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imagine in your mind

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?

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at your book launch party

maura @ 6:31 pm

I haven’t been walking to work much recently. I had this strangely persistent low-ish level head cold for much of the second half of March and early April, during which I convinced myself that it was better to take it easy. Then there was the break. But this week I’m trying to get back on that horse and I’ve walked each day (so far!).

There’s some newish art in the public/corporate plaza I walk through, but other than some flags made of black, white, and silver lamé fabric, which are kinda Hunger Games-ish, the rest is fairly uninspiring. I did take an alternate route yesterday which let me see the other side of the cool word art painted on that garage, but it’s sunnier on that street so I think I won’t make it a regular part of my day.

Today’s walk was nice: cool and crisp, finally, after the early awful heat of this week. And I saw a couple of weird things too. The first was a man getting on a bike near the preschool* I walk by who was wearing a full lower leg boot cast. He just got on the bike and rode away like nothing was wrong. Are you allowed to ride bikes with a broken leg? Call me crazy, but it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. (Of course this made me wonder how he broke the leg in the first place…)

* This is the preschool Gus went to, which is now only 3 blocks from our house but when Gus went there was a couple of subway stops away. Commuting would have been so much easier back then if we could have walked! OTOH, 3 yr olds are skilled in making even a short commute into a long one.

The second weird thing was a woman pushing a dachsund in a baby stroller. The dog had a jacket on, and she was tucking a blanket around it. Looked like a normal baby stroller and I dunno, maybe she just dropped off her kid and was giving the dog a ride for the fun of it? I’ll also admit that, weird as it is, this made me wonder if we could put the cats in a baby stroller to take them to the vet. Probably not — I don’t think they would feel as adventurous about riding in a stroller as a dog would.

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art update!

maura @ 9:35 pm

The silver inflated cow is back! And a big coffee bean, too.


Sadly the big ball is now deflated. It’s been cold + windy here — hard for inflatable art to survive, I guess.

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mer du japon

maura @ 8:17 pm

A few weeks ago I promised to tell you more about the new art near work. On Wednesday I finally had a chance to take some pictures. Here’s an art tour just for you!


This is the first piece of sculpture I encounter on my walk through the plaza on the way to work. According to the sign, this is a collage of objects that represent the top results of a Google search for the word sculpture. Funky!


I don’t know what the story is with these. They’re inflatable, and I could swear that one of the middle platforms had a cow on it a few weeks ago. Maybe it popped.


This is very cool: a photo of rushing water on a board strapped to most of the trees (the same photo on every tree). I should go back and get a closeup. It’s a neat effect.


These are the Louise Bourgeois-esque cubes — there are actually 3, but only 2 would fit in the photo. During the day you can’t tell that there’s anything in them because they are slightly reflective, as you can see.


Bat chair!


Here’s what one of the cubes looks like at night — internal lights illuminate everything within, which includes shoes, plants, bottles of cold medicine, and liquor. Good times in a box!


Yay for art! If I remember correctly these pieces will all be up through the spring, so come on out to Downtown Brooklyn if you’d like to take a peek.

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surprise art

maura @ 9:29 pm

I was crabby on my walk to work this morning, tired + out of sorts. It’s been a long week. Superbusy at work. Rainy and yucky yesterday. Gus went camping w/school which is always fun for him (and us!) but is also very strange (quiet house!). And I’m having weird, waking-up-before-the-alarm insomnia lately, which is just infuriating.

So there I was, grumble grumble grumble on the way to work, when I rounded the corner onto the plaza near my job only to see that new public art had been unveiled since the last time I walked to work. There are at least 3 big sculptural pieces, including one that’s a series of glass boxes w/stuff inside that sort of reminds me of Louise Bourgeois. I didn’t have time to look closely (9am meeting) or take pictures today but will soon. And now you have something to look forward to in a future post, yay for you!

It was surprising how quickly my mood lifted when I saw the art. Art in the morning, it’s a mood inoculation! Need to find a way to stumble upon art every time I am grumpy.


from another galaxy

maura @ 11:23 pm

Sorry it’s been so quiet ’round these parts. I’ve been thinking on a meaty post for a while now but haven’t had time to get it out of my head. Sometimes when there’s a big ‘un brewing it makes me procrastinate posting something smaller in the meantime, as if I’m worried that I’ll waste all the creativity on an intermediate, less substantial blathering. Silly, is what it is.

So I’m back and have good news: I rode my bike to work today! w00t and YAY! I’m happy to report that I didn’t encounter any traffic-related problems, nor was I too hot when I got to work (I wore shorts + brought a change of clothes), nor did my bike get stolen. Even though it was the sole bike locked to the rack all day. I only went to check on it once, twice if you count when I had to go out for coffee because I stupidly allowed a meeting to end after 3 on Friday which means that all of the coffee locales on campus were closed, bah.

The route to work is pretty easy (downhill most of the way there) + straightforward, and nearly all of the streets I ride on have bike lanes. It was funny to commute with the hardcore bikers, clearly on their way to the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge. You could tell they were SERIOUS by their gnarly rides and the way they rushed past me as I rode my old lady bike (3 speeds! a coaster and a hand brake!). Dudes, it’s not a race! We’ll all get there eventually.

I still feel like a moron when it’s time to lock the bike up. I’m just not coordinated enough nor have I had enough practice to deal with the U lock and the cable (for the front wheel) and the variety of bike racks out there without looking like a spaz. It’s also kind of a pain to have to stash the bike in our basement. Bikes are quite popular ’round these parts and it’s hard to find a parking place.

But these are minor concerns, really. Yay for the bike and yay for the cute little cow, pig and sheep stickers I put on it, too! I recently unearthed some vintage Sanrio stickers so I’ll be stickerin’ that bad boy right up — I’ll post a picture soon.

