I'm a proud inaugural member of bike sharing here in Chicago, and as much as I can I did try to sneak in reasonable rides in the winter.
(*Sadly, if I took 2 more rides during the medal period, I would have qualified for Silver.)
This winter has been particularly brutal, but it was good to get a better understanding of what my cold weather gear would need to be. It also set some thresholds on what I would tolerate for winter riding.
Here's some factors that I use to determine whether to #DivvyOn or not:
- Wind Speed: Despite (or because of) Chicago's lack of hills, this makes a big difference in overall comfort level when riding
- Road Conditions / Quality: The current weather is less a concern than the state of the road. The weather may be clear, but if the roads are icy or slushy, it's not very safe especially when drivers are expecting less cyclists on the road.
- Weather Intensity: Extreme anything is only great for action sports, not so great when it comes to temperature, precipitation, snow or wind, or a combination of all of those factors.
I'll eventually talk about how I gear up, and how I commute in later posts.
For those of us Catholics that tend to forget what's permissible today (and during Lent), here's a quick reminder:
"Abstinence from meats is to be observed by all Catholics 14 years old and older on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent.
Fasting is to be observed on Ash Wednesday by all Catholics who are 18 years of age but not yet 59. Those who are bound by this may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted if necessary to maintain strength according to one’s needs, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.
The special Paschal fast and abstinence are prescribed for Good Friday and encouraged for Holy Saturday."
via the Archdiocese of Chicago
For Catholics and non-Catholics, there's always a notion of sacrifice around Lent. For many, it could be as simple as giving up a favorite food. One translation of a bible passage from Hosea 6:6 is "For it is love that I seek, not sacrifice." In the context of Lent, I read this as a challenge to ground any sacrifice that you choose to make in love. For example, giving up a favorite food not just to force yourself on a diet, but to better understand what your fellow neighbor may be experiencing when they don't have a choice of what and when to eat.
First of all, I totally missed any references to why this episode is titled: Vesuvius.
However, as we near the series finale (3 episodes left!), the big question of the series isn't so much how Ted met the mother. Rather, the big question is, why is he telling the story, and why is it so detailed?
Halfway through the episode, we get our first solid hint. As Ted spins his yarn, the mother interrupts him to let him know that she knows this story already. Dejectedly, Ted replies that he's just an old man that spins tired old yarns. The mother responds with:
"I love your yarns. I hope you never stop spinning them...(But)...I just worry about you. I don't want you to be the guy who lives in his stories. Life only moves forward."
Ted appears to be in this very extended bit of nostalgia because of some tragedy that he hasn't quite gotten past. It will be curious to find out what it is, and how the present Ted gets past it before the end of the series.
How many of us have allowed the past to chain us down, rather than try to move forward?
I've always been a fan of the evolution of Joakim Noah in the NBA. Originally, we had him pegged as an energy guy. Someone, who at his best might be a Dennis Rodman-type. A relentless rebounder and defender, with floor burns to match his level of intensity. Any offensive contributions would come from put backs, and would be a bonus especially after seeing his "tornado" style side spinning jump shot. In fact, some were happy to think that he would be an Anderson Varejao-type.
Instead, as games like this triple double remind us, he's on a different path than either of those players. Defensively, you get a player that can comfortably match up against any 4 (power forward) or 5 (center) in the league. Even if switched off to momentarily defend the more athletic 3's (small forward) and 4's, Noah has enough speed and liability to neutralize what is normally an advantage for most teams. When healthy*, it isn't surprising to find him in the Top 5 for rebounds.
On the offensive end, his biggest strength is being able to pass from the high post or on the dribble. Many of his assists are to cutting players, versus being kick out passes. Although his midrange jumper isn't quite something that will make opponents wince when left wide open, it is no longer something that makes Bulls fan wince either. His development of a post game also gives a reason to keep defenses honest.
The other big news was the signing of Scalabrine 2.0, Jimmer Fredette. Brian Scalabrine had become a fan favorite during his time with the Bulls, and came to (unfairly) represent a human victory cigar for those Bulls teams. People would love to chant for him late in games when the win was secured, and sometimes even chanting for him late in the 2nd quarter in a bit of arrogance. Since he retired, no one was able to take up the mantle. Fans missed him so much, that they chanted for him during the end of Wednesday's Golden State game.
Move on, people!
That being said, I was interested to hear that Sacramento was going to buy him out and did. I was even more interested when I hear that the Bulls and Jimmer expressed mutual interest. The rest now, of course is history. In the grand scheme of things, any moments we get from Jimmer are going to be a bonus this late in the season. Doesn't hurt to have a young shooter like Jimmer, versus say when the Bulls signed Daequan Cook. Anyway, it will fun to have someone to chant for, if it means that we'll have a lot of big leads going into end of the game.
* In 7 NBA seasons, Noah has only played more than 70 games twice (74 games and 80 games in his first two years in the league, before he became a full-time starter.)
Where the heck have I been...you may have been wondering, anyone who happens to periodically check this space.
There's a lot to catch up on: the remainder of my trip to Japan in 2013, the return and subsequent departure of DRose, the arrival of bike-sharing, courtesy of Divvy, the departure of Luol Deng, among many.
But first? An Easy Challenge for 31 Days - Post at least one blog post for the next 31 days, starting today. I won't set any word minimums, or dictate that every post must contain a picture or a hyperlink.
Let's see what we come up with by April 1st. Please look forward to it.
Nagasaki! Two years later than I had originally intended, and I finally made it!
Travel note: One of my most invaluable tools that I used for my last 2 trips was Hyperdia. It does an excellent job of allowing you to plan out station to station travel throughout practically all of Japan. You can plan for multiple segments and set it to search by private or JR and even airplane. There's also an Android app available. I constantly used this to plan routes, and change my itinerary on the fly. Without this, my travel speed would have been reduced significantly by having to study maps and timetables to figure out how to get anywhere. Google Maps was still a good cross reference, but Hyperdia is my gold standard.
I'm quite a fan of slice of life, so when I see scenes like this:
I wonder what the story is. Are these two friends at the end of a trip together or reuniting after some time apart. Are these coworkers on one of their last days? What do you think?
Here's a little reminder of how Japan was introduced to the western world, via the arrival of the Black Ships:
Can't quite think of Nagasaki, without a dragon or two. Here's one!
Nagaski has an operational tram system, that's pretty convenient to use to get to a good portion of the city.
Here's my base of operations for this portion of the trip. I've stayed at their other locations and liked it. This location was similarly nice and was noted for its European stylings (in keeping with the nature of the city).
I ATE THE BONES! (Well, I don't think boneless chicken made it out there yet.) The Colonel and KFC are pretty big in Japan, believe it or not.
Castella! Sadly, I kept on putting off getting some and ended up leaving without having any or bringing any along.
Aflac! Much more so than anywhere else in the world, I feel that Japan loves mascots.
So without a very strict plan on where I wanted to go, I eventually stumbled upon Meganebashi or the Spectacles Bridge. Hopefully it's obvious why.
The tram system was pretty affordable, and I tried to use it as much as I could. There was a one day pass that you could get that I took full advantage of. I bought mine at my hotel, and I assume most midrange hotels would have the same service.
Unintentionally offensive sign design?
What I find very compelling about this city and this story is not only was this one of the main entry points for Christianity/Catholicism into Japan, but this spot was a battleground for unwavering faith. It was this moment that 26 adults and children chose to die for what they believed in. (The youngest was 12 years old).
It was intended to be a public spectacle, held on a hill that overlooked the city, and meant to be a warning to anyone that chose to continue to live as Christians. But rather than cause people to lose hope and discard their faith, it instead drove it underground. Practiced in secret, passed down from generation to generation until the ban on Christianity was lifted centuries later.
I wonder that if we're ever put to a similar test, would our faith hold? For all that we complain about being able to express ourselves and what we believe in, our challenges pale in comparison to what our spiritual ancestors had to choose. Would we have the resolve to hold true and make tough decisions? I hope we're well past those days.
Wow, it's getting late! Time to head back.
When I see this:
I can't help but think of Aki!
I made a quick visit to Nagasaki's Chinatown.
And a quick preview of food I was going to have very very soon!
That's it for today! More again in the next post!
The biggest reason that I wanted to return to Kyoto was for Hagashiyama Hanatouro.
The temples are beautiful during the day, but there is also a beauty in things that are ephemeral or seasonal in nature. The temple lighting is only held twice a year (once in the spring and once in the fall) and only for 9 days. I wanted another chance to re-live the experience, and as a wannabe photographer or chronicler, another chance to capture it using much better equipment. For those of you that were too lazy to click on the link above, this limited event is a chance to see the various historic Kyoto temples at night. Many temples take an extra step and really go out of their way to do more than just simple lighting.
Here's the map for a better idea of the route. The plan was to start at Shorenin and try to make it to Kiyomizu before things ended at 9:30.
Bamboo trees at night. It would have been a bigger shock if I didn't have any pictures of bamboo trees.
I have video of this somewhere too, but basically they placed a series of lights that would alternate between lighting up and gradually dimming and fading to black. Very serene. (But very challenging to really capture as a hobbyist photographer!)
There were also Ikebana being exhibited around the temple walking route.
Here's an overview map of one of the larger temples.
Still very fresh on the minds of everyone, are the people still trying to recover from the Tōhoku earthquake. Here they set up a message board to post and pass along well wishes and messages to people in the area.
I posted a short message too. Please excuse my shaky hiragana!
These were fun to see. I wondered if these were original designs, or inspired by stories or folk lore. We'll never know, since I was too lazy to ask!
Did I tell you? A lot of people come to this event.
It is one of my goals to be able to write out semi-intelligent sentences in kanji, and write up a prayer on board at a temple.
Here's my obligatory photo of Kiyomizu-dera.
It was tricky getting a shot I was happy with, despite the fact that I brought a tripod. There were a lot of people, and it was starting to drizzle lightly. I had my lens hood on, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. I snapped off as many as I could and then moved on in life.
And as quickly as it began, my night was over.
I do have some video of a special lighting show that was conducted against the side of one of the temples. The wait was long, but it was fun to watch. I'll eventually edit this post once I upload it.
Next, I head west for Nagasaki.
In case you missed it, Part 1 is here.
I was on a bit of a tighter schedule than the last time I was in Kyoto, so instead of heading above ground to see the scenic part of the station, such as this:
I stayed underground to head to the subway, and found this hostage situation taking place:
Just kidding! They're kids on a school trip surrounded by their chaperons...I think!
After quickly checking into the hotel, it was off to try to sneak in a trip to Arashiyama. There was a bus route way to get there, and a train route way of getting there, and after the bus took longer to show up than I was hoping, I called an audible to take the train instead.
There is no way that I can see this name, and not think of Hina:
Anyway, there's no way to be unsure if you've made it or not, Arashiyama happened to be the end of the line:
There was a lot of things to see. Things like old bridges...
...stairs that lead up the mountainside...
...my first peek at sakura for the season...
But really, I wanted to see the forest and the trees...the bamboo trees!
I thought they were majestically fantastic!
Of course, here's an obligatory picture of me.
I could have asked some non-Western tourists to take my picture, but I flaked out and asked a European instead. More on Europeans shortly.
Did I tell you that I like pictures of stairs?
I don't know who she is, but I liked the conceptual composition of this shot.
Nifty looking boats.
Oh, I mentioned something about Europeans. So as I was wandering on my way back, some Europeans stopped to ask me if I knew where the monkeys were. Monkeys? Didn't you follow a map, I wondered? They insisted they did, and still couldn't find them. One fellow asked if I would help them look for the monkeys, and was saddened when I didn't seem interested. I tried to point them in the right direction and left. (Alert folks will remember that I quickly summarized this story here.)
Here's the map showing the route that you would have to take to get to the monkeys. Yikes. What was I thinking? Once I paid, I was all in to get to the top before the park closed.
At least they had these fun little quizzes going on along the route:
(They had the same quizzes in Japanese on different sign boards)
If you stayed inside, it felt like you were the exhibit and the monkeys were free.
As fun as that was, the sun was starting to set, so I quickly made my way back. One big thing that I was really looking forward to would start right around sundown, and I didn't want to miss a thing.
More in Part 3.