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maura @ 10:34 am
It’s dawning on me that I’m afraid to ride my bike to work. Yeah, it’s summer, and summer is hot, maybe not the best time to start riding your bike to work. But there are so many good reasons to do it:
1. Cheaper. I <3 the subway, but that $2.50/ride adds up.
2. Exercise is good. I have been walking home all summer (which helps somewhat with #1, above), but biking would get me moving in the morning and the evening.
3. The biggest reason is probably that biking is the only mode of transport that lets me bring a bunch of stuff to work (lunch, coffee, extra clothes if need be) without having to carry it on my back. I <3 <3 <3 my backpack* but the fact is that since
the slipped discs in my neck started bothering me starting to get old I probably shouldn’t be carrying lots of weight on my back for 45 minutes at a time each way to and from work on a regular basis.
* Yes, pricey, but seriously a fantastic bag that’s holding up amazingly. I’ve carried it practically every workday for something like 6 years and it still looks nearly new. Plus it’s super comfortable when I do have to carry lots of weight (i.e. a laptop) which I know I shouldn’t be doing but still sometimes have to do.
I have ridden my bike to work in the past, though inconsistently. There are somewhat annoying bits to it. I have a sturdy bike that’s pretty old-ladyish — 3 speeds only, plus coaster brakes! — so I imagine it’s not much of a theft risk, but I do still worry, especially since the bike racks at work are just out of eyesight of the security guards at the entrance to the college.** The ride itself is fine, though sometimes the street I spend the most time on (which has a bike lane) gets crowded, and I’ve occasionally experienced grumpiness from fellow bikers as they pass me. Dudes, it’s not a race! There’s room for everyone!
** I’m almost positive that it’s technically legal to use freight elevators to bring bikes inside buildings, and there is actually a frieght elevator that goes right to the floor in the library where my office is. But it’s a little ways to go through the college getting to the elevator and I suspect that the security guards wouldn’t let me walk my bike through that area.
I’m willing to concede that all of these minor complaints might be concealing a bigger fear, which is the fear of being mowed down by a car while I bike to work. Of course that’s always possible — even walking in NYC can be dangerous — but in reality the streets that I’d need to bike on are pretty quiet and safe most of the time. There are lights at every corner and bike lanes the whole way.
It’s been a busy summer with lots going on, new stuff to adjust to, and more coming down the pike. So maybe the real real reason is that I just can’t accommodate any additional new things right now, cognitive overload and such. Tomorrow morning looks nice and cool, maybe that will be the day to begin. (Or maybe not.)
maura @ 8:49 pm
The thing about adolescence is you go through it and it kind of sucks, sometimes more, sometimes less. Then the suckiness fades and you go through your 20s thinking “wow, that was intermittently sucky!” and then you get even older and think “man, I’m glad I never have to do that again.” Then maybe you have a kid, and if so you’re probably pretty excited about that, and also probably sleep-deprived. Probably so excited and sleep-deprived that you completely forget that at some point in the future you’ll have to go through adolescence again, except this time from the other side.
This is not a post about my kid becoming an adolescent. As he gets older I feel less and less comfortable blagging about him, and I’ve started to ask before I tweet something funny that he said or a photo. It seems like the right time to do that, to start letting him decide how much or how little of his life is online. And really, his adolescence so far has been nothing out of the ordinary.
Instead, this is a post about my adolescence. Even the ordinary with proto-teens can sometimes be trying, and I’ve been working to remember what it felt like on that side now that I’m on this side.
We lived in and around Philadelphia when I was little — both my parents were from around there, and we had some family nearby when I was growing up. From what I remember I was a pretty shy kid and didn’t like talking to new people for most of my childhood, though I was more vocal at home. For a variety of reasons we moved houses and schools a bunch during elementary school, and it was challenging to have to meet new kids when I moved schools. Still, by the end of elementary school we’d lived in the same house for a few years in a suburb with walkable access to parks, stores, and a movie theater. I knew the neighborhood kids as well as had some close school friends despite having gone to different schools in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.
And then during the summer between 6th and 7th grades we moved to Columbia, Missouri, for my dad’s job. It was starkly, starkly different: we lived on a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a big hill in a development that I remember being sort of on the outskirts of town. There was nowhere to walk or ride bikes to, and my parents had to drive us everywhere. My junior high was huge: I spent most lunchtimes in 7th grade in the library after eating in the cafeteria as quickly as I could. I got glasses, my hair got curly, my parents wouldn’t buy me the izod shirts that all the cool kids had. We got cable for the first time when we moved which coincided with the debut of MTV, and I watched lots and lots of cable. It took me a long, long time to make friends, though I did end up making a few friends that I missed terribly after we moved to Delaware after 8th grade.
High school was hard in the beginning — repeat moving, meeting new people, needing to be driven everywhere — but it got easier as time went on and I made friends and learned how to drive. The older you get, the less it matters what other people think, and that helped too.
It wasn’t universally awful, so few things ever are. I have fond memories of playing Tempest at the arcade and buying jelly bellies at the candy store, or seeing Raiders at the movie theater in the mall. But I also remember that for much of adolescence I was angry. Angry that we moved, angry not to have friends, angry that there wasn’t anything to do. Pretty typical stuff, but thinking back on it now I realize I was probably pretty horrible to be around at home, probably pretty mean to my parents and siblings. And I remember the crazy emotions, sometimes flying off the handle for something seemingly minor even while a little glimmer of reason meant that I kind of understood that I was freaking out needlessly, but being unable to pull out of it. It felt like I had lots and lots of reasons to be angry, really good reasons, but now that I’m a grown lady it’s clear that my parents were not actually trying to ruin my life, as much as it might have seemed so at the time.
Damn, I’m glad that’s over. The thing about getting older is that so much gets easier — I’m still more on the introvert than extrovert side of the world, but I’m much much closer to the middle than I once was (and being an introvert is perhaps somewhat easier in academia and librarianship than in other professions). And I’m old enough that there’s no way I’m even a little bit cool, anyway, so that’s a huge relief.
maura @ 10:14 pm
So I had jury duty today. It’s been a long time — nowadays you only get called for service every 8 yrs and I could swear I had jury duty after I’d already started at City Tech, but that was only 6 yrs ago so maybe I’m wrong? Maybe I was still in library school.
(Woah, checked my files and it was actually 2005! Time, flying, etc.)
A million years ago when we moved to NYC the jury duty thing was different. I got called probably in my 2nd or 3rd yr of anthropology grad school, pretty much as soon as I changed my drivers license from DE to NY. There was no limit to the deferrals then so I think I deferred something like 5 times — they kept calling me around finals week and I always had exams to proctor and grade. The director of grad studies in my dept wrote me a letter every semester to get out of it. Then I took some time off and was called right away, but I didn’t get picked for a jury.
I didn’t get called in Brooklyn until after Gus was born, and Jonathan and I had this incredibly complicated work + childcare setup that kept us both out of jury duty for a while (though required us to bring Gus and/or his birth certificate to the courthouse repeatedly). When I did finally do jury duty in Brooklyn I got to the questioning stage, which was new for me, though I was released before being assigned. They only keep you for a couple of days before they let you go if you haven’t been assigned, which is decent.
Now they automatically let you postpone once, which I did when I was called to report in last December, not the least hectic time of the year. I picked today, May 22, figuring that it’s the end of finals and that things would be slowing down, regularly scheduled commitments ending, and that it wouldn’t be the worst time in the world to be on a jury. Which is sort of true, though of course other things have come up in the interim. Our Chief Librarian is retiring in a few weeks and his retirement party is today (which I may miss the very beginning of). We’re hiring for a couple of positions and I’m on the search committees. By next Friday I’ve got to grade students’ final projects for the grad course I co-taught this semester, and prep a conference presentation for that date. And the usual end of semester meetings which result in end of semester meeting minutes to be written up and distributed.
So far it’s not so awful. The waiting rooms have somewhat decent wifi. The one I’ve been hanging out in has windows that overlook the street which is reasonably pleasant, though it’s kind of weird to be able to see my workplace from here (City Tech is just up the block from the courthouse). Since switching to a mostly-standing desk I’ve become mostly bad at sitting, which is a little weird in a waiting room situation, but I was able to find a table near an outlet in a corner to hang out in. I feel like people are looking at me a bit funny for standing, but what can you do. I’m caught up on twitter (a rarity for me these days) and catching up on other reading. I’m writing this blag.
