28 November 2009

Let's Get Physical

It is a beautiful day in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, New York. About 55° F (or 12°C), us New Yorkers don't complain and try to have some outdoor activities. I started the day with a jog along the Belt Parkway totaling about 5K, with Leo Laporte of This Week In Tech pitching $3 toasters via the ear buds. Foot muscles a bit sore, but I feel good and alert since the exercise. I've been exercising regularly since September, mere months ago. Checking back through old Blogger posts, the last time I tried to exercise regularly was in late 2006. Wow, three years ago! The arrangement was similar to what I do now - get up early in the morning, go jogging, come home, take son to school then shower and off to work. That time, however, at some point the weather got too cold and I stopped jogging altogether. Then spring rolled around but I didn't resume, until three years later. This time I have a GoogleDoc spreadsheet to keep track of the progress as well as social networks like Facebook to post news about the endeavor. It really helps to hear encouraging words from my Facebookies (that's my way of referring to Facebook friends.) Besides support from friends, what does it take to keep the momentum going? Here's how I do it, in no particular order.

Keep it simple. I used to have the need to change into "jogging clothes". Sweatpants, sweatshirt, headband, music player, etc. Too much work! As I usually jog in the morning, I wear the same clothes I l slept in - it'll get all sweaty so it cannot be any worse. I do have to change the pants to something that have pockets to hold house keys, some money, and a piece of ID. I do have music to listen to along the way but I use my cell phone for that. Just listening via the phone's speaker saves me the time to find a headphone. I jog in the morning before going to work so there is a very small window of opportunity to get ready and be out of the house. The longer I linger in the house the more likelihood I will change my mind. On weekends, when things are less hectic, I do use an iPod with earbuds.

Keep it short, "it" being the distance between your house and the place you want to around. I usually run around some playground/park and usually go to the one that is closest to my house. The sooner you can start the exercise the better.

Keep track of the effort. I use a GoogleDoc spreadsheet, but anything would do, really. Perhaps you are a pen-and-paper person - then just dedicate a notebook, sort like a diary, to record the date you made the run, the distance covered, perhaps location if you want to exercise at different places for changes of scenery. I am sure there are some iPhone apps to help record the info.

Keep track of the kilograms. If your goal is to shred some weight, in the same tracking document, record your weight periodically. It may be disheartening to learn that you only lose 2 kg after 2 months of exercise, but deal with it. No pain no gain, really.

Keep track of the distance. I would love to run around a sports track but there are none around where I live. The typical track length is 1/4 of a mile or 400m. A pedometer is probably the best way to record your effort, but that means one more thing to remember to bring and goes against my idea of keeping things simple. For me, Google Earth works fine. The software is free from Google and is available for both Mac and Windows.

Keep it up! Getting up at 5:30 AM is a big challenge for me but I managed to pull it off most of the times. There was days when I got pulled back by the warm bed and blanket. It really helps to have friends, physical of Facesical (that's another word I conjured up to mean someone you know not in real life but via Facebook only), to encourage you to continue. Share your daily or bi-daily exploits, perhaps even get others to join in your effort.

Good luck with your exercise program! We have only one body to live in, let's take good care of it!

26 November 2009

Childhood Innocence

A few years ago, probably when my son was in first grade, I took a little time off from the work day to attend a book fair at his school. Scholastic brought in a bunch of books and toys to the school and the classes got to spend some time browsing the merchandise. The fair was a small area of the school so any kids who did not have money would sit to the side while others walk about the fair. My son was among the kids sitting on the side. I deemed him too young to carry money, that was why I showed up at the school to pay for the books. He greeted me but stayed with his classmates to the side. I asked him if he wanted to buy books and he truthfully answered "But I don't have any money" and that was it. I had to point out to him that was why I visited the school at the time of the book fair, that I would pay for the books. Only then did he get up, all excited, and picked some books.

Fast forward to 2009. This past week there was another book fair - it is probably a good fund-raiser as the school seems to have them regularly. Weeks before the event son would ask for money to buy books. When I gave him $10 he even brought along $5 of his own.I was hoping he would buy some chapter books to help maintain his reading skill. He ended up buying some papery castle construction kit for $13. He even boasted that he saved me $2 by not spending the whole $15. Alas, the lost of childhood innocence.

15 November 2009

Heartbreak Hardware - My First Mac, A Picture Gallery

My first Mac, a PowerBook G3 "Wall Street", shown with a CD for size comparison. When closed and facing the user, the Apple logo on the case is right-side up, but when the user opens it up for use, the logo is upside down. Later generations of the PB and MacBooks have the logo upside down when not in use but right-side up when in use.

The many ports available for the Mac back then - audio, ADB, Ethernet, SCSI, VGA, S-Video. I remember buying a $100 specialized printer cable so I could use the PB G3 with an HP LaserJet 4L, which back then only had parallel port.

Side view of the PB G3 opened at about 45 degrees.
The PB G3 opened at past 90 degrees.
The PB G3 can lie flat on its back. I remember laying in bed using the computer in this position. It was not comfortable.
The PB G3 up close. "Macintosh PowerBook G3", with the rainbow Apple logo, too.
Compared to today's unibody Macbook, the touchpad is so tiny. A U.S. penny takes up most of the center of the pad!

Like a first child, the PB G3 was showered with expansions. Shown here are USB and FireWire expansion PCMIA cards plus the VST Superdrive, which can read both its own 120-MB disks and standard floppy disks. Slow, but usable.

For nostalgia purpose, the phone jack is also shown. How did I get anything done back then without broadband access?

The PowerBook G3 still boots up as long as it is connected to AC power. The original battery then the replacement one both died.
It was able to run OS X but it was painful. I didn't upgrade it much.

14 November 2009

The End of the Romance

What do you think the blog post is about? Worry not, there is no real romance involved here. The Romance I referred to is that in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a series of books in old Chinese literature. In Chinese it is known as 三国演义 (sān guó yǎn yì )My Chinese is never good enough to read anything more than comic book so I read the Vietnamese version years ago, in Viet Nam, when I was in my early teen. In Vietnamese, the title of the book is known as Tam Quốc Chí.

A long time ago when Oriental Culture Enterprise was still on Pell Street, I bought from it a 9-book set of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, quasi comic book version, in Chinese. Sure every page has two frames of pictures, but it is definitely not a comic book. I thought by reading it I would reinforce what little Chinese I know and perhaps learn some new characters. Already knowing the story in Vietnamese should help, right?

It turned out years later, as Oriental Culture moved to Elizabeth Street and I moved to a few different homes, the books just got moved along without ever being read. As I set the set of books aside to be photographed for this blog before I took it to the library for donation, I discovered a makeshift bookmark in it, so perhaps I did read a little bit. A very little bit. In the spirit of ridding myself of things I don't need, the set of books went to Ulmer Park Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. I know that branch has a set, or at least a few books from a set, of The Journey to the West. Or maybe even Water Margin. It would be only appropriate that the branch also has my Romance.