Monday, August 27 – Tuesday, August 28

Changing perception of distance

It’s back to a work location in Ridgefield, Connecticut, for just one week until my month-long (or longer) assignment in White Plains starts the day after Labor Day.  When I spent one day in Ridgefield a couple of weeks ago I found the drive on the semi-rural NY 35 to be a welcome break from highway driving.  It was about ten miles long but seemed to zoom right by.  On Monday, however, some surprisingly heavy traffic on the Long Island Expressway and over the Throgs Neck Bridge meant that I didn’t exit onto NY 35 from I-684 until about 15 minutes before I was due to report at the customer’s work location.  While being a bit late wouldn’t be the end of the world, I very much wanted to avoid that given how I’m the sort of person who hates being late for anything.

Now that I was under time pressure, the 10 miles (actually closer to 12) on NY 35 did not “zoom by” like they did two weeks ago.  Quite the contrary.  The drive seemed utterly interminable, with every thought that I was “almost there” quickly fading into the realization that there was still a very long way to go.  Please note that there was no significant traffic or other factors that would delay my passage.  And as far as I know there hadn’t been a sudden acceleration in plate tectonics such as might have physically lengthened the journey.  It was all just a matter of the perception of time and distance.  Were I more familiar with quantum physics I might be able to express this in a equation.

In any event, I arrived at the worksite about ten minutes late.  I would have made it on time, or almost so, except for the fact that school must have started in Ridgefield and I was stuck behind a school bus for quite some time.  What made this especially infuriating is that the bus seemed to stop at every other driveway.  It makes sense, because Ridgefield is a very rich town, and door-to-door service for one’s progeny is sort of an entitlement.  My lateness didn’t matter, and when I left in the early afternoon I made very good time and got home in under two hours.

Tuesday was a pretty ordinary day, no time pressures and thus no warping of the space/time continuum.  My return trip in the early afternoon was slightly different, as instead of taking the Hutchinson River Parkway from the end of I-684 to the Throgs Neck Bridge I took I-287 eastbound for just a couple of miles to I-95, and thence to the Throgs Neck.  I had heard that the Saw Mill Parkway was closed in Yonkers due to a water main break, and I was concerned that the Hutchinson might have heavy traffic as it (roughly) parallels the Saw Mill a few miles to its east.  While I’ve been on the 2-mile stretch of I-287 that runs between I-95 and the Hutchinson/I-684 many times, as far as I know I’ve always driven it in the westbound direction.  Today was my first eastbound trip that I can recall.

In any event, I made it back home early enough to get to the local DMV office to handle some pressing business.   You get a numbered ticket upon entry and wait for it to be called.  I was dismayed to see that there were over 50 numbers between the one currently being served and the one on my ticket.  It actually turned out okay, with a wait of just over an hour.  I think I know why.  No new customers are allowed into the DMV office after 4pm.  Of course there were many people already inside by that point, but the workers definitely picked up the pace and stopped their usual dawdling.  Not out of any altruistic notions, of course, but merely because they wanted to get off work as soon as possible.  Hey, I could care less about their motivations, all that matters is that the end result worked out well.

Gym: After too long doing just bench presses and some back work, on Tuesday I decided that starting right away I’d do a more varied routine.  As a result, I did three upper-body exercises.  I began with standing barbell presses, 8 x 100, 2 x 8 x 110, 8 x 100.  A lazy way of doing these would have been with a barbell on the squat rack at shoulder height.  I decided to expend a bit more effort and used two of the fixed-weight barbells and cleaned them into place.  Just doing the cleans probably was a useful bit of exercise.  Next, I did some bench presses, 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 3 x 4 x 225.  As I believe my triceps may be holding me back on benching, I decided to isolate them and did some skull crushers, 3 x 8 x 60 with an EZ-bar.  I haven’t done this particular exercise in years and was surprised at how hard it was even with a light weight.

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Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, August 25 – Sunday, August 26

Well it was a half-decent weekend.  On Saturday I did some benching: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 3 x 6 x 225.  I followed with some neutral grip pull-ups, though unfortunately I can’t remember how many.  It wasn’t a lot, maybe 15 total reps.  My plans had been to do substantially more pull-ups on Sunday, but I managed a grand total of … six.  My right shoulder began to hurt on the very first rep, and by the time I got to six it was throbbing.  I’m not about to risk injury just for the sake of doing more reps, so I called it quits with the gym session.  Only later did it occur to me that I still could have done some leg work.  Drat.

Published in: on August 29, 2012 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, August 23 – Friday, August 24

Queens Interlude

I spent these two days on a short-term assignment at a customer’s location in Queens.  It’s short-term because I’ll be going back to Connecticut next week, Ridgefield to be specific, and then after Labor Day it’ll be off to White Plains for at least a month.  The drive to Queens wasn’t bad in a distance sense, but I was going through some areas of very heavy traffic even at 6:30 in the morning.  On Thursday, traffic on the Long Island Expressway was pretty much bumper-to-bumper from just west of the Clearview Expressway to the Woodhaven Boulevard exit.  Another complicating factor is that the workplace was north of the Expressway close to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE).  I’ve never had reason to go that way before and did not realize that there is no direct exit from the westbound Long Island Expressway to the northbound BQE.  Instead I had to get off at 48th Street and then follow surface roads to the BQE, with the main road going right through the middle of an enormous cemetery.  I have to say, it’s somewhat surrealistic to see the way NYC cemeteries pack headstones together at a far higher density than you’ll see anywhere else.  I finally got on the BQE near Queens Boulevard, only to get off literally a minute or two later at the Northern Boulevard exit.  Getting home was easier as I took the BQE to the Grand Central/Northern State Parkway.

Strange as it may sound, I cannot remember Friday morning’s exact route.  Having learned my lesson the day before I switched from the Expressway to the Northern State Parkway in Nassau, the Northern State becoming the Grand Central Parkway at the city line, with the intention of getting onto the southbound BQE.  As I headed west into Queens, however, I realized that the fuel situation was getting urgent (the “low fuel” light having gone on even before I entered Queens) and that I’d better get off at the next exit and find a gas station.  I was so focused on finding gas that I wasn’t really paying attention to locations, but as best I can recall I found myself on Union Turnpike and then headed west on Metropolitan Avenue in the southern part of Forest Hills.  These precincts seemed rather devoid of gas stations, but fortunately I found a rather disreputable-looking one that was open.  It was expensive, something like $4.10 per gallon, but any port in a storm and all that.  I ended up taking Woodhaven Boulevard north to Queens Boulevard, to the BQE and finally Northern Boulevard.  There were a quadrillion traffic lights along the way, fortunately they were timed so that I was able to get most of them green.  Coming home was a repeat of the day before.

Gym: I had a very good session of neutral grip pull-ups on Thursday. 2 x 6, 2 x 5, 2 x 4, 2 x 3, 2 x 2, for a total of 40 reps.

Published in: on August 27, 2012 at 1:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, August 20 – Wednesday, August 22

Working (relatively) close by does have its perks

Three days spent working in Nassau, three days of easy driving.  I really had no traffic issues worth noting on the Expressway or the Northern State Parkway.  Monday afternoon I encountered a minor slowdown near Exit 57, and on Tuesday morning there was a general sluggishness near Exit 49, but compared to what I’ve dealt with many times I have no reason whatsoever to complain.

It was good that I didn’t have to go far, because Monday was one of the most exhausting workdays I’ve had, well, since I can ever remember.  It’s not that it was an excessively long day, I worked around eight and a half hours as compared to the usual eight, it’s just that I barely stopped at all during the day except for a 10-minute break.  It’s amazing how much I got done. Tuesday and Wednesday were busy days by any objective standard, but in comparison they were like eight hours of idleness.

Wednesday will be my last day at this location in Nassau.  On Thursday and Friday I’ll be working in Queens, normally I’d consider taking the train but that isn’t too practical for the location I’ll be at.  Next week is still up in the air, so to speak.  I may be staying in Queens a bit longer, or I might be going back to Ridgefield and/or Bridgeport in Connecticut.  Most likely I won’t know for sure until Friday.  One thing I do know, however, is that on the day after Labor Day I’ll be starting a four-week assignment in White Plains.  That’s not too bad a drive, though I’ll have to pay (obscene) bridge tolls.

Gym: I was way too exhausted to even think of going on Monday, and Tuesday we went out for sushi for the first time in months.  The tapeworms sushi tasted just as good as always, I’m pleased to report.  Wednesday I had another pull-up fest, doing a total of 40 reps of neutral grip pull-ups: 2 x 6, 2 x 5, 2 x 4, 2 x 3, 2 x 2.

Published in: on August 23, 2012 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, August 18 – Sunday, August 19

A half-good weekend.  On Saturday I had what might be called a neutral grip pull-up festival: 1 x 6, 2 x 5, 2 x 4, 3 x 3.  Slowly but surely, I’m getting there.  My goal is to get ten in a row, it may take a while but it’s not an unrealistic goal.  On Sunday, possibly as a consequence of all those pull-ups, my left elbow was quite sore and put somewhat of a damper on my bench press plans.  Still, I did semi-decently: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 6 x 225, 4 x 235, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.  Then I did a few more pull-ups, nothing much: 2 x 4, 3 x 3.

Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, August 15 – Friday, August 17

The exquisite pleasure of working (semi) locally

It’s funny how our perspectives can change.  My new work location in Nassau County is about a 45-minute drive away.  It would be longer if I left later into the peak of rush hour, but given my early work hours 45 minutes is about right.  Most people would regard driving 45 minutes each way to work as tolerable, but far from ideal.  They’d prefer something shorter.  To me, however, it’s like nothing.  I don’t have to deal with the heavier traffic in western Nassau, there’s no trek over the Throgs Neck Bridge (and no obscene tolls), and no sometimes lengthy drives in Westchester County or Connecticut.  So whatever other people may think of a 45-minute trip, to me it’s sheer pleasure.

One thing to note is that 45 minutes is just about the length of time it takes me to get to the Throgs Neck Bridge if there’s no traffic, even though the distance is at least 15 miles further than my current workplace.  That’s because getting to the current location requires some driving on regular, non-highway roads, and as they are very busy commercial streets there are traffic lights everywhere.   While I have some choices as to the exact routing, I’ve found that the Expressway to the Meadowbrook Parkway is the routing which involves the least distance on surface streets.  Its only disadvantage is that it involves driving further west on the Expressway than my other options and a greater risk of heavy traffic in the morning hours.  If I take Exit 40S to Brush Hollow Road I can get off before the  area of heaviest traffic but have to deal with substantially more traffic lights.  If things are really bad on the Expressway I also can get off at Exit 41S to Route 107, then getting on Old Country Road* in downtown Hicksville; using this route means that I’ll encounter too many lights to count, on the other hand it is very rare for there to be traffic slowdowns on the Expressway east of 41S.  Whatever the specific case, I am glad to have options.

Work these three days went well, I was busy but got quite a bit accomplished.  On Thursday, however, I got some highly unwelcome news: sometime between late October and early November I’ll be sent to a customer’s site in North Haven, Connecticut for three or four weeks.  My four weeks in West Haven, 115 miles each way, were pretty brutal.  North Haven is at least ten miles (through heavy traffic) further.  To preserve what’s left of my sanity, when the date gets closer I’m going to see if I can get a full reimbursement for taking the ferry in the afternoons.  I can deal with the full drive in the mornings.  I haven’t yet gotten my reimbursement for July expenses so I don’t know exactly what my partial reimbursement will be for the three times I took the ferry while working in West Haven.  My employer should be willing to make a full reimbursement.  What with the time-based system for reimbursing drive time, an afternoon trip home from North Haven would be around $45, while the ferry isn’t that much more at $54.

Gym: I was quite energetic on Thursday and had a very good upper body session.  Bench press: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 8 x 225, 4 x 235, 3 x 245, 6 x 225, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 1 x 5, 2 x 4, 3 x 3, 4 x 2.

* = despite its bucolic-sounding moniker, Old Country Road is an immensely busy commercial thoroughfare.

Published in: on August 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, August 13 – Tuesday, August 14

Bouncing around

I was supposed to be spending this week at Danbury customer’s location, but due to circumstances beyond pretty much everyone’s control that won’t be possible.  Instead, I’ll be spending this week alternating between two Connecticut locations, Ridgefield and Bridgeport.  Ridgefield will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Bridgeport Tuesday and Thursday.

While Ridgefield is not far from Danbury, I took a somewhat different route getting there.  I took I-684 north as if I were going to Danbury, but instead of taking I-84 eastbound I exited about ten miles earlier in Katonah, taking NY 35 east about ten miles across the state line and into Ridgefield.  It’s not a highway, but traffic wasn’t bad and I moved along pretty well.  The route passes a reservoir and then goes through some low-density but (very) high-income parts of Westchester County.  Just the place to lead that Country Squire lifestyle.  Once I crossed into Connecticut I was in the residential parts of Ridgefield, which also is very much a high-rent district.  On my way home I took Route 7 south to the Merritt/Hutchinson River Parkway. Route 7 is a very busy commercial thoroughfare, and while it’s not a divided highway the lights are times so that you can move pretty well.  My return trip took about 2:10, about 20 minutes longer than the morning trip.

The Bridgeport location was easy enough to get to, as it was not far off the Merritt Parkway, just over the line from Trumbull.  While Bridgeport is far more downscale than Ridgefield, my work location was in one of the better parts of the city.  I had a very busy day, not even getting a full lunch break, and because it was after 3:30 when I got out I knew that traffic getting home would be tough.  Chances were good that the morning’s two-hour trip would be more than an hour shorter than what I’d have to deal with after work.  As a result, I decided to take the ferry back.  Following a drive through some distinctly non-upscale areas I got to the ferry dock around 4, plenty of time to catch the 4:30 sailing.  As usual, the ferry ride was pleasant, some earlier rain having stopped, and I spent most of it on the open top deck.  I got home about six, in a far better mood than I would’ve been in had I fought traffic for three hours.

A couple of notes: on Monday evening I had planned to go to the gym, but an utterly blinding, Advil-resistant headache put the kibosh on those plans and pretty much made for a miserable evening.  On a much better note, I found out on Tuesday afternoon that for the rest of the week, and at least part of the following week, I’ll be working at a location in Nassau County.  The location isn’t far from Roosevelt Field Mall, and I should be able to get there in less than an hour.  What that means is that I won’t have to get up at a completely uncivilized hour like I’ve been doing.  Nor will I have to deal with the Throgs Neck Bridge or pay its (obscene) tolls.  I’m really excited!

Published in: on August 17, 2012 at 12:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, August 11 – Sunday, August 12

I had a pretty decent back session at the gym on Saturday.  Barbell rows: 8 x 155, 8 x 165, 8 x 175, 2 x 8 x 185.  Neutral grip pull-ups: 1 x 5, 2 x 4, 3 x 3, 2 x 2.  Other things intervened on Sunday and I wasn’t able to make it to the gym.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, August 8 – Friday, August 10

A Hudson River interlude

As I write this, a few days after the fact, I can remember almost nothing about my travels on Wednesday.  Which of course means that there was nothing out of the ordinary.  Oh wait, one thing I do remember is that there was a delay of a couple minutes getting through Exit 38 on the Expressway in the morning due to a truck crash on the side of the road.  Otherwise, that’s it.  My travel times were 1:45 in the morning and just over two hours in the afternoon.

Thursday, on the other hand, was a change from the ordinary.  Instead of working in Danbury, I spent the day with a different customer in Dobbs Ferry, a town in Westchester that’s on the Hudson River a bit north of Yonkers.  Not that I was able to see the river from the customer’s place of business.  To get to Dobbs Ferry, I took the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Hutchinson River Parkway, like I was going to Danbury, but shortly after crossing the Westchester line I took the Cross County Parkway westbound to the Saw Mill Parkway.  The Cross County’s only a few miles long but is an important roadway, as it connects the Hutchinson River Parkway, the NYS Thruway, and the Saw Mill.  It goes through densely populated parts of Mount Vernon and Yonkers that look quite different from the woodsy terrain just a few miles away on the Hutch.

For its part, the Saw Mill is a weird hybrid of a limited access highway and a surface street.  It has four lanes with a center divider, and for the most part looks like a highway, but it also has some grade level intersections with traffic lights.  Fortunately, the lights are timed so that traffic on the Saw Mill doesn’t have to stop at most of them.  I believe that there were five lights on the several miles between the Cross County and my exit in Dobbs Ferry, and I had to stop at one on the way up and two on the way back.  Guess that’s not too bad.  The lights on the surface streets in Dobbs Ferry, well they were pretty bad, I seemed to get all of them red.  Still, I made the 65 or so miles to Dobbs Ferry in about 1:30, my return trip was close to 2:15 because I left later than I usually do and got a lot of Expressway traffic.

It was back to Danbury on Friday, though I was at the customer’s for only about three hours (still got paid for eight, so I’m not complaining).  Getting there took the usual 1:45 or so, though a late start leaving home meant that I was almost a bit late arriving.  While there would have been no adverse consequences if I had been late, I just don’t like being late for things, period.  Because of my early departure I thought the trip home would be a breeze, unfortunately it took me almost 30 minutes to get through the tolls at the Throgs Neck Bridge and across the span.  From what I gathered from radio traffic reports there had been a crash on the span, and even though it had been cleared prior to my arrival the delays lingered.  Which goes to my point about the fragility of our roadways.  One thing goes wrong and the consequences can be severe.

Gym: I did some benching on Thursday, not too bad if I may say so.  6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 8 x 225, 2 x 6 x 225.

Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, August 6 – Tuesday, August 7

Out into the wilds

My first two days of the four-week stint in Danbury have gone easily enough.  Next week will be busier, but so far I’ve been able to finish my work after just a few hours (of course I still get paid for eight hours).  In terms of driving, it hasn’t been too bad.  On both mornings it took me about 1:45 to cover the 100-mile distance, despite some surprisingly heavy traffic on the Long Island Expressway.  Really, why are there so many people on the road at 5 am? Both of my return trips took about two hours, granted I’ve gone early enough to miss rush hour.

My routing is L.I. Expressway –> Cross Island Parkway –> Throgs Neck Bridge –> Hutchinson River Parkway (after a very short interlude on I-695 and I-95) –> I-684 –>I-84.  It’s the 30 or so mile stretch on I-684 that sticks out the most.  It goes through a low-density part of Westchester County, and seems quite rural.  In that context it’s very different from I-95, which is basically urban and suburban the entire way.  Not on I-684, driving on that I actually get to see trees.  Another interesting thing is the way the highway clips a corner of Connecticut, near Westchester County Airport, even though there are no exits on the mile-long stretch through the Nutmeg State.  Finally, Danbury itself is in the foothills of the Berkshires, meaning that the terrain is much more hilly that what I see on Long Island and in southern Connecticut.

Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment