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pick up the pace

maura @ 6:18 pm

The weather, everyone’s talking about the weather. Jonathan keeps reading me these statistics from the interwebs, hundreds of days since the last time the temperatures went below freezing in Central Park, predictions that it’ll be in the high 60s on xmas eve, etc. etc. etc. It seems boring and repetitive to complain about the weather, but seriously, this weather is getting me down. I like seasons, and I really like winter. I’m more sensitive to cold temperatures than I used to be, though I’d still rather be cold than hot by a fairly wide margin. Snow is just plain magical.

Mostly what I’ve missed this extended fall that won’t turn into winter are opportunities to wear my winter clothes. I don’t have all that many clothes and it gets boring to wear the same thing when there are lots of things that I want to wear but can’t because it’s not cold enough for them. Also the apartment tends to be hot, and work tends to be hot too, most especially when it’s in the 40-60 degree range outside. Which it has been since October.

I miss:

– my magenta + other colors striped sweater, which is a pullover so I feel like I really need to commit to it when I wear it, unlike, say, cardigans which can accommodate temperatures that vary throughout the day.

– my gray wool pants, a great find at a thrift store years ago when the narrow cut was sort of out of style, but since I’ve kept them around they look okay now, *almost* modern, and are a nice pants option for work in the winter.

– various turtleneck sweaters for work, a bright blue one as well as a new to me purple one that used to belong to my mother in law which I’ve not yet had the chance to wear.

– I have worn my oatmeal heather wool skirt, another thrifty find from years ago, to work this semester because I love it, but I had to turn on the fan in my office that day so I haven’t worn it since.

– all of the amazing wool socks that folks have hand-knitted for me: 3 stripey pairs from my mom, 1 charcoal from my pal Abby, and 1 multicolored from my father in law’s artist’s coop shop.

– my ugly green + brown striped writing sweater with the weird cowl neck, which I got for free at a swap-o-rama maybe 6 years ago in the park right next to where the kid would end up going to middle school (though I didn’t know that at the time).

Okay, I’m wearing the ugly writing sweater right now, because it’s actually been wintery this weekend and I am, in fact, writing. The weird cowl neck means that I can pull it halfway up my face or even kind of create a hood for when I’m really chilly or just need to take a break. It’s reversible (because I say so) and stretchy and cozy, and makes me feel like writing. I think I’ll need to get another item of clothing to infuse with magical writing powers because global warming. Also because my research partner and I need to deliver the manuscript of our book (!!!) on September 15, 2016, which means lots of spring + summer writing next year.

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planning for grumpiness

maura @ 9:27 pm

There is apparently a historic blizzard heading our way, if the amped up folks from the weather channel are to be believed. I’m trying not to get my hopes up because seriously, winter has been so very lame lately, and there’s no use getting excited if what we’re going to end up with is 38 degrees F and torrentially raining. I’m starting off with the grumpiness now, so it’ll be good and settled in by tomorrow.

I shouldn’t complain too much, since this winter has been better than last. At least this year there’s been some snow, though it’s been largely aesthetic rather than functional. Still, falling snow is a quiet and sparkly treat. And it’s even smelled like winter much of the time.

The timing of this storm means there’s slim chance of a snow day. I would very much like a snow day, and on my walk home from work today thought about all of the things I would do if there were, somewhat magically, a snow day. Here’s my plan:

– Sleep in a smidge, get up, have some coffee and breakfast.

– Get some writing done. It should be the book, but I have some game stuff burning a hole in my head that it’d be good to get out.

– Skiing! And sledding. In the park. Is Gus old enough for me to ski while he sleds? Maybe if I make him wear a helmet — that cement water fountain is right at the bottom of the best run.

– Home and lunch and hot chocolate or tea. Maybe lunch before skiing/sledding, depending on how long the writing goes.

– Maybe a brief snooze.

– Video games! I got some for xmas that I’ve barely even had time to play: Journey, an arty conceptual wandering figuring things out game; and Katamari Forever, more rolling up cleaning up fun.

– Dinner, perhaps with movie night? I think the next in our family queue is The Mummy, which should be hilarious.

Here’s hoping you and yours stay snug and warm, whatever kind of weather history is made this weekend.

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stars made for us tonight

maura @ 10:01 pm

We’ve been here for 21 years now and I still lurve NYC. I love the non-drivingness, the lotsa different peopleness, the variety of places and spaces, the never a lack of things to do. I know it’s reductive and not totally true — the income inequality in NYC is pretty severe, actually — but I feel like most of the time the city lives up to my ideal of a place where no one kind of person is the default, where the sexism and racism of the world is less prevalent, and where everyone remembers that the one bright spot on Sept. 11th was how much we all helped each other and looked out for each other, and we all try to remember to do that every day.

In Brooklyn specifically I love living only a few blocks from an awesome library, a huge park, gorgeous botanic gardens, a lovely museum, and lots of good public transit options. We have our hippie food coop for good food (and few choices, which becomes evermore important to me the older I get because reading labels is boring + time-consuming). We can walk to school and work. We have a house that is big enough but not too big. Yeah, there are things I wish we had — a little bit of our very own outdoor space, a parking space, less dust, self-cleaning bathrooms — but the stuff in the cons column doesn’t even come close to the list in the pros column.

Except. Lately I’ve been thinking that if anything drives me from NYC it’s going to be this godamned global warming. Because I am tired of being hot in my office, hot in the subway, hot everywhere. Why is it still 70 degrees on October 20th? Will it ever snow again? My wool sweaters are so sad. Also there’s the potential flooding. Blame the post-apocalyptic YA novels, but the whole have-to-cross-at-least-2-bridges-to-get-to-a-non-island thing is starting to nag at my brain a bit. And also there are tunnels, for cars and subway trains, and those could flood. Will flood!

Honestly, it’s enough to have me thinking about Canada. Or Iceland, where it’s a balmy 30 degrees right now. Brisk!

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saturday morning writing

maura @ 8:46 pm

When Gus was doing karate last spring I was really good about writing during his class. But then he decided to stop and I fell off the wagon. Now he’s doing fencing on Saturday mornings and I am having a hard time getting back into the swing of it.

There’s a lot going on these days.

Last week there was weird sideways hail which, only 2 weeks after the tornado, seems a bit apocalyptic, even for the most agnostic of agnostics (= me).

Work is fun but busier than ever — my course has tripled+ in size (which is good!) and I’m at the beginning or in the midst of a couple of big projects. Next week is Open Access Week so we are prepping a bunch of events (with stickers!). My research project is back in full effect and it’s absolutely fascinating but also exhausting. (I wrote about it at one of my other blags.)

Our bathroom renovation starts on Monday. We decided to go ahead with it after all — the floor tiles are thrashed and coming up all over the place and the faucets are all leaky and the whole shebang is 24 years old and wasn’t ever the best work, anyway. So there are huge boxes all over the apartment with toilet parts, sink parts, etc. It’s a little chaotic. Of course the cats love it — the fat lazy one has decided that the boxed bathtub is his own personal fainting couch and he spends all day lazing on it. Hopefully the cardboard kitty playland will make up for the temporary displacement of their litterbox.

I’ve also been kind of obsessed with this crazy little silo house upstate recently (it started with that house + land in Vermont). Maybe it’s the fall, the real fall, finally here after so much summer, and with good smells of woodsmoke and crunchy apples and pumpkin spice donuts at Tim Horton’s.

And we finally finished catching up with Mad Men! Just in time for the season finale.

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a very blustery day

maura @ 9:32 pm

So, there was a tornado in Brooklyn yesterday! Yeah, I know the weather service is saying they’re not sure what to call it yet, but it sure seemed like a tornado to me. It’s funny: I lived in Missouri for 2 yrs as a kid and have spent lots of time visiting my in-laws in the great Midwest, but it’s here in the big city that I first encounter a tornado.

The whole thing was really weird — as Jonathan said at dinner, the weather forecast for the day didn’t seem that awful, just a 20% or so chance of rain in the evening. I was chatting with a coworker and ended up leaving work later than I planned, and as I walked from the library to the subway it was just starting to drizzle. But the air was really unsettled and the clouds were speeding by and the lightning was just weird, so you could tell it wasn’t a typical storm.

The train was really slow so I was probably down in the subway for 20 minutes or so. When I got to my stop and walked up to the first level above the platform, there was a huge tree branch near the turnstiles. Which was unexpected! Then I got upstairs to the sidewalk and saw the first of the big downed trees on my walk home (that’s the photo on the left above). There were three big trees down on the three-block walk to our street, though strangely none of the small trees on our block were damaged at all. The buildings around us are all fine but there’s been lots of roof + window damage elsewhere in Brooklyn and Queens.

(The Times has a cool map today of the downed trees that traces the storm’s path. Go GIS!)

We’re fine, as is everyone we know. Our car is fine, too, which makes me a little sad. You see that last photo up there, on the right? See the little bit of red car across the street from the car that has a tree on it? The red one is ours, and I wish it was the other one. I’ve been trying to make us get rid of the car for about 3 yrs now. But my enthusiasm is not shared, and it’s a lot of work to get it together and actually sell it. So we are still car owners.

But we have friends whose car got totalled a bunch of years ago, I forget how, I think they were in an accident but thankfully no one was hurt. And afterward they decided not to get a new car. Which got me thinking what a great thing it would be if something like that happened to our car. Accident, disaster, whatever — as long as no one gets hurt and nothing else gets broken. It just seems so much easier than having to make the effort to sell the damn thing.

So hello tornado in Brooklyn. If you were going to take down all of our beautiful trees, the least you could have done is dropped one of them on our car. The owner of that car across the street is so lucky, sheesh.

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the weatherman on tv ain’t creating the weather

maura @ 10:01 pm

It’s lame to complain about the weather. I know this, but I cannot help myself. It’s 87 degrees outside right now (down from today’s high of 934 or so) and feels like it’s been this way for weeks and weeks. Even with liberal A/C use (and the electric bills to prove it), I still seem to get all hot and sweaty several times a day. I’m tired of having to shower twice a day and all of the extra laundry. I’m sick of feeling lethargic and crabby and not getting enough exercise. Begone, global warming!

I spent what seemed like a huge amount of time this weekend ferrying Gus around to his various social engagements via car and subway, and I found myself daydreaming about a summer house someplace colder. But where’s cold enough? It’s been in the 80s in Vermont and Maine, and there’s not a lot of a/c up there. Upper 70s in Montreal and lower 70s in Quebec, that’s a little better. A surprising 84 today in Halifax, which takes it out of the running, I’m afraid.

Or we could go for the ultimate: it’s in the mid-60s these days in Reykjavik. And for an added bonus, the sun rises at 3:56am and sets at 11:13pm!

It was an interesting mental puzzle to keep my brain busy. In this scenario we would sublet the apartment and would pack up the cats + take them to our summer getaway. I could take my vacation and maybe some research time and smush it all together to make a biggish chunk. A month, say? We’ve never been away for that long before. We’d need to end up someplace that’s either so exciting + interesting (forest and water? ocean? pool?) for Gus that he’d have loads to do (because we would likely need to spend at least some of the time working) or put him in some kind of camp.

The reality is probably considerably less rosy (or feasible). We’d need to arrange for *some* time with other kids, because a month with just the three of us would probably drive us all batty. And I’m sure that once we got someplace cooler I’d be grumpy that there’s not enough to do. Because one of the other things that makes me sad about this heat is that we haven’t had the chance to do all of the fun summer things there are to do here, like go to Governor’s Island or check out the new part of Brooklyn Bridge Park or visit the lion cubs up at the Bronx Zoo. NYC FTW!

(or maybe I’m just trying to psyche myself up for a hot hot bike ride to work tomorrow morning)

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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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in rushing rising rivulets

maura @ 10:04 pm

I did not sleep well last night. It was hot, yes, but that wasn’t really the problem. (All hail ceiling fans!)

Last night we finished up watching 2102. It was my pick, and I’m not going to apologize for it: I like a good big budget special effects apocalyptic flick every so often. Yes, at 2 hrs 38 mins it was a good hour too long, full of lame end-of-the-world conversations that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor. But the actiony parts were pretty sweet. Giant fissures opening up in the earth! California literally sliding into the ocean! Supervolcano exploding under Yosemite! Planes flying through Las Vegas skyscrapers as they collapsed! Good times. And it’s always nice to see John Cusack getting work.

So the big giant ending of the movie (SPOILER ALERT) is that the things referred to as arks that save the human race (plus a few giraffes and elephants) that we *thought* were spaceships throughout most of the movie are *actually* boats! (really submarines, absolutely enormous submarines.) So the ultimate Earth-ending climax is a series of gigantic tsunamis that overrun practically the entire landmass of the planet. Again, the effects were nice. Well worth the Netflixing.

(More spoilers: John Cusack does not die, just in case you were worried.)

But I think my brain was working overtime as I slept, because I awoke with a lingering weird feeling about water. Maybe it’s the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which is such a huge bummer that I can’t read anything more about it. Also, once we lived in an apartment that had a roof that leaked insanely when it rained. Seriously, water used to drip from the light fixtures, and our landlords regularly failed to see that as a problem.

Continuing the watery theme, in the early morning hours it rained torrentially. We listen to white noise when we sleep that just happens to be the sounds of rainfall, so despite the thunder it took us a while to wake up. But I realized that the rain was louder than usual at 5:12am and spent the next 10 minutes stumbling around the apartment closing windows and drying off windowsills. Happy Monday! I was kind of tired today, natch.

All of this means that I’ve had the “Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down” song from the old Disney cartoon for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day running through my head all day. I tried to find it for you on YouTube, but I could only find it in Swedish and Finnish. Here’s the Swedish version — enjoy!

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and never stop to ask the questions

maura @ 10:13 pm

I know it’s lame to blag about the weather, but sometimes when the weather’s weird it’s hard to think of anything else. I mean, the weather’s sort of there as background noise for everyone most of the time, but living in the city we walk a lot so I feel like there’s more of a chance for the weather to be intrusive.

Starting before Easter and continuing into last week we had a spate of much warmer than usual temperatures here. And it’s mostly good. I mean, it’s easy to enjoy the warm sunshine of early Spring, even for those of us who prefer Fall and Winter (like me). But last week was beyond warm all the way up into hot. It’s just not right for the temps to hit the mid-80s in NYC in April, not at all.

I noticed a curious thing on the hot days: I had to check the calendar constantly because my brain kept trying to convince me that it was June. I have a couple of deadlines in June, and I had to talk myself down from freaking out that I was late meeting them. And my temperature-induced date confusion skewed my perceptions in other ways, too: it made me think several times that it had been months since I’d seen some of my friends. “I haven’t seen X since it was snowy!” my brain said, but of course the last big storm hadn’t all melted until the first week of March.

No harm in that, really — the temperatures are back down to normal now, and my brain has stopped trying to confuse me. But I *am* worried about the flowers + trees. During the hot spell nature freaked out too, and now it seems like everything is blooming. It feels much too soon. I mean, the cherry blossom festival at the botanic gardens isn’t for another 4 weeks, and already the tree at the end of our block has tons of full flowers. We haven’t been to the gardens in a while and I hope we haven’t missed anything. We’re planning a visit tomorrow* so I guess we shall see.

* that is, if we can manage to drag Gus along, who has recently declared the gardens to be “SO boring” and asked us “why do we have to go there all the time?” The likelihood of ice cream bribery tomorrow is high.

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whiplash weather

maura @ 6:37 pm

I’m always surprised at how fast things can change with early Spring weather. This time last weekend we were drinking hot chocolate after Jonathan took Gus and a pal to the park to get in some sledding and build a snow fort (after the 2 feet of snow we’d gotten the day before). Today it was 53 degrees and sunny, though there are still a few dirty piles of snow yet to melt. I took Gus to karate this morning, but we’ve spent the afternoon inside.

What is is about the internets that makes us want to own up to stuff that we’re maybe a bit ashamed about? I always feel guilty when we don’t take advantage of the nice weather and do something outside. The botanic gardens, the High Line, riding bikes in the park, getting back on our scooters: we could have done any of those things today. But I’m tired and Jonathan’s tired–indeed, we both napped, which is a rare luxury. Gus was perfectly happy to spend the day playing video games and watching Japanese Kirby videos (subtitled in English) on YouTube. And we’re planning to head to the zoo tomorrow so we’ll have plenty of opportunity for vitamin D and running around then.

You all know how I feel about video games, both for Gus and for myself. Recently we have put some limits on weekend gametime; the weekdays tend to police themselves, what with school and homework. But many weekends we’re doing stuff, too, in which case it’s not really an issue. We didn’t impose any limits today because Monday starts a 10 day electronic fast in our house. In Gus’s school the highest grades go on a camping trip each year, and to raise money for the trip they do a read-a-thon in which sponsors pledge a few cents a page. The teachers have decided that in the midst of the read-a-thon will be a 10 day period with no TV or other electronic devices. For everyone in the family, I might add.

I always feel a bit torn about these digital fasts. On the one hand, I do see some value in taking a break from electronics–they use electricity, and you don’t tend to move much while using them. They can also be kind of antisocial, though I hesitate to even bring that up because they can also be *more* social. When I’m talking to an old college pal on facebook aren’t I being more social than if I’m sitting on my sofa reading? And Gus already reads a ton–one day last month he read 219 pages of Harry Potter #2!–so it’s not like I’m worried that he’s not spending enough time hitting the books.

What I expect the 10 days will do (beyond raising money for the trip) is highlight my own various uses of electronics. Between my phone and laptop at home there’s work work (mostly but not solely email), research work, work-related reading, twitter (which is half work half not), personal email, news reading, facebook (actually not so much these days, maybe 2-3x/week), and TV/movie watching (I’ve been busy enough recently that there hasn’t been much gaming for me). Some of those can happen while Gus is asleep, so I don’t need to worry about them. But I do tend to use the phone, especially, to fill in at certain times. In the morning at the breakfast table I usually check weather, email, the NY Times, and twitter. In the evening while supervising Gus getting ready for bed I’m often catching up on personal email, twitter, facebook, or RSS feeds (overwhelmingly library- or higher ed-related).

Technically I won’t be able to use the phone or computer in that kind of filling in the cracks way during the electronics fast. Luckily I’m also about 2 months behind on New Yorkers, so maybe I can get through those, finally. But I predict that it’ll be hard to remember to check the weather at nights while Gus is asleep.

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