way.  Without much further ado, here are the Things I Noticed in Washington D.C., with no research whatsoever on the topics:

  • There are road-runners in all times of day, I love it!  I do work about 9 hours during the day, but on those occasions I went out for lunch, or walk back to or from the hotel, or early in the morning when I myself go for a run, I would see runners.  Good for ya, D.C.!
  • Bike-share is alive in D.C.  $7 gets you a day pass that include free 30-minute rides.  I haven't tried it yet but I worry that it's like NYC, where at certain time it's impossible to find an empty dock to return the bike, or every bike taken out.  During an evening rush, I did notice a few stations with available bikes, so maybe it's not as bad.
  • Cycling is popular!  In the Metro Center area that I frequent, I don't see that many bike lanes, definitely no protected lanes, where the lane is between sidewalk and a parking lane, so cycling is not as well supported as in New York City, but it sure is popular.  I noticed bike racks outside many building, people riding bikes home during evening rush hour.
  • The bike-share map shows certain areas in Downtown as off-limit to sidewalk-riding.  What?  Does that mean riding on the sidewalk is allowed elsewhere?  That seems to be the case, as I saw many people riding on the sidewalk.  Most sidewalks are wide so it's not a problem, but it's something I shudder, as I'm a law-abiding cyclist when it comes to sidewalk-riding, as prohibited in NYC.
  • Like many big cities, there are homeless people on the street in many places.  I arrived in D.C. at night, during the taxi ride to the hotel I couldn't help seeing people sleeping in bus shelter and in public parks.  Sad.
  •  It's a given that there are museums everywhere in D.C., but I also noticed that associations and groups are all over too.  I suppose chances are your groups need to convince the politicians to support your cause by passing laws so might well be in physical proximity to the legislators.
  • I didn't like the non-rectangular streets of Boston and incorrectly thought D.C. would be worse.  While there are those diagonal avenues, there is some kind of a grid with the numbered streets and the lettered streets, at least in the northwest area that I stay at.
  • The motorists I crossed paths the past few days are pretty nice compared to others I know.  They yield to pedestrians!  I haven't heard any angry honking either.  Maybe I just need to walk in rush-hour traffic more?  I do obey traffic signals for pedestrians, so maybe that helped.
I have a few more days, maybe all this will change, maybe I will share more observations, definitely some photos is in order.

01 September 2014


With my current work hours of 8 AM to 5 PM, I have a very small window to run early in the morning.  As such the runs are shorter and limited to the streets closer to home.  In recent weeks, I was away in Boston for work then just had a week in the Lincoln, New Hampshire area for leisure.  While I had a few runs in both places, I should have resumed running once I got back but I got lazy, until today.  I got up late, past 9 AM, the weather was already hot, but it had to be done.  I got to re-visit some old places in my neighborhood of Bath Beach to see what's up with them.

Contrary to what a neighbor and Facebook friend told me, the waterfront area of Calvert Vaux Park is not open to the public yet.  At one time the fence's gate was knocked down, supposedly large enough for pedestrians but unwelcome to vehicles.  The fence is up again and the sign reminds the reader that soil contamination is in progress, enter only if authorized.
If you really have to get into the waterfront area of Calvert Vaux Park, there is another breach in the fence.  There is a beaten path right inside the fence so others have trespassed.  I'll stick to iTrespassing, not the physical type.
More welcoming is the Brookyn Bay Center, that area around the upcoming B.J.'s Wholesale Club on Shore Road.  No one was around and there was no gate whatsoever so I took a stroll to the new waterfront area behind BJ.
Not much of a running route but it adds maybe a kilometer to the waterfront area.  I am sure the place will be packed once the wholesale club opens in a few weeks.
Front behind BJ, one can see the Verrazano Bridge in the distance, Staten Island on the left and Brooklyn on the right.  The tall buildings near the bridge on the Brooklyn side is the Veteran Administration Building near Fort Hamilton.  The white building on the right, close to the foreground, is the side of Kohl's in Caesar's Bay.
I thought of running to the foot-bridge near 17th Avenue but it got hot so I turned at Bay Parkway.  I noticed that Vitamin Shoppe will take place of the old HSBC building.  Somehow HSBC never made it back after Hurricane Sandy.
This gyro place used to be called Olive Garden when it first open.  The real Olive Garden probably had some lawyers visited them and now the name is different.  Note the different patches of green on the awning.

03 August 2014


What do most people think about before a trip to somewhere that they would be at for a few weeks, whether on business or for leisure?  What to do, things to see, right?  Well, in the case of business, I suppose they'll think of places to unwind.  I have a slightly different set of things to think about, such as

  1. Hope I will have time to keep up with my exercise routine, mostly running and walking.  Will there be a nice waterfront place safe enough to run early in the morning or late in the evening?  The only down side is I'll have to bring a extra pair of shoes (running shoes, that is) and some running clothes.  Work will be hectic, hope I'll have the time to do some walking after lunch as usual.  I might even sign up for a 5K foot race!
  2. Make sure to bring along my stainless steel coffee container.  Where I work the cafeteria gives a discount to encourage customers to bring their own drink containers, to reduce the use of paper or plastic cups.  Where I am going I am not sure if the incentive exists, but I'm sure there will be a water cooler.  I'll have my reusable cup with me on trips from now on.
  3. Will there be an event I can volunteer at?  Whether it's a foot race or a soup kitchen, I think volunteering is a nice way to see the local neighborhoods in a  different angle.  Maybe I'll find an animal shelter and help walk some dogs!
  4. Will there be a public library where I'm going?  I don't plan to pay the fee to use as a visitor, but it'll be nice to just sit down and relax with a book or a magazine.
Do you have any unusual thoughts before visiting a new place for an extensive stay?