Thursday, September 17

Conclusive proof that summer’s over

Any doubts as to whether the summertime ridership slump is over could be quashed immediately by one look at the 7:32 from Ronkonkoma to Penn.  I took it because I was able to go in a bit later than usual, and the moment I drove into the south side parking lot around 7:15 it was obvious we were in cattle train territory.  Only the last couple of rows nearest the trees on the east side of the lot had any spaces.  A few weeks ago I would have had no trouble parking several rows closer.  The 7:32 was using M-3’s today, which was nice even though I wasn’t able to get a single seat.  An average-sized non-SCA man sat next to me even before we left Ronkonkoma, and the way the car was filling up made it obvious that it would be jammed.  Suffice to say that there were many standees by the time we got to Jamaica.  This wouldn’t have happened during the summer.  Demographically, nothing really stood out; there were SCA’s, normal men, and women, with no group particularly noteworthy for its large or small numbers.  I started in on a new book, As They See ‘Em, about Major League Baseball umpires, and the ride went by quickly enough.  There were some subway delays on the 2/3 line due to “a passenger needing medical attention” all the way at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.  That’s sort of like the way chaos theory says that if a butterfly flaps its wings in China it will set in motion a chain of events that will produce a rainstorm in France.  I mean, we’re talking a distance of several miles and a different borough. I took a 1 local to 14th, figuring that I could walk at Chambers, but at 14th saw that the expresses were running once again, so I got a 3 to Fulton.

No “sick passengers” wreaking havoc with subway service after work.  I got a 2 from Park Place and then the 5:22 from Penn to Ronkonkoma.  It was moderately if not totally crowded, nothing like the morning, with some but not all of the middle seats taken and no standees. In a repeat of yesterday, a rather Rubenesque woman took the seat next to me and made for a relatively tight squeeze.  It wasn’t intolerable, but needless to say I was glad when she got off at Wyandanch.  I did more reading and the ride went by with no delays.

Gym: For a variety of reasons I almost didn’t go, finally making it there after 9 and doing the first installment of the new deadlift cycle, and nothing else.  Deadlifts: 5 x 255, 5 x 295, 7 x 305.

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Published in: on September 18, 2009 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, September 16

Back from the brink of extinction?

It is with relief I can report that normal men are not on the very verge of extinction.  On the Endangered Species List, to be sure, up there with pandas and Siberian tigers and California condors, but with perhaps a little breathing room. Perhaps.  I got the shuttle from Medford today, but when I saw the massive crowding in Ronkonkoma I knew right away that the 7:04 to Penn would be a horror show.  Instead, I waited for the 7:19, incidentally hoping that it might be using the M-3 consist I had seen in the yards.  It was running M-7’s unfortunately, and also turned out to be every bit the cattle train as the 7:04 had been.  At least a quarter of the middle seats were taken even before we left Ronkonkoma, though it’s possible that some of the other cars weren’t quite as bad.  A woman of, ahem, generous proportions took the seat next to me moments after I sat down.  It was a tight squeeze, made worse by the fact that her upper body infringed a bit on my space, it wasn’t all the squishy rump tissue as it usually is with women.  Still, it was tolerable, more or less, and certainly not as bad as it would have been with an elephantine SCA.  Speaking of which, not all of the men in the car were SCA’s, there was a small but distinct minority of normal men.  My very rough estimate is 45% women, 40% SCA’s, 15% normal men.  We’ll have to see if this is a trend or a statistical quirk.  I had an easy enough if slightly squeezed ride into Penn, and waited less than a minute for a 3 train to Fulton.

Getting home was quite uneventful, with a quick ride on a 3 from Park Place followed by the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma.  As seems to be the normal case, it was distinctly less crowded than the morning’s trains.  Almost none of the middle seats were taken.  A slim young woman, who probably weighed less than half of her morning’s counterpart, sat next to me as far as Hicksville, I was scarcely aware of her presence.  We got to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle with no delays.

Gym: a 2-mile run on the treadmill at 5.8 mph.

Published in: on September 18, 2009 at 2:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, September 15

I know what it was like for Martha

Passenger pigeons were once the most abundant birds in America.  So abundant, in fact, that their flocks would darken the sky for several hours.  Due to a variety of factors including hunting, habitat loss and disease, their numbers went into steep decline until there was just one left – Martha, who was in the Cincinnati Zoo.  If she weren’t so, well, birdbrained, she would have been overcome with loneliness in her final years.  When she flew the coop, so to speak, in 1914, the species went extinct along with her.

I had a Martha-style experience this morning.  Being able to go in a bit later, I drove to Ronkonkoma to catch the 7:32 to Penn.  It was absolutely packed, I’d say it was a cattle train if it weren’t for the fact that doing so would mix avian and bovine metaphors.  The thing is, the ridership seemed divided almost 50-50 between SCA’s and women.  Normal men were just about as scarce as passenger pigeons in their final years of existence.  So scarce, indeed, that I had a Martha-style lonely experience, as if I were the last of my species … granted, normal men may not constitute a species in biological terms, but you know what I mean.  A 30ish woman took the seat next to me before we even left Ronkonkoma, and the car was SRO by Deer Park and had many standees by the time we got to Jamaica.  As far as I know there hadn’t been any earlier canceled trains, so the crowding was pretty good proof that the summertime ridership slump is over, indeed as dead as, well, the passenger pigeon.  There weren’t any delays, and having learned from my experience yesterday I steered clear of the Eighth Avenue line and got a nicely uncrowded 3 train to Fulton.  I was glad I wasn’t on the Long Beach line, service on which was disrupted for hours by a wayward car on the tracks.

By taking just a few minutes for lunch I was able to leave early enough to have a decent shot at the 5:01 to Ronkonkoma.  It turned out to be a very close call, as the wait for a 2 at Park Place was longer than normal for rush hour.  Nonetheless I made the 5:01 with a minute or two to spare.  A fortunate thing, as it was both an M-3 consist and very nicely uncrowded.  I got a single seat, though after Wyandanch I moved to a window seat because there were so many empty ones.  Sure not like the morning’s cattle train.  It was more like the just-prior-to-extinction passenger pigeon.

Gym: Decent upper-body work.  Dips: 10 x bodyweight + 50, 10 x bodyweight + 55, 10 x bodyweight + 60, 10 x bodyweight + 65, 3 x 12 x bodyweight.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 5 x 6.  I also ran one mile on the treadmill at 5.6 mph.

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 1:46 am  Comments (1)  

Monday, September 14

Another split personality day

I’ve given up trying to figure out why some trains are crowded and some aren’t.  Okay, there are some obvious cases, such as the 5:01 from Penn to Ronkonkoma, which follows another train by just ten minutes and therefore is seldom more than half-full.  Today, however, was a totally different story.  I got the shuttle from Medford, and then the 7:04 from Ronkonkoma to Penn.  So many people were waiting on the platform that I almost decided to let it pass and take the 7:19 instead, but figured that the later train probably wouldn’t be much emptier.  The 7:04 was back 100% of the way to its normal post-summer cattle train levels, with at least two-thirds of the seats in the car where I rode (mid-consist as usual) taken even before we left Ronkonkoma.  Deer Park riders got the last of the non-middle seats, those who boarded at Wyandanch were relegated to the middle seats, and most of the people at Farmingdale and all of those at Bethpage had to stand.  One could argue that the Farmingdale and Bethpage riders weren’t so totally disadvantaged as they’re in a cheaper fare zone, but somehow I doubt most of them were jumping for joy this morning.  As for me, it turned out okay because a 40ish woman of about average size took the seat next to me at Deer Park.  She wasn’t any trouble, being past the squirmy/bobblehead age range and not much of a cell phone talker.  I spent most of the ride to Penn reading.  For reasons I cannot explain I decided to take the Eighth Avenue line, big mistake.  The wait for an A wasn’t too long by that line’s standards, about four or five minutes, but it was so jammed when it arrived I wasn’t able to board.  Another one came by in a couple of minutes and I had a reasonable uncrowded ride to Chambers, where I decided to get off as I was riding near the head of the train and that was closer to my workplace than would have been the case had I gone one more stop to Broadway-Nassau.

Subway crowding was the operative theme after work too.  I was just barely able to crush onboard a 3 at Fulton, and this made for a truly miserable ride to Penn.  Everyone was squeezed together so tightly it was barely possible to breathe.  Still, I can’t complain too much, because the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma was the complete opposite of the morning’s train, not crowded by any stretch of the imagination.  It was almost as empty as the 5:01 usually is, and that’s a remarkable thing because the 5:41 was traditionally a cattle train.  I can’t think of why there’s been such a change.  Not that I’m complaining, as I had the perfect ride to Ronkonkoma, namely one with no one sitting next to me.  Yay.  We got to Ronkonkoma and the shuttle right on time.

Gym: treadmill work tonight, and a good news/bad news deal.  The good news is that I did three miles in total, the bad news is that I did it in three segments, of 1.5, 1, and 0.5 miles.  The first 1.5 miles was at 5.8 mph but was very difficult because I did not like the feel of the treadmill, it was like running on concrete.  I then switched to a much better treadmill, and did one mile at 5.6 mph.  While I had wanted to do more, some lingering soreness from the weekend’s squats and SLDL’s lead me to take a short break, after which I finished with a half-mile at 5.4 mph.

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 6:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sunday, September 13

Started out with a one-mile run on the treadmill at 5.8 mph, then neutral grip pull-ups, 6 x 6, finally dips, 6 x 12 x bodyweights.

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, September 12

Leg day, and for a change I decided to go for lower weights but more reps.  Squats: 5 x 10 x 225.  SLDL’s: 4 x 10 x 195.

Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, September 11

The luxurious side of Penn Station

A cold rainy day this morning, the first time since May that I’ve had to wear a jacket.  Days like this make me appreciate the close-in parking at Medford.  The shuttle was on time, which was fortunate because everyone had to wait in the ratty little shelter to avoid the rain.  I wasn’t sure at first whether to get the 7:04 from Ronkonkoma to Penn or wait for the 7:19, as the crowding on the platform (the rain had mostly let up by then) was relatively heavy.  At the last minute I decided to go for the 7:04, a decision that almost proved disastrous when a fairly large, non-SCA man in his 40’s sat next to me at Deer Park.  Fortunately, he wiggled around in the seat so that he didn’t press up against me too much.  Whew.  It actually was a decent enough ride into Penn, mostly spent reading.  The mid-consist car was quite crowded if not completely packed, most of the middle seats filled though without standees.  The 3 train I got to Fulton, well that most definitely was packed, to add insult to injury somebody’s backpack (which seemed filled with lead pipes or anvils) was jammed into my side as far as Chambers.

The 3 I got from Park Place to Penn after work wasn’t packed, not exactly, but didn’t set any comfort records.  As I had some time to kill before getting the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma I went to check out the newly opened entrance to Penn Station.  While getting there I passed some regular, low-tech scalpers selling tickets to tonight’s Jay-Z concert.  Guess Stub Hub still has some competition.  Anyway, the new entrance is at Seventh Avenue and 31st Street and goes to the New Jersey Transit concourse.  This concourse, which opened a year or so ago, is much nicer than the LIRR section.  It’s clean, with nice tiles and stonework, nothing whatsoever like the LIRR concourse – which resembles the locker room of a 45-year-old urban junior high school.  Lucky stiffs.  The 5:41 wasn’t too bad, a few minutes late leaving the station and with some slow running near Queens Village, but we were only a few minutes late into Ronkonkoma.  A woman of about 35, who had more freckles than I’ve ever seen on anyone I can recall, sat next to me and wasn’t any trouble.  I couldn’t really get into reading but had one of my best games of Tetris of all time, around 115,000, in fact that might be my second highest.

Gym: day off

Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 1:18 am  Comments (2)  

Thursday, September 10

Did summer make a comeback?

You’d think so, from the train crowding (or non-crowding) levels today.  I got the shuttle from Medford, then the 7:04 from Ronkonkoma to Penn.  There was no point in waiting for the 7:19, because there just weren’t many people on the platform waiting for the 7:04.  A lot fewer than yesterday, that’s for sure.  Try as I do I just can’t think of any reason why ridership would be so much lighter today.  What made things even better was that the train was using M-3’s today.  While I wasn’t able to get a single seat, the seat next to me wasn’t occupied until Farmingdale, and the non-SCA man who took it wasn’t at all large.  My guess is that the car never got beyond two-thirds full.  We got to Penn on time, and I waited just a couple of minutes for a 3 train to Park Place – which was as jammed as the LIRR had been uncrowded.

This subway-crowded/LIRR-uncrowded theme continued after work.  The 2 from Fulton to Penn was so packed it was almost scary, but the 5:41 to Ronkonkoma was anything but.  In fact, the seat next to me was empty the whole way, a very rare treat outside summer.  I spent most of the ride reading and actually had a decent game or two of Tetris.  We got to Ronkonkoma right on time, and the shuttle was on time too.

Gym: I decided to take a week off from deadlifting, to start the 4-week cycle anew next week.  I ran two miles on the treadmill, at a poky 5.6 mph, but this made ten miles for the week ending tonight.

