08 May 2017

THE GREAT SAUNTER 2017, PART 2

The Great Saunter, organized by Shorewalkers, is a 32-mile walk (mostly) on the shores of Manhattan Island.  The schedule set forth by Shorewalkers has the walk start at 7:30 AM from Fraunces Tavern near the southern tip of the island.  Walkers would go along the Hudson River up to the northern tip then return to the south (mostly) along the East River.  Most should finish back at the Tavern by 7 PM the same day.

I don't know what I was thinking but I figured that if I can finish a marathon, distance = 26.2 miles, in 5.5 hours, another 6 miles maybe requires one more hour, so I should be able to finish the Saunter in 7 hours, 8 top.  The only trouble is I won't be running, more like a leisurely walk.  Yes, in the beginning I wished to catch up to the front of the group so I walked a bit faster than others, but then I also stopped to remove outer layers or to take photos of the surrounding.  That was part of the reasons for the walk, to enjoy the scenery.  Five hours or so I only finished half the walk, somewhere past the George Washington Bridge.  It was kinda like getting off the last exit of the Long Island Expressway, it was the end of the highway but there is actually lots more road to drive on.  Lately work has me in the southern end of Staten Island and to me it looks countryside.  Houses far apart, no sidewalks in some places.  Except in the Inwood area it felt like walking in a forest.  The big bridges here and there reminded me I wasn't outside of civilization, then there were also the baseball fields as well as buildings in the Bronx just across the water.


Henry Hudson Bridge, it goes on and on.
Before we exit Inwood Hill Park, there was a rest area where Shorewalkers staff provided snacks and drinks.  Some experience walkers brought along sandwiches and such.  I figured we would not be far from civilization and could always stop by a deli to get a sandwich or something to munch.  I was lucky the rest area had a green market just across the street from it.  I was tempted to have a big lunch but with about 16 more miles to go I had just half a sandwich.  And a nice cold apple cider, plus a chocolate chip cookie.

After the break, the route got a little more challenging.  So far, it was a matter of having the water of the Hudson River to our left to stay on course.  After Inwood Hill Park, we were back in the urban jungle with buildings and traffic in all directions.  Unlike those long stretch of shores with few people around, where you can easily spot the walkers far ahead of you, usually with the white Shorewalkers caps, on the crowded city street it wasn't so easy.  The organizer prepared a nice map for us but I figured I could find my way to the East River, or to be exact the Harlem River.  I got toward the correct general direction but to be safe I asked a trio of fellow walkers waiting to cross the street.  It was a fortunate move because even though I was able to walk alone the whole time by then I was getting tired and could use some chit-chat to make the trek more bearable.  The trio turned out to be husband-and-wife team P. and T., the other person being a seasoned Shorewalker, C.  We stayed together for the rest of the walk, down Harlem River Drive, briefly onto the streets of Harlem, passed over part of the Percy Sutton 5K, then finally along 111th Street to get to the East River waterfront.  My favorite part of the walk was in Inwood because I never visited the area before.  Even though I haven't been to the waterfront of the Upper East Side in a while, it was familiar territory so it was a bit boring.  Still nice and there were surprises, like Gracie Mansion, which I thought was some huge complex with fences and guards, far away from the common folks, but it seemed more approachable than I would, and smaller too, but it may be just from one view.

Among the four of us we share stories about travel, food, walking, CityStrides.com, NYC sights, etc.  It helped to pass the time and slowly we whittle down the miles.  We had to take restroom breaks here and there and our pace got slower and slower but we soldiered on.  It didn't help that the sky became overcast and cooler.  At last we saw the Williamsburg Bridge from far away.  The home stretch!  First Williamsburg, then the Manhattan Bridge, and then not that far away, the Brooklyn Bridge.  Unbelievable, all that walking for a paper certificate and bragging right!  But it was a lot of fun, much to see in the city no matter how long you live here.

Just as we arrived back at the Tavern to collect our certificates, it started to rain, not heavily, just enough to get the paper certificates wet if we stayed outside.  Inside the Tavern it was crowded but we managed to find a table, where they only serve drinks.  If I had known ahead I would make some friends, I would make reservations.  We had a celebratory drink, took a group photo or two, then parted ways, with contact info exchanged.  Just as I stepped back outside, the wind was really strong and I shook uncontrollably!  Maybe my body finally reached its limit?  Luckily the shaking went away as I kept walking.  I even recovered enough to find a Chipotle to have dinner.  The subway ride home wasn't so bad, the waiting didn't seem that long.

