Life on a Bicycle

So for the past couple of months I’ve been riding a bicycle to work, something that I’ve come to enjoy a great deal. I had been contemplating riding a bicycle for quite some time (over a year at least), often wondering about how safe it would be to do so and how it would be to manage a bicycle. My biggest concern was safety: when I lived in New York, I had heard many stories of bicyclists getting hit by cars, and here in San Francisco, I also heard many stories from people who had been hit by cars, as well as saw a person who had been hit after the fact (I was looking the opposite direction when it happened). The stories I had hear were mostly of the bruised and little banged up type, nothing life threatening, but still enough to cause concern, especially since I think the drivers in San Francisco aren’t the greatest.

(On the other hand, I did hear a story from Amy once that was the worst: while walking to work she heard an accident and looked over and saw and older chinese man who was doing a food delivery on the ground, having been hit by a car, and the last thing he said before he died was “I have to make my delivery”…).

Well, so a couple of months ago the company I work for had finally found a new place to move to (our office was at Ghirardelli Square and every company in the building had to leave because the building was sold and is being turned into a hotel). Since the new place (over by Levi’s Plaza) was a good bit further away–too far for walking–and not easily accessible by bus, I decided then to try out riding a bicycle to Ghirardelli to see if I’d like it, and if so, to use a bike as my primary means to get to work once we got to the new place.

Now, fortunately for me, Lisa, when she first moved to Berkeley, opened up a bank account at Bank of America and put her name in a fish bowl and won a bike. This bike wasn’t the greatest and I think was a women’s bike, but it had been sitting around for the past few years never having been ridden (she didn’t need it in Berkeley since she lived maybe a couple blocks from campus, and once in San Francisco, neither of us found a need to ride the bicycle). So I decided to buy a helmet and give bicycling a try.

Well, that bike was quite a piece of work! For one, it was *very* heavy, and after a while I realized that the back tire was almost in constant contact with the breaks. I had asked my friend Alex at work to give it a look over as he used to work at a bike shop and he told me that ride it to give it a try but recommended that I really should get a different bike.

So, for a month or so, I was riding this bike off and on to work, and after the first couple weeks the handle bars started getting loose and it was impossible to tighten it enough to stick. Well, after giving bicycling a try I found that I felt comfortable enough and enjoyed it very much. So I thought that what I’d do was try to learn about bicycles, try to maintain the bike, and ride that bike until the end of the year.

After a few days at the new office, I realized that the handlebars together with the break which had gotten progressively worse was just too much, and that I wanted to get a new bike. What really did it was that one night I was trying to adjust the bike and realized that the frame was somehow bent out of sorts and just wasn’t really repairable. I reset and retightened the wheels and somehow the wheel seemed freely moving and thought I’d give it one more go (even though I had already thought to get a new bike), and the next morning on the way to work, after a few blocks riding and a few bumps, the wheel reset itself in the frame and went the other way than it had been, the wheel touching the frame, making the bicycle completely unrideable. I ended up pushing the bicyle all the way to work and immediately looked into getting a new bicycle.

Another friend of mine had just purchased a new bike a few days before at Performance Bicycle, as they were having a big sale to move out this year’s inventory to make room for next year’s. The store was recommended by Alex and so I decided I would go there as soon as I could and get a new bike. So a few days later I finally had time to go after work. I went there, got great help, found a bicycle that wasn’t too expensive that I liked and felt good, purchased it and rode it home.

Amazing. The difference between the two bikes is night and day, the new bicycle being maybe half the weight of the last one. Even more, I didn’t realize how much the break on the last bike was slowing me down, as on this new bike I was just flying on it! The first bike really built up my leg muscles, but I’m glad that this new bike is so much easier to ride as I’m now getting to work faster and am enjoying the ride that much more.

All in all, I’ve come to really enjoy and appreciate riding a bicycle. I’m not listening to as much music(walking) or reading as much(bus), but the exercise has been great and it’s been liberating to be able to consider all the possibilities now that have opened up in exploring the city. I also like the idea that I’m not paying for bus fare (the savings in bus fares should pay for the bike in a half year) and somehow feel more environmentally conscience for riding a bicycle.

It’s great fun, too!


Dr. Atomic

So Lisa and I finally went to see the John Adam’s Opera “Dr. Atomic” on Saturday, the last night of it’s run. It was a very long day for me (woke up as usual at 5:45am to catch the BART and ACTransit for two hours of tai-chi class in the morning, then had a private lesson at noon with Lenzie) so I was pretty exhausted by the time we got to the opera. For me however, I didn’t really find myself very engaged with the piece, at least, nothing was there that got me so interested that prevented me from falling asleep for parts of the opera.

The opera to me seemed as a whole very focused on the text and the idea of the story overshadowed much of the rest. John Adams in his pre-concert talk mentioned a story of two people who had come up to him and saying they had seen the opera and that they were very for and against the use of “the bomb”, respectively. All of the conversations I had heard around me from people who were very into the opera also seemed to revolve around the idea of the story, but I didn’t hear much in regards to the other aspects of the opera.

I found the orchestral music to be very much just in the background and found myself not very engaged with it, and I felt somehow that it didn’t contribute so much to the telling of the story. The vocal music was inconsistent it seemed, and by that I mean that it didn’t seem to fit into the music, the character or logic of it. I thought the vocal lines weren’t very inspired, missing something in it’s writing, a sense of fire or passion (something I am finding less and less in new music). That sense of fire or passion I’m talking about isn’t necessarily something that is in music as a romantic era gesture, but rather, just a sense of the music having something in it very necessary to be written and heard. (This is a very hard thing for me to describe, so I’ll leave it at that for now.)

So I left the opera feeling a bit underwhelmed I guess. The pre-concert talk I think set my expectations much higher than what I ended up getting up out of it. The story was very interesting but it would have been regardless of if it was an opera or not. I think it was the first time I went to the SF Opera and left not having a very positive experience; perhaps someday in the future I’ll find that I was simply just too tired that evening to find more in the opera, but I guess I’ll have to wait for some time to find out.

Fishing with Dad

The other day I was remembering when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey–I think I was maybe 11 or 12 then–and I had seen a flyer for some kind of fishing contest where the guy who caught the biggest fish would win money. At that age, I think more than anything it was the idea of winning something that drew me in, more than the fishing. (I’ve gotten into a great number of conversations on fishing over the past year or two it seems, but I myself really never got into it.)

I remember my father was actually willing to go along with this idea I had to fish in this contest; I don’t know why really he did, maybe it was because it was something different than me playing video games, which I did a lot of back at that age. So we went to the local KMart and picked up a fishing rod and some strange green, almost glow-in-the-dark plastic/rubber worms (the idea of stabbing worms on a fish hook didn’t appeal to me I guess). Now, I have no idea how such a strange green rubbery synthetic worm was supposed to catch fish, but I think I wanted to believe that it could be what would get me that fish and with it, the big prize.

So, for a week or so before hand, after school I remember being on the back porch of our house and practicing casting with the rod, having a great deal of fun doing just that even. Of course, the dream of the fish and the big prize was there looming in my young mind, and here I was with a pole, neon fake worms, no idea of how to fish, and just a little bit of hope.

So, the big day comes, it’s a bit early in the morning, gray outside, and my father drives me over to the lake where the competition is. Sure enough there are plenty of other people there, and so I excitedly wanted to get over to the lake and find out what’s going on and get going. My father parked the car, we hopped out, start walking over the lake. It’s getting darker and darker out, and I may have casted once or twice before a gigantic pouring of rain begins, flooding the place.

Now, this is the best part: everyone starts running away from the lake as it’s really coming down. I’m standing there, a little bit despondent, but really wanting to catch that fish. It lasted just a moment, but I remember pleading with my dad to stay just a bit longer and sure enough he stood there with the rain just hammering away at us. Then, of course, it really was just too much, so my father finally broke through to my stubborn self and we got our stuff and we quickly ran to the car. A drive on home, no fish, no prize, but a really nice memory of a brief moment in the rain with my dad.


A Weekend in a Different New York

This weekend I took a rather short trip to New York so that I could see my cousin from Korea who is there on business for a couple of weeks, as well as to see my brother who I haven’t seen in a half-year or so. My cousin and I generally chat a few times a week over Instant Messenger and I consider her pretty close, so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see her, especially since the last time I saw her was a few years ago. The trip was really really nice: it was great to see my cousin and brother as well as other family and many old friends. Going all around town, visiting place I often frequented when I lived there(the Chinese bakery on Mott and Canal, the Martial Arts shop there on Mott, the Pink Pony in the Lower East Side; these places become the usual hangouts even now when I go to New York), and a fantastic late night karaoke session until 3:30am the following morning, really was quite a joy.

On the other hand, the city felt so different too, as streets I was intimately familiar with and often walked were still there but the shops all completely replaced with new ones, and great big new developments (the Adidas store at Broadway and Houston, the Wholefoods at Union Square, the new apartment building on Houston bordering the Lower East Side) really altered the cityscape I knew. This trip really felt quite different from all the other trips I’ve made to New York since I left, as if we–New York and I–had both moved on and changed enough that we really didn’t know each other anymore, even if we had a common past once. Maybe I’ll get to know New York again sometime, but for now I feel a bit more in tune with San Francisco.

It was a good time though, and definitely too short a trip. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing my cousin again sometime in the future, and will look forward to seeing my brother come December.


Su Doku

I had seen books on Su Doku at the bookstores for a number of months now, having taken a look at them and finding myself curious to give it a go, but it wasn’t until yesterday while at the new Cody’s in San Francisco (I think I like the one on Telegraph in Berkeley a bit better, but this one is certainly nicely done; a nice addition to Stacey’s and Border’s to the area I think) did I finally pick a book up on the subject: Su Doku for Dummies (Sudoku).

(As an aside, I always found it a little strange to pick up these books, like I didn’t want to think myself a “Dummy”, but I’ve found a number of these books to be interesting and worth the money spent, so I don’t know what this all means… =) )

The book has a very short introduction and some tips on how to solve puzzles, then includes 240 puzzles to get through. I have to say, so far I’ve found the puzzles very fun, but they’re also quite the time sink. But it’s nice to have something like this I think for breaks from working, and so am looking forward to trying out more puzzles and having fun with them. It’s also nice to be able to pick it up and put it down whenever, and also only takes one to play (unlike chess and go, which I really enjoy playing, but have a hard time finding the time and the partners to play). All in all, highly recommended!


Good Meals with Good Friends

Last night, Lisa and I took our good friends Frank and Vicki out to dinner at LuLu to celebrate Frank’s passing of his state boards for TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), a wonderful occasion to celebrate such a milestone. (I think he’s going to be a truly great doctor!).

With reservations at 8:00pm, we got there just a little before hand and ordered a round of drinks before being seated to dinner. In such a beautifully done restaurant, we ordered a wonderful meal, great wine, and fantastic desserts. Conversation was so good we ended up sitting there afterwards for at least an hour, leaving the by-then almost empty restaurant at 11:30pm.

Good meals with good friends… it’s such a wonderful occasion, so absolutely rejuvenating an experience to get together and enjoy company so well.