Monday, March 30

If you can’t understand it, it’s not annoying

Loud cell phone conversations are one of the many things that annoy me about the LIRR.  For reasons I cannot explain, some people feel compelled to talk in excessively loud voices when using their phones on the train.  Perhaps it is because train cars tend to be on the noisy side.  Of course that does not mean you have to speak loudly, unless the person on the other end is in a similarly noisy environment, but there may be various psychological aspects at play.  People speak loudly if they have trouble hearing, that sort of thing.  In any event, not all loud conversations are created equal.  This came to me as I was riding on the 7:19 from Ronkonkoma to Penn.  I’d been running a little late in the morning and couldn’t get the shuttle from Medford, so I drove to Ronkonkoma and got there just in time to get the 7:19.  When I boarded the train just before departure, the car was packed, so packed I almost got off to wait for the 7:32.  At the last minute I spotted an empty aisle seat, next to a chubby but not excessively wide woman of about 50.  No sooner did she get underway than she took out her phone and began talking loudly.  Very loudly.  So loudly, in fact, that my trusty iPod was doing a barely mediocre job of covering the sound.  Fortunately, the woman was talking in an unfamiliar foreign language.  I say “fortunately” because my inability to understand what she was saying made things much less distracting.  They were just sounds I could tune out easily, while still hearing them.  I was un-distracted enough that I was able to concentrate on my new book, House of Cards, about the fall of Bear Stearns and the start of the current financial crisis, even though it is definitely not light reading. Speaking of reading, I was able to figure out what language the woman was bellowing, er, speaking in, when she took out some reading materials in Hebrew.  We got to Penn on time, the woman having spent the entire trip on the phone, and because I got off the train near a stairway to the west side exit passageway, I decided to take the Eighth Avenue line to Broadway-Nassau instead of traipsing over to the Seventh Avenue side.  I didn’t have to wait long for an A, and it was tolerably crowded, but all the stops it makes seem endless.

I used a more conventional route to Penn after work, taking a 3 from Fulton, and got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma.  Once again I sat in the head car, both because it would be closer to my car at Ronkonkoma and because I figured it would be mostly normal people instead of SCA’s.  Indeed, the young man next to whom I sat was neatly but casually dressed, and unlike the woman in the morning was not annoying.  What was annoying was the couple with three small children who sat in one of the pair of facing seats in the middle of the car.  The rug rats had to be the noisiest children on the planet, spending much of the trip shrieking at the top on their lungs.  Once again, my iPod was put to a very stern test.  As you might imagine, the screaming-children family stayed on the train right until the last stop at Ronkonkoma.  But of course.

Gym: day off tonight.

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 2:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, March 29

I got back to squatting today after weeks away.  It actually felt a lot less awkward than I was expecting.  Given the time away from them, I kept the weights on the light side: 8 x 135, 8 x 225, 8 x 245, 8 x 265, 6 x 285.  On all of them, I was careful to maintain good form and get proper depth. Next came some SLDL’s, 8 x 225, 8 x 235.  Then it was off to Precor leg extensions, 8 x 170, 8 x 185, 8 x 190 8 x 195, and then Life Fitness seated leg curls, 8 x 170, 8 x 185, 8 x 190.  I finished the session with Life Fitness seated leg presses, 2 x 10 x 395.

Published in: on March 29, 2009 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, March 28

Yesterday’s muscle cramp had largely disappeared, but for variety’s sake I decided to use the stationary cycle instead of run.  Not a bad decision, as I did a solid 45 minutes at about 19.5 mph, mid-level resistance.

Published in: on March 29, 2009 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, March 27

A ray of hope?
Possibly.  It’s too early to say for sure, and we all know the old proverb (a redundant term – there’s no such thing as a new proverb) about counting your chickens before they’re hatched.  Even so, it’s the first glimmer of possible good news.  The state government says it may be able to bail out the MTA, which would reduce the amount of fare hikes that will be necessary.  Of course New York State itself is facing a financial mess, as are most state governments, so whether the bailout funds will materialize is another matter.  In addition, a bailout would help the MTA get through the current crisis, but even after the economy improves and revenues increase it’ll still face long-term structural problems, for example the way most LIRR retirees boost their already lavish pensions by claiming to be disabled.  Even so, anything that might keep fares from going through the stratosphere will help.

