Monday, May 20, 2013

Days 0-2: Celebrating & Recovering

Saturday was my graduation from my program and let me say: I was grinning like an idiot. That day was exciting, difficult, exhausting, and rewarding on so many levels. As many of you know, I also moved out of my house. That was supposed to be Friday, but instead became Saturday at 9:30pm.

Regardless, I was lucky to be celebrating this occasion with my boyfriend, my parents, and my three best friends, as well as other close family members. Graduating was wonderful, as expected. I was completely blown away by the graduate student speaker, as well as Holly Gordon, our commencement speaker. I was less pleased that the Provost mispronounced both my first AND middle name. Believe me, we all joked about it and rolled eyes after the ceremony. It was a beautiful day and I could not have asked for more. Even the prospect of having to return to my home for final packing, moving, and cleaning could not damper the happiness that had me on a high.

We finally packed up the house, cleaned like hell (this refrigerator has never been cleaner, short of being brand new), and made our last run to storage. We hit the road north to Rohnert Park around 9:45pm and found ourselves staying at the sketchiest motel in existence. The room was non-smoking, but had a hint of cigarette smoke, there was a tube of lipstick and a wad of gum shoved down the drain of the sink, the shower light was on disco mode, and I was certain that I would pull back the sheets to find pubes (luckily, I didn't). Partway through the night, Stephen woke up to turn on the air, only to remove the air filter by accident. Needless to say, we did not stay for breakfast the next morning and hightailed it out of there to join some friends in Healdsburg for brunch.

After brunch with our friends and their 2 totally awesome sons, we back-tracked to Santa Rosa to catch the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. Stephen was such a sport, letting me give him a crash course in professional cycling and putting up with my geeking out over all the gear on display and the racers as they zipped through downtown on their final two laps. He even went so far as to put me on his shoulders so I could see Andy Schleck ride by. I was basically in heaven. We met with Bob, met some of his family, and then grabbed lunch at 3rd Street AleWorks. Kirie, a very close friend from undergrad, joined us for lunch; it was so great to catch up with her. As always, it felt like no time had passed.

We continued north to Willits, at which point I realized I had severely burned my shoulders over the two days of constantly being in the sun with no coverage or protection whatsoever. I'm now convinced that this is one of those burns that serves as the tipping point for cancer. It's bad enough that raising my arms above shoulder levels crinkles the skin and hurts like hell. No amount of aloe vera is going to make this burn go away.

The hotel in Willits was monumentally nicer, as well as the drive up there. Halfway between Santa Rosa and Willits, the burger, fries, and beer kicked in and I was out cold within a minute of switching seats with Stephen. Twenty minutes in the hot tub and two chapters of leisure reading (Sex at Dawn) and I was out cold again.

Despite waking up at 6am for who knows how long, I was able to sleep in until 9am. Absolutely unheard of. We drove through the redwoods to the ocean at Ft. Bragg, had lunch in a cove (including a deep fried Twinkie), and stopped at Cabrillo Lighthouse before heading to Orr Hot Springs. A lot of driving, but easily one of the most relaxing days I've had in AGES.

It still hasn't dawned on me that I'm finished with school and that I won't be returning in the fall. I'm in limbo: taking some time off and recovering before heading back to work and entering the job-search market. Fingers crossed that something comes my way that proves beneficial and exciting!

Tomorrow, I'll be heading back to Oakland to drop Stephen off for a week of work, before heading to South Lake Tahoe to see my cousin for a few days. I'll try to be better about the blogging, but I'd like to spend most of my time reading and finishing Cameron's graduation present. I just need to remember to put on sunscreen.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dear Old People Who Run The World

My generation would like to break up with you.

Everyday, I see a widening gap in how you and we understand the world — and what we want from it. I think we have irreconcilable differences.

You wanted big, fat, lazy "business." We want small, responsive, micro-scale commerce.

You turned politics into a dirty wordWe want authentic, deep democracy — everywhere.

You wanted financial fundamentalism. We want an economics that makes sense for people —not just banks.

You wanted shareholder value — built by tough-guy CEOsWe want real value, built by people with character, dignity, and courage.

You wanted an invisible hand — it became a digital hand. Today's markets are those where the majority of trades are done literally roboticallyWe want a visible handshake: to trust and to be trusted.

You wanted growth — faster. We want to slow down — so we can become better.

You didn't care which communities were capsized, or which lives were sunkWe want a rising tide that lifts all boats.

You wanted to biggie size life: McMansions, Hummers, and McFood. We want to humanize life.

You wanted exurbs, sprawl, and gated anti-communities. We want a society built on authentic community.

You wanted more money, credit and leverage — to consume ravenously. We want to be great at doing stuff that matters.

You sacrificed the meaningful for the material: you sold out the very things that made us great for trivial gewgaws, trinkets, and gadgets. We're not for sale: we're learning to once again do what is meaningful.

There's a tectonic shift rocking the social, political, and economic landscape. The last two points above are what express it most concisely. I hate labels, but I'm going to employ a flawed, imperfect one: Generation "M."

What do the "M"s in Generation M stand for? The first is for a movement. It's a little bit about age — but mostly about a growing number of people who are acting very differently. They are doing meaningful stuff that matters the most. Those are the second, third, and fourth "M"s.

Gen M is about passion, responsibility, authenticity, and challenging yesterday's way of everything. Everywhere I look, I see an explosion of Gen M businesses, NGOs, open-source communities, local initiatives, government. Who's Gen M? Obama, kind of. Larry and Sergey. The Threadless,Etsy, and Flickr guysEv, Biz and the Twitter crew. Tehran 2.0. The folks at KivaTalking Points Memo, and FindtheFarmerShigeru MiyamotoSteve JobsMuhammad Yunus, and Jeff Sachs are like the grandpas of Gen M. There are tons where these innovators came from.

Gen M isn't just kind of awesome — it's vitally necessary. If you think the "M"s sound idealistic, think again.

The great crisis isn't going away, changing, or "morphing." It's the same old crisis — and it's growing.
You've failed to recognize it for what it really is. It is, as I've repeatedly pointed out, in our institutions: the rules by which our economy is organized.

But they're your institutions, not ours. You made them — and they're broken. Here's what I mean:
"... For example, the auto industry has cut back production so far that inventories have begun to shrink — even in the face of historically weak demand for motor vehicles. As the economy stabilizes, just slowing the pace of this inventory shrinkage will boost gross domestic product, or GDP, which is the nation's total output of goods and services."

Clearing the backlog of SUVs built on 30-year-old technology is going to pump up GDP? So what? There couldn't be a clearer example of why GDP is a totally flawed concept, an obsolete institution. We don't need more land yachts clogging our roads: we need a 21st Century auto industry.

I was (kind of) kidding about seceding before. Here's what it looks like to me: every generation has a challenge, and this, I think, is ours: to foot the bill for yesterday's profligacy — and to create, instead, an authentically, sustainably shared prosperity.

Anyone — young or old — can answer it. Generation M is more about what you do and who you are than when you were born. So the question is this: do you still belong to the 20th century - or the 21st?

Umair and the Edge Economy Community

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Some Nuts & Bolts

As I sit here, writing this post instead of writing a final paper, I've just gotten back on Facebook and there's a lot to be filled in to the masses. Rather than tell all of you individually, I figured I'd lay it all out here and you can ask me your related questions on your own time.

1. I'm moving.
That's right. We're moving out of our beloved place. Between the growing crime and issues with the neighbor and the landlady, we've decided it's time to close this chapter and begin a new chapter in a new home. We're moving our personals into a storage unit (as well as to the homes of several friends) and then...

2. I'm graduating!
Yes, for a second time. The whole point of this blog was to track and inform people on my adventures in graduate school and what it means to be a policy wonk. Now, I've reached the end and will celebrate with my schoolmates, our families, and our friends. If you're in the Bay on the 18th, you should come celebrate with us! I have a little surprise for folks, so if you want it, join us! After graduation, Stephen and I will hop in the car and hit the road because...

3. I'm traveling for 6 weeks.
I'll be leaving for a tour of the Southwest on May 18th. I won't be back until late June/early July. I'll be spending a week in Colorado for Cameron's graduation before a jaunt down to San Antonio for 2 weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family and spending time with Cat before her deployment. After San Antonio, it's up in the air as to where we'll go, but we'll slowly make our way back to Oakland to...

4. Look for a new place to live.
Don't worry, Bay Area. I'm still coming back to your warm, open arms. Once I get back, I'll be home-hunting and crashing on couches for a bit (if you have one open for me, I'd really appreciate it). If you have any leads for the Lake Merritt/North Oakland/Berkeley/Albany for $1500 per month...send them my way. :)

If you have any questions for me, feel free to ask! Want to help me pack & move things to storage? Cool! I'll give you beer! And finally...

5. I'm having a yard sale on Saturday!
So cruise on down to my place for furniture, books, clothing, kitchenware, and some other odds and ends. We'll be set up from 10am to 4pm, so stop by anytime! Message me for an address or anything else you want to know.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 3, Post-Thesis

DONE! But not quite.

After a multiple day rally and hours spent in the lab, my thesis was submitted and I can go about my life. Only not, because I'm spending today cranking out two papers, one of which is due today by 3pm and the other due tomorrow morning. THEN I can say I'll be done.

But this is also not quite true, since I still have an exam on the 16th. But to be frank, no one gives a crap about that one. Many of us have even been trying to convince the professor to either cancel the exam altogether or at least move it up to a more reasonable date. After all, most of us in the class are graduating and no one wants to sit for an exam TWO DAYS before graduation. Sorry Larry, but I've got more important (re: packing & moving) things to worry about. Sadly, he's not budging.

The end was pretty anti-climatic, I must say. I had to reformat my report and then print it out (which I accidentally did single-sided). My report came out to 60 pages, including my appendices. Most likely, it was one of the longer reports. I also have some regrets about it, which is apparently normal. Now that I've had a few days to rest and focus on other things, I've been distracted by the fact that this report could have been infinitely better. I can't get over the fact that my analysis has many shortcomings and that I didn't go more in-depth. I realize, of course, that I was asked to look at several things and there was no way that I could have covered each of them sufficiently, given my paper constraints. The more I think about it, the more each topic could have been its own report. Looks like I have another memo to write, in light of these revelations.

But for now, I'm going to go back to cranking out these last two papers and continue to inventory my belongings and who gets what when it comes time to pack & move. Which, by the way, is 11 days from now. That doesn't even seem possible and yet it's fast approaching.

To the other side! (I'm serious this time)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

T-15 Hours

Tonight is probably one of the last late nights of my life (because I can't imagine getting away with this in my future career, whatever it may be). It made me a little sad in realizing how close the end is. Then again, I've felt this way at the end of every school year, so it shouldn't come as any surprise.

At this point, the content on my MPR is complete and I'm spending tonight futzing around with my figures, maps, and appendices before I print and submit sometime in the next 15 hours. Michaela and I have been holed up in the lab since about 8pm last night, with various people floating in and out while we work. The staple has been the potluck meals (pizza, pasta, and chocolate) and the various drinks. While there have been the usual soda and coffee drinks, the favorite is easily the mimosa. Because of this, we've dubbed our work nights as "Mimosas and Meltdowns". Though, I should point out that there are rarely any meltdowns when mimosas are present.

My little camp-out in the Reinhardt lab. 
I hope you didn't think I was joking about our arsenal of supplies.

I learned several years ago that my productivity is highest between the hours of 10pm and 5am. This can be pretty difficult to pull off, since the rest of society operates on an 8am to 4pm schedule but somehow I've managed to make it happen each semester. I spent much of last night finishing the body of my report. Of course, I switch back and forth between writing and playing a game or checking email. There was even a short break to watch the new episode of Nashville, sometime around 3am when it was finally posted to Hulu. I sent off my work to my various editors (you know who you are) around 7am and proceeded to nap on the couch for about 90 minutes before I went to class. I contemplated not going, but I was guilt-tripped into attending by a dream I had. I think the universe was trying to tell me something. It proved to be a good idea, since I got some assistance from my professor on how to wrap up my formatting.

I only paid partial attention in class and still managed to lead the majority of the discussion at one point. I guess that quarter can of Redbull paid off. That was easily my worst decision in all of this. My stomach was knotted up and I could feel my veins, pulsating, on fire. I now remember why I swore off the stuff last year during my senior thesis.

After class, I worked until about 2.15pm on my maps before heading home for a nap. I had this grand plan of sleeping for 6 hours, coming to school around 9pm and churning out the last of my report. My body had other plans, as it always does. There was no hope for me sleeping more than 3 hours before I was roused awake, made food, and came back to campus where we continue the collective writing festivities. I occasionally look up into the right corner of my screen and am reminded that it is still early in my productivity window but it is still no excuse to waste time (even though I'm blogging away over a glass of mimosa).

So, I guess this means the next time you hear from me, this paper will be done. All I can think about it how anti-climatic the print job will be. I'll be standing there, body weight shifted to one side, talking to Michaela about one thing or another while I wait for it to print. And then it will be this physical thing that I will binder-clip together and drop into Mark's box.

And that will be the end.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I Never Thought I'd Say This

But my brain is incredibly fried from all the various transportation research I've been doing this year. It's one thing if all the research is about transit or bicycle/pedestrian or ride share. But it's been a convoluted mass of everything transportation, short of addressing congestion and freight. This woman needs a break.

Luckily, that break is SIX DAYS AWAY.

Yep, that's right. The semester and, more importantly, my academic career is coming to a close. I've knocked out two presentations, am wrapping up my thesis, and have two papers and a final presentation to conquer. I'm not even counting the so-called final exam (clearly I'm not concerned) I have two days before graduation.

The adrenaline is kicking in, the nights will be sleepless, and I might be a little cranky this weekend. But the realization that THIS IS IT is starting to sink in. Mostly in a happy-excited sort of way, but also a daunting-scary way in that I haven't found a job, am moving out of my house, and will be traveling immediately after graduation. I have thrown caution to the wind and am submitting myself to whatever adventure awaits me on the other side of that stage on that glorious meadow where I've spent the last five years. It's sad in that I won't see many of these wonderful people as often as I used to, nor can I rely on people telling me what to do. Looks like I have to make my own decisions and call my own shots from now on.

I know I wasn't the best at keeping you updated; you can blame my commitment to my academics for that. I appreciate all the support you've given me and the questions you've asked. Your curiosity and inquisitiveness has given me the opportunity to reflect on my experiences in a different way and have offered new perspective on the challenges that lie ahead. I promise that as soon as I submit my MPR on Friday, I'll give more updates. Besides, I will still have papers to write (late into the night, I'm sure) and a house to pack, so I can guarantee there will still be interesting things for you to read about. Who knows? You might even score some furniture or books from me if you check into the blog in the next week or two.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Rant

My dad was wearing a bright yellow jersey and two blinking lights when he was hit by a driver about two hours ago, as he was leaving home for a ride. The guy turned right into Dad and kept going, not knowing that he hit my dad, a man who is 6'1" and about 170 pounds. He only stopped when a witness raced after him.

Dad went to the hospital in an ambulance, while my mom followed. She brought clothes, food, and water, already knowing that they are going to be in the hospital for awhile. This is not our first rodeo. Dad was hit in February 2007 by a driver on his cell phone. He had several vertebrae cemented together but a mere 2 months later, he was back on the bike.

Right now, they're waiting to hear back about x-rays and CAT scans. The bibs had to be cut off and he's got road rash. Dad's coherent, so there's not too much for us to worry about...until results of scans come back. He could have internal injuries or fractures. And if that's the case, his livelihood and his summer plans for next month are completely ruined.


