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5September
2015

saved by zero

maura @ 3:36 pm

I still like to have a paper calendar hanging near my desk, and this year it’s a free calendar from the Nature Conservancy (well, I guess I made a donation at one point, so it’s not really free). August’s calendar models were three adorable sandpipers on the beach. For some reason their cute little faces and bright orange feet were honestly captivating to me, and I haven’t yet found the will to turn over the calendar to September (a cool foresty brown bear).

We haven’t been to the beach in a while. I really, really dislike sand, I was so very relieved when the kid finally outgrew sandboxes. I also am not the biggest fan of sunscreen, much as I realize that it’s an absolute necessity for someone as fluorescently pale as I am. The sand + sunscreen combo I find particularly yucky, as I’m sure most people do. But I do like the ocean a lot, both for swimming (much much more awesome than swimming in pools) and for looking/listening. And the sand always *looks* nice, too.

When the kid was littler we often went to the beach with my family during the summer. It was typically a fun, chaotic, energetic time — lots of little kids + sand + sea + vacation food will be that way. The kind of vacation you kind of feel like you need another vacation to recover from. And while I like the relative calm of vacationing with a teenager now, I kind of miss those beach vacations. The last week of August — this past week — was often when we’d go, lots of kids are in school by now so the rental prices have gone down. But with the kids getting older and all of my nieces and nephews now starting school before the NYC public schools (which don’t start til next Wednesday), it’s been to hard to plan a big beach trip in recent years. It’s a bad week for me work-wise, too, as CUNY has typically started by then.

One thing that seems more of a boring grownup thing that I like is visiting the beach on the off season. No swimming, of course, but still lots to love about being near the ocean. The kind of vacation that might be easier with a teenager. Perhaps we’ll test out that theory this year.

les tags: , ,
16August
2015

summer school

maura @ 5:42 pm

With August half over it’s tempting to look at my list of stuff I wanted to accomplish this summer and cringe a bit. I haven’t gotten as far as I’d like to with the home improvement tasks, reading/playing games/watching movies, or weekend daytripping as I hoped. OTOH, we had two nice vacations and I’ve done a fair amount of reading and writing for ongoing and new research projects.

I’ve actually done a huge amount of reading this summer, full stop. Much of that is in the service of my growing interest in anti-racist work. Like lots of well-meaning white folks I started self-educating in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s murder last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. I was pretty appalled at what I didn’t know about civil rights history and structural racism in the U.S., to be honest. It’s really depressing what’s not taught in school, and as a high school and college and graduate student I didn’t go to any great lengths to seek out this learning so was able to remain blissfully ignorant for far too long (hello, white privilege).

So I started reading, reading, reading. Twitter helps — I follow a buncha radical librarians and academics of all sorts, lots of sociologists and others doing anti-racist work. The past year’s protests have also used twitter to spread information, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunity that twitter affords to listen in on conversations and learn. As much as I feel drawn to protesting, feel like I want to want to be there, I’m enough of an introvert and not a big fan of crowds to know that marches are not really going to work for me. But I’ve increasingly felt like I need to do more than just read, tweet, and retweet.

So this summer I tried to kick it up a notch. In July I participated in a 2 1/2 day workshop called Undoing Racism, sponsored by the Anti-Racist Alliance. While it wasn’t a CUNY thing it was held at Baruch College and there were lots of Baruch folks there as well as other educators, social workers, and others. White folks were in the majority though there were lots of people of color there as well, and we all came in with an interest in doing anti-racist work, which set the stage well. Less satisfying was that folks were at all different stages of understanding structural racism and white supremacy, which sometimes made it feel like the black participants were teaching the white participants about racism (something one of the black participants identified). It was also a big group — there were probably about 45 of us — and it seemed like we were rushing through at the end, perhaps because it was hard to get through the schedule with so many folks in the conversation? It ended up being somewhat light on concrete actions we can take to help dismantle racism, which was a bit disappointing. The Anti-Racist Alliance holds monthly group meetings as well as the workshops — there’s a group especially for educators that meets during the school year and I think I’ll try to make it to one of the meetings to see what they’re like.

