30 December 2013


The last time I hosted a workout streak on Facebook, the turnout was pretty low but it does not cost any money, just some time promoting it so I'm doing it again!  Why not, right?

I am almost done with the Runner's World Holiday Challenge, which runs (pun intended) from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.  Some people missed a day or two and expressed interests in having another streak to participate in.  Here's a little poem I conjured during the subway ride home, for these streak-breakers:

So you broke the streak
It ain't no heartbreak
Just walk your cyber-legs here
It's virtual, you can do it anywhere

(I love eye-rhymes, which are rhyming to the eyes only and do not really rhyme when said out loud.)

29 December 2013


I love that sign on the border of Queens and Brooklyn on the Belt Parkway.  It says "Leaving Brooklyn, Fuhgeddaboutit".  There is another sign just like it on the Belt Parkway on the ramp to the Verrazano Bridge, but it is not accessible to pedestrian, or anyone for that matter.  You just drive by that one as you head for Staten Island, unless you want to drive onto the grass and attract unwanted attention from any nearby police cruiser.  The one near Queens, on the other hand, is easily reached if you don't mind the trip on bike or on foot.  I visited it some time ago on bike and took some selfies with a camera, not with a smartphone as I didn't have one back then.  The result was not too satisfactory.  This past summer I tried to run there but it got too hot I had to stop at Canarsie Pier to get drinks and then headed back.  I didn't even run all the way back, but rather get to Avenue U to get another cold drink then climbed onto a bus to get home. I don't like to spend money or gasoline while on runs, but that day I made the exception.

Recently I also made exception for really early morning runs with my running partner.  J needs to put in some long miles for his marathon in February and like me he has family duties to attend to so we agree to run really early, like 6 AM.  We normally meet in Marine Park or Sheepshead Bay and neither place is easily accessible by public transit.  And I don't want to run there since I want to save the energy for the long run.  So I drove.  

For today's run, our goal was to log 15 miles total.  I did mention running to the Fuhgeddaboutit sign at the Queens border, but it would overdo the goal.  So we agreed to go 7.5 miles out along the Belt Parkway, which for sure would put us short of the sign, then 7.5 miles back to our cars.  Still, when we got 7.5 miles done, the sign was not that far away.  J was a good sport and agreed to go there anyway, we would just walk part of the way back.  We lost a few minutes posing with the sign, J with a scowling face supposedly as a Brooklyn 'tude, while I had him take a few shots of me throwing my arms forward, for Google Awesome to auto-convert into an animated GIF.  It was supposed to be as if I was saying "Fuhgeddaboutit" but it looks more like I was imitating swimming.  I love it nonetheless and hope you do too!

28 December 2013


"HAPPY NEW..."  Well, it's that time of the year.  You know what word should come next, but it was not supposed to be this way.

I am a morning runner but this morning when I woke up at 5:15 I had a stuffy nose.  Maybe it was because I didn't sleep early enough last night.  It was possible that had I went ahead with the regular morning run, the stuffy nose would get worse and I would be sniffing the rest of the day and be miserable.  So I went back to sleep until 8:30ish.  No more stuffy nose, the whole day.

In the afternoon I had some "me" time for a run.  A longish run, somewhere far away from my immediate neighborhood.  But I also wanted to "draw" something for the Runner's World Holiday Streak.  It's been a while since I did any gwriting and the recent news articles about Simon Beck and his snow art got me itchy.  What better phrase to write around this time of the year than "Happy New Year"?

It turned out I could only write "Happy New". The first possible hurdle was that my Garmin was low on battery.  When I was done with "Happy" there was two bars of power left.  I pressed on anyway and when "New" was done there was another bar left.  Still, I started the run when the sun was out, when "w" was done it was dark and colder.  That's the thing with running pre-dawn.  As the run spans into hours, the sun comes up, it's warmer, you feel energized by the new day.  Not so with afternoon or evening run.  It gets dark and depressing just when you start to get tired.  Still, I could have pressed on and write "Year" but then I have a scheduled run with a friend tomorrow, some 15 miles covering part of Brooklyn and Queens.  Fuhgeddaboutit!  Even though I could finish "Happy New Year" today, I will be too exhausted Sunday morning for the 15-mile run.  Most likely I won't have a job in 2014, I'll spell the whole three-word phrase some time early in the year then.


19 December 2013


Ah, the wonder of technology.  WNYC radio station is having a photobomb contest involving the British actors Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart.  The radio station conveniently provided photos of the actors with the background removed.  You would save the photo, select the white background then invert the selection, and finally copy and paste the new selection, which is just the two actors, into any photo you wish.  Not too long ago I had some free time and took many photos at foot races.  For the contest, I used one from the PPTC Cherry Tree 10-Miler on President's Day weekend 2013.  Appropriate enough because the race took place in Prospect Park and Mr. Stewart himself supposedly lives somewhere in Park Slope.

Check out other cool photobombs at


18 December 2013


I am in another running streak challenge, hosted by Runner's World magazine on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/events/545028802257323/?source=1) and elsewhere.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, inclusively, participants are supposed to run at least one mile per day.  Or 1.6 km a day for those few, like me, who use the metric system.  People would run and then post their distance and time etc, sometimes a long-winded conversation would follow, or new friends made.  I'm doing pretty well at it, despite the difficulty of getting up at 4:45 AM to run between 5:20ish to 6ish.  To make things more interesting, instead of just posting my distance and time, on a few occasions I threw in a poem.  Or at least a few lines of text that rhyme or follow a certain structure.  Just for fun!

