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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.
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 @ 11:18 pm
This song used to remind me of working for Amex Publishing, because that’s when I first really started listening to Stars. When I did production on the websites I’d often put something on the headphones on repeat (we had a pretty open cubicle plan so headphones were a useful signal that someone was hunkering down to get stuff done) and Stars went well with HTML. Then we went to Montreal two summers ago and now I only think of Montreal when I think of Stars because that’s where they’re from.
Last week my research partner and I got an acceptance email from the Anthropological Association of America (AAA, but not the car kind) for the conference proposal we submitted as part of a panel on library ethnography. The conference is in Montreal this fall, so it’s been Stars in my head ever since. It’s been years and years since I’ve been to the AAAs, should be an interesting trip. The conference will be in the rainbow-hued Palais de Congres so I will finally get to see the inside, too.
maura @ 9:54 pm
We’re back from our Midwest getaway. We slept and read lots and indulged in the culinary treats of the region, including cheeseburgers with peanut butter, frozen custard, and ribs. This year’s trip was a bit shorter than usual so we only had time for a quick overnight trip to Chicago, though it was still long enough for duck fat fries and the best dang Swedish breakfast for miles.
On the drive north to Chicago we passed through an enormous wind farm. And I mean enormous: definitely hundreds of acres covered by windmills, maybe more. When you’re in the midst of it the windmills stretch farther than the eye can see, and since the land is pretty flat around here that’s a long way off. I suspect it’s one electric company that owns the windmills (yes, I know I could google it, but I’m trying to avoid the internet when I write) because they seem to be located on many different corn and soybean farm fields. They’re spread various distances apart — sometimes there are multiple windmills in a row, and sometimes they’re more isolated — though all of them are pointing in the same direction.
It’s difficult to get a sense of the scale of each windmill. They’re almost toylike when you first catch a glimpse of the blades in the distance, and grow to truly unbelievably massive when you’re driving right past one. (I tried to get some good photos but the limits of the phone camera + shooting from the passenger seat thwarted the best shots.)
On our way up to Chicago the air was pre-thunderstorm still so most of the blades weren’t turning. But on the drive back south every windmill was working hard to earn its keep. When the angle lines up right and you can see an entire line of windmills spinning they sort of resemble synchronized swimmers in those old movies. It’s mesmerizing to watch the blades turn — I could watch it for hours, I think.
The windmills make the landscape seem somewhat alien, as if spaceships dropped them off and flew away. Maybe I’ve just watched too many scifi movies — with the summer haze they have a floating quality, like the big ship in District 9. Or maybe they hide something larger beneath, like the awful, crappy remake of War of the Worlds. And of course I can’t help but channel the Simpsons: I for one welcome our windmill overlords!
maura @ 9:15 pm
Last month during Spring Break we spent a few days in Philadelphia. The public school break is during Easter/Passover and the university’s break is tied to the public school break, which means that the time off was really, really late in the semester this year. Everyone was kind of strung out by the time break rolled around. I had originally wanted to just take a couple of days off and stay home, but Jonathan convinced me that it’d be better if we left town. I’m glad he did, since it turns out that we really needed that time away.
I always tell people that I grew up in Philadelphia, which is mostly true: we lived in the city until I was about 9, and then in one of the very close suburbs until I was 12. We did a lot in the city even then — we had memberships to the zoo and Franklin Institute, spent time in Fairmount Park, etc. One of my favorite photos of me as a little kid is in the Azaela Garden in 1973 — my flowered bellbottoms are teh awesome. My mom grew up in Northeast Philly and my grandmother lived there (in the same row house) almost until she died in the late ’90s. We moved away when I was in junior high but then moved back East, to Delaware, which is where I went to high school. Delaware is boring so I often went up to Philadelphia on the weekends with my friends.
I was actually in Philly twice last month: at the beginning of the month for the national academic librarianship conference (I gave a poster!), then later for break. It’s very strange to go to Philadelphia now, esp. as a tourist. I have more or less accurate memories of much of the geography and architecture, and Center City is a big grid, even easier to navigate than Manhattan. But things have changed in the past 2+ decades of course: there are lots of newer, bigger buildings, Wanamaker’s is now Macy’s, etc. Some things are not where I remember them: I thought that the Academy of Music, where my paternal grandmother, mother, and I would go see the Nutcracker every year, was much further north, closer to City Hall.
