25 June 2013


Mugwort, bull-thristle, and catchweed, oh my!  I re-visited Randall's Island today to help the Park Alliance there with some weeding.  I took the #4 train to 86th Street, hoping to make a connection to the #6 train, from which I would get off at the 96th Street station for a short run to the 103rd Street Bridge.  Alas, the #6 train's doors closed in my face so I made a run for it.  I ran to Randall's Island, that is.  I would love to someday run a long distance along the East River, above 59th Street, but for now I'll just have to explore a section at a time.  Last time I visited Randall's, I ran back to Manhattan from 103rd Street to 96th Street.  It was raining, so while I didn't mind it, it was not as enjoyable, what with riding the subway home in wet clothes and possibly catching pneumonia.  Today it was the opposite, hot and humid, with a backpack full of water and reading materials (for the subway ride).  I ran east along 86th Street since I suspect 86th Street is a major street there should be a footbridge over the FDR Drive.  There wasn't.  Instead, there was a park when 86th Street ended, with stairs leading up.  I thought the stairs would drop me off on the other side of the FDR, i.e. the waterfront, but instead, the park actually hangs above the FDR.  Northward it descends to join the East River Esplanade and the 96th Street ramps for the FDR, further up I already run the last time.  So another section, from 86th to 96th Street, of the east waterfront, explored.  I made it to the Park Alliance site in time to listen to a brief intro then off we went.

Today's work was weeding.  There's a short trail that runs along a marsh, culminating in an opening adjacent to the water.  Over time, weeds started to choke the path and it was the volunteers' job to clear the path.  Mugwort was the primary weed to pull, but we also dealt with bull-thristles and catch-weeds.  Mugworts were easy to pull, you just have to have the patience to reach close to its root and pull gently.  No point of snapping the stem off to have them re-grow quickly.  Bull-thristles are nasty plants that have needles that pull through gloves easily.  The trick is to hold the whole plant down with foot then dig around the root, plus scrape away any needles near the root, then yank the whole thing out.  Catch-weeds are thus called because all along their vine length there are these round pods that cling, or catch, to anything that comes into contact with them.  The weed climbs all over the area, choking native plants as well as weeds, so we pulled them out and all of us got "caught".  Definitely not something we get to experience in a cube-farm!

A view of the path slowly overtaken by weeds.
A large bull-thristle that awed me into taking its photo before I worked on uprooting it.  I should have gotten closer to capture its sharp needles.
After about two hours the path looks better, wider and with fewer weeds.
After the run from Manhattan to Icahn Stadium to meet the other volunteers and park staff, my T-shirt was soaked and another two hours in the sun only made it worse.  Then I got "caught", as evidenced by all those dots on the shirt.

24 June 2013


Some weeks ago I read in the news, probably from this New York Times article (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/a-stores-building-stands-out/?_r=0 ) that a Sears store in Brooklyn was granted landmark status.  I just then visited the area on foot, just to see Erasmus Hall High School and the Kings Theater.  I don't know too much about architecture but I like classical or historic buildings.  Had I know about the Sears building I would have visited it that same week.

Today I had a need to be in the area, or rather further past the area, so I got there by bike.  Good thing I did because it got really hot by the return trip.  I got to visit Gil Hodges' final resting place in Holy Cross Cemetery, a local food market with dubious initials, and the landmark Art Deco Sears store in Flatbush.

Sears Roebuck and Co., corner of Beverley and Bedford.
The 10-story tower of the Sears store.
Entrance to Holy Cross Cemetery at Tilden and Brooklyn Avenues.
Gil Hodges grave.  I am no baseball fan and only know Mr. Hodges after that bridge connecting Brooklyn to the Rockaways.  If the cemetery's literature didn't say so, I wouldn't know that's the Gil Hodges who was a first baseman for the Dodgers and a manager for the Mets.
NSA Foodmarkets, they know everything about you beyond your fridge, from your phone conversations to your web-surfing habit.

23 June 2013


Some summer a few years ago I visited Governors Island three times.  The island is closed to the public during most of the year but is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  It is basically a big park, with no vehicular traffic other than island staff or from special events.  It is a great place to stroll, run, or bike.  I loved it, but following summers things just didn't work out and I didn't go once.  Today, I used the excuse of volunteering for the Get Outside on Governors Island (GOGI) 10K foot-race to visit the island.  I helped with some cleanup of a little mess the Recess Badminton Game from the day before, then helped direct the runners toward the festival area as they got off the ferry, and finally as course marshal near the Brooklyn Ferry dock.

I cannot remember much from previous visits, but the biggest change is that now the island is mostly inaccessible to the public.  The island's shape looks like an ice cream cone and the cone itself is now off-limit.  Only the ice cream scoop is usable.  No more making a loop of the entire island.  You just have to wait a few years.  From what I've seen in the past on the island, I think it will be worth the wait.  Cone or scoop, just find the time to visit the island.  You will enjoy it!

Supermoon and Lady Liberty.
Here comes the first few hundreds runners from the 7 AM ferry!
Some lead runners charging up the cobble-stone hill.
Turn, turn, turn, there's a season for every reason, or something like that.
AT&T Street Charge, with iPhone 4 plug pulled out.  There's also a micro-USB connector on the other sides.

StreetCharge pole near Clayton Road.  The techs told me there's some other pole on Yankee Drive or something like that.

22 June 2013


Instead of the usual forage into Forest Park, this Saturday I visited Elmhurst Park and nearby area.  Elmhurst Park is relatively new, especially to me since I haven't visited the area in a while.  See if you can figure what it used to be.  Don't cheat by going to the last photo.  Likewise, can you figure what used to be on the same block that is now P.S. 58?  Garlinger Triangle may be the clue.  JHS 73 hasn't changed much since I last visited.  The only difference this time is I took a panoramic photo of the front of the building.
Elmhurst Park, in uh, Elmhurst, Queens.  It is on Grand Avenue near a railroad track, which is to the right in the photo, but not shown.
Elmhurst Park plaque on the ground.  I purposely included my colorful running shoes in the photo.
Panoramic view of Elmhurst Park from the inside, with bench area on the left, then the comfort station, playground, and hill.
Elmhurst Park's $2-million comfort station.
Elmhurst Park Playground as seen from the hilltop.
P.S. 58 community playground.
P.S. 58, the School of Heroes.
Garlinger Triangle in the foreground, PS 58 in the back.

Garlinger Triange, memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in The World War.
JHS 73 main entrance.
Haven't figured what used to be on the same spot as Elmhurst Park?

From Gas to Grass!

21 June 2013


I am fond of fonts.  Well, technically what I'm fond of are called "typefaces", but I cannot think of a verb that sounds like or alliterates with "typeface", so "fond of fonts" will have to do.  What I've been gwriting up to today was the equivalent of stick figures, in the sense that the letters have no actual width.  I know how to write using outline fonts but I don't have the time to do so if there are too many letters in the word or phrase.  "RUTH" is the perfect name to experiment with outline font.  "R" and "H" turned out pretty good but "U" and "T" can be better.  I think the upper left of "U" is an anomaly with the satellite, as I am sure I didn't cross the street there.  I thought about making "T" span three blocks and use a whole block's width for its trunk but didn't, so it looks sorta slender.  Its upper right section is probably another satellite anomaly.  I remember when I was at the corner of 76th Street and 19th Avenue, there was a big gathering of parents etc waiting to enter the school on the block.  It's that time of the year when students graduate, whether from middle school to high school or some other advancement.  The parents blocked the entire sidewalk.  Instead of walking around the blob, I paused the GPS watch THEN walked around them and resumed recording my route afterward.  Somehow the horizontal lines merged and the top of the "T" appears to have no thickness.

Ruth is a friend I knew from PPTC although she's more of a FRNY member.  Her special day is around the corner.  Not only I gwrote her name, I also composed the following, ahem, clean limerick:

There is a Front Runner named Ruth
Over forty, your honor, no harsh truth
Much energy for Hadassah
Always smile for the camarah
Deep inside she is just a mere youth

"RUTH", 10 km in 1:24

20 June 2013


Today's GPS art ("gwriting") was supposed to be "RUTH" but a visit to Facebook revealed that Sonya's special day is coming up.  I recall her suggesting that I should be monetizing my gwriting skill. I tried that with "GU is gud" but all I got out of it was a Like by whoever running the GU Energy Labs page on FB.  I'll just keep peddling my wares, I guess, but in the mean time this is for Sonya.  Ruth will get her turn soon, with a clean limerick, too.

"Sonya", 6 km in about an hour.  The satellite was really off, as in many instances it shows that I was not running on the street, while in truth on the "a" needed iTrespassing.

19 June 2013


Contrary to Kermit's claim, it is easy to be green, especially if you live in New York City.  There are many good news in recent months and weeks.  Some weeks ago my brother took some old electronics to an e-recycling event hosted by Tekserve and he got a coupon in return.  He had no plan to buy anything from Tekserve but thought I would so he gave it to me.  And so I did, a stylus that works on the iPad and other iDevices.  Sure Steve Job would turn in his grave but hey it does work.  The coupon lopped $10 off the cost of the stylus, I ended up paying only $5.  Next we have the long-awaited bike share program that despite some noises is used by many people.  There's even talks of paying for the program to expand quickly into parts of Brooklyn and Queens that won't have subway services for weeks because of scheduled repairs to fix problems brought about by Hurricane Sandy.

This week it was announced that NYC may soon get food scrap recycling.  Food waste takes up to 35% of the waste stream.  The City pays by the ton to get the garbage trucked elsewhere for dumping, so cutting the size by 35% will save us some money.  The latest green good news is that there are now some Street Charge stations, for people to charge their electronic devices, from solar-powered connections, for free.  Of course one would have to have common sense and not just leave their devices unattended and invite others to steal them.  Hey, we do have ATMs on the street, people can withdraw hundreds of dollars, so having one's iDevices out in the open is not that crazy of an idea.

I followed some URL and found out that there was supposed to be a Street Charge station in my nabe, over on 21st Street or thereabout and Surf Avenue.  I made it part of my afternoon run but alas it wasn't there.  I found out later on that it's scheduled for a July 2 installation.  So while I didn't get a photo of the Street Charge station, earlier in the run I found this nice public sculpture.  Let's say Nemo was found and it was not good news.


In other unrelated news, I helped PPTC out at the third race of the Al Goldstein Summer Series.  I started at the New Registration table then when the race was under way, I ran with the back-of-the-pack runners.  I took some time out to use the restroom of the nearby Central Library, then again to try to contact the owner of a cell phone a friend found.  It was a guy visiting from Haiti and my three years of high school was not too useful, but I managed to find the settings to change the language to English then things got better.  I both met the guy and caught up with the last runner, now a speed-walker, not the stroller woman any more.  When I got back to the finish line, look who's helping with the award ceremony - Mr. Al Goldstein himself!  I did see him walk earlier without the use of the cane, too.
You can call me Al.

18 June 2013


Question for the runners:  You set aside a jar.  Each time someone tells you about a race and refer to it as a marathon, even though it is not 26.2 miles in length, you put a dollar into the jar.  How much money would you have now?

17 June 2013


I know afternoon running is not ideal but sometimes it just cannot be helped.  I had a busy morning and didn't find the time to run until 5 PM.  And I had a pickup appointment with a Freecycler at 6!  It's Hal Higdon's birthday and I really wanted to spell out his full name, but there was not enough time for it.  Sorry, Hal, "Higdon" will have to do.  For the inquiring minds, Mr. Hal Higdon is famous in the world of running thanks to his marathon, and other distance, training programs.  See more at http://www.halhigdon.com 

Actually, I thought about sticking "al" below the big H, to have the H pull double duty, but I barely finished the "n" when the Freecycler arrived at my subway station.  I rushed home and brought the two bags of Chinese VHS tapes to her at the subway station.  She texted me that she looked forward to watching the old Chinese movies from the 80s and 90s.  Hopefully the tapes will stay out of the landfill for another ten years, or more, thanks to Freecycling!

16 June 2013


Being a morning runner has many advantages.  Besides getting the run done for the day so you don't risk missing it for the day, the run can be completed faster because you have fewer vehicular traffic to deal with.  Such is the opposite of what I had to deal with today when I "gwrote" "happy dad day", for Father's Day.

Last night, I had dinner with friends, plus other activities, so this morning I needed a few extra hours of sleep.  I headed out for the run around 11:30 AM and didn't come home until about 2 hours later.  I needed the street's rectangular grid to better establish frame of reference for my letters, and once outside the wee hours of the day there is more traffic on the street.  I am a careful runner and always walk at intersections, no chance of some driver claiming I dashed into his way as he makes a turn etc.  If there is no car in sight, as is often the case 6 AM or earlier, I would run across the street, but otherwise it's always a slow walk.

The gwriting turned out good.  I studied the map beforehand and planned it that way.  While there is enough room to keep the three words on the same line, I like to use two lines so I don't have to travel too far from home.  I live near the word "day" so I spelled the phrase backward and use the bus depot as the separator for "dad" and "day".  Then I went a few blocks up and spell "happy" the normal way and headed home.  I tried to avoid having the tops of the "d"s touch the tails of the "p"s by going an extra avenue west but I didn't go far enough.  One tail still touches a top but overall the phrase is still very readable.  In case you wonder, "happy dad day" has fewer characters than "happy father's day", still get the message across and I saved at least fifteen minutes.  Besides, now I can sing, in the style of "Happy Birthday",

happy dad day to you
happy dad day to you
happy dad day to you, man
happy dad day to you

14 June 2013


Years ago, I lived for about two years in Woodhaven, Queens.  After a few years living in an apartment building, it was an improvement to move to a family house in Woodhaven.  I recall going to the local T-shirt store and bought an "I Love Woodhaven" shirt.  Woodhaven was not as crowded as Elmhurst, more so now that Elmhurst is so over-developed.  I like the area and want to re-visit it but it's out of the way for me.  The most I would do is drive by along Woodhaven Boulevard, maybe once actually going out of the way to drive by the house I lived in.  Recently, my son started to take SHSAT tutoring in Elmhurst and I have about two hours to kill every Saturday.  Perfect time to re-visit Woodhaven!

The first place I re-visited, or perhaps visited for the first time, was the eastern section of Forest Park.  I used to live near the western end of the park and knew about the bandshell, the golf course, the entrances to the Jackie Robinson Parkway.  It's a shame that I was not as serious as I am with regards to running.  The hill at Forest Parkway and Park Lane South is perfect for elevation training.  Alas, I only recall once walking with my fellow blogger TOTA to St. Anthony Hospital to run a loop or two of the facility.  Years later I would discover, with surprise, that the whole place was gone and replaced by a bunch of family houses.  The only thing left is some marker put in place by the Woodhaven Cultural and Historic Society.  On another occasion, I walked through the park to Glendale and paid a surprise visit to a high school friend who lived in Glendale.  There was no cell phone back then and I just came up with the idea out of the blue, so even if I wanted to call ahead, it was not easy.  One other time, I went through the eastern section of Forest Park, all the way to Metropolitan Avenue and found some branch library of the Queens Public Library system.  I recall clearly I helped some old person operate the copying machine and he/she was so grateful.  But those three incidents are all I remember of my walks or run.  If I live in Woodhaven today, I would run on its trails everyday!

Some weeks ago, I explored the eastern trails of Forest Park, with my son, and promptly got lost.  I tried to avoid the many small trails and stayed on some wide trail that occasionally have wooden rails to mark the path.  The Google Map program on my smartphone was no help, as it showed me as being outside of the park.  Once deep in the trail, you just cannot see buildings etc to know where you are heading.  I knew about some LIRR train track that goes through the park, so at least I was able to use that to head back.  Just to be sure, I asked a jogger if we were heading toward the exit and she confirmed so.  Eventually, we made it to the paved path leading to Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South.  Civilization!

Some weeks later I actually ran in the park, out to the Metropolitan Avenue exit of the Jackie Robinson, then to the northern border of the park, and back into the park at the bridle path.  I was somewhat lost again, but without my son I was able to run faster and eventually found my way back to Myrtle and Park Lane South again.  I'll keep exploring the trails until I know them so well as to which way is Uptown and which Downtown!

My most recent re-visit of Woodhaven took me back to the area where I used to live.  I went as far as the Betty Smith House, where the "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" author wrote most of the book, on Forest Parkway.  Appropriately enough, just across the house is the Woodhaven Branch Library.  Too bad the library was closed.  I spent many hours studying there when I lived in the area.  I then ran up the many steps at Park Lane South and Forest Parkway to the top of the hill and headed for the track just on the other side of Woodhaven Boulevard.  On the way, I learned that there was now a pond in the park.  I knew about the nature trail from some visit long ago, just a glimpse of it, and the occasion finally arrived to check it out.  There used to be many ponds in the park but they all disappeared over time.  This particular pond was once a ball field, but it was flooded so often that park department decided to make it into a pond again.  It's named after Private First Class Strack, who was the first Woodhaven resident to die in battle during the Vietnam War.  It's a lovely pond and I brought my son back for a walk later on in the day.  Together we discovered strawberries, tadpoles, frogs, sunning turtles, ladybugs, and various unusual plants, at least unusual-looking to us.

In the coming weeks, I'll explore the non-forest parts of Woodhaven, especially historically places.

World War I memorial near Myrtle and Park Lane South.

One of the many trails in the eastern section of Forest Park.
Somehow I mistook this to be "Betsy Ross" when I used to live in the area.

From here on, it's all downhill and the pond is on the right.

05 June 2013


Happy National Running Day!  This is the day all runners are supposed to, well, run.  NYRR, the biggest race org of New York City, has many events listed at http://www.nyrr.org/races-and-events/2013/national-running-day .  By now it may be too late for most of those events, but you still can catch the second race of the Al Goldstein Summer Series, presented by Jack Rabbit Sports and timed by NYCRuns, capably staffed by PPTC volunteers.  In case you don't know, Mr. Goldstein served as president of Prospect Park Track Club from 1990 to 1996, http://pptc.org/paul-suskind-interviewed-past-pptc-president-al-goldstein-and-roque-pizarro .  I had the honor of meeting Mr. Goldstein himself two weeks ago.  For my run this morning, I spelled out his name in 2 hours and 25 minutes, over a distance of almost 14 km.  The A is wider than necessary, the two L's were not made the same way, and the T's horizontal stroke is not wide enough, but it's still a very recognizable name.

I'll volunteer at the race as sweeper, riding on the bike at the end of the pack to make sure everyone gets to the finish line safely.  Maybe I'll see you there!  Again, Happy Running!

Al Goldstein, PPTC President from 1990 to 1996
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Al Goldstein.

01 June 2013


Social media is not all bad.  Sure there are people who misuse it and post all kinds of junk for their "friends" to see, but there are other good uses for it.  For example, the ilovetorun May Challenge, which is a month-long event hosted by ilovetorun.org.  The challenge was to run at least one mile a day for the entire month of May AND do some before sunrise.  Make it more interesting by taking photos of the places you run and share with all participants.  It's just a fun thing to do.  I know some people actually got up before sunrise to run but I myself never did that.  It's just too much of a rush to go run before sunrise then get back in time to drag my son out of bed.  I also didn't run every single day but I only missed two.  Those two days I was active anyway, not like I sat on the couch and caught some TV series marathon.  I did not always share photos of the places that I ran to, although I made some fancy phrases via gwriting, people's names mostly, and made some friends in the process.  I took too many photos to post here, but below are my favorites.

I finally got to visit the recently opened 103rd Street Bridge, which connects Manhattan's East River Esplanade to Wards Island.

Brooklyn Bridge as seen from a hill in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Canarsie Pier, near the Rockaway Parkway exit of the Belt Parkway.

Erasmus Hall High School, or rather the building that once hosted the school.  The building is now home for four smaller schools after Erasmus was closed down for poor performance.  Barbara Streissand and Neil Diamond attended Erasmus in their younger days.

Verrazano Bridge, with Staten Island on the far side.

Williamsburg Bridge as seen from East River Park.