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spin that record

maura @ 10:36 pm

I am afraid to ride my bike to work. There, I said it! The bike’s been sitting in our living room for nearly 2 weeks now. It could be down in the basement hanging out with all the other bikes, but I keep telling myself that I’ll ride it to work tomorrow, yeah, that’s it.

I know I’ve whined about this before (here and here). I guess really I am still nervous about all of those things. It’s worth noting that I haven’t ridden my scooter to work since my fall last fall (ha!). That was ha! for the rhetorical turn, which Wikipedia tells me is called antanaclasis, not ha! for falling. Falling sucked.

I don’t rightly know what to do about this. It’s kind of ironic, because I just today told someone that sometimes it’s good to do something that scares you, because it knocks you out of your comfort zone which can often be good. The example I used was when I went to present at that conference 2 wks ago — I actually didn’t know anyone else there, which is sometimes hard for me (I kind of hover over the line between introvert and extrovert). But clearly I really should have used my fear of self-propelled wheeled transport, which is a much better example (and doesn’t sound all smug).

It’s not that I’m scared to ride the bike at all. We’ve been riding in the park many weekends (with a more or less whiny kid, depending), which has been fine. But there are no cars in the park on weekends. And I never lock the bike + leave it anywhere. And I’ve done it before which means that I know what will happen. And…

I never really think of myself as a fear change kind of person, but clearly I am, at least in some ways. I do feel like I’ve pushed myself in many respects in the recent past — this afternoon I had a conversation in which I was reminded that when I was younger I really, really didn’t want to do any teaching, which is pretty much the exact opposite of how I feel now. But it is just so easy to come up with reasons not to ride my bike to work that it’s totally evident that I’m just scared.

Things will have to change soon — it’s just getting too hot for me to walk to work in the mornings. Plus, I suspect that the bike is actually the fastest way to get to work, and with school ending and camp starting soon for Gus our mornings will shift a bit later, so I could use that extra time. Stay tuned.

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letters from a grumpy old lady

maura @ 9:11 pm

Dear VCR,

You are seriously bugging me lately. A couple of months ago we tried to use you to calm down a bunch of rambunctious children during dinner, but you appeared to be broken. Since our building’s stoop sale is coming up soon we started to think that maybe it’s time for you to go, so last weekend I tried a couple of videotapes to confirm your unworkingness. The result of this experiment is that now you seem NOT to be broken (though several tapes are clearly kaput).

Now I don’t know what to do. We don’t use you much to watch videos anymore, haven’t, really, for months and months. But when I was testing tapes I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for Alice in Wonderland, Spice World, Tron, etc… And now I’m not sure we’re ready to let them go, even though it would free up a bunch of space on the shelves.

Stupid VCR. It was much easier when you were pretending to be broken.

Grumpily yours,

Dear weather,

Not to be rude, but are you taunting me? Last month it was eleventy billion degrees practically every day. All the flowers bloomed early and we rushed around like crazy people trying to see them. Since Spring was definitely sprung we spent time shopping for, ordering, and putting together new bikes for 2/3 of the family (the other 1/3 already has a bike that fits).

Now the bikes are here (and an extra bike, too, since we haven’t gotten rid of Gus’s old bike) and it’s blustery windy rainy November outside. Especially on the weekends. What is your damage, weather?

Don’t hope to see you soon,

Dear city,

Have you ever ridden the B71 bus westbound at about 8am on a schoolday? No? Then allow me to enlighten you. It is PACKED full of kids (and parents) on their way to school, and people on their way to work, to the subway, etc. This bus is not at all underused (at least in the mornings) and is really the only straightforward way to get from Crown/Prospect Heights to Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens.

Or at least it will be, until June 27th. That’s the last day of service for this bus line, at any time. Now, I know the bus can be pretty empty in the middle of the day, but cutting the whole line? That’s just cold. We are lucky that Gus’s school has a school bus, but who’s to say what the other kids on the bus will do?

And an extra special thanks-for-nothing for the date of the switch: the last day of public school is Monday, June 28th.


Dear state,

Get a grip.


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my office glows

maura @ 9:41 pm

We’re on Day 6 of the 10 Days of No Electronic Entertainment and doing pretty well here. The week was pretty easy, and as a bonus we discovered that Gus’s morning pokiness has nothing to do with video games at all: he’s just as much of a dawdler when he’s reading a book. I will admit to a bit of panic when I first heard that it’s going to torrentially rain all weekend, but today was fine. (Okay, I confess: he did have a birthday party in the middle of the day.)

All this talk of (no) video games reminds me that earlier this week I took a picture on my walk to work and haven’t had a chance to post it yet. So here it is:

post-it art!

Hard to make out, I know, so I’ll explain it. The college across the street from the college where I work has a dorm, and sometimes the students write stuff on the windows or use post-it notes to create pictures/words. This art using post-its is pretty damn brilliant: on the top is Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, and some gold rings. Moving down on the left is Pac-Man with a trail of dots, then Mario. Out towards the right away from Mario are boxes to jump on with a flag on the end all the way on the right.

Not only is this a cute riff on pixel art but it’s also cooperative. Since it spans many windows on multiple floors, the residents of those rooms had to get together to create it. Wonder if it was all at once or an accretion? Who knows, but I have to smile every morning when I pass by.

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we don’t need any kind of big parade

maura @ 10:45 pm

Yeah, I’m phoning it in tonight. I had 2 classes this evening and, while you’ll be happy to hear that they went well, I am wicked tired. 12+ hrs at work is a long time.

So here are some photos!

This is from the art windows that I pass on the way to work. It’s a mandala made of lots of little things on the floor inside this storefront.

It seems to change every few days. Perhaps this is why:

Yay for public art!