Family

Support My Nephew’s Youth Baseball League

Donate to Youth Baseball

Although I don’t see him as often as I did just after he was born, I spent a lot of time with my nephew around the New Year. One of the things that we share is that he likes baseball.

My brother, my nephew and I sit in the Dodgers dugout during a January 2019 tour of Dodger Stadium.

My dad, my brother, my nephew, and I all toured Dodger Stadium one January afternoon, and after that he wanted to practice catching fly balls in the outfield.

Alex gets put in the outfield a lot, and he wants to get better. Here he practices catching a fly ball.

On more than one occasion, I practiced with him a bit for his league. Much like his Tío, he likes to hit to the opposite field.

Alex hits the ball to the opposite field

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see him play because, in what is certainly usual for Southern California, his game was rained out. Instead, we played a port of NES Baseball that came with his Nintendo Switch.

Old Meets New: The Nintendo Switch port of NES Baseball.

I found it funny that we were playing a game that…

  • is as old as his dad, and
  • I found downright primitive compared when it was around. RBI Baseball was a much better game.

Thankfully, it doesn’t always rain, and he’s been playing in a real league. My brother occasionally pings me with updates about some of his feats. He reported that Alex got an RBI and later scored run on his first at-bat of a game last month.

His youth league is raising funds for field repairs, building a snack bar, and keeping the league running. I peeked at the league’s most recent IRS Form 990, and I noted a couple of things:

  • This is an all-volunteer effort: no one gets paid,
  • It is expensive to run a baseball and softball league for 400 children. Expenses ran over $200,000 in 2015.

I donated $50, but if you can spare $10 or so, it would go a long way to helping these kids enjoy this game.


Digital Estate Planning

At some point last night, someone tried to change the password on my Facebook account. My account has been deactivated since last August, but I learned about this intrusion attempt because I received a notification alerting me to that fact. By the way, it’s well-know that the easiest way to get into someone’s account—Facebook, email, and any other account—is to request a new password, provided you can access your target’s email or know the answer to a challenge question.

As far as I can tell, no one accessed my email or my Facebook account. Nonetheless, I went into my Facebook account to make sure no one did anything fishy. While going over my security settings, I saw that I can assign a trusted Facebook friend to take care of my account after I die, known as a legacy contact. For this bit of digital estate planning, I appointed my brother to act as an executor.

Facebook has a whole process in place to deal with someone’s death, including memorializing the account or permanently deleting it.

Come to think of it, dying might be the only way to ever fully delete your Facebook account. Logging in to my account was really easy, and everything was there just like I remembered it. Having a deactivated account for sixteen months didn’t erase any bit of my presence there.

Going Rogue for Breast Cancer Awareness

Something is different this year than the previous two. My brother and I won’t be riding in a Breast Cancer Awareness Ride this year.

Apparently frustrated with their inability to cure breast cancer despite creating all that awareness, Trek is not sponsoring a tenth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Ride for 2015. In the past, Trek bicycle retailers around the country would organize a 10-mile or 25-mile ride to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The entire thirty-dollar registration fee would go to this organization.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juanomatic/15544198455/in/album-72157646436768233/

In 2013 and 2014, my brother and I rode this ride at Two Wheels One Planet, in Costa Mesa, California. Because my brother now has to take his son to soccer each Saturday morning, he said would not been able to go to Costa Mesa to participate this year. I suggested that he look for another location to at least ride ten miles before his son’s game, but that’s when we learned that Trek is not sponsoring a ride this year.

Raffled

However, that did not stop a number of bicycle retailers from going rogue and organizing their own ride throughout the month of October. Two Wheels One Planet is one such shop. They will be hosting their ride today, on Saturday, October 17, and donating the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

Kuods to TWOP and other shops that have continued to organize their own rides, even it’s without the support of a major bicycle manufacturer.

The Face of an Angel

Remember last year when I was visiting a number of small brewing companies and getting a photo of myself enjoying a flight of their products?

One of the places I visited around that time was Angel City Brewing near downtown Los Angeles, and my mother, of all people, got a photo of me anticipating a flight of their beers.

Angel City Brewing

Late last week, I learned from my brother that LA Thrillist used that photo to illustrate their write-up on a click-baity, listicle about “43 Los Angeles Bars You Need To Drink In Before You Die.”

I hold a flight of five beers at Angel City Brewing

As some of you know, this is not the first time that someone has used one of my photos to illustrate a web article. Earlier this year, I learned that Curbed used one of “my” photos of the Four Seasons restaurant in the Phillip Johnson–designed Seagram Building. Similarly, DNA Info used one of my photos of Manhattanhenge from Long Island City after LIC became a hotspot for seeing the sun set in line with the Manhattan grid. And these are the ones I know about.

A quick web search revealed a few other uses of my photos, including:

Keep in mind, there’s nothing specifically improper about these uses. I made all of those photos available under a specific Creative Commons license allowing anyone to use my work as long as it is attributed and not used for a commercial purpose. Nonetheless, it would have been nice to receive an email or a comment on the Flickr page alerting me to the appropriating of my work: something like, “Hey dude, we used for your photo for an article on a ‘bucket list’ of awesome bars in Los Angeles. Hope you check it out.”

But at least it’s nice knowing that my photos might bring people to some interesting places in downtown Los Angeles and midtown Manhattan, as well as Queens and Kentucky.

Can I Afford Los Angeles?

If you’ve been around me for the last few months, you’ve heard that I am not planning on staying in New York beyond May. Nothing is imminent at this time: I’m not planning on leaving, but I am seriously considering moving out of here to start a new different life .

Mom and Dad and LA City Hall

One of the places that makes a lot of sense for me to move is Los Angeles for a few compelling reasons:

  • I could be near my family. My entire family is in Southern California within 60 miles of downtown LA. It would be nice to be close to my brother, watch my nephew grow up, and be around my mom and dad while they’re still in good health.
  • I could ride my bike year-round. It was a pleasant treat to ride almost 200 miles over the holidays, and with year-round riding, I would someday be able to ride a double century or something crazy like that.
  • I could find work in my field. Even if I don’t teach, either part-time or full-time, I could still work in IT and media like I do at NYU-TV. And talking with a stranger at a bar in West Hollywood during my most recent trip, I learned that there a exciting prospects for me there.
  • I could still have a kind of big-city life. I know very well that LA and New York are very different, and I would be a fool to think that I can transplant my life here out there. Instead, I would be open to finding and making great things out there. I still get excited every time I visit and feel a little frustrated that I didn’t do as much as I would have liked before I have to head “back east.”

Unfortunately, as I learned while listening to KPCC’s The Breakdown, I probably could not afford to live there:

You need to earn at least $33 an hour — $68,640 a year — to be able to afford the average apartment in Los Angeles County, according to Matt Schwartz, president and chief executive of the California Housing Partnership, which advocates for affordable housing.

The news is not all that bad. First, this report quotes average not median prices. I might not be affected since I’m used to being a below-average renter. Second, I would likely find a job that pays above this $68,000 figure, so I wouldn’t be in too bad of shape. The point of this report is to simply show how impossible it would be to get by with the proposed $13.25 minimum wage for the city of Los Angeles.

However, my prospects turn gloomier should I want to buy a home. I would need to earn significantly more to afford the median-priced home.

In order to afford to purchase the median-priced home in Los Angeles, you’d need to earn $96,513 a year, according to HSH.com, a mortgage information website.

The most surprising finding from this report was that Los Angeles was the least affordable city in the United States—something that should surprise people in San Francisco, New York, or Washington, DC. It’s not that housing is the most expensive in the nation’s second largest city, it’s just that wages are lower, making it harder for the average worker to afford the average apartment.

A Late But Enthusiastic Adopter

Adam Sternbergh recently wrote a lengthy explainer on Emoji, those Japanese icons that have pervaded our text and instant messages. One aspect of the article caught my attention. Speaking from the perspective of a Gen-Xer, he notes that communicating in Emoji has been especially popular with “our” parents:

Many people I spoke to relayed that their moms were the most enthusiastic adopters of emoji they knew. One woman said that her near-daily text-message-based interaction with her mother consists almost entirely of strings of emoji hearts. Another woman, with a septuagenarian mother, revealed to me that her mom had recently sent a text relaying regret, followed by a crying-face emoji—and that this was possibly the most straightforwardly emotional sentiment her mother had ever expressed to her. 

As a data point, I offer my own mother.

Over the last few months, my mother began messaging me, which she almost never did in favoring of calling me, and increasingly started to insert a series of Emojis in each message. She ends each communication with the Older Woman Emoji, which acts as a signature for her messages.

I have to admit that the Mac OS/ iOS version of the Older Woman Emoji does look a bit like my mom but only because of her grey hair, which she’s had since her thirties. My mom would have to take off her glasses, pull her hair back, and put on some lipstick to really look like the Apple version of Older Woman Emoji.

And when she wants to include a reference to my dad, she inserts the Man Emoji. Again, the Apple version of this Emoji does resemble my father, or at least when he was a bit younger.

That’s pretty impressive when you consider that only four years ago, my mother referred to every digital device she ever encountered as “that thing.”