Oh the agony of the feet!  Unlike a marathon where muscles in different parts of the body ache, for me with the Great Saunter, it's mostly with the feet.  The smalls of the back hurt a little too.  Lucky for me, by Sunday evening, some 24 hours later, I was able to walk normally, mostly.  I actually walked over 3 miles to complete a few more Brooklyn streets for CityStrides.  The Great Saunter got my Manhattan coverage jumped from 10% to 12%, I should focus some more energy on Brooklyn.

Would I do it again?  Probably not, only because I don't like to do things years after years.  Maybe in x years when the East Side becomes more continuous I will re-consider it.  Shore walkers have many other walks throughout the year, some over short distance like 5 miles but others as long as 10 miles, excellent chances to cover more streets for CityStrides.  Should the average, able-bodied New Yorker do it?  Definitely!  It is a great way to see the City, to visit parts of the City you may never visit!  Just be prepared for it, be physically active some time before the big day.

07 May 2017

THE GREAT SAUNTER 2017

A walk on the perimeter of Manhattan Island, 32 miles in more than 12 hours, that was yesterday's The Great Saunter 2017, organized by the good folks at Shorewalkers.  I saw some mention of the event before, on Facebook, but more recently I read that some runners had to drop out of it.  Decent runners, people who finished marathon distance (26.2 miles), people who are faster than me - couldn't finish the walk.  For some it was a nasty blister.  I was curious and decided to finally give it a try.

The day before it rained heavily for most of the day.  On the day of the walk, it was beautiful weather.  Not too hot, but not that cool either.  I was not too worried about the preparation, didn't even pin my bib the night before, like on the eve of a big foot race.  The D train didn't go to Manhattan from my station so I buffered in some extra time for traveling.  It worked out well.  I got to Fraunces Tavern with plenty time to spare.  There was already two lines from the front door, one for registered users and the other for those who wish to register that day.  I didn't recall breakfast being served and asked someone and the answer was no.  Not that surprising, it was only $25 to become a member of Shorewalkers and join the walk, I shouldn't expect more for the day.  There was a Dunkin Donuts nearby, with no seating, but the plaza across the street from the Tavern had plenty of waist-height horizontal surface to be used as table.

After breakfast I felt the need to flush some stuff out of the system and decided to go inside the Tavern.  People were getting inside for buy baseball caps too.  I was tempted but I already have too many caps and resisted the urge even to go inside the Tavern, but nature call and it had to be answered.  By the time I came out it was already time to move - 7:30 AM or thereabout.  People already streamed out what I think of as the backdoor of the Tavern, the one that lead into Water Street.  Off we went, in ones or twos, maybe even three, abreast, filing across the street, past the Staten Island Ferry Station, up Hudson River to the tip of Manhattan Island.

The part of the walk that I looked forward to the most was Inwood Park since I never went that far north on Manhattan Island, but I found other pleasant sights along the way, too.  Battery Park City looked not that different, but Hudson River Park had some parts that I didn't recognized, like the raised wooden walkway below.

Hudson River Park boardwalk.
I did take it easy, stopped here and then to take photos.  I just wished I took action sooner or later.  One building I missed was the "Jenga Building" not far from Borough Manhattan Community College.  Instead of just one rectangular tall building, some of the floors seem to be jutting out of the building, Jenga-style.  I thought I could get a better view of it after turning into the pedestrian path along the West Side Highway, but by then I was too close to BMCC and it was somewhat foggy too.  Lesson learned:  If you like something you see, take photos.  I no longer have limited space or battery life on my phone so there was no excuse.

One year after an NYRR Coogan's 5K I tried to walk down to Hudson River Park but made the mistake thinking that Riverside Park would easily connect to it.  After all, there is the Henry Hudson Parkway between Riverside and the water, so one must cross the highway at some point.  Maybe I didn't have enough sleep that day, but I gave up around 86th Street or thereabout.  With the Great Saunter, I finally walked up along the entire west side of Manhattan.  The best part was the Little Red Lighthouse.

Little Red Lighthouse
I have heard much about the Little Red Lighthouse but the one time I tried to find it while I was in the area, without any software or map program, I failed.  On the Great Saunter, it was not out of the way too, just a few steps off the course.  I took a little break here to check-in on Facebook as well as sip a little water.  It was a cool day, I didn't need much water.

For a while then we were walking way below the Hudson Parkway.  It was time to climb up to its level, at which point Strava said I reached the 16-mile mark so it was time to stop the program just to be safe.  One reason I do the Great Saunter was to improve my Manhattan map on CityStrides.com.  I already had 10% of Manhattan covered, a long walk around the perimeter should increase that number somewhat.  I would hate to lose the phone or run out of battery power before saving the effort.  So at the midway point, I stopped the app and re-started anew.  First 16 miles, second half 16 miles, whatever happened during the second half, I know at least the first half will be safe.  Speaking of half, I better write the other half of this blog post tomorrow, it is time for me to go to sleep.


29 March 2017

EARLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY PROSPECT PARK!

That's right, this coming weekend, April 1 and 2, will be the big 150-year celebration of Prospect Park!  Besides the little, artsy run I will help lead on Sunday, the Prospect Park Alliance has many events planned.  For more info, visit https://www.prospectpark.org/150 .  Many events are free, some have suggested donations, while others offer discounts for members of Prospect Park Alliance.  I wish I can join the History Run hosted by NYRR on Saturday the 1st.  It will be a fun run with many stops at monuments and historical sites throughout the park.  I love running and also love history, what a great combo!  Alas, I already registered to run as a pacer for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Philadelphia.  Don't worry, the 15K won't affect the 3-mile run next day.  I ran the Queens Marathon this past Sunday and today I'm well enough to take the stairs at work on a few occasions.  I even plan to do a little morning run in Staten Island tomorrow.

Speaking of the Prospect Park 150 run, if you are coming, do you feel comfortable enough with the course?  About fifty people signed up via the Google doc so I'll print 25 or so copies of the map.  For your convenience, here is the "course" again.  See you Sunday!


28 March 2017

QDR QUEENS MARATHON 2017

I ran the second annual QDR (Queens Distance Runners) Queens Marathon two days ago.  As usual, that evening I had difficulty lifting the legs and going down stairs was painful.  But here I am, two days later, I can go about 99% normal.  I cannot recall if I "recovered" this quick the last time I ran a marathon.  Maybe my body improved somehow, but I find that hard to believe because I no longer run everyday like I used to.  The only logical conclusion is I didn't push myself hard enough.

The day started early, like 5 A.M.  Packet pickup started at 6:30 A.M. and I was there at that time.  Parking that early in the day was plentiful, mostly under the Van Wyck Expressway.  The shirt-pickup tent just got started, I wanted a Men XL shirt but they didn't have my size so I went back to the car and took a nap, thinking they would sort things out eventually.  They didn't, which is fine by me, I have too many shirts already, I just needed a layer to ward off the cold so I settled for a Women L.  I should have learned the Hollywood Sequel Way, i.e. if something works well just repeat the process.  Having disposable clothes at the NYRR NYC Half exactly a week earlier kept me warm during the long wait in the corral.  I made the mistake thinking Sunday would be just as warm as Saturday and came in shorts and a few thin layers of tech fabrics.  It was cold!  I lucked out and didn't have to deal with rain but IT WAS COLD!

The line for the porta-potty was long as usual.  Luckily, the race took place in a public park, the Flushing Meadows Park, and the public restroom by the subway station was already open, thanks go to some guy who informed the people waiting at the end of the long queue.  I ran there with some other guy and more showed up after us.  Inside the restroom it was so warm I thought about just staying there.

The great thing about races organized/produced by NYCRuns is runners don't have to wait a long time in the corral.  Yes, just one corral.  I simply waited in the back and it wasn't long before the whole thing started.  Here comes four loops of Flushing Meadows Park with many turns!

The race started near the pool, to the east of the Unisphere.  A few turns here and there and runners found themselves heading for the big lake.  A full loop of the lake, with a few spots with rainwater from the previous night blocking the road.  Back to the main part of the park and we made a left to enter the area near Terrace on the Park and Queens Zoo.  One more time back to park center, this time we made more turns here and there and sorta went around the Unisphere then passed by the ramp to the 7 train station.  More turns again and runners pass the back and side of the Aquatic Center, sorta parallel to the Van Wyck Expressway, then turn toward the Pool of Industry, make 300 (?) degrees around the Pool then back to the start.  Loop 1 done!  Of course you can see the course better on the NYCRuns, supposedly the Flushing Meadows Half-Marathon course is the same as this marathon.

