Saturday, June 18, 2016

Apps may be the savior of public transportation

I can't think of many things that is as intimidating as taking the bus or subway in a strange town. Especially a large city. Buses may seem infrequent and routes bizarre and out of your planned path. I think many people avoid public transportation because it is inconvenient and requires a foreknowledge of routes and timetables. 

Looking at my commute to work I mentioned to a colleague that I was considering biking to work instead of driving or taking the bus on days with bad weather. I have a few pounds around the middle I need to work off after almost a year of back and forth to STL, hotel rooms, and restaurant food. I also feel nostalgic about riding to campus as a grad student. Monsanto in chesterfield is so big that it looks and feels like a college campus. My coworker is French and he scoffed that as a white American I would take the bus or bike instead of driving. 

That was a challenge, so when I flew to STL as part of a trip to MD on Thursday I decided I would not rent a car or take a taxi or an uber (My colleagues all use this as a noun, which shows how ubiquitous Uber has become, I bet it or something like it will eliminate the traditional taxi) - all costing about 25-35 dollars for the day. I decided I would take the bus. The bus said it would take over an hour to get to campus, but driving was estimated at 30 minutes.  Google estimates by bike were only 1.5 hours. I was by far the minority on the bus and the Metrolink train.  Almost all riders were black, some Hispanic.  

There is a metro train that runs to the airport. It is on the back side of the parking garage and obviously little used. The train comes every few minutes. The app told me I would have to wait until 8, but then a train came and Google somehow knew it and updated the times.  This is a transformative tech if we take advantage of it. I followed the revised instructions and got to Chesterfield in just under an hour.  Other riders also were using google maps to check to see if buses or trains were delayed or ahead of schedule.  I think like Uber has updated Taxi service by making it possible to easily check on your phone and get a ride, apps around public transportation could really help break down barriers about using public transportation.  

So the kids and I will be using public transport to go downtown St. Louis.  Nothing is more aggravating than getting stuck in traffic with a minivan full of whiny kids and then trying to find parking at the zoo. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

One week left in Huxley

It feels very unreal that a week from today we are moving. I will miss Huxley terribly I am afraid. No place has felt so much like home. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Des Moines Museum

The Des Moines Art Center is an eclectic mix of masterpieces and modern art. It has a Monet and Andy Warhol's and a performance art video of someone underwater playing in slow motion in a pitch black room. I am embarrassed to say that I have only been three times in seven years.  Since we are moving to St Louis I want to hit some of my favorite, but neglected places. 

This last few months has been so overwhelming that I have not updated the blog. That and I really didn't want to move and writing about it meant somehow that I needed to be positive about it. 
Kate loved the modern art, while it bored Aleah to eye rolling and impatience. Kate drew careful drawings of her favorites.  
Kate really had a good eye for the subtlety in some of the more abstract art. This painting had a section below the concentric circles where the paint had been layered in the exact shape Kate sketched and then painted over? in the same base colors.  It isn't clear in the photo, but the textured area is like a distorted reflection of the rising concentric circles.  Why?  I don't know.  What does it mean?  I have no idea, but somehow it enhances the painting. 
I think more abstract and modern art is enhanced by display in museum conditions. Space and lighting help make them feel like art. 
I thought this one though was really interesting. By this time Aleah was ready to move on to the art that "looks like something."   
There was a miniature of this sculpture in the museum and so we visited the full size sculpture in the park, where there was an Asian cultural festival. This was Aleah's element. Food, people, dancing.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Never drink out of the pitcher left on the table

Our cat refuses to drink out of her water bowl, instead she prefers to drink out of pitchers or glasses left on the table. 

Christmas 2016

Slow running with the kids

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hello nana.


Hi nana.

Today is the best thing ever when I when I was at school. We did a experiment it's awesome. There were little pumpkins and we put the pumpkins in water,vinegar and oil. The pumpkin in the oil did nothing. The vinegar disappeared. The water changed orange and the pumpkin turned white. Good bye nana. 
Ps the pumpkins were candy. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Things that go bump in the night

Things have been . . . complicated.  At the end of pollinating, I was told about a reorg that was happening with my company.  I was offered a new job, kinda like my boss's role, but working with soybeans, cotton, and wheat instead of corn.  My current job was changing too.  This weighed pretty heavy in my mind, but I didn't feel comfortable writing about it here, because the reorg was company-wide. That and there has been a lot of discussion about whether we move to St. Louis or not.  We are definitely not moving this year, but there is a decent chance we may need to move next year.  Then that was completely overshadowed by stuff with one of my kids that I was pretty sure she didn't want me to write about.  After that harvest hit with all of the long hours and travel, but this time I was visiting cotton and soybean fields.

On this American Life, they had a Halloween special.  Kind of.  I know that Ira Glass's voice is like pretentious fingernails on a hipster chalkboard for some people, but I am addicted.

And the Call Was Coming from the Basement | This American Life

They focused on true spooky stories.  The first was seemed like a Hollywood ghost story, that actually came from a medical journal article.  The family seemed to be haunted by malevolent spirits, but actually were being poisoned with carbon monoxide gas from their furnace.  OK, so maybe not scary, except an invisible, odorless gas can make you live the plot of The Shining. Oh, that is why they went nuts locked up in that hotel!  Carbon monoxide is so, so scary. Add that to my list of chemicals to fear.

So I have one of my own to add to this list.  Maybe our furnace leaked carbon monoxide.  Maybe it didn't.

Let's start at a sleepover at my friend Shad's house.  We stayed up late playing with his Transformers and K'nex.  We made a fort out of blankets and told scary stories.  Afterwards Shad shared his very logical process to overcome being afraid of things in the dark.

  1. Tell yourself it is probably something normal, like a chair with clothes on it. 
  2. Try to remember what was there when the lights were on. 
  3. Get out of bed.  Now this was the genius, yet terrifying step to stop being afraid of things in the dark.
  4. Walk toward the thing that in your brain you are sure is a ghost, goblin, ghoul, tiger, giant, or zombie.  In a horror movie, this is a very bad idea.  In reality, I conceded, most scary things are not real and it is probably something commonplace.  OK. Deep breaths.  In, Out.  One step after another. 
  5. Reach out your hand.  Logic says what you are going to touch is something normal.  Logic says that.  Keep telling yourself that.  Really.  It is going to be a bathrobe.  Or the cat.  Maybe it is your brother sleepwalking.  Actually that is terrifying.  
We even practiced this.  We picked out objects in the room that in the dark could be mistaken for something crouching in a corner and practiced stepping out the halo of the flashlight, reaching out and double checking that it was still a chair with a pile of teddy bears.  

A few nights later, I woke up and had to go.  Like really had to go.  So, after lying in bed debating whether I really needed to get up or if I could fall back asleep.  I could not.  We had these orange nightlights that gave some light in the room and down the hall, but really they did not help.  Everything came out with an ethereal, sickly-orange graininess. 

I climbed off my bunk bed, and went in the hall towards the bathroom.  The light was on, but the door was mostly shut.  There was light framing the door and streaming out a few feet in front of it.  I glanced the other direction towards the dark living room and saw something standing in the middle of the hall.  

I froze. I needed to move, but I couldn't.  It didn't move either.  I remembered Shad's steps to break the fear and the logical part of my brain convinced me this was the perfect chance to test this out.  

  1. I told myself it was probably the vacuum cleaner left out in the hall.  That totally happens all the time.  Then someone draped clothes on it to make it look like a bald goblin like person standing in my hallway.  
  2. I tried to remember if I had put the vacuum cleaner away when I had done my chores.  I probably hadn't.  I didn't remember doing that.  Yeah, that is totally the vacuum cleaner, I thought. 
  3. Deciding that it was the vacuum cleaner and not something that looked like a tall Yoda.  I moved forward.  Maybe it was my sleepwalking brother.  Except he was taller than me and this was shorter.  If Marc slept walk, Jon probably did too.  That is totally reasonable. One step.  Then another.  The light from the bathroom was almost totally gone.  It is dark.  Getting closer. 
  4. I reached out my hand.  It totally still looked to me like some sort of goblin standing in front of me.  I envisioned touching it and feeling a towel on top of the vacuum cleaner.  I thought, at worst I will feel my brother's hair.  
  5. I touched it.  It wasn't a towel on the vacuum cleaner.  It felt like a bald head.  I am not kidding.
It moved.  

I ran faster than I have ever ran.  I could have won the Olympics flying down the hall, into my room, and up to my bed.  Under the covers, lay still.  Breathe.  Eyes closed.  Breathe quietly.  Maybe it won't come get me, I thought.  

It didn't.  I lay there for a long time, bathroom forgotten.

In the morning, the vacuum cleaner was not in the hall.  I discretely asked my brothers if they had gotten up in the night and stood almost perfectly still at the end of the hall.  They looked at me strangely.  I made sure to always go before going to bed after that.