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.)

21 January 2014


I love Google, I love maps, and I love Google Maps.  I especially love Google Maps with the Photos Overlay.  You have a Google Map then with a layer selected, you can see certain places that have photos associated with them, usually via Panoramio.  In the screenshot below, note that Photos and Labels are selected on the right.  Also Map is shown since we are already in Satellite mode.  Clicking on Map would remove the fancy view, no greenery, no actual road, etc, just a plain map with symbols and such, no photos-quality view.

It is easy to make your own maps based on Google Maps then add your own info.  Just find the place you are interested, such as Calvert Vaux Park in the screenshot below.  I found it, I clicked Save To Map, and I already have Calvert Vaux Park as one of my maps, otherwise I would select Create A New Map.

Last night I could almost swear that I once had a custom map with fancy photos that I easily added to.  It was not the case.  As you may recall from past blog posts I have, Calvert Vaux Park is now half-developed and is nowhere like what the Satellite view of Google Maps show.  I very much want to have my own map with my own photos.  It can be done, but it is nowhere as simple as clicking on some button in the map program and browsing to your photo of choice.  What you actually need to do is to go to the photo first, then right-click on the photo and select Open Image In New Tab.  (Open Image In New Window works too, Tab just happens to be my preferred choice of web viewing.)  Go to the new tab, highlight the entire URL (address bar) and press Apple-C (Ctrl-C on Windoze) to copy.

Next, go to your saved map, click Edit, choose the blue pin-drop and place it where you want to add the photo.  Give the pin-drop a title, click Rich Text, then Insert Image icon (which is right-most), and finally Apple-V (Ctrl-V on Windoze) to paste the link you copied earlier.

In the beginning, I used the very first URL when the photo was opened, whether in the album or not.  It didn't work.  There would be an icon but no photo.  First open the photo in a new tab or new window then you will be good.

It's a work-in-progress and below is the latest map I have so far of Calvert Vaux Park.  I really want to add some photos to highlight the wilder side of the park but it takes forever to find them in Google Photos, since the photos were taken some time ago and scrolling back in time is pretty hard.  Play around with zooming and panning, then click on each pin-drop to see the park at that location.

View Calvert Vaux Park in a larger map

14 January 2014


Last year, I discovered the joy of Google Auto Awesome, http://www.qaptainqwerty.com/2013/07/google-auto-awesome-is-awesome.html .  The idea is simple enough.  Take a series of photos of a scene and Goolge Photo intelligently recognizes the moving elements and the still background to cobble together a nifty animated GIF, or a mini movie.  As the name suggests, the work is done automatically.  It seemed to be a great idea and I made a few such "animations" but my latest attempt failed.  The animGIF below was not made by Google Auto Awesome but instead was done on my Mac laptop using GIFfun.  I took a series of photos, which I think show my mini-me, in CubeeCraft form, running in a circle.  Admittedly the background is not constant, but it looks pretty much the same from frame to frame.  Only to me, as it turned out, and not to Auto Awesome.  Awesome takes its sweet time to make the anim so at first I thought it would be just a matter of time.  Maybe I have too many photos and it takes time to scan them and auto-detect the animation.  I took the photos one night before going to bed.  The next morning, still no anim from the photos.  I waited a few hours then gave up and made the animGIF with GIFfun, which I got for free off the Stone Design web site, http://www.stone.com/GIFfun/ .  Thank you, Stone!

I think the uniform color of the floor may have confused Auto Awesome.  I plan to take another shot at it, this time with some other objects in the foreground, colorful objects that make them look different from the floor.  Stay tuned!