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.)