What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

31 January 2012

In My Mailbox #4

One thing I love about college is all the free stuff. Somebody is always handing out stuff on campus-- usually something small like pens or cups, but we also get CDs, t-shirts, and books.

Technically, then, this book was not in my mailbox, but was shoved into my hands as I was walking to class one day last week. And who can argue with that? I haven't started reading it, but from the blurb it seems to be fantasy. The girl handing them out said I should listen to the CD while reading, which makes me wonder how fast I'm supposed to read it.

Also, look how pretty! I love the cover of the book and the CD. There's no telling when I'll get to read it, but in the meantime, it looks great on my shelf.

What's in your mailbox?

30 January 2012

How Will You Perform Today?

I'm taking a class called "Intro to Theatre" this semester. It's an elective, entirely for fun (you'd think I would have learned not to take classes "for fun" after French, which nearly killed me), and I think I'll come to love this class, for all that it is at eight in the morning.

Wednesday's lecture was about defining theatre vs. performance. It was the sort of thing that seems obvious, but we rarely put into words. The gist is, not all performance is theatre, because life is all about performance.

I know! Makes sense, right? When I get up in the morning and get dressed, I'm performing a ritual, a restored behaviour, that we all do every day. The same goes for brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, and eating my breakfast. Routine, yes-- but still a ritual, still a performance.

And of course the performance is bigger than that, because these rituals I perform in my home have effects once I leave. What do the clothes I choose say about me? (In my case, they say, "This was the t-shirt at the front of my closet this morning".) What kind of performance am I making when I choose fresh breath and tidy hair over the less-pleasant alternatives? 

But it goes further than that, because these performances not only affect the performer, but also the audience. What does it do to you when someone near you is wearing a cheery colour and a bright smile because she had breakfast and is in a good mood? What about the opposite? Or how about the range of reactions when two people are wearing the same thing, from, "Hey, cool," to "How dare you?" Our performances all bump into each other, mixing and mingling at the edges, and bounce back to affect the respective performers in a new way. No wonder we all have sensory overload.

Do you ever think of life as a performance? What do you want your performance to say about you?

28 January 2012

Still Here

Two weeks of the semester are done, which is enough time for me to get overwhelmed but not long enough for me to exit the fantasy land that is "I'll get my act together soon".

Last semester, I stayed in "I'll get my act together" until about two weeks past the semester's halfway point, at which time I had to acknowledge that my act was about as together as it was going to get. Unfortunately, that wasn't very together.

However, it hasn't been so bad. I only missed one class this week, and (this is ridiculous) that was because we had heavy thunderstorms overnight that knocked out traffic signals, and so the bus I chose ended up getting stuck in traffic. What should have been a 35-minute bus ride took over an hour, so I was late for class, and elected to skip it instead of coming in late. I listened to the lecture online later, and I have to tell you, it was such a good lecture. I have a blog post coming that was inspired by the lecture, that's how good it was. I'm sorry I missed it, but I'm thanking goodness (and the IT department at UT) that the recording was available online.

Other than that, my week was good. The water is exactly at my head as far as the homework goes, but I wasn't expecting my senior year to be easy, after all! And I'm sure I'll get more overwhelmed as the semester goes on, but at least this is the semester with a week-long break in the middle.

In related news... one of the grad schools I applied to has promised me a status update in two weeks. Wow! Also, yikes! I'm anxious to know, but only if it's good news, I guess. :) And, I applied for and interviewed for a job this week, and I'm expecting to hear back by the end of next week. Again, I only really want to know if it's good news. Bad news should stay as far away as possible, for the sake of all the chocolate, which I am sure to eat when stressed or depressed.

How was your week? Are you enjoying your weekend? What's your favourite chocolate?

21 January 2012

First Week

Things have been a bit crazy at the Cheeky house this week, since university is back in session. The short version is, this was not my best first week ever, and included multiple schedule changes. If that's all you want to know, you can skip to the end now. For those interested in details, here's a (long) recap:

The week before class started, I got an email that one of my classes had been cancelled. Bummer. It was one of my rhetoric classes, and one that I have an immediate use for. However, it was not to be, so I scrambled around on the course schedule and found a Shakespeare class to take its place.

On the first day of class (Tuesday), I went to all of my scheduled classes. However, I had a linguistics class called Bad Language. The description said it was about racial and gendered language, so I thought that would be cool to be in. News Flash: It was more about swear words than anything else. Now, I use about three mild (by most standards) swear words that I find meet all of my needs, with no desire to use anything stronger. The instructor had an entire unit planned around the f-word, with the linguistic aspect that it can be used as any part of speech (I find that pretty remarkable, too, truth be told), and with the stated intention that he make the word not special. He also encouraged us to use the words we were studying in class freely, and is using Twitter to gauge in-class participation. I like the idea of the class, but I had to concede that there is no way I can be exposed to that kind of language for three hours a week and walk away not using it. It would have been interesting to be the member of the class who exercised my freedom of speech by not swearing in class, but I couldn't do it. Another scramble to find a replacement, which was: Sign Languages and Signing Communities. After two class sessions (Tuesday & Thursday), I loved it.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with my instructor Do Not Cross (I should get her a new nickname), who is supervising my independent research project. It was a very encouraging, very productive meeting. I have two classes on Wednesday, both rhetoric: Advanced Writing and Rhetoric and the Gospels. The second one was meant to be a placeholder until I could get registered for independent research, but since I'd had some schedule changes already, I decided to go to it just to see if I really wanted to drop it or if I'd rather keep it and drop something else. And of course, that's what I decided to do. So, on Wednesday evening, Shakespeare got the boot from my timetable.

And then I got an email from a local tea shop that included this week's specials, upcoming events, etc... and the jolly news that they are hiring. I was so excited, I dashed (okay, cycled) over on Thursday to pick up an application. On the way back to campus, though, I had to ponder the fact that my schedule at the moment is not particularly job-friendly. In my "one thing at a time" way, I filled in the application and took it back on Friday. A couple of hours later, the owner called me for an interview.

So, very exciting, I'd love to work there, but there was still the problem of my class schedule. I called Chad for backup, and he agreed that if I'm serious about getting this job that I should rearrange my schedule. So, with one hour left in the add/drop period, I went on the course schedule once again, found another linguistics class and another elective that both meet early in the morning, and changed up my classes with 45 minutes to spare.

I'm so glad this is my last semester. And I really hope I get the job, because if I don't, I'm going to feel a bit silly for all this frantic rearranging.

How was your week? Any excitement for you?

19 January 2012

Pass the (Metaphorical) Salt, Please

Another semester has started (in case you missed my tweets of despair the last couple of days), and it's my last one as an undergrad. On the one hand, I feel like I just got here. On the other hand, it's like I've been here forever and I'd like to just graduate already. But here at the beginning of the semester, everything feels fresh and new and I'm all full of hope to finally have a 4.0 semester before I move on to grad school.

In case you missed it, I'm a Rhetoric and Writing major with a side order of Linguistics. And if I may push the food metaphor, Linguistics has turned out to be the greasy french fries of my academic meal. I forget what the linguistics were like last time, so I order them again. The first few bites are great, but I'm not even halfway through my rhetoric burger before I realise that I'm starting to feel full. But I press on, because I already paid for the linguistics, and maybe there's a lone learning antioxidant in there somewhere that will manage to give me some intellectual benefits. But by the end, I'm left with greasy fingers and a lower grade than I was hoping for, and I know that I would have enjoyed the rhetoric a lot more without adding on the extra calories.

It's not a perfect metaphor, because unlike greasy fries, there's nothing inherently bad about linguistics. I'm just not good at it. I'm hoping this semester's linguistics course will finally be the one that comes with mustard and ketchup so I can at least enjoy it while it makes my schedule bloated.

And in other news, the Shakespeare class I was so excited about turned out to be impossible. I've changed my schedule three times this week, with one more to go next week, because I'm doing an independent research project through the Undergraduate Studies department and they have to register me, which they said they will do on Monday. Here goes.

Do you have something that you aren't gifted at that keeps sucking you back in? Any suggestions for some metaphorical ketchup?

11 January 2012

Previously in Car-Free Land

At the Austin Bike Summit last April, we talked a bit about social marketing and ways to make cycling into normal behaviour instead of some weird quirk or fringe thing. One thing that we floated, but had no power to put into action at that moment, was that it would be really helpful for the advertising and entertainment industries to include cyclists as a normal backdrop to their settings, as they already do with cars.

Last night, I got to watch NCIS for the first time this season (and I've missed a lot-- I was so confused). And I'm not about to give you any spoilers, but this scene got me all excited for reasons that have nothing to do with the show:


See those two people in the background? They're checking out bikes from a Capital Bikeshare kiosk. Yes, NCIS was cool enough to put cyclists in their background. I have no idea what happens in this scene (okay, I have a small idea) because I was totally distracted by seeing the Bikeshare in action. There aren't a lot of bike sharing schemes in the US yet, but I'm living in hope that one will arrive in Austin soon.

Have you ever heard of bike sharing? Have you used one? Do you watch NCIS?

10 January 2012

The Beginning of the End

The spring semester starts a week from today. And I'm really glad, because...

I transferred my laundry from the washer to the dryer, cleaned the lint screen, and walked away. About 10 minutes passed before I realised that I hadn't turned the dryer on. If I'm going to be that senile, I'd like to be able to blame my homework.

Two of the three schools that I applied to for grad school have had one issue after another with keeping track of my paperwork. Meanwhile, the third one has had no issues at all. If I don't get into school #3, I think I may cry at the thought of the frustration that surely awaits me for the next few years.

We had some friends in town this weekend who wanted to go to IKEA. So we went. Holy crap, do I ever love that store. I have such visions of things I'd like to do with my house now. You can loft a queen-size bed, right? I'd better get back go work before I start trying to cram this stuff into our budget.

On the other hand...

I still haven't finished the massive stack of books I'm reading for my research project. Nor do I have any idea what my thesis will be. And I have to email my instructor, who I really like, and tell her so. Perhaps she'll be relieved to have one less thing on her plate if I can't pull this together.

One of my classes was cancelled for the semester, so I had to sign up for another one in a hurry. I chose a Shakespeare course (yay!) that meets at 8 AM (boo!) and has about 10 required books (yikes). I emailed the prof to ask if owning The Complete Works of Shakespeare is sufficient or if I really need to get the particular editions he has listed in the booklist. Still waiting.

And finally...

This is the semester I graduate. Holy cow, that went by way too fast. Anybody want to take bets on whether I remember to order my cap and gown on time?

05 January 2012

About Yesterday...

It's been a good day today. An unusual number of motorist smiled and waved at me, or slowed down when they saw me running on the road ahead, or yielded the right-of-way to me at an intersection. I can only suppose that all of Austin is reading my blog and caught yesterday's post.

As part of my work with Bike Texas, I read a lot of articles about cyclists. And as hard as I try not to read the comments, sometimes my eye is drawn down the page and I get sucked into reading, much like the proverbial train wreck. It's easy to forget sometimes that only a small percentage of highly motivated people are commenting on these forums and articles, and that most motorists aren't as angry/confrontational/obnoxious/etc. as the internet people. Thank goodness for real life.

How could you not love a car that's
this happy? Source.
I do still feel much as I do yesterday: Those who are in charge of the great big things that can do more damage have more responsibility than those who are in charge of a small thing when it comes to making room, getting along, and so on. I don't exclude individual responsibility in any way for any kinds of road users, but it's the "with great power comes great responsibility" thing. If you're going to drive, you must be responsible for what your vehicle does.

However, I'm also willing to spread the responsibility around to society. It's our collective lifestyle that pushes people to always be in a hurry, to multitask while driving, and to feel that "just this once" it's okay to be a little unsafe. And woe betide the worker who refuses to answer the phone while driving in the name of safety-- that can be a fast way to be unemployed. I still don't know the answer, but I'm pretty sure there's a better way.

And in the meantime, I don't think a couple of hours in a defensive driving class, perhaps one focusing on cyclists and pedestrians and their use of the road, would be un-called for. And for people like the unfortunate driver in yesterday's post, perhaps some therapy to deal with the regret and the nightmares he (or she) is surely suffering right now. I would rather be hit by a car than be the one to hit someone.

So, the comments yesterday were great. Let's keep them coming! What do you think?

04 January 2012

I Almost Didn't Post Today

I've mentioned a few times that I volunteer for BikeTexas, a cycling advocacy group for the entire state. We also do some things for pedestrians, and the project I'm currently working on (that I still can't share any details of... the report is due to be released early next month, so you can expect to read all about it then) is for both cyclists and pedestrians. And I'm interested in advocacy for both, being that my lifestyle means that when I'm outside I'm almost always one of the two.

Last night there was a story on the evening news about two teenagers, a 16- and a 17-year-old, who were killed when crossing the street last week. The news report didn't specify whether they were actually in the crosswalk, although the video of the intersection shows that there was one, clearly marked. I immediately got upset, since this sort of thing is the reason I got into advocacy-- people should be able to cross the street without getting killed.

A little something to lighten the rather
cranky mood here at Cheekyness
today. Source.
Chad's reaction was a bit different: they should have been watching for cars, looking out for their own safety, etc. And I don't dispute that pedestrians should be looking out for themselves. There are two things that I do dispute: 1. That the bulk of the responsibility doesn't lie with the person who is moving a ton of metal around at much higher speeds than anyone can walk, and 2. That our society is so autocentric that our first impulse is to blame the pedestrian. I'm not upset that my husband had a different reaction from me to this story. I'm upset that as a society, we can so easily shrug off auto accidents, even ones where a pedestrian or cyclist (neither of whom have a protective box around them) is killed.

I don't want to get rid of cars. They are downright handy. Nor do I wish for the driver in this incident to be treated as an example to others (he won't be charged at all, if the news report is to be believed). What I do want is for the message to go out that you can't be distracted, you can't drive carelessly, and you can't kill or injure other people with impunity. I want more responsibility on the people who can cause more damage. And just to make sure it's clear that I'm not being anti-car: That responsibility should also include cyclists who run into pedestrians because they fail to yield as they should. And I don't know what that will look like, but I'm sure it will include demanding restitution from drivers who kill or injure others, even if it's merely paying the doctor bills. We don't have to be excessive, but we should make sure there are consequences.

What do you think?

03 January 2012

Reading, Reading

I enjoyed keeping a list of the books I read in 2011 here on the blog. It was nice to have a place to collect all the Teaser Tuesdays and reviews (even though I gave up on the reviews pretty quickly). I liked it so much, in fact, that I'm launching a sequel, similarly titled Books in 2012. There's not much to see yet, although I did manage one book already.

I'm having a hard time narrowing it down, but here are some of my favourites among my 2011 reads (these links are all to Goodreads):

P.J. Hoover's Forgotten Worlds trilogy
What's Mine is Yours
The Story of Stuff
Across the Universe
No Impact Man
The Princess Diaries
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
A Dirty Job
The Brief History of the Dead

Currently, I have 549 books on my Goodreads to-read list, which is a bit ridiculous even for me who reads books like they're on fire. (That is to say, much too quickly.) But, I hate to miss anything, so my question for you today is:

What should be on my to-read list? What's a gem you found in 2011 that I must read ASAP? What are some of your favourites?

02 January 2012

Resolved, or Wait, It's Another New Year Already?

The other day we were discussing New Year resolutions at a casual game night at church (because it's not a proper game night without a bunch of party animals having a quiet conversation in the next room, right?), and I mentioned that I generally post mine on my blog. This got a round of undeserved amazement: I tell people my resolutions? On the internet? Guess they don't know that I don't have any of those 'hound and badger' kind of readers. You know, the ones who will pop up on February 1st to ask how those resolutions are coming.

Easy things first-- my fitness resolutions for 2012:
Cycle 1200 miles
Run 800 miles
Choose walking instead of the bus for short trips
Use the gym at UT that I'm already paying fees for (specifically, the pool)

Life goals:
Graduate! (Okay, this is an easy one, since it would be really hard to screw up at this point.)
Read 100 books.
Finish my NaNoWriMo novel and do at least some editing so I can get my CreateSpace free books this year.
Meet at least one person at church every Sunday. I tried this a couple of years ago and it worked out well; I imagine it will work even better since we're still the new people at our current church.
Finish my Have Bus, Will Travel project.
And for goodness' sake, remember to take my vitamins and wear compression socks.

I think that's all for now. But I do make new goals fairly regularly-- at least every couple of months-- so these are sure to evolve as the year goes by.

Did you make any resolutions? Are you anti-resolutions? Do you think bloggers who share their resolutions are a bit crazy?

01 January 2012

Ten Years

A lot can happen in ten years, it turns out. And while I'm not going to recap it all for you, let's pause for a second... oh, never mind. Ten years is both long and short, fast and slow, etc., and ten years ago today I was doing this:

We still look exactly like this! Tee hee...

I love you so much, Chadwick! Thanks for lighting up my life, keeping me entertained, making sure I stay tucked in at night, and cuddling on the couch. Here's to many more decades.

Denise (maid of honour) and me.

Our cousin Jimmy and my brother Billy. (Can you tell we're from Indiana? The
names really give it away, methinks.) This was just sparkling cider, but Billy
was not about to let a good opportunity for teasing our very teetotal
Grandmother get away. I think she's still not sure about what we were serving.

These are my cousin's very adorable children. They
are now teenagers (and still adorable, BTW) and according
to their mother they would never be caught dead showing
one another this much affection these days. Ah, sibling love.

This is my father's default expression.
No, seriously.
I think Jeff Dunham got the idea for one of
his puppets after a chance encounter with
my father at a restaurant. (Click the link.
You won't be disappointed.)