Like riding a bike

just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling


Earlier this month my friend and I got to teach our other friend how to ride a bike. Yes, that’s right, we taught our fully grown, adult friend how to ride a bike. I’m glad I got to be there when my friend got to check this off her to do list.

I say “taught” in the loosest sense of the word because I’m pretty sure all I did was shout “just keep pedaling! pedal pedal pedal!” like a broken record, with an occasional “brake! right hand brake brake brake!” when she would steer and veer into the curb to try to slow down.

After about two hours, she got the hang of it and could ride for substantial stretches and even make looping circles, albeit only in one direction. As I’ve never taught anyone (child or adult) to ride, I don’t have anything by which to compare her progress, but I was impressed she got it in one day.

And as always with teaching, it was rewarding to witness someone accomplish something, in this case something quite tangible. At the start of the session, she could not ride a bike. By the end, she was (at times) coasting down the bike path like nobody’s business. (Again, 99% her effort and 1% our encouragement.)

Watching her gain this new skill made me want to learn something new too (versus learn more). Something fairly tangible where I can say, “Before I couldn’t, but now I can.” I can’t really remember the last time I felt that concrete sense of accomplishment.

Riding a bike also offers a great metaphor for life. You have to square your handlebars and keep pedaling through the wibbles and wobbles to stay balanced on the bike. Stop moving and you fall over. So that was my little aha moment as I watched my friend learn this on her own. Momentum = life.

At the end of our session, we parked our bikes on a hill and took in the sunset. Unbeknownst to us, there was a photography club behind us also taking in said sunset. After they got their shots, one of the members offered to take a few pictures on our phones. The result was a nice memento for my friend to commemorate the day she learned something new.

PC: the kind stranger from the local photography club

The Melendy Family Series/Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

This post is long overdue as I read the Melendy Family Quartet and Thimble Summer immediately after I finished the All-of-a-Kind Family series. It was a nice way to round out my phase of marathon-reading through newly discovered children’s books.

I think of the three series (All-of-a-Kind, Betsy-Tacy and Melendy Family), I enjoyed Melendy the most for a couple of reasons. First, it was the most contemporary of the three (set in WWII) so the writing style and the scenarios were a tad bit more relateable. And second, I loved loved loved the Melendy children, especially Oliver. With two boys and two girls, each child was unique (tbh I had trouble distinguishing the AAKF girls for the first couple of books) but also equally interesting. I enjoyed their individual story lines and didn’t find myself feeling impatient to get back to a favorite character’s story (like I remember doing when reading Game of Thrones). The kids are clever and kind, and maybe too much so, but the author commented on this somewhere that the book is like a condensed version of the kids’ daily lives–of course there are days when they’re just lazing about saying nothing of importance–those bits are just not in the book. Third, the setting. I am a sucker for books about country life, and the three books set in the countryside captured a sort of dream life for me: living in the countryside but not being dependent on farming for a living.

I lost most of the highlights from the books, but here is one from The Four-Story Mistake  that I had saved:

Yes, finding the diamond had been a miracle. But Randy couldn’t help feeling that there were many miracles in her life. Wasn’t it a miracle to live in the country in the spring? And to have a wonderful family that she was crazy about, and a house with a secret room and a cupola, and to be eleven and a half years old, and very good at riding a bicycle? Anyway, that’s how I feel today, thought Randy. Tomorrow maybe I’ll feel some other way; cranky, or dull, or just natural. But that’s how I feel today.

I’d like to take a page out of Randy’s book and try to recognize the little miracles in my life as they pass by. For example, it’s officially spring now and the rain is falling and watering all the beautiful spring flowers. I don’t live in the countryside, but I can look for the miracles of urban life in the spring.

Thimble Summer was also really really lovely, and the descriptions of nature were great. Take this line from the opening scene of the book about the heat of the drought:

It was like being inside of a drum. The sky like a bright skin was stretched tight above the valley, and the earth too, was tight and hard with heat. Later, when it was dark, there would be a noise of thunder, as though a great hand beat upon the drum; there would be heavy clouds above the hills, and flashes of heat lightning, but no rain. After supper each night her father came out of the house and looked up at the sky, then down at his fields of corn and oats. “No,” he would say, shaking his head, “No rain tonight.”

There were so many other moments I loved from the books, I just don’t have my notes and highlights any more. I’m sure I’ll reread them again, and there’s still Gone-Away Lake and its sequel by the author to read.

London Eye Raindrops

via Photo Challenge: Liquid

london eye raindrops

View from the London Eye on a cold and rainy day earlier this year, the week the Beast from the East hit. If you look carefully you can see Big Ben inverted in some of the bigger drops.

This was a fitting throwback as we enter day three of rain, ranging from heavy lightning storms to the persistent pitter-patter of raindrops falling now.

Weird Outlook Followers

Greetings bot! Do you come in peace?

weird outlook followers

Last month I started getting regular email notifications telling me I had new followers, but the followers’ email addresses were all and quite spammy-looking. Even more suspicious was the fact the follows started after I had stopped posting regularly, and there were new follows everyday but no new page views on my site–meaning they were following without having been to my site.

I already felt iffy about sharing anything on the Internet, so needless to say daily reminders that there were bots out there aware of my online existence looking to… do something nefarious only compounded my nervousness. Since I had hit a lull in posting anyway, I started thinking about ending this little blogging experiment.

Anyway, today I finally googled the issue and found this Support Forum. I skimmed through all 23 pages of posts (as of today) and gleamed a few helpful points from the Staff responses (links included).  Continue reading “Weird Outlook Followers”

Ready Player One


One neat thing about going to the movies in Korea are these double-sided publicity sheets made for the films currently showing in the theater. The front is the official movie poster and the back includes a brief synopsis and introduction to the characters. You can find them in display stands in the lobby of the movie theater.

I quite liked Ready Player One. Having read the book a few years ago, I knew going in that I wouldn’t get a lot of the old school video game references. And that was fine, the movie was still very entertaining. The avatars seemed a little cartoony at first and took some getting used to, but by the end I felt more invested in the Oasis and the avatar representation of the main characters than the real world. (That would make sense as it felt like most of the movie took place in VR over RL.)

Speaking of VR, I tried an Oculus Rift for the first time recently and I was surprised at how “real” it felt. While the tree hugger in me instinctively recoils at the thought of future generations growing up even more immersed in screens, my inner tech curious self is, well, curious about the possibilities to come. Good or bad, we are on the brink of new and exciting things.

Overall, Steven Spielberg is a sure bet, the movie’s CGI was amazing, and I would see it again to try and catch more references to cultish ’80s pop culture.

Micro dust

Spring days and Group 1 carcinogens

Before coming to Korea, I had been warned about hwang-sa (yellow dust), where desert dust from Mongolia and China blows across the continent to grace the region with its presence in the spring. It isn’t a new phenomenon, but these days increased desertification coupled with industrial pollutants make for especially fun times. When I arrived, however, I quickly found out that actually fine dust pollution is all the rage.

Fine dust pollution in Korea is a more recent phenomenon caused basically by burning fossil fuels (According to the EPA: “most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.”) As the name implies, the particles are micro: PM10 is for particulate with diameters of 10 micrometers or smaller and PM2.5 for diameters of 2.5 micrometers or smaller. Both types are small enough to be inhaled and settle in your lungs and even your bloodstream. Additionally, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, part of the WHO) designates particulate matter in outdoor air pollution a Group 1 carcinogen. Needless to say, it’s not the stuff you want to be breathing. And yet we do. For a few days every winter and early spring, we don our masks and brave the smoggy gray skies.

The timing of this prompt coincided with the end of a particularly bad spell of fine dust pollution this week. Monday and Tuesday the government had emergency response measures in place to reduce air pollution in the city; I got a text announcing announcing parking lots for public organizations would be closed and asking for voluntary participation in the alternate-day driving scheme (cars with license plates ending in an even number drive on even-numbered days, and vice versa for odd).

Just another spring day in this beautiful and toxic urban jungle.

Via Daily Prompt: Micro

Traditional Oriental Forest Land

A little bit of peace in the city that never sleeps

Traditional Oriental Forest Land – a public bath house and sauna in Seoul

There is a jjimjilbang (public bath house and sauna) at the base of Ansan mountain in Seoul, Korea. It’s located up a hill right before the entrance to Bongwon Temple, and if you go on through the temple grounds you can access the various mountain trails. The hike to the peak isn’t too strenuous but you’re rewarded with a pretty great view of the city, including Namsan tower and the Han River. There are jjimjilbangs a plenty around Seoul, but not many are nestled in the base of a mountain–this is why it’s special. The main building has all the recreational amenities you would find in any major jjimjilbang: the separate bath areas for men and women, a common area with a kids playroom, karaoke rooms, a little gym, a PC cafe, reading nook, restaurant, and apparently a screen golf net on the roof.

The actual saunas are outside, connected to the main building by a dirt floor space (where you can roast sweet potatoes and rice cakes) and sheltered by a very temporary-looking roof with rafters. There are three saunas of different temperatures–imagine pizza ovens big enough to house about a dozen people. They’re made from hwang-to (red clay, technically called loess) and heated with traditional furnaces burning cham-soot (charcoal made from burning oak), which apparently is a magical combination for healing properties. Hang around long enough and you’ll hear the ajummas (married women) talk about how regular sauna-ing here healed their various ailments. Opposite the row of saunas there’s also a red clay room where people sit around a charcoal fire pit on little wooden stumps. 

But my favorite part is the outdoor lounge area accessed from between the main building and the saunas. Once you’ve had a good sweat session, you can step outside to cool off. There are several wooden platforms (backless, knee-height benches wide enough for people to lie on) situated right at the edge of the forest. Lying down on one of these platforms in faded orange pajamas, looking up at the sky through the trees with a cool sikhye (sweet rice drink) in hand, this is my favorite place.

For more pictures, here’s a link to the Traditional Oriental Forest Land’s English site and gallery. The name translated into English is super Konglish and I was hesitant to put it in the title because it sounds kind of spammy, but it’s also pretty accurate and kind of endearing. For more on the jjimjilbang experience, this Korea Times article has a good overview and actually mentions TOFL. I wish I could call it my secret spot in Seoul, but it’s pretty famous because of the above-mentioned healing properties and thus crawling with people young and old on the weekends.

Bongwon temple decorated for Buddha’s birthday
View from Ansan mountain peak – Namsan tower in the distance