Published in: on September 12, 2009 at 1:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, September 9

Halfway back to normal

Todaywas the second post-summer commuting day and the march toward normal ridership levels continued apace.  It’s hard to tell much of anything from the Medford shuttle given its light ridership.  There were the usual 15 to 20 people boarding at Medford.  What was distinctly non-summery, however, was the 7:04 from Ronkonkoma to Penn.  It was back to the cattle-train levels that cause me to avoid it during most of the years.  Almost all of the non-middle seats in the car where I rode, toward the middle of the consist as usual, were taken even before we left Ronkonkoma, and keep in mind this train has four more stops.  There also seemed to be an increase in the percentage of SCA’s, though admittedly that might be my overactive imagination at work.  The seat next to me got taken before we got underway, not by an SCA but by a middle-aged woman who could have acted in one of those weight-loss commercials you see on television … in the, ahem, “before” segment.  It was a tight though not intolerable fit.  I read more of Our Lot and made one or two unsuccessful attempts at playing Tetris.  The woman next to me read also, though unlike most women she didn’t read a trashy romance novel.  She instead read the Bible, a very well-worn copy (seen on a church billboard: “A Bible falling apart belongs to a person who isn’t”), the Book of Ezekiel to be specific.  I’m assuming there’s nothing in the Old Testament about the dangers of SCA’s.  We made it to Penn on time, having accumulated more than a few standees in the crowded car, and the wait for a 2 train to Fulton was a tolerable if not ideal four or five minutes.

After work I waited less than a minute for a 3 at Park Place and had a quick uncrowded ride to Penn.  The 5:41 to Ronkonkoma was considerably less crowded than the morning’s train, perhaps a sign that the summertime ridership slump hasn’t completely ended.  It was an M-3 consist, and given the relative uncrowding I took the calculated risk of sitting in the aisle seat of the 3-across side.  It was a smart risk too, as the middle seat remained empty for the duration.  What wasn’t quite so good was the fact that we were several minutes late into Ronkonkoma, due mostly to delays in leaving the platform at Penn.  I heard sometime later about a “smoke condition” in one of the tunnels, not sure if that was the cause.  I got picked up in Ronkonkoma, so no afternoon shuttle ride.

Gym: a mixed sessions, two miles running on the treadmill at 5.8 mph (actually two segments of one mile each) and neutral grip pull-ups, 4 x 8.  My usual handles were in use so I did the pull-ups on a different set, one that requires a wider grip than usual.  It didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, September 8

Back to normal, sort of

Today being the first workday after the (unofficial) end of summer I was expecting a considerable increase in train ridership.  Not that the summer trains have been empty, but at least they’ve been tolerable.  Would that change today?  The answer, like so many things in life, is unclear. I figured that the shuttle from Medford would be jammed with returning vacationers, so I drove to Ronkonkoma for the 7:19 to Penn.  The parking lot was somewhat more crowded than it would have been at the same time during the summer, but only somewhat, as I was able to park within about 200 feet of the platform.  The train itself was quite crowded but not really into cattle train levels, at least in my usual closest-to-the-ticket-office car.  About half of the middle seats were full after the last stop at Brentwood.  The seat next to me was occupied before we left Ronkonkoma, in fact within a minute of my sitting down, by a 30-something woman who wasn’t any trouble; she spent most of the ride reading what seemed to be a trashy novel and talking on her phone, but quietly.  There were three SCA’s sitting a few rows away who were anything but quiet, fortunately my iPod preserved my sanity, or what’s left of it. I read more of Our Lot and played a couple games of Tetris.  There weren’t any delays into Penn, and I waited only about a minute for a 3 train to Fulton, however the 3 was packed to such an extent it was almost frightening.

I got another 3 to Penn after work, from Park Place, and it was nearly as bad as the morning’s train. This translated into long dwell times at Chambers and 14th Street, as the conductor struggled to get the doors closed.  The 5:22 to Ronkonkoma was more crowded than the morning’s train, almost at non-summer levels, with perhaps three-quarters of the middle seats occupied.  Like in the morning, no sooner did I sit down than someone took the seat next to me, and oddly enough it was a woman of about the same age and same general appearance as her morning’s counterpart (it wasn’t the same person, however).  She didn’t read a trashy novel, in fact she read work-related stuff, and never talked on her phone at all.  There was a person sitting a couple rows away whose cell phone had some ridiculous and loud ringtone, I can’t really describe it any more precisely, and he or she got several calls during the course of the ride.  It was so annoying.  Despite a unscheduled and unannounced stop at Mineola, we got to Ronkonkoma right about on time.

Gym: a quick visit, with a 2-mile run on the treadmill at 5.8 mph.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 3:45 am  Leave a Comment