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puppy love

maura @ 10:29 pm

This evening I taught a class so I came home a bit later than usual. And apparently I came home at dog walking time, because there were all manner of dogs all over the place on my walk home from the subway. Big dogs, little dogs, jumpy dogs, dogs smelling other dogs’ butts, you name it!

I’m kind of really wanting to get a dog lately. There is no good reason for it, but I keep seeing these dogs and thinking how fun it would be to have a dog to play with. We have two cats who are themselves somewhat doglike: the one that likes me best runs to the door when I come home, and they run around the house crazily and try to jump out the window to catch birds. But they’re less snuggly than they could be, which I think is why I’m pining for a dog.

We do not need any more animals in this house for sure. No more hair, no more other maintenance. One of our humans in this apartment (guess who?) is lobbying for a snake of late. While snakes are cool, again, the maintenance, oof. His best friend just got a snake so it’s been getting harder and harder to deflect the snake talk recently. And his birthday and xmas are coming…

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fishy thoughts

maura @ 10:35 pm

Today we went to the aquarium, because it was beautiful outside and that’s what Gus chose to do. It was actually a perfect day for it, not even very crowded. Weirdly, many of the animals were kind of hyperactive! Maybe it was the warm weather? The aquarium’s only partially outdoors, though.

First up was the moray eel. When we got to the coral reef exhibit the moray was just sitting there on top of the reef as fish swam by incessantly, typical eel stuff. But then it suddenly took off and started swimming around. It swam all the way down to the end of the tank, then looped around and came all the way back and stuffed itself into a hole. They’re so weird-looking when they swim, all snakey and slithery.

We also passed by the penguins. Usually they’re standing on the rocks just sort of staring at you, which often prompts me to wonder who, exactly, is in the exhibit? But today we were walking by the underwater viewing area and they were in the water swimming like crazy! They sped in circles around the tank, jumping out of the water and looping around below. It was as if someone had challenged them to prove that penguins are good swimmers. Or given them coffee. Or something.

But most impressive was the octopus. Gus is a huge fan of cephalopods and, having spent the morning researching colossal squid on the internet, was primed to ogle the octopus for a spell. Its tank is rather small and usually the octopus is squeezed up into the corner of the tank, all smushed together and rather difficult to see. But today was different! When we got there the octopus was lying vertically alongside of the front of the tank and we had a great view of its head and body. Then, suddenly, it stretched out to practically its full width, unfurled all of its tentacles, and moved slowly to the middle of the glass, changing color from milky white to reddish-brown as it moved. It settled in on the front of the glass, all splayed out with the tentacles suctioning right on the glass, and turned back to white again. It hung out there for a while and *then* moved to the opposite side of the tank to resume the vertical arrangement it started with. I finally dragged Gus away after about 40 minutes.

I realize that this doesn’t sound so impressive as I type it, but it was truly a big deal. Seriously, I think this is more than we’ve *ever* seen it move in the 9 or so years we’ve been going to the aquarium, maybe even more than all of those other times combined! I think somebody gave the octopus coffee, too.

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bussed out

maura @ 10:26 pm

We’re home today, having only taken the quick trip north. Where quick = the length of time we spent in Montreal, not the length of time we spent on a bus. Lots of sitting, oof.

Tired tonight and lots of TV to catch up on, so please enjoy some of my random photos from the trip!

We stopped at the Duty Free on the American side of the border on the way up, and in addition to cigarettes and liquor there were many somewhat unusual finds:


Who doesn’t love the full set of Lord of the Rings Pez dispensers? Look at that Gollum head!


Enormous candy abounded. I’ve only ever seen a Hershey bar this big at Hershey Park!


Also how would you even eat this gigantic lollipop? Wouldn’t it get all icky before you had a chance to finish it, like Homer’s sandwich? (Okay, how weird is it that I can only find that clip in German? Copyright stinks!)


When we got through Canadian customs we were waiting to reboard the bus near a door with this sign on it. I get that it means first aid, but it *looks* like it means “extra bandage-wrapped hands in here!”


And then there was poutine, and there was beer, and there was great rejoicing. Followed by cafe au lait and tarte de sucre, not pictured here. Candy bars were brought home as well, one Coffee Crisp and one Crunchie for each of us. Heaven forfend we ever move to Montreal because we will clearly become enormously fat!


this totally still counts

maura @ 10:48 am

This conference has been an interesting experiment in connectivity detox. I’m typing this on Friday evening at about 10pm, but I won’t get to post it until tomorrow because I’m too tired (and in my pajamas!) to go to the hotel lobby and it seems silly to pay for wifi in the room just to post my blag.

When we got here yesterday we thought we’d pay for wifi today, but then we were barely here at the hotel all day. There is wifi at the convention center — I won’t mention which toll access publisher sponsored it. But before our paper (at 8am!) I tried to connect and couldn’t get on. Which was probably just as well — what’s the etiquette on livetweeting your own session, anyway?

I finally figured the wifi out later on and greedily caught up on twitter and email. Otherwise I’ve been grabbing wifi in the hotel lobby as we’re coming and going, and using that to face time with Jonathan and Gus.

I guess that’s enough. Since it’s Canada here I’m not using the phone for internet, which means no connectivity except for wifi. And there’s been less wifi than I expected. I admit that I’m a little twitchy, much more so than when we were in a similar situation in London 2 1/2 years ago. There’s the usual email and rss and twitter reasons to use the internets, of course, but I also feel like there are lots of conference tweets I want to catch up on since there were sessions that seemed interesting yesterday that we couldn’t go to.

Fingers crossed there’s wifi on the bus home tomorrow. You’ll know we’re wified up if you see this post in the morning!


je suis sur l’autobus

maura @ 9:17 pm

What’s the prompt? Need a prompt. It’s too easy to write about today, which I’ve mostly spend (and am still spending as I type this) on a bus. A sadly wifi-free bus, which is a bummer because as we’re sitting here waiting waiting waiting to clear customs I’ve had to turn data roaming off in preparation for finishing the ride to Montreal.

So instead I will write about languages. Many of the middle schools in our part of Brooklyn don’t offer languages in the earlier grades or even at all. I can understand why–their time is limited and they do offer lots of other great stuff. But preparing for this trip and listening to folks speaking French on the bus has me thinking about whether we might want to try for some language lessons outside of school, as tiger mothery and scary as that sounds.

I love languages, though I never gained true fluency in any. I had some French as a little kid in Montessori school, then I chose French in junior high and the first 3 years of high school. The last two years of high school I took Latin, which kicked ass–so very excellent & rules based and so helpful for etymology, too. I also had a tiny bit of German in high school, maybe 1 trimester? (We had a very strange high school schedule).

In college I was determined to fulfill my language requirement with the most off-the-beaten-path choice possible, which means that 2nd year found me in the introductory Sanskrit class. It was wicked hard (oh, the extra time of transliteration) but really fun. In some ways taking Sanskrit made me take college itself more seriously–I had goofed off a bit during 1st yr and my grades weren’t great, but Sanskrit was pretty much sink or swim. It rocked.

I flirted with learning Old Irish in archaeology grad school, even bought the books! They are very handsome, we have them still. But it’s really hard and I don’t even know modern Irish and then I changed my research area so it seemed like less of a good idea.

I haven’t had any language study since then, though there are several languages that I’m fond of. Icelandic because it’s so old. Finnish and Hungarian because they’re so non-Indo-European. Japanese would be so practical, since we’d like to visit one day. Spanish is, of course, the most practical of all. It would probably be relatively easy to pick up because of the French and Latin experience of my youth, and would enable me to eavesdrop in my day to day life much more effectively.

Even though I’m far far from able to converse, it’s still amazing to me how much French I actually remember. I’m sure I’ll forget it all when it’s time to order dinner, though as long as I can say poutine I’m sure I’ll be okay.


like leaves in the wind

maura @ 10:50 pm

I’m jumping from task to task right now, having a hard time focusing on getting done what needs to happen: blagging, packing, tech prep, last minute email answering, figuring out where to get poutine.

Tomorrow I’m off to Montreal for the American Anthropological Association meetings. My research partner and I are presenting about one small part of our huge honking research project on Friday morning, yay! It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a really academicy conference. Yes, we wrote a paper, and yes, we will probably read it. But our slides are good, and I think it’s okay to read a paper sometimes (she reassures herself).

Once again I’ll be traveling without my laptop, with just my ipad. I flirted with bringing the laptop for a long long time, because we will be on a bus for a long long time. But it’s just not practical to schlepp it around with me. So we’ll see how much I can get done on the bus with the pad, yo. (Fingers crossed for wifi!)

I’m looking forward to visiting Montreal again, even though it’s only really for one day. Maybe we’ll go to the archaeology museum! And the rad library, too. Right this very minute Jonathan’s verifying the quality of the poutine and tart sucre place we’re eyeballing, yum. Considering bringing an extra suitcase to stuff with coffee crisps.

Ah, go away, I have to pack!



maura @ 11:31 pm

Conference presentation Friday, slides to finish, laundry to do. Weird things afoot today, what with the Occupy Wall Street eviction and the Georgia Tech FERPA fiasco. Very very very very very very tired. Too tired to even hyperlink (oooh, how 1996!) those for you, though I trust you can muster all the power of the internets to find them.

Too many videos lately, so here’s a picture. Lynda Barry is so excellent, no?

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what i had for dinner tonight

maura @ 10:36 pm

Date night! At a restaurant we love, that we haven’t been to in forever. It was yummy.

Wine: Lambrusco. Like grape soda for adults!

Appetizers: ravioli stuffed with beets in butter and poppyseeds, gnocchi made of chard + cheese in brown butter. (Mmm, buttery!)

Mains: rabbit with gravy on polenta with oil-cured black olives (I could eat that every weekend and not get bored); saltimbocca (pork with prosciutto and sage) with smashed roasted potatoes

Dessert: shared a pear cake with chocolate chunks and vanilla whipped cream

Also there were some fancy after dinner drinks, not tokaj but looks like it, don’t remember what they were called (hint: it was Italian). Very yummy.

I never knew what tokaj was until reading The Golden Compass, and now I have a very strong association of the book and the drink. We got a bottle once with a very thin long neck and a pretty scrolly gold label. Also Hungary! A very interesting country, not in the least because Hungarian is not an Indo-European language.

Thus ends tonight’s randomfest. Tune in tomorrow for tales of woe as I try to finish up all of my work before heading up north to the anthropology conference later this week!

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a list

maura @ 9:15 pm

I keep thinking that I want less clutter less stuff less space, but then I can’t resist the college dorm room look of stuff taped on the walls everywhere. Above my desk at home is a small corkboard where I’ve tried to corral those impulses. Of course it’s full.

What’s there? Glad you asked! From the top:

– Handmade gift certificate for a $50 donation to from Jonathan from a couple of Xmases ago.

– Index card, a bit brown around the edges, with a note on it (in faded ink) that Jonathan put in my lunchbox the day I defended my dissertation, which reads “I am very proud of you!”

– Keychain with Gus’s first ever school picture in it. He was almost 3 yrs old and I’ve always been amazed that they were able to get him to smile. The keychain is cheesy, but it came free as part of the photo package.

– Half-used sheet of photobooth stickers of Jonathan and Gus (age 1.5 or so) from the not-very-mall-like mall. Gus is not smiling, but Jonathan is.

– “We are all Wisconsin” sticker from the faculty union I belong to from earlier this year.

– “Proud to be Shelfish” button from donating to the public library a couple of years ago.

– Fortune cookie fortune: “Knowledge is power.” It’s recent and from what I recall the food wasn’t all that good, and I’m not sure I believe it anyway.

– Note from Gus that festooned a birthday present of mine last year: “Magician gave this to you!! Don’t ask.”

– My ALA (American Library Association) membership card, because sometimes you need your member # to login to the website.

– Picture of Gus (maybe about 2?) taken with the Hello Kitty Polaroid Izone camera I used to have. It’s a sticker, too!

– NYPL library card, backside visible so I can see the barcode # in case I want to login to their databases.

– Business card (vertical orientation) for the CUNY Academic Commons.

– Business card (horizontal orientation) for Mud Flap Grrrl Designs, from which Jonathan bought me some rad embroidered handkerchiefs a couple of Xmases ago.

– My Inbox Zero Nerd Merit Badge. Still a challenging feat!

– Classic 4-photo black and white photobooth strip of me + Jonathan making silly faces.

Poem that Gus wrote in 2nd grade.

– ID card from when I was an adjunct at Brooklyn College. The picture is so much better than on my current City Tech ID, wish I could have kept it.

– Gus’s extra passport photo from when we had to get him a passport to go to London.

EFF Fair Use sticker that was on my old phone. When I peeled it off the stickiness was all used up, sad to say.

This cartoon from the New Yorker

– Bookmark w/contact info from one of my professors in my graduate library program.

– Small piece of neon orange embossed label tape on which Gus printed “MOM”

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don’t know about you

maura @ 9:23 pm

Everyone is greedy for something, and I am greedy for time. It’s just dawned on me recently, like most self-realizations do, probably because I’m getting older and time is much less elastic than it used to be. I need sleep, I like to spend time with family and friends, I have chores. I used to have hobbies. I can’t work all the time. I don’t want to work all the time.

I do want to work all the time. Or, more accurately, there are too many things that I want to do and not enough time to do them. This is a good situation to be in, I realize. It would suck to have a job that didn’t make me want to do all the things. I spent so long trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do, dancing around higher education, technology, and research, trying to fit them all together into something with a job title and a steady salary. It’s still a rush to have that now.

It’s a struggle to stop adding things to my plate, to say no to interesting opportunities because I just don’t have the time in my days. Looking at my long list of projects, committees, and tasks (thank you, promotion application, for making me all reflective), there’s remarkably little there that I would jettison. I love my library work, I love my work on the big college grant, and I love my research and writing projects. I could do each of those things 100% of the time. But no one has 300% of the time.

I am having trouble squishing 100% down to 33.3%. I keep joking recently that I have 3 full-time jobs because that’s the amount of headspace that each of my 3 worklives seems to occupy, even if that’s not technically true in the meatspace. I worry about the other worklives when I’m focusing on 1 of them, wondering whether I’m ignoring the other(s) too much. I know that this is partly a result of settling into things: my newly-expanded role on the grant, my main research project heading into coding and analysis and writing up mode.

I know it will get easier to balance these 3 things, but I don’t know that I’ll ever get over feeling a bit sad that there’s not enough time in the day for all the stuff I want to work on. Greedy, greedy, greedy.

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