Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Do you feel like the only kid on the block who doesn't use travel apps? It's time. PCMag.com’s Lead Mobile Analyst Sascha Segan has named the 10 free travel apps that will make traveling—or planning your next trip—simple.
1. Google Maps. The single most useful travel app is available on every smartphone, and in fact on any Web phone. Google Maps tells you where you are, where anything else is, and how to get between those two spots. When I needed diapers in
2. TripIt. There are a lot of "travel management" programs out there that help you keep track of things like flight confirmation numbers, hotel confirmation numbers and such. I prefer TripIt, because it's extremely good at parsing the confirmation emails you get from hotels and airlines. TripIt has apps for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone, and you can access your data from even the simplest phones by sending them to m.tripit.com.
3. TripCase. Sabre's TripCase does a few awesome things TripIt doesn't do. TripCase gives you continually updated flight delay and gate status for your flights, and suggests alternate flights if you're about to miss yours. That said, it can be a bear to import more than just basic flights into TripCase; you often end up generating multiple duplicate itineraries and having to merge them. So I use both TripCase and TripIt. TripCase is available for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and iPhone.
4. Kayak. There are many travel-booking apps, but Kayak is my pick for the simplest, smoothest, easiest, quickest and most complete. The app lets you search for flights, hotels, and car rentals using Kayak's reliable meta-search engine, which captures the fares both from travel agencies and from vendors' own sites. Kayak's apps are available for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone.
5. Yelp. Yelp is the king of the user-review sites - especially for restaurants in major American cities - and their mobile app is an excellent way to search for places to eat. The Yelp app is available for BlackBerry and iPhone, but other phone owners can go to m.yelp.com with their browsers.
6. WeatherBug. WeatherBug delivers a solid experience across a range of OSes including Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Mobile and Nokia. Beyond basic weather, it does a few tricks like integrating with your contact list and letting you tap on maps to see how the weather is where you're going.
7. SitOrSquat. Need to pee? SitOrSquat is a crowdsourced bathroom locator that can take you a step beyond the old mainstay of hotel lobbies in most
8. JiWire Wi-Fi Finder. If you travel internationally with an iPhone, you know you basically have to turn off cellular data, or when you get back to the States, you'll find your house mortgaged to AT&T. JiWire's WiFi Finder only exists as an app for iPhone, but iPhoners really need it; it tells you where the next little puddle of Wi-Fi will be for you to huddle in while you desperately transfer information from the Internet.
9. Priceline Hotel Negotiator. Priceline’s Hotel Negotiator app, available only on the iPhone, lets you book last-minute hotels at super-cheap rates up until 11 PM ET.
10. Google SMS. A lot of people don't have smartphones, or they're in places where their smartphones' data plans don't work. If you SMS some search terms to 46645 - that's "GOOGL" - you'll get Google search results back as a series of texts.
Thanks to PCMag.com’s Lead Mobile Analyst Sascha Segan.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I seem to spend at least once a month in physical therapy at Dynamic Sports PT (www.dynamicsportspt.com ) because I have a tendency to injure myself either from running or lifting weights either too heavy or the wrong way. And even though I bike a great deal, I’ve never had a cycling-related injury.
According to Dynamic Sports PT therapists Jon, Pete and Michelle, long hours on a bike can lead to unwanted chronic neck pain. Here are their tips to avoid it:
1. See a bike ergonomist before you go riding
Be sure to see the bike ergonomist at your local bike shop. You'll want a professional to make sure you are correctly positioned while riding. This helps alleviate and avoid unnecessary strain.
2. Use a pillow that supports your neck properly
Get a pillow made specifically for side or back sleepers. The goal is to keep your neck as straight as possible. Avoid using too many pillows.
3. Stretch before and while riding
Before you start your ride stretch your neck muscles by turn your head to the left and right. Hold each side for 30 seconds. Then tuck your chin to your chest. Again hold for 30 seconds.
Since a lot of your riding time is spent in the aerodynamic position (an end range position) it's important to break the position and give your muscles a rest. About every 30 minutes sit up straight. You can then roll your neck to the left, back, right and front.
It's time to see someone…if you ever have pain that radiates to your arm or hand. This pain indicates a more serious problem and you'll want a medical professional to take a look.
