January 22nd, 2013
I thought I didn’t like reading, but I found I have a hard time focusing for long periods of time. Whenever I find myself sitting in one spot and truly focused on reading longer than thirty minutes, I impress myself. That doesn’t happen often.
Here are a few things that have significantly increased my ability to focus while reading. No drugs here – just devices, apps, and plugins. No techniques either – I’ve tried them all with little to no improvement. This is what works for me.
The Amazon Kindle is great to keep me focused on just the page I’m supposed to be reading rather than peeking ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter. Yes, I do this – doesn’t everyone? The built-in dictionary also helps me stay focused. I can’t count how many times I’ve got lost browsing the Internet for an hour in order to look up just one word.
I used this when it was originally called ReadItLater. Pocket is a one stop shop for cleaning and saving an article to ReadItLater. The Chrome extension makes it even easier to just throw it in my list of things to read.
Who knew Evernote made a tool to help me read? Clearly cleans up websites, big time. I’m not distracted by ads, other links and articles, comments, and other “squirrels” flooding the browser. Best of all, I can just save it and read it whenever I want later on, like when I’m on the subway. Again the Chrome extension here is freaking awesome.
I found this on Hacker News a while ago. It’s a response to the way scrolling really sucks at displaying text. Just go read it. I’ve only recently used it for longer articles that I read directly on my computer, but it’s so hard to just read while on my computer. I have to move away from it and get my hands to a less Internet-connected device.
I need Audible to read me my bed time story before I go to bed, definitely not the built-in TTS from Kindle. For the first week, I’ve been able to listen to and following along one chapter of Game of Thrones before I find myself nodding off. I got through two last night since the action started picking up.
It’s a great pairing with the Kindle, but I can’t wait until they merge and map the reading location with what is being read to me, just like karaoke! Imagine reading on your own and whenever you need it to be read to you by Audible, just click play, or even just putting the text down completely. That’s the future and it should already be here.
As you’ve noticed, all these are ways to get away from my computer in order to read. Maybe it’s time to look into getting some Pomodoro thing that kills my Internet connection or throttles it during the productive time and back to normal during the break period.
January 13th, 2013
I use Google Maps to find out where the bicycle lanes are, ran into an interesting issue, and submitted it to Google.
When I add the “Bicycling” layer to Google Maps, why are traffic directions removed? It’s really annoying*. This happens on Google Maps (PC/Mac, IE/Chrome and Android). Whether I’m on the go or planning a bicycle route, I would like to know which direction traffic is going.
This past weekend, a few of us took ride out to Brooklyn from NYC via Brooklyn Bridge. We mapped out a plan to take Dekalb out east (to http://brooklynkolacheco.com/) After crossing the bridge, we came to a halt when we realized that Dekalb Ave is a one-way going west. We had to stop at Fort Greene Park and re-route to Willoughby Ave.
In no more than 24 hours, I got a reply. Amazing customer service for a free product. Even though they don’t have an immediate solution for me, I’m impressed.
Thank you for reporting this problem. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the problem you reported isn’t easy for us to fix at this time
We did want to let you know that we’ve escalated your report to the appropriate engineering team. Even though we don’t have an immediate fix to your problem, please be assured that we’re working hard for a resolution.
Thanks for helping us to improve Google Maps!
I’m hoping for a fix soon. Meanwhile, it’s only a few clicks to turn the layer on and off.
September 26th, 2012
The last time I dedicated a ride to Central Park was back in August 29, 2012 – almost a full month ago! Since then, I’ve been biking all around the city and decided to make it back to the park today. I didn’t know what to expect.
I forced myself to keep up with a one road biker for almost a full lap, but skipped out on Harlem Hill. I even kept up with a super fast road biker pair for 1/4 of a lap. Man, that was the toughest ever! The results are beyond magnificent.
I completed four total laps: one full lap (with Harlem Hill) followed by three speed laps (skipped Harlem Hill). Eighteen (18) Total Achievements: 7 Personal Records, 4 Second Bests, 4 Third Bests. 7 + 4 + 4 = 15. The other three came from multiple achievements per segment.
To put things in perspective, here are my times:
|The “ACTUAL” Harlem Hill||2:09||1:54||1:39|
|Central Park Full Loop||25:24||23:34||18:15|
|Empire Speed Skating Loop Central Park||31:10||22:42||18:18|
|Cat Hill Climb||1:39||1:00||0:54|
*Not sure what happened that segment, I must have got really tired or enjoying the view. Most likely the latter.
Now it’s time for some sushi as a reward!
September 25th, 2012
There are tons of bicycles out there and since I got mine, a lot of people have been asking me for help on what they should get. I won’t tell you what kind you should get – answer that for yourself. I’ll just provide a guide to help you make a decision.
Another thing to keep in mind is that I intended to get a bicycle to give myself a workout. I’m also a pretty lazy person, so I don’t want to do a lot to maintain the bicycle. I bought a fixed gear track bike from an online bike store (State Bicycle) and had it assembled at a nearby shop. I LOVE MY BIKE.
What kind of bicycle should I get?
Bicycle types are based on intent of use and usually line up with a specific frame, tire, and gear combination. You don’t necessarily have to go with the norm and put different types of gearing and tires on any type of frame. There are common sense no-nos like putting a thin track tires on a mountain bike, plus it just looks dumb as hell.
First, find out what you want to do with your bike and paths (terrain type) around your area. That will help you find out what type of route you’ll most likely be taking on your bike and what type of bike fits.
|Cruiser||Single||Semi tread||Comfort riding|
|Road||Multiple||Thin, no tread||Paved roads with steep hills|
|Track||Fixed||Thin, no tread||Paved roads with low grade hills|
|Mountain||Multiple||Fat, super treaded||Off road, crazy terrain|
Gearing is not as simple as one gear or multiple gears. Fixed and Single Speeds look pretty much the same, so be sure to ask what it is, but most importantly take it for a test drive.
- Fixed Gear – If the wheel spins, the pedals spin. Pedal backward and you’ll be moving backward. No coasting.
- Single Speed Freewheel – Coasting is available. If you pedal backwards, nothing really happens beside a lot of clicking.
- Single Speed Coaster Brake – Coasting is available. If you pedal backwards, you brake.
- Derailleur Gears – Multiple gears. Great for lots of uphill climbs and tons of speed. Less reliable than single geared bikes.
Gear ratios are important for fixed and single speed bikes. A higher gear ratio means a tough start, but you get higher speeds. A lower gear ratio means an easier start, especially on hills, but you’ll be pedaling like a crazy person trying to go really fast. This is why many prefer multiple gears so they can have a range of gear ratios to pick from.
What should I pay attention to when test driving a bicycle?
I highly recommend test driving a few bicycles before purchasing one. Even though I didn’t test drive a lot of types of bikes, I knew I wanted a bike for the city and a fixed gear was already in my sights.
- Posture. Do you prefer to be in an aggressive posture (like a crotch rocket), relaxed with back straight up (like a Harley), or somewhere in the middle?
- Tires. Fat tread tires (mountain bike) or skinny no tread tires (track bike – most fixed and road bikes are).
- Weight. Different frames and components make a big difference. Frames: steel vs. chromoly vs. aluminum vs. carbon fiber vs. cardboard.
- Fixed vs. Everything. Fixed gear bikes’ crank will always be moving when the back wheel is moving! It feels awkward at first and on sharp turns, you have to be aware of your toes not hitting the front tire. Happens to me a lot, but it’s easy to adjust.
After riding my fixed gear bike for about two months, I will most likely be looking to get a track bike with gears next. Not to replace, but complement riding around the city. It will allow me to go on longer rides and on hilly terrain. I’d compare it to getting a compact car and a truck – two totally separate functions and one isn’t “better” than the other.
I can identify a few positive and negative things though:
|Fixed gear speeding down hills!||Fixed gear climbing hills suck|
|Track tires: low rolling resistance||Track tires: low shock absorbance|
|Fixed gear low leaning/sharp cornering: pedals can hit the ground and/or front tire|
|Frame geometry: aggressive posture|
|A fixed gear bike looks clean as hell|
I didn’t cover all kinds of bicycles here. I don’t think anyone can ever do that. There are just way too many, so just do as much research as you need. Most importantly, just go out and test drive a bicycle at a local shop and see what you like.
August 24th, 2012
Since I moved to New York late January of 2011, I have always said I would get a bicycle. Laziness, research, procrastination, uncertainty, and the fear of riding on the streets of NYC have all deterred me…until now. I would like to introduce all of you to Contessa. She’s a State Bicycle – Contender and I have had her for about a month now.
My first bike ride around Central Park changed my life. I didn’t really think I would stay in New York much longer, but this bicycle has completely rebooted my future with this city. Since I’m only a few avenues away from Central Park, it’s easy to take a ride. I’ve taken a whole new view and loving every pedal of it.
I have even taken this bike from my place to East Village, West Side, up/down Park Avenue, but I still need to take it on the West Side Highway, over a few bridges (Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Queensboro, and George Washington Bridge), and around some other islands (Governors Island, Roosevelt Island, and Randalls Island).
I have been timing myself using Strava and today’s ride was quite significant – I have a few new personal records:
- Central Park Full Loop: 23:34
- The “ACTUAL” Harlem Hill: 1:54
- Fastest speed: 65.7km/h (~40.82 mph)
After just a month, I have been able to shave off:
- Central Park Full Loop: 1:50
- The “ACTUAL” Harlem Hill: 46 seconds
Just to be clear, all these are based on Strava’s calculations with my phone in my pocket, so I’m sure there are a few discrepancies. Either way, I’m having tons of fun with this bike and most importantly – I’m working out again. Feels fucking great.
Shout out to Shey for assisting in the bicycle purchase.