Thursday, February 26

Talking shop – endlessly

A generally trouble-free day today, on both the LIRR and the subway.  What a surprise.  The shuttle was on time at Medford, as was the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  The latter train was an M-7 consist, which is always a disappointment, but it didn’t really matter because a woman of no more than average size sat next to me from Deer Park to Jamaica and was no bother.  I spent most of the ride reading more of Atlas, an entertaining book (even if Teddy Atlas may perhaps exaggerate some of his youthful misdeeds), and I was in Brooklyn practically before I knew it.  Unlike yesterday, the 4 and 5 seemed to be running normally, though according to the MTA’s site there were some delays on Brooklyn-bound trains through Franklin Avenue in the morning.  I waited a few minutes for a 4 to Fulton, and it was moderately but tolerably crowded.

It always seems as if I just miss or 2 or 3 at Fulton after work.  Today it was quite different, as I walked down the stairs to the platform and right onto a 2, without even breaking stride.  It was pretty crowded, but what with the good timing I wasn’t about to complain or anything.  I got the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, on its usual Track 19.  A woman sitting in the row in front of me was chattering away nonstop on her cell phone about work stuff.  She spent at least ten minutes telling her listener about her upcoming meeting with the company’s CIO (or CTO, I don’t remember, is there even a difference?), and even though I obviously could hear only one end of the conversation I had the impression that the hapless listener was not thrilled to hear so much about the meeting.  The woman went on and on, leading me to believe that she was just too obsessed with her job, I mean the conversation didn’t sound that important.  At least it made for a break from the ordinary.  In fact, I didn’t turn on my iPod, as in a perverse sort of sense it was interesting to listen to all this obsessive chatter.  She eventually shut up – perhaps the listener had dropped dead of boredom – and I started playing cell phone Tetris, not too successfully alas.  An SCA sat next to me, but surprisingly he was on the slim side and therefore did not squash me at all.  Combined with an on-time arrival at Ronkonkoma and a similarly on-time shuttle, it wasn’t a bad day at all.

Gym: I reached my quota, and then some, by running two miles on the treadmill at 5.5 mph.  I had wanted to do some bench presses and pull-ups, but my left elbow was a bit sore after all the pull-ups I did the other day, and after just a couple bench reps at 135 I figured that waiting a day or two would be a smart decision.

Published in: on February 27, 2009 at 3:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, February 25

Dangerous overcrowding

Today was one of those days when LIRR competence was offset by subway incompetence.  I got the shuttle from Medford, then the usual 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  It was an M-3 consist once again, but after checking three cars I couldn’t find any available single seats.  It worked out okay, though, as an average-sized, non-SCA man sat next to me from Farmingdale to Jamaica.  He was no more than 185 or 190 pounds, which is practically anorectic in LIRR-rider terms, so even if it had been an M-7 he wouldn’t have infringed on my space.  On the M-3 I was scarcely even aware of his presence.  I spent most of the ride reading, and we were in Brooklyn almost before I noticed.  And that, unfortunately, is where the fun ended.  It was apparent that something was wrong because the 4/5 platform was insanely crowded.  Looking across, the 2/3 platform was almost as bad.  A 4 arrived after a few minutes, but it was so jammed that boarding was impossible.  Meanwhile, a Brooklyn-bound 5 had been sitting at the platform with its doors open, going nowhere.  Several more minutes passed with no trains arriving, though the Brooklyn-bound 5 finally got underway.  Crowding on the platform had reached dangerous proportions.  The 4/5 platform at Atlantic is an “island” platform, with tracks on each side, and it was not impossible to imagine that the sheer press of the crowd could push someone onto the tracks.  Finally, the station PA announced that a broken switch at Franklin Avenue was causing service disruptions.  Franklin is just about the worst possible place to have a major problem as it’s a choke point for the IRT lines in Brooklyn.  With considerable difficulty I forced my way through the sardine-like crowd to the staircase and made my way over to the Pacific Avenue side of the station to get an M train to Fulton.  The M is one of the lesser-known trains in the system.  During rush hours it runs from the southern part of Brooklyn into middle Queens, by way of a loop through lower Manhattan, but for much of the time it has a much more abbreviated route of use to relatively few riders.  But it worked for me today, getting me to Fulton Street in a decent amount of time. I can’t even begin to imagine how long I would have had to wait for a 4 or 5.

The subway was behaving better after work, and after a short wait at Fulton I got a delay-free 3 to Penn.  It was crowded, but tolerably so.  Once at Penn I got the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, which unlike yesterday was on its usual Track 19.  An incident which occurred after I boarded clearly illustrated the courtesy difference between occasional and regular riders.  A young woman pointed to the vacant seat next to me and asked if it was okay for her to sit there. Say what?  To my even greater surprise she said Thanks after taking the seat.  I knew – knew! – that when the conductor came for tickets she would have a single ticket rather than a monthly.  A regular rider, especially an SCA, would never show the least iota of courtesy or politeness.  When an SCA plops next to me and squishes hard into me, he often gives me a dirty look, as if my physical presence infringes on his sacrosanct rights or something.  Of course, if this young woman continues to ride the LIRR on a regular basis, her courtesy will vanish like snow in a heat wave.  I spent most of the trip playing cell phone Tetris, not with any great success.  The young woman was playing what looked like a version of Pac Man on a handheld video player, that looked like fun.  We got to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle on time.

Gym: I ran three miles on the treadmill, 5.5 mph for the first two miles and 5.4 mph for the third.  Now I have to do only one mile tomorrow to meet my quota.  One thing that was sort of distracting when I was on the treadmill was the sight of a young woman ellipting in the row in front of me.  She had, of all strange things, tattoos of a fleur-de-lis on the back of each arm, just above the elbow.  What, was this some body-art tribute to Gallic culture, or something?

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 3:06 pm  Comments (3)  

Tuesday, February 24

Track number guessing games

While some people are creatures of habit, happy only when everything is predictable and routine, I’m not among their ranks.  Variety and spontaneity are what I prefer.  Most of the time, that is.  When it comes to Penn Station track assignments, any change to the usual routine ruffles my feathers, so to speak.  Not to mention the feathers of several thousand other commuters.  When you’re dealing with cattle trains, track changes are to no one’s benefit.  Nothing was out of ordinary in the morning, with the shuttle being on time at Medford.  Quite a change from yesterday’s extreme lateness.  One less-welcome change was that the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue was an M-7 consist rather than the usual M-3.  That meant no single seats, of course, and the microscopic M-7 seats also increase one’s chances of being squashed by an elephantine SCA.  I was fairly lucky, however, with the seat next to me being empty until Bethpage.  Its occupant at that station was one of the students who commutes to a Catholic high school in Mineola.  He was larger than most teens, quite possibly a football player, though not so large as to crush me or anything.  I also noted with some amusement that his body composition, or what I could tell of it from the way his side was pressed against me, was distinctly firmer and more muscular than would have been the case with an SCA of the same size.  Most SCA’s who are anything in excess of normal weight – even those just slightly pudgy – have a soft, jellylike composition, the results of being physically inert for years.  News flash: playing cartball does not make one hardbodied.  In any event, the young man got off at Mineola as expected, and a woman took his place until Jamaica.  She didn’t infringe on my space at all, and other than the fact that she was Asian and maybe 30ish I have hardly any recollection of her.  The train got into Brooklyn on time, and I waited no more than a minute or two for a 5 train to Fulton.  The 5 was hugely crowded, to the point that just getting to the doorway at Fulton required a lot of pushing and shoving.  I’m not sure what accounted for the train’s crowding, as the lack of any unusual crowding on the platform at Atlantic made it unlikely that there had been any significant service delays.  One thing that didn’t help was a large number of people boarding at Bowling Green, most of whom probably had just arrived on the nearby Staten Island ferry.