This month I’m participating in an online course offered by social justice activist Patti Digh called Hard Conversations: An Introduction to Racism, Unconscious Racism, and Silent Racism. The course is great though a lot (LOT!) of work — I’m putting in about an hour each evening on average and I could definitely be spending more time on it. In some ways the course is similar to last month’s workshop in that it seems like it’s more white folks than POC and everyone’s at a different place in their prior knowledge about racism. While there’s much more to read (as well as videos to watch) in this course, there’s also more time to process and discuss, which we do on forums devoted to a question about each topic or reading. So far I’ve read some things that are new to me and some that I’d read before, and like some of the other participants I’m eager to get to the “things we white folks can do” part of the course. But since the course is 4 weeks (this is the end of week 2) I trust that we’ll get there. It’s also a very big course (my first non-open MOOC!) — about 2,500 people signed up and probably about 300-500 are actively participating in the forum discussions. I’ve tried to follow threads of interest to me and do respond to folks but that’s really where I could spend more time, reading and commenting on my classmates’ forum posts.

Tonight we have a huge giant phone call with the Hard Conversations course and I admit to being a little bit nervous. There was a call last week that I had to miss, and even after listening to the recording of the call I’m still not sure how a call with this many participants will work. In a few hours I guess I will find out.

les tags: ,
27July
2015

wait, what?

maura @ 10:16 pm

It was June, and then the kid’s school ended, and then we took a few trips, and now it’s nearly the end of July. Woah. The trips were to Germany and Vermont and New Hampshire and all were different and fun. I have to go back to work tomorrow so I should go to sleep, but I’m compelled to share a few holiday snaps.

We went to the part of Germany that was very castley. The castles were amazing — this is one on the banks of the Rhine that we climbed up to. It was very very high, and I chickened out of going up those stairs to the very top. I like to think that the hanging cage is for the heads of their enemies, but that’s probably not true (this was a country residence more than a fortification).

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The parts that weren’t castley that we visited were like a Disney village. For serious, it was just like stepping into the set for Pinocchio. Wild.

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Ice cream! The Germans are apparently mad for ice cream and the party I traveled with indulged more than daily. To be fair, it was in the mid to high 90s F the whole time we were there, and like any good Old World nation the Germans eschew air conditioning (luckily the beer was also cold and plentiful). This is the kiddie menu from one of the many eiscafes that we visited. Super creepy.

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And speaking of creepy, one of the towns we visited had these marionette machines that you put a euro in and the puppets would act (and sing!) a story. It was super weird — we don’t know much German so we could only guess at most of the story. Total horror movie stuff, though.

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After Germany we were home for 12 days, then once the jet lag wore off we headed up to New England for family visiting. First stop, Vermont, where there was lots of nature of the animal sort: my dad now has 3 dogs 4 cats and 8 chickens (!). Plus the undomesticated animals: frogs, froglets, newts, and crayfish in the pond. I swear they were tadpoles with little leg buds on Monday and full-fledged froglets with 4 limbs + a tail by Friday. Zoology, man.

There’s also a family of 3 garter snakes living under my dad’s front steps. We caught 2 of them sunbathing.

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Next was New Hampshire for more fun with the other side of the family. There was a pool, and there was swimming, because like the Germans, the New Hampshireans don’t have air conditioning. The plastic alligator had a little too much to drink and pulled a SoCal, Less Than Zero-style sinking to the bottom of the pool.

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And now we’re home (sigh). And it’s going to be hot this week (double sigh). But it’s nice to be back. Boy, the cats missed us.

les tags: , ,
17July
2013

sometimes, existing perfective is an impossibleness

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.

les tags: ,
21July
2012

arrive without travelling

maura @ 9:58 pm

Vacation! We’ve had some vacation so far this summer, and we’ll have some more still. First we made our annual midwest trip, this time with bonus heat! (not that it was any cooler at home) We had a blast over 2 quick days in Chicago seeing good friends and doing fun things. In order, we: ate Chicago dogs at Murphy’s Red-Hots (mmm, celery salt!), enjoyed a BBQ with ex-neighbor Brooklyn ex-pats, ate a maple-bacon donut at Do-Rite, visited the robot library and the Reg, ate garbage pizza at the Med, geeked out on the giant trainset and Tesla coil at the Museum of Science and Industry, ogled the architecture as we drove around, enjoyed a delicious dinner at Lula Cafe in Logan Square, and got our cinnamon rolls and Swedish sampler breakfast on at Ann Sather.

Then it was off to Indiana where we also ate well, including the always delicious Duane Purvis burger (mmm, peanut butter!) with fried mushrooms and a vanilla coke at Triple XXX diner and brisket + ribs from South Street Smokehouse. What is it about traveling lately that food has become such an important thing? I don’t know, guess we’re getting old. Of course it was lovely to see everyone, too.

We left the sprog in the midwest for a bit and indulged in some more food back home, a newish fancy restaurant and an old fancy restaurant, each with good old friends. Plus bonus art! At the Guggenheim, which I’d have sworn I’d been to in the past but when we got there I realized I hadn’t. The building is delightful (semi-circular elevator wow!) and the art was medium-arty, but the Rineke Dijkstra photography/video retrospective was phenomenal and totally worth a visit. We also rode our bikes to Governor’s Island which is easy-peasy on the way there and around the island and somewhat more difficult on the way back, evenmoreso when it’s 90 degrees. The weird park/museum that is Governor’s Island never fails to make me happy, though, so it was worth the uphill homeward trip for sure.

And now we are home and doing home things. Worky working for the adults, campy camping for the kid. We do have some other vacations planned this summer, family stuff to the mountains and the beach. But I am feeling a bit of traveling envy as well. I want to go to the Grand Canyon, to Yellowstone, to Hawaii. To Scandinavia, always, but especially because two books I’m reading right now are set there, and also because Gus has a friend who is traveling in Scandinavia with his family this summer. This is not the summer for long trips, though: I’m writing a book with my research partner about our big project, which is keeping me busy.

But maybe next summer we can do a longer trip. Certainly if temperatures in the 90s is the new normal it would be nice to flee the city, and Scandinavia in the summertime would be even nicer.

les tags: , ,
3July
2012

k is for the kid in her

maura @ 8:30 pm

Woah, what happened to the summer projects list? Blame the vacation, about which I’ll write more soon. It was very relaxing (yay!) and involved much more reading than writing.

The call of the blag has grown louder the past few days, so here I am to finish out the list. These are the less exciting projects, I have to warn you. But in the interest of completeness (and of keeping myself to the tasks by making them public)…

3. Ebay the old Legos
We’ve used ebay off and for years to get rid of old stuff, especially technology stuff which tends to fetch a decent price. Most of our stuff slated for removal from the apartment goes to our annual stoop sale and, thanks to my new vow never to bring stuff back into the apartment once it goes out to the stoop, off to Goodwill on the same day if it hasn’t sold. Stoop sales are easy but don’t usually net us much unless we have something biggish to sell, like a bike or a tape deck. Ebay is kind of a pain — all of that taking pictures and describing the items and setting the prices and mailing things out — so we tend to use it only if it seems like we’ll make decent money.

Legos are different from most of our other stuff. Gus has some sets that he really likes, but has never been the biggest lego fan (which still somewhat surprises me). Because I am a packrat and because I bought some legos as late as college (like the nerd I am), there are a bunch of my old sets that Gus doesn’t want. And it turns out that they’re actually worth some ca$h, too. So, ebay it is. And maybe I’ll share my loot with the kid. Maybe.

4. Clothes shopping
I hate clothes shopping, as I’ve often complained. I could bore you with the details about why, but Mimi Smartypants says it so much better so I won’t.

But the time has come: my wardrobe is in dire straits and I’m looking even frumpier than usual, even given the generous librarian frumpiness allowance. With summer Fridays kicking in I won’t have my usual excuse, which is that I can’t shop on the weekends because it would be so unfair to take time away from Jonathan and Gus on the weekend when I only see them for a few hours a day during the week.

This Friday we work, because of the July 4th holiday, but next Friday I’m off to the shops. It’ll be Friday the 13th, think that’s a bad idea?

And I’m thinking of bribing myself to clothes shop by dangling a prize: if I go shopping and end up adding a few more work outfits to my stash, I can treat myself to a new pair of sneakers. My favorite sneaker shop in the Village closed last year so I’m thinking of springing for the extra $30 to make my very own custom Sambas. What do you think?

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5. Sew a new phone cozy
This one’s easy because it’s almost done! I’ve chosen the fabric and sewn the pouch already, so only the most labor-intensive parts remain: sewing on the ribbon edging. The old sock I’ve been using for a phone cozy is long LONG past its prime, and since I broke out the sewing machine a couple of weeks ago to convert some long-sleeved t-shirts into short-sleeved for Gus, I thought I’d get started on a new cozy too. This would be a good project for watching a movie or something similar as hand sewing’s not really a 100% of yr brain task.

6. Umm…
I swear there was a 6, but now I can’t for the life of it remember what it was. Blag more, probably — I’m long overdue for post on the library blag I write for and the games network folks have a plan for more blagging, too. So let’s call it blagging, deal?

les tags: , , , , , ,
20June
2012

no suspires mas

maura @ 10:36 pm

The semester’s been over for a few weeks now, though things are still busy with library projects and the college grant I work on and my own research. I’m not sure that I’m ready to write about the long of it yet, but the short of it is that I piled way way way too much on my plate this past year, and ended up somewhere on the spectrum of crispy, singed, fried, burned out, feel free to use whatever flame-based descriptor you like best.

Key to a successful summer for me, I think, will be having a bunch of non-work-related projects to chew on. Dare I call them leisure goals? I do dare. I like projects; projects provide a good framework for me to muck around in. Here are my summer project thoughts, in no particular order:

1. The Great Vinyl Digitization Project
Oh yeah, I got records: 12″, 7″, even a couple of 10″ EPs, some in fun, transparent colors. I’ve had a USB turntable for a while now but hadn’t made much headway on ripping the records to MP3. It was somewhat onerous and required me to push a button to break the digital file into individual songs. There’s also not really any way to speed it up the way that ripping a CD can happen at a faster speed than the recording — you just have to listen to the entire record. But I downloaded some new software that does a reasonably decent job of sensing the track breaks and cuts down the time considerably, so I’ve been hauling my laptop out to the living room each weekend to rip a few records.

It’s funny to listen to my records again. I bought most of them in high school before my family or I had a CD player, so there’s lots of 80s pop and new wave. Then there’s another segment from college, when I was either too stingy to shell out the extra cash for a CD or wanted something on vinyl only — that group includes lots of Wax Trax/industrial stuff (hey, it was Chicago in the late 80s, what can I say?). Finally there’re the mostly 7″s from my big indiepop buying days, the mid-to-late 90s. Some of this music has aged well, and some not so much.

First ripped this time around? Psychocandy by Jesus and the Mary Chain, because for some reason the song was stuck in my head and I kept having to listen to The Hardest Walk by watching the video on YouTube.

2. Buffy Rewatch
A couple of weeks ago something intriguing came through my Twitter stream: a website called NoWhiteNoise was organizing a Buffy Rewatch, in which fans watch the entire TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (either on DVD or on Netflix or websites) at the same time on Mondays throughout the summer. It’s been ages since we’ve watched them so we thought what the hell, we’ll bite (ha!).

If you had asked me before this whether watching the same episode of BTVS and live-tweeting about it with a bunch of people you don’t know was fun, I’d probably have given you a puzzled face. But you know, it’s actually surprisingly enjoyable. There are lots of younger folks who didn’t watch the show live like us oldsters, and there’s an incredible amount of foreshadowing that I of course hadn’t caught the first time around. And it’s just such a fantastic show, really, like catching up with old friends.

The only problem is the time: the Rewatch starts at 9:30pm on Mondays and includes 3 episodes @ 45 minutes each, which runs a little late for us on a school night. Once we make the transition from school to camp in a week or so things should get easier.

Wow, I have totally run out of steam, probably the 100 million degree heat is to blame (happy summer, ugh.). Stay tuned for leisure goals 3, 4, 5, and maybe 6, coming soon to this very blag!

les tags: , , ,
6August
2011

kelly watch the stars by air

maura @ 11:29 pm

A long time ago in a borough far away (well, maybe just across the bridge), before we were parents, we used to have gaming nights with friends. There was a period of time when we played Magic the Gathering with a couple of pals who would come to our house one night a week. We’d all order food + have a few beers + play a little Magic. We’d listen to music, too, and it was right after the Air album “Moon Safari” came out, the first record I bought of theirs. Good times.

This morning we drove to sleepaway camp to pick up Gus. He spent the first few hours at home obsessively dividing up Jonathan’s old Magic cards into their respective colors, reading each one individually and telling us about all that he learned playing Magic at camp. We didn’t know we were sending him to geek camp! It took 2 hrs to get lunch into him, one bite at a time between the organizing.

He was away at camp for a week, first time ever. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for us all, I think. We were away the week before last with only 2 days at home before camp. And one of the cats, who’s been sick off and on for a while, kicked it up a notch last weekend. It seemed touch and go for a while–can’t really think of a worse pet scenario than the cat dying the first time the kid goes to camp–but luckily the kitty has perked up since he’s been on the meds we got at the vet.

Since Gus has been home it’s been an alternating love + loss fest. He loves us so much! and missed us so much! he’s told us over and over again, but he loved camp so much! too, and misses it terribly! So difficult, this growing up business.

Today I spent most of my time doing ALL the laundry, because kids bring lots of real dirt (TM) back with them to the city from sleepaway camp. When we got there this morning they made a big announcement that they’d found lice on some campers + counselors (which I’d totally planned to check him for anyway), which was just another reason for me to enact LaundryFest2011. Actually it was really sweet: the camp seemed so apologetic about the lice, as if we don’t get a note from school about lice in Gus’s class pretty much every year. And we have that crazy German lice comb so we’re ready to pick the nits.

So far so good: no one seems to have lice, everything’s clean, and the cats and child are sleeping happily. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep, too.

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5January
2011

you own the sun

maura @ 10:05 pm

It’s early January, so it’s time for my annual summer camp freakout. I meant to write a big long post about our trip to Disneyworld over the holidays, but I’m sick again (thanks a lot, adorable but lethal nephew!) and have been periodically deep-ending on camp research for the past few days so this is easier. Sorry — I promise at least one meaty Disney post is coming soon.

Once again Gus has declared all camps *except* science camp to be boring and (loudly) proclaims that he will not attend any of them, thank you very much. We are so nice that we will stand in line for science camp again this summer (fingers crossed it’s above freezing that day!), but science camp doesn’t offer as much camp as we need for the summer. So I’ve spent the past week surfing around for other options.

I have to admit that the day camp scene is pretty uninspiring to me these days, too. Maybe it’s just that this will be Gus’s 5th summer of day camps, but the options seem pretty lame: straight-up camps (he’s done so many of these), sports camps (no), drama camps (double no). Cooler camps exist at places like the Bronx Zoo, Aquarium, and Museum of Natural History, but they are too far away to be practical.

He loves nature, animals, swimming…all of these things point to sleepaway camp. There’s just no other way to get a hefty daily dose of nature when you live in the city, as far as I can tell. There are a couple of day camps in the northern suburbs that are naturey, but they’re a bus trip from Manhattan much less Brooklyn, and I can’t see asking my kid to commute like a Wall Streeter just to go to camp.

Gus’s reaction to the idea of sleepaway camp has been mixed. We have friends that go (an older + younger brother), and after talking with them last fall Gus was into it, esp. after hearing about archery. Then he changed his mind, because he would miss us so terribly. We would miss him too, and I’m not sure that we’re ready for it either. I went to a 1-week session of sleepaway soccer camp as a kid for 2 summers, but I can’t remember if that started as early as the summer between 4th and 5th grade. I don’t remember being particularly homesick, but a week is not really that long. And we have friends who have been sending their kids to sleepaway camp since they were 7.

But some of these camps look fabulous. Nature, swimming, animals, woodworking, archery, zip lines, climbing walls: what’s not to like? Maybe we just need to talk it up while waving around the brochures. One of the camps has a Family Camp over Memorial Day weekend that we are seriously considering — could be a good way to ease into it.

On second thought, maybe we should go to camp and Gus can get a job for the summer!

les tags: ,
23July
2010

these dreams are forever

maura @ 9:39 pm

It’s been a whiny summer here at mauraweb!, and I’m sorry about that. Really, I am. Seriously! Stop laughing. I can still see you snickering behind your hand.

I realized the other day that I’m having a summer of female vocalists. First it was the new Tracey Thorn record in May. Then in June I got the second Lady Gaga record for my birthday, and almost immediately had to buy the first. In each of these cases I pulled a total deep-ender and found myself listening to little else (except for the occasional Orbital, which is my anti-writer’s-block go-to music).

For July it’s most definitely been Janelle Monae. I was a little late to this party–my pal Luke and millions of others have been blogging her praises since the record came out in May. But now I’m fully hooked. Everything everyone says is true: it’s an incredibly rich, diverse, funky album. I love the references to folks like Bowie and Prince, but I also adore the orchestral sections, esp. the strings. She’s arranged the record into two suites and it feels like a soundtrack, which reminds me of my obsession with the Diva soundtrack when I was in high school. And I double-dog dare you *not* to tap your feet along with the single. Go ahead, try it–I’ll wait:

See?

I suspect that my August will continue to be filled w/female voices: Kristin Hersh’s new record was just released. Actually it’s a book and a record. A recbook. A bookord. Whatever it is, I’m ordering it right up.

les tags: ,