31 May 2013


NYC finally got its bike share program.  About this time last week (Friday 24 May) on the way home I noticed that some stations in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn already had bikes parked in them.  I didn't get my annual member key then so even if I could just park and go check them out I wouldn't be able to.  I had to wait until Saturday the 25th to receive my key in the mail.  Memorial Day was the official kick-off but I worked in the morning, started really early too.  When I was done with work around noon, I could have taken the subway from Roosevelt Island to Manhattan (another island, but pretty much no one says Manhattan Island, it's just "Manhattan") to check out the bikes.  But that's another subway trip for no other purpose.  I'm really careful with money these days so I put it off for another day.  No rush, let others be the testers of the new system.

Yesterday I finally gave the bike share program a twirl.  I needed to be on 67th Street between First and Second Avenue, which is the east side of Manhattan, but the D train doesn't go there.  Sure I can make some transfers but rush-hour trains are pretty crowded and I hate to wait for the connection.  So I got off the D train on the west side of Manhattan and make my way to the east by bike.  I brought along a bike helmet, the relatively new one I got from the City a few weeks back.  Just a few blocks from the D train station I bumped into the first Citi Bike station, 58th Street and 6th Avenue, I believe.  Whipped out my member key and out came a bike.  I had to adjust its seat but that was it, off I went.

Although I rode with car traffic before, it usually was off-hours and not on super-busy streets like Uptown Manhattan during rush-hour.  A few times traffic was so bad I had to pull to the sidewalk and ran pushing the bike.  After Second Avenue things got more quiet.  I suppose most drivers found their way onto the Queensboro Bridge.  I thought I reviewed the map of bike stations and saw some near 67th Street.  That was not the case.  All stations are around 60th Street and below.  So I ended up pedaling back downtown to return the bike and ran back uptown.  I was 20 minutes late to the appointment, which worked out in the end, but so much for having bad intel.  I could have returned the bike earlier and walked leisurely uptown.

After my visit at the 67th Street Library, I gave bike share another try.  I was nowhere near a subway station, the nearest being on Lexington Avenue.  Can't wait for that Second Avenue subway line to be completed, eh?  So I can walk to a subway station, or I can hop on a Citi Bike and get there a tad faster.  I hopped.  The first time I returned the bike, I saw clearly that the light went green to indicate that the bike was properly locked, my rental period over.  The second time around, the light remained yellow, but the bike wouldn't budge as well.  I tried to take it out again, but perhaps because of security measure that didn't work either.  Later at home I verified that my rides were recorded, equipments returned, although the first time, with the green light, it didn't list the return location.  The second ride was all a-okay, weird.

Today I planned to use bike share again while in Chinatown waiting for my son and his music lesson.  I always have to park far away because of lack of parking space or because of outrageous parking fee, even the meters.  So theoretically I can park far away like always then ride a bike to the center of Chinatown.  I found a spot near Corlears JHS as usual and walked over to Seward Park Branch of the NYPL.  There was a bike station nearby but either all the bikes were taken out or the station was not activated, there was no bike to be found.  It was a hot day to walk around so I settled down in some cool place and checked email etc.  On the way back to the car some time later, I discovered two functional stations, both near Madison Street, just a street over from where I parked.  Just a matter of going in the wrong direction.  In the future, I definitely could use bike share to get to the heart of Chinatown.

19 May 2013


Three A.M.!  That was when I had to get up to be able to be in Prospect Park to volunteer at Water Station #4 of the NYRR Brooklyn Half-Marathon, with my PPTC friends.  As a morning runner, I am used to getting up early, but earliest I did, for running, was 5 A.M.  Back when I had a full-time job anyway.  Some years ago I decided to give Black Friday shopping a try and got up at 4 A.M. to spend some time waiting in queue then some more hours inside the store later on, trying to get the tired store clerk's attention.  I came home empty-handed and had a nasty headache for the rest of the day.  What a complete waste of time that was.  I hated shopping even more ever since.  With the volunteer gig with friends, it was totally different.  Sure I had to risk riding the bike at 3:30 A.M., complete with front and tail lights since it was still dark, but I hated to be at the mercy of the MTA's weekend construction work.  The ride was not so bad, as once I got to Ocean Parkway to make the journey north, along the way I pedaled past NYRR crews setting things up.  What's more, it was outdoor and I was surrounded by so much positive energy.

I was at the meeting place, East Drive near Lincoln Road, just as some of the PPTC folks arrived.  But there was no tables etc for the water station.  It was a good thing I came on bike, as I was able to zip around to see what's going on, and finally we found out that we were given bad info.  Or the water station was moved.  It was actually a bit near the big hill, a little past Center Drive.  With my bike, I was stationed for a while at the meeting point to re-direct anyone who came in later.  And a few did.  By six o'clock I decided it was late enough, I went to the water station and helped with setting up the paper cups.  Three tiers of cups on several tables stretching as far as the eye can see!  Bring on those 22,000 runners already!

With the expanded field, this year's Brooklyn Half had two waves of runners.  When they came, they came strong, even though we were near Mile 5 of the 13.1-mile course.  Unlike the NYC Half, when I was at Mile 11 on a cold day, runners at the Brooklyn Half sure made use of the water.  It was overcast and cool, but when you run you get hot quickly.  Before long one of us got splashed, cups were all over, and we worked feverishly to keep up with the demand.  As cups on the front rows got snatched and gulped down, we moved the ones in the back further forward.  We were well-staffed so I had some moments to snatch photos of the runners.

I went home along Ocean Parkway, pretty much the same way I came.  Vehicular traffic was jammed everywhere along the parkway, and even the bike path was not spared from the disruption.  Every now and then there would be a medical tent right at the corner, completely blocking the bike path.  I wonder if they really had to do that.  I had to go around the medical tents then hefted the bike over the railing to get back on the bike path.  Sure I could use the service road, but even with few cars nearby every now and then one would silently stalk me, I didn't want to deal with that.

While it was great that I did not have to deal with car traffic at intersections, there was plenty of pedestrian traffic.  Walkers on Ocean Parkway are normally mostly ignorant of the bike path, i.e. they walk in the bike lane when there is a separate walking lane.  With a big event like the Brooklyn Half, it only got worse.  It did not help that every now and then there would be a police cruiser completely blocking the ramp to the bike lane, or some officers standing in the bike lane.  Oh well, just have to use common sense and go around the obstacles.  Not like those cyclists barreling down the Manhattan Bridge toward Chinatown that I saw on Friday while volunteering with Transportation Alternatives.  You would think if you see a lot of people at the foot of the bridge, then you should slow down.

See more photos at


Last but not least, with the two volunteer gigs over, on Sunday I was able to finally resume making GPS art (gwriting) on a run.  I promised a runner in the Run Junkees May Challenge to spell her name, "Miriam", and on Sunday I carried out the work.  It was the first time I wrote the lowercase "a" this way and it came out good.  Unfortunately I cannot say the same thing for the "r" and "i" being connected at the top.  I knew that it's best to connect the letters at the bottom but I thought I could get away with "r" and "i".  Instead, they look more like a fat lowercase "n".  I will try again!

17 May 2013


Tomorrow's NYRR Brooklyn Half-Marathon is all the rage in recent weeks.  Here is some more fuel to keep the excitement going!  Now I better go to sleep, need to be in Prospect Park at 4:30 AM (!) to volunteer with PPTC for NYRR at water station near Mile 5.  Will earn a free race as a result, yay!

Brooklyn Bridge as viewed from a knoll in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
My latest GPS art, stretching over 9 km.  If I made the "b" uppercase, maybe it would be an even 10 km.

14 May 2013


My latest gwriting work is called "Vitale", for a friend in PPTC.  The area of Gravesend and Bath Beach is actually my preferred canvas.  I would run along the avenues and up and down the streets to generate the words.  If the writing goes east far enough it would have to deal with the diagonal Gravesend Neck Road, or if further up north there's King's Highway, but otherwise the roads are rectangular.  The really nice thing though is the words are pretty much upright, almost horizontal, not slanted like when I run along Bath Avenue or Benson Avenue.  The slanting is worst when I cross 86th Street and run along 20th Avenue etc.

I wanted to make the V in "Vitale" twice as big as the rest, i.e. make the word title case.  While I could easily virtually trespass two city blocks to make the sharp angle that forms the V, I prefer to make use of existing roads when possible.  I've always wanted to make use of the intersection of 86th Street and Stillwell Avenue but it turned for this project that won't work.  I can have the letters rise from Avenue U but I recalled that "Jason" didn't look that well when I had the letters rise from the middle line of the uppercase word.  It also helped that Lake Place ran through a few of the long blocks and would really help make a nice uppercase A.  Again, I can handle A even without a street running through a long block, but why not make use of what's already out there.

I tried to dot the i but the result is not as good as I hoped for.  I walked in circle a few times at the junction of 86th Street, Avenue U, and West 13th Street but did not get the circle that I hoped for.  While studying the map of the area, I planned to have the T's  horizontal line going from the dot all the way over to Avenue U and West 10th Street, to avoid having a line at the bottom connecting i and T.  But when it came time to actually do the work, I totally forgot and realized shortly later and connected T to A that way.  Whenever possible, avoid having the lines at the bottom of your words.  The few extraneous lines the better.

I got a call from my mother when I was midway through the middle of the A.  She had a doctor's appointment and I was going to drive her there, but she wanted to leave early and do some grocery shopping.  I had to speed up to finish the A, virtually crossing the track of the N subway line where Avenue V meets West 8th Street, and finish with L and E.  Perhaps because of the rush, I forgot to add a serif on the L's bottom.  The extra curve upward would tell the audience that the L ends there, that whatever beyond would be just the unfortunate need to connect the letters.  L still turned out OK, but could be better.  Note that by the time I got to E, Lake Place already goes too far south.  Luckily, Lama Court is another one of those alleys that cuts up a block.  Anyway, I think the map is wrong, that Lake Place does not go from West 5th Street to Van Sicklen, as I don't recall seeing such a street.

I usually run 8 km (5 miles) a day.  When I finished the E it was not 8 km yet so I ran some more.  Recall that one of the rules is that you don't want extra lines in the picture, so instead of running back along Avenue U, I used Avenue T.  I would have run all the way home to get my 8 km, but I had to reset the watch at Avenue T and West 13th Street because going further would have the extra line intersect the V's right section.  So no 8 km, but sometimes we have to sacrifice a little for the sake of arts.

09 May 2013


It is a good time to be cyclist in New York City.  We will finally have a bike share program, the CitiBike.  I cannot recall when I first heard about it, but I recall hearing from my distant niece in Paris.  Hop on a bike, go to a different part of the city to return, done.  No worry about carrying an extra key for the bike lock, no need to lug the bike around.  Of course, the bike stations may not be close to where you want to be, but I am sure it works in many scenarios.  Even though there are any bike stations near where I live, I ponied up the money for an annual membership just to show my support for the program.  I don't know where my next job will put me so I don't know if I will ever bike to work, but there are some scenarios I can make use of a bike without having to keep it after I'm done biking.  Suppose some day I'm on the subway and the train stopped running for whatever reason.  I can just hop out of the subway, grab a CitiBike and get closer to home then transfer to a working train line.  Ideally I can bike all the way home, or at least close enough to walk home after returning the bike, but just being able to get closer to home is a plus.  A less useful scenario would be for me to satisfy my fancy about doing a triathlon.  I would take the subway to a swimming pool, do some hundreds of meters, then hop on a CitiBike for some distance, and finally run.  If I were to try that now, I would have to lug my own bike along, lock it somewhere during the swim and the run, then hope it will still be there when my personal triathlon is done.

Today I went to get a free bike helmet from the city.  I've been cycling more often lately and my helmet is pretty banged-up.  I know about the city's program and erroneously thought that I could just call 311 and be connected to someone who would take my mailing address and the helmet would arrive in the mail some days later.  No, you have to go to these Free Bike and Fitting Events, where they measure your head and make sure the helmet fits you fine.  You have to sign a waiver, too.  Go to http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem.e2d70d4cd03b6dd1d3e3711042289da0 , click Select Category, choose Bike Helmet Fittings, then click Show Events.  I don't know why they don't just call it Helmet Giveaway.  Bike Helmet Fittings sound like you have to bring your own helmet for them to help you adjust.  I went to the event at the Central Library of the Brooklyn Public Library. The line was longish and it moved slowly, but the weather was beautiful and I had a paperback book with me so the wait was not so bad.  Eventually I got my helmet, a blue one, red and grey being the other two color choices.  While I was at the library, I also picked up a few audiobooks.  Ah, free is good.  Thank you, New York City!

Bike rack on Warren Street near City Hall.

05 May 2013


It's funny how sometimes you have a lot of something while at other times you don't.  Take, for example, the Marine Park West Trail.  I recently learned about it but never had the time to explore its entire length in one run.  Instead, I had to explore it one section at a time.  Recently, I finally discovered enough of it that the rest could be done in one visit.  Today, mere days later, I was back at the trail with a friend from PPTC to run the entire length, from the entrance on Avenue U to the beach at is southern end.  J.C. accompanied me on a run for the East Trail some time ago but we couldn't get together again until today.

The West Trail is only about 2 km in length and it shouldn't take that long to run the entire length.  However, since I explored it in sections by looking for entrances along Gerritsen Avenue it seemed to take longer.  With J.C. and just going straight from the Avenue U entrance it took almost no time.  It also helped that just last week I learned that immediately upon entering the trail there was no inland path but that you have to go along the water a while before finding an inland path.  Just a short distance into the trail we ran across a dead white rabbit.  Now that I think about it, why was the rabbit right in the middle of the path?  Anyway, we just kept going along the roller-coaster path.  Soon I noticed the school then the wide area where I last saw the two dirt bikers.  At a fork in the road, we took the left road toward the beach.  I thought it would lead to the beach where I saw the group of galloping dogs but I already passed it.  I didn't pause to take photos.  Funny how the second time around it was not a novelty any more.  Back to Gerritsen Avenue J.C. and I went.  J.C. likes the quiet streets of the Gerritsen Peninsula so we veered off Gerritsen Avenue and meandered wherever the road took us, proceeded north whenever we encountered dead-ends.  Eventually we got off the peninsula and headed east back to our respective homes.  It was a good 14 km total for me in the end.

A view of the model airplane field from the trail.

In other news, my latest gwriting work, from yesterday morning, is a salute to George Takei, REO Speedwagon, and all runners.  While not as trailblazing as iTrespass, with this gwriting task, I confirmed that it's possible to take a long break and resume writing exactly where you left it.  I wrote the phrase backward, i.e. started with n, then u, then r etc. and was called by a Freecycler when I just finished the i in Takei.  This is the person who helped me re-purpose the leftover bagels from a foot race last week.  I had to run home to meet her at my subway station to give her the last bag of bagels.  I then ran back to Bath Avenue and 21st Avenue and resumed writing the rest of the phrase.  As you can see, the transition is smooth, there is no breaks in the writing.  The only drawback is that between the pause and resuming I could not run or use the watch to time anything else, as such action would require resetting the clock.

By the way, admit it that now you want to listen to REO Speedwagon's Take It On The Run.  Or maybe cannot get it out of your head.

See how it's traced out at

02 May 2013


My gwriting has happened faster than I can blog about them, so here's a little gallery of what I made in recent days.  Also collected here are rules and tips about gwriting.

  • Unless you write in separate runs, everything is connected.  A separate run is when you reset the GPS watch.
  • Try to keep the connection between letters at the bottom of the word.  This means you sometimes need to go up and down a letter a few times, e.g. making the uppercase N while going from left to right you would be done at the upper right but you want the next letter start at the bottom so you have to go back down.
  • If you make a mistake just trace you way back.  In the big picture, the mistake may not be so bad.
  • Uppercase letters done over a 2x2 grid look great, but you'll need to run longer distance.
  • On the other hand, lowercase letters done over a single block are not bad either.  For "a" and "e", or other characters that have lines going through the block, there is no need to actually trespass private properties, just iTrespass.
  • iTrespass relies on the fact that the path is draw as a series of lines between two points.  To draw the "a", ideally you would start from the overhanging part on the left, go over to the right side, pause the watch a third of the way down, then go to the left, about a third of the way up unpause the watch.  A line would then be drawn from the right side to the left side.  The GPS won't know that you made the long way around the block.    To finish the letter, run back to the right side, past the pause point.

For the first day of "May Run Every Day Challenge" hosted by "I  < 3 To Run"

For a good friend.  The thing on the right is supposed to be two concentric circles and the thing at Stillwell Avenue and 28th Avenue is supposed to be a diamond.