Friday, January 30

The remains of the (prior) day

When I rode the shuttle from Medford to Ronkonkoma yesterday morning I was eating some dry Raisin Bran that I had wrapped up in a paper towel.  Okay, store brand Raisin Bran knockoff, but that’s not the point. What is relevant is that I must have spilled some of the dry flakes on the seat when I exited the train. Today, 24 hours after the fact, what do I see on a train seat about where I’d been sitting yesterday.  Yep, that’s right, Raisin Bran.  Anyone who had sat in that seat would have brushed it off, so it’s apparent that the seat had been unoccupied on any of the shuttle’s other runs.  Doesn’t say much for ridership, does it?  At any rate, I once again did the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue.  While it wasn’t late pulling into the yards, it was delayed for close to five minutes just east of Jamaica, for reasons never explained.  I was very relieved when we finally got into Jamaica, because the large though non-SCA man who had plopped down next to me at Farmingdale finally moved elsewhere.  What a relief!  Another bit of relief is that there was no repeat of yesterday’s long wait for a subway.  I waited under a minute for a 5 train to Fulton, though it was crowded almost to bursting.

We found out that we could leave work at 3:15, as a bit of thanks for today’s completion of a lengthy project.  Unfortunately that didn’t do me much good, as there’s only the one shuttle to Medford.  I left about 3:45 and took a C from Broadway-Nassau to West 4th.  That’s not far from where my workplace was located until last August, and as it wasn’t quite as cold as the last several days I figured I’d look around the old ‘hood for a bit.  I later got an E to Penn – a horrendously overcrowded E, I might add – and then the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma once again. It was definitely in cattle-train territory, though that might not mean much as Friday afternoons tend to be its busiest times.  It wasn’t a particularly pleasant ride.  a large man sat next to me (I’ve had bad luck in that respect for the past few days), though fortunately he got off at Hicksville.  Having finished The 10,000 Year Explosion in the morning I had nothing to read, and after yesterday’s new record my attempts at playing cell phone Tetris were distinctly uninspiring.  At least there weren’t any delays, and the shuttle was on time too.  Oh, the Raisin Bran was gone.

Gym: back to weights after a week off, though not to any great extent.  In fact the only weight exercise I did were kettlebell swings, 4 x 10 with the 50-pound kettlebell.  I had read that trying to control the downswing as best as possible, instead of just letting the kettlebell swing down unimpeded, makes the exercise even more exhausting.  It really did.  I then worked on the speed bag for a while, with some disappointment as the smaller sized bag I’d been using was gone … not surprising, as the cover had been falling apart.  I instead used a larger one, which being larger is more difficult, though after about 10 minutes I was getting the hang of it.  I also found out, the hard way, that if you stand too close to the bag your nose can be within its range when it rebounds.  Ouch!  After about 15 minutes on the bag I ran two miles on the treadmill.  Because I haven’t been using it much lately I kept my speeds slow, 5.5 mph for the first mile, then 5.4 mph for the next half-mile, and finally 5.3 mph for the last half-mile. It took just over 22 minutes.  I continue to stand by my assertion that X minutes running on the treadmill is the physical equivalent to 1.5X minutes on the stationary cycle and 2X minutes ellipting.

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 6:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, January 29

Better levels

This morning was one of my closest ever calls in train-catching services.  One thing after another delayed me in leaving the house, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get the shuttle from Medford.  Thanks to a couple of green lights along the way I made it into the parking lot right as the train’s headlights were visible.  While running for trains is a shameful SCA-ish practice I normally avoid, today I – well, if not exactly ran, hustled – in order to make it onto the shuttle.  I got the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue, which was actually a few minutes late pulling into the station from the yards. It was an M-7 consist unfortunately, which may actually be part of a pattern on the 6:56, M-3’s one week and M-7’s the next.  I particularly regretted the fact that it was an M-7 consist when a relatively large SCA sat next to me at Bethpage.  He had the classic SCA physique, not fat, not exactly, but soft. He wasn’t much past 30, way too young to have that sort of build.  He had the good sense to move to another seat after some people got off at Mineola, and I had an empty seat next to me for the rest of the way into Brooklyn.  While we arrived on time, at most a couple of minutes late due to the train’s late arrival from the Ronkonkoma yard, the wait for a 5 train to Fulton was longer than usual and longer than acceptable at rush hour, at least six or seven minutes.

No long waits for a 3 from Fulton to Penn after work, in fact I walked down the platform stairs right into a train.  What wasn’t so fast was getting down off the subway platform at Penn. There aren’t enough staircases leading down from the common express platform to the LIRR level, and one side of one of them is blocked off for repairs.  When two expresses arrive at the same time, as happened today, the human traffic jam is a sight to be seen.  Not only are several hundred people trying to descend a few staircases, but a smaller but not insignificant number is trying to go up the same staircases. It’s not a pleasant scene.  In any event, I got the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, and like yesterday rode on one of the cars toward the middle of the consist.  Unlike yesterday, the car was quite crowded, with all of the non-middle seats and some of the middles occupied, as best I could tell.  Yesterday’s comparative emptiness might’ve been a fluke rather than a sign of the economic times.  What would cause that sort of day-to-day variation, I don’t know, but it could be a real phenomenon. In any event, the ride to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle was delay-free and otherwise decent enough, with a tolerably sized non-SCA man sitting next to me.  Oh, I also set a new record on cell phone Tetris, 86,255, about 7,000 more than my prior record.  Yay.

Gym: All that ellipting had left me rather worn out, so I took the evening off.

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, January 28

Ridership numbers

I took the shuttle from Medford on this snowy morning, changing at Ronkonkoma for the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue.  It was an M-7 consist, which of course was a slight disappointment given the fairly high percentage of M-3’s used on that train, but it didn’t work out too badly for me.  A man of somewhat greater than average size took the seat next to me at Farmingdale, but he was much better behaved than I ever would have expected, being careful to avoid infringing on my space.  I spent most of the ride reading, with one or two games of cell phone Tetris, and we got to Brooklyn right on time.  I waited less than a minute for a 4 train to Fulton and had a seat after Borough Hall.  Can’t complain about that.

In what had become a rainy afternoon, I got a 2 from Fulton to Penn and then the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma.  Although the 2 was quite crowded, the 5:41 was a completely different story. It’s usually a cattle train, but today the mid-consist car where I rode was barely half-full.  None of the middle seats were occupied.  Even better, no one sat next to me the whole way, which is extremely rare on that train.  Or was it really better?  I thought about what the man at the gym had said to me last week, about how job losses were reducing ridership to a significant extent.  While the lessened crowding at the Ronkonkoma parking lot only partially bears out that observation, the relative emptiness of the 5:41 told a very different story. As far as I know there weren’t any schedule disruptions today that might have temporarily reduced ridership.  Nor was the morning’s weather bad enough to keep many people home.  I’ll have to be particularly observant whenever I take the 5:41.  Anyway, it was an easy ride to Ronkonkoma, mostly spent reading, and we got to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle on time.

Gym: Yet another ellipting “marathon” session, 40 minutes, 4.17 miles, 702 calories.

Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 3:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, January 27

Height vs. circumference

Another day of driving to Ronkonkoma for the 7:32 to Penn.  Mindful of what I’d heard at the gym last Friday, about reduced ridership caused by the current economic troubles, I took note of the crowding in the parking lot.  My conclusion was that the south side lot, at least the eastern end of it where I usually park, was not as full as it would have been a year or two ago, judging by how far from the platform i was able to park at 7:25 or so, however the difference was not drastic.  Which, of course, is good.  The 7:32 was quite crowded, though the seat where I was sitting was really crowded.  Moments after I sat down a woman of about 25 to 30 sat next to me.  She was on the short side, little if anything over five feet.  Nothing remarkable in that, lots of women are short.  What was remarkable was the fact that her circumference was very close to her height.  That was much more relevant from my standpoint than her height, as it was in the horizontal dimension that she pushed into my space.  It wasn’t as agonizing as it could have been, fat flows after all, but suffice to say it wasn’t one of my more pleasant rides.  I spent it reading more of The 10,000 Year Explosion and playing a few games of cell phone Tetris.  We got to Penn on time, though I then had a longish wait for a 3 train to Fulton.  Near on ten minutes, which is way too long for rush hour, and once aboard the train I was “treated” to the sounds of a skell loudly preaching about Satan.

I took a very abbreviated lunch hour and therefore was able to leave work around 4:30.  Unlike the morning, my wait for a subway (another 3) was no more than a couple of minutes.  No skells this time, so no preaching about Satan.  I got the 5:01 to Ronkonkoma, which was rather more crowded than I had remembered it as being.  While walking down the platform I had a good view into an Amtrak Acela “business class” car on the next track.  Suffice to say that it’s not even on the same planet as LIRR cars as far as rider comfort is concerned. The seat next to me was empty until Jamaica, when an older woman took it until Wyandanch.  It was not a bad ride by any means, more reading and Tetris-ing.

Gym: Another ellipting session, 30 minutes this time, though at a greater resistance, 529 calories.

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 4:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, January 26

I knew it

As I’ve noted, one peculiarity of younger women on the LIRR is their habit of conking off with their heads titled back and their mouths gaping wide open.  You almost never see this ridiculous sleep posture among women past their late 20’s or men of any age.  There’s also a definite connection between mouth-gaping and, pardon the somewhat crude expression, hotness.  If a young woman is an “8” or higher she’s substantially more likely to sleep with her mouth wide open than is one of her less comely counterparts.  No, I have no idea whatsoever why this is the case.  I won’t even try to guess.  In any event, after driving to Ronkonkoma this morning and boarding the 7:32 to Penn, a young blonde woman sat next to me.  Perhaps it was her youthful beauty, perhaps it was just a hunch that cannot be explained, but I knew that she’d soon be in slumberland with her mouth wide open.  What I didn’t realize was that she’d be like that before the train even got to Central Islip.  We’re talking less than five minutes from wide awake to out like a (widemouthed) light.  As for me, I spent most of the ride reading The 10,000 Year Explosion. Talk about remarkable things, later in the morning I posed a question about the book in a discussion on the (highly recommended) 2Blowhards.com blog, and shortly thereafter Henry Hardpening, one of the book’s authors, posted a comment addressing and answering my question.  How cool is that?  Anyway, we got to Penn on time, and I waited only a minute or so for a 3 train to Fulton.  I even got a seat.

Coming home almost turned into one of those fiascoes that only the LIRR can provide.  After a reasonably quick ride on a 2 from Fulton to Penn, I boarded the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma.  It got quite crowded, with a 50ish woman sitting next to me.  She wasn’t large, but insisted on carrying a huge purse – more like a suitcase – that of course kept bumping into me.  From the way it felt I think she was carrying lead pipes or something in it.  All went fine until Wyandanch, where we seemed to be staying on the platforms with the doors open for longer than usual.  After a couple minutes, the conductor announced something no one wanted to hear – the dispatcher had ordered us to hold at Wyandanch because of a “car on the tracks” at the Commack Road crossing just west of Deer Park station.  Oh, no.  This is the sort of thing that easily could cause delays of 90 minutes or more, if an earlier train had crunched the wayward car.  There were a couple more announcements that basically just said the same thing.  Fortunately, we got underway after about 15 minutes.  We went slowly through the Commack Road crossing, and a police car was partially blocking the road with its lights on.  I don’t know what the incident actually entailed.  One last annoyance happened when we got to Ronkonkoma.  We used the north track instead of the south one, and because (a) I was sitting near the east end of the consist, (b) my car was in the south side lot, and (c) the LIRR has never bothered to build a crossover at the east end of the platforms, I had to waste a few more minutes using the crossover at the middle of the platform.  Still, a 15- to 20-minute delay is a lot less than what it could have been.

Gym: 40 minutes ellipting, 4.18 miles, 691 calories.  Not bad.

Published in: on January 27, 2009 at 3:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, January 25

So what to do?  I was better than yesterday but still not quite up to doing weights.  A solution came when I realized that it’s been at least a couple of months since I had a week off from weights.  Accordingly, for the next week I’ll concentrate on ellipting and stationary cycling, maybe some running if I’m feeling better, and skip the weights.  That’s actually not a bad idea.  Heavy weight training does put some strain on the muscles and especially joints, and every so often it’s best to take a week off to heal.  I ended up ellipting for a full hour.  If the machine’s calorie counter is to be believed, I burned over 1,000 of them.

Published in: on January 27, 2009 at 3:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, January 24

Drat.  I was due for some deadlifting today, and wanted to do some pull-ups to get a start on my weekly quota.  Unfortunately, I think I’m coming down with something, and simply didn’t feel up to doing any weights.  At least the day wasn’t a complete loss, as I managed to do 45 minutes on the stationary cycle at a pace of 19.3 mph.

Published in: on January 25, 2009 at 4:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, January 23

A train and gym tie-in

Is there such a thing as Cosmic Justice?  If so, I got a small taste of it this morning.  After yesterday’s 40 minute delay, I had a much more pleasant trip.  After arriving on the shuttle from Medford, on-time as usual, I got the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  For the first time in at least a couple weeks it was an M-3 consist, and I was able to snag a single seat.  Yay.  It made for a nice easy ride into Brooklyn, much of it spent reading The 10,000-Year Explosion. It makes the claim that modern human contain some Neanderthal genes, which is contrary to the usual view that the Neanderthals went extinct without a trace.  Well heck, I’ve seen more than a few people who look as if they just crawled out of caves, following a dinner of wooly mammoth. Anyway, my good luck continued after arriving at Brooklyn, as I got a 4 train to Fulton with less than a minute’s wait.

In line with my shunning of the Eighth Avenue line I walked to Fulton after work and got a 2 to Penn.  It got me there in ample time to catch the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, which was moderately crowded but delay-free, quite a contrast from yesterday’s fiasco.  A woman of about 30 sat next to me and spent much of the trip riding an episode of House on her iPod … insert jump-the-shark comment.  Speaking of iPods, the sound on mine kept cutting out.  I’m hoping it’s just the earbuds and that the whole device isn’t going haywire.  At least we made it to Ronkonkoma on time, and the shuttle was on time too.

Gym: As I was doing bench presses, a man at the next bench said that he recognized me from riding the train.  I didn’t recognize him at all, which probably doesn’t say much for my observational powers, but whatever.  We got to talking about the LIRR, and he remarked on how much ridership is down what with people having lost jobs.  When I said that I hadn’t really noticed, he pointed out how much less crowded the Ronkonkoma lot has become.  He was right, too. I have no trouble finding spots as late as 7:25, which never used to be the case.   All I’m hoping is that the people who have lost their jobs were ultra-highly paid SCA’s and not ordinary working people.  In any event, the benching went decently.  I started out with narrow-grip, 8 x 135, 6 x 185, 2 x 6 x 205. I then switched to regular benches, 3 x 5 x 225, 2 x 4 x 225.  As time was a bit short I just did a little more before leaving, kettlebell para presses, 1 x 10, 2 x 8 (each arm) with the 50-pounder.

Published in: on January 24, 2009 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, January 22

40 minutes flushed down the donicker

A short physics lesson is in order.  While “time” is a difficult concept to define, one thing which is abundantly clear is that it flows only in one direction.   It does not flow backwards, which among other things means that time spent on Activity A cannot be reclaimed and spent instead on Activity B.  This lesson was hammered home last night courtesy of America’s Most Incompetent Transportation System, namely the LIRR.  The 40 minutes lost due to some never-fully-explained delays on the 5:22 from Penn to Ronkonkoma are, Clementine-style, lost and gone forever, and can never be reclaimed for use in something more productive and/or entertaining.

I must admit that the morning went as smoothly as can be expected.  A delay in leaving the house quashed my plans to take the shuttle from Medford, and instead I drove to Ronkonkoma for the 7:32 to Penn.  I could have gotten the 7:19 express, but the crowding and high SCA density on that train seemed particularly unappealing.  The 7:32 was a better choice, not too noisy – few SCA’s to babble incessantly about the Super Bowl – and with no delays.  A somewhat chubby woman of about 25 sat next to me, but despite her somewhat higher-than-optimal BMI she still occupied less space than the typical SCA who would’ve been next to me had I taken the 7:19, so it all worked out well.  For most of the ride I read a book I had just bought, The 10,000-Year Explosion by Cochran and Hardpening (Gregory Cochran is an occasional contributor to Gene Expression, one of the blogs on my blogroll).  About the only down side was that after I arrived at Penn, the 2 express to Fulton absolutely crawled for most of the distance from 14th to Chambers.  While the total delay was probably no more than five minutes, for hard-to-explain reasons being on a slowly moving subway is particularly frustrating.