For our minivacation we stayed in a hotel in Society Hill, just one block from the arty movie theater where I saw Last Temptation of Christ (complete with picketers!). Just north of that part of town is the formerly run-down now newly hip + arty Old City, where I don’t think I’ve ever spent much time. My memories of the historic areas around Independence Mall are most hazy — I remember countless school trips, but not really any specifics. As it happened Independence Hall is currently shrouded in scaffolding for renovations, but the two blocks to the east have lots of pretty colonial buildings and open green spaces that were lovely to walk through.
Despite staying in a hotel only a few blocks north, we did not spend any time on South Street, probably the site of my clearest memories (along with the art museum). When I thought I was all cool and arty in high school I spent lots of time wandering up and down South Street, looking at punk clothes I was too chicken to buy at Zipperhead, browsing for records and used books. I saw Athens, GA: Inside/Out at TLA in high school when it was still a movie theater, and the Sugarcubes there in college when it turned into a concert venue. Probably best that we didn’t stroll down there last month: everything changes, and a quick look w/Google street view confirms my suspicions of chain stores and new construction. Which is neither unusual (I’m looking at you, East Village) nor bad, necessarily.
I do regret not going down to Jim’s for a cheesesteak, though. And at least in 2009 when the Google streetview cars took pictures, the ants and zipper were still visible on the old Zipperhead building across the street, which I’m sure Gus would have thought was cool.
maura @ 10:59 pm
Disneyworld! I think Jonathan and I were more excited than Gus in the days leading up to the trip. We haven’t really done the amusement park thing with him so don’t think he knew what to expect — more than anything I think he was looking forward to seeing his grandparents. And the waterslide in the pool at the resort we stayed at.
Of course that changed on the first day. Not that he wasn’t still happy to be with Grandma + Grandpa, but he bought into the Disney thing whole hog. We rode the Buzz Lightyear ride twice — his favorite ride, and with good reason: you go through the ride sitting in spaceships blasting at targets (that register an actual score!) on Zurg and his cronies. It was pretty cool. We also rode Peter Pan, the Lilo + Stitch thing, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (not all in the same day). Jonathan and I were thrilled to get him on Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion, both of which Gus was a bit wary of initially but ended up loving. And Big Thunder Mountain was also *awesome* — so fast and fun, with such great details alongside the tracks.
Gus did *not* like the Carousel of Progress or It’s a Small World, but his old parents forced (tricked, really) him to ride them because OMG how can you not?! Too much. We stopped short of the Hall of Presidents because we figured we’d tortured Gus enough, but were sure to drop Bill + Ted references whenever we walked through Liberty Square. The lessons of Disneyworld? You can do a surprising amount with cars on a track, black light, and animatronics.
It was interesting to see Gus’s reaction to the many many many consumer opportunities throughout the parks, too. Since he doesn’t watch TV we don’t get a lot of “buy me this!” from him, but after a few days of being dumped out of the rides right into the character/theme shop that wore off some. We *all* went a little crazy at the store in Liberty Square that’s wall to wall Nightmare Before Christmas stuff, but overall I think we came out okay. (Where okay = Jack Skellington hoodie for J, Jack socks + a mug for me, and a stuffed bat for G. Thanks Grandma + Grandpa!)
We stayed in this campground resort called Fort Wilderness that has RV/tent camping as well as 1 bedroom cabins. The cabins were cute — all of the furniture was made of (pretend?) logs, even the bunk beds. J+I got the Murphy Bed in the living room, a tiny house dream come true! I’ve always wanted to sleep on a Murphy Bed. It’s everything I expected — so fantastic to just shut the bed up into the wall every morning. (Yes, I am simple.) The RV campers were intense — many of them brought their own Christmas lights and decorations, and some seriously had as many decorations as you’d put on a house! To get from the resort to the Magic Kingdom was a short boat ride and on the last day we saw pelicans on the way over, so cool.
Epcot was really, really neato. I wish we’d had more time there — Gus wasn’t that into the World Showcase but J and I could easily have spent an afternoon wandering around. We did go on some good stuff: Spaceship Earth and a fun space simulator called Mission Space. And we rode the Tronorail! (One of the monorails was all kitted out as a Tron ad.) Jonathan and Gus went on Soarin’ which everyone says is amazing, but I had to bail because the line was three (3!!!) hours long. Even reading Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (now how’s that for yr cognitive dissonance) on my phone wasn’t enough to save me in that line.
We also did one day at Animal Kingdom which I guess is new-ish. There was actually a lot more stuff for kids to just *do* there, including a huge climbing space w/tube slides and a giant dinosaur excavating pit that Gus loved. And it was all naturey walking around, very pretty. We tried to go on the roller coaster there but the line was just too dang long. But we did go on this crazy ride called Dinosaur which was of the jarring loud variety and enjoyed more by the littlest member of our party than the adults.
Of course there were a few annoyances. It was incredibly, amazingly crowded, just people everywhere you looked pretty much all the time. I’m usually not too bothered by crowds but I have to admit that they started to get to me by the end of the trip. It was nice to come back to our cabin — while I’m sure that the resort was just as full as others in Disneyworld, because things were all spread out it didn’t seem too crowded.
In fact, it was so crowded on our first day (which was actually xmas) that the “castmembers” let us cut out of the public area of the park to bypass a parade and go right to Tomorrowland. It was freaky to see behind the scenes — castmembers smiled and waved us on, but I caught a glimpse of a banner with an inspirational message for castmembers along the way.
I have to admit that Tomorrowland kind of bugged me, though I loved the rides. There’s a big stage in the middle of everything with a DJ and characters and dancing which kind of ruined the atmosphere for me. And Jonathan was bummed that you can’t walk through Cinderella’s castle anymore — there’s some character meal place in there now. All in all I was surprised that the Magic Kingdom seemed a bit less enveloping than Disneyland felt to me. I guess mostly it was Tomorrowland — when we got over to the other side to Frontierland and Adventureland things were much more immersive.
It was also pretty cold for most of the time we were there. Christmas day it was in the mid-70s, but that was the warmest it got (and hence the only swimming day). On Boxing Day it was about 45 degrees and windy, seriously cold. OTOH, short lines! And no line for Splash Mountain, but we weren’t brave enough.
Most surprising was that there was pretty much no free wifi anywhere. I think the only place I jumped right on was when we were eating dinner at the Contemporary (the hotel that the monorail runs right through). We could buy internet for our cabin but didn’t because we just weren’t there long enough most days to make it worthwhile. I’m sure it would cost a fortune to wifi up the entirety of Disneyworld, including all of the parks and resorts, but it did seem odd given Disney’s attention to detail + service. On the plus side, I felt like it was kind of nice to have an internets break for much of the trip.
Phew, I think that’s most of it! I could write even more, but I think 1000 words is probably enough, don’t you? Gus is already asking when we will go back…again, a few weeks ago I’d have said never, but now I think maybe.
maura @ 10:29 pm
Over xmas break we went to Disneyworld. It was my first time and before we left I thought it would also be my last, but now I’m not so sure.
Let’s back up. If you were alive in America after the 1950s or so it’s impossible not to have some sort of history with Uncle Walt’s Corporation. I wasn’t a particularly Disney-crazed kid, but I do have lots of fond memories of the old movies.* I think Cinderella was my first movie in the theater ever, Alice in Wonderland (which I actually remember) my second. I still have the soundtracks to several of them — with a storybook built in to the sleeve! — that I vividly remember playing on my Fisher-Price record player.** I brought Dressy Bessy with me to see Snow White, because that evil queen was intense. But I was never really into Mickey et al.
* And why don’t they release the movies theatrically anymore, like when I was a kid? They could make boatloads of $ I’m sure, you’d think they’d be all over it.
** Would that I still had the record player, it was so cool!
We didn’t go to Disneyworld when I was little — it was too far away + expensive, so we went to Colonial Williamsburg + Busch Gardens instead (which was really fun and actually historical, so don’t feel bad for us!). When I was in college my mom + stepfather + sibs + stepsibs all went and I admit to a smidge of envy. Not quite as much as the jealous queens of old, but a tiny bit. As a college graduation gift my mom got us Disneyworld and Epcot passes, but we didn’t use them for a long time.
When I took a year off from archaeology grad school to work in the crazy internets trenches during those mid-1990s boom days, I spent some time working for Disney Online. The job was kind of wacky (in that Herman Miller chairs + unlimited espresso + late night redesigns kind of way), but I worked with some smashing folks. One of the perks was four 1-day passes to any of the parks every year (Happy Holidays!). My brother went to college in LA, so once when my mom + J + I were visiting we trooped out to Disneyland (with Tex, too).
Driving in CA is awful but the park was a blast. It was so cool to see the care + attention to detail — wherever you were it was almost impossible to see the other parts of the park. The illusion was intense, and it was easy to forget that we were right outside LA. I think we spent most of the day waiting in line, but they were so good at keeping us busy with stuff to look at that I can’t remember feeling down about it. We got to go on a few things that aren’t in Disneyworld, like the Indiana Jones ride and Mister Toad’s Wild Ride (one of J’s favorites; now gone from FL). I could swear we went on Space Mountain, but J says we didn’t.
Recently I’ve spent more time thinking of the dark side of the mouse. We spend lots of time in the class I teach talking about intellectual property and copyright and fair use, and Mickey et al. always make at least a token appearance when we discuss the Copyright Term Extension Act. I also watched Rip: A Remix Manifesto this semester (we screened it at work during Open Access Week) which takes pains to point out the plainly derivative nature of so much of Uncle Walt’s best work. I know there’s lots of money at stake, but it’s hard not to be disappointed and a little angry at the WDW Corp for those legal shenanigans.
Gus is not a big Disney kid — as is probably impossible to ignore, the company has invested heavily in the princesses for little girls (ugh). I can’t think of a newer Disney movie he’s been interested other than the underappreciated Lilo and Stitch. Lucky for all of us there’s Pixar. Lately, though, Gus had been throwing “those movies are for little kids” at us. We missed Toy Story 3 in the theaters and it sat in its Netflix envelope for weeks until I finally convinced Gus to watch it.
And now it’s late and I’m not even to the real story yet, but I think I need to stop for tonight. To be continued!
maura @ 10:22 pm
Woah! Seems like just yesterday I was all, “I’m going to write something every day, yes I am,” and now it’s already next month and here we are.
I did write something yesterday AND last Friday, but since I was at airports both times (and decided against schlepping the heavy laptop) it was on paper.
I was at a faculty development workshop all last week, then spent the weekend in America’s Most Livable City (2007). I learned a lot at the former, which was really fun, but you’re not interested in my blathering on about how much I love my job.
So let’s talk about travel, shall we? We don’t fly very often — about once a year, really, to visit Jonathan’s family in the midwest. And we tend to go for about a week so there’s not much time-related pressure.
But earlier this year a plan was hatched. A girlfriend* of mine moved to AMLC2007 w/her partner + son, so another girlfriend + I decided to go for a visit sans our own partners + kids. A whole 2 nights of sleep minus little Gus feet + little cat feet — incroyable! (Why is it suddenly French? Je ne sais pas.)
* I’ve been hyper-aware of small quick scenes in movies lately, one of which was that scene in Juno (which we finally saw, thank you Netflix) where Juno + her friend are at the mall and they run into Jennifer Garner who says that she’s shopping w/her girlfriends and Juno’s friend says, “are you gay?” And it cracked me up + made me feel about 100 yrs old all at the same time.
And thus a weekend away was planned. I’m hoarding my vacation days for our 2 family trips this summer, so I decided to fly out around dinnertime on Friday and return at the same time on Sunday.
You know, we’ve heard all of the travel horror stories over the past few years, but it didn’t really sink in until this weekend. Can I just say, wtf? What has happened to air travel to get us to this state? My flight on Friday was over 2 hrs late, and last night, 1.5 hrs. Much of the former was spent in the plane on the tarmac at Newark (hot, and with a chatty seatmate, grrr), while thankfully the latter delay was mostly in the airport. It doesn’t sound so bad while I’m typing it now, but on Friday I could have driven to my destination in the 7 hrs it took me to fly there.
My friend did fine on the Friday leg of her trip, which was earlier in the day, but fared much worse than me yesterday. Her (nonstop) flight was cancelled, she rescheduled to a flight with 1 layover, and with the inevitable delays didn’t get home until nearly 2am. Like mine, her kids are up at 6am. Ouch.
Can’t say I’m looking forward to flying again anytime soon. Luckily we’re meeting family in New England rather than the midwest this summer. And the next time I head to AMLC2007, we’re taking the train, man.