Today’s commuting was relatively easy.  For no particular reason I drove to Ronkonkoma rather than getting the shuttle from Medford.  Though I got there in time to get the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue, it was an M-7 consist and there is no way I’m taking that risk again anytime soon, after March 11’s horror show.  Instead I got the 7:04 to Penn, which didn’t seem too crowded by the time we left Ronkonkoma but really filled up at Deer Park.  I was riding in one of the cars a bit toward the rear (east) end of the consist, and while it was less than half full when we left Ronkonkoma all of the non-middle seats and even some of the middles filled at Deer Park.  The rest of the middles filled at Wyandanch and Farmingdale, and the few people who boarded at Bethpage had to stand.  A woman of about 30 sat next to me at Deer Park, and though not large she was somewhat annoying because every five minutes she’d root around in her (massive) purse for something.  I never figured out exactly what was the object of her quest. Even so, it wasn’t a bad ride as these things go, no delays, and I had a couple decent games of Tetris.  When we got to Penn, there was a bit of a delay getting off the platform because another train arrived at the opposite track (14, we were on 13) at almost the same time.  This created quite a crush at the stairways, to the point it probably took me a good five minutes just to reach the concourse level.  At least there was a very short wait for a 2 to Fulton, I decided to go to Fulton instead of Park Place because I wanted to get something from a deli on Fulton.

My wait for a 3 from Fulton to Penn after work was around five or six minutes.  That’s within the tolerability range, but just.  The train was of course jammed when it arrived, but at least the ride is relatively short.  I got the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, riding in the head car.  I wanted to test my theory that this car’s proximity to the ticket windows and main part of the LIRR concourse would translate into relatively more normal people and relatively fewer SCA’s among its ridership.  Suffice to say I was right. The car was jammed, though usually the head car always is, and a moderately stout but tolerable middle-aged woman sat next to me and, unlike her morning’s counterpart, actually managed to sit still like a normal adult.  We were at a stop for a few minutes near Woodside because of a “train with mechanical difficulties ahead of us,” but must’ve made up the time elsewhere because we arrived in Ronkonkoma right on schedule.  I had a very good game of Tetris, in excess of 100,000 though just shy of my record.

Gym: Dang.  I really wanted to do three miles on the treadmill at 5.7 mph.  As I started running, I noticed that the belt seemed a little loose on the right side, but rather than switch to another machine decided to stick with it.  Bad idea.  It must’ve affected my stride in a way that caused a nasty muscle cramp to develop just above my right ankle.  It got progressively worse as I passed the mile mark and was almost intolerably by 1.5 miles.  Usually I just run through any pains that develop, but this one got so bad I finally had to pull the plug on running when I reached 1.75 miles.  I switched to the stationary cycle, which I could use without the cramp bothering me much, and did 30 minutes on it at 18.5 mph.

Published in: on March 29, 2009 at 2:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, March 26

I guess that’s giving back something

It should go without saying that I’m still seething with anger about the LIRR’s proposed fare hikes.  Having to pay more for wretched service, when the LIRR’s unions and management are making no sacrifices at all … arggh!  I was half-expecting some sort of commuting catastrophe today, some sort of karmic adding of insult to injury.  To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be a very good day, both morning and evening.  After arriving on the shuttle from Medford, I saw that the 6:56 from Ronkonkoma to Flatbush Avenue was an M-3 consist.  A bit of fast footwork snagged a single seat for myself.  Yay.  It was a very easy, stress-free ride into Brooklyn, no delays of any sort, mostly spent reading. I then waited less than a minutes for a 4 train to Fulton and had a seat the whole way.  Double yay.

After work was another comparative breeze.  A quick ride on a 3 from Fulton to Penn, then the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, with a smallish, quiet, non-squirmy woman of about 40 sitting next to me. I finished reading Condor, and had a couple decent games of Tetris.  No delays of any sort to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle.  Don’t get any mistaken ideas, I’m still hopping mad about the fare increases, but maybe a slight degree less angry than I had been.

Gym:  I was planning on doing some treadmill work, but for a variety of reasons I was unable to make it.  At least I got my six miles for the week.

Published in: on March 28, 2009 at 1:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, March 25

It’s all about the money

It’s not enough that riding the LIRR is a horrible experience.  Or even that it’s expensive.  No, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the LIRR, is trying to deal with a budget crisis by raising fares beyond their already exorbitant levels.  Years and years of never saying “no” to even the most unreasonable union demands means that commuters are (literally) paying the price.  I’m so fed up with the fare hikes that I haven’t even checked to see exactly how much more it will cost me each month.  Other than that it’ll be a lot.  True, the increases aren’t a done deal, there are going to be public hearings, but almost certainly people will pay more. For less. And that is nothing to be happy about.

At least my actual commuting today wasn’t bad at all.  I got the shuttle from Medford, then the 7:19 express from Ronkonkoma to Penn.  As is now my usual pattern I rode in the car closest to the ticket office, and not surprisingly it was occupied mainly by normal people.  I had plenty of room because a young woman who couldn’t have weighed much over 100 pounds – a “Century” – sat next to me, and I was scarcely even aware of her presence.  What with reading, and a couple games of Tetris, the ride went by quickly. I waited a couple of minutes for a 2 train to Park Place, though it was definitely on the crowded side.

For the first time in weeks I ventured onto the Eighth Avenue line after work.  Not that I wanted to do so, but the MTA’s site was reporting delays on the 2 and 3 line.  At least I only had to wait a couple of minutes for an A from Broadway-Nassau, which for that line is a very short wait.  I was talking to a man who works at my company, who told me that PATH service from the World Trade Center to Hoboken wasn’t running. He was taking the A to West 4th, and then would make the long walk to the Christopher Street stop on PATH’s other line.  That was a much bigger inconvenience than my having to take the A instead of the 2 or 3, so I really couldn’t complain.  I got the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, which was definitely in cattle-train territory today.  A somewhat larger-than-average woman in her 50’s sat next to me, and left me with just enough room.  Had she taken off her thick wool coat (wasn’t it awfully hot?) I would have had enough room, but alas she kept it on for the whole ride.  Still, it could’ve been much worse, for example the enormous man of two weeks ago … it’s going to be a long time before I forget that particular incident. I spent most of the ride playing Tetris, and it went by quickly enough.

Gym: I started out with a 2-mile run on the treadmill at 5.7 mph. The first treadmill that I began using had an uneven surface, and I had to switch to another one after a couple minutes.  I’m not counting the distance run on the first one.  Next came one-arm dumbbell rows, 3 x 8 x 110/110.  Next time I’ll try a 115-pound dumbbell.  Hammer Strength MTS shoulder press: 8 x 100, 8 x 105, 8 x 100.  This is progress over last time.  Precor pec flies: 8 x 115, 8 x 120, 8 x 125, 8 x 130, 8 x 135.  Not bad.

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 3:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, March 24

The stops, the stops, the stops!

I was able to go in a bit later than usual today, so for the first time in a few weeks I drove to Ronkonkoma rather than getting the shuttle from Medford.  Arriving about 8:15, in order to get the 8:31 to Penn, I got one of the last spots in the far southeast corner of the south side lot.  It really didn’t look as if the recent ridership declines were much in evidence.  As for the 8:31, it was moderately if not excessively crowded, at least in the car toward the rear of the consist where I rode.  The seat next to me stayed empty until Mineola, when a somewhat hippie-ish young man took it. Oh, and speaking of Mineola, it was just one of the many stops the train made.  All stops to Hicksville, then Westbury, Mineola, Merillon Avenue, New Hyde Park, Jamaica, Woodside, and then, at long last, Penn Station.  It took just under 90 minutes to cover the 50 miles to Penn.  The “just under” part is significant, because it’s scheduled to arrive in Penn at 9:57, and because that’s before 10:00 it counts as an extra-fare “peak” train.  I kept reasonably busy reading, but even so I was getting the sensation that we’d never get there.  Of course I’ve been spoiled to some extent by taking the 7:19 express, but even so, the 8:31 clearly reaches “annoying” levels with all its stops.  I was expecting a lengthy wait for a subway to Park Place, it being well after rush hour, but as luck would have it a 3 train pulled into the platform just as I arrived.

The subway was not quite so pleasant after work, as the ride from Fulton to Penn on a 2 took almost twice as long as usual.  We spent a couple minutes sitting on the platform at both Chambers and 14th, no explanation other than a canned “we are being held by supervision.”  I was just about to give up on the 2 and go across the platform to a 1 local at 14th, but the 2 finally closed its doors and we got underway.  Once at Penn I got the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma, riding in one of the head cars (closer to where I was parked) that was perhaps a touch too SCA-ridden for my tastes.  The 50-ish man who sat next to me was a semi-SCA, wearing dress pants and a sports jacket but not an actual suit.  He wasn’t too large, and in any event got off at Hicksville.  I played more Tetris, and it was a trouble-free ride to Ronkonkoma.

Gym: I began with a 2-mile run on the treadmill at a decent clip of 5.7 mph. Next came some leg work.  Life Fitness leg presses: 4 x 10 x 395.  I then did some Life Fitness seated leg curls, 8 x 155, 2 x 8 x 170.  The leg pad on the new Precor machine I had used last time doesn’t quite feel right, so I stuck with the older Life Fitness machine.  Precor leg extensions: 3 x 8 x 185.

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 2:43 am  Comments (2)  

Monday, March 23

A break from the usual

I got to Ronkonkoma on the shuttle from Medford this morning expecting to take the 7:19 express to Penn.  Taking the 6:56 to Flatbush Avenue wasn’t an option because it was using M-7’s.  As I was waiting in the ticket office – not on the platform, it was cold this morning – a bit of inspiration came to me.  I’ve had reasonable luck riding on the closest-to-the-ticket-office cars on the 7:19 because they’re occupied mainly by normal people rather than SCA’s.  Could the same rule hold true on the 7:04 as well?  If it were the case, I’d save 15 minutes of waiting around Ronkonkoma station, which ranks very high on the list of the world’s most boring activities.  As a result, I gingerly made my way to the south side platform to the 7:04, peeked into the nearest car, and to my delight saw a variety of normal people with scarcely a suit in sight.  I took a window seat in reasonable confidence that the person who sat next to me would weigh under 250 pounds.  On the 6:56, an assumption like that would in all probability prove false.  But not now.  Within 30 seconds, a woman of about 35 and of normal build sat next to me.  She spent quite a bit of time fiddling with cosmetics, though nothing like the woman last week, and wasn’t too annoying.  I spent most of the ride into Penn reading and playing Tetris, and it went by pretty quickly.  The 7:04 makes four stops after Ronkonkoma, two more than the 7:19 makes but still a reasonably low number (some off-hour trains make over ten).  The car got quite crowded, with just about all of the seats including the middles filled by the last stop at Bethpage.  I waited three or four minutes for a 2 train to Park Place, a reasonable amount of time, and the car was moderately crowded but not too bad.

I actually came close to missing the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma after work.  That’s the last train which connects with the shuttle, so had I missed it I would have had to call to get picked up.  It was due to a variety of factors: I left work a little later than usual, had to wait almost ten minutes for a 3 train at Fulton, but most of all lost track of time while looking around in one of the news shops at Penn.  It was 5:38 when I finally looked at the time on my cell phone.  Fortunately, I wasn’t too far from Track 19 and made it onto the 5:41 with a couple of minutes to spare.  It was an M-3 consist, which was fortunate because the only non-middle seat I could find was next to a middle-aged woman who was rather on the stout side.  There was enough room, but in an M-7 seat it would’ve been a much tighter fit.  I spent almost the entire trip playing Tetris, with a couple of decent games but no threat to my record.

Gym: day off today.

Published in: on March 24, 2009 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, March 22

I had to go to the gym fairly early today, about 11:30 or so, due to other things scheduled for the afternoon, but even though I’m not much of a morning exerciser it worked out relatively well.  I started out with a 2-mile run on the treadmill at 5.6 mph, followed by one-arm dumbbell rows, 4 x 8 x 110/110.  Doing an exhausting exercise like these right after a run is tough!  Instead of doing chest presses next, I decided to do shoulders, as they get a bit short-changed if I do chest first.  Hammer Strength MTS shoulder press: 8 x 90/90, 8 x 95/95, 8 x 100/100.  This may be the first time I’ve gotten eight reps at 100. I then tried the Lift Fitness seated chest press, but because I had done the rows and shoulder work first I was well off my best: 8 x 235, 8 x 220, 8 x 205, 8 x 190. Because I wanted to do more chest work, I tried out a new Precor pec fly machine, 8 x 100, 2 x 8 x 115.

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 10:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, March 21

Sort of a weird day at the gym today.  I wasn’t much in the mood for running on the treadmill, after all the leg work yesterday, and I tried some bench presses but just couldn’t get into them.  So I ended up ellipting for a full hour.

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment