29 February 2012


Had I know 20+ years ago that some day I would get to meet Al Jaffee of MAD magazine, I would make sure I secure the work of making the parody of his famous fold-in page.  Come to think of it, I cannot recall how the work was doled out.  Maybe it was just whoever happened to be around.  Interesting thing to note is that although The Cooper Union has three schools within it, namely Architecture, Arts, and Engineering, most, if not all, the drawings in the MAD parody was done by Engineering students.  Talk about wanting to do something different with our lives.  In a future post I will show the rest of the thin magazine, but below is the two-page spread I did.  It is a copycat of Dave Berg's regular series, "The Lighter Side Of".  Again, someone provided the ideas and I did the drawings.

I scanned the two pages separately and digitally re-combined them.  There are five mini-stories.  Note that M.E. LAB spreads across the two pages.

Perhaps to do better justice for the drawing the reader should read the stories one page at a time.  Bigger pictures and hopefully easier-to-read text.  I am amazed what I was capable of without the aide of fancy computer programs.

A little background:  Back in those days, Cooper Union did not have a dorm and students either commute from home or rent nearby.  Or as the STUDENT HOUSING story claims, sleep in the nearby Astor Place subway station of the #6 line...  Again, note that the second strip is continuation of frame #1 on the other page.  Professor JWH was another person who liked to talk.

I belatedly (read: this week) discovered that Dave Berg went to Cooper Union and lived in Brooklyn.  Although he died of cancer in 2002, he was past 80 years old at the time.  Fifty of those years were spent at MAD magazine.  Amazing!

28 February 2012


When a classmate from Cooper Union learned of my meeting with Mr. Al Jaffee, of MAD magazine Fold-in fame, he rightly asked if I showed Mr. Jaffee my "works."  What works?

Many years ago when I was an engineering student at The Cooper Union, I was active with the school newspaper, as a proof reader and a cartoonist.  Every April Fool's Day the newspaper would do a special parody issue, at least while I was there.  I clearly recall parodies of People, USA Today, New York, and MAD.  I understand in earlier years the newspaper would retain its typical format but the news were all made-up or satirical.  But for the magazines that I mentioned, the newspaper staff painstakingly made the special issue look very much like the real thing, including page format, logo, and design.  At first glance you would think it was the real thing.  Of course, the magazine name would change slightly, so we had MADD instead of MAD, Cooper People and not just Cooper.  Maybe we had Cooper Today, as I do not have a copy of the USA Today parody and memory is not that good.

I had a great time contributing to the MAD parody.  The magazine had only twelve pages, counting the front and back covers, as well as the inside front and inside back cover.  I drew four of the twelves pages and someone supplied the stories.  I am sure I had some current copies of MAD magazine of the time to base my drawings on.  The following two strips, page one and the inner back page (where Mr. Jaffe would normally have his fold-in) are imitation of Don Martin's drawings.  It has been many years since I drew these pictures, but I studied Master Martin's art well, as I made sure the characters have funny, extra-long feet that bend downward.  I happened to recently bought a two-volume collection of all of Master Martin's works.

For a short while, Cooper Union used the nearby National Bookstore as the school bookstore.  The store is no longer there now, its place occupied by FedEx/Kinko, which is right next to the Starbucks, which itself used to be Riviera CafĂ©.  The staff at National Bookstore were notorious for being unfriendly.  We had to check our bags at the front and they did not accept a few forms of money.  Of course, when you do a satire, you usually exaggerate things a bit.

  Bowlmor was the favorite bowling alley for Cooper Union student.  I never visited the place but did know Dean Baker as someone who liked to talk.  

26 February 2012


Goals.  Dreams.  Targets.  Many people have them, surely not everyone achieves what they wish to.  Fresh from my mild success with running, I translated my enthusiasm to swimming.  My goal right now is to swim 1600 meters non-stop.  Unlike running, for a beginner swimmer, I cannot just swim anywhere but am limited to pools, or indoor pools, to be exact, during the cold months.  The places that I visited offer 25-meter pool so out and back then you would cover 50 meters, 2 trips = 100 meters, and so on.  Like running around tracks, I easily lose count of the trips but usually my son is with me and he helps with keeping track of the laps.  Today and last Sunday I ventured out in my own to do lap swims and, not surprising, quickly lost tracks.  I think I at least last week reached the new goal of 50-meter continuous swimming.  Today, I felt less energetic and mostly did 25 meters and rested then swam back. I did get a new achievement of 400 meters total, not continuous, of course, but a new personal record nonetheless.  Just a quarter of the way to my seemingly unattainable goal of 1600 meters, but the human body, especially an old one, becomes stronger and more efficient ever so slowly.

From what my son and other swimmers told me, I have to keep the face underwater, hold breath, and come up for air periodically.  It helps to wear goggle while underwater so I started to use one today, even though I still kept my head above the water.  So many things I am doing wrong with swimming.  The only thing that I can correct is to keep my palms closed while "paddling", instead of having the fingers apart.  It makes perfect sense and easy to follow. On another occasion in a shallow, open swim I will give a shot at swimming with the face in the water.

Swimming is not that much different than running. You start out with a short distance. You practice to get better and last longer. Eventually you can swim a really long distance without stopping. Of course, the big difference is that with swimming in some pools of certain depth if you stop swimming you sink.

24 February 2012


I consider myself a simple person with simple needs.  As long as the place I live has a public library and broadband Internet access, I consider myself happy.  All the big-city entertainment is unnecessary for me. I do not stay out late and do not enjoy drinking or dancing anyway.  I need to make one exception.  There are certain events that if I live in a small town nowhere near a big city I would not be able to attend.  Like the panel discussion held at the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) featuring MAD magazine's Al Jaffee and other famous cartoonists.

When I learned about the event on Facebook I immediately accepted the invitation.  The next day at work I happened to glance at my wall calendar and realized that the event would conflict with a company dinner.  Every year the Asian networking group, networking in the sense of making new friends and contacts, at my office hosts a dinner to celebrate Lunar New Year. I already registered for the dinner, the cost for which went up significantly this year so I had to attend.  Luckily, the dinner was held in Chinatown, which is not too far from the MoCCA.  It was a ten-course dinner but I had to split after course #4 came out.  I have not been to the area near Houston Street and Broadway for a while but I do not recall seeing a street-level entrance to any museum.  Sure enough, the MoCCA for now was more like a gallery studio in an office building.  I got there with about half an hour left of the stated time, 7 pm to 9 pm.  The gallery was pretty full, with people filling all the folded chairs setup for the occasion, with some people watching the panel on a TV screen just a partition over in the same room.  Mr. Jaffee was taking questions from the floor.  Perhaps he already talked about his experience with the fold-ins, but by the time I arrived the topics discussed included the annual company trip (which was supposed to be just a one-time deal) and SATSQ (that's "Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions" for those who do not follow MAD in recent years).  I learned that Mr. Jaffee would be turning 91-year-old shortly.  

While I followed MAD magazine off and on and recognize some names I really did not know that much about Mr. Jaffee.  It was very interesting to hear him talk and meeting him afterward.  I knew that he had a collection of the fold-ins that came out recently.  I almost bought it from the B&N on 86th Street just last month but deemed it too heavy to carry with me on my trek to Ward's Island.  I planned to special-order it from B&N and make use of my B&N club discount.  Instead, I decided to buy it at the MoCCA in hope of getting the legendary cartoonist to sign it.  Unfortunately, his hands are too shaky to sign but he came prepared with a variety of signature stickers from which fans can choose.  (At home later that night, I discovered that the fold-in tome also comes with a signature sticker.)  A small price to pay for living past 90 and being so healthy, at least to the eyes, I guess.

19 February 2012

Cross-town in the 20s

For about two years, I worked in an office building around 28th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.  From time to time, I would visit Madison Square Park and nearby areas.  It has been years since I visited the area.  I probably drove through the area but driving is the worst way to experience a place, especially in a city like New York, with the many reckless pedestrians, careless cyclists, and other lawless drivers.    Today, I had swimming exercise within walking distance of the area and had a nice walk across town, mostly along 25th Street and 23rd Street.
A noticeable change is the pedestrian mall at the intersection of 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway.  The motorists probably hate them but as someone who prefers walking, I love them.  In this photo, we are looking north along Fifth Avenue at the famous Empire State Building.
Looking south at the Flatiron Building.  Notice again the pedestrian mall.  There used to be just a small traffic island in the middle to separate Broadway and Fifth Avenue.  
I did something potentially dangerous today!  I visited the Garage Antique Flea Market!!!  No pack rat should ever step inside these types of places.  Luckily, I controlled myself and left empty-handed.  I did look around at booths that have books in hope of finding yearbooks for my high school (Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, NY).  At a different flea market nearby, I did see a yearbook for some high school in Stamford, something about the 49ers on the cover.
I love vanity plates, especially those that are not too obvious, like spelling out a word exactly as you would find it in the dictionary.  Give me a chance to figure out the message, will ya?  At first I thought this plate is to be pronounced as "ee-balon", rhymes with "baloney", but the URL says it all.  Probably a dating or match-making service.
My membership with NYC Parks and Recreations grants me access to many recreation centers but so far I only use the Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center and Chelsea Pool.  At the end of my cross-town trek, I discovered the Asser Levy Rec Center.  Seeing its outdoor pool, I thought that was the only pool it has, but it does have one indoor pool.  My plan was to run south along the East River waterfront, cross the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn, then onward to the "new" running trail near Brooklyn Park.  Alas, while stretching for the run, I realized I left my swimming cap and trunk back in Chelsea Pool's locker.  I ran back and was able to find it, whew!

15 February 2012


Amazon recently cancelled my endorsement contract when I wrote that I rely mostly on the public libraries for books.  Just kidding, of course, but it is true that I do not buy books that often, for reading, that is.  I do love paintings and drawings, the traditional types, and have a small collection of art books.  M.C. Escher, Norman Rockwell, Patrick Nagel, and Don Martin.  I did say it is a small collection, right?  There might be a book or two that I forgot about but that is about it.

Tonight I added to my meager collection a book by Julian Beever, the anamorphic master.  I first learned of Beever's amazing chalk drawings through some email forwards.  Everyone probably knows someone who likes to forward things via email.  Most of the stuff is crap but occasionally there is something useful, like Beever's seemingly impossible 3D arts.  I even took a shot at trying to do anamorphic drawing and failed miserably.  Even Master Beever took a few days to do his drawing, I gave mine only few minutes.

I recently learned that Beever has a book out, "Pavement Chalk Artist".  The typical person would just order the book online and receive it at home.  In my case, I cannot rely on the USPS or UPS. If I miss the USPS person somehow I would have to go to the local post office on Saturday, on which day the office would open until 1 PM only, and extremely crowded.  It is still a better option than UPS, which if you missed the delivery you would have to drive to some place in the middle of nowhere to get it.  Sure you can call and arrange a better delivery time and date but last I checked it out there is extra charges somewhere.  Another problem with UPS is that they would sometimes just leave the package outside my door.  Hello, this is Brooklyn, New York here, where people steal anything not bolted/cemented/welded to something immovable!  But I digress.  I ordered the book at the Barnes & Noble in Forest Hills on Saturday and tonight I picked it up from the B&N in the Village, which I pass by during my work commute.

I have not read much of the book.  On the subway, I had to flip through it and see photos of the amazing drawings.  I saw most of them before on the computer screen but seeing them again on paper breath new life into them.  I am sure in the book Beever doles out advice and tips on how to draw the anamorphic way.  I will take a shot at trying something simple.  Do not hold your breath.  It looks so impossible and I may never have anything to share, but you never know.

11 February 2012


After not even four months of usage, my Garmin GPS watch has stopped working.  It still works as a regular watch, but no longer record distance.  It would pick up satellite signal and count the time as I start moving, but the distance remains zero.  At first, I thought perhaps I pressed some wrong sequence of buttons and, since I was out for a walk, I simply stuck with a rectangular path for which I know the distance.  The next time it was a run and I wasted some minutes to try to "fix" it.  Luckily I did not waste too much and it still turned out to be a decent run.  Afterward, I simply mapped the route using DailyMile.com's tools.  It is a bit tedious but it works fine.

I looked at the Garmin manual, online, and it did not offer much useful troubleshooting info for my scenario.  The most I can do is shut down the device and that I did, to no avail.  What I read next in the online forums only disheartened me.  It seems some files got corrupted on the GPS watch and while it is possible to re-install the files the action can only be done via a Windoze machine, which I do not have at home.  Argh!  It is not a life-and-death situation so I decided to write to Garmin tech support and wait for their answer, which is supposed to come in 3 business days.  In the mean time, I will just run without a GPS watch.  I did it for more than two years, it is not that difficult.  I already have a few routes plotted out in DailyMile.  While it means I will need to stick to the route, it is no biggie.  The running is the important part here, how precisely I record it is secondary.

Still, I refused to believe there is no way to reset the device, back to factory default if it comes to that.  I Googled again and this time found the link at


Sure enough, there IS a way to reset the thing.  I tried it and even though it was already past 11 P.M. and snowing lightly outside, I just had to verify that all was well again.  Yessirree Bob, all is well again in Qaptain Qwerty's running life.

06 February 2012


I recently downloaded all the workout entries I made on DailyMile.com.  It is nice to store data in the Cloud but what if something between you and the Cloud breaks down?  It cannot hurt to back-up your data every now and then.

With the DailyMile data neatly downloaded in a CSV file, I was able to quickly filter the data.  Of special interest to me is the info on my swimming experience.  While I achieved some personal records with running, in December 2011, the first few months of 2012 were slow with organized races.  First the NYRR Manhattan Half became an untimed run, then the Valentine's Day Run by the Holidays Marathons (HM) group got cancelled because of, what else, permit issue.  All along I thought all HM races would be held in Tibbett Brook Park, but that was just my wrong assumption.  Other than one week of rest from running because of a foot injury, the new year saw me running regularly.  I still enjoy running but know that in 2012 I improved at swimming.  It is time to review my swim data.

I was never a good swimmer and still am not.  Swimming was something I would do while on vacation, in the hotel pool.  The next day my arms/shoulders would ache a lot, the price of leading the inactive life.  Last year, when I started swimming regularly with my son, on the first visit, 
according to the DailyMile data, I covered about 50 meters in 45 minutes or so.  There was much resting between the short trips from one side of the pool to the other. I vaguely recall that it was the pool width that I swam along, not the length. One good kick off the side of the pool and I would be about half-way across already so it was not really that much swimming. Yet I was tired by the time I got to the other side of the pool. During subsequent visits I would increase the number of "laps", or just the number of trips from one side of the pool to the other to slowly build up my endurance. Then Chelsea Pool was closed for renovation, if I recall correctly, and I finally made the trip to Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center (FMAC).

As noted in http://www.qaptainqwerty.com/2012/01/i-wanna-try-tri.html , I was still not that good at FMAC. Just by going there more often somehow helped me to get better. For most of January, I maintained a total distance of 200 meters per visit, non-continuous of course. But I am lasting longer and longer with this past Saturday reaching a new peak of 350 meters. From what little I read about swimming, a mile or two is the typical distance good swimmers put in per workout. I am not even a quarter there but if I can go from 54 to 350 in a few months, it seems possible.


04 February 2012


A few days ago I finally got around to ordering photos from John Curry Studio for the Brooklyn Marathon, which I ran in way back on November 20, 2011.  Talk about procrastination, eh?  The deadline to order is February 23, I think, and I ordered in late January.  Somewhat like how my high school classmates seem to wait until the last minute to buy their e-ticket for the reunion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  But I digress.  If you ran in the Inaugural Brooklyn Marathon, or know someone who did, support the local business John Curry Studio / 211 Studio by buying the photos at


03 February 2012


In this day and age, I still prefer physical books, mostly because the public libraries still carry them and that they are less prone to damages.  They also do not require much else beside the strength to carry them and a pair of good eyes to read them.  I do not totally shun ebooks and such, especially when they are free.  Books, movies, and such have copyrights that expire after so many years.  I have heard of Project Gutenberg but somehow was not interested in reading classic books on the computer.  When I am at the computer, there are so many things to do and reading is the last thing I would consider doing.  But one day on the iPad there was a sale of the aptly-named app called Classic and I bought it.  Right within the app, classic books are downloaded for you, available on the iPad and to be read whenever you have the time and the device itself.  It did get me started with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne but like the computer, there are too many things to do with the iPad when in possession of it.  It also does not help that I share the device with my son and my wife.  I fear being robbed of the iPad on the subway so bringing it for the commute is out of the question.

Thanks to my recent, belated adoption of the smartphone (just some Android thingy instead of an iPhone, but it does its many jobs), I have given ebook-reading another go.  The phone came with many apps, one of which is Books 1.4.5.  The app can fetch out-of-copyright books (read: free) as well as those whose copyright are still in force and thus carry a price.  Being the frugal person that I am, I only downloaded some classic books, like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Lately, reading Expectations is how I sometimes while away the time.  But wait, isn't a smartphone much like a computer in that you can do much with it and thus have no desire to read while using it?  Yes and no.  Like the typical smartphone, my phone's keyboard is a pain to use.  Sure I have been using the phone lately to write draft versions of blog entries but it is an unpleasant experience that I try to avoid.  Also, thanks my limited (read: 200 MB/month) data plan, I consciously avoid using the phone to access the Internet, except for the hourly or so checking of email and Facebook.  The phone can play music and such but there are times I want to use it without having to untangle the headphone.  So reading is actually a preferred use of the smartphone albeit the tiny screen is not that great for long period of time.

On the audiobook front, I rely solely on LibriVox.org, which is somewhat like Audible.com and other audiobook services/sellers, but the books on LibriVox are classic that are freely distributable.  I somewhat randomly picked The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  The files I chose are in MP3 format and the sound player has no intelligence to bookmark my listening progress.  The story itself sometimes has entire chapter devoted to religion or philosophy, which I find boring, so I have been plodding along slowly and only up to Book 8 Chapter 8.  To make things worse, the few characters in the book are often referred to by different names, which I find confusing.  Ugh.  I should just delete the files and move on to something else but I hate to leave a book not completely read.  Maybe Dostoyevsky wrote a sequel called The Brothers Kalashnikov and it has more actions and no preaching.

Brooklyn Public Library and such has downloadable media for borrowing.  My last brush with the service was a few years ago, involving movies and the use of OverDrive software.  It was a major hassle, what with no player for the Mac and some other technical issues.  Things may be simpler with ebooks and such so I think I will give it a shot.  Eventually I will run out of classic books to read/listen so borrowing the latest best sellers would be a sensible next-step.