Pre-dawn, before work
Short run in asphalt jungle
No photos to share

(The past few run challenges I participated I had the luxury of running far away and take photos of the various places to share.  These days I only run short distance before going to work, before the sun comes out, nothing nice to take pictures of.  In haiku format, which in English is roughly 5 syllables first sentence, 7 syllables next, then back to 5 syllable.)

D-tags are red, DNF'ers are blue
I see you are streaking
Will you be my boo?

(For those who are looking more than a running partner.  The standard lines are "Roses are red, violets are blue".  While I quickly found something running-related that is red, I couldn't think of anything that's blue.  I used "blue" as in sad, with DNF'ers meaning people who "did not finish" a race, usually  because they no longer could take the punishment, but also apply to when a race was interrupted.  A D-tag, by the way, is the longish piece of paper embedded with a computer chip to register the runner's position as he crosses the finish mat or similar locations.  D-tags are widely used by the New York Road Runners.)

There is a streaker named Lex
Creative muscles he likes to flex
Fancy routes made with his Garmin
Got him to start wonderin'
Can the same be done with a Timex?

(I've been doing GPS art with my Garmin watch.  Recently, Timex Ironman became a sponsor for the smartphone app Charity Miles, which I use a lot, so I made the word "TIMEX" as a gesture of appreciation.  I would appreciate it even more if they send me a watch to try to do GPS art with LOL. The poetic structure here is a limerick, which I keep clean as limericks are usually lewd.)

I run each morning from 5 A.M. to six
Loud on my iPod is that song by Styx
Dressed in black, didn't see that truck comin'
Now all I hear is that song by Led Zeppelin

(I quickly ran out of poetry format to try to write.  There are many others of course, just none that interested me.  Luckily, I am a big fan of Whose Line Is It Anyway improv show on TV and one of the games they play on the show is a hoedown.  Unlike the genius comedians on the show, I didn't do this spontaneously and had to think long and hard to come up with the four lines.)

I am in this challenge
To run one mile a day
It's called streaking
But keep your clothes on to play

Start from Thanksgiving
Keep logging the miles
To January the first
And don't forget to smile

However you do it
Roadway or dreadmill
Keep plugging along
At the end stuff yourself to the gills.

(Another favorite game of mine on WLIIA is Irish drinking song, where the comedians sing one line of a song, made up on the spot of course, on some topic.  Again, it took me some time during my work commute to come up with the little poem about streaking itself.  Yup, many of us run just so we can eat what we want.)

05 December 2013


It's time for another Throwback Thursday photo!  I cannot recall what year this was but as a gauge, let it be known that my niece, the little girl working with me to turn the Archimedes' screw, is now married and has a four-year-old son.  Also, the shirt I was wearing is a Chemical Bank Corporate Challenge shirt, so this must be in the 1995s or thereabout.  No, my eyes are not sharp enough to see the details on the T-shirt, I gathered the info from another photo from the same roll of film.  Bonus question:  With the background building, can you tell where I was?

01 December 2013

GPS Art Gallery December 2013

Work has been demanding so lately I can only squeeze in a 5K run in the morning.  Only on the weekends that I get to run longer distance, sometimes with fancy GPS arts involved.  Unless I work on Saturday as well, that is.

"Melanie" was done in one run but the others took more time and was made on two runs.  I am not 100% sure why I made it but it's possible someone named Melanie made a first post in some run challenge I hosted on Facebook.  Bleah, senior moment.

Back when I first dabbled in GPS art, or gwriting, "Charity Miles", or "CHARITY MILES" rather, was among the first phrases I wrote.  I made it in uppercase and it took a long time to make.  Each letter typically stands two blocks tall and to balance things out was two blocks wide, or maybe more.  As I got better, thanks to iTrespass, I itched to re-visit "Charity Miles".  Note the lowercases.  It now looks a lot better than before.

"Runner's World" was freshly made this weekend.  "Runner" was made on Saturday then the rest was made Sunday.  I was going to make "Runner s", note the lack of the apostrophe, but then there would be fewer letters to make the next day.  The apostrophe was tricky to make since it's supposed to be a short dash between "r" and "s".  Originally I thought of making a third run, really short, just short enough to make the apostrophe.  I was going to combine two routes via Photoshop anyway, combining three makes little difference, no?  In the end, I decided to make an overhang with W and digitally erase enough of it to make the apostrophe.  Original routes included for comparison. 

I made "Runner's World" for the magazine's 2013 Holiday Running Streak, for fun and fame.  Join the challenge at https://www.facebook.com/events/545028802257323/?source=1

"Runner's World", actually made from four screenshots, some tweaking in Photoshop.

"s World", weird-looking but after some Photoshopping and combined with "Runner", it all makes sense.

"Charity Miles", lowercase and with iTrespass employed, much better.

Ye ole "CHARITY MILES" from some time back, not as great.

I'm thinking about the "Weird" Al song.

21 November 2013

The Kong and I

It's kinda sad how we sometimes cannot help ourselves but just go with the flow.  I used to be annoyed by those people who play turn-based games, say on Facebook, like Wordscraper, and take forever to move.  Or those who only use iDevices and cannot see the whole web page or miss out on things and complain that they don't see so and so.  Unfortunately, that's what I've become.  At home, I don't get much computer time, traditional computer, that is, both because my son uses the MacBook Pro most of the time plus that I work long hours these days with a long commute.  I do have a data plan at last so yes lots of my computing time is on the iPhone,  At least I don't complain about things I don't see because I know the iDevices' limits.  Still, today I reach a new low by... (drum roll)... going with Throwback Thursday!

