Saturday, October 10, 2015

Coffeeneuring ride #1

Today I rode to Outbound Station in Conshohocken. The ride was approximately 32 miles, and I had a chai latte, bagel with cream cheese, and banana. Outbound Station is right next to the Conshohocken train station on the Schuylkill River Trail, and is a favorite ride stop for Philadelphian roadies. There are two bike racks outside, and lots (LOTS!) of bike-specific decorations inside.

I'm spoiled. I got into bicycling when I lived in Seattle. Taking the bus everywhere was a drag, and people biking looked like they were having fun. So, I started biking. I got to commute on the Burke Gilman Trail every day, and frequently took the long way home on a series of trails that took me around Elliot Bay. There's a bench near Centennial Park over there that I could always count on as a place to sit and stare at the water, about a mile from my apartment. another story. When the Schuylkill was named the best urban trail in the US, I laughed audibly. I didn't vote for it; I voted for the Burke Gilman. The Schuylkill takes you out of the city; the Burke takes you through it. The Schuylkill is FULL of PEOPLE who don't practice good trail etiquette. Sure, many do, but far too many do not. But there isn't even good signage telling people what to do, or where to go. This is an old story, but Saturday on the Schuylkill is battling kit-clad roadies, people pushing strollers, a regatta, pedal-powered carts that hold entire families and travel at walking speed, lots and lots of joggers, and people out on bikes for an excursion. It's not their fault. It's not my fault. It's not all that well-designed of a trail, and only divides walkers & runners from bicyclists (etc.) in a few very short places. There are several blind curves, and it's not all that wide.

But it's the best we have, and there's a whole lot of us who live here. Even though I mutter under my breath about all the annoying things that go on on that trail, I'm still glad we have it. I realize, I understand that while it is possible to have nice things in Philly, anyone who wants to improve trails, green spaces, bike lanes, or even pavement quality in this town is climbing an uphill battle and fighting against general political will. It's so much harder to get things done here than most people realize. Looking to cities like Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver and demanding that we have their infrastructure (and criticizing local advocacy groups in the process) is misunderstanding the way each city works. We need to celebrate small victories here, because it's just so difficult to get anything done.

Look, we can't all live in Seattle. I surely couldn't. But we take what we can from the environment in which we live. We do the best we can.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A preamble to Coffeeneuring

When Mary posted this year's Coffeeneuring challenge, my first reaction was "oh, I'm too busy to do that this year. Twice was enough." I was comfortable with that decision. I even (finally) met Mary in-person a few weeks ago at BikeDC's famed Friday Coffee Club, and led with the confession that I wouldn't participate this year.

And then things changed.

I started seeing #coffeeneuring posts all over Instagram and Twitter this past weekend, and then today, I saw the only other Philadelphian I know (other than the one with whom I live) who has participated in coffeeneuring post his trip on Instagram, and I got jealous. Not even a FOMO-type jealousy, where there's jealousy for jealousy's sake. But a jealousy of wanting to be out on my bike, riding to coffee shops, and enjoying autumn. And then there was the jealousy of broadcasting it. I got jealous of my former self. I used to write all the time: academic papers, blog posts, journal entries, and the like. Now all I write are emails, and lots of them. When the point of email is to keep it short, unemotional, and impersonal, there's little room for any sort of expression. It's hard to consider anything that I do "writing."

As is typical of folks my age (so I'm told, though it always feels like everyone else has "it" "figured out"), life has been a little transient in recent memory. Since I Mastered Arts (all of them, yup) and moved from Seattle to Philadelphia in June 2014, I:

  • have lived in three homes
  • have had six jobs
...and a whole bunch of other things that are less numerically interesting.

Programming note: one thing that is particularly interesting is how the "thing" that got me started with this blog is no longer meaningful to me. I keep my blog's title as an acknowledgment that things change.

With so much change, it's hard to feel grounded. I think this is common for people in all stages of life, but it feels particularly immediate in this post-college/post-grad school moment. Bicycling is a relatively new part of my life, but it helps keep me grounded. My daily commute through city streets doesn't do that, though. It takes a bit more.

I get a lot out of yoga, but my favorite part right now is toward the beginning of a class, the "set an intention for your practice" part. I'm viewing coffeeneuring as a practice, with the intention of mindfulness and adaptability. If something does not serve my practice, I will get rid of it. If my practice calls out for something else, I will engage in it. There may be weekly ride descriptions, and there may not be. I may give up halfway through the season. But I'm going to try. 

Stay tuned for Coffeeneuring 2015: Mindfulness Edition. Or don't. But I'll probably be here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014

This year's coffeeneuring was an exploration of specialty coffee in Philadelphia (with two exceptions).

Rule summary: bike to 7 coffee shops in 7 weekends, and make each trip at least 2 miles. Take a photo. All my miles are measured in "ish" distance. They're also dramatically less than last year's coffeeneuring mileage (with one notable exception). Things in Philly are just so much closer together than they are in Seattle!

#1. Date: 10/4/14
Destination: Volo, 4630 Main Street (Manayunk), Philadelphia
Miles: 20
Drinks: drip coffee for me, cappuccino for G
Notes: This run was supposed to be up to Crossroads in Roxborough, but they closed about 10 minutes after we got there. On the way, we conquered (basically) the Manayunk Wall, but didn't actually conquer it and ended up walking 2 or 3 of the blocks. (Also, we were technically a block or 2 over, but still did the same elevation.) When Crossroads was closed, we coasted back down the hill and found coffee. Volo serves La Colombe coffee, fwiw.
Drip, bagel w/cream cheese, cappuccino, G's hands

#2. Date: 10/11–13/14
Destination: French Creek State Park, Elverson, PA, for Coffee Shop Without Walls. (We drank Joe coffee)
Miles: About 100
Drinks: Joe coffee in a french press. Same thing but cold brew the second morning. It was hard to make a fire with wet firewood.
Notes: We didn't actually bike on the day that the coffee picture was taken, but there was plenty of biking the day of the cold brew coffee. As far as I can tell, French Creek is the only PA state park with camping in reasonable biking distance from Philly. I recommend going, but with a granny gear. My loaded-up 12-speed Univega wasn't exactly enough to get me up the hills into the park. We were the only people who biked to get there (also as far as I can tell), but there was a heckuva lot of mountain biking in the park. We did not partake.
French press coffee

bonus "look at all the gear" touring shot
#3. Date: 10/19/14
Destination: Menagerie Coffee, 18 S. 3rd St (Old City), Philadelphia.
Miles: 12
Drinks: cappuccino for me, hand pour for G
Notes: Menagerie is (and continues to be) wonderful, but they weren't the highlight of this trip. We biked over the Ben Franklin to Camden, and headed over to Harleigh Cemetery and found Walt Whitman's tomb. That was pretty special.
cappuccino, cinnamon bun, hand pour

#4. Date: 10/26/14
Destination: Rival Bros, 2400 Lombard St (Fitler Square), Philadelphia
Miles: Not very many. Probably about 4.
Drinks: espresso for me, hand pour for G. Yes, this happened 2x in a row.
Notes: There's a lot of specialty coffee in Philly. This was a great, accessible location. Lots of (presumably) grad students hanging out there doing work on a Sunday.
espresso, hand pour, glass of sparkling water

#5. Date: 11/2/14
Destination: Reanimator, 310 W Master St (South Kensington), Philadelphia
Miles: 6
Drinks: cappuccino for me, hand pour for G
Notes: Probably my favorite of the shops we visited. They're the only destination on the list that roasts in-house. Also, they hadn't taken down the halloween decorations yet, so that was pretty excellent.
cappuccino, hand pour, hands
#6. Date: 11/8/14
Destination: Joe, 3200 Chestnut St (University City), Philadelphia
Miles: 7
Drinks: hand pour for both
Notes: Specialty coffee on the Drexel campus? Well, sure. Lots of undergrads & their visiting families. But the coffee was great, as was the shop.