Of course, the morning’s subway frustration was nothing compared to the delights that the LIRR served up in the afternoon.  A quick ride on a 3 got me to Penn in time to catch the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, despite a somewhat late departure from work.  Lucky me, I thought.  The 5:22 left on time, but partway into the East River tunnel came to a stop.  And stayed there.  The first PA announcements didn’t come until at least five minutes after we stopped, and were barely audible.  The conductor seemed to be saying that we were at a “stop signal” due to “congestion ahead of us.”  After another ten minutes or so passed, which made it obvious that there was more than a stop signal to blame, the announcement changed.  This time it said, or seemed to say, that there was some safety-related issue with one of the cars, and that we’d be moving shortly.  “Shortly” soon changed to “five minutes.”  Of course, the aforesaid five minutes soon went well over that mark.  We finally got underway after nearly a half-hour’s delay.  Not that this was the end of our woes, because the disrupted schedule lead to especially long Jamaica and Ronkonkoma crawls, hence the lost 40 minutes.   About the onlygood thing is that I had been sitting next to an average-sized woman in her 40’s rather than an elephantine SCA.  Even that benefit was partially negated, unfortunately, because the woman kept shifting around in her seat to talk with a man she knew in the row ahead of ours, and of course each time she shifted she pushed into me.  Still, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, and on a positive note I scored 77,000 on cell-phone Tetris, my highest score in at least a month and just below my record of 79,120.  Although, all in all, I’d gladly trade a decline in Tetris-playing ability for the chance at getting back the lost 40 minutes.

Gym: a fast session, a 4-minute Tabatha sprint routine on an elliptical followed by 30 minutes on a different elliptical at 7.5 mph.  It’s still hard to believe just how draining the Tabathas are.

Published in: on January 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, January 21

Speaking of iPods …

Wouldn’t you know? Just yesterday I do a post about the demographics of iPod users, and today, my iPod went haywire. Did I curse the danged thing or something? I drove to Ronkonkoma and got the 7:32 to Penn. As I was running sort of late I ended up boarding the last car in the consist, the easternmost one, that being the one closest to my car. I figured I’d have to Baby Elephant Walk forward to find a seat, but to my mild surprise there were a number of open ones. I took a window seat, and seconds later a similarly late-boarding young woman with a ring in her nose sat next to me. That’s the only piercing I saw, there might well have been others that were … less visible. As I was mulling over the body-modifications issue I went to turn on my iPod, and to my dismay it wouldn’t work. These vertical lines kept flashing across the bottom of the screen, that’s all that appeared. I’ve had this problem once before, and it was cured (temporarily) by letting the charge run out and then recharging it. Which is what I’m doing right now. The ride to Penn was easy enough, the woman next to me not trying to add to her piercings or anything, and I finished all 500+ pages of Main Street. Naturally enough I missed a train to Fulton Street by seconds, but a 3 came along in just a couple minutes.

I got to Penn easily enough after work, thanks to a quick ride on a 2, and got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma. Being iPod-less I was at the mercy of loud passengers. Indeed, the 50ish woman (un-pierced) who sat next to me spent almost the entire ride babbling on her cell phone, a Blackberry to be specific. Fortunately, she kept her voice down, the sort of courtesy that is very rare among riders. It was another easy ride to Ronkonkoma.

Gym: today was Leg Day, delayed from yesterday. Continuing with the theme of using the kettlebells when possible I began with kettlebell swings, 3 x 10 with a 50-pound kettlebell (the largest). This is a full-body exercise that especially targets the legs. It is fortunate that the kettlebell rack is in the boxing area, as that’s about the only part of the gym with the ample clear floor space that kettlebell swings require. Doing the swings was exhausting in an out-of-breath sense though not in a muscle-strain sense. Next came trap bar deadlifts, 6 x 225, 6 x 265, 6 x 285, 4 x 295, 2 x 2 x 315. Not half bad numbers. Then came SLDL’s, 3 x 8 x 215. This was not a weight or rep increase over last time, which was okay because of all the trap bar deadlifts I did. I finished with neutral grip pull-ups, 4 x 6, 2 x 4. This made 142 total reps for the week, well over my quota of 110 and two more than my prior record. I had to use a different rack for the pull-ups, because I need to use an aerobics step to reach the handles on the rack I usually use (no, I’m not short, it’s just that the handles are way off the ground) and all of them were in the aerobics room where a class was in session. The handles on the rack I used were a bit farther apart than on my regular one, but I managed. An interesting aside is that I did the kettlebell swings in the boxing area, and all the other work in the hardcore area at the rear of the gym.  I didn’t use the main part of the gym at all, which I believe is a first.

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 3:48 am  Leave a Comment