29 January 2011

Manhattan Half-Marathon

A question for those who regularly run in races:  Is there such a thing as stalk-racing?  There you are running in a race when you noticed someone in front of you and decided to overtake her.  You did, but then she passed you.  So you pumped a little harder and pass her again, only to have her pass you yet again, and so on and so on.  What is the proper phrase to describe that situation?  I think it is a good thing, something attainable and it keeps you from giving up the race too quickly, especially when you do not run in a group.  I hope it is not illegal or unethical because that was exactly what I did at the Manhattan Half-Marathon.

The race start time was 8 AM, but knowing how unreliable NYC subway was on the weekend, I left the house at 6.  According to some poster I saw in the subway, the D train would not go to Manhattan's Upper West Side directly, but instead in two sections.   Strangely, an F train showed up and stay on the D's regular route until midtown.  That's weekend NYC subway for you, full of surprises.

It was a cold morning.  Approaching the race corral, I overheard someone said it was 9 degrees.  The CNN screen near Columbus Circle said 14 degrees and it remained the rest of the race.  The runners anxiously waited in the corral while moving about as much as possible to stay warm.  Eventually, some local celebrity ended the National Anthem with "In the land of the freezing {wink, just kidding} and the home of the brave..." then off we went.

In the beginning, I stalk-raced some woman in a blue sweater.  At some point, either I outran her or she left me, we were not together.  Instead, I noticed a blond woman in purple, pony tail, with a white in-ear headphone, who kept passing me.  I cannot tell now who started this 2-person race, but we sure kept together and took turn passing each other, for at least the last quarter of the race.  On downhill trips, I would try to get more springy or lengthen my stride.  I would lose her only to have her overtake me later.  At the last water station, I skipped it, same for earlier stations, such was my plan to finish the race faster.  My "running partner" slowed down for water but not for long.  I suspected she only stopped one step to pick up a cup of water then kept running afterward, somehow drank and ran at the same time.  Eventually, she was on my heels again, maybe even passing me again.  Somehow I managed to pass her but this time I purposely slowed down both to (a) encourage her to keep up; and (b) to save energy for the sprint at the end.  I always sprint after Mile 13, i.e. sprint for the 0.1 Mile of the 13.1-mile race.  And sprinted I did, for the last time leaving the "stalker" behind.  Closer to the finish line, some Chinese guy said to me, "Come on, you and me", supposedly a challenge to the finish line.  "Sure, let's do it", I said, although by then my reserve energy was already gone.  I still ran faster than most of the course but I was no match for this latest challenger.  Oh well, I still managed to shave ten minutes from my best Half-Marathon time.  I did see my "race partner" but she was heading toward the park exit.  Years ago, for some 5K race, I did the same with some Asian girl and in the end she thanked me for the encouragement then we went our separate ways.  This time I figured nothing would come out of it so I didn't pursue, uh, the matter any further.

20 January 2011



by SA£ SANTU¢¢1

All I want is a canoli
And of course to say “Hi”
To my shrunken Little Italy
The reason, I think, I know why
Better believe it, Mr. Bertucci
It’s what your neighbors call “feng shui”

(One of the things I remember from high school English class is "local flavor" - literature that celebrates something special/mundane but particular to a place. This is my contribution to New York City local flavors. Instead of explaining the poem, I'll leave it to you to do your Googling or looking things up in Wikipedia to get the gist of the matter.  Just so you don't get distracted, I substituted certain characters in the byline just so the real person - I am sure there are many - will be less likely to come across this note.
Oh yes, I am on an eye-rhyme roll! Hmm, eye-rhyme roll... does that not sound like an item in a bento box?)

19 January 2011

A Cuppa Joe

The introduction of the "Trenta" size at Starbucks got me thinking about going back to it just once to see how monstrous this thing is.  On second thought, the fancy labels applied to their cup sizes and staff members, among other things, so far has held me back.  Here is what else is on my mind...

Quit correcting me, all I want is a cuppa joe
Don't ask me the size of my shoe
Just add milk and two sugars to my pint
I don't care if you have Wi-Fi by Sprint
Life is short, there is much to do, to live
But your queue makes me feel less alive

As usual, meters in poetry I cannot handle.  Give me a kilometer and I know it has 1000 meters...

No rhyme or reason?  Well, reason yes, rhyme, hmm, only to the eyes.

17 January 2011

Qaptain Qwerty Crosses the George Washington

From time to time, I have a personal reason to be in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan Island in New York State, usually with a few hours to kill.  Only recently that I realized I can kill those hours by running to the neighboring state of New Jersey, via the George Washington Bridge.

A co-worker once told me about his bike trip along the West Side Highway northward to the GWB, crossing over to NJ then southward to wherever he lives.  Much as I love to carry out such a bike trip, for me to cycle from the Coney Island area, the southern end of Brooklyn, to Manhattan then northward, the time required can easily take half a day.  I don't have that luxury so running from Washington Heights is the next best thing.

I prefer intersecting vehicular traffic as little as possible so starting out at Highbridge Park (around 160ish Street) made the most sense.  At 178th Street, with a view of The Apartments, as often mentioned in traffic reports, I turned left to head for the Bridge.  I expected a ramp running along 178th Street and leading into the bridge.  Instead, the ramp was perpendicular to the bridge, pointing south then turned 180° to lead to the bridge.

The Apartments, those that are often mentioned in traffic reports.

Broadway and 178th Street.

No ramp can be seen leading into the bridge.
Even though it was cold, I was not the only person on the bridge.  There were some fellow joggers, a few pairs of walkers, and a few small groups of cyclists, all decked out in fancy tights and such.  Maybe because Washington Height itself is already on a high point of Manhattan, I did not feel much of an elevation and before long I was on the bridge's midpoint already.

No snow here!
I was hoping to find signs that say "Welcome to New Jersey" or even "Welcome to Fort Lee" but none was found.  Not in the middle of the bridge nor at its New Jersey end.  Maybe there was some sign on the lower level of the bridge.  On the Jersey side, I only went as far as the entrance to Palisade State Park.  No walking path was visible and there was much snow so I did not venture into the Park but instead headed back for New York.  Again, no sign welcoming the runners and such to New York.  Oh well, I guess it is just a travelers' bridge, not for tourists.

On the bridge, there were many signs about suicide prevention.  Not too long ago, a gay student who was outed by his classmates jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.  Unlike Manhattan Bridge or the Williamsburg Bridge, the railing on the GWB has no fence so it is easy to do so, if someone feels miserable enough.

The George Washington Bridge.

Welcome to New Jersey.  NOT!

Palisade State Park.

Time to head back to New York.
How do you like the title of this entry?  I was of course thinking of the famous painting called "George Washington Crossing the Delaware."

10 January 2011



All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ
With good company, how three hours flew
The designated cook allergic to seafood
Designated driver thought all was good

Beef brisket, pork chop, and chicken gizzard
We were hit with a meat blizzard
Just as we were in food heaven
Hoped the "food" went to bovine heaven

 By and by the hostess cut off our grill
Which was fine as we had our fill
The fun was over
The wallet much lighter

With just T-shirt and jean
We had nothing to dry clean

07 January 2011

Forwarders in the Age of FB

Back in the days, when e-mail was the primary form of electronic communication, some people just love to forward every little joke or "warning" that fell into their Inbox.  Fast forward a few hundred years to the Age of Facebook.  It seems those same "Forwarders" are now our FB friends.  Things are a bit different but essentially they entertain us with the latest news about addictive games they are playing, with YouTube videos, with witty remarks like "I am bored", etc ad nauseum.  Or so they thought it is all entertaining.  It is not.  What's worse, because of their sheer volume, these so-called status updates crowd out all the other posts.  It is the equivalent of speaking at a party using a megaphone, or having a seat on a crowded subway car and spreading your limbs all over.  In the beginning of my Facebook experience, I was guilty of inadvertently posting too much about the few games I play.  To gain the widest publicity possible, all apps on FB love to post onto your Wall every little interactions you have with it.  You can take control of the situation by making the proper settings.  From anywhere in FB, go to the upper right corner, click Account then Privacy Settings.  Go to the Apps and Websites section in the lower left and click Edit Your Settings.  In the Apps You Use section, click Edit Settings.  Find the apps that you no longer want it to write to your Wall and click its Edit Settings.  As an example, my dailymile app can post to my Wall.  Should I want to change that, I would click the Remove next to the Post To My Wall setting.

In the ideal world, everyone who reads this article would rush to their FB settings and tell all their apps not to post to their Wall any more.  That will not happen.  Even if it does happen, that would take care of just the posts from the apps.  What to do about the YouTube videos and such?  Hide 'em!  I think everything on your Wall can be hidden one way or another.  Put the mouse over it and an X gadget will appear on the upper right of that item.  Click it to see the different ways you can hide it.  You can hide just that one instance or the person who posted it.  In the example below, and it's just an example because I do not mind posts from the App Store at all, there is a third entry.  Maybe it is there because App Store used that App Publisher to do the posting, who knows.

Use it on someone who posts too frequently to keep your Wall manageable.  You can always go visit their profile page if you think you miss out on something.  Worst case scenario, you can always Unhide them by going to the Most Recent link (or whatever you may have it set to), choose Edit Options at the bottom of the list, and remove your friend from the bad list.  Unfriending someone because they post too often is drastic, so is quitting FB altogether.  Just hide them, it can be undone.

02 January 2011

New Year Resolutions, With Feasibility Ratings

All right, here we go with the usual New Year Resolutions, but this year they come with Feasibility Ratings.  Yup, "feasible" is my preferred word over "doable", which is so lame.  For crying out loud, it's just "do" with "able" tacked to the end.  Any decent wordsmith should avoid words formed from a verb and "able".

Here's the list, with Feasibility Rating, 10 being easily achieved and 1 being impossible.

  1. Lose twenty pounds.  That's 9.07 kilograms for us Metrics-lovers.  I would have said 10 kilograms but the scale I own has only pounds readings.  Maybe some day when it breaks I will buy a dual scale.  While my exercise regiment from more than a year ago has resulted in some weight loss and a general good feeling, my weight seems to plateau at 190 pounds, my spare tire is still there, if not bigger, and my running pace is still around 11 minutes/mile.  It's time I add a better diet to the formula.  Lose some weight which I believe in return will result in better speed.  Feasibility Rating, or FR for short = 9.
  2. Digitize everything I own or can lay my hands on.  Like photo prints and yearbooks.  My mother has a great collection of photos, many in black & white, brought from Viet Nam, as well as more recent photos of our lives in America.  What a treasure trove for the family tree!  I am almost done with my own high school yearbook, but there is the junior high school one, college, and wife's high school.  Someone from her year was looking for it and I offered to scan the whole thing in.  FR = 2.
  3. "Possess Less", that's my new motto.  Possessions possess the possessor, so I heard.  At this point in life, I think I have all that I need.  Well, an iPod touch would be nice.  When you know you have something but don't know where it is, or cannot easily locate it, that's when you have too much.  Or not organized enough.  Having less will help you be more organized.  Being a green pack rat does not help, of course.  I just hate to simply throw things out, but at least I live on a street with heavy foot traffic, so things will, mostly, disappear fast when I put them out on the curb.  FR = 5
  4. More production, less consumption.  I fancy myself a producer - via this blog and the occasional cartoon or other artsy works.  Of course, Facebook can be a detractor, but I can work my productions into FB, too.  I just hope my contributions won't get lost among the many "status updates" that some of my FB friends churn out by the minutes.  Writing a series of tutorial on how to avoid polluting the FB news feed, or how to keep the news feed free of pollutants, would be a win-win product.  FR = 7

01 January 2011

Midnight Run 2011

Happy New Year, blog readers!

Thanks to my newly found love for running, 2010 New Year's Eve was different than previous years. Instead of going about my normal routine then perhaps remember to watch the ball drop in Times Square at midnight, for 2010 I celebrated the new year's arrival near the Central Park bandshell, as a participant of the New York Road Runners' Midnight Run, which was sponsored by Emerald Nuts.

The Midnight Run was rated as a fun run, so there was no official time, you just have to time yourself.  It was more like a run between two parties.  Before the run there was DJ music and healthy food and water, plus a costume contest.  After the run, more DJ music and pretty much the same food and drink, the difference being bagels and tangerines.  It was a good alternative to the Times Square overcrowded party.  You may have to pay to be at the parties but at least here you have toilet facilities and it was definitely not too crowded.

At the stroke of midnight, there was a fireworks display over the big lake in Central Park, a short distance to the runners' left as we waited in the corral to get running.  I usually try to take photos of the runs but at night it was hard to capture anything decent.  Below is a decent video I took of the fireworks. You can hear me getting impatient near the end.  It was very crowded in the corral.  If I do the Midnight Run again, I will just show up at 11:45 and wait all the way at the end of the corral, where hopefully it will not be so crowded.  I hate being packed like sardines in a can.