I had a much less crowded trip on a 3 from Fulton to Penn after work.  No seats, but no sardine-like squeezing either.  When I got to Penn, the station PA was annoucing that there were track changes being made, and that passengers should not descend to platform level until their trains were announced.  Now, I figured that as not all track assignments would be changed, that almost never happens, it would be okay to go to Track 19 and wait in one of the cows-at-the-slaughterhouse chute half-moons for the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma.  And so I was waiting, along with many other people, when the announcement board showed that the 5:46 to Huntington would be using Track 19.  That sparked a mass exodus to the stairways, not to mention quite a bit of moaning and groaning, as everybody had to wait for the 5:41 to be announced.  By looking at the monitoring screens, and seeing what tracks were in use, I figured that the 5:41 was most likely to use Track 21.  I therefore waited toward the north end of the West End Concourse, that being closest to the Track 21 stairways, hoping to avoid as much as possible the mad rush that would ensue when the PA finally got around to announcing the 5:41.  Indeed the train was on Track 21, so my guesswork paid off.  I was able to get a seat on what was otherwise a cattle train, an aisle seat next to a 50ish woman.  She talked a lot on her phone all throughout the ride, but that’s the benefit of an iPod, right?  Despite the track change we got underway on time and made it to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle right on schedule.

Gym: Oh drat.  Due to various things I was unable to go tonight.  This created a bit of a squeeze, as I have to run four more miles by Thursday to meet my weekly 6-mile quota.  True, four miles divided between Wednesday and Thursday should be no trouble, the danger is that a major LIRR catastrophe (“Due to a fatal pedestrian accident, all service on the Ronkonkoma line is suspended …”) could prevent me from getting to the gym one night, and put my quota at risk.  Doing four miles in one night would be tough.

Published in: on February 25, 2009 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, February 23

32 minutes?  No thanks.
I’m quite accepting of delays.  Really, I am.  Ten minutes, 15, even 20, I can tolerate that.  But my patience, if indeed patience is the proper term, is not unlimited.  I arrived at Medford station this morning to an unusual sight.  A couple of the regular riders were walking down the stairs from the platform.  Was the shuttle not running or something?  I was about to ask, when I heard the PA announce that the shuttle was running 32 minutes late. That was a little too long for me, especially since it could grow longer.  While I usually don’t mind being late on Monday mornings, today was different because I had a very busy day ahead of me.  The fact that it was a Monday was relevant in another way, as it made the thought of dealing with Ronkonkoma SCA’s especially unpalatable. There was no way I’d be able to get to Ronkonkoma in time to get the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue, and therefore would have to deal with the SCA-filled 7:04 or 7:19.  I made a quick decision to drive to Patchogue, figuring that if I took an abbreviated lunch hour I’d be able to leave in time to get the 5:09 dual mode.  I got the 7:00 to Babylon, a very lightly used train, and then switched to a Flatbush Avenue train.  It was sort of funny, the Penn Station train that leaves Babylon just a few minutes after the Flatbush Avenue train was crowded – Babylon is a busy station – but the Flatbush train was nearly empty. I’ll bet that many of the people cramming onto the Penn Station train were heading to lower Manhattan, and didn’t realize that going to Flatbush would get them into work just as fast or even faster.  But hey, it’s better that they don’t know, as I had a nice uncrowded ride into Brooklyn, with no one sitting next to me the whole way.  It was an M-3 consist, though I couldn’t get a single seat, but of course it worked out fine.  Besides, it’s interesting to watch all the activity along the Sunrise Highway.  The train made stops until Seaford, then ran express via the St. Albans route to Jamaica.  I had a wait of only two or three minutes for a 5 train to Fulton, and got to my workplace only about ten minutes later than I would have gotten there had the shuttle been on time at Medford.

