31 December 2010
Normally I post at night, at the end of the day. As my exercise regiment requires, lately I do not stay up past midnight. Need to have a good night's sleep to wake up early the next day for an 8-km run. Or some form of exercise. Today is an exception. For the past many years, I always welcome the new year at home. Some years I remember its arrival and watch the festivity in Times Square on TV, some minutes before the ball drop. More often than not, I totally forgot about it and would realize it only when people on the street tooted some horns. This year, it will be different.
I have signed up for the Midnight Run, organized by the New York Road Runners and sponsored by Emerald Nuts. The runners theoretically will run from the old year into the new one. Just something different to do. It will be a short, 4-mile run with no official time. I don't care too much about the pre-race party and don't look forward to the subway ride home, but much as I hate changes, I'll take a chance on this one. Maybe I'll have some photos to share 24 hours from now when I arrive home safely...
30 December 2010
24 December 2010
The recent uproar over the NYRR's selection of runners for the NYC Half-Marathon didn't paint too nice a picture of it. It appeared money-hungry, ready to grab as much as it can, without a second thought of serving the local runners community. Still, to me, it's the volunteers that I come across the most during the races. It seems a lonely and possibly unappreciated job, as people rush about aiming for their best times. I try to greet them and thank them as I pass them during the runs. I like to be funny and even quip jokes with them. I hope they didn't mind but here are some of my "running jokes":
- Where are the Four Loko? (Asked at a water station. Four Loko is a caffeinated alcohol recently banned in NYC. Supposedly it worked too much like a drug. I got a few loud chuckles with this one, or at least I heard people behind me laugh, not sure if it was a coincidence...)
- Where's the shortcut? (All the races I ran so far weaved through the streets or the park. Surely there must be a shortcut, although you would be cheating yourself only if you take one.)
- What are they serving at the finish line anyway? (It's a good way to encourage oneself to keep going, but I knew for sure it would be cold bagel, banana, or apple. No toasted bagel with cream cheese, orange juice, or coffee. I guess that's what the stores are for.)
- Should I keep going? (Best asked a mile or half a mile from the finish line. The answer, of course, should be "Yes!")
- Can I borrow that? (Shouted to a bicyclist passing by. I got some laugh along the Grand Concourse during the Bronx Half-Marathon.)
19 December 2010
Running without taking in fluid along the way is probably not the best way to run, but we all have different capabilities so find your limit and try to exceed it.
In these days of multitasking on the computer, with instant messaging a popular form of communication, a typical computer screen can have multiple chat windows up at any given time. Eventually, you end up typing a response intended for someone but sent to another. Hopefully it will not be something like "I really do not like Mr. So-and-So" and sent to Mr. So-and-So! The chance of having such a mistake increases greatly if you use Microsot's Office Communicator. A new chat someone initiates with you simply jumps to the front and commandeer whatever chat you may have going at that time. So, what do you call such a mistake, which involves sending an intant message to the wrong person? Instant mistake? Lame AIM? Mis-chat?
Another typical office faux pas involves conference calls. Leo Laporte wants everyone, or at least everyone who listens to his many podcasts, to use GoToMyPC or GoToMeeting, but I don't know anyone who does. I do spend a good percentage of my time on conference calls, the old-style one with everyone on a phone, voice-only conference, that is. Unless you use some old phones from the late 90s, your phone probably has a mute button. Maybe you have a sudden urge to eat potato chips during the conference call, or need to chat away on some obtrusive OCS window, that is, typing noisily. So you have the mute button pressed. Then suddenly your name is mentioned in vain on the conference call and you need to defend yourself, verbally, of course. You rant on and on about how much money you saved the company by whipping up some kick-ass KiXtart script blah blah blah for twenty-five minutes. Then you realized you were still on mute! What do you call that? Malk (short for mute-talk)? Tomute (talk-on-mute)? Mutestake?
As Foreigner once sang back in the 1980s, I want to know what that word is, I want you to show me.
11 November 2010
21 October 2010
Recall that we already had a Google Doc with all the student names from the yearbook and the commencement roster. The next thing we did was to search for people in Facebook, the definitive social network of the day. I discovered that there are a few high schools named Newtown around the world. There was one in Australia, another in Pennsylvania (albeit that one was Marple Newtown High School), one named exactly the same as mine, right nearby in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. My Newtown was in Elmhurst, Queens, New York. Facebook is smart enough to offer the choices but people still make mistakes so not everyone who indicated that they graduated from Newtown High in Elmhurst really belong there.
With about 300 people indicating they are Class of 1985 from Elmhurst's Newtown High, the search is almost over, right? Even if you subtract 5% for those stumblers from the other Newtown, you still have about 280 people to put together a party with, yes? Unfortunately, some of those people may be just placebooks, i.e. inactive people on Facebook, like those fake books that take up space on a shelf just to show what a full shelf looks like. Take away another 5% or so. It's time to tap into the general population on Facebook.
In these days and age, some people think it is easy to find people on the Internet. Those Classmates.com ads make it sound easy, but it is far from it. Especially if you don't want to spend any money. Still, everyone is on Facebook, right? All you need to do is type in the person's first name and last name then your old friend would be a Friend Request away. In reality, many of the people we tried to locate had common names that when searched by names alone returned too many hits. "John Smith" is understandably too common a name, but names in other ethnic groups that may sound uncommon to us turned out to be extremely popular for those cultures.
The clever idea my search partner, M.P., in the Reunion Committee came up with was to search for unique names. Sure there are some names that we were mistaken about their uniqueness but there are some that are truly unique. Remember that I mentioned before about the commencement roster listing middle initials? Combined with the unique names, the middle initials can really help pinpoint a person. There are many people to find and some people keep in touch with a small circle of friends years after graduation. Always hope that those people with less common names are still friends with those with common names. Sometimes we get lucky and the person has a photo that is recognizable. One of the fun in locating high school classmates was seeing how people change yet certain traits remain. Find 'em, Friend 'em, let's party! M.P. was so good at it that she triggered FB's spam detector and got her account suspended. The lesson here is to go easy with the friending on FB. Spread the work out among the other board members.
Life is not always so rosy. There were cases where we found the people, confirmed their identity, maybe even befriended them, only to have them, for whatever reason, drop off FB altogether. Whenever possible, grab your friends' regular email address and keep it somewhere safe. Someday FB may start charging money for its use and people may leave it en mass, like some of those groups that sometimes proclaim.
03 October 2010
My recent search for high school friends didn't happen like that at all. We were well into the Information Age, with the Information Superhighway running through our houses, at high speed no less. We didn't have to get together physically. One of us was on the west side of the U.S. and three were in New York City, although different parts of the city and rarely see each other, at least for me. We got on CONFERENCE calls, not one-to-one calls like the days of yore, to discuss things to do and progresses. We actually sent out a few paper letters and they didn't do much good.
One thing we had in common with the old-fashioned approach was the yearbook. Regardless of how the process of finding friends is done, it has to start with the yearbook. However, we had a "copy" of the yearbook in the form of a Google Doc, a spreadsheet, to be exact. It took some time to type in all the names but it was worthwhile. We could sort the list by last name or by first name, or later as we got more info about the students, by other columns, like whether they were on Facebook or indicated they were interested in the reunion. Having all the student names in digital form allowed us to also use the search function to find the names. After 25 years, some of us may remember only the first name of a classmate. By searching for just that first name and coming across all the last names that go with the found first name, perhaps something in our mind would be jolted to come forward.
Besides the yearbook, we also had access to the commencement roster. For some reason, the roster had few or no typos at all so it was a good source to fall back onto. After typing in the names from the yearbook, I also added the names from the roster. An additional bonus with the roster was many of the names had middle initials. If you have to find someone whose first name and last name are common, the middle initial makes a big difference. Yet one other usefulness with the commencement roster is that it may have names of people who somehow were not in the yearbook. Maybe someone transferred into your school after the yearbook photos were taken.
Whether you plan to do the work of finding high school friends with your committee made up of classmates or use professional search service, the yearbook, in digital form (read: searchable), plus the commencement roster if possible, will get you to a great start. It is good to have a pack rat on the committee who can type at decent speed.
30 September 2010
You need a committee. It is a lot of work for any one person. We were lucky to have people who good at dealing with the various vendors (catering hall, photographer, DJ), taking notes during meetings and sending them out, finding old friends or at least reaching out strangers with the same last names and first names in hope they are your old friends, balancing the checkbook, make polls, keep lists of attendees, and taking care of many other tasks required of the committee. Not only we put in the work, we also put some some money to get things going. After all, vendors mostly require deposits.
You need a place to hold the event. Not one who cares about dancing and drinking, I would have suggested some quiet place to reminisce the past, like a library of sort. Luckily, we decided the event to be held in New York City so there were many choices to choose from. We settled upon the Astoria World Manor and pricey as it may be, it was a great choice. Great location, not too far from the two airports in Queens and near a major highway, roomy hall, great parking, good service, and fancy décor. Of course, depending on the size of your party, you need to find something that fits. Whatever, you cannot go wrong if you have dancing and drinking.
You need lots of participants! According to my yearbook, there were over 800 students, a large population. It was 2008 so naturally we went mostly with Facebook (FB) to locate those 800+ people. One nice thing with FB is that when opening up an account, people get to indicate their high schools and such. The info is then collected in one place, sorted by graduation year, ready for others to pore over. We found many people this way but it helped also to have our own high school group. We also had premium accounts with Classmates.com and MyLife.com and they helped somewhat. Don't forget the personal connections. Many people kept in touch with their own small circle of friends over the years. If you are lucky enough to connect with an individual from these circles, you have a good chance of locating even more. Don't be surprised or discouraged if someone responds coldly upon being found. Twenty five years is a long period of time, people change, or maybe no longer care about certain aspect of their past. Or maybe they are too tight with their privacy and freaked out when they somehow got found. Just move on to the other grads.
I got pretty good at finding people, both through free services on the web or premium accounts so perhaps I can delve into that area in greater details. The process may not be earth-shattering amazing and probably can be found out there in the library or on the web, but it's something that worked for me.
24 August 2010
It all started almost a year ago, September 2009, that for some reason I decided to lose some weight. My family went on vacation with a big group and perhaps there were other men in the group who were overweight. Perhaps the men made a bet on who would shed some pounds. Strange that I don't remember the details from last year's event. I remember back in 2007 I was upset that my ring finger was so fat I almost couldn't remove the wedding band. I was also on vacation and went through some exercise routine after coming back from the vacation. It also involved jogging but I gave up after a while. Maybe the cold weather set in and I got discouraged. This time around my Facebook friends definitely helped with the good words of encouragement. I started out running 6 times around the nearby park, totaling just 3K or a pitiful 1.8 miles. Slowly I worked up to 9K or 5.5 miles. Then my right foot started to hurt so I switched to cycling, around New Year's Day. I am sure cycling has its benefits, but I was still operating a machine, so the energy I use in an hour on the bike is less than an hour running. About four months of cycling and I switched back to jogging. This time around I introduced longer distance on the weekends, 15K (10 miles) or more. Warm or hot weather, I was out there putting in 8K to 15K each run. The work culminates in the 2 half-marathons I ran recently. Before running the half-marathons, I was not sure if I could even run them in less than 3 hours. I eked by with the Queens Half, at 2:54, but with the Bronx Half, I completed the course in 2:35. Now I am so gung-ho about the whole thing that I'm considering running the full marathons in the New York metro area, perhaps a bit further out as far as Philadelphia.
It takes time to exercise regularly. In my case, I have to give up being a night owl so I can get up early in the morning, like 5:30 or 6. Just do the run in the morning and carry on with normal activities during the day. I get home late in the evening so this is the only solution for me. It really helps that I don't have to cook or wash the stinky clothes, for I have mother and wife to thank for. Still, I have to drag myself out of bed in the morning. I no longer stay up past midnight playing Wordscraper Blitz or some other games I have installed locally. No more random surfing of the web looking for a particular piece of software. Or just checking out free Mac software just because they are free. I already watch very little TV and DVD, now I do so even less. I just have to make do with podcasts and paper books, something I can consume while commuting.
If you have the need to lose some weight, or take better care of your health, I hope my story inspires you to put wish into actions. It may be hard to get started, but if so start small. I started at 3K and worked up to 15K, over almost a period of one year. Yes, you will have to sacrifice some time, but the outcome is worthwhile. On days that I go jogging, I feel energetic and alert the whole day. Food tastes better and sleep comes easily at night. Let me know if you are inspired enough to do something about your health!
21 August 2010
Only Vietnamese speakers need to try!
20 August 2010
19 August 2010
Believe it or not, the first thing I thought when I finally ran was "Oh no, what did I get myself into? Three hours, 13 miles, such long and big numbers!" I thought back to my blog entry about lòng người ngại núi e sông (the human spirit fearing the mountain and the river) and pressed on. Mile #1 came up pretty soon, where JHS 143 was located. I took a photo of the store that I was sure used to be a different kind of deli, with a video arcade machine outside, where I lost a few quarters to Space Invaders. Somehow I missed Mile #2 but even before I reached the Moshulu Parkway the leading man already ran back toward my group of runners. The Moshulu Parkway was described as scenic but I was too busy running to really take it all in. I only looked forward to where the course looped back, U-turn, on the Moshulu so we know we got another leg of the race covered. At Mile #5, back at JHS 143, I feel a tingling pain on the right foot as I stepped down. Luckily, it was nothing major and I continued back to the area of the start line. For some reason, I got annoyed by a pair of power walkers in front of me. It didn't look like real work to me, as they don't actually run but just walk very quickly. Still, they managed to stay ahead of me - that's enough reason to be annoyed, right? At some point I managed to run past them. Rounding the corner to pass the start line and head for Mile #6, somehow I pulled a muscle in my left hip. Past the portable johns and I was again on the Moshulu Parkway, but only until I reached the Grand Concourse. Mile #7 was pretty much at the entrance to the Concourse, with Mile #8 around the dip that crossed Fordham Road. Onward I pressed to around 183rd Street then a U-turn on the Concourse to reach Mile #9. I noticed some woman using me as a goal to keep up with. She alternately ran and walked and the tactic seemed to work. I couldn't shake her off with my constant pace. After Mile #11 we were back to the Moshulu for the last time. I think around the U-turn on the Moshulu to get to Mile #12, I finally ran away from the woman. Just before Mile #13, some man was trying to keep up with me and we were running shoulder to shoulder for a few minutes. I offered to race him to the finish line and he accepted, but then I started to sprint and he could not keep up. Pity my sprinting does not look that fast in the Brightroom video. Sprint! The page is actually for someone who finished a tad before me. On my own page, the video does not include me at all. I think there was a mistake. Jump!
Compared to the Queens Half-Marathon, the weather was great. It was not hot and even the sun was not shining. As a result, I did not have to stop at water stations as much, or get sprayed on. My finish time was almost 20 minutes faster. It really helped that I did not walk at all, only briefly through the water stations where I stopped for water. I also paused to take photos. Maybe I should skip the photos next time to improve the time even more.
17 August 2010
I got up early at 4:30 in the morning and out of the house by 5. Less than half-way there, the car complained that gas was low. (A subway stop is close to the race start line but traveling from Brooklyn to the Bronx on the subway really early on Sunday is probably not a safe thing to do.) I knew that normal usage would allow the car to go another 15 miles or so even after the low-gas indicator came up. However, I really don't like to take chances. Who know, I might have enough gas to get to the race but maybe it won't be enough to go back. I lived in the Bronx for only a few months and rarely visit the borough so I am not familiar with locations of gas stations. Better get gas before arriving at the Bronx Half.
I figured it would be safest to get off the highway while in Manhattan. The idea of getting off the Gowanus and visit some gas station on Brooklyn's Third Avenue or Fourth Avenue, at 5+ in the morning, was not very attractive. I got off the FDR Drive at the Queensborough Bridge exit and went straight for the gas station at York and 65th Street (?). Alas, the attendant was AWOL and all the pumps were unusable. Only one prompted me to swipe the credit card but by the time I backed my car near that pump, it timed out on the prompt for zip code and it too was not usable. In the end, I went somewhere I was familiar with, Washington Heights, where I occasionally go with the in-laws to visit the clan's matriarch. The original plan was to cross University Bridge but in the end I went with the 155th Street Bridge instead. Good thing I had a good sense of direction so even with all the bad turns I still made it to the Bronx before 6 AM. One hour to race time!
The Queens Half-Marathon took place mostly in Flushing Meadows Park, with some free parking spaces on the park's inner perimeter. With the Bronx Half, you only have a handful of paid parking lots and whatever little street parking you can find. With all the delay in getting gas for the car, I got there too late to find parking. I ended up parking two subway stations away, at University Avenue and Fordham Road, on the edge of Devoe Park and looking at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church. It was a long walk to the race!
Thanks to the timing system, even though I was technically late to the race, my own race did not start until whenever I crossed the start line. That was when the computer would detect my D-tag and start to log my time. Of course at some point latecomers would not be allowed to run, but I was not that late. I did a little stretching within the race corral, on the side, with others eager running past me. I finally crossed the start line at around 7:15 A.M.
04 August 2010
I already signed up for the Bronx Half-Marathon, August 15. That's less than two weeks away and I haven't run since about two weeks ago because of all the clean-up around the house. Ack! Better turn in early for the night and try to do 8K tomorrow morning!!!
30 July 2010
Không khó vì ngăn sông cách núi
Mà khó vì lòng người ngại núi e sông
16 July 2010
06 July 2010
04 July 2010
07 June 2010
I don't seem to lack ideas of new series of blog posts. The latest I come up with is XYZ These Days, where XYZ would be the name of some place I once visited but has now changed upon a recent visit. I don't travel much so most of the time it would be some place in the New York metro area. Hopefully I will keep up with the postings instead of letting things slide as I have of late...
30 May 2010
26 May 2010
Technically, I have a compost bin. Earlier this month I decided to use a brand-new trash bin as my compost bin. I started filling the bin with an onion my wife kept in the bedroom to ward off bugs but has gone bad, a SunChips bag, some vines covering the fence in my backyard, then some weeds pulled from the cracks in the front yard, plus many leaves fallen from the huge tree on the street. I know, I know, some purist compost masters would say weeds in compost bin is a no-no but it's such a waste to throw them out. There seems to be a limitless supply of weeds around my house, and my house is not that big. Over time I added teabags from the tea I consumed at work. I save the bags in a plastic bag and brought them home. In the beginning, I threw the whole thing in but lately I rip off the top to prevent the tiny staples from entering the bin. This week I also added fruit peels and such from oranges, mangoes, and rambutans.
23 May 2010
06 May 2010
04 May 2010
03 May 2010
A short stay in the Bronx. Hurry up and wait for vehicular traffic to clear. The Third Avenue Bridge is in the distance.
02 May 2010
24 April 2010
18 April 2010
15 April 2010
After three months of cycling as exercise, I decided to resume jogging, at least as the main form of workout. My goal with exercising is to shed some kilograms and cycling has not helped. I started cycling on New Year's Day and three months later, I am still just a few kilos below 90 kilos. I weigh myself every week, perhaps I should not, like how a watched kettle does not boil.
The reason I started cycling was that after a few months of regular jogging my right foot started to hurt. There was the usual aches and sores elsewhere but the right foot had it worst. Just lightly jabbing the center of the right sole would produce a sharp pain. Maybe it was because I was using an old pair of sneakers. The bottoms of the shoes were not even, so some parts of the foot probably took a greater impact. Since quitting jogging late last year, I got a new pair of sneakers. I actually resumed jogging last week. Ran twice then and three times this week. So far the old right foot has no complaint. As long as my right foot can take it, I will continue to jog and use cycling as secondary. On days that I have time, I will put in a few KMs on foot then ride a few more KMs on the bike. The distance covered by each form of exercise does not justify it, but I still like to refer to the combined workout as a biathlon. Only if I have one of those endless pools, I can even do a triathlon.
Up to this week I always jog in a closed path, e.g. round and round a park. What's annoying with that was that I sometimes lose count of the laps. I play music on my cell phone while jogging, starting a new song or restarting one as needed, so that each lap is matched to a song. The Recently Played playlist would keep track of my progress. Alas, the playlist only knows the last ten songs so by lap number eleven or twelve I would be on my own. Worse yet sometimes the cell phone's battery would die midway through the session.
Starting this week I jog in a straight path. From my cycling trips, I know how far from my house is 3K. Go that far out and back then I will have 6K covered. I have to deal with cars on the road but it's not too bad at 5:30 A.M. Perhaps on the weekend I can go 4K out. Linear triumphs over circular, Keep It Simple, Sir!
07 April 2010
- I can use it as a digital picture frame. (Digital picture frames are wasteful electricity-suckers. I cannot consider myself green and at the same time have something running 24/7 showing photos that definitely are not viewed all the time. Besides, all the months I had the iPod touch I showed its photos only a few times, ten times top. A stock iPad cannot stand by itself so that would be another x dollars to make the thing stand up like a photo frame.)
- A man in black turtleneck and jean robbed me at gunpoint. When he ran away with the $500 I happened to have, he dropped behind this beautiful electronic gadget. (Yeah, right.)
- It was on sale, 50% off, at the local electronic store. (Apple products are classy and are not carried everywhere. Sure you have the Chinese knock-off that may look like an iPod or a MacBook, even an iPad, but bona fide Apple devices don't come cheap.)
- I can use it for videoconferencing at the Newtown High School (Elmhurst, Queens) reunion at the Astoria Manor in NYC on September 25, 2010. (Even with the 3G iPad coming out in late April 2010, there is no camera whatsoever with any of the iPad. Someone may come up with some add-ons, or maybe Apple will release a newer version, but the likelihood of a new iPad, complete with video camera, is highly remote. For video conferencing, a cheapo netbook is still the answer.)