27 March 2013


For the longest time, my runs are out and back and always a different route from day to day.  I have five or so different routes to choose from and it's nice to have the change of scenery, from waterfront to boardwalk then residential etc.  However, lately, I've made exceptions to my routine.  I pretty much run in my neighborhood, about 3.2 km out and back as if I am a bird, but the actual distance usually comes out to more than 10 km.  How?  I've been experimenting with GPS writing, or gwriting for short.

As a runner wears a GPS watch go about with his running, his path is recorded and can be viewed on a map.  Usually it's just a straight line out and back, or maybe a loop.  But a lot can be done beyond the line and the loop.  I originally found out about gwriting from seeing some route traced out in the shape of a heart, around the time of Valentine's Day.  As an Apple fan boy, my first thought was the Apple logo, but I never tried to do it.  Instead, one day on the futbol fields of Calvert Vaux Park I tried to spell "NYCRUNS", that little race management company that puts out small foot races with a community feel.  I used the Charity Miles app and was able to pause and resume as I went from letter to letter.  Not bad for a first time, but I got the letters for "RUNS" so close together.  The trouble with trying to gwriting on an open field is you have less reliable points of reference.  I thought I used so and so marker on the field but by the time I got back I didn't walk straight and wrote some letters too closely.
The very first time I gave gwriting a try.  It was not too shabby considering I did not use any exact reference points.
The next time I try gwriting the letters were "PPTC", short for Prospect Park Track Club, which I am an active member of.  Appropriately enough, I wrote the letters on Long Meadow of the park itself.  Again, without a good point of reference the letters did not come out perfect.
Appropriately, I tried to spell "PPTC", for Prospect Park Track Club, on Long Meadow of Prospect Park.  Only if the T was not so close to the P.

Some day later I tried to spell "NEWTOWN", my high school in Elmhurst, Queens, New York, in my own neighborhood of Bath Beach, Brooklyn.  Ideally I should do it in the school's neighborhood, but I live quite a drive away and I don't like to combine driving with running.  Unlike writing in an open field, the rectangular nature of the street grid posed an extra challenge.  Also, like the other attempts, the writing appears to be upside down when viewed on a map, with north pointing up.  No problem, I'll try to write better on the next run.  The only down side is I'll be stuck with running in Bath Beach for the time being, no scenic waterfront view.  Starting with this run, I used my GPS watch, which has much better battery life compared to Charity Miles running on the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone.  The one big downside with the GPS is that pausing and resuming do not work as I expected.  A straight line would be drawn from the pause point to the resume point, so I basically have to write continuously.  For some letters I just have to run back and forth along a stroke so to avoid having extra lines.  When there's no choice, I try to keep the extra lines at the bottom of the letters.
"Upside down" NEWTOWN, the first time I tried to "spell" my high school's name.

With today's run, along Bath Avenue and 86th Street and the streets in-between, from Bay 41st Street to Bay 19th Street, I got so much closer to the perfect NEWTOWN.  On earlier runs I used Benson Avenue and Harway Avenue/Cropsey Avenue and had to run around the bus depot at 25th Avenue because the depot took up two blocks.  Using Bath and 86th left the depot out of my path.  Ideally all the letters should be uppercase or all lowercase, but the street grid and time limit do not allow the luxury.  Making the N lowercase solves the issue of the diagonal stroke.  Instead of running two avenues, I can extend to three avenues, but then I will have to cover even more distance.  Not that I cannot cover the greater distance, but I am a slow runner and there is only so much time I can devote to running each day.  For example, the E in NEWTOWN should be wider but by then I was supposed to head back to pick up dinner that my mother already called in to the restaurant.

One thing I enjoyed immensely is that I actually spelled the letters backward as I wrote them, so that they appear right-side up on the map.  I live near the end of NEWTOWN, so instead of running some distance out and spell from left to right, I spelled it backward.  I still underestimated the letter widths and T came out bad, but there's always another run in the future.  In the mean time, take a look at how the route is traced out at


Go to the Player view and click the Play button.  The route is pretty flat, I think the change in altitude is wrong, or probably just me raising my watch arm.

Close-up view of my GPS NEWTOWN.
From far away, it still looks like NEWTOWN, even though the T should be wider.