Here's an old photo of me (I'll let you figure out which one is me) some time back in the early 1980s.  I think it was at a street fair on Sixth Avenue.  Maybe if I dig around about Lindy's Famouse F*****, the business shown in the background, I can confirm that it was on Sixth Avenue.

More to come: Friday Funnies!  Maybe...

04 November 2013


These past two years things don't work out between me and the NYC Marathon.  In 2012 of course it was Hurricane Sandy that ruined everything for many people.  In a way, it worked out better for me that the Marathon was cancelled.  I got my $200+ back, slowly, but it came in handy while I was unemployed.  I exercised financial diet and had no plan to run the 2013 NYCM but I still wanted to be a part of it.  I signed up to volunteer at a aid station in Queens.  As the big day approached, I learned that my son will have a music audition at LaGuardia High School the very same day.  OK, no volunteering then, but since LaGuardia is mere blocks from the finish line or the last mile of the Marathon, maybe I can go watch it and cheer my friends from the Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC), no?  Sometimes things just wouldn't work.  The audition finished way before even the elite runners would finish.  I had a long lunch with son to kill the time.  It was too cold to be outdoor, at least for my son, so perhaps I'd meet the PPTC folks at the post-race party at P.S. 87.  What was I really thinking, trying to find a free parking spot on the street?  I think the whole Central Park West was closed and there wasn't anything free on the street.  To make things worse, I was under the weather on Saturday, perhaps from over-exertion in the swimming pool and the sharp change of weather from afternoon to evening.  I was sneezing frequently most of the morning of Marathon Sunday.  After many minutes of driving around the block in the Upper West Side, I gave up and got onto the West Side Highway to head back to Brooklyn to spend the rest of the day resting.  There will be other events.

The only thing I am happy to report for Sunday was that while waiting for my son I did something good.  I had a few hours to kill and found a parking spot across from an outdoor food bank.  When I first parked there, across the street from the food bank, there were only the people queuing up for the food.  Some parking spots were reserved with traffic cones, but on my side of the street there were many empty spots with just me and one or two other cars.  When I came back with breakfast from a purposely long walk, the food vehicles arrived and there were not enough parking spaces so some cars started to park on my side of the street.  The last car of the caravan found no space and had to park at the fire hydrant at the corner.  I was going to offer to move my car, since I know just a block south there were plenty of other space, but then the driver from the last car approached me.  Her son was among the volunteers and she wanted to be near him but didn't want to risk getting a ticket at the hydrant.  I gave her the spot and made a few U-turns and found another spot just across from the studio of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  One good deed deserves another!

28 October 2013


I'm a lousy fundraiser.  Years ago when I participated in the March of Dimes, my Big Sister did all the work running around her office getting people to donate 25¢ per mile.  It's been so long I don't even remember how long the walk was.  This past weekend, I put in a lot of mileage, mostly on bicycle, to raise fund for the Michael J Fox Foundation.  I did it all with the smartphone app Charity Miles.  Normally it's 10¢ per mile for cycling and 25¢ per mile for running or walking, this past Saturday and Sunday, thanks to Medtronic, it was $3 per mile for any of the three activities.  Charity Miles already did the running around getting sponsors like Medtronic.  My part was just run, walk, or bike, something I already enjoy doing.  Easy as pie!

It's much harder to get people to donate money but I'm giving it a shot.  Maybe all this new-fangled social media thingy can make a difference.  I would like you to consider giving to Gary, as explained below:


Although I am usually charitable, I'm doing this fundraising work for Gary partly for personal reason.  Shell Marz, the Lead Organizer and Gary's cousin, is an old friend from an old job who helped me land my current job.  It's only proper that I donated some money to the cause, but the goal of $5,000 is still elusive.  If you enjoyed my blog, whether it be the GPS art, the occasional portrait, the sonobes, some witty puns, or whatever, may I suggest donating something for Gary?  It does not have to be a lot, a lot of something small will add up.  Of course, if you can afford it, by all means give a lot.

25 October 2013


The business world seems to highly value multitasking.  I love efficiency too but most of the times multitasking just doesn't work.  Like walking or driving while texting.  Just plain stupid, sometimes even deadly.  But I make an exception for Charity Miles, the smartphone app that tracks distance for walkers, runners, or cyclists, and get sponsors to donate money to charities x cents or dollars per mile.  Sometimes I walk with Charity Miles while listening to audioCD - walking, fundraising, and "reading" done simultaneously.  The standard fundraising rate is 25¢ per mile for runners and walkers, or 10¢ per mile for cyclists.  However, through a wonderful arrangement with MichaelJFox.org and Medtronic, for most of the month of October, and into early November, it's $1 per mile for all three categories of long-distance exercises.  Even better, for Saturday 26 October and Sunder 27 October, it's $3 per mile whether you walk, run, or bike!  If you are like me, love long-distance workout but a bit tight on money yet want to donate to charities, Charity Miles is the app to have.