With insufficient preparations I had anxiety about the race.  Sure I ran marathons before but I had more preparations then.  I am lucky enough to not have any permanent injuries, so far, and I prefer not to have any after this ill-prepared marathon.  At least for the first loop, what kept me going was the image below.  I came up with a new joke involving the age-old, "Is the glass half-empty or is it half-full?"  For the first time, I ran half-marathon and full-marathon one weekend after the other.  So I came up with the idea of putting both medals in a drinking glass and pose the question, "Is the glass half-marathon or is it full-marathon?"  My jokes are great.  The best.  Period.  (No, just kidding, I'm not that vain.)  Sure I could just use some marathon medal from a few years ago and the joke would still be good, but it's not Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday right?  It's Sunday!  So on I went for the first loop to earn a new, shiny marathon medal.



For the second loop, I decided to use the public restroom near the turn to Pool of Industry.  I think it's Mile 25 but now I don't know for sure now that the event is not listed on the web any more.  There were other restrooms along the way but I think this one was the closest to the course.  For the NYC Half I held out until the very end but it's unavoidable with a marathon.  Some runners aim to P.R. all the markers along a marathon route, me I just run to finish.  No need to hold it until after the second loop, as the restroom may not be that conveniently located along the race course.  As expected, I didn't P.R. with my half-marathon time, it was 2:35+ when I finally finished Loop #2.

Loops #3 and #4 somehow just passed by.  I am sure many runners do this - identify someone running at a pace near you and try to beat them.  For us back-of-the-pack runners, of course we won't win any top prizes but it's a way to keep going.  I found a few and managed to pass them and also stayed ahead, only to lose my "lead" after the restroom breaks.  Or the walk after each loop to wolf down a pack of Gu.  A friend mentioned some weeks back I may get seriously injured if I'm not careful, so I was careful and took one more walk break after Mile 23.  My "lead" totally evaporated then, as all my competitions sailed past me.  In the end, I managed to surpass a few of those people, after Mile 24.  My finish time of 5:42 or so was a personal worst, not counting the 6+ I spent for the NYC Marathons back in 1994 and 1995, without time chip I think the wait on the Verrazano Bridge was not excluded.  I wish I had my Garmin GPS to confirm the time and distance, as Strava app on my phone said I ran 28 miles.  Sure there were a few big puddles that required going to the side and there were so many turns they may add up, but I am not sure if all that extra distance would really make that big of a difference.

I love inaugural races, new things, but I'm also a non-repeating customer.  I actually registered for last year's Queens Marathon but had couldn't run it because high school spring break overlapped it.  I went on a sea cruise instead.  I'm glad I finally made the run, even with the dismal finish time.  Still, I rarely repeat the same marathon, and the many turns just ensure that I won't repeat the Queens Marathon.  Next year, I plan to run the Suffolk County Marathon, which should be its 4th year, I think, or the Rockapulco Marathon, x loops on the Rockaway Boardwalk.  I cannot afford to fly all over to run marathons so I plan to cover all the local ones instead.  Of course, hopefully I'll run those marathon with more preparation.



20 March 2017

NYRR NYC HALF-MARATHON 2017

Wishful thinking, it is part of human nature, right?  There I was last night, laying awake wishing I will pull off a miracle and finish the half-marathon in 2:13, which was my best time for a half, back in 2012.  But I no longer run everyday any more.  Back in 2012, fresh off from a job that dragged on for 12 mostly painful years, well, there were some good ones, but near the end it was exhausting, I had much time to prepare for the half-marathon in Staten Island.  Yes, I ran my best 5K back in August last year, by having a good friend pace me and I also used better breathing techniques.  But it was a 5K, or 3.1 miles long, versus a half-marathon, glorious 13.1 miles.  The cheering crowd in Times Square and elsewhere supposedly can give runners a good boost, but it won't make up that much to cover lack of training.  Yet I dreamt a little.  Then I decided I would just be socially unfriendly and not spend time on queue for porta-potty.

It was my first time running the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon.  The high cost, $120+ I think, was a main factor for me to avoid it.  There are so many other races to spend my hard-earned money on.  Sure you don't get to run through Times Square but is that alone worthwhile the big fee?  But last year I was supposed to be a guide for an Achilles runner who decided at the last minute to run with some friend of his, so I ended up at the cheer zone for my track club instead.  It was nice to be out there, seeing all the energy.  I volunteered at a water station for the NYC Half some years ago, but being at the cheer zone was different.  I decided then that I would actually run it.  It helped that I did all five races for the five boroughs of NYC to gain automatic entry into the NYC Half.  I know, the NYC Half is so highly sought after you don't just register for them.  You either earn a guaranteed entry or try your luck with lottery, or some other means.

There was a big snowstorm on the Tuesday before the Sunday race.  Then the weather report said there would be more storm or lousy weather on the weekend.  Ay yay yay, just my luck, another messy run like the Staten Island Half 2016.  Luckily, it turned out there was no precipitation whatsoever.  Just so very cold!  I try to make the races as simple as possible so I went without bag check.  First time ever I had a disposable layer on, both the top and the bottom parts of the body.  I hate the idea of throwing away clothes that are still wearable but I have too many pieces of clothes anyway.  Besides, NYRR does a good job of collecting the throwaway clothes for Good Will.  I placed my pieces neatly on a rail, near other people's stuff, I am sure they will find a new good home.  I just had the scary feeling that I left something valuables in those clothes, but I made sure there was nothing.

I was in Wave 3, Corral D.  At NYRR races, a slowpoke like me is usually in Corral K, but because the NYC Half had three different Waves, it appeared like I moved up several Corrals but I know better.  It was nice to bump into track club members: Jackie, who was a volunteer team leader; and Murray, who was assigned to the same Corral and Wave with me.  Murray planned to run at a certain pace but we started out together and he periodically said we were too fast than his planned pace.  Around Harlem Hill I went ahead with my pace, which was not that much faster, but I wanted to at least beat my 2:30 from last year's Brooklyn Half.  I ran a few more Half-Marys since Brooklyn but I was sort of a pacer so my finish time was 2:45 or 3:00.  I ran slower going uphill then tried to make higher leaps as I came down the hills.  I walked twice to wolf down the Gu's that I brought with me, and maybe again shortly afterward to grab water or Gatorade to wash the stuff down.  I think I stopped one more time at Mile 12 to get another drink, last one for the long stretch home.

I did stick to my plan of not stopping for anything other than walk breaks.  I acknowledged when called but did not stop for photos.  That's the extent of my being unsocial.  It was good to see Jackie again around the 72nd Street Transverse in Central Park as she tried to get out of Central Park to get to the finish line.  I loved how Joe at 42nd Street cupped his hand to better holler at me.  I don't run with headphone and keeps my eyes open so I usually catch everything.  Actually, I probably saw Joe with his cupped hands before I heard him.  Also on 42nd Street I spotted Linda from the back and asked for confirmation while she was re-fueling, nom nom nom.  I knew Joyce would be at Mile 9's fluid station, with the Back On My Feet group.  She perched high on something so it was easy to spot her and we exchanged greetings so it was good.  Another wishful thinking, I thought there might be a chance my club's cheer zone would still be around when I got there.  But it was a cold day and for us Wave 3 people that would mean the cheerleaders have to be there for like three hours.  I had a PPTC hoodie on so occasionally other people would call the club name and I would respond with a fist pump or such.  All the words of encouragement really made a difference, even if it didn't make me finish faster, it sure kept me going.

Strava app messed up and didn't record the tunnel portion of the race.  Instead, it said I went quickly uptown to Chambers Street then zoomed back at the tunnel exit.  It also went bonker in Times Square.  Altogether, per Strava app, I ran over 22 miles at 6 or so minutes per mile.  Of course I didn't.  It still said I did 2:30, but since I stopped Strava after a few steps past the finish line, it turned out I made sub-2:30, or 2:29:43 to be exact.  Sigh, such is the life of a slow runner, had to forgo toilet visits, sacrifice most social interaction, i.e. no stopping for photos, just to squeak by some goal.  Some fast runners would have stomach cramps, wait on long lines for the toilets, then still P.R. by 15 minutes.  But with this sports, it's usually just the runners against their younger self so I'm good.

