Wednesday, December 26 – Friday, December 28

I’m glad I downloaded that Kindle app


I’m bored.  Now that Christmas is over I don’t know what to do with myself.  It’s funny, the prospect of getting time off from work is fun in the abstract, especially when you have long workdays like I sometimes do, but when you’re actually sitting at home with little to do …

Fortunately this is the last idle week for me.  Next week I’ll be down in Florida on a family visit, and the week after that I should be returning to work.  Meanwhile I tried to occupy myself the best I could, watching mostly junk on television (forgive the redundancy), running various errands, and reading on my phone’s Kindle app.  I finished reading The Bannings by Raw Sawhill and Polly Frost, a very entertaining story from start to finish.  I’ll try to get around to writing a more detailed review for the Amazon page.  Next up is Languages of the World by Asya Pereltsvaig, who like Ray and Polly is from my Facebook friends list.  It’s actually a textbook but make for interesting reading, especially since I’ve always been interested by the whole variety of language.

I made it to the gym a couple of times, on Wednesday and Friday.  Wednesday I did Hammer Strength MTS seated shoulder presses, 5 x 8 x 100/100, and some light benching, 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 4 x 225, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.  Friday wasn’t a very focused session, mostly I just diddled around on some leg and back machines.

Published in: on December 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 24 – Tuesday December 25

Monday was a typical Christmas Eve, making some last-minute purchases for Christmas dinner and trying to get the house in some semblance of order.  Not an easy task given the cat population.   The gym was open only until 2pm, but I was able to make a relatively quick visit around noon and do some bench pressing.  Very good bench pressing, indeed: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 3 x 8 x 225.  As far as I know that was the very first time I’ve done three sets of eight at 225.  Of course I completely fried my muscles in the process, so much so that I when I tried doing a cooldown set at 185 I could barely make it through a single rep.  But hey, I’m not complaining.

Christmas dinner was a success.  Our unconventional choice of New York strip steaks turned out fine.  I also made a pear pie, trying to emulate an apple pie with a different fruit.  It was more like a tart than an actual pie, but everyone liked it, so that’s what matters.

Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, December 21 – Sunday, December 23

It looks as if the world didn’t end on Friday. Unless it did end and we’re all in some different state of reality.  I’ll have to mull this over a bit.  In any event, Friday was a pretty decent day, we went to Whole Foods to get the supplies for Christmas dinner.  One thing I like about Whole Foods is that there often are plenty of free samples on offer, though it can be hit-or-miss.  Today was definitely a “hit” day, with free samples of at least 15 different items on offer.  Among much else I had hummus, clementine slices, carrot sticks with miso dressing, cheddar cheese, and a couple different types of chips.  Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?  I’ll have to say that getting to and from Whole Foods was no easy task, as it’s right next to a big shopping mall and the traffic was extremely heavy even during the early afternoon.

It turns out that our Christmas dinner will be a bit unconventional this year thanks to a major sale on New York strip steaks.  They were $10 a pound, down from the normal $16, and I bought five very large, thick steaks for $46.  People usually have turkey, a ham, or roast beef for Christmas, steaks are hardly usual fare, but it was too good a sale to pass up.  Besides, the steaks look magnificent.

Saturday and Sunday were much quieter days.  I stayed pretty much close to home, though on Sunday I made a quick trip to a nearby Best Buy for some last-minute shopping.  It was so jammed that even with all eight or nine registers in use there was at least a ten-minute wait in the checkout line.  On Saturday I made it to the gym for some upper body work.  Seated dumbbell shoulder presses: 5 x 8 x 45/45.  Skull crushers: 3 x 10 with a 70-pound EZ bar.

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 12:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, December 19 – Thursday, December 20

Finally, no more excuses

Wednesday was Christmas shopping day for me, at the Union Square holiday bazaar.  I’ve been going to that off and on for at least ten years, though not for the past few, and it’s far above what the term “holiday bazaar” might connote.  It has well over a hundred booths selling artisanal crafts of all types and a blessed absence of the sort of mass-produced schlock like you’ll see at all sorts of fairs and carnivals.   The organizer, an outfit called Urban Space, is obviously very particular when it comes to allowing vendors to rent booths, and while on the subject I shudder to imagine what the booth rental charge must be.

