Sunday, January 27, 2008

(Mis)adventures in cycling

Just did a 2 hour lap of UNCW's trails and met my Clear Run ramp nemesis again. Since I got away from our last encounter with (only) a bruised butt, it was time to try again! Especially also since Wendy went off it a couple of times like nobody's business. I must say, the first time I went over the handlebars I did a beeootifooo forward roll and landed on my feet. I can't remember much of the second endo except that I landed in a pile of soft pine straw and got up unscathed. Then Wendy borrowed my bike and cleared the ramp a couple more times, so I have nothing and no-one to blame but myself. Oooh, just noticed a scratch on my left forearm...

Briefly considered jumping off a couple more times, but my bruises from last week (yup, esp the butt) were killing me, so I'll live to bike another day. Then towards the end of the ride we found a small ramp over some rotting logs. Oooh-er! Went over 3-4 times and stayed on my bike each time! for the Clear Run one!

To TDB, it was beautiful out today, dry ground, no dog poo, missed having you around! Hope things pan out alright for you.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Philip Pullman on environmentalism

I am extremely fond of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (the movie does the story no justice, though the visuals were pretty darned good), so it's refreshing to read about his take on the environmental state of the world today.

Philip Pullman: new brand of environmentalism


Wendy takes on the UNCW ramp


Friday, January 18, 2008

Ride report - UNCW 18 Jan 2008

We started out at 3.30pm today, shrugging off sweaters and shivering slightly in the chill air. Still, despite the mostly overcast skies, the sun peeked out occasionally and the ground was dry and fast. Wendy took the lead as she rode here most recently, and it is easy to get lost in here. As we approached the 'Clear Run' ramp, Wendy went over like a seasoned fearless pro, and I thought,"What the hell, I don't need to dive till May." So I acclerated and went up the ramp before rational thought could kick in. Felt the exhilarating split second of air-time, and then the front wheel landed hard (I think), and before I knew it, I landed (hard, oh %$#%$@%) on the ground on my butt. Douglas Adams was right about flying being easy. It's the landing that's difficult. It was then a distinct pong assaulted my senses. Did I just run over fresh dog poo??? On both wheels, my fork and my down tube no less!!! ARRGGGHHHH I guess the silver lining is that I didn't LAND on the dog doo-doo. Damn you, inconsiderate dog-owners!!!

We continued after I picked myself and my bruised butt up, and this time, I think we got a pretty good ride in! We picked the right fork of every intersection we came across, and I re-discovered all the sweet switchback sections we encountered on my first ride at UNCW. Even came across the high ramp (I guess about 2 feet off the ground?). Having learnt my lesson, I decided to remain in the audience with the divinebovine while Wendy took it on. And she was AMAZING...I'll have to upload the video soon. ABSOLUTELY fearless.

Found the loopy section near Dobo Hall, and another little switchback track, before heading back to the parking lot as the sun started dipping below the horizon. It was totally sweet to swish through trees and bushes on small windy trails. Looked for an outdoor water hose to spray off most of the dog doo (Wendy had some on her bike too), and thankfully we found one. Can't tell you where it is though :).

All in all, a great little ride. Again!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Singapore's reefs get a mention in Antarctica

One of my course mates, M, works on penguins, and was stationed on a cruise ship over our winter break. Aside from chasing penguins by day, he was the resident biologist for the Antarctic tourists, and met a couple from Singapore, who I think, work for one of the big oil companies in Singapore. They got to talking about coral reefs and voiced the common refrain that there are no reefs in Singapore. And M said that they had to check out BWV, that we do a lot of conservation work, bring people out to see reefs and all that. Except that he forgot the full name of Blue Water Volunteers, and could only remember our programme names like ReefFriends and ReefWalk. Still, a guy studying in Wilmington, advocating Singapore's reefs to a Singaporean couple in Antarctica. I think that's pretty neat!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

LA Aikikai

One of the things I love about aikido is that I can visit a dojo in whatever strange new city and practise there with little fuss. Well, I'm sure that works with other martial arts as well (challenging the seniors in a new dojo to a sparring session?), but I've always felt welcome and had a really good time in all of my visits. It's kind of my perk whenever I travel. Some may say that you can't gain much from only one or two visits, but I'm keeping O Sensei's advice in mind, to touch 10000 hands to get a feel of the technique, and besides, it's interesting to me to see how different instructors interpret the various techniques. And it's fun lah, I get antsy after no aikido for sometime anyway.

So I have been kinda grumpy the past 2 days (for various reasons), and was contemplating not going for training and watching Wicked instead. The grumpiness was compounded by me waking up this morning with a head full of green snot, and having to blow copious amounts of viscous mucus into TP. Damn you airplanes with your recirculated air!

I found myself crouching in the front of a LA metro bus looking out for roadsigns in the dark, having resigned myself to just reading the Wicked book, before toddling along a unlit street towards the LA Aikikai dojo. And as usual I was very glad to go for training in the end. We started off with some bokken shomen practice, and it's a good thing I've done snatches of iaido! I was reminded of why Aikikai is Aikikai as I went through a continuous, breath-snatching round of kaiten-nage with one of the senior students. You can always be assured of a good workout. Maybe I shouldn't have said I've trained for X years, because, don't give chance one! Was flung around like some rag doll, but I think all the ukemi loosened the snotty mass in my sinuses. Was glad for a change of pace when another student joined in after half an hour (yeah yeah, you don't do aikido to get fit...).

Everyone was amazingly friendly and picked up some interesting pointers. Found out that I tend to twist my upper body while doing the throw in irimi-nage, and was advised to think of the throw as a bokken cut (straight shomen). It's hard to change years of habit! Also a new lock for nikkyo, and a new blending throw for katate dori. The instructor had really solid wrists too! How long must you train to get such wrists? And another nice thing about aikido in the US, is that people are usually amazed to know that I took the bus/MRT/walked long distance to get to the dojo, and would always offer to send me back :), and invite me for beer/supper.

If only this fellowship extends to the upper management. Was asked if I trained with Singapore Aikikai, and found out that the story wasn't anything new or unsurprising. It's kinda sad though, seeing the emphasis on 'Aiki' in the dojo and all.

Definitely will be back if I'm ever in LA again!