12 November 2014


In my family, I am not The Traveler, that is the one family member who travels all over the world, to all the fun or interesting places, for leisure.  However, with my current job, I did get to travel to a few places to work.  Work is, well, work, with the 9-to-5 or something along that line, but usually in the evening I get to enjoy the city/town a little bit.  On occasions, I stay over the weekend and get to appreciate local culture in a more leisurely way.  I started to work-travel back in August and meant to blog about the experience but life got in the way.  Without much further ado, here are the Things I Noticed in Washington D.C., with no research whatsoever on the topics:

  • There are road-runners in all times of day, I love it!  I do work about 9 hours during the day, but on those occasions I went out for lunch, or walk back to or from the hotel, or early in the morning when I myself go for a run, I would see runners.  Good for ya, D.C.!
  • Bike-share is alive in D.C.  $7 gets you a day pass that include free 30-minute rides.  I haven't tried it yet but I worry that it's like NYC, where at certain time it's impossible to find an empty dock to return the bike, or every bike taken out.  During an evening rush, I did notice a few stations with available bikes, so maybe it's not as bad.
  • Cycling is popular!  In the Metro Center area that I frequent, I don't see that many bike lanes, definitely no protected lanes, where the lane is between sidewalk and a parking lane, so cycling is not as well supported as in New York City, but it sure is popular.  I noticed bike racks outside many building, people riding bikes home during evening rush hour.
  • The bike-share map shows certain areas in Downtown as off-limit to sidewalk-riding.  What?  Does that mean riding on the sidewalk is allowed elsewhere?  That seems to be the case, as I saw many people riding on the sidewalk.  Most sidewalks are wide so it's not a problem, but it's something I shudder, as I'm a law-abiding cyclist when it comes to sidewalk-riding, as prohibited in NYC.
  • Like many big cities, there are homeless people on the street in many places.  I arrived in D.C. at night, during the taxi ride to the hotel I couldn't help seeing people sleeping in bus shelter and in public parks.  Sad.
  •  It's a given that there are museums everywhere in D.C., but I also noticed that associations and groups are all over too.  I suppose chances are your groups need to convince the politicians to support your cause by passing laws so might well be in physical proximity to the legislators.
  • I didn't like the non-rectangular streets of Boston and incorrectly thought D.C. would be worse.  While there are those diagonal avenues, there is some kind of a grid with the numbered streets and the lettered streets, at least in the northwest area that I stay at.
  • The motorists I crossed paths the past few days are pretty nice compared to others I know.  They yield to pedestrians!  I haven't heard any angry honking either.  Maybe I just need to walk in rush-hour traffic more?  I do obey traffic signals for pedestrians, so maybe that helped.
I have a few more days, maybe all this will change, maybe I will share more observations, definitely some photos is in order.

01 September 2014


With my current work hours of 8 AM to 5 PM, I have a very small window to run early in the morning.  As such the runs are shorter and limited to the streets closer to home.  In recent weeks, I was away in Boston for work then just had a week in the Lincoln, New Hampshire area for leisure.  While I had a few runs in both places, I should have resumed running once I got back but I got lazy, until today.  I got up late, past 9 AM, the weather was already hot, but it had to be done.  I got to re-visit some old places in my neighborhood of Bath Beach to see what's up with them.

Contrary to what a neighbor and Facebook friend told me, the waterfront area of Calvert Vaux Park is not open to the public yet.  At one time the fence's gate was knocked down, supposedly large enough for pedestrians but unwelcome to vehicles.  The fence is up again and the sign reminds the reader that soil contamination is in progress, enter only if authorized.
If you really have to get into the waterfront area of Calvert Vaux Park, there is another breach in the fence.  There is a beaten path right inside the fence so others have trespassed.  I'll stick to iTrespassing, not the physical type.
More welcoming is the Brookyn Bay Center, that area around the upcoming B.J.'s Wholesale Club on Shore Road.  No one was around and there was no gate whatsoever so I took a stroll to the new waterfront area behind BJ.
Not much of a running route but it adds maybe a kilometer to the waterfront area.  I am sure the place will be packed once the wholesale club opens in a few weeks.
Front behind BJ, one can see the Verrazano Bridge in the distance, Staten Island on the left and Brooklyn on the right.  The tall buildings near the bridge on the Brooklyn side is the Veteran Administration Building near Fort Hamilton.  The white building on the right, close to the foreground, is the side of Kohl's in Caesar's Bay.
I thought of running to the foot-bridge near 17th Avenue but it got hot so I turned at Bay Parkway.  I noticed that Vitamin Shoppe will take place of the old HSBC building.  Somehow HSBC never made it back after Hurricane Sandy.
This gyro place used to be called Olive Garden when it first open.  The real Olive Garden probably had some lawyers visited them and now the name is different.  Note the different patches of green on the awning.

