31 July 2013


For the longest time I wanted to attend one of those free outdoor movie showings.  Chances are the movies are old but it's the experience that matters more.  The viewers are not limited to a particular indoor space, the sky is overhead, sitting may not be most comfortable but that's beside the point.  The free admission helps too.  I believe the very first instance I knew of such showing is that at Bryan Park in Manhattan, behind the New York Public Library's Research Library.  It's been so long I cannot remember why I never attended the movies at Bryan Park.  Maybe it started too late in the evening, such that even though I worked in Manhattan I would have to hang around the city a few hours after work just to wait for the movie to start.  Maybe it always showed on a certain day of the week that I normally scheduled to pick up my girlfriend from college.  Whatever the case, I never went.  Years passed and I learned of more similar showing, in particular the Flicks on the Beach series in Coney Island.  I've lived near Coney about fifteen years now but I finally went to a beach movie this week.  Coney itself I didn't explore until many years after moving into the area.  I recall when I first moved here I heard that it's possible to walk to Coney Island.  Only in recent years when I started to get serious with the sports of outdoor running that I actually visited Coney regularly.  The People's Playground, you have beach, the boardwalk, famous rides, but all these years I didn't visited it.  Better late than never.

The movie was Men in Black 3.  I went with my son and a nephew.  Before the movie we bought dinner from Nathan's.  Also parked the car in a lot for $10.  Nephew and son each spent about $20 at the arcade in Luna Park.  I definitely did my part in supporting the local economy.

It was a beautiful evening, not hot and not cold.  My son's feet felt cold near the end of the evening but I felt fine.  In the car we happened to have two beach towels, courtesy of TD Bank from some event, and they served the three of us just fine.  Some people had beach chairs, others just sat on the sand, then there are others who came complete with blankets and pillows.  By the time I arrived many people already settled down, but there were room to walk about, at least from the middle to the back.  The screen was not as big as I thought it would be but it did the job.  Being inflatable, it introduced curves to the images on the film but after a while you get used to it.  The audio system was good, except, lucky me, I sat near some motormouth woman who yapped constantly during the movie, something about some other woman or man she didn't get along with.  Sheesh, if you want to whine, why not do it in the comfort of your home and not bother the people at a beach movie.  Other annoyances with the setting include wafting cigarette smokes, vendors hawking their wares (snacks, beach seats), and people in the front getting up to leave.  Oh yeah, some idiot briefly shone a laser dot onto the screen.  Just minor annoyances that cannot be helped when a big group of people is involved.  Overall it was orderly, as far as I can tell.  When it was time to leave, it didn't take us too long to get past the boardwalk onto the street and back to the car.

I enjoyed the experience very much.  The movie itself was so-so, time travel and the usual jokes in the Men in Black franchise.  Good screen, good audio, good scenery, although next time I plan to bring a beach chair, plenty of food and drink nearby available for purchase, unless you are too lazy to get up and decide to patronize those vendors who snake their way among the crowd shouting and interrupting the show.  The nearest restroom was that in Luna Park but the relatively new public ones, on columns above the beach, are not far away.  I am thinking of catching Fame in two weeks, but for that I would have to go by myself as I don't know anyone else in the family who would want to watch it.  I just love the music, not care much about the story.  Better yet, I plan to go see Huey Lewis and the News, for a different free series, but also in Coney Island, on August 15.
Flicks on the Beach, with help from Rooftop Films etc.
Beautiful runner's toes, no missing nails, yet!
Happy Daddy!
Wonder Wheel!

29 July 2013


I love word games and mostly play Scrabble-like games, such as Wordscraper and Lexulous, and Scrabble itself.  Recently I made the foray into something similar to Wheel of Fortune, namely What's The Phrase? by Zynga.  You have categories to choose from and guess the phrase.  Instead of vague categories like those on Wheel on Fortune, the categories themselves are pretty interesting, like Oxymorons and Word Mashup, but my favorite is First World Problems.  It's not the first time I encounter the phrase First World Problems, but it's fun to find out what they are, via a game.  As someone who grew up in Viet Nam, far from a First World, then spent about a year in a refugee camp, but since then lived through the Information Age along with all the amenities of modern life in a big city, I love the idea of First World Problems.  In case you don't know, First World Problems, or FWP for short, are problems that are "suffered" by people in the First World, e.g. the U.S. or other places where standard of living is generally high.  People in Third World countries where there may be no indoor plumbing, electricity, paved roads, etc. live day by day without all the creature comforts.  In the mean time, people in First World countries have too much stuff and get all dramatic in response to any slight negative change to their daily routines.  In Vietnamese, the phrase "Nhà giàu đứt tay, ăn mài đổ ruột" means "The rich has a cut on the hand, the poor suffers a stab in the intestine."  Many memes have been created to illustrate FWP, but here are some I can think of, either off the top of my head or from What's The Phrase?, followed by my observations:

  1. My computer has a virus - In many places in the world people still don't have personal computers.  In the First World, many people do and they use the computer excessively.  With the computers broken, they are at a loss.
  2. Dead pixels on TV screen - When I was growing up, few houses have TVs and kids in the neighborhood would crowd around those that have TVs to watch shows, for just a few hours at night that there's something on TV.  Nowadays, First World citizens have many TVs in the house, flat and wall-mounted, with obscene sizes, then they lament about one tiny pixel that is dead.
  3. Forget what I was going to Google - Probably an age issue.  Google can find everything for you, as long as you can type in something for it to work with.  Google is not capable to read your mind, yet.
  4. New shoes not worn yet - While someone in a Third World country may not even have a single pair of shoes to wear, there are people in the U.S. with so many pairs who keep buying more then complain that they never get around to wearing some pairs.  Probably women, but maybe some men, too.  Or just anyone who is crazy about shopping.
  5. No electricity because of storm - There are some people who need machines to stay alive, but for most of us, electricity is just a major convenience to have.  A night or two without power because of a powerful hurricane is good for character-building.  Good time to be off the grid, to live in the real world instead of in some virtual world or social network.  To go to bed early and wake up at sunrise.
  6. Have to change password again - Some people hate the integration of Google or Facebook into other web services, but I myself love it.  Too many web sites require registration, then they most likely use different password policy.  Some are lax, others require strong passwords that are so-and-so characters long, the use of uppercase and lowercase letters, perhaps even special characters like dashes or tilde.  It is recommended that you keep different passwords for different places, too.  Many people don't follow that advice and once there's a need to change password at one site, they would need to change at all the others, too.  Sigh.
  7. Have too many T-shirts as a result of having run in foot races - A sad situations with many amateur athletes, myself included.  You go from being a couch potato to a 5K runner, then you move up to 10K, maybe a 15K, then half-marathon, and finally a full marathon.  Or is that all there is?  No, you leap to the next level, ultra-marathon!  Along the way, you have training run, practice run, recovery run, maybe cross-training, too.  And every race give you a T-shirt.  Before long, you have too many T-shirts!  Some people even have problems with having too many medals.  Currently I don't have this problem since I stopped signing up for races once I stopped having an income.  I still get T-shirts from volunteering gigs, though, heh heh.
  8. Numbers for TV stations are too long - Back in the simpler times, there were only TV stations from 2 to 13, the adventurous souls may venture to Channel 21, 25, or 41 and 47 (Lucha Libre!).  Then cable TV came along and now there are stations for almost every interests in the world and channel numbers are sometimes four-digit long.  I suppose if you are a couch potato and watch a lot of TV you have no issue with memorizing a handful of channel numbers.  I rarely watch TV.  For those evenings when anemia keep me down, I have a hard time recalling which number match which station.  I recently programmed the remote to have Favorites, but sometimes I want to watch something else.  I don't know the situation with Viet Nam now, but when I left it over thirty years ago, there were few channels and most of what's there are state-approved, namely propaganda and not worth watching.  Then electricity was available for only a few hours during the day, so even if there's anything to watch you don't have the juice to power the TV sets.  Maybe it's different now, Viet Nam or elsewhere?
That's all I think off, without resorting to Googling.  What First Word Problems can you think come up with?

24 July 2013


Hire me.
  1. I am creative.
  2. I have a good sense of direction.
  3. I am a good speller.  OK, it's not that hard to spell two words, but I "wrote" longer phrases/names before.
  4. I follow through.  See the little thing sticking out the right side of the M?  That was a mistake, but in the bigger picture it's not too bad.  I just retraced my way and completed the task.
  5. I pay attention to details.  Literally dotted that "i", did I not?  There was no "t"s to cross but I made sure the "r" has that loop.
Now only if I can find a job that can use these qualities...

The entire run came out to be 8 km but the phrase itself only took 6 km.  http://connect.garmin.com/player/347832661

23 July 2013


The Prospect Park Track Club is having a gmap contest.  I suppose "gmap" is a shorter version of "GPS art".  It seems it's a no-brainer that I should enter the contest, what with my ability to trace out letters and words.  Actually, it's quite a challenge to work within the confine of a forest, which is basically what Prospect Park is.  I am probably one of the few PPTC members who live far away from the park and don't run there regularly.  On those occasions I did run in Prospect Park, it was always on the roadway and not on those trails within the park.  Finally, a requirement for the contest is that the path must be actually travelled, so I cannot use my nifty iTrespass technique to overcome barriers.  Bummer!

I've been staring at Prospect Park on a map and don't see anything that pops out of it.  Strangely, even though I didn't see the movie, "Sharknado" kept coming to mind.  It's one of those ridiculous disaster movies, in this case tornadoes AND sharks!  Stop the both of them by dropping a bomb into them!  Save the girl by going down a shark's throat with a chainsaw and cut your way out of its stomach!  So Sharknado I tried to make and, like the movie, it was a disaster.

I started near Grand Army Plaza and made my way down the West Drive.  I thought I could easily cross the park a few times to make the funnel of the tornado then every now and then find some open space to make the sharks.  Though the distance appears great in person, for the satellite to properly make anything out of the path the lines would have to be done on a much greater area.  I used Comic Life to add text to the map of where things went wrong.  No obvious drawing of any sharks, even the tornado didn't look like a bunch of ovals stacking on each other.  It didn't help that I didn't know the inside of Prospect Park well.  A few times I hit dead ends and had to trace my way back, lest I introduce extra lines.  In another case, it was a huge puddle, from a recent thunderstorm that broke the heat wave.  iTrespass would have taken care of that, but it's not allowed.  Oh well, at least I got to run to places within the park that I never visited before.

21 July 2013


I first heard of the place called "Red Hook" way back in the late 1980s, at my first job out of college.  The engineering firm I worked at managed a few waste treatment plants.  One such facility was in Red Hook and the one thing I heard from colleagues about the place was that it was not a safe place to visit, that you would hear gunshots in the middle of the day.  I think once or twice I had to go into that field office, one located near the NYC DOT tow pound by the Navy Yard.  Somehow I thought that was Red Hook.  Fast forward to many years later I had some visits to the Ikea store in Red Hook and once got lost in Red Hook when I was on a 20-mile round-trip run to Brooklyn Bridge Park.  The area didn't look too bad, desolate yes, but not necessarily unsafe.  I wanted to explore it better but it is too far to run to and I don't like to drive just for the purpose of exploring an area.  Today on the way back from a Bike New York event, I took a side trip on bike to better see Red Hook, at least the waterfront part that I up to today didn't know about.

Van Brunt Street was the road I mistakenly ran along last year when I was trying to cross the Gowanus Canal, coming back from visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park on foot.  This time on bike I purposely traveled along it until it hit the waterfront.  There was a Fairway Supermarket with a big parking lot.  I went behind the supermarket and was smitten by the sight of an old streetcar.  I recall seeing some tracks on the street and suspect the area was once serviced by streetcars.  It's nice to have one sitting around for viewing.  I followed the waterfront around Fairway and headed back after I hit the street, but I learned later on, per Google Map, that I should have gone further and see Pier 44 Waterfront Garden and Waterfront Museum.  I am pretty sure I didn't see any wide-open welcoming gate when I hit Conover Street, but who knows?

Without Pier 44, assuming it is accessible and I just missed it, it's a short waterfront.  Still nice view though.  I went out to the end of a finger pier and took a few shots, as well as some from near the food court area of Fairway.  A turn here and there and I found myself on Beard Street, with the Ikea building very visible in the distance.  I never actually explored the entire waterfront area behind Ikea, so today was the day.  It was a little longer than Fairway's, but still short, at least when explored on bike.  Or is it?  Google Maps shows a Columbia Street Esplanade, but when I hit Columbia Street the place looks so desolate.  Maybe I'll find this esplanade next time when I travel in a group.  What I also wish I got to see today is the site of the Red Hook Criterium.  It's an unsanctioned bike race at night.  Sounds cool and dangerous, but for an old guy like me who prefers safety it's not cool enough to explore on the day of the event.  Or the night of the event rather.  "Unsanctioned" to me sounds like midway through the event the police would come in with riot gears and kick everyone out.  Just now I learn that the site is really out of the way, that even though I was not far from it I would have to make proper turns here and there to get to it.  Another place to visit in a group.

Old rusting streetcar with the back of Fairway Supermarket on the right.
Old streetcar behind Fairway.  On the far left is Fairway's food court.
The Statue of Liberty in the distance.
View from the end of a finger pier - from left to right, Statue of Liberty, Goldman Sachs tower in Jersey City, Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan, Fairway and the streetcars.

19 July 2013


Today's gwriting is for my #1 blog fan, TOTA!  There are only four letters to write so I tried to give the letters a little thickness, by traveling on the other side of the street, or the other side of the block.  The extra tail under the leftmost T is regrettable, but I don't like to have the path ends there, where in some view Garmin would add a drop-pin, which would sorta messes up the picture.

I thought of also draw an arch over the word, but it was too hot by the time I finished so I called it a day.  I did cool down, twice, by sticking my head into the spray fountain at Bath Playground.  It was so refreshing!

In other news, I am glad to report I was wrong about Google Auto Awesome not able to distinguish the background of my photos from Wednesday's Al Goldstein race.  It seems a little time is needed, that is all.  This morning I discovered that a little animation was made out of the Al Goldstein photos, https://plus.google.com/109153989599275468311/posts/3w7VBbh8SUg

18 July 2013


A few days ago I discovered Google Auto Awesome and was pleasantly surprised.  Take a bunch of photos from the same place, of the same scene, and Google would merge the photos into a little animation.  In my case, the animation was of runners in the NYCRuns Shore Road 10K reaching the midway point to head back for the finish.  The photos share a common background, blue sky with some buildings in the distance, the road, clearly delineated by grass on one side and the sea railing on the other side.  Check it out at https://plus.google.com/109153989599275468311/posts/cF6t72rD4Mj

At yesterday's PPTC Al Goldstein 5K Summer Series, Race #5, I thought I would be able to re-produce the animation by taking photos of the runners at the starting line.  My duty at the race was to stay with the last few runners to make sure everyone finish safely, so I had no need to be with the front users.  I took ten photos of the users dashing off but alas no animation was made.  I don't think it's because of the camera I used, a traditional digital camera from which I uploaded the photos via iPhoto into a Picasa album.  I think it's more because in Prospect Park the trees and bushes on the side of the road appear as a big blob to Google's computer eyes.  It cannot discern the forest scenery.  It probably didn't help that every now and then someone would go against traffic and passed too close to my camera.  So no animation.  Live and learn.

The photos, sans Awesome animation, are at


17 July 2013


Going with my tribute to big names in the road-running community, today we have Mary Wittenberg, head honcho at New York Road Runners (NYRR), which is synonymous with the New York City Marathon.  Like her or not, if you are a long-distance runner, you recognize the name.

New York City is caught in a heat wave and today is the third consecutive day with temperature over 95F, with other factors making it feel like 105.  I knew my run will have to be a morning run, as I plan to go help PPTC at the Al Goldstein 5K Summer Series race #5 this evening.  I didn't start out as early as I wanted and it was already hot by 8 AM.  I had a stop-over at Bath Playground to cool down with the half-broken water spray, the rest of the time I just tried to stay in the shade.  Luckily, while "Wittenberg" has many letters, most of them could be done within a block.  In other words, only "g", "b", "t", and "W" require going the extra block.  With the two "t"s next to each other, I even connected their horizontal strokes and avoid running back down the first "t" on the right.  (I live closer to the "g" so I spelled the name backward as I traced it out.)  Speaking of "g", its lower section is not as long as I would like, but over all the name is good.  No mistake on my part, none on the satellite as well.  It seems using Avenue U's area usually introduces bad lines by the GPS.  Weird.

Wittenberg, Mary Wittenberg.

http://connect.garmin.com/player/343953750 , over 10 km in about one hour twenty-two minutes, but the name itself took about 9 km and about one hour.

16 July 2013


When I first heard about the AT&T StreetCharge stations, I came across a map that included Coney Island, with a scheduled installation date of July 2.  Free charging of cell phones and such thanks to AT&T and the sun.  Solar energy, baby!

July 2 came and I ran to Coney Island to find the StreetCharge station.  By then I already saw the station on Governors Island, but it would still be nice to see one right in my neighborhood.  When I last used Google Direction to find the Coney station, I was directed to the entrance of MCU Stadium's parking lot.  No luck though.  Just to be thorough, I even ran the boardwalk, from Stillwell Avenue to the western end.  It makes no sense to have the station in some place away from the crowd on the boardwalk, but I wanted to see if the western section of the boardwalk was re-opened, so it was no time lost.  There's always a run to get out of these, uh, runs, so it's never time lost.

A chance discovery on Flickr and I learned that Coney got its StreetCharge station around July 12.  I had some plumbing last night and it took most of today's morning and half of the afternoon to get it fixed.  The sight of water swirling down the drain was so beautiful, I should have recorded it.  Anyway, the first chance I got I made a run to Coney Island, even though the weather was not optimal. I had a bottle of water with me and I plan to use the relatively new restroom in Coney Island to cool down mid-run.  Mere steps from the restroom near West 8th Street, what did I see?  A StreetCharge station!  Two blocks west, at West 10th Street, was another.  Alas, the micro-USB connection at both stations did not work for my Galaxy I phone.  A few people stopping by the station also had troubles, so it's not just my phone.  The iPhone 4 connection worked for my iPhone, so that's good.  One USB connection already disappeared though.  Probably ripped off by someone thinking it was fun.  Or someone who enjoy destroying public properties.  I know, I am pessimistic and readily dismissed the idea that the USB connection was not installed in the first place.  I just hope that I'm wrong.  While I'm hoping, I also hope to have one of those SmartTap water stations in Coney some day too.

AT&T StreetCharge, the pole with the three blades at the top to catch sun rays, at West 8th Street and Boardwalk in Coney Island.  In the background, on the beach, is the new restroom, a welcome sight get relieved and refreshed.
AT&T StreetCharge at Boardwalk and West 10th Street, with The Cyclone roller-coaster in the background for reference.

14 July 2013


Pleasant surprises are, well, surprisingly pleasant.  On my run this morning, I decided to head over to what I call the Belt Parkway waterfront, a pedestrian/cyclist path that runs along the Belt Parkway from Caesar's Bay (Bay Parkway) to Owl's Head Pier (Bay Ridge Avenue).  I usually run from my home to Caesar's Bay then along the water, pass the brief split of the bike and walker paths, to the first bench, then back.  I usually take the footbridge that goes into Bath Beach Park and also the steps that go to Dyker Beach Park, for a little elevation.  Tracing my way back and I would have my daily 8 km.  Today, just a little past the slope was the turnaround point of the NYCRuns Shore Road 10K.  I stopped to watch the race with the race volunteer stationed there.  Runners can be so focused on the race and would keep following the road even if there are a bunch of cones on the ground.  It's safest to have someone out there to tell them turn around.

I hoped to catch, if any, runners with PPTC gear but there was none.  After a while I decided to just photograph people randomly.  I pretty much stood in one place, against the railing.  When I sync'd the photos to Google+ later, Google automatically detected the same background in the set of photos and made a short animation out of it.  Very interesting.  I learned that the technology is called Auto Awesome.  Animating is just one of its few capabilities.  Pano (panorama) and Mix are two other techniques I will explore.


While it's easy to share the above animation to my Google+ audience, it took me a while before I found the way to share it elsewhere.  When I clicked on the animation itself, there was no indication that a link could be obtained.  The More option only allows downloading the picture or adding it to album.  In the end, I discovered that I had to use the actual post in G+ itself, on the upper right corner, to find the pasteable link.

13 July 2013


Yesterday I was going to trace out a run route that says "Hire Me".  I felt that it would help me land a job very soon, but then I checked my calendar and saw that it was Jeff Galloway's birthday.  Mr. Galloway is well-known in the running community for championing the Run-Walk-Run method.  While doing the June Run-Everyday Challenge, I started to plan ahead what to generate for each run, or places to visit.  I like to be current, so I looked up birthdays of famous people in the running community.  I got Hal Higdon covered, now Galloway, and next week is Mary Wittenberg.  Other than famous runners, I took requests from friends and also stayed with special events, like Mother's Day or Father's Day.  Hmm, that reminds me I should do "TOTA" soon.

On the Garmin Connect web site, I usually make a screenshot of the path from the animated screen.  It's bigger and is usually better, but not with the Galloway path.  For some reason, the screenshot from the animated screen, second picture below, shows the "L"s as being connected above the base line.  To give the "L"s extra width, I did use iTrespass near their bottom, so it's possible I paused and unpaused the watch at the wrong time.  However, the first picture, captured from the Details screen on Garmin Connect, shows the "L"s as I intended.  Weird how the GPS sometimes act up.


11 July 2013


"I wish I did not run this morning," said no runner ever.  I cannot imagine any scenario when a runner would regret having run that morning.  Unless he somehow caused the end of the world or something of that great magnitude.  Runners just run, feel good for the rest of the day, and look forward to the next run, usually the next day.  Heck, I myself occasionally ran more than once a day, like when I stay with the back-of-the-pack runners in the Al Goldstein Summer Series.  There is just no regret to having already run.  On the other hand, if you don't run in the morning then events of the day unfold as they always do, you end up not running at all, then you will regret for not able to run.  Such is my case today.  I actually got up at 5 A.M. but it was still dark outside.  I could have stretched indoor, if I was afraid of becoming a crime statistic, as chances are by the time I would be done stretching the sun would be up.  Not that it's any safer light or dark, random acts of violence just happens.  But I didn't stretch and instead stretched out on the couch.  Until 8 AM.  Then events of the day unfolded and I didn't run the whole day.  I didn't even walk my son to summer school and back.  That would at least be a 2-mile walk, maybe even with Charity Miles app.  Nope, the sky looked ominous so I drove my son and nephew to summer school.  Hmm, in the afternoon, I did walk to school to pick up my son and walked back home, so I may have 2 miles to log for DailyMile after all.  But overall it was a Fat  Thursday for me.  Little exercise, had some ice cream cone as lunch's dessert, watched movie on DVD while eating caramel nuts, ugh.

Yesterday was a different story.  I jumped out of bed at 5 with the intention of making a 3D-ish version of "LEO", for a friend on DailyMile who appreciates my GPS art.  And I sure did, with enough time to get home to drag my son out of bed for summer school.  Too bad the "O" may appear to be an "N", but as I was trying to make the hole in the "O" a local resident was unloading stuff from his car.  I would look suspicious if I kept circling his car, so I didn't.  The "E" turned out really well, so did the "L" although I definitely didn't trespass any property, virtually or not, at the top of the letter on the left side.  Sometimes the GPS computer would just does not work right.

09 July 2013


When I trace out a name during my run, if the name is short, i.e. three or four letters in length, I would try to do something different.  Today I planned to spell "Leo", for a friend on DailyMile, and since there are only three letters to deal with, I experimented with making the letters three-dimensional.

I purposely picked the area along Avenue U and West 7th Street to start the name, but it turned out I didn't have time for all three letters.  GPS art, or gwriting, involves a lot of running up and down a street.  You don't want extraneous lines so sometimes you have to go back along a street just to avoid the extra lines.  Making 3D letters, or letter as it turned out, only requires even more time.  I only had enough time to make the "L" and it was time to head back to get my son out of bed for summer school. I don't want him to get up too late and have a late breakfast then not have appetite for lunch at summer school, which at 11:30 is somewhat early.

After seeing the letter on the screen, I noticed two issues.  The horizontal part is too short.  It should have extended further east another block.  The other issue concerns the lines that give the letter its third dimension.  I thought about running back and forth across the street as I travel West 7th Street and Avenue U, but didn't do it for fear of losing even more time, but luckily it was not necessary.  The GPS can only have so much accuracy and simply running along said streets three times was enough to fill in the thickness.

"L" as in "Leo", far from perfect but pretty good for a first stab at using 3D font in GPS art.
In other news, earlier I spelled "Megan", for all the Megans and variations in Prospect Park Track Club.  I recently learned that at the annual picnic a few weeks ago there was a team of three relay runners all named Megans or similar spellings.  Something new I tried with this gwriting is the connection of "g" to "a".  I absolutely hate the horizontal lines between letters.  They are necessary evil, but if I can avoid them I will, and I did.  I had to sorta trespassed some property to get it done, but it was worth it.

Where's Megan?

08 July 2013


Many events were on my calendar yesterday.  Transportation Alternatives had its Tour de Queens while Bike New York had a Learn To Ride class for kids at Brooklyn Bridge Park.  So many choices!  I volunteered at Tour de Brooklyn before and thought about also helping out at Tour de Queens, but I didn't feel like making the long trip to Queens.  So I rode my bike to Pier 5 of Brooklyn Bridge Park for the kiddie bike class.  I had my own tour of Brooklyn, even though most of the trip was along Ocean Parkway, a route that I have become very familiar with these days that I ride the bike a lot.  It was more like tour de South Brooklyn.

I was worried that my help wouldn't be accepted since I didn't attend some orientation class for trainers.  I had a conflict that day, July 1, when I helped a club member move.  It turned out the training could be done on the spot.  Let the trainee learn to balance first then the actual pedaling can come later.  I recall how my back ached when my young niece learned to bike, because she used a kiddie bike so I had to bend down as I pushed her and the bike.  No need with that using the Bike New York method.  The technique sure worked as by the end of the day we had 100% success rate.  Happy biking, kiddos!

Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn's own Superfund site, polluted from years of abuse by nearby industries.  Not nice to look at, but worthwhile to know.
Pop-up pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park, perfect for the hot days!
Basketball, au naturel.
AT&T StreetCharge, free solar-powered charging station, with connections for iPhone 4/5, USB, and micro-USB.

06 July 2013


When I first visited Elmhurst Park a few weeks ago, I also had a run to JHS 73.  On the way back to the car at Elmhurst Park, I struck a conversation with an old lady who happened to know the area well. She correctly pointed out to me that Elmhurst Park is a decent place for the people in the area but then Juniper Valley Park isn't that far away.  When I used to live in Woodhaven while going to school at Cooper Union, my father used to drive me, as his first, free fare, in his taxi as he headed into Manhattan to work.  He used to pass by Juniper Valley all the time, so I knew the park, just didn't have the chance to visit it.  Some years ago, I took my son there, while the women shopped at Queens Center.  He was young so we only visited some playground and then watched some match of petanque.  I cannot really say I explored the park, until today.

As I got to Juniper Valley Park, I misread the parking signs that read "NO STANDING 9 PM TO 6 AM" as "NO STANDING 9 AM TO 6 PM".  WTF!?  9 AM to 6 PM, that's pretty much the whole day!  Yet many cars were parked near such signs.  Only after I wasted some time and gasoline making loops of the two sections of the park and found a parking space elsewhere, away from those "severely restricted" areas, did I realized it's 9 PM to 6 AM.  Maybe the park has problems with people hanging out after dark doing illegal stuff, so the signs are there to give local police a leg up on any such activities.

Being on foot is the best way to explore an area.  I first walked around the western end of the park, near the track and futbol field.  I found the usable restroom, not as nice as Forest Park's but good enough.  I then cut across the park to get back to my car and started a run all the way around the park's perimeter.  I used to think that 80th Street neatly divides the park into two equal parks, but today I learned otherwise.  The eastern part of the park is a lot smaller and is mostly for strolling.  The western section has two restrooms, one near the playground and the other near the ball fields, make perfect sense.  Also in the western side is the petanque court, some other ball field, tennis courts, basketball courts, the whole nine yards.  The perimeter was about 2.5 km.  Second time around I went on the inside path wherever possible, to avoid the sun, although the sidewalks were not that sunny, really.  There are many great trees in the park and while you don't have the tree canopy of Forest Parks, Juniper was well-shaded.  Maybe I've become a jaded photographer, but I only took a few photos of Juniper.
Juniper Valley Park, corner near 80th Street and Boulevard South.
After lunch with my son, instead of the usual stroll in the great shade of Forest Park, we explored the area near DeVoy Playground, which is on the northern edge of Forest Park.  When we originally approached the playground I saw two horse-riders on the road.  When I visited the playground on foot later, I discovered that the bridle path ended at the playground.  That explained those riders on the road.  Maybe they were heading back to the stable.  My son pointed out to me the poem written in stone.  A nice touch.  Good thing there was no autocorrect back then.  Or perhaps it's good to have autocorrect, as the sign about DeVoy Playground incorrectly used "bridal" in place of "bridle".

DeVoy Playground in Forest Park.
A poem written in stone.  Thank goodness for the lack of autocorrect...
Nice bio of Mr. DeVoy and some parks history, too bad they used "bridal" in place of "bridle".

04 July 2013


Independence Day 2013 in the U.S. found me getting up at 4 A.M. to get to work, part-time, to support the NYCRuns Firecracker 5K/10K races on Roosevelt Island.  One problem, a First-World Problem really, is that that early in the morning my local Dunkin Donuts did not have donuts or bagels to offer.  I settled for a muffin, which I ended up not eating, and a croissant.  As I got back to my U-Haul in the parking lot, the new donuts and bagels arrived.  Oh well.  I suppose it's more efficient to have some big factory dole out the donuts etc and have the goods trucked to the various locations.  It sure doesn't jive with the old commercial about "time to make the donuts".

It was nice to have the road mostly to myself early in the morning.  I picked up a colleague near Grand Army Plaza and we made it to Roosevelt Island early.  Eventually the other vehicles in the NYCRuns caravan arrived and it was time to set things up - registration table, water tables, bag check area, etc.  I couldn't help wonder how people work in big places like the Barclay Center, constantly setting things up then break them apart for the various, different events.

Between the setup and doling out FrozFruit ice cream sticks, I managed to snap a few photos of the calm before the rush, of volunteers and the setup.  Plus one photo of some PPTC participants.

Volunteers of Water Station #1.

More volunteers at Water Station 1.

Bag check volunteers.

Packet pickup, race day registration etc.

Want the dirt on the race?  There's a big pile there.

Let's get the music going!

5K race was about to start soon!

PPTC reps Ed and Meghan.

03 July 2013


So for May we had "Run Everyday" and June's challenge was "Sweat Everyday".  Somehow the people behind the ilovetorun FB page didn't get around to create a new challenge for July, but one of the runners started one, "Fitness is Fun", https://www.facebook.com/events/191648770999379/

July kinda caught me by surprise and I didn't do anything interesting for the first few days.  Yesterday I got around to making a gwriting or GPS art, "Jessica", for our new host.  Today, I made "Athena", for a friend from ARROW (Astoria Residents Reclaiming Our World) who happens to be quite an elite runner so she got invited to join Athena NY running club.  I thought about streaking with GPS art, but tomorrow is the NYCRuns Firecracker 5K/10K on Roosevelt Island and I will be working at it.  By the end of the day I will be tired from all the standing or walking around, I would be lucky if I can squeeze in a normal, out-and-back run.  Speaking of which, I need to get up at 4 AM so I better disconnect now!

I honestly declare that the satellite was really messed up when I made the J.  I am 100% sure I ran along W 12th twice, up to the top then back down, but the satellite failed miserably and made the J to look more like π
For the divas of Athena NY, a member of which is my friend Rachel from ARROW.  I was going to do the laurel in their logo, right in Dyker Playground to the left of the big A, but it was already too hot by then.

02 July 2013


I started teaching my son how to ride the bike as early as 2007.  Wow, six years ago!  He is too afraid and didn't become a cyclist back then.  I think a few years ago I had a day or two trying to get him into it but again no luck.  With the most recent attempts, the promise is that I will get him a certain Nerf product.  Maybe that did the trick.  It also helped that as someone who is not gainfully employed, I have the time to take him to the park on weekdays, as opposed to having the time only on weekends, since I usually get home late during the week when I was working.

This time around it took four sessions, according to my son.  I think it was three sessions, but it's his child-brain versus my aging brain, I'll trust his memory.  It was frustrating, as with all things new.  It was like he never learned at all.  At first, he would not even pedal.  Then he did, but only moved a few meters.  Next he moved, but with me holding the seat and the rightmost tip of the handlebar, he would lean into me.  Maybe it's because my son and the nephew and nieces are all older, most just a few inches shorter than me, training them wasn't too physically demanding.  I was able to physically support them without feeling too drained.  It was a little more energy-draining with my son since he's overweight, but I managed.

Little by little, he got better.  I started with letting go of the handlebar and he was able to move along briefly before going wild with the steering.  He's tall enough to just put his feet down to stop.  He wasn't moving too fast so braking was not absolutely needed.  I made sure he knew about braking nevertheless.  He thought he would need a few more days to learn how to start off on his own, but I noticed a few times he just automatically put his feet on the pedals and continue moving.

It was such a joyous moment when I finally let go of both the back and the handlebar and jog along with him!  Some day he and I can go brunning, or biking and running.  Even better would be both of us running, but I take things one item at a time.  He still had trouble turning and was going in circle, clockwise because he didn't know how to turn left.  Then for a while he would only go counter-clockwise.  In the end, he got it, even if he was still a bit shaky.  Then he had a crash, maybe because he got overconfident and was going too fast to chase his cousin LZ, who just became a cyclist last week.  Only a scraped left knee and barely a scratch on the right elbow.  I think my bike got it worse, with a out-of-whack basket and even the bike head got twisted.  He's cool about it all and is eager to resume tomorrow.  I so look forward to some quality time with my son on the few bike paths we have in the area!