16 March 2017

PROSPECT PARK SESQUICENTENNIAL - ROUTE INSTRUCTION

At 9 A.M. Sunday April 2, I will help lead a run with the Prospect Park Track Club to celebrate The Park's 150-year anniversary.  The route will spell out... drum rolls... "150"!  I already posted what the route looks like but while it is obvious to me how it should be run, it may not be so to others.  Follows is the step-by-step instruction, as shown in the accompany picture:


  1. Start near the corner of 10th Street and Seventh Avenue, on the side of the street closer to 11th Street.  Note that we won't start at the corner but rather slightly away from the corner, toward the park.
  2. Start the watch/app (which from now on I'll just call "watch"), walk across the street then pause the watch.
  3. Run around the corner to 9th Street and Seventh Avenue then un-pause the watch.  Wait a little bit for the straight line from 10th Street to be drawn.
  4. Run toward the park then turn right toward 10th Street and make a U-turn to head toward 8th Street.
  5. Follow arrow directions, be sure to make the kick-up at the lower left of the "5".  I want to make sure "150" does not look like "ISO", so these little extra lines here and there are actually very important.
  6. At the corner of 7th Street and Eighth Avenue, the back corner of New York Methodist Hospital, pause watch again.
  7. Run around the block to the corner of 6th Street and Seventh Avenue and un-pause the watch.  You should be at the entrance to Barnes & Noble Bookstore.  Again, linger at the corner a few seconds to make sure the straight line from 7th Street and Eighth Avenue is drawn before continuing on.
  8. The rest is straightforward, IMHO.  Run toward 1st Street and Seventh Avenue then loop back toward 2nd Street, run counter-clockwise as shown to make the zero.
  9. Stop when you get back to 1st and Seventh.  The run is less than 3 miles, if you want to have more mileage, but without messing up the "0", draw the "0" again but this time at Carroll Street and Prospect Park West instead of turning into Carroll, continue on toward Grand Army Plaza. Of course, if you already stopped your watch when you first got back to 1st and Seventh you can run anywhere without marring your work of art.
Hope you find the instruction useful.  Sign up for the run at 




14 March 2017

PROSPECT PARK SESQUICENTENNIAL

Prospect Park in Brooklyn opened to the public in 1867.  It is turning 150 years old this year.  The Prospect Park Alliance is hosting many events starting Saturday April 1.  On April 2, my running club, the Prospect Park Track Club, will host a run in cooperation with the Alliance.  I designed a route that spells out "150".  Faster runners will lead the group from the front while slowpokes like me will lead from the back.  The run starts at 9 A.M. and will be slightly less than 3 miles.

PPTC runs normally start from Grand Army Plaza but this run is different and will meet at 10th Street and Seventh Avenue, which is the top of the "1" in "150".  Actually, it will be slightly away from that corner, toward the park.  Usually when runners spell words and numbers they make very blocky and straight characters.  I go through great length to make sure the characters are curvy, that corners are rounded and not at ninety degrees.  It is easy to mistakenly spell "ISO" instead of "150" so I want to avoid that.  More details will be provided on how that's done.

Register at https://goo.gl/UknXdS

For more information about anniversary events hosted by the Prospect Park Alliance, visit

https://www.prospectpark.org/news-events/events/2017/4/2#opening-weekend-2017

28 January 2017

CALL FOR BACKUP

We love our iPhones and use them for everything.  We take them everywhere and take photographs of everything, whether they move or not.  Some of us even record movies with our phones.  Unfortunately, shit happens and sometimes the beloved phone is lost and there goes everything with it.

I've tried a few different methods to backup my iPhone and was unhappy with them.  In no particular order, they were Apple iTunes, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Mophie Space Pack.

Apple iTunes costs nothing to use, mostly.  Some people may have only a smartphone as their only communication device, but most people also own a computer.  They would then need to download iTunes, hook the iPhone to the computer and everything just gets backed up to the computer.  Technically speaking I can go back to this method now, since these days I have regular access to my MacBook Pro.  Until a few months ago, my son hogged the computer most of the time and I didn't use it that much.  Logging onto the computer, connect the cable, wait for the backup to occur, etc seems like too much hassle.

Google Drive worked fine for a while but before I know it, 5 GB was almost gone.  The trouble with Google Drive is it holds not just photos you uploaded but also your Gmail stuff etc from other apps in the Google universe.  Sure I can buy more space but I hate the whole idea of renting if I can help it.  Again, I probably should re-visit Google Drive, that is, get the app and set it to sync my phone's content automatically and regularly when WiFi signal is found.  I recently ran some tool on Google Drive to convert photos to other format and free up a ton of space.

I have no space issue with Microsoft OneDrive.  15 GB is plenty for my photos and the few videos I occasionally take.  However, I cannot recommend OneDrive because new users only get 5 GB.  I almost missed the opt-in to retain the 15 GB.  5 GB nowadays is not too much.

Lastly, a big disappointment, is Mophie Space Pack.  A rugged phone case, 32 GB of space to store, and a batter pack, what is there not to love?  The case works great as long as you don't drop the phone face down, which ultimately happened to me.  The battery pack, perhaps like all batteries, dies slowly over time.  To get to the 32 GB of space, you have to go through a free app provided by Mophie.  It wouldn't be so bad if it actually works.  For me, it rarely did.  In the end, perhaps through some Apple updates, whatever I managed to put into the 32 GB somehow just disappeared.  By then I was too tired of the Mophie to bother troubleshooting it.

Finally, I think I have the solution in the Hootoo Flash Drive with Extended Lightning Connector, aka PlugMate.  The particular model I have is the HT-IM003, with 64 GB of space and made of aluminum alloy.  Like the Mophie Space Pack, to get to that big, empty space you need an app, in this case, iPlugmate.  Unlike the Mophie app, iPlugmate actually works, all the time!  Plug it in, iPlugmate asks for permission, and if you already configured the app to automatically backup photos and videos, that's what it will do.  You can also backup the address book.  It would be nice if settings for other apps can also be backed up, but just photos and videos is fine for me for now.  I manually backed up all my music files just now.

For peace of mind, this is all you need to do with the PlugMate.

Select the Setting symbol in the upper right (the gear).


Select Backup

Touch the toggle by Auto Backup to make it green.

That's all there is.  Now at least once a day, connect the Hootoo Plugmate to the iPhone and you'll be rewarded with a message so many photos were backed up.  You would be told if any files failed during backup, it hasn't happened to me yet, but your mileage may vary.

13 January 2017

THE UPS AND DOWN OF LIFE

Not long after landing in JFK, my family moved into our own apartment, way up in the Bronx, nearest subway station being the Fordham Road station on the #4 line. My father got a dishwashing job, I think at Club 21, while my eldest sister went to work and also attended school. All my working life I learned a few things on my own but they were just an extra hour here and there after work or on the weekend, never anything formal. It was really difficult to go to work full-time then go to school afterward. Good job there, sis!
Us kids had it somewhat easier just to concentrate on school. Some days after moving to the Bronx, one day my mother, my other sister, and I set out to find the school where we were supposed to register for. It was John Peter Tetard JHS, although I only know that years later when I return to the area after moving to Queens. In the movies, most of the time when someone asks for direction, it works like a charm. Not for the three of us on that day. Perhaps it was because of our broken English, we got pointed that direction then some other way. We went downhill at some point then made a right only to climb up a series of steps, like that shown below. The view in the photo is from just outside the school looking down. For the next few days or weeks that was how we got to school. Go downhill, make a right, then climb up the steps. We were just so unsure of what was where we stuck to that one routine.
At some point we learned we could ride a city bus to school. The school gave us some discount pass but we thought it was completely free. We would just show the pass and went to find a seat. I think because there were not that many immigrants back then, people’s tolerance of our ignorance was higher. We got free rides for a few weeks before one bus driver somehow explained that we had to pay a nickel for the ride. Or maybe it was a quarter. Eventually, we discovered that school was not really that far away. We ended up walking to and from school using the shortest route, which did not involve any hill repeats.

10 January 2017

YOU HAVE ARRIVED

Just like that, 37 years went by. It was a cold night in New York City, just like tonight. Maybe colder since my family just came from tropical Singapore. Sure, we had a stop-over in Belgium but we stayed inside the airport the whole time so we didn’t know what the outside temperature was. An uncle on my mother side, a first cousin of hers on her father’s side, was the sponsor. He met us at JFK Airport with winter jackets for all of us. Uncle lived near the intersection of Neptune Avenue and Brighton First Street in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn. We were to stay with him for a short period of time so technically our first home in the U.S. was in Brooklyn. Uncle probably drove us home along the Belt Parkway West but I don’t remember anything from the car ride. Except that I threw up at the end of the trip. Unlike other family members, I don’t easily experience motion sickness, whether on airplane or on boat, but for some reason the car trip from JFK did it.
We stayed with Uncle perhaps for a week before the refugee agency found us an apartment in the Fordham Road section of the Bronx. Again I have few fragments of memory of the stay. I do recall being introduced to cheese pizza and most likely Sprite or 7-Up. It was sweet, bubbly, and white, that much I’m sure. I also remember being a bad guest by taking too long a bath. It was the first time I bathed in a tub, the tub filled with water and bubbles, and there was my younger cousin’s toy aircraft carrier, perhaps other toys too. So I got carried away. Auntie had to gently knock on the door to tell me to finish up.
We arrived on a Thursday so perhaps on Monday someone, perhaps Uncle and his son, accompanied me to some school perhaps to register. Maybe the plan at the time was for us to stay there a few months so Uncle thought I should be enrolled in school. I took one year of English before leaving Viet Nam but had no actual experience of using the language. Maybe my Uncle walked his son to school and thought it would be nice for me to come along to see the school. I am sure I went to some school shortly after arriving in the U.S. but for what reason I am not sure now.
I vaguely recall my late father saying that he made sure Uncle understood that he would like us to have our own place. That he didn’t want to burden Uncle any more than necessary. Of course it all depended on how quick the refugee agency can find us a place. Perhaps the refugee agency already prepared things ahead, or it was 1980 and apartments were plentiful in the Bronx, we had our own place shortly. Maybe by then the effect of jet lag wore off or I already gotten used to the new environment, I do have more clearer memories of the place. We did stay there for almost half a year. Next time, I’ll try to dig up some memories from that time.

07 January 2017

COMING TO AMERICA

Around January 7, 1980, I made the following preparation for my plane trip to America from Singapore:
  • made sure I brought along a pair of running shoe, as I love exploring the new area on foot
  • Googled local running clubs, maybe I’ll have time to join them for a run
  • also Googled local races, also a great way to see the new neighborhood
  • charged my cell phone and laptop, brought all chargers and extra batteries
Huh? Yeah, other than the fact that yes around that time I did take a plane trip from Singapore to the U.S., indirectly, none of those so-called preparation happened. Not because the technology etc was not yet available, but because I was a mere teen who literally came to the U.S. with nothing but the clothes on his body. Plus a pair of sneakers unworthy of New York City winter. OK, maybe I did have a few other sets of clothes, perhaps some life essentials like toothbrush, but none of these other creature comfort things.
After a few months spent on different islands in Indonesia, we spent two (?) weeks in Singapore to catch a plane to the U.S. The “home” we stayed at was just a shaded parking spot. Wide open on four sides, perhaps with a tarp and some sheets as “floor”, all our meager possession in one neat pile. By the time we arrived, the nearby buildings were allocated to other refugees so our group had to stay on the outside. I suppose we used the lavatory inside the buildings but I cannot recall how we prepared food. We probably just ate right there in the little spot.
It’s been almost 37 years so I cannot remember much but two events are still clear in my mind. In the first event, I recall going to my father’s workplace, a construction site, the new airport, I think, to let him know we had a visitor. Back in Viet Nam, we had a neighbor who had a relative living in Singapore. Somehow we notified the relative about our arrival in Singapore so she came to visit, with her husband, bringing much needed supplies. I don’t remember if someone asked me to go notify my father but off I went. I think I even ran. It started to rain, not heavily, but just enough to make it uncomfortable, poorer vision and being wet. Somehow I asked a man on motorcycle for help in locating my father and he gave me a ride. I don’t know how I expressed myself, I know I knew some Cantonese back then, but isn’t Mandarin the main language in Singapore? Maybe I was lucky to bump into a Cantonese-speaking person who happened to know my father, because he did bring me to my father. Of course my father was working and couldn’t just leave. I still remember he told me later to be careful not to get my toes caught in the motorcycle’s spokes. Singapore is a warm-climate country and we wore flip-flop everywhere, open toes and all.
The other memory is a just a hand away. While I don’t recall what I did in Singapore for two weeks, I know I played a lot of chess. Chinese chess, that is, with the elephants, the guards, the kings who cannot face each other directly, etc. The chessboard may have been a real one, printed on foldable plastic sheet, or handmade on cardboard. The pieces were somehow bought, usually made out of plastic or wood. (Some other time I’ll tell you about how I participated in making pieces for a set of Chinese chess.) Whatever flimsy cardboard box that came with the chess set usually break down over time so we usually keep the pieces in tin cans, re-purposed after we finished with our rationed food. One day during a game of chess I had my hand on the can, fingers inside the ragged, metal edge, while my opponent had his hand around the can. I think we jokingly fought over the can, for whatever reason, and he yanked it hard. The index finger on my left hand was cut and blood splashed. I bled a lot and I still remember one of the adults say I should eat more vegetable so that my blood wouldn’t flow so easily. Maybe I was bandaged or maybe the blood clotted after a while, but I still have the white scar to look at years later. I also know that my chess opponent was a nice kid, someone I got along well, so it was just a silly accident.