03 August 2014


What do most people think about before a trip to somewhere that they would be at for a few weeks, whether on business or for leisure?  What to do, things to see, right?  Well, in the case of business, I suppose they'll think of places to unwind.  I have a slightly different set of things to think about, such as

  1. Hope I will have time to keep up with my exercise routine, mostly running and walking.  Will there be a nice waterfront place safe enough to run early in the morning or late in the evening?  The only down side is I'll have to bring a extra pair of shoes (running shoes, that is) and some running clothes.  Work will be hectic, hope I'll have the time to do some walking after lunch as usual.  I might even sign up for a 5K foot race!
  2. Make sure to bring along my stainless steel coffee container.  Where I work the cafeteria gives a discount to encourage customers to bring their own drink containers, to reduce the use of paper or plastic cups.  Where I am going I am not sure if the incentive exists, but I'm sure there will be a water cooler.  I'll have my reusable cup with me on trips from now on.
  3. Will there be an event I can volunteer at?  Whether it's a foot race or a soup kitchen, I think volunteering is a nice way to see the local neighborhoods in a  different angle.  Maybe I'll find an animal shelter and help walk some dogs!
  4. Will there be a public library where I'm going?  I don't plan to pay the fee to use as a visitor, but it'll be nice to just sit down and relax with a book or a magazine.
Do you have any unusual thoughts before visiting a new place for an extensive stay? 

26 June 2014


Today is the last day of school for my son at the Bay Academy, a Middle School, which covers grades six through eight.  When I was in grades six through eight, the school type was Junior High School.  I first learned about the term "Middle School" when I read some Junie B Jones books while volunteering for Everybody Wins!  Power Lunch.  It seems like yesterday that Son started Middle School, but it's been three years.  I am sure Son has many memories of his own of the Bay Academy experience, but here are some my aging brain can recall.

Starting with Middle School, my son for the first time had to take school bus to get to school.  Before that, I mostly walked him to school and dropped him off at the school door.  Near the beginning, through some bad calculation, he was directed to go to a bus stop further away.  It was the first stop of the bus route.  Luckily, I found out the same week and found the second stop, mere blocks from our home.  The bus was mostly reliable but a few times it never showed up, or came really late.  I had to rush home and come back with the minivan and fill up the car with whichever kids wanted to come along.

The bus route used to be serpentine, turning here and there to pick up kids in different areas.  Once or twice I "raced" the bus and won.  It was an unfair race since I took the most direct route whereas the bus had to go all over to all the dispersed stops.  In later years, the school had enough funding for more buses and my son's bus went straight to school from his stop, so no more racing.

I really wanted my son to know the subway system better and embrace it.  I love public transportation, warts and all.  The perfect chance came along when there was a strike of school bus drivers.  In the beginning, I rode the subway with son then ran back home.  Next step was to ride in a different subway car from his.  Lastly, he rode by himself altogether and just called home after he got to school.  He still hated the subway, for all the waiting and standing etc but at least he knew how to get to school and back.

With the school not within walking distance, I only attended a few PTA meetings and such.  I don't remember what the occasion but one time I parked on the street parallel to Emmons Avenue by the Belt Parkway and got a freaking ticket!  Emmons Avenue is the commercial strip in the area so the next street over had parking meters that stay in effect until 10 PM or whatever.  What a robbery!

Maybe thanks to my period of unemployment, I was able to help chaperone two trips, first one to the Discovery Center in Times Square for the Bodies exhibit and one more recently to the New York Stock Exchange.  I also helped the PTA with its monthly bake sale.  The kids bought snacks as if there was no tomorrow!

I do run to the area of Bay Academy every now and then.  The foot-bridge over Sheepshead Bay is one of my favorites.  I probably continue to visit the area every now and then and let my son know about any changes.

07 April 2014


Here's something for Top-Of-The-Arch!!!  At first I thought the number eleven in the middle of the word is unnecessary, but then I realized it does belong there.  Seriously, wouldn't HOC77KEY be better?  Or maybe even HOCLJKEY ?  Do you know what I'm driving at?

30 March 2014


I love exploring different parts of New York City, especially places that are not too well known, places that are out of the way, in the middle of nowhere.  Some time ago I heard about the Red Hook Crit, a bike race in the Cruise Ship Terminal in Red Hook.  It was advertised as an unsanctioned race.  I misinterpreted "unsanctioned" as meaning it was an illegal race, like drag-racing on the street or squatting in an abandoned building.  It may have started that way, but nowadays "unsanctioned" really means the bike race is not recognized by some authority group of the cycling world.  I am not much of a competitive cyclist so I don't have too much interest in the event, other than that it's out of the way and is held at night, which is in stark contrast to the NYRR foot races of Central Park.  The Crit these days also have 5K races, one for men and one for women.  Now that's something I can get excited about!

Last year when I finally made some trips to Red Hook, to visit Fairway and Steve's Key Lime Pie, I drove past the Cruise Ship Terminal but there doesn't seem to be a way to get inside, at least not without raising suspicion from the authority.  I want to see what it's like inside, but it seems I would have to book a cruise trip to do so.  Money is tight, so the next best thing was to volunteer for the event.  I signed up to be course marshal for the 5K races, which was scheduled from 6 pm to 8:30 pm.

The day of the event it rained all day, at times heavily.  The foot races were re-scheduled to happen after the bike race.  I saw the notice but didn't interpret it correctly and arrived too early, with some time to kill.  I got to see more of the area and part of the bike race.  I took some photos of the track before the race started then recorded a short clip of the men's bikes as they zoomed by.  I was a bit lost as to where on the course I would be but was eventually given a vest and a flag and stationed near the Terminal Building.  My job was to keep people off the course and, if needed, guide the runners, but it was a looped course so the runners quickly knew where to go.  Most stayed closed to the curb on their left, to hug the curve when they had to turn 180° around.  There was only one guy who ran onto the course with a bottle to cheer his girl, perhaps.  As I approached him, a security guard already shouted to him to get off the course.

