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.

28 August 2013

"I've never seen anybody use it!"

Wednesday used to be my day for writing about life without a car, and my enjoyment (or otherwise!) of the local public transit, car sharing, and bike lane network. I've kind of gotten away from that, but for your reading pleasure: A post about the local train.

We moved apartments last month, away from one that was great apart from its location on the very eastern edge of town to one more in the middle of things. Our new apartment is close enough to a train station for me to take the train to work now, which I've appreciated. Since I work part-time, I leave at 2 PM and can usually get a seat on the train with no problem for the ride home. Going to work, though, is another story.

The trains are packed full at peak times. Packed. As in, some days I can't even get close enough to a bar to hang onto because of all the people in the way. The evenings are worse than the mornings, I discovered last week, but the mornings are pretty bad (and look to get worse now that schools and universities are back in session).

This was a little field trip we took with our interns from
work last summer. Middle of the day, many seats filled,
bike racks occupied even before we got on
(at the second stop on the line!).
I'm not too disgruntled about this. The train is doing exactly what it's meant to do-- move a lot of people quickly. If a couple of routes a day are full, great. That's exactly what the transit system needs to justify expanding service.

But it took a while to build up to this. When I first moved to Austin in 2010, the train had been operational for about four months and the great joke going around was that the train cost millions of dollars and three people were riding it.

Apparently, that notion took hold and refuses to die, despite standing-room-only trains for most of the day. Just this week, a visitor to the office told me, "You know, I've never seen anybody on that train." He said this minutes after I had pried myself out of the crowd to get off the train and head to the office.

I told him, "You must not be looking at it right." He was kind enough to believe, after I described my daily ride, that the train is indeed full for most routes of the day.

It's funny to me how long people can hang on to something that we heard once. It seems obvious enough to me that train ridership would increase gradually over time, and I'm not surprised to hear that there weren't thousands of people crowding all the platforms the day the train began service. But that's changed now (okay, we're still not up to thousands-- the train doesn't have that much capacity), so maybe after a couple more years I'll stop hearing about how there's "nobody" riding the trains.

Or maybe not. Texans do love their traditions, after all.

Are there any pithy but untrue statements that you hear a lot? Or is there an idea you're hanging on to that you may need to let go of?

27 August 2013

Teaser Thursday #36

Run to Overcome, Meb Keflezighi

Who could ever have guessed that six years later we'd both be marathoners and that I would beat him on the way to a silver medal in the Athens Games?

A typical marathon buildup week starts on Monday--an easy day--with a single 10- to 12-mile run.

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!

26 August 2013

Parlez-vous français? (Not so much.)

I was having fond reminiscences earlier about my French class, which was two years ago now. In so many ways, that was the worst class ever-- I think I ended with a C- (I took it pass/fail, so I don't really know), it took up so much of my time when I was trying to survive a difficult linguistics class, not embarrass myself in creative writing, and apply to grad school, all at the same time. And I don't even want to talk about what NaNoWriMo was like that year (although it was the time of the infamous "it's like being on drugs" quote-- come to think of it, some drugs might have helped) (just kidding: Please don't do drugs just because I said it would help).

Even through all that, it was my favourite of my four semesters at UT. Mostly, it was because of my creative writing class, which I loved. LOVED. Our instructor was amazing, and most of the class genuinely liked one another (or if they didn't, they were all very good actors!). And it was full of crazy-good writers. I spent the entire semester feeling inferior, but not really, because my classmates wouldn't let me feel that way for long. I thought more than one of my classmates from creative writing had guest blogged for me here before, but no, just one of them has. But even without them being willing to hang out around Cheekyness, they were still a great group. Incidentally, the class was entirely juniors and seniors, so I got to see about half of them graduate this past spring when I went to the English department graduation. Such a treat to recognise so many names.

This is French enough, right? To my great regret, we never
watched Phantom or Les Misérables in French.
Where was I? Right, French. The other big contributor to my loving that semester so much was French. Why? Because it was a challenge that I just couldn't overcome. I spent the entire semester frantically treading French water, trying to keep my head up enough to take a breath every now and then. I was hopelessly bad at it, the more so because I wasn't trying that hard due to the whole pass/fail thing and having five other classes that I did want to make good grades in. However, French Teacher is 1) Really good at teaching; 2) An all-around nice guy; and 3) The same age as me. The first two made me want to work harder in the class, because I felt bad for wasting his time and also because he's already perfected the art of gentle suggestion-- he'd mention in passing that I maybe should spent a little bit more time with vocabulary, and 20 minutes later I'd be in the library slaving over a list of French words. (Okay, it helps that I'm quite impressionable.)

The third bit, us being the same age, was just a help in making the class more enjoyable. There were a couple other non-trads in the room, but for some reason French Teacher and I were the ones pulling out all the same pop culture references and agreeing on all the cool hangout spots in town. For example, one day he asked (by way of talking about how accents affect your understanding), "How many of you have seen Trainspotting?" I raised my hand, but no one else did. He looked at me, grinned, said, "Okay, generation gap," and moved on. Repeat once a week for the entire semester, and you can see how the two of us struck up a friendship before the semester was out.

For all that the class nearly killed me, it was totally worth it and I can look back on it in fondness for this reason: It was hard. It was a struggle. For once in my life, I ran into something that brought me to tears of frustration on a regular basis and yet I stuck to it, gaining as my reward the very thing I was after: I know the basis of French pronunciation and grammar so I can at least have a stab at French words now. And as a bonus, I also learned about prioritization and that it's okay not to be able to do everything, two little nuggets of knowledge that are coming in handy in grad school.

TL;DR: Wow, that was long. Guess I needed to empty my brain. When was a time in your life that you felt like you were struggling for no purpose? (Bet everybody else's are a bit more substantial than French class.) What did you learn? What would you do differently if you had that time to do over again?

21 August 2013

Are You Going to Finish That? (A Post About Reading)

A few minutes ago, I set a book aside unfinished. It will go back to the library the next time I go.

From time to time, a conversation will arise on Facebook (sometimes on Twitter, but I usually see it on Facebook) about abandoning a book after starting. The discussion generally splits about 50/50, with one half declaring they don't finish books that aren't interesting, and the other half insisting that they cannot walk away, even when the book is boring.


When pressed, I've seen people answer, "I like to finish what I start."

So do I, but I reserve the sentiment for things like deep cleaning my living room or projects at work, not a book I started of my own accord and am under no obligation to finish. I've never signed a contract with an author to the effect that if I start reading one of her books, I absolutely will read every word.

Someone once told me, during such a conversation, that she was relieved to know that I don't finish books if they don't interest me, because that makes her feel like it's okay for her to do the same.


Look at all these books waiting to be read!
From hhsara on stock.xchng.
(I can't remember who it was. Maybe she'll come along and identify herself. I have it narrowed down to about four people, but I don't know which one it was.)

If you're waiting for the permission of a voracious reader to abandon a book that bores you when you're reading for enjoyment (for school or work is obviously a different story), then here you are: You have permission to set a book aside. Really. Life is too short and there are too many books for you to force your way through a book you'd rather not read. Put it back on your to-read list if you think you may come back to it someday. (I've done that with Les Misérables, which I am now close to finishing about nine years after my first try, and Catch-22, which I think is on my list to try again over Christmas break.) Or just put it down. Return it to the library. Pass it on to someone who might like it. Take it to a secondhand bookstore. Let it go.

It doesn't surprise me that the "I must finish a book" crowd among my friends is almost the same as the "I don't read a lot" crowd. There are a few exceptions. Not many. I can't think of anything that would kill my reading joy faster than forcing myself through a book I didn't like.

What about you? Are you a must-finisher or a forget-this-er? Do you have a threshold, like the 50-page test, to decide where to stop?

20 August 2013

Teaser Tuesday #35

Source: Goodreads
Ten Miles Past Normal, Frances O'Roark Dowell

I decide I like being part of a group where nobody gets locked out, no matter how lame they are.

We're playing some old song, something by Radiohead, a song I've never heard before in my life and have no idea how to play, but after about thirty seconds I realize it doesn't matter, because no one can hear me.

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!

19 August 2013

What Do You Do?

A few weeks ago, a friend who I see a lot on social media but haven't seen in person for many years asked, "So what is it you do? I've just realised I don't know."

Saw this on Google+. Joked that I need to do
this, with Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, LinkedIn,
and Reddit on the other hand.
I was a bit horrified.

In case you don't know, I do the social media and communications for BikeTexas, the statewide bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group. While I don't make a big deal out of this on my personal social media pages, I do mention it from time to time (as most people do with their jobs), and until that moment I had considered myself to be an above average social media user. But a friend who knows me in real life? Had no idea I was a social media manager? It's moments like that that tell me it's time to step up my game.

So, up I stepped. I've filled my Feedly with social media news. I joined Google+ and LinkedIn groups. I started reading all the articles I can get my hands on about best practises. I still think I'm an above average social media user, but now I have the additional fun of being a bit of a snob when I see other brands making mistakes that a few milliseconds of Google searching will tell you not to make.

So what? Well, this is why I haven't been blogging. My summer off from grad school turned into a summer of learning how to be a great social media manager, or at least a shade-above-mediocre one. But I have missed spilling my thoughts on here. Good news-- classes start back next week! I'll have a lot more to talk about and a lot less time to write it down, if the last two semesters are anything to go by.

Are we connected? If not, why not? I'm on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest! (My Facebook is still private. I'm more fun on those other networks, anyway.) Let's be friends!

Has someone ever made an innocent comment to you that turned into a call to action?