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: