Category Archives: Fun

Slot car racing for the rest of us

I’ve always wondered about the slot car craze of the 70′. I heard so much about it. But I never did understand its lure. Unlike RC flying, slot car racing provides a racer with only one degree of control. You go fast, or even faster, until your slot car derails, and flies off a track.

After I bought a starter kit recently, I now appreciate why classic slot car racing can be a hobby, and not just a toy. I get that at the enthusiast end of the spectrum, die-hard collectors and racers build elaborate custom tracks and cars. I know that at the toy end of the spectrum, cheap slot car kits are available for $30 to keep toddlers entertained.

But the majority of potential customers for slot cars do not belong to either end of this spectrum. There is a reason why slot cars soon faded from the popular stage. Most casual users find the experience thrilling only for a brief moment. After an initial adrenaline rush, the game soon become repetitive and one-dimensional for casual users.

I have some ideas about what to do, with respect to issues I raised. I will talk about them at the end of this article. But first, I’ll document some of my experiences that you won’t find elsewhere online. Some of these pertain to a particular brand of HO-scale slot cars and tracks I bought. Some have to do with lack of accessories for casual racers such as myself. I modeled and 3D-printed these missing accessories. Readers with similar tracks and cars may download my 3D models, and print them on their own printers. Continue reading

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How to skate Mabrouk: 4 slalom components

This is part 2 of a series on Mabrouk. In this part I describe in excruciating details the four slalom components of Mabrouk previously summarized in What is Mabrouk: a slalom variant of Grapevine. I learned to skate a sustained Mabrouk by first practicing the four slalom components, and by connecting them with rudimentary transitions. I later refined these transitions to make the entire Mabrouk sequence flow, but that is for part 3 and beyond of this series.

Continue reading

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What is Mabrouk: a slalom variant of Grapevine

Mabrouk is a slalom variant of the figure skating move called Grapevine. The Grapevine skating pattern is described and diagramed as early as 1880 by Vandervell and Cox in “A System of Figure-skating”. The slalom version is presumably named after Swiss slalomer Eddy Mabrouk. Both Mabrouk and Grapevine employ the same exact 4 components, namely forward/backward criss-cross, and forward/reverse eagle.

While Mabrouk emphasizes curved patterns traced around equal-spaced cones forming a straight line, Grapevine strives to have the skater move in a streamline without giving explicit thoughts to slalom components. The difference can be seen in patterns they trace on the ground as presented below. Continue reading

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Asian-fit helmets are a lot of hot air

Asian Americans who bike or skate know that helmets sold in America are generally not shaped properly for Asian heads. This is a phenomenon alien to most non-Asian people. Lately some brands have come out with so-called “Asian Fit” models. After an extensive research, I think these are just hot air, except for possibly a few exceptions. Continue reading

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Wednesday Night Skate NYC

Wednesday Night Skate NYC is also known as WNS NYC. It’s one of several well-established groups in the city. Some say it’s the biggest group of them all. WNS is run by volunteers since the late 1990s. Every Wednesday from April to October, weather permitting, organizers show up wearing yellow-green vests at the south-side steps of Union Square around 7:45pm. By then a sizable crowd of skaters have already gathered at the steps. At 8pm an organizer gives a brief safety speech and introduces the route planner of the week, as even more skaters materialize all of a sudden at the steps. One organizer is appointed the leader of the day, and another the sweeper of the day. Folks are told not to skate ahead of the leader. The sweeper makes sure to leave no skater behind. Shortly after, skaters launch like a swarm of giant locusts, to descend upon the streets of New York City at dusk. The leader signals followers to take breaks at pre-designated stops along the route, so that the rest of the group may catch up, with the sweeper being the last person to arrive at each stop. The route circles back to Union Square, where a day’s skating concludes. Continue reading

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Slalom bladers at Corona Park

Slalom bladers practice at a well-paved area behind Mist Garden at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The surface of Mist Garden is quite smooth for inline skating as well, when it’s not spewing fog and mist. You will find Mist Garden right next to the Unisphere which skateboarders and bladers alike have also turned into a skating rink. Continue reading

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Inline skating as rhythmic falls and recoveries

Some of us argue that skating consists of repeated cycles of falls and recoveries. Specifically, a skater deliberately moves her upper body such that shifted center of gravity causes her to “fall”. During this fall, she continues to glide on one skate. But at the same time she moves her other skate, the free skate, towards the projection on the ground of her shifting center of gravity, with the aim to recover from the fall by planting the free skate onto the new projected center of gravity. The process now repeats, with the free skate becoming the gliding skate.

If this fall and recovery sound like walking… well, it is walking, but with a special skating gait. In the sequence shown, the skater leans to the left while gliding on his left skate. He is about to fall to the left, but during the fall he moves his right skate, the free skate, over to his left side. He catches his balance at the last second, by planting his right skate on the projection of his shifted center of gravity. Continue reading

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How to Inline Skate

Since the pandemic of 2019, I’ve been regularly inline skating at Eisenhower Park after work. In these last two years, I’ve seen a large number of new skaters show up with a box of new skates at the park. They put on their new inline skates, and struggled around for a while. Most tried to walk around the rink by holding onto handrails at the outermost track. The brave tried to skate and fall. Very few approached me to ask for advise.

So a large number of first-time newbies showed up every week. But I almost never saw them a second time. Perhaps they went to a new park to skate. Perhaps they didn’t hang out around the rink after getting their footing, so to speak. But I suspect that a majority of them gave up.

This article is for those who attempt to learn to inline skate. This article is what I wished someone had written for me, when I was just learning to skate. Continue reading

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Inline Skating Rink at Eisenhower Park

Eisenhower Park is one of the few places in Nassau County where an inline skater can practice at an outdoor rink when honing one’s skills, and then stroll leisurely on wheels along scenic trails when just hanging around with friends and family. The rink is accessible all year round, and you will see people there every day. However, skating at the rink in winter months is only for the most determined folks. This article is not about a skatepark with street and transition elements, but I include it as a honorable mention as a part of my Public Skateparks on Long Island series. Continue reading

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Rockaway Skatepark – public skateparks on Long Island

Rockaway Skatepark in Queens was destroyed by Sandy. It was rebuilt, then reopened in 2020. This new and large facility features butter-smooth surface at the writing of this article, with both street and transition elements, plus a long bowl which connects with the main skating plaza. Rockaway Skatepark is located at the west end of Rockaway Beach. The new boardwalk passes next to the skatepark. And the Atlantic Ocean is just 200 feet away. Its sister Far Rockaway Skatepark is located at the east end of the same beach, 3.5 miles away. This article is a part of my Public Skateparks on Long Island series. Continue reading

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