Elephant Adventure 34: The Great Earth Beneath You

The exercise: Being aware of the great earth beneath us.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t get whatever it was I was supposed to get out of this.

What I got out of this: The earth is large and steady and it’s there beneath us no matter what we do to it, or what structures we build on top of it. It’s beautiful and amazing when untouched.

I was on this Adventure for over 3 weeks. In that time, I traveled to Boston and back, then Vegas and back. It was interesting to think about the great earth beneath me as I was in the air. I felt oddly disconnected.

What I also got out of this: Regardless of what city I landed in, what continent you are on, we’re all in this together. Except most of us aren’t thinking that most of the time.

That wasn’t the point of this exercise either, according to the book. But if most of us thought this way most of the time, we’d all be in a much better place.

Elephant Adventure 35: Notice Dislike

O! With Dad!

Finally saw Cirque du Soleil’s O. With my Dad, no less! He was in Las Vegas for a few days with a couple golfing buddies, and was worried that he’d be bored in the evenings when his buddies were off gambling.

“I’d rather see a show,” he said.

Vegas is a short flight from where I live so off I went, for dinner and a show with Dad.

I flew in Thursday afternoon. Dad came by after golfing and we walked to dinner. He marveled at how much the Strip had grown since his last visit over 20 years ago. He also couldn’t believe how much people loved alcohol these days.

We arrived at the Bellagio at the top of the hour and he got to watch the water show. We continued inside for a buffet dinner. Crab legs and caviar! We didn’t really care for the caviar mini waffles, but Dad laughed as he ate it because it felt ridiculous and fancy.

After dinner, we strolled through the lobby to admire the Chihuly flowers, then through the current incarnation of the conservatory. Breathtaking! I could tell Dad thought so too, and I was happy to be sharing the experience with him.

Back outside for a walk. The temperature was perfect. We rounded the corner to the fountain just as another show was about to start. The sun had set during dinner, and this time the show was beautifully lit.

Then it was showtime. Finally, O!

I’d known to expect water, but never would I have imagined O’s swimming pool / stage. One minute someone’s diving into the pool from 60 feet in the air, the next minute a clown is running across it, as if walking on water. A technical marvel, the O theatre.

Friday morning, I had dim sum with Dad and his friends before heading to the airport. It was nice to meet them, after having heard about them for years.

This was probably the most expensive ~24 hour trip I’ve ever taken. But how often do I get to spend time like that with my Dad? Worth every penny.

Playing On Rocks

Took an outdoor bouldering class today. This was my third time climbing outdoors. The first two were top rope outings.

Bouldering has a totally different feel to it. It’s so… simple. Shoes, chalk, and crash pads. I really enjoyed not having to set up and manage extra gear.

We worked on 6 problems at a couple sites across from Castle Rock State Park: Hash Rock and Nature Nazi. The most obvious difference between indoor and outdoor? Outdoor holds aren’t nearly as obvious, and are generally way smaller than the ones at the gym. While a V0 indoors might be all jugs, you may get a single jug outdoors. And often you won’t know it’s there until your hand lands on it.

The more important difference between indoor and outdoor, however, is that the outdoor problems allow for a lot more creativity. There may be a recognized set of moves to a problem, but there’s much a much greater variety of holds and positions to choose from.

Our group was comprised of one instructor and four students. It was the perfect class size, and a fantastic mix of enthusiasm and encouragement.

My best (although perhaps not favorite) moment: Getting near the top of a problem and not feeling like I had any good options. I noticed myself starting to feel uneasy, then remembered how a couple other students had wound up in similar situations earlier in the day. Watching them it was clear that unease only made things worse, so I made myself stop and chill for a moment before continuing on. Not-good options became workable options, and I found my way to the top.

Spending a morning in nature playing on rocks! A+++++++ WOULD DO AGAIN!!!1!

Today’s aftermath: I can’t fingerprint unlock any of my devices. I find this fairly amusing.

En Espagnol

Earlier this week I stumbled upon a Spanish fiction podcast in which the main characters spoke Spanish, but pronounced their r’s in the back of their throat.

In what part of the world do they speak Spanish like this?

It turned out the main characters were French.

It’s normal to depict and understand nationality by accent in English, but when I encounter it in Spanish it’s a total mind warp.

Flowy Taps

Wowowow, so much new stuff in taiko class today:

– rim taps
– light drum taps
– hitting a three count within each beat
– arms

The light drum taps aren’t totally new. We saw them once or twice back in February, but I didn’t know how to hold the bachi back then to do it quickly and effectively. Now that I’ve got the don grip down, I can understand shifting my grip toward my index fingers for the taps.

There’s a name for the taps, but I can’t remember it. Yet.

I had tons of fun with the don-tap and do-ko-tap combos. But then it got better! We added showy arms! All of a sudden it’s not just rhythm and form and strength, it’s finer control and some flair as well.

Things are definitely more complex now. I’m loving it!


Because I can’t yet wheelie like a pro, and because I’m a big believer in learning from as many people as possible, I stumbled* across this video the other day and watched the whole thing.**

It was interesting to hear the tutorial’s suggestion of using my sit bones to balance left and right. I’ve had a lot of trouble with my left right balance using my knees and arms, so I made a note of this. In bold. Then underlined it.

I noticed as I watched this video that the rider/coach/host doesn’t use his arms much to pop into a wheelie. I’ve noticed this in other wheelie videos as well, and yesterday I finally decided to try it. And whaddaya know, I don’t need to pull with my arms. I can pop the front wheel up just fine with a weight shift and pedal stroke.

It’s not clear to me whether that’s because I’m more comfortable with the technique now, or because my legs are stronger. I’ve been spending my time doing squats and deadlifts instead of riding, and I noticed during my pre-wheelie ride that I could power up hills in a higher gear, but tired more quickly.

I also tried to play around with sit bone steering, but I think I need to practice more than once every month and a half to productively play with steering.

Anyway, I’m still here, randomly working on this wheelie thing, making tiny bits of progress as I go.

* Not exactly “stumbled.” More like “targeted by YouTube because it knows everything about me.”

** Twelve minutes of video is an eon with my attention span.

Bubble Person

I dropped my car off at the shop for a windshield replacement this morning. I was in SF, a ways away from the office. How should I get there? I thought about calling a Lyft, but I consider that a lazy last resort when I’m in the city.

I had some time, so I decided to walk 20 minutes to Dynamo for donuts. I was amused to walk by all the giant Spanish billboards I’ve been reading from the freeway. Five minutes in, I remembered that auto repair shops are never in nice neighborhoods. I passed by countless homeless folks as I walked alongside and traversed a maze of underpasses.

Each one of them made eye contact and we nodded a hello. Quite honestly, that is more human contact than I get from most privileged home-dwelling passersby in the city. What does that say about us?

I took a wrong turn and went up the the Chavez-Peralta Stairs. I had no idea these were here! I love random city stairs. They were a serious climb, but when I got to the top, I was treated to a fantastic view of all the overpasses I’d just crossed under.

I’m laughing a little at “fantastic view of overpasses”. What can I say, I’m fascinated by infrastructure.

Made it to Dynamo! Pricey donuts in the Mission. Because gentrification. I’m somewhat torn about this.

I considered my route to the office. I could walk another half hour, but I was tired and hungry. I considered hopping on a Ford GoBike, but there were no stations near me. Muni to the rescue! Turned out there was a bus line that ran from ~Dynamo to work.

Hopped on the 10 Townsend. In the winter I take this to the train station after dark, but today I got to ride from the beginning of the route to stop I usually get on.

Off we went, me and a couple guys from the Mission rolling quietly through a neighborhood of gentrification in progress. We wound up the hill, hung a left, and found ourselves in the projects. I recalled studying these ill maintained buildings from the freeway as I sat in traffic earlier this week. And here we were. A couple more guys got on. Totally different vibe. They chatted with each other loudly in the back.

Down the other side of the hill we went, this time through a mostly white collar San Francisco neighborhood undergoing significant construction to upgrade million dollar homes into multi million dollar homes. More passengers, this time tech workers. iPhones and headphones. A totally different vibe again.

We crested the hill and were treated to a breathtaking view of downtown. As we came back down, an Asian immigrant mother and her young son got on.

We arrived at my stop. That bus would go on to many more neighborhoods, each as distinct as the ones before it.

I will admit that I wasn’t comfortable during certain parts of my commute this morning, but I’m glad I chose this route. I live in a very lucky bubble, it’s important to stick my head out and look around every once in a while, so I don’t go around acting like an ignorant bubble person.


So as not to repeat or worsen last week’s finger injury, I made bachi placement my primary focus last night. My upright form mostly held, but when things got hard, I caught myself starting to lean in again. Just a bit.

Studying myself studying my learning is fun.


Time for a taiko update!

Some of my classmates take video during class, and upon studying last week’s clips I noticed I was leaning forward while playing.

The desired body position is to keep your upper body upright, so I worked on this Tuesday. I felt tall and strong! Sensei seemed pleased, and a couple classmates commented on the improvement.

The problem with tweaking little things when you’re a beginner is you use up all your bandwidth on the thing you’re tweaking. I spent the class thinking about upper body and moving my arms from the shoulder. As I tired, bachi placement got sloppy, and toward the end of class I struck the end of my left ring finger, hard.

I’ve struck my hands and fingers before. It’s not fun.

This strike was REALLY not fun. It throbbed, and blood started oozing from the cuticle.

Swinging your arms when your finger is bleeding only leads to more bleeding, so I stopped playing for the night. In a way, it was good, because I got to hang out in the back and really focus on the patterns we were learning.

That night, I woke up to a throbbing swollen fingertip. In my sleepy state, I wondered if my finger would explode.

It’s a lot better today, just internally bloody looking. The top of the finger where I struck it is tender, but I’m able to grasp things with it now without too much discomfort.

I have a correction to make regarding the stance being like “shooting a puck” from my post a couple weeks back. Yes, there’s a weight shift, but it’s not nearly as pronounced as when shooting a puck. And, of course, you don’t lean your body into it.

Elephant Adventure 33: Hot and Cold

This week, I was tasked with noticing hot and cold.

I don’t mind hot, I thought, and I’m always cold. What else would I notice?

A lot. For one, there’s always a temperature difference between me and the ambient temperature. For another, different parts of me are different temperatures all the time. Also, the temperature around me changes constantly, depending on time of day, geographic location, when I move myself outdoors, indoors, under a shadow, from room to room.

Sounds obvious, but I’ve never taken the time to notice it.

This exercise also tasked me with resisting the urge to alter my surroundings in response to hot and cold. As it turns out, we do this all the time: taking our coats on and off, opening and closing the window, turning on the heat or A/C. I spent the latter part of this Adventure in Boston, and several times a day Penny would stop in the middle of her crazy running around with, “I’m too hot,” and take off her sweater.

This reminds me: In the earlier part of this Adventure I finally installed a fancy Japanese style bidet in my house. I thought about how much I enjoyed the warm seat every time I sat, and then about how I’ll have to turn this feature off when summer arrives.

Elephant Adventure 34: The Great Earth Beneath You