29 November 2015


Recently I found out belatedly that, back in September, there was a Car-Free Day.  Or something to that extent.  Maybe it was Use-The-Car-As-Little-As-Possible Day.  Might as well that I didn't know about it, because with my current job I wouldn't be able to participate anyway.

In all my years of holding a job, I was lucky to be able to do so with taking public transportation, mostly.  Sure, going to Jersey City tacked on at least an additional 25 minutes, or more when the PATH misbehaves, but still I didn't have to watch out for other drivers or look for parking once I got to work.  Nowadays I spent at least 2.5 hours on the road, that's just getting to work and back.  Some days I may have to visit three different client sites, no fun.  Driving itself is tiresome but parking is not much better.  I used to think that only busy areas like Midtown Manhattan, or maybe the entire Manhattan, and some commercial districts, have severe problems with parking.  But no, you can be out in the boondocks of western Long Island and there is still a shortage of parking space.  Over the few months that I've been a car-commuting worker, I came up with a few workarounds to soften the blow.  Mostly with driving, parking not so much.

  • Don't stick to just one route.  Easy said than done in some scenarios, but always worthwhile to explore.  I used to think the Cross Island Parkway is a great alternative to the Van Wyck Expressway, northbound anyway, because I took the CIP occasionally on weekends.  Now that I need it during rush hours, fuhgeddaboutit!  Even as early as 6 A.M. there would be cars heading to the Bronx via the CIP.  It took me many tries but eventually I found a great local route that mostly runs along the CIP and not have to deal with the lousy traffic.  It may not be faster but it sure is headache-free.
  • Let technology work for you.  It can be low-tech like the radio and its traffic report, or high-tech like Google Map and Waze.  I get a great kick out of knowing ahead where the traffic jam ends and re-enter the highway just beyond the jam.  It does not always work, but it's a wonderful feeling when it does.
  • Along the same note, use technology to find alternate routes.  The new route does not have to replace the old one completely, just to avoid some sucky section is good enough.  I used to hate the part of the Conduit Avenue North around 135th Avenue or 140th Street where the right lane forces a right turn.  One day I decided to see where the right turn would lead me and lo and behold while you'll be a bit off-target from your destination traffic is much better than going through the busy intersection of the Van Wyck and the Belt.  While some days I don't mind going slowly with traffic while my favorite podcast is on, most of the time I just want to quickly be done with the car trip.  Having the optimal route is the way to get that done soonest.
  • I don't know how I used to do it with paper maps but turn-by-turn driving direction is a wonderful thing.  Especially when you go to an unfamiliar destination.  Most of the time the street signs are tiny and useless.  By the time you read what it says, with the jerk behind you honking madly, you already missed the turn and have to somehow loop back.  Note that I didn't say make a U-turn.  I absolutely hate it when drivers make a U-turn on a narrow street.
  • Remember I said for parking I found no solace?  It's a matter of luck.  Or if you don't mind making crazy U-turns.  One thing I found out is, if you are like me and not mind walking long distances, sometimes there are residential area near your destination that you can park at.  Of course I've come across some towns that have local regulations forbidding street parking, like between 9 AM and 6 PM, but most of the time free parking can be had a few blocks away.  Again, you can use Google Maps or the like to scope out the area before you get there.  Usually an overhead view of the area is enough for me, but maybe you can go full-blown and use Street Maps and such.
I am no Traffic Sam, as I know just a tiny portion of the big NYC metro, but if any of these tips help someone saves a little time or a few drops of gasoline, then I am happy.

18 October 2015


Welcome to Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, the two neighborhoods I recently added to my Brooklyn GPS map.  The map really needs to be expanded to include other neighborhoods but work has kept me busy.  I know, I know, Manhattan Beach still does not have its beach and Bath Beach should be further to the west.  So many nabes, so little time.

I must note that Bay Ridge was somewhat challenging in that its east-west streets are wider than the north-south ones.  I ended up using lots of iTrespassing to make the lowercase letters half-a-block wide.  It was a decision I made while out running.  In the planning stage, I was going to use the entire block's width, thus would not have enough width to spell Ridge, so I started the e in Dyker Heights and it unfortunately overlaps the D in Dyker.  Another word to re-write some day perhaps...