I took only about a 15-minute lunch hour and left work in time to get the 5:09.  Missing that train would not have been good, given the lousy evening schedule to Patchogue.  To my surprise I actually got a seat on a 3 at Fulton.  The 5:09 was moderately crowded, and as always a nice ride.  It went via the Central Branch, which seems to be the usual routing.  I spent most of the ride reading (Atlas, the autobiography of Teddy Atlas) and playing a few games of cell phone Tetris.  When all was said and done  I got home about ten minutes earlier than I would have arrived had I gone from Medford.

Gym: I wasn’t able to arrive until quite late, and decided to skip running and just do neutral grip pull-ups.  These worked out just fine, as I managed a total of 72 reps, a new record: 6 x 6, 9 x 4.  This made 128 for the week, well over my quota of 110.  I am a bit behind schedule in terms of running, as I have to do four miles in the next three days to meet my 6-mile quota.  Shouldn’t be a problem.

Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 4:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, February 22

Not a bad session at the gym today.  I started out with a 2-mile run on the treadmill at 5.5 mph.  Next came the SLDL’s I didn’t do yesterday, with a nice increase in weight: 2 x 8 x 225, 8 x 235, 8 x 225.  I finished up by ellipting for 20 minutes, on the “Cascades” course.

Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 11:10 pm  Comments (2)  

Saturday, February 21

Last week’s 12 miles on the treadmill was quite an accomplishment, but it’s not the sort of thing I’m going to do every week.  Accordingly, I decided not to run today, instead I took the rare opportunity of a free boxing area – okay, there was hardly anyone in the gym this evening – and did a nice solid 25 minutes on the heavy bag.  Went well, I’d have to say.  While I didn’t work on the treadmill quota, I did 56 total neutral grip pull-ups, just past the halfway point of that quota.  At the beginning of the session I did 1 x 8, 6 x 6, and near the end of the session an additional 2 x 6 to make 56.  I also did kettlebell swings, 4 x 10 with the 50-pounder.  For leg work, I did trap bar deadlifts, many reps though not too much weight, 8 x 225, 8 x 255, 8 x 275, and Life Fitness seated leg presses, 3 x 10 x 395.  SLDL’s will have to wait until tomorrow.

Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 3:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, February 20

Thirteen was a lucky number today

For the first time this week I took my usual trains in the morning, namely the shuttle from Medford and then the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue.  I was pleased to see that the 6:56 was an M-3 consist, though I had to go into three cars before finding one with an available single seat.  It was an uneventful ride until Hicksville, when a huge number of people boarded.  Enough to take the relatively few remaining seats, fill the vestibules, and partly fill the aisle.  Something had to be going on, and sure enough the conductor then announced that we were taking on passengers from an earlier train that had become disabled.  It must’ve been a Huntington train because we make unscheduled stops at Westbury and Carle Place.  More people boarded at those stops and made the car even more crowded.  I figured that because the disabled train was probably one that was supposed to go to Penn instead of Brooklyn, most of the people would get off at Jamaica to transfer to Penn Station trains.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Not that the crowding really mattered to me, of course, what with the single seat.  The two extra stops didn’t add much to the running time, and thanks to a very short wait for a 4 express at Atlantic Avenue I got into work at about the normal time.

I had a somewhat longish wait for a 3 at Fulton after work, somewhere in excess of five minutes, but as I was planning on getting the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma time wasn’t really an issue.  The train was fairly crowded, and an M-7 consist, fortunately a woman of no more than average size sat next to me and I wasn’t squished as would have been the case with an elephantine SCA.  As we headed through Queens I noticed one of the conductors rushing quite quickly down the aisle into the next car.  There were a couple of announcements on the PA about the fourth car.  What was going on?  I then heard something highly unwelcome, namely that there was a “passenger needing medical attention” in the fourth car.  Any passengers with medical training were asked to report to that car.  In most cases, a passenger who needs medical attention is either (a) not really sick, just a little under the weather, or (b) dead.  There’s hardly anything in the middle.  A few minutes later we stopped at Jamaica, not a scheduled stop for the 5:41, and the conductor announced that we would be waiting for medical attention to arrive.  I glanced at my cell phone and took note of the time. Would the delay be 20 minutes?  A half-hour?  Even longer?  Being it a Friday afternoon, I figured that it would be a long delay.  I even had a highly uncharitable thought, namely that if the sick passenger didn’t actually die, I’d murder him!  As things turned out, my homicidal intentions remained untested, because after a lucky 13 minutes we got underway.  That’s much shorter of a delay than it could have been.  It was an uneventful ride the rest of the way to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle.

Gym: After yesterday’s mediocre performance, a rest day was in order, so that’s what I did.

Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 3:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, February 19

Maybe being an SCA isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Drove to Ronkonkoma again this morning, though unlike the past two days I didn’t take the 7:57 to Penn.  It was the 7:32 instead, and to call it packed would be the understatement of the year.  It was an M-3 consist, though there was no chance whatsoever of getting a single seat.  In the car where I was riding, toward the middle of the consist, well over half the seats were full by the time we left Ronkonkoma and it was SRO after Deer Park.  It wasn’t my impression that the 7:32 is usually that busy.  It’s possible that an earlier train had been delayed, that might explain the crowding, it just seemed more than normal.  One thing I’ve noticed about the 7:32 is that it has a high percentage of women among the ridership, and today’s train was no exception.  A woman in her 40’s sat next to me just before we left Ronkonkoma and spent most of the trip to Penn working on her makeup.  Dedication … or obsession?  There weren’t any delays into Penn, but I had a long wait for a 2 train to Fulton.  Close to ten minutes, in fact.  The station PA was announcing a service interruption on the 1 train in upper Manhattan, though I couldn’t catch the reason for the disruption.  It was north of 96th Street, where the 2 and 3 split off from th 1, so it’s unlikely that the problem was delaying the 2/3, but then again you never know.

I had a much quicker subway ride to Penn after work, on a 3 from Fulton, and got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma with plenty of time to spare.  It was moderately crowded, nothing like the morning’s train but busy enough that I knew the seat next to me would be taken before we got underway.  Sure enough, a 30ish SCA sat there.  He wasn’t large or otherwise annoying, so I was pleased with that.  He spent most of the trip multi-tasking to an extreme.  He was doing work stuff (financially related) on his computer, fiddling with his Black Berry almost nonstop, and was handling work-related calls on a separate cell phone.  Oh, and did I mention he also had some papers containing work stuff?  I mean, okay, the fact that he wears a suit almost certainly means that he’s earning big money.  That’s a reasonable conclusion in this era of Business Casual.  Yet he’s also practically a slave to work.  True, he got out of work at a reasonable hour, but he had to work like crazy on the train.  It really makes you wonder.  As for me, I spent most of the time playing cell phone Tetris.  We got to Ronkonkoma on time, which is always a reason to be thankful.

Gym: Blah.  I had high hopes for tonight.  My plans included deadlifting, an exercise I’ve sorely neglected for a while, some work on the heavy bag, more pull-ups, and maybe some kettlebell swings.  The boxing area was in use with lessons, naturally enough, and my attempts at neutral grip pull-ups were feeble.  All I managed were 3 x 6, making a total of 128 for the week.  After six evenings in a row at the gym I was just too worn down to do much else. No deadlifts, that’s for sure.  I tried to salvage something out of the session and ellipted for 25 minutes, on the “Kilimanjaro” course.  Tomorrow will definitely have to be a rest day.

Published in: on February 21, 2009 at 1:51 am  Comments (4)  

Wednesday, February 18

Guess it really is a busy train

Today I once again had the chance to go into work a bit later than usual, and once again I got the 7:57 from Ronkonkoma to Penn. I was curious to see whether it would be as crowded as it was yesterday. To provide a good basis for comparison I rode in one of the easternmost cars in the consist, just like yesterday. My conclusion: it indeed is a crowded train. Yesterday might not have been a completely normal day, what with the end of the long weekend, but today certainly was normal. Just like yesterday most of the middle seats were taken by the time we got to Jamaica. Also just like yesterday, most of the riders were women, including the one who sat next to me at Deer Park. It was a delay-free ride into Penn, and I had no wait at all for a 3 train to Fulton.

I’d been planning on taking the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, but a short wait for a 2 train at Fulton got me to Penn just in time to catch the 5:22.  It was an M-3 consist, but no single seats were to be found.  It worked out okay, as I found an aisle seat next to a woman in her 40’s who neither squirmed nor babbled on her cell phone – what a surprise!  I was in the second car from the head end, much farther forward than I usually ride on that train.  Most likely that is why the car was jammed beyond cattle train levels.  All the middle seats were taken, as far as I could tell, and the vestibules were full of standees.  There was some talk on the PA about “permission from the tower,” and the train then made a quick unscheduled stop at Mineola.  What probably happened is that someone got on the wrong train, the 5:22’s normal first stop is Wyandanch, and the conductor must’ve been in an unusually charitable mood and agreed to let them off in Mineola.  It’s pretty rare for that to happen.  We got to Ronkonkoma on time, and I then had a long walk through the rain to my car … nothing like heavy rain to lengthen a walk.

Gym: Another new record, 3.4 miles running on the treadmill.  This makes 12 miles for the week, double my quota.  I did the first two miles at 5.5 mph and the rest at 5.4 mph.

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 2:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, February 17


I really don’t know how I ever made it into work today.  For reasons I don’t quite understand, perhaps just the inertia from a long weekend, I was in a state of total exhaustion this morning.  Fortunately, I was able to work a shorter day than usual, and drove to Ronkonkoma for the 7:57 to Penn.  Not having taken this train anytime recently I didn’t know what to expect in terms of crowding.  It actually approached cattle train levels, with almost all of the middle seats taken by the time we got to Jamaica.  It’s possible that the crowding levels were higher than usual because of the holiday weekend, or perhaps the car in which I rode, near the east end of the consist, was especially crowded, but nonetheless it seems fair to classify the 7:57 as among the busier of the morning trains out of Ronkonkoma – not quite as packed as the 7:19, on par with the 7:04, and more crowded than the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue and the 7:32.  My experience with the 7:40 to Flatbush is too limited to make any judgments.  One thing noteworthy about the 7:57 is that women seemed to make up a high percentage of the ridership.  It is similar in that respect to the 7:32.  It’s been suggested that the earlier trains are mostly men because the male-dominated financial services industry has generally early starting hours.  In any event, it was an easy enough ride, with a tall but not wide – and that’s the dimension that counts – casually dressed man in his late 20’s taking the seat next to me at Deer Park.  I tried reading, then playing some cell phone Tetris, but just couldn’t concentrate on either.  Once we got to Penn I waited about two or three minutes for a 3 train to Fulton, not bad for the tail end of rush hour.

I was able to leave work early enough to get the 5:01 to Ronkonkoma, though if it hadn’t been for a very short wait for a 3 at Fulton I wouldn’t have made it in time.  It wasn’t crowded at all, which seems to be the usual rule with that train, though my hopes for an empty seat next to me ended at Jamaica when a 40ish woman sat there.  Still, she wasn’t much of an annoyance, and unlike the case in the morning I actually could concentrate on Tetris.  No decent games, unfortunately.

Gym: I really didn’t have the energy to go, but after some consideration finally forced myself to make a quick visit.  It started out with some relatively uninspiring bench presses, with the sub-225 warmup sets done using a narrow grip: 6 x 135, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 6 x 225, 5 x 225, 4 x 225, 3 x 225, 2 x 225, 1 x 225.  Next came a total of 40 neutral grip pull-ups, just enough to hit my weekly quota of 110: 6 x 6, 1 x 4.  I had wanted to do some work on the heavy bag, but just like the last few times I’ve tried to do it there were some young people’s lessons being held in the boxing area.  One of these days my timing will have to be better.

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment