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too good to be true

maura @ 11:39 am

While I’m still wishing for an easier way to bring more exercise into my life, I’m also still kind of in love with my subway commute (even if it did give me covid late last year, grrr). It’s been years since I traveled into Manhattan most weekdays, maybe even more than 2 decades? And it’s never not interesting to me to watch everything during the commute.

The best thing about the Brooklyn side of the commute is in the morning when it’s easiest to see the subway zoetrope, a series of lighted paintings visible through the subway walls in a way that makes them seem animated. I’m still so amazed that it even exists, and I can usually get the best viewing spot right in front of the doors. And then we’re out of the tunnel and onto the bridge, my favorite part of the trip. Bicycles and scooters on the northern side of the bridge, walkers on the south; fast ferries full of commuters and slow tugs pushing barges in the river. The Brooklyn Bridge and Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty, and, sometimes, the Staten Island ferry (so orange!) if I’m facing south. The Williamsburg Bridge and the whole of Manhattan if I’m facing north.

There’s lots of new-to-me construction in both boroughs, which is fascinating and also kind of sad. On the Brooklyn side many of the tall buildings used to be parking lots, which is not exactly a loss though it’s worrisome to have so much new construction in the flood zone. Recently there’s been some dredging of the inlet with the stone beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a backhoe on a barge, so neat. The stained glass watertower sculpture is one of my favorite sights — before my commute I’d not realized that it’s lit from inside at night, so pretty, and it’s lovely in the mornings too.

On the Manhattan side I keep an eye out for the Forward Building in the mornings — boo luxury condos, though seeing that big FORWARD is still a good way to start the day. I’m also pretty grumpy about the giant shiny building (which I’m sure is also condos) right by the river on the site of a former Pathmark, though it’s pretty to watch the reflection of the train in the mirrored windows on sunny days. The edge of the FDR Drive (a highway!) is painted lavender all along the Lower East Side. And that one 6 story brick tenement building just before the trains go back into the tunnel, the back of which is painted turquoise, with a wheatpasted poster: white with black letters reading LOVE ME LOVE ME — it’s been there for decades too, how is it still there? — and then the Cardigans are my earworm for a bit.

Definitely there is more graffiti since the pandemic. I really love graffiti and there’s always plenty to look at from the bridge, too, on both sides. It’s interesting to see the same tags repeated in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and noticing some of them in other parts of Manhattan too. Artists will often use the architectural features of buildings in their work, and my favorite is when a smallish block of building is used for one tag, reminds me of the glyphs in Mayan writing. Some graffiti is more interesting to me for the text than the graphics — on the south side of the train in Manhattan someone’s tagged the top of a building with giant all caps letters that read BAKERS YEAST (lol). But my favorite on the south side is one that says KINDBUD with a heart. Is it a weed tag? Or just a wish that we’ll all be kind to each other, bud? Probably the former, but I like my latter interpretation.

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over our head seashells grow

maura @ 5:50 pm

View out the window, day 5

I started this post earlier this month, but keep having trouble making time to come back to it. I’m still kind of tired, not as tired as while I was sick, but a lingering fatigue that’s been difficult to describe. It’s not a muscular tired like after exercise, I guess more like a bone tired? Or sometimes it feels like a layer of tiredness between my muscles and bones. It’s a drag.

So to go back to the beginning: perhaps unsurprisingly here in season 3 of the pandemic, I came down with covid a little over a month ago. I tested positive on Thanksgiving and isolated at home until I got a negative rapid test on day 13 after symptoms started. I was grateful to have a relatively mild case — mostly like a bad head cold with sore throat, leaky face, sneezing, coughing, and headache for about 4 days, then lingering snottiness and fatigue after that. I’m also grateful to have been able to isolate: we have 2 bathrooms, 2 air purifiers, and plenty of windows to open, and with that plus masking I was the only person in my household to get sick.

The sickness part was mostly like being other kinds of sick: boring and tiring and with lots of tissues. I read a bit but mostly watched stuff on my laptop, taking advantage of the time to watch ridiculous scifi/disaster movies that don’t interest anyone else I live with, plus the Chernobyl miniseries which was terrific — so beautifully filmed, and I’m a fan of brutalist architecture so that was lovely for me too. And I will admit that nothing can interrupt your covid pity party like watching a show in which many people die of radiation poisoning. Things could be worse!

The work week I was home I mostly worked half days, mostly from bed (except for Zooms). I’d work a couple of hours in the morning, break for a nap midday, then a couple more hours of work. And the two weeks after that I made time for 30 minutes of lying down with my eyes closed in my office at lunchtime. I’d heard and read that resting is critical to covid recovery — that can sometimes be hard for me but I really tried to push back the urges to Get Things Done and to intentionally go slower. I skipped karate for a few weeks; I missed doing karate and seeing my dojo pals.

I’m grateful to have had a relatively mild case, to be mostly better, to have been in a position to take the time and space to rest and recover. But I am feeling all kinds of ways about this covid bout, still. I’ve been vaccinated and boosted a total of five (5!) times. I wear a KF94 mask on the subway and at work and in other indoor locations. I do occasionally go to restaurants, but not often. We still have free PCR testing at work and I’ve been testing weekly. And the timing of my last PCR test before I got sick strongly suggests that I got covid from riding the subway. #sadtrombone

I love the subway. It’s mindboggling that the system exists and works as well as it does (which is sometimes not well at all), and I feel so lucky that I get to ride it over bridges with amazing views, and that I don’t have to get into a car every day (ugh, cars). Truly, I’m a huge fan. But wow, people are not really masking on the subway. Masking had been going down for a while when the mayor and governor announced an end to the requirement at the end of the summer, and consistently I am one of only a few people masked on the trains during my commute. And I can’t not ride the subway to work — it’s too long to walk, I’m too chicken to bike, it’s really the only way.

I guess it’s also not just the subway that I’m sad about, but people more generally. Is it really that awful to wear a mask while in a small enclosed area for the duration of your commute? When it protects you and other people around you, some of whom (not me!) might have health conditions that put them at higher risk for complications from covid? I did upgrade my mask to an N95 and am being more careful about mask fit on my face, but really that is all I can personally do.

It’s so disappointing. I am so tired of this pandemic.


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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a little ranty

maura @ 9:45 pm

It’s my blag, I can rant if I want to! Today I had to take the subway both ways to work because of the rain and some big deadlines. Dear fellow straphangers, here are the inconsideratenessess (is that a word?) from today’s commute, please refrain from them in the future:

In the morning I stepped onto the platform just as a train was coming in, which is lovely. But then I walked onto the train right after two very tall men who walked onto the train and just stood by the door, all but blocking additional entry (I squeaked by with an excuse me and minimal touching, go me!). Now I’m as big a fan as any of the standing in the doorway subway strategy, esp. on shorter trips — it fits with my whole standing desk ethos. But people, if you want to stand by the door you should be the *last* person to get on the train, otherwise you’re just blockage.

This evening I got down to the platform only to hear the dreaded message “because of a stalled train at …” I waited 15 minutes and by the time the train came the platform and subway cars were packed. After waiting patiently for the car to disgorge its passengers I hopped on the train and tried to eke out a bit of personal space. I ended up getting a seat next to a rude person, yay! The kind of person who has a seat next to the door and a free seat next to themself and doesn’t scootch over to make it easier for someone to sit in the available seat, which means that everyone just sort of stands around and looks at the seat until someone finally climbs over and through everyone’s legs and backpacks to sit in the seat, thereby giving everyone a bit more room. You’re welcome.

And the final blow: when the subway pulled into my station I nearly didn’t make it off the train in time because someone was holding onto the horizontal bar over my head and would not let go as I struggled to move past him and under his arm. The train was stopped! No bracing with grab bars required! Sigh.

At least today didn’t feature my #1 top rude subway behavior: standing in front of the turnstiles while digging through a bag or pockets to pull out a Metrocard while others pile up in a line behind you, Metrocards at the ready. Seriously, please stop it.

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nothing’s coming to mind

maura @ 10:11 pm

In the past 2 days I have ridden 4 subway lines (in order: G,* 7,** Q and 5) and traveled to 3 CUNY campuses for 2 great librariany programs (and 2 meetings). Yesterday was a program on information literacy assessment at LaGuardia Community College, and today was a program on critical pedagogy and library instruction at Brooklyn College. (And in between I had 2 meetings at the Graduate Center, where the wifi is not locked down + the cafeteria always has something tasty for lunch.)

* The G used to be Gus’s favorite train when he was wee, for obvious reasons. The logo is a pleasing spring green, so I like it too.

** Gus used to <3 the 7, too, when his favorite color was purple. I love it because it goes elevated in Queens and passes by an incredibly beautifully graffitied building.

It’s so strange the way my brain reacts to new knowledge sometimes. These programs were both incredibly engaging and thought-provoking, and usually afterward I’d be working things out in my head or scribbling (really typing) down some half-baked notes + ideas sparked by all of the good stuff I heard + thought about. But I think that the close proximity of two highly interesting + relevant (both work-relevant and research-interest-relevant) talks has overloaded my brain somewhat. The wheels are spinning a bit, but nothing coherent and no urge to write it down.

I think my brain is temporarily full. Maybe stuff will percolate out tomorrow or later. In the meantime, Sherlock Holmes will help empty it out a bit, right?


¿se siente mal? podemus ayudarle

maura @ 12:56 pm

Woah, long time gone here. I’ve been busy — got pulled in on a big project @ work, fun but time-intensive. And then there was the sick, oh yes, the sick. Gus had the stomach flu, then I had the stomach flu, then Gus had the stomach flu again. Good times.

I’ve missed you, blag! It’s weird, I’ve really felt pangs of longing lately for some time, any time, to write. That’s positive, right? that I really want to write these days, so much so that I’m frustrated when I can’t.

Good thing, too, because I got my bloggy wish. What girl doesn’t need 3 blogs, I ask you? (I don’t want the trackbacks so I’m not going to link them — y’all can cut-n-paste ’em if you’d like.) You can find me blagging 1-2x/month about library stuff on the Association of College and Research Libraries’ blog at And I made myself a blog on the CUNY Academic Commons (another project I’ve worked on this year) for general higher education and instructional technology thoughts as well as stuff specific to the CUNYverse. That one’s at

Last week I had a meeting in Manhattan. I do love my current (walkable!) commute, but it’s fun to have the chance to ride the subway over the bridge sometimes, too. There’s always something new to see — like last spring when I kept thinking, “what the heck are they building on that pier?” and it turned out to be a waterfall.

Right now there’s this cool underground art between the DeKalb Ave stop and the Manhattan Bridge. Brightly colored images are painted on the walls and when the train goes by and you look out the window the supporting tunnel girders make it look like one of those old timey spinning wheel animation things. The internets remind me that’s a zoetrope (thank you Wikipedia!).

(Ooh, it’s called Masstransiscope, see article + video in the Times here!)

Also when I ride the subway I remember that I really want to learn Spanish. It’s so tantalizing to read all of the Spanish signs and almost understand them. Someday there’ll be time, right? I suppose I could give up some blagtime, but I think I’m more attached to blags for now. Sorry, Spanish!

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