Costa Mesa to Costa Mesa…and then to Carlsbad

Much like we did last year, my brother and I rode for breast cancer awareness. The ride was organized by Two Wheels One Planet, a bike shop in Costa Mesa, California, although there were scores of other rides organized throughout the country that day.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juanomatic/15544198455/in/set-72157646436768233

As cynical as I am about these kinds of charity rides, riding again this year gave me time to reflect on how another year has passed, and our mother, who has had cancer twice is still with us. Maybe we didn’t find a cure along our twenty-plus mile ride, but I did find that I am grateful that my mother (and everyone else close to us) is cancer-free for another year. I also got a chance to ride a bike in a different state.

Charity Ride in Costa Mesa

Trip 3623646 map full

Like most charity rides of this distance, this ride wasn’t what I would call a challenge. It was great, however, for families and beginners to ride on a beautiful day along a lovely course for a cause. Almost the entire ride followed a bike path that surrounds a bay and then we proceed to another bike path running parallel to I-405. There’s a climb or two but nothing requiring any great effort.

Like last year, I rented a bike instead of shipping my own. But instead of renting from a bike shop, I used Spinlister, which I have never used before even if I have listed my own bike there for rent. Last year’s bike was a beautiful red steel Serrota with Dura Ace components. It was overkill for this ride. This year, I got something a little less upscale: a late-1990s Cannondale alumninum frame with Ultrega components, which cost about $50 for the whole weekend.

Coast Ride to Carlsbad

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juanomatic/15513261076/

Knowing that a ride like this would be a bit ordinary for me, I lobbied to have my brother do a ride elsewhere, such as one in Ventura that included a 75-mile route. Such a ride would be more up to par for my weekend riding habits and he could still ride about 25 miles. My brother made the point, however, that riding in Costa Mesa would allow him to take his wife and son to Legoland, a mere 55 miles to the south in Carlsbad, after the ride. Each member of his family has a season pass so they go quite often. But having moved out of California a couple of years after the park opened in 1999, I had never been, and this seemed like a good opportunity to finally visit. My parents joined in the fun, too.

Since I had such a nice bike, I planned a route to meet everyone in Carlsbad. My mom thought I was crazy to ride that far, and my brother and dad both insisted that I load up the bike and take a ride with them. But I wasn’t having any of it and responded with my usual wise crack, “if you know a better way to get to Legoland, I’d like to hear it.”

Trip 3623640 map full

After riding twenty-two miles with my brother for breast cancer awareness, I hit the road at about 12:45 PM towards Carlsbad. The ride was about 60 miles, from Costa Mesa, to our hotel in Vista, a few miles east of Legoland. My route followed PCH most of the way, and the route was beautiful. There was a highway to the left, a beach to the right, and miles of open road ahead of me.

Another thing that was a treat on this particular ride was the condition of the roads. Aside for a few rough patches here and there, they were in great condition. I finally had the confidence to glide down those hills with my hands off the brake levers and take some photos on the bike.1

Part of the ride went through Camp Pendelton. Marco, who rented me the bike, informed me in advance that I needed ID to ride through the military base, which I thankfully packed. When I presented the guard with my New York State ID, he noted that he was from New York. Sayville to be exact. I told him that I knew where that was. Of course, I only know that town because I’ve ridden through a few times, most recently over Labor Day weekend.

As I expected, it was not a flat ride. There were plenty of rolling hills along the way but no serious climbs. For most of the route, I was riding at about 18-20 MPH, which I almost never do, and I didn’t stop for lunch. My only stop was to gnaw on two energy bars and refill my water bottles at mile 30. Part of my hurried effort was because I was trying to arrive not much later than the rest of my family, who were all traveling by automobile piloted by lead-footed drivers.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juanomatic/15537780172/

Initially, I had planned to meet my brother, nephew, and sister-in-law at Legoland’s Brick or Treat night, which meant I should arrive not much later than 5:00 PM. However, the event sold out so I just headed to the hotel and had my parents take me for a much needed beer and burger.

After eighty miles of riding through unfamiliar roads, it was nice to revert to an old treasured cycling habit.


  1. By the way, it’s a lot harder to snap photos while piloting a bike with the larger form factor of the iPhone 6. I’m just saying. 

Hampton Jitney and My Distant Uncle

Eddie Duque shows his award-winning design for the Hampton Jitney 40th Anniversary Coach

The Hampton Jitney is celebrating its fortieth year of bussing people from New York to Long Island. For those of us who don’t have access to a car or helicopter to whisk us off to the Hamptons, we must make do with the Jitney or the Long Island Railroad, provided I don’t elect to bike there.

To commemorate the anniversary, they held a design contest for the 40th Anniversary Jitney Coach.

The results of the content were announced last week, but I didn’t see the message because it ended up in my spam folder. The winners were:

  1. Lynn Mara
  2. Eddie Duque
  3. Stephanie Baloghy
  4. Francis Quigley

I mention this because the second winner on this list is a distant family member. He is my mother’s half-brother’s brother-in-law. I think it makes him an uncle, despite being a bit younger than me.

It’s unlikely I’ll be out on Long Island again before the summer ends, but if you see the bus wrapped with a design that features the city skyline, the beach, and I-495 (i.e., the Long Island Expressway), that’s his design.

Way to go, tio!

We’re in the Photo

Last year, my brother and I rode in the fourth annual Trek Breast Cancer Awareness ride in honor of my mother, who has twice beaten breast cancer. Although the ride is national, individual bike shops organize rides in their cities. Last year, we rode from Two Wheels, One Planet in Costa Mesa, California, as that was en route from my brother’s place to Legoland in Carlsbad.

I wondered if the ride would happen again this year, as I longed for some pleasant memories, so I checked their website.

I not only saw that this year’s ride will be on October 11, again over Columbus Day Weekend, but also that my brother and I are in the photo that the shop features on their website.

BCAR_jpeg_STD_FINAL

We’re at the front of the pack. I’m wearing a grey t-shirt and riding a red Serrotta that I rented upon arriving in Southern California, and he’s right behind me decked out in a pink t-shirt and socks.

I talked with my brother, and we will very likely ride again, provided I can find an affordable flight over that weekend. Since it looks like that I won’t be riding in the Hilly Hundred this year, which falls on the same weekend, and I really want to ride with some family. There’s another ride in Ventura which not only includes a 10-mile and 25-mile route, but also a 75-mile loop to Santa Paula. My brother prefers to ride in Costa Mesa so he can go to Legoland again after the ride. If it’s miles that I’m after, I guess I could bike the additional sixty miles to Carlsbad and meet him there.

Flying 3,000 Miles to Pedal 22

The bicycle bug has bitten my brother. Years after his wife bought him a bicycle for a birthday present, he started to ride the bike in earnest over this past summer, including regularly pedaling ten miles, each way, to work.

This Saturday, he and I rode twenty-two miles together in Costa Mesa, California, to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The ride was a milestone for both of us. It was his first organized ride, and his first single ride longer than ten miles. And it was the first organized ride where I didn’t ride for pie or beer.

Family Gathering at Two Wheels, One Planet

Riding for Family at Two Wheels, One Planet

As skeptical as I am of these charity rides, I rode for family. Not only did my brother and I ride together, our mother has had breast cancer twice, most recently in 2011, and she benefitted both times in no small part due to early detection. Last year, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation withheld funding from Planned Parenthood, as a way of punishing the organization for its family planning efforts, I was furious. A significant number of poor and uninsured women get breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, and shortening the lives of adult women to protect the unborn seems counter to what I regard as “Christian values.” I swore I wouldn’t give a penny to that organization, and it soured me on similar breast cancer events. But I got over that since my brother was really excited about the ride, decking himself out in pink, and both my mom and dad, sister-in-law, and nephew came to meet us at the finish line. Also, this ride benefitted a different organization anyway.

The ride itself was very pleasant. We started from the Two Wheels, One Planet bike shop in Costa Mesa, and rode on two very nice multiuse trails, one around the Newport Bay and the other along the San Diego Creek.

Pedaling in Pink

Pedaling in Pink

Shipping one of my bikes seemed impractical so I rented one from Bicycle John’s, just a few miles from the Burbank airport. It was a neat little road bike: a steel Serotta frame with a mix of lightweight Ultegra and DuraAce components. Beautiful!

I raise my rented Serotta steel frame with high-end Shimano parts.

Why ship when you can rent?

Because my suitcase was getting full, I left my pedals and bike shoes at home and opted to ride with a set of track pedals and Converse high-tops. It kept me from breaking away since I couldn’t get good sprint going, but that meant I could escort my brother throughout the entire route. And he could keep up.

Two Wheels One Planet Ride

We finished about 100 minutes after we started. As I mentioned, the ride was a bit slow, averaging just under 13 miles per hour, but we made good time because we were on bicycle paths without stop signs and traffic signals. Flat rides, as this one was, can be both easy and difficult. Sure, it’s nice not to climb hills all day, but for every uphill, there’s usually a downhill, and that’s always nice. Also, climbing helps raise my heart rate, helping to sprint on flat terrain. If I maintain an even effort throughout a ride, my body won’t bother expend more than that effort.

My brother and my nephew at the finish line outside of Two Wheels, One Planet.

My brother and my nephew at the finish line outside of Two Wheels, One Planet.

At the finish, our family was there waiting for us. Not having my same “experience level” with organized rides, my brother didn’t attack the pizza, beer, and snack table as I did. We both did spend an hour browsing the wares inside the bike shop and watching people win prizes as our raffle-ticket numbers were never called. But what can you do? It’s family.