I can now cross the Cruise Ship Terminal off my exploration map. I plan to re-visit the area during the day another day to see the place without all the track hardware.

Welcome To Brooklyn.

The Women's Crit.

It is natural for Fairway to be a sponsor of the event.

Ass Savers!  For $5, you could have these Ass Savers "raincoat", just a rectangular sheet with a hole cut-out for the face to stick out, it looked kinda ridiculous.

28 March 2014


I first found out about the actor Alan Alda from playing TV Guide crossword puzzles.  "ALDA" makes a perfect entry for crossword puzzle.  It was back in the 80s so eventually, even without regularly watching the TV show M*A*S*H, I found out a little more about Mr. Alda.  Not much really, just that he played the character Hawkeye on the TV show.  Years later I also learned that the TV show lasted many years longer than the war that it portrayed, namely the Korean War.  But that's it, I didn't know anything else about Mr. Alda.

One day at the public library I came across Mr. Alda's book, "Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself".  It sounded like a funny thing, as someone I know often joked that talking to oneself is great, all the questions are appropriate and all the answers are correct.  Unfortunately for the Alda book, I just finished a bio by Carol Burnett.  The Burnett book was full of short humorous chapters whereas the Alda book had many long chapters.  Lots of background stories, mostly having to do with Mr. Alda's initial troubles coming up with the proper commencement speech.  It took me a long time to finish the Alda book and I didn't enjoy it.  Months later, I took another shot at Mr. Alda's books, this time it was "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed And Other Things I've Learned", in audiobook format.  Having the CD player doing the reading helped, not that the stories are not interesting.  I cannot recall much about the "Overheard" book, but I think it's mostly about Mr. Alda's adult life, with many speeches delivered to students etc after he was already famous.  "Stuffed", on the other hand, chronicles his childhood, then his early days going into show business on his own, M*A*S*H, Scientific American show, even his near-death experience in South America.  Early in the book we learned that when his first pet died, a taxidermist sorta brought it back to life, but it looked so different, even menacing, that it was worse to see the dead dog.  Near the end, Mr. Alda used that story in a commencement speech to illustrate things that cannot be replaced.  In-between there were many stories related to his mother's battle with mental illness and his days in the military, betting in horse-races, and my favorite, his pre-fame days of scraping together a living.

I am a frugal person so I easily identify with Mr. Alda's stories about his early days as a newly-wed, with a child or two, trying to make a living in New York City.  My father drove the taxi for many years, and so did Mr. Alda, many years earlier.  He quickly learned how dangerous it was, never know who would be a real passenger or a robber.  My late father occasionally fell victim to the grab-and-run types, or the farebeaters, and it always ruined his day.  At audition, Mr. Alda supposedly can do anything, have any skills required.  When it comes to height, he even asked what was the requirements, as if he can adjust his height to fit the role.  My favorite story of all is about his need to buy a new pair of pants, after he had a comfortable income.  He told his wife that he would go buy one, as if the cost of the pants would affect the family's meal plan for the week.  Old habits die hard, I suppose.

Mr. Alda had a chapter devoted to celebrity-worshipping.  He correctly stated that the whole thing makes no sense.  Just because someone is famous for one thing doesn't mean much in other aspects of life.  But people are crazy about celebrity and want to take advice from them.  Taking Mr. Alda's words, I suppose if we ever meet in real life, I should just say hi and move on.

15 March 2014


Dedicated to all the volunteer corral marshals at foot races.  I can draw better with pencils or dry-erase markers, but this was done in Draw Something 2 on an iPhone, literally fat-fingered.  The four drawings were then assembled into frames via Comic Life 2 on the Mac, with text added.

14 March 2014


Happy Pi Day, math-lovers!  Pi, symbolically known as π, is the special value 3.14159 yada yada yada, much used in math.  It is defined as the ratio of the circumference to the diameter.  The circumference of a circle is just the perimeter, i.e. that length of the line that goes around the circle.  Diameter is that constant distant between any two opposing points on the circle.  The number is unique and goes on forever without repeating.  Some people memorize it to many decimal places.  I fancy myself an engineer and only care about it for practical purpose, so 3.14 would do, 3.14159 is even better, but that's where I draw the line.

This morning when I went for a run I drew a different kind of line, thanks to my Garmin watch.  I like math and love running, but last year I was totally unaware of the approach of March 14, which in the U.S. and a few other places can be thought of as 314.  Like how we have 911 for September 11.  314, 3.14, Pi Day!  This year I planned for Pi Day and ran 3.14 km with the route showing the π symbol.  I didn't have a lot of time so I just ran within a few blocks, repeating the route a few times before completing the symbol.  I usually measure my runs in km so 3.14 km worked fine.  3.14 miles would take more time, which I don't have in these pre-dawn runs on a school day.

Happy Pi Day!  Maybe next year Rebecca Black will have a song about it...


08 March 2014


"Nhất Cử Lưỡng Tiện" is the Vietnamese phrase meaning "Lifting one hand to do two convenient things", or something like that.  I am not a big fan of multitasking but I do think of it from times to times.  So I run a lot and thought that maybe I can put my love of running to help some shelter dogs with their daily walks.  I actually registered through New York Cares to work with BARC but the date didn't work out and I had to withdraw.  Some weeks later I learned about Sean Casey Animal Rescue (SCAR) through my track club's Facebook page.  What's better with SCAR, 39th Street location, is that it's a bit closer to me.  I was able to help SCAR walk their dogs twice already.  The first time I had three separate dogs, the first two were very excited and didn't like to be leashed.  A few times they turned around to bite the leash, the second dog even gripped my coat sleeve for a while.  And they sure ran fast!  I couldn't keep up with them and had to rein them back.  Which only made them more upset!  The third dog was more mellow and just slowly sniffed its way around.  Yes, all three dogs did their doggy business and I proudly cleaned up after them.  It helped that I did diaper duty when my son was a baby.

Today I came back to walk dogs again.  My son and nephew came along to pet the furry friend.  They also helped take photos, which helped because SCAR rules state that the dogs must be held by the leash all the time so it would be really difficult to take a photo and have a good grip on the animal.  Also, by rules the dogs are to be kept away from other dogs, which is too bad because they sure love to interact with each other.  Each time I spot another dog nearby I had to hold the SCAR dog back or steer it to another spot.  Good thing I have no plan to use the SCAR dogs to meet women.  I'm only doing out of the goodness of my heart.

SCAR has two locations, 551 39th Street, and 153 East 3rd Street, both in Brooklyn.  I haven't been to the East 3rd Street location but was told that the dogs there are smaller.  You don't have to be a runner to help walk the dogs.  You just need to be strong enough to hold them in check.  Most of the times the dogs just like to sniff around slowly.  The times that the dogs trotted it may have been me who started the run.  Of course you have to be able to clean up after them.  Just be sure to get a pair of gloves from SCAR and lots of plastic bags.  Donate your time or donate money, whichever you can afford, or both.  Even better, adopt a dog or whatever animal that you may like.  I am not in a position to adopt a dog but maybe you are!

Charlie likes milk-bone treats.

Unnamed dog was easy to handle, I took her to nearby Sunset Park.

06 March 2014


Bicycling as exercise is the next best thing after running, for me.  It's been a rough winter, the bike paths in my neighborhood were probably not cleared or safe enough to ride on, so I haven't done much cycling lately.  Today I happened to be in Midtown, below 59th Street, where there are many CitiBike stations.  I could have hopped on the D train somewhere and get home in about an hour, but it's been a while since I was in Manhattan so I wanted to walk or ride around a bit, to see what changed.  If there is a CitiBike station near my home I would have rode a bike all the way home, but as it is, I could only go as far as the northern part of Brooklyn, not far from the Manhattan Bridge.  It actually took me three bike trips, just to stay below the 45-minute limit, for annual members. The first trip started around 39th Street and Second Avenue.  I started walking from Madison and 39th, along 38th to the East River, thinking I would eventually hit some CitiBike station but I was wrong.  I briefly mingled with car traffic then quickly got onto the East River waterfront.  I stopped to take a photo of Queens and the Queensboro Bridge, which turned out smaller than what I wished for.  I traveled along the East River, mostly by myself as it was very cold out.  There was a runner here or a walker there, otherwise the path was nice and quiet.  Soon I had to decide which bridge to take to get into Brooklyn.  Brooklyn Bridge was easy to dismiss since I hate the shared bike and pedestrian path.  Sure there's a line separating the lanes, but pedestrians often walk in the bike lanes.  Brooklyn Bridge is just too touristy, I don't even like to run on it, never mind riding.  Manhattan Bridge would be OK but I hate to be in overcrowded Chinatown, so that left the Williamsburg Bridge.  Besides, I never rode over the Willy B before.  I ran over it a few times, time to find out how challenging its climb is.

Just to be safe, before the Willy B, at Clinton and Grand I returned the bike taken from Midtown and took out a different bike.  Another 45 minutes of free ride!  As soon as I got onto the bike/ped path of the Willy B, I pulled to the side and took a photo of the slope that I was about to go up against.  It was around 10:30 in the morning, and cold, so there were few people on the bridge.  I would not want to be run into by some cyclist barreling down the ramp.

The climb up the Willy B was challenging.  A CitiBike is probably not the ideal bike to go uphill, even at Gear 1.  Where the path split up to separate cyclists and pedestrians, I took another photo of the road to come.  Look at the slope in the distance!  On the Brooklyn side, I had to make a U-turn to get to Kent Avenue and its lovely protected bike lane.  I was going to change bike somewhere on Flushing Avenue, on the south side, as I recall, but instead I discovered the rack just inside a gate of the Navy Yard, at Vanderbilt.  Along Vanderbilt I rode all the way to just before Prospect Park.  It would be nice to take a ride in the park but time was running short, I have things to attend to in the afternoon so it was time to head for the subway.  I returned the bike on Fourth Avenue, near Barclay Center and the Pacific Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.  All three times I returned the bike, the green light went on, meaning the station registered that the bike was returned, very encouraging.  The CitiBike app can use some fixing though.  Each time I launched it, it would show my current position along with nearby bike stations, but only briefly then it crashes.  I've been hoping an update would fix the crash issue but so far no updates.

It would be really nice if some day there are CitiBike stations near Coney Island AND a bike lane is created on the Boardwalk.  Cops and sanitation people drive on the Boardwalk regularly, so I think a bike lane isn't that far-fetched.

Queens and Long Island City's many towers.
Man verus Bridge!
Far ahead, the road climbs higher!

05 March 2014


The destination for my run this morning was the home of an old compatriot from Viet Nam.  He used to live in the same village as my maternal grandparents.  My mother recently found out that he lives just a few stops away on the D subway line.  I drove Mother to visit him and near the end of the visit I took a photo of the elderly people.  Last night I dragged out the old HP Photosmart 375 to print a couple of photos for Mother and the old neighbor.  It was quite a pain to print photos.  The printer at first didn't even turn on but eventually did wake up and I had two photos to deliver the next morning.  Yup, I made his home part of my run.  I just needed to drop off the photos, either in his mailbox or the mail slot on the door.  Along the way, I also checked in with a few mPlaces and earned a few nano-pennies.  More on that another day.

On the way back, I made my first useful contribution to the Waze network of traffic reporters.  Driving is a pain but I believe tools like Waze can lessen the pain.  Driving and saw an accident?  Open the smartphone app and report it so others can avoid the route, if it's that bad.  Include photos and a little text, too.  Ideally, you have a co-pilot to do the reporting for you.  Or do so from the shoulder of the road, not while driving please!  My contribution in this case was for the closure of Bay Parkway between 84th and 83rd Streets, for potholes repair.  It was a rough winter and all the nice work the NY DOS do with shoveling has the undesirable side effect of creating lots of potholes.  Too bad I couldn't find the photo I took of the closure, but I saw that I got 6 points.  Just a little "game" to make traffic problems more palatable.

When I was near home, I wanted to do another kilometer so I ran a little past my home and back.  At the turnaround point, I saw the following vanity plate.

At first I thought it says "Done My Time", you know, maybe the vehicle owner did something bad and paid for it with jail time.  On second look, it's actually "DUNHITME", or "Don't Hit Me".  What drew my attention also was that the plate was not in the center of the front bumper.  Whatever, I won't hit you!

02 March 2014


When I ran the NYCRUNS Central Park Marathon last Sunday, I made the most of the time limit of 5 hours and 15 minutes.  I appreciated the staff and volunteers for being out so long for slower runners like me.  I thought of returning the favor by volunteering at an NYCRUNS race this weekend, but it didn't work out.  I thought the Frozen Penguin Half-Marathon was to take place on Sunday, but it was Saturday.  The timing just didn't work for me to volunteer, which usually involves being at the race 7 AM to 1 PM.  I live nearby and had an errand to attend to, which placed me even closer to the route.  I was able to be at the race to cheer and take photos.  Some photos, in no particular order, are below.

I like eye-rhyme as well as ear-rhyme, at the expense of correct spelling.

Penguin hat!

The rest of the photos can be found here:


27 February 2014


I help administer the Facebook group "Newtown High School Elmhurst, New York Alumni". Every now and then someone new would ask, "I am from Class of xxxx, are there anyone else from my year?", where xxxx would be some year, e.g. 1985 or 1967.  Being the vigilant admin that I am, I would use the search function to find messages in the group containing that year number.  I periodically ask new members to announce themselves, such as stating their names and years.  Subsequent searches would easily find people of the same year.  I tried to create a spreadsheet but that takes forever.

The Search gadget is not too hard to find on a laptop or desktop computer.  It's the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the group's main page.  But on a mobile device, such as the iPhone, with the mobile Facebook site or in the Facebook app, that is not the case.

On a desktop or laptop computer, the Search gadget is invoked by clicking the magnifying glass in the upper right of the group's main page, highlighted by the red oval above.
A sample search for "1993" yielded many hits.  Some hits are obvious, others you need to click on to see comments related to the entry.

As far as I know, there is no way to carry out a search using the Facebook app.  You can do some administration of the group, but no way can you find a certain phrase or word in the group.  The one search function the app has applies to the whole Facebook universe.

That leaves the mobile Facebook web page.  I specified "mobile" because for better use of limited screen real estate, when you put www.facebook.com into Safari (or some browser) you don't see the Facebook presented to a desktop user.  (From this point on, "desktop" implies "laptop" as well.)  You see some essential stuff, but things are reformatted so you don't have to zoom around. When you get to a group, the admin options are just as limited as the app.  But there is hope!

Perhaps you already know that at the top of the screen, on the left, there is this gadget consisting of three horizontal bars.  Click on it and you can get to your Groups, your Pages, very much what you would find on the left side of a Facebook screen on a desktop.  Scroll all the way to the bottom and you have the "Desktop Site" link.  Choose that and you no longer have to deal with the re-formatted Facebook view.  Of course, things look smaller, but that's the price you pay.  Just zoom in on the area surrounding the gadget and search away!

Click the gadget to get to Groups etc.

Desktop Site is what you would click to see the whole Facebook page, not the re-formatted version.
Hard to see, but there it is on the right near the top.

Just zoom in to enter what you need to search for.

25 February 2014


I know someone who has info from all her foot races in a neat little spreadsheet.  In this age, it may seems odd, what with Athlinks.com supposedly having every little bits of info about all runners, but it is good to have your own.  I did discover that untimed races like the NYRR Emerald Nuts Midnight Run or those supposedly unsanctioned races once organized by the Holiday Marathons folks are not listed anywhere.  You just have to make your own little list.  I am not done but the disturbing trend I found out is that my marathon finish time just got worse as time goes by.  For my most recent marathon race, the NYCRUNS Central Park Marathon, my finish time is 5:13:43.  I had two marathons completed in the 90s before chip time and those were about 6 hours.  My best marathon time was in 2011, at the Brooklyn Marathon, then each race after that just went down a few minutes, to this year's worst record. I do have a reason for the lousy performance but it is still upsetting.