I had been planning to take the train, but instead I drove into Queens and parked at the premises of one of the businesses where I’d worked a couple of weeks ago.  As I left home around 9:30 I missed rush hour and was in Queens in not too much over an hour.  I then had about a five-minute walk to the 46th Street station of the R train, which runs right to Union Square.  Again continuing with the post-rush hour motif, the train wasn’t too crowded and I got a seat.  It was about a 20-minute ride to Union Square, during which time I continued to read The Bannings on my trusty cell phone free Kindle app (I should pay money for a Kindle device, why?)

Despite it being a workday the bazaar was quite crowded, so crowded in fact that at times it was difficult to move through the (admittedly narrow) aisles between the rows of booths.  It was a predominately female and young-ish crowd, with many people seeming to be in very good spirits.  A nice contrast to the constant doom-and-gloom that both the mainstream media and the blogosphere are thrusting on us.  In about 90 minutes I was able to do most of my Christmas shopping and also had a very good Belgian waffle with a hazelnut sauce.   Another quick ride on the R to Queens, and another almost-quick ride home on the Expressway.  I say “almost quick” because the overhead signs were warning of a road closure at Exit 65, one exit before my usual one, and fearing long traffic backups I got off at Exit 62 and took side roads the rest of the way.  It turns out that there had been a multivehicle pileup at Exit 68 that resulted in one death and many injuries.

Wednesday evening I finally cast off the excuses and made it to the gym.  I wanted to do some back work, but the T-bar row apparatus was in use, so instead I went back to an old favorite and and one-arm dumbbell rows, 5 x 8 with a 100-pound dumbbell.  Not having done this exercise in several months I had forgotten just how hard it is, much more so than T-bar rows.  While I had some trouble maintaining a proper grip I made it through all the sets and was satisfied with my performance.

In contrast to my busy Wednesday, Thursday was a whole lot of nothing.  Most of the day I web-surfed and did some Kindle reading, a quick trip to the supermarket for cat food being the highlight of the day.  Fortunately I did find the motivation to make it to the gym for some bench presses: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 6 x 225, 4 x 235, 3 x 245, 1 x 255, 4 x 225, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.  While I was a bit mad at myself afterwards for not going for a fourth at 245, it was the first time I’d gone as high as 255 in almost a year, so that’s good.


Published in: on December 23, 2012 at 5:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 17 – Tuesday, December 18

At least I have an excuse.  Sort of.

No, I did not go to the gym either day.  A fact of which I’m quite ashamed.  Now, I could say that I had an excuse, as I didn’t quite feel up to par either day.  That’s completely true.  But it’s also true that I was nowhere near on death’s doorstep either day, Tuesday in particular, and could have gone if I’d really wanted.

On a better note, I’ve started reading a new Kindle book, The Bannings, by Ray Sawhill and Polly Frost.  Ray and Polly, who are husband and wife, are Facebook friends of mine, and I’ve long been impressed with their online writings.  While I’m not far into the story, the book seems just as well-written, which is not something I’d normally say about fiction.  My cell phone has a free Kindle app, and while it’s far from perfect it’s perfectly good for this sort of reading.

Published in: on December 21, 2012 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, December 14 – Sunday, December 16

The start of my Christmas break from work was, as you might surmise, a rather lazy one.  Well not totally so, as I did some work around the house.  Trying to get things in shape for the holidays, though with the multiplicity of cats in the house cleaning is not always an easy task.   On a worse note, I only made it to the gym once, on Friday.  I had a decent bench press session: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 3 x 6 x 225, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.  But on Saturday and Sunday I had every opportunity to go and every excuse not to go.  This has to change.

Published in: on December 20, 2012 at 3:01 am  Comments (1)  

Wednesday, December 12 – Thursday, December 13

A low-key end to the assignment

My work assignment in Brooklyn and Queens is now over, I’ll be off for the rest of the year until resuming my regular work just after New Year’s.  Instead of rotating among eight worksites in two weeks, I’ll be back to spending three or four weeks at a single site.  I actually prefer doing what I’ve been doing for the past month and a half, and probably could make a permanent switch, but because it would mean less money it’s not really a workable option.

Wednesday’s assignment was in Inwood, near the airport.  When I went to Inwood about a month ago I encountered hideous traffic both coming and going.  Today, thankfully, there was almost none of that, possibly because I was careful to avoid the always-jammed Southern State Parkway.  I took the Long Island Expressway to the Cross Island Parkway, getting off at Merrick Boulevard, and then making my way to Brookville Boulevard. It took about 90 minutes in the morning and just slightly longer in the early afternoon.  Thursday I was in central Queens, not far off the Woodhaven Boulevard exit.  It was no trouble in the morning, but in the afternoon Expressway traffic was very sluggish all the way through Queens and a couple of miles into Nassau.  But hey, I wasn’t about to whine.

Now, of course, comes the hard part: keeping myself occupied for three weeks!

Published in: on December 16, 2012 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, December 11

A different sort of rail journey

Going into today I knew that I’d have to be in Stony Brook in the early evening.  As I would be working at a transit-friendly site in central Brooklyn this would be my chance to get the LIRR from Stony Brook for the first time in years. While the train ride from Stony Brook is longer than that from Ronkonkoma, it is a diesel line and therefore uses the diesel-pulled coaches which have much nicer seats than the electric trains on the Ronkonkoma line.  Of course that isn’t saying much, given that the electric trains have seats designed for midget anorectic quadruple amputees.

Stony Brook’s platform had an undeniably bleak, end-of-the-Earth aura about it in the predawn hours. It’s located on the state university campus but relatively isolated from most campus buildings.  There were maybe 12 to 15 people boarding the 6:09 to Jamaica when it arrived, which is probably half the number of people that would be boarding a single car of a Ronkonkoma train.  Hey, I’m not about to complain.  Given that Stony Brook is the first stop for westbound trains after the Port Jefferson terminal they do tend to be quite empty when they arrive in the morning.  I sat on the top level of the second car in the 6-car consist, and by the time it stopped at Huntington the level was maybe two-thirds full.  Huntington being the furthest extent of  electrification on the Port Jefferson line it’s sometimes necessary to change there for electric trains.  This train, however, went through to Jamaica, with a stop along the way at Mineola.

I had an across-the-platform change to a Brooklyn train at Jamaica and made it to Atlantic Terminal right on time.  As I was going to the Beverley Road stop on the Brighton Line I would have to take the Q train, that being a local stop not served by the B express.  On two previous occasions I had noticed that the Q’s outnumbered the B’s in the morning.  Not today, of course.  It must have been at least 15 minutes until a Q came lumbering along, in the meantime three B’s had come and gone.  Beverley Road is in an open cut, with narrow platforms and a small quaint-looking stationhouse elevated above the tracks at street level.  It looks like something you’d see on a lightly traveled suburban train line rather than on the subway.  Beverley Road’s other claim to fame is that the distance between it and the next station on the line, Cortelyou Road, is the shortest distance between any of the 450+ stations on the system.  From the south end of Beverley’s platforms to the north end of Cortelyou’s is less than 600 feet, which is less than the standard train length.

When I walked to the worksite on Flatbush Avenue I saw one of the city’s more unconventional transportation options in use.  Although Flatbush Avenue is a very busy commercial street surrounded by high-density residential blocks, for most of its length there is no convenient subway service (Beverley Road and the rest of the Brighton Line is a several minutes’ walk away).  The city buses that serve Flatbush Avenue get caught up in the road’s heavy traffic and make very slow progress.  Entrepreneurial citizens have filled the gap by operating “dollar vans” along Flatbush Avenue, 15-passenger Econoline vans that can be hailed like taxis and which offer rides up and down the street for, well, a dollar.  They dart in and out of traffic, not always with a great deal of concern about traffic laws, and are much faster than the lumbering buses.  For years the city tried to shut down the dollar vans, but eventually gave up trying.  Dollar vans also can be seen in the vicinity of the Jamaica LIRR station.

I finished my work for the day before 2pm, and decided that I’d take advantage of the early hour, along with my need to be in Stony Brook in the early evening, to do some walking in Manhattan.  Again, it’s something I haven’t done in years.  I took the Q to Atlantic Avenue and then changed to a 2 train, which I rode to Wall Street, its first stop in Manhattan.  For the next couple of hours I followed a meandering route to Penn Station.  Work was progressing nicely on the Fulton Street transit center and, a block away, at the World Trade Center.  What both of these projects have in common is that they are prime illustrations of Typical New York Incompetence in action, as they have been dragging on for years with completion still a ways off.  Projects of similar magnitude in other cities would have been completed in a fraction of the time.

These grumblings aside, and sore feet notwithstanding, I enjoyed my excursion, and arrived at Penn in time to get the 4:49 to Port Jefferson.  It uses “dual mode” locomotives that allow it to run under electric power through Penn Station and the river tunnels and then switch to diesel power to serve the unelectrified territory east of Huntington.  Dual modes also operate on the Montauk Line to allow direct service east of Babylon.  While changing trains at Jamaica/Huntington/Babylon is hardly an ordeal, it is more convenient to be able to stay on the same train to one’s destination.  As in the morning I rode on the upper level of a car near the head of the consist, but unlike the morning it was packed when we left.  Fortunately, the larger seats as compared to electric trains means there’s no worry about whether the person in the next seat will be under 300 pounds or not!  It was an easy ride, and I got to Stony Brook on time.


Published in: on December 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 10

Three inaccurately named roads

I spent today at the Arverne worksite on the Rockaway Peninsula, the same site that I went to a week ago before finding out that I was at the wrong place.  Today I was careful to verify that I was, in fact, going to the correct location!  Mindful of all the lights I had encountered on Cross Bay Boulevard last week, I decided to take a more direct routing today: Long Island Expressway–>Cross Island Parkway –> Brookville Boulevard–>Rockaway Boulevard.  Traffic on the Expressway wasn’t bad at all, and while the Cross Island was starting to get sluggish I exited soon after encountering the worse of the delays.

Brookville Boulevard was the first of the three oddly named thoroughfares I encountered.  The word “boulevard” creates an image of a grand wide road, lined with towering trees and luxurious houses.  Part of Brookville Boulevard, however, consists of a narrow, winding two-lane road with crumbling pavement that meanders for a couple of miles through a swamp.  On a foggy morning like today it had an almost otherworldly feel.   Some “boulevard!”

Not long afterwards I drove along the Rockaway Peninsula on Rockaway Freeway.  As with “boulevard,” “freeway” creates an image, in this case of a wide California highway, along which you cruise in your convertible with the Beach Boys on the radio.  You know what I mean.  As it turns out, Rockaway “Freeway” is a two-lane city street with traffic lights every block, right in the shadow of the elevated subway structure.  It is about as un-freeway-ish as you can possibly get.

I drove for a few miles on the Nassau Expressway on my way home.  Clearly, Expressway = high speeds.  Not in this case.  While the Nassau Expressway is six lanes wide, it is full of traffic lights, and to make matters worse the lights are timed so that you have to stop at each one.  Even though traffic wasn’t very heavy it must have taken me 15 minutes to cover just a few miles.  Fortunately, traffic elsewhere wasn’t bad, and I made it home in just over 90 minutes.

Published in: on December 12, 2012 at 2:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, December 7 – Sunday, December 9

Three days off before starting my last week of the Brooklyn-Queens assignments.  I can’t really say that this was a particularly productive long weekend, in fact I didn’t do much of anything.  Well, not too much, as I made it to the gym both Friday and Saturday.  Friday I did some bench presses: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 4 x 4 x 225, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.  Saturday I did skull crushers, 4 x 10 x 70, and seated dumbbell shoulder presses, 4 x 8 x 45/45.

Published in: on December 12, 2012 at 1:38 am  Leave a Comment