28 December 2010

The Promised Photo

So here I am, all dressed up for biking in the winter.

Under the helmet, a thin fleece hat. Under the obnoxious vest, work clothes, windblock fleece, winter jacket. For the legs: long underwear, heavyweight cotton chinos, windblock nylon pants. And for the feet: smartwool socks and waterproof hiking boots.

I have to admit, it wasn't all that cold, that day. In the next couple of months I'm very likely to face colder weather, for which I plan to dig out the neoprene face mask. I'll also need some warmer gloves.

With time, and routine, it's gotten easier, and I've come to realize that while it takes longer than the car trip, it's far less unpleasant. I don't run into traffic jams, I don't have to troll the neighborhood for parking, I don't have to drink extra coffee to stay awake for the late-night drive home and then lie in bed vibrating from the caffeine overload as I try to get to sleep.

And hey, I did it: public transit one day a week for the entire semester. And in the spring I'm not just going to try to duplicate the feat; my goal is to take a minimum of three public transit trips to campus every two weeks, and to try for two trips a week.

Yeah, I'll be keeping you posted.

21 December 2010

Duelling Dads

A friend stopped by to warm up after the school run this morning, and then we all went back out together to return to school for a celebration of the kids' fall study of Central Park.

The Friend, carrying the forgotten violin: Here, you take the violin, I'll take the bike.
Me: Nah, it's okay. [picks up bike, trots down stairs]
The Mate (pride in his voice): I didn't marry a girly girl.
The Friend: Well, my wife can work a double shift at the Blue Water Grill!
Me: Gales of laughter, possibly slightly hysterical from overwork.

Both The Mate and The Friend, it might be noted, do primary child care while The Moms are off at work.

(And by the way: I did it. Public transit at least once a week, all semester. Photo soon.)

16 December 2010

Two Great Reasons to Eat at the NoHo Star

The NoHo Star has a great menu and they let you sit forever. I was early for breakfast with a friend this morning, and they let me sit and nurse a cup of coffee for 45 minutes, instead of making me wait for "the rest of the party," like most New York dining institutions.

Plus they've foregone Christmas decorations this year, and instead made a donation to Housing Works.

I got an exam written there this morning, and then I had a long and very lovely breakfast with my friend Wheelchair Dancer, with no visual or auditory riot of reindeers and sleighbells.

(For more on holiday donations, see this lovely post by my other friend, Magpie.)

15 December 2010

Cold Commute

I left the car in the office parking lot and took the train home. I didn't try to ride the bike today: too cold; a colleague was nice enough to drive me to the train station at one end, and I took the bus home at the other end.

It was cold anyway. Cold platforms, cold trains, cold bus. And three hours in transit (using the bike at each end speeds things up a bit, but it's still a long trip).

Hot soup when I got home, two kinds left over from last weekend.

Now I'm thinking I might be being a bit too stubborn about this project of taking public transit to work once a week.

Then again, I slept on the train on the way home, instead of drinking more coffee to get myself more jacked up to try to drive safely and then have more trouble sleeping.

So, tomorrow: warmer clothes for the train ride back to work; layers so I can shed when I get to the overheated office.

12 December 2010

Blaming is Easy

A recently released poll says respondents blame students, and to a lesser extent their parents, for failure to finish college.

The news stories about the poll, though, don't give the popular perceptions any context. So they allow readers to jump on the bandwagon blaming the kids for not finishing school.

Actually, it's finances. A few students drop out because they're just not doing the work. But if those kids come from relatively wealthy families, chances are they'll transfer to a different school, or at most take a year or two off and then continue.

The ones who drop out and don't go back are the ones who can't pay. They're struggling to pay the bills, much less tuition; they have family responsibilities; they can't get financial aid for part-time study.

To increase college graduation rates for lower-income Americans would require vast structural change in the way we expect people to pay for college. Rather than expecting students from lower-income families to cobble together jobs and outrageous amounts of loans, we'd actually have to give these kids free tuition and money to live on while in college.

But a nation that has the stomach to cut taxes for the rich clearly doesn't want to give an equal chance to the poor. We believe, as a nation, that the rich deserve their money, and the poor deserve their fate.

After all, if they drop out of school, it's their own fault.

08 December 2010

Biker Chronicles

I got colder standing on the platform at Newark waiting for the delayed train this morning than I did actually riding the bike. Problem was I had already stripped a layer while on the PATH.

It's windy, though, and the home stretch in the dark is going to be cold.

06 December 2010

Do We Really Need That? Department

For $39.95 each, you can buy ostrich eggs at the Houston Street Whole Foods. Locally grown, just across the river in New Jersey. For a sense of scale, check out the duck eggs on the shelf above; they're about the size of chicken eggs.

You break, you buy, presumably, so I was fairly tentative around them, but I did heft one, and was impressed by how heavy it was. It felt as though the shell was quite thick -- but then again, I wasn't going to test that.

I'm going to guess that they taste like chicken... eggs.

05 December 2010

Another Sunday, Another Hike

We've been hiking every Sunday all fall: The Mate, The Offspring, The Pet, and Yours Truly.

The Offspring has been learning about stamina, both physical and mental. We The Parents have wondered each weekend if it's the last hike of the season, before it gets too difficult to keep the little ones warm.

So far, though, as water and chocolate bars give way to thermoses of hot tea and hot cocoa, and sunglasses and t-shirts to layers upon layers, it's gone okay.

The Little Dog had to be carried out one week, but The Offspring is learning great stuff about stamina, both mental and physical, and discovering that the tough parts of the hike, where he has to be cajoled to continue, give way to great memories of views and scrambles and the great feeling of physical accomplishment at the end of the day.

Today he slipped and whacked his knee on a rock, bruising it fairly badly. It was hurting him quite a bit, even after a dose of Advil, and we gave him the choice: keep going and complete the planned loop, or turn back.

He thought about it for a while, and decided he needed to turn back. And then he limped out, often holding Dad's hand for help, occasionally piggy-backing with Mom.

At one point, I offered to carry him up one of the last inclines, and he said no, he'd walk, maybe I could carry him later when it was flat or downhill. So we got to a flat patch, and I picked him up, and he cried a little, and then when I got weary and had to put him down again, he soldiered on.

He's a trooper, that kid. And I admire him.

03 December 2010

Disabled Feminists

Just ran across a couple of blogs new to me: FWD/Forward: Feminists with Disabilities and Wheelchair Dancer.

Lots of great insights in both places. Check 'em out.

Biker Backlash and Obesity

The makers of a device used in obesity surgery have asked the FDA for permission to expand its range, allowing it to be used in more than a fifth of adults rather than only the fattest few.

Meanwhile, a few cranky drivers are putting pressure on the Bloomberg administration over the expansion of bike lanes in New York City.

What's the connection?

Bike lanes increase safety not only for cyclists, but also for pedestrians, thousands of whom get killed nationwide every year when struck by motor vehicles.

Bike lanes, like walking, encourage exercise.

Bike lanes are part of Bloomberg's plan to increase access to public transit -- and use of public transit, too, encourages walking a few blocks to train stations or bus stops at either end, rather than walking just a few feet to one's driveway.

Studies have shown a connection between driving and obesity: kids in urban neighborhoods with the most traffic end up the heaviest, and the ways in which suburbs are organized systematically limits opportunities to walk or bike -- to work, to school, to leisure activities.

What's not needed is for the makers of devices used in bariatric surgery to make more money (at great risk of side effects to large segments of the population) by cutting more people open to put a belt around their stomachs.

What's needed is a radical restructuring of the ways in which cities and towns are organized, with residences located near commercial areas and new zoning plans that scrap strict divisions between the two in favor of (carefully thought through) allowances for mixed construction, so that people can choose to live where they can walk or ride a bike to work.

That needs to go hand in hand with the construction of safe sidewalks, and the use of traffic signals at intersections that allow safe crossing for pedestrians, rather than making pedestrians an afterthought.

Oh, and the provision of bike lanes, so that cyclists don't have to choose between riding in traffic or riding on the sidewalk.

01 December 2010

Week Fourteen

Yes, I'm still going. Did the bike/train/bike commute yesterday in anticipation of the storm today, which proves to have been a good choice.

No more time for blogging. Miles of words to read before I sleep.