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 May 2012


So here's a name I've known and loved for many years.

Short for Gregory, which comes from a Latin cognate of the Greek verb gregoros, meaning watchful or alert. Currently the 279th most popular name for boys in the US; it peaked at #21 for a couple of years in the '60s. It's #208 in Quebec, but less popular-- in the low 300s-- in other parts of Canada. Because there have been so many saints (at least four) and popes (16) called Gregory, the name has never really gone out of popularity in the Christian, and particularly Catholic, world.

Still nice even in black-and-
white. Source.
Famous Gregs: The aforementioned popes and saints; Gregory Peck; Greg LeMond (professional cyclist; first American to win the Tour de France); Gregor Mendel.

Fictional Gregs: Greg Brady, The Brady Bunch; Gregory Goyle, Harry Potter series; Gregory House, House.

My Gregs: I have a friend (maybe more like an acquaintance now, since I've only seen him online for the last 10 years) called Greg who is a fellow tennis lover and all-around nice guy. And, of course, I have a character called Greg: He's my main character's (Sybil) eventual love interest. In the meantime, they've been friends since the fourth grade, and Greg's best friend is Sybil's really irritating brother Andy. (Yes, it's one of those kind of stories.) As an older character, Greg is confident, friendly, and popular; as a younger character, he's unsure and bumbling. Somehow, I have to connect those dots.

Do you know any Gregs? Do you like the name?

Baby Name Wizard
Behind the Name

30 May 2012

This is What Democracy... Walks Like

Today's my car-free day here at Cheekyness. Yesterday was the primary election in Texas, in advance of the general in November-- the parties got to vote for who they want to run in the general. I'm not about to invoke politics into the poli-free zone that is my blog, so just in case you're wondering: I'm not a member of a political party, but Texas is an open primary state, so I can vote in either primary election. Usually I choose the one with the more interesting races. Sometimes I sit out the primary and let people who are actually interested in their party's outcome do the choosing (although not often).

This time around, there were interesting races on both ballots, so I set out early to vote before I went into BikeTexas. They've moved our polling place, for reasons passing understanding, so instead of being in a busy shopping center like it has been since we've lived here, it's in a YMCA (a really nice facility, by the way) that is in the heart of our precinct. So far, so good, yes? Well, not so much. This precinct includes a lot of low-income families and people who are transit-dependent, not to mention mobility-impaired. The YMCA is 3/4 of a mile away from the nearest bus stop (and about a mile from the next nearest), and it's on a busy highway with no sidewalks leading to it.

What does lead to it? Weeds. Lots of them. And wildflowers. I'm all for wildflowers, but I'm not so into wading through them while pushing my bicycle (I needed it after I got done voting, but I can't ride through weeds that well). I was also genuinely concerned for my own safety; it's not unheard-of for pedestrians in Austin to be hit by out-of-control cars, even when the pedestrians were well off the road. I would hate for all the internet comments on the news story to be about how it was my own fault, and how dumb I was to be walking there, etc., etc., so I tweeted:

I did make it in one piece, cast my ballot, and then headed out again-- this time, to cross the highway so I could catch a bus 3/4 of a mile down the road on the other side. The opposite side of the road turned out to be even thicker with weeds and even harder to push through. Sigh...

Needless to say, I sent an email to the county clerk's office, thanking them for their service to the voters of Travis County, but asking them to please consider moving our polling place to somewhere that is more accessible to transit users. After all (I didn't include this bit in the email), nowhere in the Constitution does it say that one must have a car to participate in the democratic process, and I don't think it should be a requirement, even in car-loving Texas.

What do you think about polling places? Is there such a thing as an ideal location?

29 May 2012

Teaser Tuesday #22

Source: Goodreads
Smart Thinking, Art Markman

Causal knowledge is a crucial part of your ability to solve new problems. If you understand why something works, then you can use that information to determine what has gone wrong when you are surprised at some outcome.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingAnyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

28 May 2012

This and That

A few more things that are too short for their own post:

One of the new interns at the Undergraduate Writing Center thought I was in charge. As in, in charge of the entire center. I smiled for three days when I heard that. I've chosen to believe it's because I have a note of authority in my voice, not because I look like I'm 12 years older than they are. (Apparently there was some shock when they found out I'm an undergrad... but that's nothing new.)
Just like the real thing, only smaller.
Source: Ertl.
I got into an amusing chat with Megan Bickel on Twitter a few weeks ago about John Deere. Megan and I are both born & bred Hoosiers, although my Indiana-ness has been diluted by 12 years of Texas. There are plenty of things that I still think of as being particulary "Indiana", though, and tractors are among them. (Yes, I know other states have tractors, too. It's a brain quirk thing.) 

So I mentioned the thing that really makes me think of Indiana are Ertl tractors. They had great adverts when I was growing up in the '80s, including at least one that was filled with pathos: kids (boys and girls! How progressive!) playing with Ertl tractors, and the voiceover saying, "The farmers of tomorrow are here today." I gotta tell ya-- my parents aren't farmers, but they live on half an acre of land carved out of the fields that surround them. They're as close as you get to farmers without actually farming, so I have a serious heart for farming families. Toys that encourage kids to follow their parents into farming? Where do I sign up?

Here's the real kicker: Ertl isn't even an Indiana company. They're based in Iowa. The ads that say "home" to me more than anything else are really in someone else's home. I don't really mind.
On Easter we went to Torchy's Tacos with some friends. I tweeted that it was crowded on Easter Sunday. JE Fritz answered, "I had no idea tacos were an Easter food." Hee hee... here in Texas, tacos are always appropriate. Easter, birthdays, Tuesdays... you name it, we have a taco for it.
An email message went out on the listserv at one of my jobs asking about a magazine that had disappeared from the bathroom. Really? Emails about reading material in the loo? I think we've reached a new low.

How about you? What's on your mind today?

23 May 2012

Seriously? Suspended for cycling?

I follow Lenore from Free Range Kids on Twitter, and today she posted this story about 65 high school seniors who were suspended for one day after they rode their bikes to school.

I'll let you read the contents of the article if you so desire, but the gist is that the students (who would all be at least 18 by this point in the school year, and therefore are legal adults) organized the ride, got police escorts so they would be safe, and even the mayor brought them donuts for the ride. But, the principal didn't know about it (how she managed not to know is unclear), so she ranted at them and sent them all home.

In response, a local bicycle shop gave the principal a free bicycle. Brilliant.

The school must not have any of
these. Or maybe the principal
doesn't know what they do.
I'll spare you all most of my usual ranting about schools and bicycles, except to say this: I feel pretty strongly that schools should not tell kids how they may and may not get to school. I feel pretty strongly that that's the parents' decision for little ones, and (I hope) the parents and students should decide that together as the kids are ready for more responsibility. It's not the school's decision, and it's certainly not the Principal's call to suspend them once they've safely arrived at school. After all, I'm pretty sure she doesn't expect all the kids to call her to check in before setting off in their cars every morning!

What do you think?

21 May 2012

Peaked, Piqued, or Peeked?

Today's post is brought to you by Dictionary.com.

Pique (verb): to excite (interest, curiosity, etc.): Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip.
Peak (verb): to attain a peak of activity, development, popularity, etc.: The artist peaked in the 1950s.
Peek (verb): to look or glance quickly or furtively, especially through a small opening or from a concealed location; peep; peer.

This is a peak. Not a pique. (It's also
the home of Stargate Command.)
You'll notice these aren't in alphabetical order. I put "pique" first because I'm not convinced that everyone knows it exists. I see this on the internet all the time: "It peaked my interest." Does the writer mean that the object in question caused his or her interest to reach an apex and then decline? Not usually.

I imagine that English will evolve so that "peak" comes to replace "pique". ("Peek" seems to be left out of these mixups. Thank goodness.) Until then, the words are not interchangeable. If something captures your interest or curiosity, then you've been piqued. If you've reached the full extent of your curiosity and it's fading away, you've peaked.

Unfortunately, I have no good way to remember the difference between these words. But I do think we should all learn them so that careful readers aren't pointing and laughing when we confuse them. Proofreading is your friend!

Did you know there was a difference between "peak" and "pique"? Is it now going to drive you crazy when you see it on the internet?

19 May 2012

Safety Bling!

We did this music video at BikeTexas, and released it at the beginning of May for Bike Month. It's going to be part of an Intro to Cycling curriculum for incoming college freshman across Texas. And best of all (heh), I'm in it!

15 May 2012

Teaser Tuesday #21

Image from Goodreads.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Terry McMillan

I'm scared, worried and beginning to wonder if maybe I am going a little bizonkers. I'm in my truck, on my way to the grocery store. The light is red and I'm just sitting there thinking what have I gotten myself into?

(P.S. This is my first Terry McMillan. I got about 60 pages in and then raced to Goodreads to add all the rest of her books. It's brilliant!)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingAnyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

14 May 2012

Spam Comments

It's that time again, ladies and gents, when I reach into my spam filter for some cheap entertainment!

Here we have some stress-reducing headphones (and this is about 1/5 of how long the actual comment was):
With monster beats detox Power, youll spend less time untying knots, and more time enjoying your music. How can you taste the real composers feelings? The answer is a pair of good headphones. Beat by dre headset is your best choice. It can provide you with the most perfect sound quality, allowing you to experience the music of the composer, in the hope that you have. While younger people are alot more resilient in working with the destructive impact in stress, older persons can have a very good tougher precious time negotiating that physical issues stress provide on the system.

This intrepid commenter does get bonus points for mentioning the Alot. Alot more resilient; older persons less resilient.
Next up: rent an apartment in Crimea!
Briefly urgent need to organize a nuisanceэтому человеку. where the force by force rent an apartment for rent in Simferopol! After that, maybe stay with the real estate next to the wall Shvetskoy in women with a bottle of vodka.

I don't understand. Am I holding the bottle of vodka while staying in women, or am I staying in women who have a bottle of vodka?
This one I knew the answer to:
That case is constantly bothering me. If anybody is able to answer that question, then I would be very grateful :) So what do you think ? What is the medical equivalent of disbarment? Thank you for insightful response :)

Oh, well since you asked for insight, I'll draw on my extensive experience in the medical field to tell you that it's called Your License Is Suspended Because You Were Doing It Wrong. If this happens to your doctor, find a new one.
And finally:
Today is ethical ill, isn't it?
What broad daylight isn't today?


What's in your spam filter?

12 May 2012

Viva Streets: Coming Soon to a Street Near Me!

Way, way back in 1976, a few people in Bogotá thought it would be great to close off some streets to car traffic for a few hours so people could use the street for running, walking, cycling, etc. On that first Sunday, they closed off two blocks. Fast-forward 36 years, and Bogotá now closes off 75 miles of city streets every Sunday, attracting over one million people to come out and play. Every week.

The Viva!Streets route. Photo from Viva!Streets site.
We're not nearly ready for that here in Austin, alas, but next Sunday we take one step closer. Following the lead of not just Bogotá, but also other cities around the U.S. (including El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Edinburg in Texas... and I'm probably missing a few), on May 20th the city of Austin will close off two miles of Sixth Street for Viva!Streets.

Now, I know most of my readers don't live in Austin and I'm sure you're totally bummed to be missing out on this. And I have to tell you that I'm bummed on your behalf. But if you do live in Austin, or if you'll be here for UT's graduation, or you might just be passing through for a few hours, or something, then come on down!!

What should you do? Whatever you want (within reason/law)! Bring your skateboard or your bicycle. Put on your roller skates or your running shoes. Grab a hula hoop, the dog & leash, your kids, and/or the Red Flyer wagon in your garage. The streets will be open to people and closed to traffic from 10 AM to 3 PM.

Not sure which event this pic is from-- San Antonio, maybe?-- but it is also
from the Viva!Streets site.

What am I going to do? It's the day after graduation, and my family will be in town, so after church I'll hand round a gallon of sunscreen for my Indiana family to put on to protect themselves from the Texas sun, and then we'll go find a parking space somewhere near the BikeTexas building (which happens to be inside the car-free zone!). After I introduce my family to my BikeTexas coworkers, we'll stroll down Sixth and see what is happening, until some of us get tired or overheated or both. If you see one bewildered elderly woman plus two bewildered middle-aged people plus three happy 30(ish)somethings... you've found us. Stop and say hello!

Have you ever been to a street-closed event? Will you be in Austin next weekend?

11 May 2012

Raindrops Keep Falling

Today, dear readers, we return to the Green Friday series I know you've all been missing since March. And today's subject: Rain barrels.


I talked quite some time ago about greywater: We use captured shower water to flush our toilet, and dish rinse water for the plants. Since 1) we live in an apartment and 2) greywater systems are prohibitively expensive, that's about all we can do. The problem I have is this: We either have too much greywater or not enough at any given time. So, I'm thinking of getting a rain barrel, or something rain-barrel-esque, to hang onto the greywater until we need it to water the plants.

I don't need one that's this
tall. But if you live in a rainy
place, this may be the size for
you. Source.
I know for sure that all the water will be used eventually, because we have thirsty plants (tomatoes!) and hot weather. But I'm not wild about bowls of pasta cooking water hanging out on my kitchen counter until I can give it to the carrots. I'm looking for something that will hold more water than the bucket in my shower, but won't take up tons of space on my porch. And I'd rather not buy a new one, so I already have an eye on Freecycle and Craigslist.

I do like the looks
of this upcycled
rain barrel from
If you're a homeowner, by the way, I can't recommend a rain barrel enough. You can capture actual rain in it if you have land for it to stand on, and unlike my greywater, rain from the sky is free. Also on the topic of recycling water: A friend on Facebook recently shared that she's put her washing machine drainage hose outside to water her plants. I do recommend that if you try that (and if you can, do-- it's a great idea and you've already paid for that water anyway! Why let it go to waste?), you either put down some gravel or some filtering plants to grab some of the leftover soap, especially if you use detergent with phosphates.

Do you have a rain barrel or similar arrangement? Do you like it? What should I do for a barrel?

10 May 2012

I Missed A Few

In case you missed it, during the A to Z Challenge I blogged (mostly) about names and their origin. Some of the names came from my current WiP, some were family members, and some I just chose at random. However, there were plenty of days when the choice was close, because there were lots of names I could have picked that day. So, I have a handful of posts planned on names that I like but couldn't write about during A to Z. (I suppose this could be my new Thursday thing!)

Short form of Chester, from the Latin word meaning "fortified place." Got up to the 610th most popular name for boys in the U.S. in 1963. Fell out of the top 1000 in 1985, made a brief resurgence in '87 (#959), but hasn't cracked the top 1000 since.

The Google images that came up when
I searched for Chet were either dull or
disturbing. This was one of the good
ones. Source.
Famous Chets: I'm having to ignore my rule about only posting ones I've heard of! Wikipedia says:
My Chets: I knew one person named Chet when I was very young. He was an elderly man at church who was friends with my grandparents. It's possible that he gave me candy or something. He died when I was pretty small; either his or my great-grandfather's was the first death I remember. 

I currently have a Chet in my WiP. He's Sybil's older brother, and is one of those perfect older siblings; that is, mum and dad think he's perfect, and the teachers, too, but the siblings know better. He's obnoxiously bossy and tends to jump into situations where he isn't really wanted or needed (traits he shares with me). But, he's also a good guy, and even though he irritates his siblings, he is the family peacemaker and no one really hates him. Yet. And his name's meaning, "Fortified Place", really works for him, because he's introduced as a 16-year-old school prefect who is oozing with self-confidence, so much that younger students seek him out for advice. (Not his own siblings, of course.)

Do you know any Chets? What really awful character quirk should I give my Chet?

Source: Behind the Name

09 May 2012

Check the Score

I was perusing Twitter one evening, as is my wont, when a friend from UT said, "Seen the ads where Good credit Scores are supermodel-ish men & the bad Score's fat & ugly? I wonder what'd happen if they were girls." 

Well, to begin with, the ladies on The View would spit out their coffee in indignation. People would be (correctly) outraged. The company would have to apologize in a serious hurry. It would become one of those infamous moments that women could point to for years about how sexism is still rampant. (I agree that it is, but that's not the point of this post.)

This is the first ad in the series. The bad score
digs earwax out of his ear. Source.
In fact, the more I think about it, I can't really think of any other way that ad could be socially acceptable. Age? What, two young people and one old one? Or two adults and one child? Another firestorm. So why is it okay to have two tall and muscular men vs. one short, fat, and/or ugly one?

Now, don't get me wrong: I enjoy looking at good-looking people. I'm happily married and have no desire to ogle other men-- in fact, by today's standards, I'm almost disgustingly happily married-- yet I still watch with rapt attention during Rafa Nadal's changeovers, just in case. Why? Because he's nice to look at.

But does that make the credit score advert okay, or fun, or harmless? I'm not sure that it is. Sometimes Chad will complain about societal double standards that favour women, and I tease him that I know it's hard that women get the breaks sometimes. But should I be okay with that? No. I'm not. As long as we entertain double standards in our culture, we invite friction between people, and most of it could be avoided if we just embraced that our differences don't have to make us unequal.

Have you seen the ads? Do you agree or disagree with the concept?

08 May 2012

Teaser Tuesday #20

I should keep track of who recommends books to me. That would be the polite thing to do. This book came via someone in the blogosphere, about a year ago: Step forward and be recognized if you remember blogging about this one! Otherwise, thank you, anonymous blogger!

Source: Goodreads.
Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile, Verlyn Klinkenborg

In thirteen years I have never been dropped among the boys' swift feet. Never kicked head over tail. Never rolled through the village along my equator.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingAnyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

07 May 2012

Script Frenzy: The Aftermath

You may remember, in the dim and distant past, that I mentioned I was participating in Script Frenzy in April (in addition to the A to Z Challenge, my undergrad research project, and the other four classes I was supposed to be working on). 

Here's the short version: I didn't win. 

The idea in Script Frenzy is to write a 100-page script or series of scripts. I've won NaNoWriMo twice in a row now, finishing with well over 100 single-spaced pages each time, with none of the white space that scripts have. One hundred pages should be easy, right? Yeah, in hindsight that was a dumb thought.

In real life, scriptwriting is harder than novel writing, at least for me. In order to write about my subject properly (a ballerina in her first principal role), I would have needed to do a ton of research, which I did not have time for. So I tried to wing it, and managed to get 26 pages written. I don't know what I'll do with them.

Will I do it again? Yes, I think so. If I hadn't taken quite so long to settle on a firm thesis for my undergrad research, I think I would have had more time for the script. However, that project was also more difficult than anticipated. (Will I ever learn? Probably not.)

Did you do Script Frenzy? Will you do it next year? What should my next script be about?

04 May 2012

The End

Today is the last day of my undergraduate career. The past two years have been maddening, rewarding, wonderful... and much too fast. But dadgummit, I finally got what I came for (although graduation isn't for another two weeks, so you'll have to wait for pics and whatnot).

I'll start with the easy one: What won't I miss?

  • Friends from other Texas cities moaning about UT. I just don't care about intra-Texas collegiate rivalries. I've never cared. And now I don't care twice as much as I never cared before. (Bonus points to anyone who can name what TV show I've blatantly stolen that line from.)
  • I can stop using UT's really dumb Blackboard system. Please, oh please, let Texas Tech not use Blackboard for grad students. South Plains College's WebCT was a cakewalk to use by comparison, and that was nearly 10 years ago, for goodness' sake.
  • Hearing every time I meet a new person: "Oh, are you a grad student?" Actually, I won't stop hearing this, but I won't miss having to say "No." For the foreseeable future, I can answer "Yes".
  • Early twentysomething angst. I'll miss my classmates, no question, but I won't miss the emotional/hormonal crazy that comes from being 18-22. I absorb way too much of my classmates' stress to be healthy.
  • Really, crazy, unreasonably-priced, highly-packaged, over-processed food on campus. I don't mean the dining halls, which I've never seen the inside of. I'm talking about the "markets" and other such places that are basically tiny convenience stores. They're like the British newsagents, except more expensive. Students could save ever so much money if they would just take the shuttle bus a couple of miles off campus, buy food at a regular supermarket, then come back. Unfortunately, that's impossible to do in the 15 minutes between classes and impractical at 2 AM when you're studying and hungry.
  • Protests every single day. I'm glad, on some level, that this generation is more politically involved at such a young age. Kinda. I'm less glad that they hand me fliers on a daily basis.
  • Getting around campus. These people walk and cycle as if they have invisible shields around them protecting them from harm. Watch where you're going, dadgummit!
Enough of that. So, what will I miss?

Everything else. :'(

01 May 2012

Random Thoughts During the A to Z Challenge

Some things that might have merited their own blog post, had I thought about them any time but during the A to Z Challenge:

This one. That's what
I bought. Source.
The first time I heard the phrase "A (eh) to Z (zed)" and it stuck in my head was one day on the phone in Glasgow. Someone was trying to give me directions and asked if I had an "A to Zed". Unfortunately, due to her Glaswegian accent and my American brain, I heard "Eightys Head". I knew that couldn't be right, so with all my eloquence I asked, "A what?" She clarified, "A Streetfinder." Ah. I knew what that was. I had to admit that no, I didn't have one, so I had no idea how to get to where she wanted me to go. I went out the very next day and bought one-- and I've never lived anywhere since without having at least one map in the house in case I had to look something up. (Of course, Google Maps has made this practise obsolete, but it's a habit.)

During the NCAA Finals: It's fun watching college sports and knowing they're the same age as my classmates & coworkers. I don't miss being that age, not even a little bit, and that's confirmed almost daily by the angst of my young friends. However, I am SO going to miss having this time with them. All of my friends are 10-15 years younger than me, and they're all delightful. I'm really sad that starting next week, I'll have to work hard to get to hang out with the early '20s crowd. This is why people become professors, I'm convinced of it.

Inspired by Karen Elizabeth Brown's Beowulf post: We read an excerpt from Beowulf my senior year of high school, and our teacher assigned us to write a follow-up story. So I wrote Grendel's diary, with the final installment coming as he lay dying because Beowulf has torn his arm off and he's bleeding out. I'm sure it wasn't fabulous, probably not even my best writing in high school, but I got full marks. Why? For the final entry, I switched to writing it left-handed (this was, of course, before the days when all assignments are typed). My instructor was impressed with my creativity. I don't know... even now, I think it's pretty goofy.

Overheard in the Rhetoric Dept. computer lab: Some grad students were talking about health care reform. I tuned them out, because I was trying to get some work done, but I managed to start listening again just in time to hear one of them say, "Imagine you're in a car, right? And you can just make part of it vanish. Is it more aggressive to make the engine vanish, so it can't go, or to make the brakes vanish, so it can't stop?" I've no idea what he meant. Take from that metaphor what you will.

I had some canned ravioli one day for lunch at BikeTexas. I mentioned to a coworker that I was singing the ravioli song in my head, as it was a mainstay for us to sing back in my day camp days (age 6-10, if memory serves). He had no idea what I was talking about. I was a bit horrified. So, in case you don't know it, either, here are some adorable children singing a slightly, erm, tamer version than I remember:

What's on your mind today?