30 August 2015


I love running and already explored different areas of the sports.  I've run various distances from 5K to full marathon.  I volunteered/worked as course marshal, lead cyclist, water station staff, bag-checker, photographer, etc.  Something new I'm about to get into is pacing, that is, running a race at a specific pace holding a corresponding sign so that other runners of that pace can follow.  Or pass me if they choose to.  My first pacing race will be the Run and Ride Half Marathon at Dorney Park, http://www.runandriderace.com/#!dorneyparkhalf/c24p1 .  The company that coordinate pacers and race organizers is Beast Pacing, http://beastpacing.com .  I love encouraging runners so I really look forward to the race.  I just hope they don't run with headphones so that my words of encouragement won't go to waste.  I myself don't run with headphones whatsoever.  Here's to Beast Pacing!

The images are made from two route arts, from my morning runs yesterday (Saturday Aug 29) and today (Sunday Aug 30), digitally combined.

22 August 2015


Having a job is nice but being at work 9 hours a day plus 2+ hours driving back and forth and you then don't have time for fun things, like running and tracing out words that represent the locale.  Even with some new pairs of running shoes to test out I didn't add any new neighborhoods to my GPS Brooklyn map.  I finally got around to putting on a new pair of Kismet Core Pop from Newton Running and made the "Manhttn" map below, for the neighborhood of "Manhattan Beach".  I know, a few vowels are missing but I really did not have much width and height to work with.  Hampton Avenue only runs so far east.  While I can go as far as the gate of Brooklyn Community College, I wouldn't have the necessary two-avenue height to make the t's stand out.  Using artistic license and dropping the a's is the way to go.  Sorry, Manhattan.

For work, I drive by the area everyday, via the Belt Parkway, so one of these days I'll just stop by and spell the shorter version of Beach, namely "Bch".  Yeah, I know the neighborhood border on the west is West End Avenue.  In planning the route, I realized that if I stick to that, the second t would not have room to display its horizontal stroke.  So invade Brighton Beach, at Corbin Place, I did.

25 July 2015


After a two-hour car drive in yucky NYC traffic to go from the Coney Island area to the High Bridge Celebration, I felt pretty lousy.  The festival was good but since I just visited the area a few weeks back for the High Bridge 5K Trail Race, it was not as big a novelty as it could be.  The long car drive didn't help.  I salvaged the day by completing my push to put Brighton Beach, Brooklyn on my map.

It was quite a challenge to add the Beach to the seaside town.  There was not much vertical room to work so I had to use the beach area.  In the beginning, I walked with my running shoes but after a while I decided to blend in by walking barefoot.  As a bonus, I was able to walk right into the lapping waves, aaahhh.  Note that not only I didn't have much vertical space to maneuver in, because of construction, the Boardwalk ends at Coney Island Avenue, where the h is.  I spelled backward from the h and used MapMyRun's on-screen path to make sure I have enough space between the letters. Everything went well until B, which turned out to have too small a belly.  Oh well, it's a busty B, or maybe it's just upside down.

Speaking of Brighton Beach memories, here is what used to be "my" first home in the U.S.  This is the corner of Brighton 1 Street and Neptune Avenue.  Neptune runs left to right whereas Brighton 1 is where the five cars point to.  The road used to be one-way the other way.  My first night in the U.S. was spent in a house that would be where where the white car (fourth in the line) is.  Oh well, the price of commercialism.  Maybe someday when I become rich and famous I can buy the new building to knock it back down and rebuild the old home from a photo my #1 Blog Fan has.

22 July 2015


The past two days were hot and humid.  I didn't get up early enough to beat the heat, i.e. run at 5 AM or so.  Today I made up by running "Brighton", as in Brighton Beach.  I didn't like the fact that the area is small, with few large rectangular blocks to work with.  I thought of skipping it but then Eugene Morris Jerome may be upset.  My first night in the U.S. some 30+ years ago, I did sleep in a house in the area.  It belonged to an uncle but he has moved away since then.  The new owner knocked down the house, along with a few adjacent ones, and a big building is being constructed on the lot.

I knew that the area has these mouthful Brighton 1 Street and 2 Street etc but did not know about all the alleys that in other parts of town would just remain nameless.  There were Brighton 5 Walk, Brighton 5 Court, Brighton 1 Path, etc.  Most of these so-called streets are narrow and are mere empty space between two houses.  It is nice to have them nonetheless although I would not use them late at night.

T-intersection of Brighton 1 Path, which continues to the right of the tree, and Brighton 1 Walk, which runs from the foreground of the photo to the background.

Brighton 5 Court, which simply connects Brighton 5 Street to Brighton 6 Street.  It is relatively wide compared to other  named alleys in the area.  I recall one really narrow alley with overgrown weed and three or four guys sitting in the middle of the road.  Mugger paradise!