These accidents shouldn't happen. But they do. ALL THE TIME.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Impending Deadlines

In case you haven't seen me lately and have been hoping to see me soon, here are seven reasons as to why you won't see me for the next 4 weeks (sorry Scorchers!).

  1. Monday, April 8: First draft of MPR is due
  2. Thursday, April 11: Op-Ed & Book review due
  3. Wednesday, April 24: Transportation policy paper due 
  4. Friday, May 3rd: MPR is due
In addition to these due dates, there's:
  • Parking studies: Wed. April 3, Thurs. April 4, Mon. April 8, and Tues. April 9*
  • Presentations: TWO presentations on Tuesday, April 30, one for my MPR and the other for a campaign strategy assignment.
  • Work: I just put in for extended leave from employment! BUT... I will be using the work time to spend late nights finishing papers.
  • Packing: My partner and I have decided to be completely moved out, with our belongings in storage, by the time graduation rolls around. 
I'm at a crossroads in which things are falling comfortably into place, but I've begun to question how I will handle the constant stress of the coming weeks. I've turned to cigarettes and Adderall before to get through crunch times like these and I'm wondering which is worse: addictive tobacco or a mild, legal form of speed? [Opinions and comments welcomed!]

My thesis is ongoing and I'm tying up loose ends. I feel one hell of a bonfire beneath my butt when it comes to the deadlines but as things start to knock off, it will be easier. In the meantime, please forgive me for being absent for the next four weeks. Check back; you may find rants, epiphanies, and other commentaries on here. Hopefully, some successes too. :)

*Still looking for volunteers to help with parking studies. Reach out for information!*

This is, more or less, how I'm feeling about my deadlines. Where's the water?!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Win Some, Lose Some, Keep Going

A few weeks ago, we began formatting our MPRs. A tiny milestone, if you will, in that the document has been formed and we can now Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V any material we write as we go along. Already, I'm much farther along than I thought I would be. It's a sigh of relief that I am still on track.

But sadly, for every sigh of relief there can be some steam coming out of my ears. I've gotten the run-around from the M Center in trying to get data on comprehensive fees and incomplete information. My question: how are they not tracking that? Have they never heard of the old adage "Record EVERYTHING"?! There was also a delay in both getting the carpool pilot program off the ground and running my parking studies. I went back to the drawing board and am confident that I will find success next week, when I'll spend my days cruising around campus all day, counting cars. {Which, speaking of,  I'm looking for volunteers to ride with me in the golf cart and take numbers. Contact me if you're interested.}

Other than these delays, things are moving fairly smoothly. As I'm sure is the case with my colleagues, I'm struggling with getting started and staying focused. Between Passover, Spring Break, and the Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality, it's been hard to just sit down and write.

But it's important that I do. April 8th is my draft deadline; that's 12 days away. And after it's been submitted, I will have less than 30 days to edit it and hope it is worthy that I should graduate in May.

My inability to focus and write efficiently is inducing a level of panic and anxiety that has the potential to grow. BUT (my partner certainly benefits from this), my coping mechanisms have kicked in: cooking, cleaning, and baking.

In the last two days, I have made thisthis, and this. The last one is the first item I ever made from Smitten Kitchen, for a Passover seder at Alyssa's last year. I've learned a lot about baking from that first experiment (I learned that meringues expand, so don't double the recipe like I did!) and I haven't wanted to stop since. Not to play into the stereotype, but I really do love being in the kitchen. I probably get it from Mom and I hope to be as good as her one day (ask Dad). In addition to these delicious foods for Passover, we're celebrating Anne & Riley's birthdays tomorrow with cakes for each of them (click their names for a sneak peek). I won't be able to eat them due to them not being Kosher for Passover, but I'll be making one of these instead.

In the meantime, I am FINALLY sitting down to write, first by hand and then on the computer (I'm old-fashioned). Tonight is a clothing swap at the house. Clearly, I am doing everything possible to avoid writing my thesis. If you have any advice on how to keep moving, how to stay focus, anything along those lines, it is greatly appreciated.