23 March 2013


Spring is here!  Well, the weather is not spring-like, but spring is here regardless.  With spring we will have spring cleaning.  Faithful followers of this blog know that I already have a head-start with spring cleaning thanks to The Freecycling Network (TFN).  I managed to give away many baby-related items plus old-technology stuff.  Ideally the people who get stuff from TFN or similar networks are individuals actually making use of them.  In my case, I suspect I've been dealing with an eBay Seller, so I am not going to list any more stuff for the time being.  I did have a bunch of old 4-GB, or smaller size, internal hard drives, and some internal burners, mostly CD-R or CD-RW, but there was a DVD burner.  Instead of listing them on TFN, I packed them all up into one heavy backpack and rode on the bike to the E-Waste Warehouse of the Lower East Side Ecology Center (LESEC).  The LESEC regularly holds e-waste events in the five boroughs, whereby people can drop off old electronics for re-use or recycling, or at worst for proper disposal so that the old stuff don't end up contaminating soil or stream. Now things get even better!  The E-Waste Warehouse on President Street in Brooklyn, almost by the Gowanus Canal, is open five days a week (Tuesday through Saturday).  Nothing fancy, just a loading dock where people can drop off stuff.  It's far from the main road, so there are plenty of parking or double-parking space should you come with a truck-load of stuff.  For some kind of tracking, you may be asked from which zip code you come from.

When the E-Waste Warehouse is open for business, this sign is put out on the sidewalk.  The loading dock is just to the right of this photo.  A LESEC person sat on the dock collecting stuff, I didn't want to bother him with photography.

The LESEC E-Waste Warehouse is near a T-intersection.  The Gowanus Canal is behind the photographer and the street where the white van is on is President.
Years ago I would drive van-load of stuff I rescued from the street to LESEC events.  I should also take such items to the E-Waste Warehouse, but I won't be doing that at all.  It's a bit far for me and I hate driving, even when there is plenty of parking.  Instead, I've been taking old electronics to my local Best Buy at Caesar's Bay.  I just walk there with a laundry cart, usually with just one item, but one time I brought three pieces.  I just chalk the walk up as a Charity Miles walk, usually done after a meal.  Right at the entrance, I would ask for a Recycle sticker to affix to each piece, then just drop the stuff off at their Service Desk.  No need to even wait on a queue if there is one, just leave them on the floor out of the way for the service people to get in and out of the area.  All the staff are so friendly, they even thanked me for recycling.  According to this blog post, http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2012/04/24/how-best-buy-makes-money-recycling-america’s-electronics-and-appliances?page=full , Best Buy makes a little money off the free service and their e-waste handlers meet industry standard.  Still a win-win situation for me.  As long as I don't do any compulsive buying while at Best Buy.

I recently found out that Staples also accept old tech stuff for recycling.  I knew that Staples used to take only Dell stuff but things changed for the better.  The local Staples store is much closer for me than the Best Buy store, but recycling with Staples is a little more involved.  You need to be on queue as if you are buying something, then the clerk has to look up some codes to I.D. the pieces and print you a receipt.  On those days when Staples have $1, or better, sales I wouldn't want to be at Staples.  I suppose I'll take the long walks to Best Buy after all.

21 March 2013


At the recent office-warming party for NYCRuns, the first thing a friend said to me was "Did you bring your camera?"  In some circles, I am known as the guy who usually has the camera to make a record of events.  It's true, I love to take photos.  I am more of a quantity guy than quality.  I don't have any fancy camera, just the usual point-and-shoot type.  Recently I came across two cameras that I fancy someday owning.  They are both hands-free cameras, each with their own advantages.

The first camera that recently piqued my interest is the Memoto Lifelogging Camera.  Hmm, what is Lifelogging?  That's the process whereby a person logs everything about his life.  He captures everything arounds him through audio-recording, video-recording, photographing, etc.  All in the hope of able to go back later and finding out exactly what happened when.  As I once commented at http://www.fastcompany.com/58604/feedback , I am no fan of the process, but the Memoto camera still intrigues me.  It's tiny and light, you wear it and it takes a photo every few seconds.  You'll end up with lots of photos but then there is a piece of software that will do the highlighting for you.  Besides the obvious privacy issues, there's also other unfavorable facets of using the Memoto, like no access to the photos to share them on social media, or the extra fee to store the photos online.  If I have the Memoto, I would use it only for special occasions, definitely not as a life-logging device, i.e. not constantly taking photos 24x7.

