Saturday, April 26, 2008

Further Park Hopping

This has to be the longest break in my blogging, the last one being on April 12. Well, such is the life in the private practice, the work load kind of peaking seasonally. And this week and the past happened to be the high-demand phase, several deadlines came into congruence. Nevertheless, it's still no excuse. I just have to manage my time better. As they say, you will do it if it's important to you. And blogging is important to me: creating a space where I can unwind, and unload my impressions of life in general. Human beings need to share thoughts. And that's how we have progressed so far, not by keeping things to ourselves.

Having released the philosophical bent in me, let's get back to my park-hopping itinerary. The existence of the next park was alluded to us when we met Mark at the Lettuce Lake Park on one fine Sunday: the Flatwoods Park.

Flatwoods Park is one of the five parks making up the so called wilderness park complex that spans between Bruce B. Down Blvd and Morris Bridge Road, the eastward extension of Fletcher beyond I-75. With the help of Mapquest, we decided to drive in through the Morris Bridge entrance where the main facility is located.

Cruising along on the crisp morning of April 12, we passed by Morris Bridge Memorial Park, one of the five parks in the wilderness park complex, on our left on our way there. And we made a mental note to visit it on our way back.

Arriving at Flatwoods Park, first thing we noticed was its quiet, and that only a few cars parked at the main facility. Driving along the tree-lined paved road that runs through it, we got as far as vehicular transport is permitted, ending at some picnic places. Along the way, several trails lead away into the park areas on both sides. We were hesitant to walk along the trails, prompted perhaps by the absence of human forms doing so. There were sporadic sightings of cyclists here and there, including a pair who seemed to have just completed their arduous ride along the paved loop track.

This view is almost uniform along the drive, staight up tree trunks greeting us on both sides, the sunlight carving out numerous swaths of light bands through the trees.

We concluded that Flatwoods Park is more for cycling enthusiasts and does not seem to be a popular spot for families out for a leisurely walk in the park.

Morris Bridge Memorial Park, our destination on the return leg, is a compact park tucked between the road and the Hillsborough River. Like Lettuce Lake Park, it features boardwalks, one of which goes under the road bridge. But we did not advance far along this route, simply because it traverses across a shallow depression which was submerged then. But we did complete the other loop, walking briskly through swamp forest without seeing another soul along the route lest we encounter something unexpected along the way, until toward the end where a family walked by from the opposite direction, much to our relief [I guess we are really not the outdoor type]. Other than that, we did enjoy the natural scenery, albeit a rather “woody” one as revealed pictorially below.

The park entrance, the signs beckoning at the rowing and bird watching enthusiasts.

A pontoon-supported jetty next to the boat ramp (not seen) so that it can rise and fall with the water stage.

A mushroom "infested" tree branch. It seems these would be the edible kind due to their lack of bright colors.

The remnant of a tree trunk, its roots having been swallowed by the widening river, cutting an image of destitution accompanied only by its ghostly reflection.

Ha! Something I can relate to in my professional capacity: a river stage automatic recorder, usually affixed to the side of a bridge, its owner's name, USGS, vaguely seen.

Wify leaning against a wooden railing on one of the several crossings in the park, the bare branches behind her in imminent blooming, flower that is.

The green carpet-like surface plant meadow, but its constituents are larger than the one seen here.

A surprisingly thriving tree in the middle of the channel, resisting the embrace of the watery grave.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Continuing Saga of Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, the indefatigable free spirit whose publicized scorn for life's adversity has made him a household name via his last lecture delivered at Carnegie Mellon University on September 18, 2007 (which I blogged here), continues his inspiring crusade to instill in all of us the love for life. After appearing on Oprah Winfrey's show, he was interviewed by Diane Sawyer at ABC on April 9 (Thanks, Mary, for the lead).

In five clips, readers can catch more than a glimpse of the personal side of Randy, the family support, the coterie of friends and colleagues who have helped mold him to what a delightfully wonderful person that he has become and whose exuberance for life in turn has rubbed on them. The background music was appropriate, played to just the right tempo as the story of his love life with life itself unfolded.

Then he was featured in the May 2008 issue of Reader's Digest, entitled A Father's Farewell, Interview by Jess Kornbluth, on pg. 188-196.

I got most of the message, especially this one, “It's not the years. Its the milege.” But I don't seem to get the humor in “When I went scuba diving with friends, one of them said, “Don't bother putting sunscreen on Randy.”

Obviously when you dive, you don't need sunscreen (right?). So, does that imply that Randy would have no time for any above water activity when he goes for a diving expedition, an euphemism for his single-track mission-oriented focus on the task at hand? Doesn't sound like the Randy that is portrayed as a fun loving guy. Help!

And then there is his book, entitled simply, the Last Lecture. And an excerpt of the book also appeared in the same issue of Reader's Digest (pg. 197 – 199). Entitled Many Happy Returns, it recounted the first day of his wedding, the newlyweds ascending into the clouds on a hot-air balloon. And what an adventurous ride it turned out to be, as if Randy the love your life guy had scripted it. Nothing is ever a dull moment. Quiet, reflecting, cogitating, yes, but never dull.

Just to demonstrate what a stickler for time management guy that he is, Randy said in the Readers' Digest interview on how he finished the book:

I had to ride my bike for an hour everyday. As I rode, I would talk on my helmet-mounted cell phone to Jeffrey Zaslow [co-author] and tell him stories of my life. Fifty-three bike rides and I was done.”

Friday, April 11, 2008

Evening walks: Exercising, Exploring, and Communing

We have been taking evening walks around the neighborhood lately, again. The last time we did the same was when we first moved in last year as a way to get familiar with the neighborhood. This time though, the efforts also double as an opportunity to exercise, to burn up some accumulated calories.

So we circled the neighborhood in the clockwise direction one evening. And we reversed the direction on the following evening. Then it was time to venture across to the USF campus, stopping at times to watch people (students mostly I think) playing soccer, throwing frisbees. And there was this one guy who was practicing some penalty shots on his own, overshooting the crossbar and booming the ball over the fence onto the road. The poor guy had to ease through a gaping hole in the fence to run after the loose ball.

While the scene in front of our complex was a picture of bustling activity, it being facing a main road, the walk through the neighborhood behind our complex was very quiet, not a single soul on the road. I guess all must be enjoying their dinner after a hard day's work. What a contrast!

Each walk consumed about 30 minutes or so of our evening time, not enough for us to break into a sweat but the chance to commute with nature and at the same time spending some quality time with loved ones were rewarding nonetheless. Here then, are some shots taken along our evening trails.

Sun setting below the Sun Dome, USF, casting multi-layers of horizontal bands of pink in the sky.

This is the boardwalk next to the Hillsborough River, about 10 minutes drive away. It was a perfect setting for a perfect reflection, the two parts joining seamlessly at the water surface.

This little critter was actually within feet from us, a habit borne out of familiarity with the human sight, sound, and scent, as if daring me to "shoot" it. And I obliged. Wify likes the bushy tail extending upright from behind, much like the plummage of a peacock.

Sunset over the Hillsborough River, imprinting a golden halo around it, albeit ephemeral.

This was just outside the USF baseball stadium. A game between USF and Louisville was going on. Notice the USF mascot, the Bull (you can tell by the horns), sitting idly by a tableful of green souvenirs. But a little while later we saw him moving his body with the music being blared out over the PA system (the USF Fight song?).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Drum-ful Evening

And I mean that literally.

I have not seen so many drums in one room the size of a normal cafe, let alone where they were all drummed in unison. Let me start from the beginning.

Mrs. Fan, wify's Arts teacher, had informed us sometime ago about this interactive facilitated drum circle to be conducted by her erstwhile drum teacher at a cafe in our neighborhood today. The event, free to all interested, was scheduled to start at 6.00pm.

In the morning, we checked out the venue, Kili Cafe, the cyber way. We learned that the cafe serves a range of home-roasted and brewed coffee, just wify's cup of tea (there is indeed a tea drink on the menu). In the afternoon, we checked out the Cafe again, this time physically, to make sure that we know the easiest way to get there.

When we arrived sometime before 6.00pm, Jana, the instructor, was already there. After ordering our respective beverages, mine being tea, we all helped out in clearing the central area, and arranged the chairs in a circle.

People continued to walk in, filling up the seats, drums between their legs (like the one to the right, but some without the furry rim as seen here). I respectfully declined the offer from Jana to take up a seat, telling her that wify was the musically inclined in the family. As to my request to take pictures of the group activity, she motioned me to go ahead, adding, “people do that all the time.”

Thus endorsed, I just clicked away, and would let the pictures speak for themselves here of the contagious fun that everybody had, connected through the synchronous drumbeat, well, almost, led by the able Jana who knew just how to get all to let their hair down, and fired up too, for the evening.

This was the scene outside the cafe when we arrived, the trailer-ful (we would soon find out later) of drums in tow.

Wify, sitting directly below a steaming cup of coffee, and Mrs. Fan waiting for their order. The displays to the left comprise memorabilia from Africa, a testimony to the African roots of the proprietor.

A picture typical of an African scene and reminiscent of the safari there adorns the wall further into the cafe. The tree canopy kind of reminded me of a scene from the Lion King, a Walt Disney cartoon blockbuster sometime back.

Wify trying her hands on the drum while Mrs. Fan looked on expectantly, all awaiting the cue from Jana.

Let the drums roll. And my heart pounded in rhythm with the drumbeat.

The group drumming from another angle. Both Jana and her assistant (I think that's who he is) had their drums on slings, strapped over their shoulders, and inserted, at an inclination, between their legs, like so.

Notice that in this picture only wify's hands seemed to be in striking motion while the rest had them either on their knees or just resting on the drum. This was one of the variations of Jana's repertoire to get the group involved individually, a session I call "in the spotlight". First she would get a fellow participant's consent to go solo. Then she would do a quick countdown, signally the beginning of the solo drumming, and everybody else to stop simultaneously. Here it was wify's turn, despite this being her first contact with a drum, let alone making sound from it. I would say she managed to render some rhythm to her improvisation, confirming that my decision to defer to her for the evening activity was a wise one indeed.

This was another variation where Jana invited a young conductor to come forth to direct the loudness (increasing when their hands were raised and vice versa) and the spatial distribution of the drumbeat following the cue of their hands, resulting in alternating crescendo from different sections of the group much like a human wave seen in a stadium.

And the inside of the trailer, stockful of drums. As for the drumming experience, the display on the side says it all.

And at the end of it all, we took home a CD, on purchase, to remember the occasion by. Thanks Jana, Mrs. Fan, and you fellow drummers, young and old alike, for a drum-ful evening.