For my part, I've been logging many miles on behalf of MichaelJFox.org via my daily runs.  During the week, it's only a few miles each early mornings, but on weekends I had more time to log five or six miles each day.  I even made the GPS art below, although I must say that the path was drawn with my Garmin GPS watch and not with Charity Miles app.  Thank you, Medtronic, for sponsoring the challenge to raise $100,000 for MichaelJFox.org by November 3!

10 October 2013


For a technically-inclined person, I don't personally have the latest and greatest gears.  For the cell phone, it was only when my family was expecting our first child that I decide to own one.  It was useful for the few false alarms.  Next, when broadband access started to become more readily available, I was still poking away on a dial-up modem.  On a desktop computer!  Even if I wanted to, DSL was not available to my area any way.  DSL finally did arrive, followed by FiOS.  After a while, the supposedly faster speed is lost on me.  Not that I mind, as everything seems to be pretty smooth.  I don't do movies or any heavy-duty stuff, so speed is not an issue.  The tech life is extra nice when you compute wirelessly, but things are even better done on a smartphone or some mobile device.  The form factor makes all the difference.  No need to boot up and wait for the device to be ready.  Still, for two years my mobile computing was limited to the range of my home's WiFi.  Outside the house, I had to rely on public WiFi or my meager 200-megabyte-a-month data plan.  It is really puny but believe it or not if you limit your activity to emailing, some Facebooking, an occasional photo upload, you really can survive each month with 200 MB.  That all changed a few weeks ago, when I finally took the plunge.  It was time to get a new 2-year contract so the big family opted for a big family plan with 10 GB to be shared by the seven phones.  I can finally do all these while out in the world:

  • renew Brooklyn Public Library materials, to avoid late fees
  • take the latest Daily Poll on SwagBucks.com and earn a point or two
  • enter MyCokeRewards as soon as I finish drinking
  • approve the many membership requests Newtown High School of Elmhurst group in Facebook has been getting lately
  • use Google Map to find places, I have an aversion to the dedicated Garmin Nuri GPS
  • get the latest news

Exciting, isn't it?  What else can I do to recuperate the monthly access fee?

01 October 2013


Happy October!  New month, new fitness challenge!

You may recall that I participated in some Facebook event in which participants aimed to run or do some kind of exercise every day of the month.  For October, my new-found friend Jessica made me co-host of the event, at this link


Without warning, October arrived and I didn't promote the event much.  It didn't help that I started a new job that has an early start time and usually runs late into the evening.  Still, as co-host I went the extra mile and got up at 5 AM to put in a 3-km run, far fewer than my usual 8 km, but something is better than nothing.  I am not sure about tomorrow yet, as sunrise starts later and later and the weather is so cold that early in the morning.  Perhaps with more people joining the event I'll be more motivated to do my part.

Look forward to more people in the event!

25 September 2013


I used to read a lot of Peanuts comic books borrowed from the public library.  For me, one of the memorable strips had the phrase "It's raining in my valley tonight."  Talk about having all the bad stuff happening at the same time.  Rain, low land, dark sky.  Perfect view of life if you are a pessimist.  Well,  for me this day the phrase is "It's a sunny morning on my mountain!"

My little strip of land in the backyard finally yields some fruits, or melons, to be exact.

There was no place for the viny melon to crawl so I guided it atop my shack.

A little melon grows between the fence and the shack.

I also threw a vine over the fence and a melon grew there.
For a while, I was having fun spelling out words and phrases using my Garmin GPS watch.  Then the strap broke.  I made do for a while and finally gave in and contacted Garmin about a replacement band.  They took it back and it just came back to me, looking almost new.  The next day, I took it out and spell "GARMIN", of course.
New strap, looks new to me.

Thank you, Garmin!  I tried to add the triangle above the N, which is part of the Garmin logo, but it didn't work.
Speaking of GPS arts, some time before I sent the watch back to Garmin, I made the words "Jack Rabbit Sports" for the triathlon chain of stores, or in particular, the one in Park Slope.  They let me have a poster-size version of the picture on their storefront window.  Nice!

I am still healthy enough to run 8+ kilometers most mornings.  Last but not least, I'm starting a new full-time job this week!

22 September 2013


I've heard of Maker Faire event before but never seem to find the time to attend one.  When I attended an orientation for recycling volunteers and the sign-up sheet for the event came out, I signed up for it.  Sometimes you just have to make a commitment for something to explore it.  I figure I would be there helping with the recycling tasks at the event and then explore the exhibits if time allows.

As the day of the event approached, I thought of bringing my son along.  I want him to have some exposure to volunteering and perhaps in the process learn something else outside of the iPad.  Alas, he is too young to register as a volunteer.  Fine, I would be willing to pay for him to be at the event, but I wanted him to read more about it and be excited about it.  He didn't find out, so when the day came, I just went by myself.

I worked as a monitor at one of the many recycling stations located throughout the fair.  Each station had a bin for unrecyclables, one for clean paper, and one for metal, plastic, and glass.  There was also a large, green bin for compostable materials, which include food scraps, soiled paper, and papery food containers.  I am happy to report that the unrecyclable container had little stuff compared to the others.  Most of the recycle materials was plastic and the corresponding bin had to be replaced twice while I was there.  The compost bin also filled up quickly and a few times I used glove hands to compress the content to take on more.  Imagine all those stuff simply going to landfill at events past.  I don't know how many other events have such recycling stations so I fear much more materials elsewhere still go to the waste stream instead of being diverted from it.

I didn't have time after my shift to check out the exhibits of Maker Faire.  They sure looked interesting.  I was near the rocket launch and the place was popular.  Kids got to make their own rockets and then launch them high into the air.  There was a pavilion for 3D printing, I wish I checked it out.  I was near a gyro vendor and the smell was intoxicating but when it came lunch time the line was very long.  I had some pastry with me so they became my lunch as I walked about briefly surveying the fair.  Might as well as the gyro was $8!  I did have to spend $4 for an Honest iced tea, at some size that probably cost $1 or $1.50 outside.  Still, I think next year I should make a greater effort to bring my son to the event as an attendee.  Maybe he can learn some handy skills, or at least become excited about them.

12 September 2013


Wednesday, September 12, 2013:  I finally found the time to go for a run.  I wanted to have a run as soon as I came back from the road trip, but Saturday I wanted to sleep in, Sunday actually got up at 4:30 to be able to make it at 6 at the Susan G Komen 5K in Central Park, Monday was the first day of school and I also got dragged into some other unpleasant task, Tuesday was Primary Day during which I worked 5 AM to 10 PM...  For me, it's extra difficult to run any time other than in the morning...

Some weeks ago, during a walk with my son, I re-encountered a plant that had prickly pods that easily attach to anything they come into contact.  It was at the beach of Narrows Bay, the northern side of Coney Island, facing the Verrazano Bridge.  The beach used to be really dirty and full of garbage, but it improved in recent years.  I wanted to re-visit the beach to take better photos of this exotic, IMHO, plant and its pods.

On the way to the beach, I passed by Calvert Vaux Park, which made gruesome news just last week.  A skilled hobbyist of model helicopter lost control of the machine and killed himself.  I never knew those things can be so deadly.  One time I even took my son to Marine Park's model airfield in Gerritsen to watch the planes take off and fly about.  Granted accidents with model planes are rare, it is possible.  Next time I am near these things I'll have a helmet on or be under a tree.

Construction continues to happen in other parts of Calvert Vaux Park.  A waterfront is coming about on the side across from Six Diamond Park and Home Depot.  I spied a jutting section with wooden rails.  Perhaps it will become a rest area with benches and such.  On the lot adjacent to the existing park that includes the more modern futbol field, I saw that things were looking better.

After Calvert Vaux, I visited the trail that mostly wraps around Home Depot.  I like to visit it at least once a week to help stomp down the weeds that slowly takes over the place, especially near the locked gate behind the metal junk yard.  Probably a lesson in futility, but it's a nice and quiet spot to add distance to the run.

I next ran along Neptune Avenue toward Mark Twain I.S. and on to the Poor Man's Beach on Coney Creek.  It took little time to find a bush of sand spur plant to pass my feet through to collect the pods.  I didn't know what they were called, but a post on FB later in the evening and my friend Rachel got the info.  Supposedly they are a pain to deal with, pun intended, and most web articles were about how to get rid of them.  "Sand spur", what an appropriate name.

Makeshift memorial for Roman Pirozek Jr. in Calvert Vaux Park, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/nyregion/remote-controlled-copter-fatally-strikes-pilot-at-park.html?_r=0
Beyond the fence, looks like a little rest area on the waterfront of Calvert Vaux Park.
A new section of Calvert Vaux Park almost ready for the public?

Sand spur plants!  The seed pods are prickly and easily attach to anything they come into contact with...
...such as the sock and sneaker of some runner, who did it all in the name of science.

07 September 2013


In Vietnamese proverb, there's a phrase that goes

Đi một ngày đàng, học một sàng khôn

It means "Travel one full day and learn a container of smart things", or something to that extent.  While it's true you can learn a lot from watching YouTube videos or from reading exciting blogs, just like this one :-) , all from the comfort of your home, you still need to be out there in the physical world interacting with people and things.  I just came back from a long car ride and indeed learned a few things that I want to share with you.

My long car drive took me from New York City south past Charlotte, NC, passing through D.C.  And back.  I am not a big fan of voice-assisted GPS devices and prefer to print out the direction and not follow it too closely.  For example, if I am to get off I-95 at the exit for Route 123 merely to connect to I-85, just down the road upon entering Route 123, I'd rather not have to know about Route 123.  Maybe saying "Take exit 29 to get to I-85" is enough for me.  I want to memorize the general route, I don't need to know the directions in all its glorious details.  But that's what Google Direction told me as I entered the D.C. area.  I traveled through D.C. before, either for Florida or back from Florida.  I recalled I-95 would take me right through, maybe with some traffic congestion, but it was still pretty straightforward.  Not the way Google Directions had it though.  It seemed GD automatically chose only the shortest distance using interstate roads, i.e. I-this or I-that.  Around Baltimore on the way down, I was to take I-495 to I-695 then I-395 and finally I-295 only to connect back to I-95 eventually.  Or something like that, there are too many switches I don't really know which x95 comes first or last.  Just my luck when I got to the area it was dark and I did get lost briefly.  I had a vague sense that something was amiss and it was getting late so I stopped for the night.  The next day, thanks to the still-complicated direction I crawled slowly with morning rush hour traffic on I-295S.  Maybe it was just as bad on I-95, maybe not.  On the way back, I decided to follow my gut and went with I-95 all the way.  Or just I-85 and I-95, to be exact.  It meant going east a little more, instead of traveling through the heart of D.C., but I like to keep things simple.

The other thing I discovered is that there are too many ways to record toll payment from moving vehicles.  More than I wish to know anyway.  In the NYC area, when you pay toll with EZ-PASS, you slow down significantly and wait for the gate arm to lift or some light tells you payment was made.  A little outside of the metro area you may have places that let you somewhat drive right through without stopping.  And then we also have red-light cameras that if you run a red light you get flashed and a photo of your plate is taken.  You receive the ticket in the mail some time later, always an unpleasant thing.  Seeing flash of light behind you as you drive = bad news.  So when I was in that tiny state called Delaware and approach some toll booth that keeps telling me I have x meters to go before the booth, I slowed down somewhat but still moving at a good pace.  The booth finally appeared, no specific speed posted, so I rolled through and saw a flash of light.  Argh!  What did I do wrong!  I wasn't speeding!!!  On the way back, I noticed the car in the distance in front of me was flashed, then my car was flashed even though I was already below speed limit by 5 or so miles.  So it's just the way Delaware works.  Given that Delaware is so close to NYC, I think there should be a sign that alerts drivers not to worry about the flash.  Is it a crime of some sort to give the camera the finger?  I'm tempted to do that.  I was worried for a few days that some day next week I'll receive in the mail a ticket, from Delaware.

In closing, I'd like to toast the inventor(s) of cruise control.  On a long trip, it made the trip so much more less painful!  Cheers!

02 September 2013


I sometimes hear stories about people storing food scraps in freezers and on the weekends take the stuff to green markets to recycle.  I suppose these people live in apartments and don't have a backyard container to heap the stuff in.  Or maybe they just like to stick to guidelines in composting brochures to minimize issues with odors and bugs.  Whatever the case, I admire those people.  That's dedication.

I have a backyard and occasionally toss the scraps, mostly fruit waste, into the compost bins I have in my backyard.  For sure they attract bugs but that's what backyards are supposed to be, no?  I know someone whose backyard is, possibly, airtight with plastic on the ground and the fence.  I think that's extreme.  Might as well stay indoor, close all the windows, and turn on the A/C.

After attending a volunteer orientation for recyclers hosted by the city, I wanted to contribute more to food scrap recycling.  It takes time for my compost bins to work and there's that bug issues, so might as well take them to a green market.  I'm not dedicated to keep the food scraps in the freezer or the refrigerator and worried that my stuff wouldn't be accepted.  Luckily, when I arrived at the recycling site, there were just these bins ready to take the stuff.  Whichever bins that were not closed were to be used.  The bins sits out in the open, even if they are closed, for a few hours, so maybe it doesn't matter if the collected stuff was frozen or not.

In the not-too-distant future, the whole NYC will recycle food scraps.  For now, the scraps are either trashed, composted in some backyard, or collected at the green markets, which only open on the weekend, usually.  In my case, I made it a bike trip, about 10 km round-trip, to get to the green market, a break from running to give my knees a break.  I went on a Sunday but had I gone on a Saturday there was a market closer to me.  It takes some extra effort to recycle food scraps and I happen to have it.

Use any open green bins then put containers in the yellow bag (in this case) as trash.

I think of green markets as taking place in some parking lot or some open area, but this one on Corteyou occurred on the sidewalk.  It was a bit crowded but not too bad.

30 August 2013


While I don't mind running a handful of routes different days of different weeks, or even up and down the same street to spell out a certain word, my son is pickier with walking routes.  He wants to discover new places and I try to comply.  Since last week's bike accident, he hasn't gotten on a bike, in the beginning it was just to take some time off, but then he started to depend on his cousin for fun in number, which I hate because then if the fickle cousin decides not to go, we ain't going anywhere.  Good thing with walking son doesn't mind going with only me.

Yesterday we drove to Kaiser Park to walk the beach of Coney Creek.  I recall the very first time I visited the beach, maybe six or seven years ago, I instantly thought of it as "The Poor Man's Beach."  It was a beach alright but it was so dirty.  Garbage almost everywhere.  Things got better later.  On a different visit, I went on the road but along the beach then discovered a path to the beach.  Toward the tip of Coney Island I encountered a fence that told beachcombers to turn around to avoid trespassing private property.  On yesterday's walk, I planned to take my son just as far, but we never saw any fence.  Only after seeing what appeared to be people's backyard that I decided to head back.  Getting back to the road, I saw that the fence was buried by sand deposited by Hurricane Sandy.  Or maybe it was the work of the Corps of Engineer or whoever responsible for re-creating the dunes of Coney Island.  I suspect it was Sandy.  The very first area we visited was what used to be a picnic area, around 33rd Street and Bayview Avenue.  There used to be some grass and if the Parks people didn't mow the place its entrance would be overrun with weed.  Now there is sand everywhere and only a handful hardy plants manage to survive.  A picnic table is still there, but the area is no longer well-shaded like before.

Maybe I'm a jaded visitor of the area.  I only took a few photos of the plants.  I wish I have a close-up photo of the spikes on the grass.  They cling to everything and were quite prickly.

I need a close-up of the spiky seed pod(?).

Only the top of the fence is seen here, the rest is buried.  The water is to the right.

27 August 2013


I am no fan of working under pressure but sometimes it's a great way to get things done.  Some weeks ago I was given the chance to decorate a storefront with my GPS art, or "gwriting" as I call it.  Partly because my mornings were not so free for a few weeks and partly because of other reasons, I didn't get around to making the phrase I had in mind.  Then I got around to contacting Garmin about the broken strap on my Forerunner 210 and they offer to replace it at no charge.  Now that's great customer service!  The only issue though is it will take x days to get the GPS watch back to me.  Only today I got around to making the third word of the three-word phrase I have in mind.  Part of the delay was that I contemplated about making the phrase in one bike ride.  It takes about an hour to make a four- or five-letter word via running, so doing the whole phrase in one run would take too many hours of the day.  Besides, the longer the phrase, the more likely I'll make a mistake.  I like running more than biking, so running it had to be.  I plan to do the phrase in three runs, one word per run, then digitally combine the words and print the final picture in poster mode, i.e. onto 8.5x11 pages and laboriously tape the pages together.  It didn't look so bad when I made the family tree so it should work.  Worst case scenario, I'll splurge and print at Staples, hope it won't cost much, as I'm doing this project expecting only fleeting fame and no fortune.  In the short term anyway.  We’ll see!

With the Garmin needing to be sent away soon, I'll be running every day for the next few days to make sure I have all the maps I need before I no longer have watch.  It may be possible to borrow a GPS watch from someone in a track club, but I'd rather not.

25 August 2013


I am your typical frustrated customer in today's global and automated economy.  I don't have a Discover credit card but their subway ads boasting human customer service rep makes me almost want to have one.  I have nothing against Discover, just that I already have a few credit cards and don't need another one.  When I hear the phrase "customer service", cynical me automatically think of auto-generated email as soon as you submit an electronic request, then not hear back from anyone for a long time, or if anything at all it would be some canned response that most likely doesn't solve my problem.  Also groan-inducing is the maze of voice menu, or someone who has a thick foreign accent and talks fast!  And what's with being passed from one person or system to another and having to provide the same info over and over?  More like Customer Disservice!

But let's be fair and acknowledge those instances when Customer Service actually provides the customer with a useful service.  Some months ago I had a bad subway car (NYC Transit MetroCard).  The local clerk was quick to give me an envelope to have the defective card mailed in.  I suspect that the clerk didn't want to be bothered with the work of trying to solve it there and then, but maybe it's just me.  Anyway, I filled out the form to the best of my knowledge.  It sure asked for a lot of information.  Just my luck even though I often save all the credit card receipts from the MetroCard vending machines, I didn't have this particular one I needed.  Still I sent in the bad card and expected it to be an exercise in futility.  I probably get back a form letter saying the card cannot be read and I didn't provide enough info.  Lo and behold, a few days ago I got back a replacement for almost $10.  Customer Service actually works!

Another personal experience of mine that shows Customer Service to be of assistance to the end-user is with CitiBike.  I love the idea of using a bike to go from Point A to Point B without having to lock it up.  Just check the bike out somewhere near your start point and return it somewhere near your destination.  Unfortunately, almost every time I return the bike something didn't work.  Sometimes the green light went on to show all was well, but when I checked record of my trips it would show that the bike was not returned where I did.  Worst instance was when the data claimed I took it out for about seven hours and returned it elsewhere.  It really stinks that once you tried to return and the thing locked up, whether with yellow, red, or green light, you cannot take it out again.  Luckily, each time I wrote to CitiBike customer service I got back a reply, something along the line that they fixed the error.  Maybe it's because the system is so notoriously buggy they are taking customers' words at face value.  Whatever.  This past Friday I could have used a bike but I didn't feel like putting up with having to write to customer service after making the trip, even though they are helpful.

It's almost Monday, time for the 120-point limit of My Cokes Reward to reset.  Then I'll be able to try to use the few codes I gave away this week, to see if anyone used them.  Just a little experiment I'm conducting.  Who reads blogs these days, right?  But it's a free MCR code, who can resist freebies?

Today's code is RRNF966 JKV6M7X.  It's from a Powerade Zero, so it may have double value if that promotion of no-sugar drinks is still in effect.  Happy Point-Collecting!

23 August 2013


My Vietnamese name, LONG, sounds the same as another Vietnamese word, LÔNG, which means "body hair".  (In the North of Viet Nam, the two words may be pronounced differently, but in the South they are all the same.)  In English, the little mark above the O is called a circumflex.  In Vietnamese, it's thought of as a head gear or hat, or nón, so that a fun name for someone named LONG would be "Long Đội Nón", meaning "the LONG with the HAT", or LÔNG.

I don't consider myself a hat person, but in reviewing my photo collection I noticed that I do have some photos with head gears.  Different head gears serve different purposes.  In these photos, can you tell what occasions the "hats" were for?  
Hint: Battle of Brooklyn 10-Mile/Relay, presented by Jack Rabbit Sports.
The abbreviation does have something to do with Brooklyn.
The T-shirt design may be too much of a hint.
Hint: I think a girl in the background was carrying a plastic pumpkin.
In case anyone is looking forward to the free My Coke Rewards code, here it is:

TMW5XB6 599N075

It's from a Minute Maid bottle, which I believe at this time counts as double, so you are looking at 6 points, not the usual 3 points.

22 August 2013


Some time ago, my #1 Blog Fan TOTA remarked that I haven't done a post about vanity plates in a while.  So here it is, for the viewing pleasure of TOTA and any who enjoy these witty license plates!

I suppose this person is the #1 fan of a certain baseball player with ROD in his nickname.  Hm, who could that be?  And is that adoration still there after the droid bust?