#7. Date: 11/16/14
Destination: High Point Cafe, 2831 W Girard Ave (Brewerytown), Philadelphia
Miles: 7.5
Drinks: cortados (single & double)
Notes: They're closing at the end of the month! Lovely shop, though. They're staying open in Mt. Airy, though, for those bold enough to venture so far away. (I realize Mt. Airy isn't *actually* far away, but it may as well be Canada—or just the suburbs?—from where I sit.)
cortados & a crepe
Coffeeneuring 2014 is in the books! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to move cross-country in a rental truck with a guinea pig

The guinea pig beat is not my normal beat, but there was a dearth of information related to these circumstances. Here I am, chiming in, hoping this post will be well-indexed by search engines for future reference.

I recently moved from Seattle to Philadelphia in a rental truck, with my guinea pig. (I previously had two guinea pigs, but one died from lymphoma weeks before the journey.) Guinea pigs aren't allowed on any airlines I could find, so I wrangled a friend to fly out and make the drive with me. I spoke with my vet before the trip, asking for tips on moving via truck with a guinea pig. She suggested a large tupperware with holes drilled to hook up a water bottle, and paper lunch bags for hiding. I went to Fred Meyer and found the tupperware, and drilled the appropriate holes. Guinea pig forums suggested newspaper and fleece for the bottom, so that was my plan. I also planned to keep a shoebox of hay in the cab, in addition to juicy vegetables. I gave her lots of hay, but not so much that she was swamped in it.

My guinea pig Sally is a diva. She's a high-maintenance guinea pig who thinks highly of herself. Yes, I can tell. She was born to a rescued show pig on January 3, 2013, and I adopted her that May. She was spayed in August.

Wondering what's going on

Day 1: Sally wasn't thrilled with me packing up the apartment, but it was alright. But as soon as I started driving, she freaked out. I first had to remove the water bottle from the cage, since it rattled and dripped with the truck's motion. She was terrified of the motion and sound, and immediately burrowed under the fleece (so, just barely above the newspaper, when she didn't kick that out of the way). I had my co-driver empty and take the top off a tissue box so she could use that for hiding. She didn't take the bait. The whole first day of driving was bad for this pig. I tried to let her run around in the hotel room, but she hid under the bed and was hard to retrieve. I made the decision that she wouldn't do much running around on the trip, and hoped it wouldn't hinder her overall health. She seems to have gained a bit of weight, but nothing troubling.

Day 2–7: The next day was a million times better. I lined the cage with newspaper, towel, then fleece, and continued out. She was a champion. This continued through the remaining six days of the trip. The most difficult parts for me were dealing with her water and changing the cage bedding. At one point, she had peed one two many times on the tissue box, so I replaced it with a paper bag from breakfast. I did this once more. My piggie loves hiding in paper bags.

Water: Since the water bottle couldn't be in the cage while we were moving, I had to get creative. The water bottle would always stay in the cage whenever the truck wasn't moving. Even at gas stations. But when we were driving, she would want her water bottle. She started nosing her head up to where the water bottle usually would be, and then I would know to carefully offer it to her. It was like attachment-parenting a guinea pig.

Food: Hay, pellets, veggies. If I was eating an apple or a banana, she'd get a little piece. If she was wheeking and confused, she'd get a piece of romaine (kept in my insulated lunch box, though it didn't last as many days as it would in an actual fridge). Normally these are nighttime-only things, but stressful situations with non-verbal animals call for a little bit of appeasement. If I did something to make her mad, like take her in for lunch, she'd get a baby carrot (ONLY one daily--it's important to remember that guinea pigs can't eat carrots like Bugs Bunny). Every night would end with a Daily C tablet.

Bedding: I stocked up on free newspapers before I left Seattle, so that was never in short supply. I also had thrift store towels and fleece that I had long been using as bedding. I ended up removing some dirty things and uneaten food from the cage every night, but I only completely cleaned it out three times. The first was on the first night, after I realized I needed a better system. The second, two days later in a hotel room. This time, I hand washed the towel and fleece in the sink, and hung them out to dry overnight. The towel didn't dry (of course), so it got crammed in a plastic bag for later re-washing. The penultimate night I spent at my parents' house, so I took advantage of their laundry there. The second day in my new house, I made a new cube & coroplast setup; the old coroplast was too gross to transport cross-country (it was the first one I had made, so it wasn't picture-perfect), but the cubes were fine!

Stops: "Don't leave your guinea pig in the car," as I was told by everyone on- and off-line. Duh, but yes, good advice. When it was still cool, there were some gas stops or (very) quick meal stops where it was alright to leave her in the car with the windows rolled down a little. On the second day, I realized how middle-of-nowhere I was, and got nervous about birds flying into the truck and disturbing her. From that point, I brought her in wherever we were going in her carrier. This pig even traveled to the monument at Mount Rushmore! Nowhere I went had a problem with guinea pigs. I didn't necessarily ask, but I took "no pets" to mean "no dogs," since they all had pictures of dogs, and seemed worried about dog energy/bathroom situations.
Thinking about eating, but really just annoyed

Yes, I'll eat this lettuce

At Mount Rushmore

Second-to-last day of driving. Exhausted (or just sleeping all day like a guinea pig should do).

Visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. They had another guinea pig visitor the previous day!

The real lesson from all this is: use common sense, and keep Critical Care onhand, just in case. I was worried that she would stop eating because of the stressful situation, but there were never any issues. The trip with this pig wasn't easy, but we all survived. Finally, I recommend keeping your Instagram followers updated on the trip, because everyone loves an oversharing guinea pig parent.

Exploring the new place

Friday, March 28, 2014

You really don't want to #CancelColbert.

Disclaimer: I'm speaking personally, certainly not for anyone else. I'm interested in hearing alternative critiques of comedy, satire, race, and identity, especially in the context of Stephen Colbert.

I have better things to do right now than shout into the echobox of criticism and defense of Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, First Lady of France. But as a longtime, avid fan of Colbert's satire and self-satire, I feel a bubbling of internet rage that I need to address.

This post by Jessica Wakeman summarizes the situation well, and has all the requisite video links. Colbert (in character) satirized Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, who didn't bow to #ChangeTheName pressure, and instead "created the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation" in a somewhat pathetic attempt at appeasement through poorly-directed charity. The Colbert Report brought back a clip of the show from 2005 with Colbert's intentionally racist character Ching-Chong Ding-Dong, and modern-day Colbert, after "reporting" on Snyder's foundation, introduced the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever. As often happens, Colbert's line from the show was tweeted (and quickly deleted) by the @ColbertReport account out of context, and inspired a knee-jerk #CancelColbert campaign, arguing that progressive satire punches up (not down), and that Colbert's sketch was blatantly racist.

In addition to Wakeman's post (The Frisky) linked above, here are some other smart responses I've read to the controversy.

Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post
Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel
James Poniewozik, Time
John Aravosis, AmericaBlog

To synthesize these writers, Colbert's sketch does punch up, though on the surface, punches down. Viewed in context with the reporting on Snyder and the Redskins, Colbert is creating a (fake) charity to make up for his unabashed use of an offensive character (Ding-Dong), paralleling Snyder's refusal to alter the Redskins in name or mascot, and creation of a charity he hopes will be a hush fund. The point is that it's racist, especially when viewed out of context with the rest of the program, and Colbert's long-running character.

When you explain humor, it becomes unfunny. I know. But the reason the Colbert Report works (at least for me) is that Colbert's character makes himself look bad in order to expose hypocrisy. One of the better recent examples of Colbert doing good was in his interview with trans* activist Janet Mock, who had previously been misunderstood and misrepresented by CNN host Piers Morgan. For a < six-minute interview, Colbert does a heckuva lot to make himself look bad, elevate Mock, and show how easy re-education can be, while remaining seriously funny.

The last thing I want to do is argue that one good deed makes up for a lifetime of poor choices, but I do think that Colbert's pattern of satire shows generally good intentions, and a clawing at boundaries of acceptable behavior.

My larger feeling about this whole #CancelColbert "shitstorm" is that even if Colbert's sketch and statements were truly racist, offensive-to-all, and grounds for outrage, he still should not be canceled. Even if that were the case, The Colbert Report is a site of progress, exposure, and bullshit-calling. Humans make mistakes. When pushing boundaries, there are often occurrences of crossing them. Offer a sincere mea culpa, listen, and move on. For Colbert to be canceled would be for someone who is truly trying to leverage his privilege for good to be silenced. That truly wouldn't help anyone. He doesn't even need to explain himself; the critics have already done that work.

While I wholeheartedly support the right, privilege, and obligation for activists to speak up and explain how they are wronged by media culture, Colbert is the wrong target.

And finally, this should go without saying, but sending Suey Park death threats or other forms of abuse on twitter is not even remotely acceptable.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My first errandonnée

I realize I need to change the name of this blog to something much more general, but I don't have the creative brainpower to do so. For now, bear with me.

I enjoyed coffeeneuring enough to get hooked on the accessible bike challenge genre. The errandonnée hosted by Chasing Mailboxes has a ton of rules, too, and lets several errands be completed in a single trip, as long as the total mileage is over 30 for the challenge. Here's how I completed it:

Day 1 3/7/14, total day's mileage=15.76

Errand #1
Category: work
Mileage: 4.84

  • Many vehicle operators of the car and motorcycle variety run red lights at the 6-way intersection just south of the Fremont bridge. I also get honked at if I refuse to run the red light, but I stand my ground, feeling vulnerable on my road bike.
  • I learned how to use this bizarre type of bike rack outside one of the libraries, under an overhang.

Errand #2
Category: bike shop (hoping the co-op counts)
Mileage: 10.9ish
  • Added cages & straps to my pedals, and learned how difficult it is to ride that way after only ever using flat pedals. Also learned how to change brake pads.
  • The Elliott Bay Trail is gorgeous at dusk on a mostly clear day
  • Bonus picture from the trip between UW and The Bikery. Seattle hills! 

Day 2, 3/8/14, 3.97 miles route 

Errand #3
Category: work (though a different work, so I'm comfortable using the work category twice so soon)
Mileage: 1.84
Observation/lesson: There's a lot of construction going on in my neighborhood, and it makes it harder to bike around.

Errand #4, QFC
Category: grocery store
Mileage: 1.47
Observation/lesson: QFC didn't have Cadbury creme eggs, which was a bummer, though good for my health/wallet. Also, I like to take pictures of my bike (even if they come out blurry). It's pretty.

Errand #5, the FedEx store
Category: store other than grocery store
Mileage: .66
Observation/lesson: If I can figure out how to get my left foot into the cage after pushing out, the cage/strap setup will work really well. The security of the cages is great, and helps for going uphill, even if it's just that my feet don't lift off the pedals all the time.

Day 3, 3/9/14

Errand #6, Pho Bac
Category: Breakfast or lunch
Mileage: 1.87
Observation/lesson: All veggie pho is magical.

Errand #7, Lake Union Park
Category: Personal Care & Health (because meditation counts!)
Mileage: 2.56
Observation/lesson: Sitting at the edge of a dock, leaning up against one's bike, and staring at a large body of water is quite wonderful.

Errand #8, Mighty-O Donuts
Category: Dessert or coffee (technically, this could have also been lunch, since donuts were my lunch--don't tell any real adults)
Mileage: from school/work, and I didn't count the to-campus mileage for this day since I had already used up the work category: 2.14
Observation/lesson: As soon as I change into pants appropriate for riding in the rain, the sun will come out. Also, it's better to ride in the sun with rain clothing than for it to constantly rain.

Errand #9, Seattle Public Library, University Branch
Category: Library!
Mileage: .91
Observation/lesson: The cherry blossoms are blooming! See how pretty they are outside the library?

Errand #10, Steelband rehearsal
Category: Community meeting
Mileage: 6.28
Observation/lesson: Playing pan, like riding a bike, is more fun when it becomes a fluid, physical motion, rather than a mental exercise.

Errand #11, the unnamed drive-thru espresso stand just south of the Fremont bridge that I pass all the time
Category: Breakfast or lunch
Mileage: 2.02
Lesson/observation: They have yummy breakfast burritos, and are very friendly.

(I actually put the burrito in my bag, and rode over to Gas Works park, and ate it there. Isn't spring the best?)

Errand #12, Lush
Category: Any store other than a grocery store
Mileage: 9.04
Lesson/observation: I learned a lot about hair and skin care and products. I could spend hundreds of dollars in that store.

Total errandonnée miles: 44.55

Woo! The funny thing about this challenge is that I would have done all of these things had there not been a challenge. It's an odd feeling logging and photographing "normal" life. Odd, in a cool way.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Transferable skills

We interrupt this thesis-blogging procrastination (I said I'd do it every week, and have ignored this for 3 or 4 of 'em...sorry) to take stock of what we're doing and why we're doing it.

Kris Shaffer tweeted the other day asking about possible non-PhD options for Music Theory MA grads. I have a lot of thoughts about this, so I'm answering publicly. This is the first time I'm really organizing my thoughts about post-grad options other than "find job doing something I can stand behind," so I welcome comments from across the board. I'm pretty much mentor-free at the moment, and post-ac careers are taboo subjects in my corner of the academic world, so feel free to step in and offer some suggestions. As someone in year 2 of a terminal MA program in musicology, I'm often asked what I'm going to do with my degree. The only thing one would actually "do" with a musicology MA would be to go into a musicology PhD program. Even though I once really wanted to do that, I've changed my mind*, and I'm looking to enter the aptly scare-quoted "real world" and find a job so I can have some version of the middle-class bougie life in which I was raised. With the economy being what it is, I doubt it'll happen that way, so I'd like to at least get by, but with a much healthier work/life balance than I currently have. So when people ask me what I'm going to do with my degree, I tell them I'm going to hang it on the wall. (Sometimes they laugh.) I'm thinking now about what I'm going to do with my education, including the education I get from my TA duties. I have some additional cards in my hand from a paid research internship at the Library of Congress, and my current job as a teaching artist at the Seattle Symphony, though I assume anyone actively planning to do something non-academic has some sort of non-academic professional experience in one area or another.

It seems the most successful way to go about getting a job after a master's degree in the humanities is to do temp work and apply widely. Since I was very young, my mother has (rightly) told me that it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you like your co-workers. I can't tell if this is new, but my generation has been told time and time again that we can do whatever we want (we can't), and that our work should be fulfilling and challenging. Elizabeth Keenan has been writing and tweeting about this sort of stuff a lot. Without engaging in the "having it all" debate, I'd like to propose that a job can be amazingly fulfilling and challenging, or it can be tolerable and allow room for exploration of hobbies and relationships (of all sorts). With that in mind, the temp-and-apply-widely advice feels less like settling and more like exploring. Thanks to the ACA, I won't need to worry (much) about health insurance, and saving/investing can happen when it happens.

So, what kinds of jobs will I get? I'm not sure, but I'm betting no employer will be looking for someone with a bachelor's and master's degree in musicology. Still, I have a set of skills that I've acquired/refined since beginning my MA in late September of 2012.

  • Organization 
    • With a department structure like mine (and lack of colleagues in my degree program to double-check anything with), I've been the primary person responsible for making sure all my boxes are checked.
    • I've TA'ed for a 200-person lecture course, and been responsible for these crazy things we call add codes. Distributing them to everyone trying to get in the class (with varying degrees of English proficiency) over email, and keeping track of students' grades is a lot more difficult than I assumed, but I figured out a system and it worked.
  • Project Design & Managment
    • Twice, I've designed and taught my own writing class, having no prior experience solo teaching (especially for a full-term), and little training for the assignment. Writing a syllabus, planning each class, and seeing students' progress through a full term of a writing class has been a huge learning experience, even if it has caused some of my work to suffer. Which brings me to...
  • Prioritization
    • You just can't do everything, and still do it well. Grad school has taught me how to pick my battles and spend time where it would best be spent. I've come to think of this as non-medical triage.
  • Self-awareness**
    • Landing in a new program can be a lot like starting a new job. You think people know you based on your application, but they really have no idea (and they've probably forgotten your application by the time you arrive). Being in a new program means figuring out who you are and what you bring to the table, and how to do it while working effectively with other people.
  • Research and Thinking
    • This is what the humanities are about, and I think employers get it. I won't link to one of the many pieces I've read about how millennials don't know how to think, but I'll say that all of my colleagues excel at thinking independently and problem-solving, even if we disagree with one another.
    • While the type of research I do as a grad student is pretty specialized and doesn't have much application beyond the academy, I've had some opportunities to do musicology for the public, and it's been really great. Thinking about presenting work to diverse populations forces you to think about what people are are interested in, rather than what is innovative scholarship. Tailoring research to reach diverse groups seems like a pretty transferable skill!
    • I'm good at finding stuff! I used to be decent at it, but I've gotten a lot better at it now that I have nobody feeding me sources or ideas.

I'm sure there are more buzzwords I could throw out about skills I've acquired in my MA program, but this seems like a good place to start. Like I said, I would welcome feedback and comments. I won't be job hunting until the summer, so we'll see how these things pan out eventually.

*This could be a long, heartfelt post on its own, but probably won't be.
**This could be a multi-volume book, but probably won't be.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Coffeeneuring trip #7 and wrap-up

I can't believe this is my final report for the Third Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge. I've really enjoyed participating in it, and using it to explore my city and to challenge myself to go places by bike.

Here's a recap of my first six trips:

  • Trip 1, 10/6
    • Location: Starbucks in Magnolia
    • 9.32 miles
    • Grande Passion iced tea

  • Trip 2, 10/13
    • Location: Caffé Umbria, Pioneer Square
    • 6.37 miles
    • Soy latte

  • Trip 3, 10/20
    • Location: Great Harvest Bread Company, Lake Forest Park (my first out-of-city coffeeneuring trip!)
    • 30.87 miles
    • Drip coffee, some sort of delicious savory pastry

  • Trip 4, 10/27
    • Location: The Bagel Deli, Capitol Hill
    • 12.14 miles
    • Drip coffee, an everything bagel with scrambled egg, cheese, and tomato (and a half-dozen to go!)

  • Trip 5, 11/3
    • Location: Mighty-O Donuts, Tangletown/Green Lake (if you don't consider Tangletown a real thing)
    • 10.5 miles
    • Drip coffee, pumpkin spice & french toast doughnuts (organic, vegan, non-GMO)

  • Trip 6, 11/9
    • Location: Empire Espresso, Columbia City
    • 14.89 miles
    • Soy cayenne mocha, sweet potato bar

  • Trip 7, today, 11/16!
    • Location: Neptune Coffee, Greenwood
    • 22.49 miles (all in jeans & boat shoes, might I add) This brings the coffeeneuring total mileage to 106.58.
    • Some sort of fancy pour-over coffee that was tasty but a bit cold, and an egg & cheese breakfast sandwich (at around 2pm)

It was too loud and crowded to be productive, so I thought about going to the Greenwood library, but I ended up heading north on the Interurban trail, and wound up in Shoreline (no longer Seattle, in case you're keeping score). It was going to start getting dark soon, so I decided to head back down toward home, stopping at the Broadview library to cross it off my self-guided "visit all SPL branch libraries" challenge, and pick up a novel. When's the last time I read a novel? Summer. Maybe it hasn't been all that long. There's a few spots on the Interurban where it's actually a trail and there's these flipbook art installations. It's hard to see, but each sign is roughly the same image, but moving toward something different. Public art like this is a reason to love Seattle. 

One of the installations
As I was heading home, it was getting dark, and I knew the ride would be mostly flat and downhill. I started without anything warm on--just jeans and a relatively thin cardigan. Piece by piece, I ended up in gloves, a hat, and a scarf. I never ended up needing my zip-up hoodie, though!
A tired coffeeneur
Coffeeneuring has been a whole lot of fun. To be honest, I had hoped it would be a community-building experience. It probably could have been, but I've been way too busy these last few months to make it happen. Many of my coffeeneuring trips were done before or after work, so I was fairly limited in availability. I'm just glad to have used it to drink good coffee and have an excuse to go to different places. Thank you for organizing this challenge, Mary!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bloggin' the thesis, day 1.

I've been enjoying bike blogging, I have a MA thesis to write, and they say blogging your dissertation can be amazingly helpful. I make no claims that an MA thesis even holds a candle to a PhD dissertation in terms of amount of research, length, and tendency to life-suck its author, but they're both independent, long-term projects during which very few people care what it is you're doing. I really enjoyed writing my undergrad thesis, and I was pretty self-motivated to do the work for it. Still, having a real human to check in with once a week who was genuinely interested in my project and academic development probably helped quite a freaking bit in getting the project done. So as I've had a tendency to do since moving to Seattle for grad school, I'm outsourcing interpersonal communication to the internet (because the guinea pigs, while wonderful and cuddly, aren't a great academic sounding board). Each week, on Wednesday, I'll publish a post here about what I'm doing or finding interesting as it'll relate to my MA thesis. Wednesday works for two reasons: 1) I thought of this today, a Wednesday, and 2) Wednesday was my favorite check-in day in college, both for cello lessons and research-y meetings.

I'm genuinely interested in my topic, even if I see its life in my hands ending with a ProQuest submission this spring quarter. It seems that some people in my internet circles think I have a cool topic, and might be interested to see what's up (and even comment? That may be asking for too much). Really, I need a bit of accountability, and to at least have the possibility that I'll be writing for people interested in what I'm doing for reasons other than being on my committee.

*     *     *

I got into musicology in the first place because classical music and the United States have a very strange relationship.* Learning about that relationship sheds a lot of light on classical music as a conglomeration of genres, and also on the US and its capacity for taste-making. I'm interested now in how the US is musically constructed through Coplandia, music that sounds like a watered-down version of Aaron Copland's populist ballets and chamber music. It works through film music history, something I didn't think I would find interesting but am now seeing as a gold mine. For me, the most self-aware instance of this was in John Williams's "Air and Simple Gifts," for Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.
Barack Obama was the first president I voted for, and though I was out of the country for his inauguration, I sure as heck knew about this piece when I returned. Anne Midgette rightly pointed out that this is hardly a new composition, but rather a really transparent copy of Copland's treatment of "Simple Gifts" in Appalachian Spring (1944), and also a musical exaggeration of Obama's campaign message. Before the "Simple Gifts" melody enters (in the clarinet, just as Copland had introduced the melody 65 years earlier), and after it ends, there is a generic post-Romantic film music sound. It's not the Americana of Coplandia, but it is tonal, palatable, and accessible.

My project has several angles, and I haven't entirely figured out how it will play out. I'm more interested in the body of commercial music I'm calling Coplandia than in Williams's "Air and Simple Gifts," and see the two existing in a sort of type/token relationship. One step in figuring out how everything comes together is exploring the compositional sources of Coplandia, and their work in constructing part of the American classical music canon. I'm thinking about the way that canon gets gendered in a seminar this quarter, and currently preparing a project on masculinities in mid-century American classical music. That'll be the focus of my next post, where I'll hopefully be able to explain why gendering of this particular canon matters.

*Actually, that's a lie. I got into musicology because I wrote a hermeneutic analysis of the scherzo movement of Beethoven's A Major cello sonata for a music history class, and found that super fun. Don't ask me why.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Coffeeneuring #6

I went to Empire Espresso in Columbia City (they don't have a functional website, but here's their blog that is marginally organized). My ride was just under 15 miles round trip, but check out the elevation changes throughout. I've heard people say that South Seattle gets the short shrift on bike infrastructure, but I rode with sharrows/protected lanes/quasi-neighborhood greenways almost the entire time. The real barrier to biking in South Seattle is geography! Oh, the hills. I had no idea what the best route would be, so I tried a different suggested route each way. The way down was nice on 31st, with a great view of Lake Washington/the Cascades, and occasionally even the Olympics. Getting to 31st on Yesler was fun--big hills! I got off and walked part of it in the ID, but otherwise made it up & down in low gears. There were some interesting green boxes that made me not have to drive parallel to streetcar tracks (is there a streetcar there? was there? will there be? I don't know), so that was nice.  I should have taken pictures, but I didn't. I didn't enjoy the last few blocks on Rainier, but having read this post on privilege, taking the lane, and such a few days ago with regards to that same road (though I only was on it for a few blocks, not the entire way from i-90). On the way back, I took Beacon Ave until I saw signs directing me downtown, and then through the ID (stopping at Uwajimaya, because it's the best), back up 4th, through the Seattle Center, and back home. Next time I'm heading that way, I'll do Beacon both ways--fewer dramatic hills. I'm actually surprised by how not exhausted I am, but I'm sure I'll feel it later.

Empire Espresso
8oz soy cayenne pepper mocha (light on the chocolate)
sweet potato bar
14.89 miles round trip

Only one more trip to go!