The other camera, or more exact, the other video-camera, I like is the GoPro Hero series for sports enthusiasts.  Lately I've seen people at foot-races or on the street wearing these helmet-mounted cameras.  Stick them there, go on your ride or foot-race and everything is recorded.  Or at least "everything" that the flash memory can hold.  Just last week, I came across some photos from a runner of the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon.  Still photos, not videos, and they look great.  The latest version, Hero 3, seems to be unreliable, per the many reviews on Amazon.  Maybe by the time I have some disposable income they will have a more reliable version available.  Maybe too, by then the Memoto will be widely available.  The Memoto's development was funded partly by Kickstarter and the first batches of cameras are going to the Kickstarter investors.  I have heard/read about Kickstarters but this is the first I know of a product that I might want.

17 March 2013


In 2012, I had some extra money and poured it all into the NYRR 5-boro series.  It was no longer a 5-boro Half-Marathon series, since the Queens race was a 10K and Bronx's was a 10-miler.  Having done the entire series got me guaranteed entry into the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon, which runs through Times Square and down the West Side Highway, but I gave the NYC Half a pass.  For me, a half-marathon should be $50 max for early registration.  Maybe even $60, but $117 is way out of my league.  I suppose there are race amenities to die for in the NYRR NYC Half, but I don't mind not finding out.  I still wanted to get involved and to be caught in the excitement, so I originally signed up as a course volunteer, individually.  Shortly afterward, I found out that the North Brooklyn Runners (NRB) run-group had a water station assigned to them and welcome my club, Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC).  I cancelled my individual gig and joined the group effort.

Volunteering with the group near Mile 12, as opposed to doing it as an individual near the starting line, gave me an extra half hour of sleep.  I still had to try to get to the water station by 6 in the morning.  Much as I love the subway, and cycling, neither options are great if you have to go somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, on a very cold day.

The water station was referred to as near Rector Street and the West Side Highway but it was not that near.  More like one long avenue block south of Rector, on a traffic median outside the exit of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.  I bumped into a medical table and asked for direction.  I almost went the wrong way to some other station at Canal Street.  I suppose if the sun was out I could have seen better the so-called Rector water station a few blocks away.

The race was to start at 7:30 AM, some 12 miles away, but we had to be prepared for the onslaught of thirsty runners.  Water was run from a huge hose into big plastic bags housed in plastic bins.  Pitchers were made out of used Gatorade powder bottle and used to pour water into individual paper cups.  Have too many empty cups out and the wind would just blow the empty cups away, so I found it best to have the same person pour water and place the partially-filled cups down.  Runners shouldn't drink a whole cup of water, so the cups were only half-filled, or less.  Old signs were used to create tiers to have a total of three levels of water.  We had a lot of time, and many capable hands, so the work was done soon enough.  We were not even supposed to hand the runners water, they just have to snatch the water off the table themselves.  We had to leave some room so that the runners could easily pick up one cup without having to touch the neighboring cups.  Once the three tiers were filled with water, not much left to do but stand back and wait for the runners to arrive.

And arrive they did.  First were the hand-operated recumbent cyclists, just a few of them.  Then the elite runners with their first-name bibs.  Fast runners from local clubs, like Central Park Track Club (CPTC) and West Side Runners (WSX), were not far behind. Since we were not supposed to hand out water, there was not a whole lot to do other than cheer or take photos, and took photos I did.  A fellow PPTC member had some runner-tracking app but it didn't work for me as I missed the fastest PPTC person.  I managed to snap photos of a few others.  I stood on a low wall of the median to see farther down the road but it was not a good angle and I usually had only a few seconds to get ready to shoot.  Once or twice the PPTC runner would wave at the exact second I snapped the photo.  Other times some other runner would get in the way.  Oh well, things happen when many thousands fill the road.

Ideally I should be on the course, just off to the right of the runners, like the pro photographers with their big cameras.  My measly camera won't rapid-fire and capture every single runner but I would at least have a good view of the runners from far away, but with enough time to have second-chance shots.  But being on the course would mean totally abandoning the water station, even if there was not much work to do.  Eventually, the number of runners decreased greatly and we started to rake the discarded cups etc.  Beside getting the big task done piecemeal raking also got the body warm on this cold day.  In the end, most of the nicely stacked three tiers of water was wasted and we had many blue plastic bags of waste.

It was great to be caught up in the excitement.  I definitely going for a long run tomorrow.

Lots of ice-cold water awaiting for the thirsty runners just a tad past Mile 12 of the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon.
Some of my fellow PPTC members at the NBR-sponsored water station.

It was cold enough for icicles to form while the runners were still further up the road.
Elite runners!  At least the ones I managed to snap photos of.

Here comes the elite runners with their first-name bibs!
Fast local runners were not too far behind!
F1, F2, and F3, aka Top Three Female finishers.
PPTC members showed up!  V is for Victory, or Vinny!  I missed the fastest PPTC runner of this race, could really use a spotter like in that snipers duel scene in The Hurt Locker.
Nicole of PPTC ran the rest of the way to the finish line.
Another sub-2 PPTC finisher!  Go David!
There were three tiers of water per table but it was a cold day, look at those ice on the table surface!  Not that many took the water, both because it was a cold day and it was Mile 12 of a 13.1-mile race, but a few people actually poured water on themselves.  I would do that, too, but on a hot summer day, not a cold day like today.  Hope those people had dry clothes waiting for them.

See the complete album at


16 March 2013

NYCRuns Riverside Park 5K and 10K 2013-03-16

Riverside Park was one of those places I heard much about but never got to explore.  It basically runs along the Hudson River and I twice tried to run the entire length of the park but were thwarted both times.  The first time I tried to run from Washington Height but couldn't find the connection to the waterfront portion.  The second time I entered at 72nd Street and didn't have enough time to go north and only discovered some short section that connect to the cruise ship terminal.  Today, with the NYCRuns Riverside Park 5K and 10K races, I finally got to know the park better, at least the portion between 96th Street and 116th Street.  Since I live near the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, I automatically compare Riverside Park to Shore Road Park.  You have the road high above the park, then the park itself, then the highway.  I totally missed the park when I last ran down from the Washington Bridge.  Today I was busy with moving the NYCRuns vehicles out of the park and other work to support the runners, so I will definitely need to re-visit the park on a leisurely schedule to better explore it, especially the section that runs between the Henry Hudson Highway and the Hudson River.  It's a start, one section at a time, I guess.

As usual, I took some photos of the runners and volunteers, when I had the chance.  If you were in the races, see if you were captured on film, sort of.  I did see someone taking photos with a Polaroid-like device today.  Very interesting.

5K racers were off to the search for their next P.R.

Volunteers at Water Station #1 ready for the throng of thirsty 10K finishers.
10K runners had their turn of running.
The 5K course was out and back, whereas the 10K course involved coming back to the start to make a tight U-turn and repeat the path the runners just covered.

10K first place winner Justin Wood.
Jennifer Busse won the women division of the 10K.

See the complete album at


15 March 2013


My son's school, Bay Academy of Brooklyn, is pretty high-tech, in the sense that homework etc are mostly assigned online.  The students would log on when they get home and mostly print out the assignments for the day.  In some instances, they would update the documents electronically before printing them out for handing in the next day.  There are assessment exams that the students can even do totally online, nothing to print from start to end.

It is not perfect, of course.  Certain web pages just could not be printed properly, perhaps because of the use of frames.  Simply copying the relevant text to memory then pasting the result into TextPad or NeoOffice would take care of the problem.  Windoze users probably use WordPad or whatever word-processing app they have.

Ideally, everything to be downloaded or printed should be in a universal format like PDF.  To many people though, Microsoft Office is everything there is to know in the world.  To these people, it's either Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or nothing else.  While most company offices do have MS Office, not all of them have the latest and greatest version.  At home, I think MS Office ownership is even lower.  In the early days of computing, MS Office would be bundled with the computer but these days it has to be bought separately.  Some people make do with open source software like NeoOffice or OpenOffice.  Neo has been working fine for me with handling the various file formats in MS Office, but a recent document my son tried to open kept crashing it.  The file's extension is docx, so it is supposed to be the new Word 2007 document format.  I thought of checking NeoOffice for updates there and then, but my son was logged in with his account, things may get too complicated when I try to update via his account.  Better to have every updating done from my admin account.  What I did was to first download the file.  By default, clicking on the file does download it but the action also tries to open the file with the default associated app, NeoOffice in my case.  Next, I uploaded the file to Google Drive, which is updated a lot more regularly than the NeoOffice app on my hard drive.  From Google Drive, I tried to print it, but what it really did was generate a PDF locally.  Actually printing the document would then be another step away.

Like I said, PDF should be the default format for all documents.  Not everyone has MS Office and the different version of Office file formats can throw people off even if they have Office.  To add insult to injury, the document in my case is actually a PowerPoint slideshow that just happened to be saved with a docx extension.  Just stick to PDF, people.  On the Mac, the ability to generate PDF is built into all apps.  Anything that can be printed is just a quick selection of Save As PDF away to generate a PDF file.  On Windows, people either don't know about their options regarding PDF-creation or don't care.  I am glad I'm technologically-abled to handle these problems my son had and cannot help wonder how the other parents fare.

08 March 2013


I sometimes fancy myself an artist.  I have no formal training whatsoever, the closest I got to an art school was when I attended Cooper Union's Engineering school, across the street from the Foundation Building, which housed classes for Arts and Architecture students.  But I can draw pretty well and of late took an interest in modular origami.  Sure I've been making sonobes and giving them to friends etc but I can use more exposure.  When I learned about Jack Rabbit Sports' Art Night at Union Square, I immediately signed up.  There's no fee to enter and there's a prize of $50 gift certificate, plus wine, cheese, and crackers as refreshments.

It was an interesting experience, especially for someone totally new to the "gallery" scene, that is, displaying one's work for others to see.  I mistakenly thought that the artworks would be clustered around the back of the store, perhaps on several tables.  Instead, the different works were scattered in many locations throughout the store, which was a good thing as more than ten people brought in stuff to exhibit.  Some works were put on horizontal surfaces like tabletop or cabinet-top, while others were placed on easels.  There was even a video and it was displayed on a TV screen connected to a laptop.  Each exhibit was assigned a number then customers, friends of exhibitors, etc voted for the winner of the evening.  I happened to have arranged to meet a Freecycler at the store, to give away a LaCie external hard drive.  She voted for me so I at least had two votes, but it was not enough to win, heh heh.

One thing I learned from the exhibit was that you need to have contact info readily available.  A few artists had business cards placed near their work, should anyone want to contact them afterward it would be just a phone call or email message away.  On the days leading up to the event, I spent much time designing the images on the sonobes, but did not once think about having business cards to go with my exhibit.  At the end of the event, a neighbor exhibitor wanted to keep in touch with me, so I wrote my email address on a spare sonobe module for her.  That's it!  Next time I'll have my contact info pre-printed on a bunch of sonobe units, all kept inside a half-finished sonobe, which will look like a bowl.

I walked around a bit in the beginning and took the photos below.

I took this photo at an angle to show that it's a piece of wood with depth.  The picture was burnt onto the wood, no mistake to be made!  Note that the design around the picture was cut through the wood. Note also the business cards on the side.

My PPTC team mate loves bridges and painted a picture of her favorite bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Illustrations by Eileen San Felipe.  I tried vector drawing and never got far.  Why, I didn't get too far with bit-mapped drawing on the computer either.  I still do pencil-and-paper, or of late, white-board and dry- or wet-erase markers.

My very own sonobes!  From right to left, the unfolded papers, 6-unit sonobe (cube, duh!), 12-unit piece, and 30-unit piece.  The larger pieces feature various photos and text related to running.  For brownie points, I also showed the Four Jacks, which shows the address and phone number of the four Jack Rabbit Sports stores in New York City.

See the complete collection of all the works exhibited at


courtesy of Lorena from Jack Rabbit.

05 March 2013


To Scrabble players "SUQ" and "QAT" are two useful words to know.  Unfortunately, like many Scrabble words, the meanings can be hard to remember and I myself often get the two mixed up.  A suq is a marketplace in the Middle East whereas a qat is a type of evergreen plant.  As I plan to write this blog post, the first phrase that came to my punster mind was "Generosity fills the qat", which can be the headline for a story about runners taking over a marketplace that serves as the starting point of a race.  I know, it is contrive, as is often the case with puns.  Recall that I have trouble assigning the correct meaning to the respect words.  Since qat is an evergreen plant, my catchy phrase is totally meaningless.  Bummer, definitely a first-world problem.

The runners and walkers at the Generosity 5K Brooklyn this past Sunday 4 March 2013 in Prospect Park participated to raise money for more serious issues, like getting injured veterans back into society or helping Coney Island recovers from Hurricane Sandy.  I was stationed at the intersection of West Lake Drive and Well House Drive to direct participants to make the turn into Well House, lest they make a big loop and do more than 5K.  I also snapped a bunch of photos as runners and walkers approached my station.  See if you find yourself below or at the Picasa link.
Nice-looking start chute.

Nice looking finish chute.
I happen to be reading a Star Wars book in which a Lost Tribe of Sith infiltrated the Galactic Government.  In the case of the Generosity 5K, it's Lost Tribes Beverage, not Sith.

For all the photos I took today of the event, visit