Sunday, July 30, 2006

one year later, and it's another hot ride in the summertime

The NYC Century is about six weeks away, and I'm not quite in prime riding shape. This year, TA is offering training rides for marshals and regular riders, so James and I went on yesterday's 50-mile ride from Williamsburg to Orchard Beach in the Bronx. The ride was supposed to start at 8 AM in Brooklyn and if all went well, we would be done before the hottest part of the day. Of course, I should know better by now, and as you'll see below, it felt like a ride from Hell.

The ride started at a bike shop in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, so I had 7 miles on the odometer when I got to the start. There were about 25 cyclists there, including three or four marshals, and after a quick orientation and marshal introduction, we left around 8:30 AM. It was already hot and humid, but the breeze while we were riding kept us cooled off. We rode north through Brooklyn to the Pulaski Bridge to Queens, then across the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan. We stopped in Central Park so that some of the slower riders could catch up, and that's where we had our first flat tire. After waiting for about 15 minutes, the marshals directed us to ride to the Central Park boathouse to use the bathroom. We waited there another 10-15 minutes, then they had us ride to the northern entrance to the park. At the top of the park, one of the marshals finally decided that she would take some of us up ahead and that we'd all meet up at Orchard Beach for the return trip. So there were about eight of us when we left the park and took the Macombs Dam Bridge into the Bronx. Up to this point the cue sheet had been accurate, but it got a little harder to follow once we were in the city’s only mainland borough. We kept breaking out the city’s cycling map to figure out where the cue sheet’s writer wanted us to go. We rode around a reservoir and ended up on the Pelham Parkway bike path that led out to City Island. We all missed the turn for Orchard Beach and instead stopped just across the bridge on City Island. At this point it was noon. We were about a half-hour ahead of the rest of the group, as they’d had to stop several times for flats. We decided to stay right there, have lunch, and then ride over to the beach. James wanted to get a lobster roll at one of the local seafood restaurants, but they were all upscale establishments with valet parking and didn’t look like they wanted to seat two sweaty guys in spandex. We got sandwiches from Subway instead. Our group had its own mechanical problems, too: no flats, but one of our riders had a bike seat problem (as in the seat came off the seatpost) and she had to get a car service ride back to the subway. The rest of us went to Orchard Beach and found the rest of our little peloton.

Around 1 PM, with the return trip ahead of us, our smaller breakaway took off for home. We made a few wrong turns and the slower group caught up to us at White Plains Avenue. It was now the hottest part of the day, and every time we stopped at a traffic light, the heat from the roadway was even worse than the heat from the sun. I was dumping hot water from my bottle onto my head and back and drinking hot blue Gatorade from the other bottle. I was feeling all right, but it was just too damn hot to be out there. Our faster group stayed with the rest of the ride for a few miles but eventually we broke away again. We stopped for more water near Yankee Stadium, but since I only had a few miles to go to get back to my apartment, I only took enough ice-cold water to dump on my head. Back in Manhattan, I rode with the group to the Queensboro Bridge and pointed out the bike ramp entrance, said goodbye, and rode home up 1st Avenue. I got in just after 3 PM, having left around 7:15 AM. I rode 55 miles total, but it felt like 70 with the heat. It wasn’t as bad as last year’s bike ride to nowhere, though it was close. I’m not too sore today, but my face and arms are sunburned. Also, one of my bike pedals has a broken toe clip, so I’ve got to get that fixed today if I want to ride this week.

There are two more TA-sponsored training rides before the Century itself on September 10. I hope that TA can figure out a way to accommodate the faster riders, because it’s not much fun to ride in the August heat, and especially when you have to keep a slower pace for the group. Still, I’m glad they’re staging these rides, as I need all the mileage I can get.

apparently, it WAS a true story

In today's column, Gene Weingarten covers the bad date story I wrote about last week. Gene actually found Darren, who decided that his failed attempts to reach Joanne meant that she was not interested in seeing him again and asked her to pay him back for her half of the meal. Unfortunately, Gene also found that Darren wouldn't comment on the story, and that he has apparently gone into hiding, like Steve Bartman. I suspect that Darren will have to look overseas for a woman to share his life with him. I'd suggest that he try to find someone who speaks little English, so she won't understand the voice-mail messages embedded in the e-mail when she inevitably receives it as a forward from one of her friends.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

this might be my first drunk blog post ever

OK, I'm not THAT drunk, but I did go out for a pint or two after work, which turned into a few pints and several shots of unknown alcoholic substances (one had Jagermeister, OJ, and an as-yet-unidentified liquor, but was damn tasty -- we [the group] had two of those). Anyway, on my way to visit a friend and help her with her cats, I remembered that I'd been wanting to try Stolichnaya's new Blueberi Vodka. Kim O'Donnel at The Washington Post reviewed it quite favorably last week, and ever since I'd been reminding myself to pick up a bottle. After my cat medical duties were fulfilled (I held the cats while she applied some sort of skin treatment to them), I went home and put the vodka in the freezer, because we all know ice-cold is the best way to drink the stuff. I broke out the bottle around 11 PM and tried a tiny sample in a shot glass. Oh, wow, that's tasty. I'm currently enjoying a bit of Stoli Blueberi with orange juice, making a sort of blueberry-orange screwdriver. O'Donnel wasn't kidding. This stuff is the best Stoli flavor I've had in years, and I've enjoyed all the varieties they've produced. I may have to pick up a few more bottles just in case they take it off the shelves in the fall.

And now please pardon me while I pass out at the keyboard.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Queens boro power problems

This story hasn't been on the national news, so most of the country doesn't know that some neighborhoods in one of NYC's five boroughs have been suffering without power for the past week. Con Edison has been going manhole by manhole to fix the problems, which have to do with underground feeder cables. Apparently it's not a capacity problem, but a delivery one. The trouble is that even when Con Ed has restored power to some customers, it goes out again when it rains or when the manholes catch on fire. Gawker pointed out this story from a frustrated Queens resident who saw a manhole fire early Sunday morning. All I can say is that if I were living in one of the affected neighborhoods, I'd have turned into a marauding Visigoth by now. As a geek whose many entertainment options rely on electricity, I don't enjoy power outages. And a week without power during a heat wave would be enough to drive me over the edge. Some of my readers know how nasty I can be when I'm aggravated at work. Just imagine me like that all the time, except I'd be wielding my dead Blackberry like a club as I fought my way onto an air-conditioned subway car.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

more bad dating experiences for other people

It's merely a coincidence that I've had a few dating-related posts lately. I don't control the news, I just report it.

This story, about a man and a woman who met on Jdate and went out to dinner, is beginning to look like an urban legend. However, there are voice-mail messages that make it sound like it could be true. Either way, it's not a good idea to demand that your date pay you back for her half of the meal several days AFTER the date and then threaten legal action when she refuses to pay. And before I get more comments from online dating fanatics about how their services are better, I don't care. Jdate isn't the problem here. People who think that dating consists of financial transactions instead of social ones are the problem.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Good news for Brian Shackelford

He's not going to be charged with sexual assault after a date with a woman he met on I appreciate the comments I've received on my earlier post on Shackelford. Somehow it got linked on some other online dating sites, which explains all the unusual traffic on that particular post. I didn't think I was that popular on my own.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Darth Vader: baseball fan, pimp, African king

Screenhead linked to this Youtube video of scenes from Star Wars with James Earl Jones' lines from other movies dubbed in. I don't know why it ends with a Billy Joel song, but some of the scenes are hysterical. I can't believe it took almost 30 years for someone to come up with this idea.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

watch out for the private room at DT/UT

DT/UT is my favorite Upper East Side coffeehouse/bar: great coffee, tasty desserts, WiFi by donation, and, when you can find a seat, comfy couches. There's a little semi-private area that's curtained off from the rest of the room. I've never sat in there, mostly because I never bring enough people in with me to feel like I've got the appropriate numbers to stake it out as my territory. And now I might avoid that room completely from now on, after reading this post over at The Daily Dump (love that name, BTW). I don't think I've ever done more than kiss someone in a public place, let alone put on a make-out show complete with pelvic grinding. And at my age (32) I'm way too old to engage in such behavior in public. That's why I live alone. I think once you get to your 30s you should be old enough to know better, and you should be responsible enough that when someone suggests you "get a room" that you have an actual private room in your home to which you can go. Once you get home, if you want to pretend you're 15 again and play "Seven Minutes in Heaven" in your bedroom closet, that's your business. I just don't want to see it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's not like I need another computer game in my house

Whenever I read something like this column, the urge to run out and buy a PS2 and a copy of Guitar Hero is almost uncontrollable. I tried four or five times to play "Bark At The Moon" on the intermediate setting at my friend's house back in April, and I nearly sprained my hand. Maybe when the PS3 comes out this fall I'll look for a PS2 on eBay at a bargain price.

Yesterday's big boom on the UES

Since it's not on my normal daily commute, I was nowhere near the building explosion at Madison Ave. and 62nd St. In fact, I didn't even hear about it until I got to work. See, I can't stand much of the "Today" show or in fact any morning TV, so I watch ESPN's "Mike & Mike In The Morning" instead. And they don't cover big stories like this one, especially when they're in Pittsburgh for the MLB All-Star Game. I found out about the explosion when I saw a post on Gawker and another on Gothamist. One of my co-workers actually knows the guy who blew up the building, and he wanted to see it on the way home, so we stopped up there about 7 PM last night. I was able to snap a few pictures before the police told us to move along. Even at that hour there was still a significant amount of activity up there, and the backhoe that you can sort of see in this photo was busy clearing debris out of the street.

In a sign that people in NYC just take things like this in stride, most businesses on Madison Ave. and restaurants on the side streets were open as if nothing at all had happened. I love this city.

Friday, July 07, 2006

another reason to avoid online dating

Brian Shackelford, now a former Cincinnati Reds pitcher (he was sent to the minors yesterday), was arrested for third-degree sexual assault after a date with a woman he met on

I have to agree with the commenters at Deadspin: since when does a major league baseball player need to use to meet women?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Watching the World Cup at work

Originally uploaded by catelinp.
This afternoon was the last World Cup game that would be played during the workday, so I went to the cafeteria to watch the France-Portugal match on the big screen. The TV appeared in the cafeteria three weeks ago at the start of the tournament and I watched several matches there, though I saw most of the games from my desk on ESPN360. However, with the World Cup nearing its end, I thought I'd watch one last game with the die-hard fans in the office. I took this photo with my cell phone camera when the guy who handles the A/V setups asked me to document his handiwork. As you can see, there weren't too many fans there today, either because of vacations or lack of interest in the teams. Last week's Argentina-Germany quarterfinal drew a much larger crowd. Still, it was a fun way to spend a few mid-summer hours at work the day after a holiday. I asked if they could keep the TV there for the Tour de France, but I think it's going back into storage tonight.

how I spent my holiday weekend

As good as it sometimes is to leave New York for a long weekend, it's even better to stay in the city. Since so many people travel, the streets and restaurants are empty, so it's easy to get a table or take a walk without getting crushed in the usual mob. And while everyone else fights traffic trying to get back into the city before the work week starts, I get to stay home and relax. I was on call for Saturday and Sunday, so I couldn't do anything too far from home but I managed to have fun anyway. I was cat-sitting for a friend, and I managed to get some cool shots of her cats. They didn't mind posing for me; I'll have to figure out how to get mine to behave for my camera.

I enjoyed several great meals over the weekend:
  • Trader Joe's filet mignon
  • south Indian vegetarian cuisine at Pongal
  • Mexican at Maz Mezcal (taking advantage of the holiday crowd to get a good table)
  • the hottest Thai food I've ever eaten at Sripaphai in Queens
  • Chinese on the Fourth of July where the wait staff were all mesmerized by the Germany-Italy World Cup semifinal.
I went to the Mets-Pirates game at Shea on Monday night, where the Pirates took advantage of the Mets pitching staff and won 11-1. By the end of the game I was just embarrassed for the Mets, though I was cheering quietly for the Pirates the whole time. I even stood up for Nate McLouth's solo home run in the eighth inning, and I would have jumped up for Ronny Paulino's home run that preceded it if I hadn't been so surprised that the ball left the park in the first place. Despite the loss, Shea was nearly packed until the end of the game, as it was fireworks night. For a ballpark fireworks display, the show was surprisingly good. The soundtrack was a little odd, though: it included "I Go To Extremes" by Billy Joel and a Kelly Clarkson song as well as some more patriotic music.

I watched Tuesday night's excellent Macy's Fireworks show from an apartment on the 43rd floor of a building near 42nd St. on the east side. I'm moving up, literally: last year I watched the fireworks from a 20-story rooftop near Union Square, and this year it was the 43rd floor. Next year it's the Empire State Building or bust. Since my camera has a special fireworks setting, I tried to take pictures. However, it seems that even with fancy digital technology you still need a tripod to get great photos of fireworks. But some of my pictures turned out OK, so you can get a sense of what the show looked like. As we were inside, we got to listen to the soundtrack for the fireworks this year, and it was better than the one the Mets put together the night before. You can't go wrong with Sousa marches and "God Bless America." I could have done without the pop-patriotic songs, though. The best part after the show was watching the crowd file off the FDR and being able to wait until the streets were less busy before walking home.

In case you hadn't figured it out already, photos from the weekend are up on my Flickr site.