It was a rough winter.  It snowed a lot and the weather was freezing cold.  I did not run as much as I'd like to.  As a matter of fact, I didn't have any 20-mile run as recommended by many training plans.  Many days I had to take time out to shovel or break the ice.  I didn't want to risk injury so I didn't run outdoor when it was slippery.  I suppose it would help if I have a gym membership and resorted to treadmills.  Even though I was unemployed, many things came up and I just couldn't find a block of 4 hours to carry out the long runs.  The most I ever did was a 15-mile run with a friend from PPTC.  Another time I was 10 miles into a supposed 20-mile run but I had to head back to pick up some medicines from the local pharmacy before it closed at 6.  Yeah, it is probably a first-world problem, but it's a problem nonetheless.

It was a beautiful day to be out running.  No rain, temperature just right for runners, and the roads in Central Park was mostly free of nasty ice.  I usually don't use bag check because of the delay in dropping off the bag and later retrieving it, but with NYCRUNS races there are not that many people so I brought a bag.  Just something to hold an outer layer of clothes.  The marathon was scheduled for 8:30, with the half-mary started at 8, so I had some time to get to the race.  It was nice to see daylight as I traveled to Central Park by subway.  As I entered the park, the half-mary people already started, which was a good thing because I didn't have to wait at all to use the john and to drop off my bag.  I worked with NYCRUNS before so it was nice to be greeted by many people.  The start of the marathon was about half a mile away but I got there in time for a short stretch, to bow for the national anthem, then off we went.  There was almost a thousand half-mary runners, but only about 350 in the marathon.  It took very little time to run past the start mat.

The marathon course consisted of five counter-clock loops of the park, the top portion being 102nd Transverse.  No Harlem Hill, just Cat Hill five times.  Much easier to remember compared to the course for the half-mary, which included a pass through 72nd Street and once up to the northern edge of the park.

Each loop had four water stations: in the 90s Street on the west side, at 68th Street on the west side, then around 72nd Street on the east side, and finally at 89th Street, near the Fred Lebow statue and NYRR office.  Years ago when I volunteered with Central Park Conservancy, I learned that the light poles in the park have street numbers assigned to them.  I don't know if that helped or hurt my run.  I should just plow ahead and not pay attention to where I was.  Five loops, it shouldn't matter what street I was at.  Besides, the course is not straight like the city streets, so for example one may be in the 70s and the next goal is in the 90s, it's not 20 blocks or 1 mile away, but rather whatever the curvy course is.  I tried to hug the curves but clockwise runners had the inner run lane so that strategy only worked sometimes.

The nice thing about a race with loops in Central Park, as opposed to one that covers a whole city, is that for slow runners like me I was never alone.  There were many other people out there enjoying the nicer weather.  At some point, I started to overlap the half-marathon runners, but eventually they all finished.  Just to keep my spirit up, I started to look for other racers like me and got to know three, Tory from Ashville, North Carolina, John from Annapolis, and Jeannie from San Francisco, some time during Loop 3 and afterward.  It helped to have a little competition with runners of similar capability.  We took turns leapfrogging each other, with walk breaks or time-out for Gu and water.  I worried about getting cramps and should have brought some salt, luckily nothing happened.

I brought 6 gel packs, thinking of having one before the race then one for each loop as I finished the loop.  The plan was flawed since by the time I finish the 5 loop there would be no need to have gel.  I would need the gel for the boost to keep going.  I had breakfast on the subway and didn't feel that I needed a gel pack before the race.  One pack per loop I did have, so by the time I finished the fourth loop, I had two left.  I used one for the water station at 68th Street on the west side, then another at the station near 72nd Street, then it was a slow walk up Cat Hill, and finally I actually reached Mile 25.  I passed by it a few times before, but only on the last loop would it really mean one more mile to go.  I took one last drink at the 89th Street aid station, asking for "rocket fuel" and was handed a double-dose of Gatorade, briefly and shortly hummed the theme music from the first Rocky movie, and somehow found the energy to run the rest of the way.  The time limit for the race was 5:15:00 and I made it in at 5:13:43.  It was not that they would instantly collapse everything, as other people past 5:15 also had their time recorded.  Not a bad time given the fact that I under-trained.

Thank you NYCRUNS staff and volunteers!

Thanks go to Patty CT for this photo of me early in the race.

The tech cap helped keep my vision clear, but near the end I took it off for the camera.

Thanks go to Nicole I. for this photo shortly after the finish.
The hard-fought finisher medal.  There was supposed to be a finisher shirt, too, but when I finished there were only ladies sizes left.

13 February 2014


It's Throwback Thursday, when we look back at something old which may bring a smile to our faces.  At least that's what I think it is.

I don't remember when I started it, but I have a decent coins collection.  I don't travel that much but when after a visit to a country, whether for business or on vacation, I would save a few of the coins.  Sometimes even the bills.  Also, since I live in New York City, people from all over the world somehow cross my path, or more exactly, their coins got dropped and I found them.  Sometimes I think the foreign coins were mistakenly used, or maybe even intentionally used, such as the case when the coin has lower value compared to the U.S. currency.  I have a few coins that look like the dime, both in shape and color.

I also save coins related to public transportation, mostly subways and metro trains.  Last but not least, I collect coins from arcade or similar businesses.  Without much further ado, check out part of my coins collection below!

Mostly tokens for the New York City subway system (NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority), but there are tokens for Boston, Chicago, and Dade Country, which I cannot recall of what city or state.  After a few design changes, the NYC MTA tokens of course got replaced by the MetroCard.  Likewise, the Roosevelt Island Tram used to have its own tokens.  Last but not least, check out the slug in the upper left!  It has a magnetic center just like the NYC MTA token, same round shape, same diameter, but probably cost much less to produce.  It was successfully used and found its way into a token ten-pack that I paid for.  I could have gotten a replacement but decided to keep it as a souvenir.
Here I have coins from Fun Time USA, Six Flag Great Adventure, Chuck E Cheese, Museum of Moving Image, Crayola Museum, Strasburg Railroad Museum, as well as those pennies that got squeezed through some machine.

I once visited Chennai, India (aka Madras, India) on business.  It was an interesting trip, diarrhea and all. 

I separate the coins into their own containers.  One container has U.S. coins, another British coins, then French, Mexican, Hong Kong, etc, but here I have a collection of coins from all over.  The Philippines, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Italy, Israel, Australia, Jamaica, Japan, The Netherlands, even some tokens for bridges and tunnels within New York City.  I am pretty sure the majority of these coins were found on the street or mistakenly used as U.S. dimes and nickels.

I visited Hong Kong twice.  I love the coins with the wavy edges.

Whenever I think about coins, I recall clearly the one time I saw a Vietnamese dong disassembled.  It was some time after the Communist takeover in 1975, the government didn't have enough money to make quality coins.  Someone showed me how a Viet coin, after some time underwater, had its tin foil layer removed to reveal a cardboard core.  Or some material equally inferior.  The demonstration simply stayed with me all these years.

07 February 2014


Yes, I was inspired by Al Jaffe of MAD Magazine.  He may be turning over in his grave.  I know, he's not dead, fortunately, but I imagine that's something the writers at MAD would say.

While I enjoyed coming up with contrived words and pictures to fit the art of fold-in cartoon, I wish I could have done better with the left half of the big face.  And maybe not use "Hot Pockets" since it rhymes with the "hidden" phrase.

TGIF!  (Everyday is TGIF for me while I am unemployed, but you working stiffs know what I mean.)

30 January 2014


Double-dipping, the practice of taking from the food tray more than once while other people haven't had their turn, is something frowned upon.  Especially at a party or some public event.  In some cases though, thanks to cut-and-paste technology, it's OK, at least I think so.  I'm thinking of course about both updating my blog and having something to hand out at tonight's Art Night at Jack Rabbit Sports in Union Square, https://www.facebook.com/events/618021894935571

Jack Rabbit Sports is a chain of stores in the NYC that fills the needs of runners and other fitness-minded people.  It regularly hosts events about the various sports and related services, but last year saw the first Art Night, where runners etc with artistic talents get to showcase their work.  I participated with my running-themed sonobes, one with 30 units showing various photos and words about running.  A few participants showed photographs, one had a video of trail running, some wood-printing, some sort of knitting, and vector-drawing.  See the photos at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151485803853713.1073741825.48482283712&type=3 .

There was some interests in my sonobes but I didn't win.  The honor went to a photographer.  I'm entering the contest this year with something a lot more related to running and quite artistic, IMHO.  I'm talking of course GPS art.  From the interactions I have with people on Facebook etc I know a few questions that are regularly asked about my GPS art.  Maybe knowing how the work is done will give me more votes to win the $50 gift card...

Here it is, Qaptain Qwerty's Frequently Asked Questions on GPS Art, as done by me and my Garmin watch:

  1. How do you make it?  With a Garmin GPS watch and my pair of legs.  Back from the run, I sync the route to Garmin Connect then take a screenshot from the Player view, such as http://connect.garmin.com/jsPlayer/386410198 .  While the path can be traced out while walking or cycling, running gives that intermediate speed.  Walking is too slow and cycling would sometimes requiring going against traffic, something a law-abiding citizen like me doesn't like to do.
  2. Did you actually run all that distance?  Most of the time, yes.  In the "Claudia" example below, I actually ran all that red route.  Note that for some letter, like C and u, I had to run the route twice, up to the top then back down.
  3. Do you have the path traced out on paper etc?  No, while I look at a map before the run I don't have it traced out, on paper or otherwise.  I occasionally use Google Map on my iPhone to check my progress, but I never use any visual aide that shows the completed path.
  4. How long does it take?  Between one hour and two, depending on the letters.  Some letters are easy to complete, like n or r, since they require only one pass, but others like u or l requires going up and down the same block more than once.  "Al Goldstein", which refers to the ex-President of Prospect Park Track Club, not that other screwy guy, took over two hours, and I even got e before i .
  5. How did you make the "e"?  It looks like you cut through a city block!  I didn't trespass any properties, trust me.  It's a trick I discovered with the Garmin watch.  When you pause the watch it knows where you were.  When you get to another place and unpause, it simply draws a straight line between where you were and your new location.  It can be considered cheating, but as far as exercising I wouldn't cheat myself in any way since I end up running a longer distance in reality.
  6. You use city streets a lot, why don't you use a big open field?  The rectangular city grid provides an easy reference, especially the numbered streets.  In a big open field, I find it hard to track the distance and one tree that earlier looked unique would later on look just like other trees.  Also, a field may look big in person can turn out to lack enough "height" for the letters.
  7. How do you know what to write?  Whatever happening that day.  Someone's birthday, some holiday, or whatever puns I think of.  Or if someone would offer me a lot of money, I suppose I can sell my soles.

26 January 2014


I live near what I call the Belt Parkway waterfront.  To be exact, it's that waterfront path between Caesar's Bay and Owl's Head, primarily for pedestrians and cyclists.  "Near" is a relative term.  It's probably about 2 km but for us distance-runner that's near enough.  It's a great place to jog as it is devoid of car traffic, except the occasional maintenance vehicles from the Parks Department or those belonging to NYPD.  It's not so great when it snows, as the place is not plowed, or at least not completely.  Some time ago I went there after a snowfall, with steel-toed boots, to find out how accessible it was for runners.  It was not.  Here and there there were shoveled spots but around 17th Avenue toward the Verrazano Bridge the snow was intact.  Some brave souls may have walked through the snow but it's still not much of a path, with snow up to the ankle or worse.  Since that exploratory trip, I know better not to go running by the Belt Parkway waterfront.  I just don't like slogging through snow.

Yesteday when my running partner J said we should run on the Belt Parkway waterfront, mere days after that big 12" snowstorm plus yesterday's 1" of fresh snow, I should have thought better and not agree.  J mistakenly thought that NYCRUNS just had a race there yesterday.  How bad could it be if a few hundred people just went through the same area?  They wouldn't have the race if the road was not clean, right?  NYCRUNS did have a race yesterday, but that was in Prospect Park, which has car traffic so surely it was plowed nice and clear.

I decided to run from home to Caesar's Bay, as opposed to driving.  I thought if I drove, I would use the lame excuse that it was nice and warm in the car and would end up staying in the car too long.  So I ran, along the elevated tracks of the D train to Bay Parkway then turned left for the bay.  I thought the roads would be clean to run on, but it was not that clean.  The sun didn't yet rise when I got to Caesar's Bay.  I saw J's car, I did tell him to go ahead and I would catch up to him.  We run at the same turtle speed but I fancied I would switch to turbo mode somehow and overtake him, wishful thinking.  Just a K or so in I knew this was a mistake.  It was cold, dark because the sun hadn't come out, and there was a lot of semi-hard snow on the ground.  I had a bandana mask on but it didn't stay up, very annoying.  I usually take a few photos on runs like this but it was too cold I didn't want to take off the gloves to take photos.  Such is one disadvantage with smartphone cameras.  With the typical digital camera, you know, the one that not too long ago displaced the trusty 35mm camera, you can control the camera if you gloves fit snugly.

Still, I pressed on, at times just walked it since there was little difference between trying to run and walking.  My worse fear was that I would twist an ankle but luckily nothing that bad happened.  A few times I thought of taking some overhead bridges over the Belt Parkway to run on Cropsey Avenue or some civilized street that should be plowed already.  But I promised J I would meet him on the waterfront so I soldiered on.  By the second footbridge after the Verrazano, the path was perfectly straight all the way to Owl's Head Pier.  I decided that if J was not heading back by then, I would just go back the 4th Avenue exit of the Belt and snuggle up with a nice hot cup of coffee.  Probably even a full breakfast and walk my way back.  J did show up, I met him halfway and we went back together, unplowed snow and all.  It actually warmed up a bit, enough for me to remove gloves to take the second photo, of icicles on the guard rail.

Now that it was over, with no damage from the cold and the slipper snow, it was a good run.  By myself I would not have done it.  Still, as long as I remember it, I won't do it again.
The bike path is completely covered with snow.  Cyclists sometimes get testy when us runners invade their lanes, but in this condition no bike would make it.  The Verrazano Bridge is in the background.

I love to see water freezes as it tries to fall to the ground.  I imagine some wave splashed onto these rails but didn't move fast enough and got frozen.  That's my crazy running partner on the left in the distance.  Way back in the center of the background is the Parachute Jump in Coney Island.

23 January 2014


It's Throwback Thursday!  I know, by the time most people read this it would be Friday already.

So the news say the NYC MetroCard is supposed to be retired in the not-so-distant future.  I hope its replacement won't be something that only works on smartphones.  Much as I love smartphones, I don't want rely on it for my commute.  I would not mind one of those things that get sucked into the turnstile and spit out on the inside.  On some bad days, the stupid MetroCard wouldn't work no matter how fast or how slow I swipe it.  It sucks because the turnstile does not suck, that's all I have to say.

As a pack rat and collector of many things, I did collect MetroCards when it first came out, especially when it started to carry ads or some promotional pictures on the back.  Until a few hours ago, I had no idea I had the collection below.  I know I have a pack of old MetroCards in my attic, but the particular designs eluded me.  I know I have a blue one, which on eBay may fetch me $20, alas I only have one, so selling it is not an attractive option.  The rest I totally forgot that I have.  Like the series from New York Mets and its ethnic nights (Jewish, Hispanic, Asian).  I am no sports fan but I thought maybe the baseball fans may get a kick out of the Yankees (Modell's actually) and Mets cards.  I can almost swear I have a NY Rangers card but I didn't see it.

I used to ride the Q58 bus to back and forth from JHS 73 in Maspeth, Queens.  I used to keep all the monthly cards in a clear plastic thingy.  Of course I either threw the whole thing away or can not find it.  Maybe to make up for that I collected the student MetroCards.  At first I thought the cards I have were picked up randomly after some students threw them away.  It turned out the names on the student cards are possibly someone I know.  Alas, I have zero collection of asking for them from those "kids" (The MetroCard turned 20 years old recently, so those kids are not kids any more.)