Dynamic Sports, which has gotten me back to working out in record time after my various injuries, times is located midtown at 133 east 55th St. Call them at: 212-317-8303.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Many of the people on my triathlon team work out twice a week with personal trainers. As they’re all much faster than me, I decided to treat myself to three months with my own personal trainer. This was a good thing, because alone, I would not drag myself to the weight room, and I had every excuse NOT to join a strength-training class at my gym.
I LOVED my new trainer. He understood my weaknesses, he never looked at himself in the mirror, he cared about me and what I’d eaten before I came and if I’d properly warmed up, and he always asked how was my body feeling. For three months, it was working perfectly. I felt stronger and fitter than ever before. But then he seemed to be stressed in his own personal life – and started telling me his problems (studying for a degree AND training), and letting me know how tired he was. And then he seemed to become a little sloppy. He’d wait for me to do 6 or 7 reps of something before correcting me. And then, one morning I came in and he handed me a VERY HEAVY (45 lb) weight for dead lifts. I told him the weight was too heavy. Nonsense he said. We’d been working out about 7 minutes since the session started. I hurt my back because of the heavy weight. His response? Stop the session right now – no make-up class, no refund, no apology. What he said to me was, “If you’re going to train, you’re going to get injured.”
THIS IS SO UNTRUE! Both a famous HSS surgeon to sports people said it was nonsense and so did the fitness director of my gym. Now, I am taking classes. They are every bit as hard, the results are excellent, and I’m feeling good again.
I asked the fitness manager of Equinox 54th Street, Rolando Garcia, if one really needs a private trainer. “If you have specific needs,” he said, “a personal trainer is better. A trainer can adapt the workout to your injury or imbalance. A trainer progresses you. A class is one-size-fits all. Go to Sears and buy what’s on the rack. A personal trainer gives you a bespoke piece of clothing, cut just to you.”
A personal trainer, he said, will also correct you (instructors teaching class cannot correct everyone at once) and stretch you.
So what have I decided to do? I am sticking with the classes – for now. I know my weaknesses, the personal training has taught me proper form, and I know how much weight I should use with both dumb bells and body bars. So for me, the group thing works – not to mention all the money I’m saving per week.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
You know those "diverting of funds" junk emails that manage to clog your mailbox? Dearest Madame, they begin. And it’s always a poor widow or widower who found my name, who needs to get money out of the country and all I have to do is send my name, ss#, and bank account #. This sham has extended to those calling themselvs members of the Armed Forces who claim they need to get the money out of Iraq or Afghanistan. It is APPALLING. So here’s what I’m doing, and I hope you’ll follow my lead:
I am now responding to all of those phony appeals with the message, “I'm calling the police.” It makes me feel better because I know they are scared. But, I want to share this email which I received after I sent back my “I’m calling the police” message. It just goes to show they will stop at NOTHING!
(The spelling is exactly the way the email arrived)
I guess they just don’t give up!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I am gasping – my heartbeat monitor reads 148 -- even though I’m just standing there listening to running coach Spencer Casey of Terrier Tri http://www.terriertri.com We’ve just done warm-up, strides (which I consider a full workout) and even though everyone else has already recovered, I’m still winded. I don’t like strides, but Spencer says they improve leg turnover and build muscle memory ---and God knows I need all the memory I can get – so I do them. The goal of a stride is to be quick, light, stay tall, and get your knees up high. My knees don’t like that. Nor do my hips.
“Okay, we’re doing a tempo run today,” he says. (Tempo running trains your body to sustain speed over distance). The Ironmen group are to run six miles, the Olympic and sprint will do 4 miles, then we are to meet back at the southern end of the Park for speed work. “It’s a hard workout,” Spencer says, “But it will make you tough.”
I head off early (because I need every extra second I can get), but soon the group has overtaken me on Cat Hill. Now I’m running alone -- as usual. Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated when you’re breathing like a panting dog and you wonder if Cat Hill will ever end. My heart rate monitor reads 152 – will I just crumple over and die if it gets any higher? I take a short cut through the Reservoir (because otherwise the entire team will be finished with speed work and I’ll just be arriving there). I run on the soft earth and see my heart rate has dropped. I tell myself, Come on, go faster.
I am moving like a slug – I wish it were over and I were now smiling at Derek, the vegetable juice guy on 52nd and Lex, my treat after a workout. But this workout has just started, and I need a plan to keep me going. Usually, I can think of little Cody, the challenged 7-year-old athlete who never gives up but today, that doesn’t work http://www.challengedathletes.org So I try a new approach and tell myself: I don’t have sinus, I don’t have shin splints, no plantar fasciitis, I don’t have my usual hamstring attachment pain, and I have no cold or cough. So shut up and run. The day is perfect – 60s. My health is perfect. And so what if I’m gasping? Just ahead is a twenty-something girl with a blond pony-tail. She’s not running very fast. GO GET HER MARGIE. I do. I actually pass someone in the Park! HAPPINESS! Granted, two minutes later, she passes me back because I’m out of breath again, but so what? Isn’t life just a series of moments?
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I have just returned from a MOST AWESOME private bike camp in Aspen (CTS: Carmichael Training Systems (http://www.trainright.com) with the extraordinary Coach Jane Rynbrandt, who not only drove from Colorado Springs, but just so I wouldn’t have to lug my custom Seven from NYC to Aspen, she brought me a demo Trek Modone OCCV carbon – just 12 pounds and so light I could pick it up with three fingers. In this two-day high altitude climbing camp, we did Maroon Bells day one (oh my aching legs) and Ashcroft (much easier) day two. Part of CTS camps is they have you ride with a Power Tap, a sweet computer which they then download onto a computer which gives you your watts, intensity, strength, speed, calories burned – this little gadget does everything but make your coffee. After Day 1, Jane showed me the graph and told me that at one point, I’d come down Maroon Bells at 38.6 mph. I think that’s faster than I’ve ever come down a hill in my entire life (then again, I’ve never gone down such a steep hill). I emailed a good marathoner from Wisconsin and told her about my speed and she wrote back:
"38.6 mph?! Are you crazy, Margie?! I can't believe it. I'm a total WIMP when it comes to going fast on my bike downhill. I think the fastest I've hit is maybe 24 mph. I always brake a lot because I don't want to wipe out and break a lot of bones. I've seen too many people in my health club -- younger and fitter -- with terrible bike injuries. Still, my goal is always to get myself to go a little faster downhill without being afraid. Any tips?”
I was also a wimp when I first started riding as an adult, and used to have sore palms from squeezing my brakes so hard. Then I joined NYCC (New York Cycle Club), and while I was with the 18mph group, I noticed they all went down Harlem Hill much faster than me. Here I was squeezing and they were flying and I was so terrified I would be “dropped” (left behind) once we left Central Park and headed out to points west across the GW Bridge, that I started gripping the brakes a little less each time we went down the hill. And one day I dared myself NOT to brake (as none of them ever used their brakes) – I was up to 23mph, FLYING! And since I didn’t crash, I realized I COULD do this. So, if you’re a hill wimp, just slowly slowly ease off a little more on the brakes each time you do a hill, and eventually, you, too, will be screaming with joy as the wind hits your face (and not the pavement!).
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sometimes I wonder why I am trying to keep up with a group of triathletes www.terriertri.com who are all so much faster than me? This morning in Central Park, our running coach, Spencer Casey, had us do hill repeats (that is, after strides and a warm-up from Bethesda Fountain to Cherry Hill). Of course I was last to arrive for the warm-up – but I always am. Truthfully, it doesn’t bother me –they are mostly half my age, and I tell myself that hey – it doesn’t matter that I’m so much slower (well, it wouldn’t if I weren’t so competitive, but in my mind, I’m still 20 and can beat everyone in sight). So, we started up the hill – after about three seconds, they were almost up the hill and I was huffing and puffing, Spencer was standing in the middle of the hill and he said, “Nice job, Margie.” Now you KNOW what it’s like when a coach says to you, nice job! So I kept going, got to the top, ran down to the bottom and started hill repeat #1. (We were to do the hill repeats for 35, 40, or 45 minutes, depending on whether we were training for Olympic, half or Ironman distance triathlons). So here I was, starting up hill #2, and EVERYONE passed me – of course – including Lucy, who is really a super-athlete and always yells out encouragement to me as she streaks by as only she can. (This is how fast Lucy is: Robert Penino, the founder of Terriertri, was also there doing the workout, and told Lucy to SLOW DOWN!!!! I still don’t know why. Hope Lucy beats his butt in the next triathlon (GO STRONG WOMEN!). In any event, now I am huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf although Baadddd is the last thing on my mind. I’m up to the 4th hill repeat – Lucy and everyone else passed me AGAIN. But you know what? IT’S OKAY!!!! Because people like Lucy and Bob and Aerial would just say “GO MARGIE” every time they went whizzing by. So next time you smoke by a slowbie, give them a little encouragement. It sure made my run amazing!
Friday, May 14, 2010
Yesterday at 6:30am in Central Park, at 72nd Street on the east side loop, a cyclist smashed into the barrier, did a head over heels, and had to be taken away by ambulance. Last week, a woman was riding north (the WRONG WAY) on Second Avenue; a taxi stopped and its door opened – not to the curb, but to the street. The cyclist was “doored,” but as she fell, she slid into traffic and was hit by an oncoming vehicle.
At least two to three times a week, I ride from my apartment (a block or so from the East River), uptown and west to Central Park. I always feel safe once I’m in the park, but I hate riding through traffic. Although there are some who consider road rash a badge of honor, I don’t like pain, bruises, or scratches.
They say that when it comes to biking, there are only two types of cyclists: those who have fallen, and those who WILL fall. I belong to that prestigious cult of eminent cyclists who had suffered a spill, brushed themselves off, and gotten back on their bikes – I hope I never have to renew my subscription to this club.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
THE AMERICAN WOMAN: OUR IDENTITY THROUGH CLOTHES
It’s not often that I go to costume exhibitions, but with all the buzz about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (http://www.metmuseum.org/) new show, “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity,” not to mention the hoards of “A” listers who showed up in all their finery including co-chairs from Oprah and Anna Wintour, I decided to play hooky, and check it out. The show explores perceptions of the modern American woman from the 1890s to the 1940s; in it, you will see 80 examples of jaw-gaping haute couture with every designer from Charles Frederick to Jean Patou.
For me, it’s about much more than the clothes– it’s about how we evolved and who we are now. Stroll through eight curved galleries, each with a hand-painted stage set evoking the ambience of that epoch. In the first gallery with its stage set evoking the ballroom of the “HEIRESS” (1890s), I wondered what it would be like had I been a “trustafarian,” raised to become a “conventional lady” (i.e., a “good girl.” In which strict rules of etiquette governed her behavior and appearance. Had I lived then, I’d have different outfits for morning, afternoon, and evening, all from the finest fashion houses in Europe. I think I could have taken that lifestyle for about 10 minutes.
The next gallery “GIBSON GIRL” (1890s), is much more my style. The dressed here are long and white for tennis (hard to race to a ball that way), full-length black for riding horses (did they ride side-saddle?) and ankle-length brown suits for biking. (The first bifurcated skirt appeared at this time, so at least I would have been able to keep up with the guys). The Gibson Girl was tall, slender, with long limbs, classical features, and thick dark hair in a chignon, She was the new woman, and the sports she played -- golf, tennis, riding, cycling, and swimming --exemplified her increasing independence and self-determination. I could easily live with that.
Next is BOHEMIAN (early 1900s) that took it a step beyond the Gibson Girl. The idea of a career for women did not yet exist, so the Bohemian collected art and organized museum exhibitions. The BEST thing about this decade is that she wore looser fitting clothes and ditched her corset (so why on earth did we create its iteration, Spanks?) The Bohemian’s clothes were of gold and bright colors, strongly influenced by Orientalism – think Opera coats and kimonos.
And then, all those sumptuous silks were put away for THE PATRIOT AND THE SUFFRAGIST 1910s, when the American woman demanded the right to vote. When the US entered World War I (April 6, 1917), patriots included more than 40,000 females. She marched in her tricolors of purple/white/and green) – her dress was part of her protest. On August 18, 1920, she earned the right to vote, only 80 years ago – still, there are women who don’t get out and vote. (Before moving on, I lingered here to watch archival film footage of women at work in the War -- well worth watching and I’m going to return to see all of the film).
I loved THE FLAPPER (1920s) clothes. In this decade, American women transformed themselves from suffragist to flapper. She had her political freedom, now she rejected Victorian prudishness and became sexually free. She wore bright red lipstick, cut her hair short, drank bootleg gin, smoked Lucky Strikes, danced the Charleston, and was a flirt. She was slim, athletic, hipless, waistless, and flat-chested, a symbol of sleek modernity, just like the NYC skyline.
The 1930s was the Golden Age of Hollywood. I moved into THE SCREEN SIREN gallery and looked at old footage of the 30s screen stars. By now, the American woman was sensuous, assertive, self-confident, and completely independent, just like us. She was glamorous, especially in her evening attire, and I could have worn anyone of those gorgeous draped, twisted, and wrapped costumes that were displayed.
I walked into the final gallery, a montage of faces of THE AMERICAN WOMAN from 1890s - 2010. Not much has changed for us in terms of attitude since the 20s – we’re still slim, even more athletic, and we can dance like the flapper, but we’re also sleek, sensual, and glamorous like the screen sirens. Hard to believe that in just 120 years, we’ve freed ourselves of corsets, girdles, and straps – both physically and mentally. If you’re in New York City, trust me – get to the Met and see the exhibition – from now through August 15th.
Friday, May 7, 2010
I love Central Park in all seasons – to walk, run, and bike in it. I love the park after a fresh snowfall when I’m the first to make footprints on the Great Lawn; and I love the park in the rain when no one’s around and I can wail “I’m Singing in the Rain” at the top of my lungs. In the summer, when it’s hot, there’s always a shady tree; and in autumn, I am mesmerized by the elms and maples cloaked in brilliant hues.
I used to run in the park without really seeing all it has to offer. Now, I rarely stick to the loop. I run on the pathways, under the bridges, through the Ramble and around the pond to the waterfalls in the west 90’s. Sure, I still count mileage. I know that the upper Reservoir track is 1.57 miles and the Bridle Path is 1.66, but I also know that the trees on the eastern side of the Reservoir are Yoshino Cherry trees, and the western side of the reservoir has Kwanzan cherries. My favorite spot is the North Woods where little has changed since the 1850’s and I feel as though I’m somewhere in the Adirondacks. On each run, I find something I’ve never seen before -- the Wisteria Pergola overlooking the Mall or the 13 original colonies engraved into the concrete walk above the fountain of the Conservatory Garden. If it weren’t for Central Park, I’d have no city oasis. I wanted to give back to my park in some way, but I wasn’t sure how. So I endowed a
bench. You can too – or endow a tree or a paving stone near Literary Walk. Just go to www.centralparknyc.org
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Bored? Tired? Depressed? It has been said, “Move a muscle, change a thought.” Go outside and walk around the block. Breathe. Don’t want to walk? Be a kid – find a swing set – you’ll be surprised how joyful flying in the air can make you feel.
The very word “exercise” can feel like a brick wall, so instead of thinking of it as a barrier, let’s take this brick by brick. “Exercise” as a word can be daunting. Instead, try and think of it as “movement.” Just say to yourself, I am going to put on my sneakers, get dressed – even if it’s raining or snowing or hot – and go outside for just ten minutes. That’s all. Ten lousy minutes. I am going to run/walk/bike/skip – whatever kind of movement I enjoy – for ten little minutes.
Then, if you still hate it, you have earned the right to go back indoors and become your usual sluggish self. But I promise you, 99%, that after only five minutes, you’re going to say, Hey, this is kind of fun—or, I LIKE being outside – or, this isn’t half as hard as I thought AND it will give you a chance to be alone with your thoughts. Try it – you’ve got nothing to lose but ten minutes.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Do one thing every day that scares you,
said Eleanor Roosevelt.
I try to do something scary at least once a month. The rest of the time I force myself to try new things –a very long run or visiting a museum exhibition or checking out a new neighborhood or activity. I find many excuses for not doing something, but I also know, if you don’t go, you don’t know, so, most of the time, I “go for it.” The purpose of my blog is to inspire reader also to “go for it.” Feel free to respond and/or ask questions about anything -- if I don't have the answers, I'll try and find them.