On the downside, lunch was a bit late at 1pm. And, you know, it’s a waiting room. Sometimes the anthropologist in me enjoys looking around at what people are doing and eavesdropping on the conversations strangers are having, and sometimes I just want that young guy with the PSP to turn down the volume of his game so I can concentrate on what I’m reading. It’s sleepy, even after my afternoon thermos of coffee. But in some ways that’s nice, too — I don’t typically have much time to zone out and daydream, and the older I get the more I enjoy those opportunities when they present themselves.
Postscript: There was a big lot of no announcements at all when we got back from lunch, then bam, at 3:50pm they announced that everyone left in the room would get to leave, service completed. Woot! Later on someone noted that they probably didn’t have many cases just before Memorial Day weekend, which wasn’t what I’d planned for at all but seems like useful info to remember for next time. And *then* the officer who dismissed us pronounced both my first AND last name correctly which practically never happens. See you in 8 yrs, Supreme Court of Kings County!
maura @ 8:33 pm
On the last day of the year it’s hard to think of anything other than the past year. I tend to make most of my resolutions on and around the beginning of the new academic year in the fall, because that’s when my work calendar resets. But sometimes I feel like I want to take advantage of the normal new year, too.
Really there can be only one resolution for me this year, and that’s balance. It’s been clear over the past weekish that I haven’t been at work that my shoulder and neck issues are at least in part work-related. Even with the standing desk I probably don’t consider my posture enough when I’m computing, and I haven’t done much keyboard work over the break, which is one big difference from non-vacation times. That’s not to say that computer work is the only culprit as there are definitely other ways I hold my body that cause flare-ups, though I’m usually able to avoid them. Stress likely plays into things as well, though it’s tricky to say how much. Certainly I have sources of stress that are not work-related — stress reduction overall is a good goal.
I’m lucky enough to have a job that I love and to work on projects that I find both interesting and worthwhile. But it’s hard to push back against the academic norms of working or thinking about work all the time, and of measuring our own production in comparison to others, despite differences in life situations, ambitions, age, health, and sleep requirements. So part of my balance goal is to stop worrying about everyone else and find a pace that’s sustainable for me. This almost certainly means that I’ll need to turn down some opportunities that sound interesting and worthwhile, because time is not an unlimited commodity. But I hope that what I gain instead is better focus on the projects I do work on, as well as the shoulder and neck stuff under control.
So, striving for balance in 2014. Happy New Year!
maura @ 5:13 pm
We took a 5-day trip to the northlands to visit family and I’m going to go ahead and call it a vacation. There was one small thing I had to write at the beginning of the vacation, and another time when I had to pop into work email and approve timesheets, but other than that I was pretty good about staying away from work (even the book, about which I feel a little bit guilty but not too much, though I can’t decide if that’s good or bad). Also from twitter and the news: for whatever reason I’ve lately decided that tuning out from them are necessary for a vacation to feel real (not rss, though — if anything vacations offer the opportunity to catch up on nonessential stuff in my feedreader).
While I didn’t set out with it as a goal, it also turned out that this was the vacation of trying to punch my fear of heights in the face. And mostly succeeding!
One day we went to the alpine slide at the nearby ski mountain. Gus has wanted me to go on it with him for ages but I couldn’t face the chairlift, so Jonathan’s always been the slider parent. This year I decided that it was kind of silly for me to continue to be afraid of chairlifts, because alpine slides are really fun (I went on a few as a kid before the fear of heights set in) and I am a grown up. I *almost* backed out at the last minute as we were getting the tickets, but then I bucked myself up and got on the lift.
And yes, chairlifts are still scary to me, even slow low ones that don’t travel a great distance. I was mostly fine while grabbing the safety bar tightly and not looking down and talking
to at Gus; these words came out of my mouth: “No, you need to listen to my boring story from my childhood because it’s helping me to not freak out — just smile and nod.” And it was a pretty day, all sunshine and wildflowers and blue skies. But it did seem to take a long, long time to get to the top.
Once at the top there was a weirdly long backup of sliders, and then, the slide, which is still pretty fun and rad, I have to say. Gus and I raced even though you’re not supposed to and I beat him only at the very end, likely because of my superior weight. I’m not fired up to go chairlifting again, but I guess I can do it if I have to.
The next day we went to this treetop obstacle course at another nearby ski mountain (because the ski mountains need something to draw tourists in the off-season, apparently). This place also had a zipline treetop tour, but I voted that down because it still seemed too high for comfort (73 feet!). The obstacle course looked more interesting anyway, and ranged from 5-40 feet off the ground, which sounded more manageable.
The obstacle course was an absolute blast, I have to say. Jonathan totally pegged it when he called it a puzzle for your body to solve. You progress through a course made up of various things to climb, balance on, or ride on (each had a few short ziplines); the easy course was pretty linear, and the more challenging course sort of circular, climbing a bit higher on the trees with each activity. Some obstacles were fun and easy — wobbly bridges or a slack line — while others were really difficult — 5 tires hanging from ropes (the trick is to use your feet like monkey paws and grab each tire to bring it close enough to move to). With few exceptions it was just scary enough to be fun, and since you’re harnessed in and clipped onto a cable the whole time it felt reasonably safe.
Until the end. There were 3 levels on the challenging course, and the only way to get down from the medium-hard level or the hard level was a drop from a tall tree platform straight down. They used this smart belay system that’s all the rage these days — you see them whenever there’s a climbing wall set up at a fair or whathaveyou. The mechanics are similar to a seat belt: there’s a round-cased machine hanging from a tree with a line extended, you hook yourself to to the line and jump, and the line catches you and lowers you slowly to the ground. I watched several people do it and they all seemed okay, even people who were bigger than I am, and then I sort of forgot about it until I got to that platform.
And man, that tree was tall, and the drop, very far. It’s a peculiar experience to force your body to do something that your brain is so completely dead set against, but it was the only way down, so I took a deep breath and jumped. Really it was only a split second, maybe even less, before the machine caught me, and I was surprised to find that the fear evaporated instantly — a wasabi burn rather than jalapeno.
So, if you’re counting: Maura 2, fear of heights 0. In your face, irrational fear!
maura @ 2:56 pm
Avocados! Lately I cannot eat enough of them. Is that some sort of deficiency? I don’t know, but if it is then I’m happy to address it often, daily if possible.
I came to avocados kind of late in life, like lots of other tasty foods (and especially vegetables). My family ate a pretty conservative British Isles-type diet when I was growing up, lots of meat and potatoes, punctuated by the occasional Chinese takeout. I wasn’t exposed to non-Taco Bell Mexican food until high school, and even that was pretty bland (better than Chi-Chis, but not by much). Like many who spent their formative years in the suburbs I didn’t really start eating lots of different foods until college (in the city): Thai, Indian, Greek, Japanese, and, yes, Mexican and Cal-Mex.
Once I started eating Mexican/Cal-Mex food of course there was guacamole and chips, yum. I’m kind of sensitive to textures — can’t really eat yogurt, pudding, or smooth/slimy foods that are similar — but guacamole was so delicious that I tried it anyway. Plus the chunks of tomatoes and chips for dipping cut the softness so I could eat it. I resisted moving on to plain avocados, though, for fear of texture issues. They always seemed kind of bland, too, unless they were mashed up with spices in guacamole. But little by little I’ve found myself eating them more often — sliced up on the occasional sandwich, maybe in chunks in a salad.
Then all of a sudden, earlier this year, Jonathan started buying avocados and serving them up in halves on salad or as a side dish. And bam, I was hooked! Now I greedily eat them first, and it doesn’t even matter if there’s no dressing or seasoning. (I think my tastes are changing as I age, as lately I’ve found myself much more willing to eat lots of vegetables without any sauce or spices at all, just their actual veggie taste.) They taste so green and summery and delicious, how could I have ignored them for so long?
maura @ 10:32 pm
Sometimes, spam is poetry, as the title of this post (from a spam comment on a blog I write for) demonstrates.
I have come to the conclusion over the past few days that I am doing it wrong this summer. What? It. All of it. Everything. In my quest to use up vacation days before they became so numerous as to cause problems *and* to visit family *and* to take some time for book writing *and* to do all the work that needs to get done at work *and* to try and have some down time for relaxing, I seem to have created a weird, patchwork schedule that has me bouncing between states (mostly on and off, though sometimes also NY and NJ) at what is turning out to be an uncomfortable speed. Plus 4 different camps interspersed with no-camp time for the kid, which is also pretty bouncy.
A wise person suggested that I sit down with a calendar and try to block out the days for the rest of the summer, which does seem like a good idea. I have a list, several, actually (of course!), but even so I’m having trouble remembering which days are which. Tomorrow, the calendar, the blocking! (And only one meeting, phew.)
Also the heat, I think there’s a finger of blame to be pointed there. It’s been over 90 degrees for like the past 3 weeks or something, seriously my brain is melted. Even with the a/c on at home — in weather like this even I drop the kvetching over the a/c — and the temps cranked way down at work (low enough for my summer cardigan, which is long and hooded). By the end of the day I’m just pooped out.
More than anything I’m thinking that when I have vacation scheduled I really really really need to make it truly vacation. I keep thinking wistfully about our trip at the end of last year which was just so very relaxing, and I think the secret was not doing any work at all, even checking email, for the time we were away. I don’t even know that the awayness was the key, it might just have been the sticking to a vacation plan and not checking in with work. I do have one solid block of days scheduled out remaining this summer, so I’ll have a chance to test that theory then.
maura @ 2:39 pm
It’s been a quiet Spring ’round these parts, not really intentionally. The semester was busy, book writing is a slow business, we’ve had some proposals rejected (though have also sent out some that are still under consideration), I finished my junior faculty research leave time. Nothing super huge, but enough to keep me kind of mopey. Plus it rained and rained, and while I prefer cooler weather to heat I seem to be growing more susceptible to prolonged cloudiness as I age. Mope mope mope.
But now it’s July, the kids are out of school, and summer’s begun in earnest. We took a brief vacation to Montreal over the weekend and the combination of mostly ignoring the interwebs for 4 days + reading a leisure (if nonfiction) book + plenty of time in the car to space out while looking at the green hilly landscape has helped clear some of the cobwebs out of my head. There’s lots of writing I want to do this summer, both finishing the book (contract or no contract!) as well as finishing another article I’m working on with colleagues and starting on a couple (perhaps several?) of other articles with other colleagues. I’ve apparently been unintentionally hoarding vacation days, too, and since we don’t have any long trips planned for the summer I’m going to take a bunch of them as writing days, in whole or in part. Though since they’re vacation days (like today, actually), the rule is that I’m not allowed to beat myself up if I don’t get as much work done as I think I should. Any work on the book counts, even if only an hour.
Writing begets writing for me — as I always have to remind myself — so I’m going to try to up the posting levels here as well this summer. Striving for daily blags, even if only a few hundred words (like today, actually). Maybe just for July, maybe the whole summer, we’ll see. Butt in chair, smashing words together, all summer long. Go!
maura @ 10:44 pm
I’ve been thinking about writing all week and not writing as much as I should have been, given how much I’ve been thinking about it. A handful of days ago it was my birthday, a double number this year, not significant really in any way but I’ve had a strangely extended celebration as if it were.
First off was last weekend’s NYC Popfest. I went to Friday night (The Monochrome Set!) and Sunday night (Close Lobsters!) and still didn’t even see 50% of the bands playing. But it was fantastic nonetheless — lots of great folks in town to hang out with plus good music. I finally saw Math & Physics Club (who were great even when felled by laryngitis), and saw the wonderful Orange Peels for the first time in a million years. And was introduced to the new to me Cassolette, a delightful band of popkids from Florida who drove all the way up the East Coast with their 1 yr old for the show. They’re jangly and sort of Velocity Girl-y and truly lovely, all 10 songs of them. It’s funny that I interact with music so differently now than I used to, but they brought me back to earlier days: heard them at the show first, then started listening to their records. Of course now that we’ve got the superfast internetz I didn’t have to worry about not having a chance to buy any merch at the show, so that’s a big change.
There are other interesting differences between now and the Twee/Popfests of yore (where “yore” = 1995-1997). My feet get sore by the end of the night. Earplugs help my ears but make the music sound muddier. All of the shows are in Brooklyn. And so many beards, why do all young men have beards these days? Oh yeah, I’m much more tired, too. Going to 2 shows with 1 night between was like a self-experiment. The differences between the two nights were mostly related to alcohol and lateness (Monday was much easier than Saturday), but it’s a true fact that the 10 hrs of sleep I had on the 1 night between was the saving grace.
There was also Commencement this week, indulgent in its own way. I love Commencement; whatever tiredness I feel listening to speeches during the ceremony is washed completely away by the cheers and smiles of the graduating students and their families. And this year there were confetti cannons at the end! I happened to be seated right behind the speakers’ podium on the stage (where faculty sit) and my suspicion that I was visible in the corner of the jumbo screens was confirmed by an email from a former student who was graduating. It was fantastic to run into her after the ceremony (and after lunch with some of my favorite colleagues) — it’s unbelievably gratifying to hear that former students enjoyed and got a lot out of your class.
And the presents, Kyle, there were also the presents. A couple of books. A buncha CDs, including the last 3 Orbital CDs I didn’t own (so now I can finish the book, yay!). Then I treated myself to the Cassolette releases as well as two books for our book, both of which I’ve already read but recently decided I needed to own, as I contemplated interlibrary loaning them *again*.
And my mom coming for the weekend. And a video of my sister and niece and nephews singing Happy Birthday. And a lovely dinner (black-eyed pea salad + pork chops, yum) and *two* desserts (berry cake and brownies) courtesy of my sweetie. And a handmade Buttercup card.
It was a good week.
maura @ 5:26 pm
Last Friday I went to a conference in Manhattan and had what can only be described as an epicly cruddy commute into the city. I left in (what I thought was) plenty of time to make it to the keynote speaker and walked the 7 minutes or so to the subway station. And then I waited, and waited, and waited, the platform getting more crowded as time progressed. After I’d been in the station for about 20 minutes a train finally pulled in, and of course it was much too crowded for anyone new to get on. I waited some more, maybe 5 minutes or so, and was just about to leave the station when another train pulled in, similarly crowded. So I walked upstairs and out to the street and 2 blocks up the hill to the other subway station. Paid my fare (again!) and got on a train (thankfully of standard rush hour person-density) that arrived a couple of minutes after I got there. Of course that train was the wrong train for that line, temporarily rerouted because of a sick passenger or somesuch. Three stops later an announcement came on that the train was switching back to its original line, so I had to get off and switch trains again. I waited a normal amount of time for the next train which then proceeded to move slooooooowly (“please be patient”) through the next several stops, before finally getting up to normal speed once we were in Manhattan. I had to switch trains (planned, this time) one last time before I got off at my stop and walked the 10 minutes over to the conference.
Total commute time = nearly 2 hrs for something that should have taken me 1 hour at the most.
While alternately moving through the various stages of transit-related frustration or reading on my phone (thank you, Instapaper) during my trip, I also started thinking about the relationship between travel and time. Time while traveling (by non-self-powered means) is different than time otherwise. The MTA bends time, forces it to collapse or expand, making you so far yet so close, or so close yet so far. At one point on Friday I’d spent 50 minutes and 2 subway fares to get to a station that’s a 30 minute walk from my house.
What makes me grumpiest about transit delays is that it always seems like they happen on the one day when I need to go somewhere by a specific time. But of course having somewhere to be is a prerequisite for a delay; it wouldn’t be a delay in any real sense of the word if it were optional, a part of standard or normal life.
Car delays (= traffic) are numbing, probably because I hate car travel and feel guilty whenever we drive anywhere. But with a subway delay my brain goes into calculation overload, like the alterna-Astrid on Fringe. Should I change to another line? Which would be fastest? Of course the system is rigged against me because I don’t have access to all of the data points at once. What if I change to another line and that line has delays? Will the walk through the station to switch trains be faster than just sitting here waiting for this train I’m on to finally move? Those sunk costs can be difficult to overcome.
Ultimately it’s all about splitting timelines. What happened to that version of me at the original station, the one who waited for a train to come that wasn’t overfull. Where is she now? And did she get to the conference in time to hear the keynote speaker?