My first interpretation of this plate had to do with being happy or blissful.  My mind just automatically dropped the word TOP.  On second thought, I think it has to do with the car's retractable roof, not semi-nude beach.

I am sure we are talking about the King of Rock'n'Roll here, but I am not sure about the number 35.  Elvis was 42 years old when he died so that's not it.
In other news, did anyone use the My Coke Rewards I last posted?  I already maxed out for the week so I cannot check.  If anyone is interested, here's another code, also from a Powerade bottle:


Good news!  MCR re-introduced many gift cards, including Nike, Barnes & Noble, and Old Navy.  Hope the free code from me goes toward one of those cool stuff, or whatever you want.

20 August 2013


Google Auto Awesome is awesome but it has limits.  I already made a GIF animation by taking still shots of an object (CubeeCraft Hello Kitty) spinning around.  But what if I want to go around the object instead, like in that flying eagle kick in The Matrix?  On the first try, I had a CubeeCraft Walter White of Breaking Bad fame on a stool in my living room then I moved around it taking photos.  I discovered that doing so the object can appear at different distance from the camera.  Besides, my living room is shown in the background.  So for the second attempt I went to the backyard and have two stools side by side to eliminate the varying distance between Walter and the camera.  I only made eight or nine shots so the "animation" is in no way smooth.  The three-legged stools only butt against each other smoothly at certain angles and there is only so much room on my back porch.  Alas, Auto Awesome can only do animations when the foreground object moves and the background stays, or at least some reference points stay so.  I expected that to be the case but I wanted to confirm it and confirm I did.

To make the animation below, I first downloaded the photos from Google Photos, then upload them to GIFNINJA.COM.  The link to the anim on gifnina is http://gifninja.com/animated-gifs/690633/around-walter-white .  It is far from perfect but it's a start.

In other news, I have a surplus of My Coke Rewards (MCR) points and there is a 120-point cap for the week, so I'll give some away both to clear them out and to attract readers.  Free, come and get it!  Today's code is from a Powerade bottle I found during this morning's run to Coney Island's Riegelmann Boardwalk, where I saw that the Shark Bridge was already gone.  Drum rolls please!


It's possible that someone already used the code but it's unlikely.  I am sure some Coke drinkers don't even know that Powerade carry MCR points.  Of course, it's a good chance shortly after this blog post is published someone grabbed the code.  First come first served!  For tracking purpose, I'd appreciate a thank-you note in the Comments if you are the first to use the code.

Thanks go to GIFNinja.com for providing the tool to make the animation.

19 August 2013


This past weekend was a busy one for me.  Saturday was NYCRuns' debut Tortoise & Hare 10K in Van Cortlandt Park, first time the race management company did a cross-country (read: trail run) event.  For some people in the NYC metro area it must be difficult to travel all the way to the northernmost region of New York City, almost to the border between Yonker and the Bronx.  It didn't help that the 1 train didn't run all the way to its terminal as usual and was replaced by a shuttle bus.  Still, some 130+ people made it to the race, ran on the track, then the trail, then back to the track for one more loop, only slightly different from the first loop though.  Last time I ran Van Cortlandt, with the Holiday Marathons folks, I got lost somewhere and ended up running a shorter course.  This time I stayed at the Start/Finish line and got some photos every now and then.


The next day I was in Prospect Park for the Battle of Brooklyn 10M/Relay, presented by Jack Rabbit Sports.  In addition to a T-shirt and, in some case, tricorn hats, the volunteers were offered store credits with Jack Rabbits Sports.  Good way for the runners to support their destructive addiction, I think.  Just kidding!  I was at Water Station 1 and found some time to squeeze in a couple of photos.  The highlight of the event was when I was picking up discarded paper cups during a lull, a woman passed by and asked if I am Qaptain Qwerty and that she liked my pictures.  Since I haven't drawn that many cartoons lately, I suppose she meant the photos.  Or maybe the GPS arts.  Whatever the case, it was nice that my cyberspace name got matched to the meat-space person.


It was a busy weekend!  After supporting the two races back-to-back, I had the pleasure of playing tourist in Red Hook.  I was afraid that Fairway's parking lot would be too crowded but luckily I happened to see the overflow lot and found a spot.  I only visited Fairway for the deli and outdoor grill. We enjoyed our food under an overcast sky that did turn into a drizzle, even a light rain, but luckily nothing more.  In my last visit to the area, I thought the waterfront ended with Fairway, but this time I chanced upon an entrance to the waterfront beyond Fairway's overflow parking lot.  It didn't go too much further, but the view was still nice.  I wanted to visit that famous key lime pie place but didn't know where it was.  Luckily, as I purposely avoided getting back to Van Brunt Street, the main artery of Red Hook, just to wander a bit, I saw signs that led me right the place.  I have a sweet tooth but also love cold desserts.  I found Steve's Key Lime Pie delicious!  After the treat, we walked a bit in nearby Valentino Park and Pier.  Another gorgeous view of Statue of Liberty, even if she comes out small in photos!
Kayakers in Red Hook, Valentino Park's cove, with Statue of Liberty in the background.

I love public art! 
Corn on the Internet!

Key lime pie the authentic stuff from Steve's, yummy!

Lovely buildings, quaint beach...
The great day didn't end with the trip to Red Hook, as my son and I had our first bike trip together in Prospect Park.  We made only one loop of the park because it was getting dark, but it was great to spend some quality time together.