The only difference between my situation and this one is that I'm not drinking coffee. 
But my hair is actually that crazy!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Conferencing, Networking, and Nerding Out

Graduate school, I've learned, is not just about writing a big fancy paper in order to get a different kind of fancy paper. Graduate school is also about juggling this big fancy paper with exposure to the outside world, while maintaining your sanity.

As you learned a few weeks ago, my thesis work (well, a small portion of it) was accepted to a research conference in Los Angeles. In addition to showing my work at this conference, I also attended a Complete Streets conference in which I got to hear from and interact with the big names in Complete Streets from across the country. My weekend in LA has proven to be a useful one: I took notes, met people, exchanged business cards, and even got to take a hike and get some much-needed sun. A lot happened in a period of 4.5 days, so please bear with me as I fill you in on my Southern California adventure!

Wednesday, February 27
Other than running a lecture on transit and other collective modes for my Cal class, Wednesday went smoothly. Minus the fact that my flight was delayed twice and then ultimately cancelled. While I made a decently timed flight in the end, dealing with throwing clothes into my bag and rushing off to the airport is not my idea of fun or relaxing. Instead, I got in late and opted for a couch over an air mattress (an overall great decision).

Thursday, February 28
Conferencing Day 1: Complete Streets

This conference was held in downtown LA (DTLA). Opening talks started at 8.30am, but my day began LONG before that. By staying in Redondo with my sister (free of charge), I was committing myself to a weekend of transit adventures. Fine by me. Even being at the Aviation Metro Station at 7am was worth it. One day pass, two line transfers, and three trains before a ten-minute walk to the hotel gave me a great opportunity to see the surrounding environment and get a sense of the transit scene.

At the conference, I heard from engineers, planners, coordinators, and city officials. I heard talks about what works (Seattle), what's popping up (LA parklets), and how it's all being funded. Following lunch and meeting a traffic engineer from Burbank, I opted to sit in on an engineering talk. A good decision, as I got to hear two talks about building better projects (San Francisco's Market Street) and infrastructure supporting bicycle safety (San Pablo Ave. in the East Bay). While I'm not an engineer, I understood the discussion far more than I expected. Maybe there's a future in traffic engineering for me? I met some of the important names, like Margot Ocanas (Pedestrian coordinator of LADOT), Darby Watson (Arup), and Andrew Lee (SFMTA), in hopes that I can pave my own way (see what I did there?!) in the California Planning World.

After the completion of talks and a reception (ask me about that faux pas sometimes), I heard NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn talk about how and why PlaNYC put the city at the forefront of sustainable transportation and infrastructure. Since her arrival in 2007, she has put $8 billion to sensible use and has grown the bicycle and recreational infrastructure monumentally. And that is why she is the boss.

Day 1 ended with another transit adventure to USC to visit a dear transportation friend, resulting in 3 missed trains, 1 security checkpoint, and a VERY late dinner.

Friday, March 1
Conferencing Day 2: UCTC Research Conference

Another early day, but a little less time on transit. While I was up at 6am, I still managed to miss my bus to UCLA by a mere 15 seconds. I was literally jumping out of Cat's car as it was pulling away from the terminal. Bummer. Instead, I sat in the sun for 15 minutes and was advised by a fellow transit user to just buy a 35¢ transfer ticket instead of a $1 bus fare. My trip to UCLA had me on a moderately crowded Culver City Rapid 6 bus and taking me in a very different direction than I had the day before. Because I missed my bus, I was delayed and arrived to the conference in time for the first of the talks.

I have to say this: UCLA is BEAUTIFUL. The campus architecture, the facilities, everything. I can completely understand why people don't want to leave. At the risk of losing friends: LA is starting to grow on me (mostly, you can't beat this weather). It was a 10ish minute walk from my stop to the conference, but I got to see the vitality of the campus. Seeing people running around campus and others using skateboards to get to class, I admit that it made me miss being an undergrad.

This conference was a series of presentations of student research from the UC system (of which I was the exception). Presentations were a mix of engineering and planning, but all with the emphasis of  TRANSPORTATION! Admittedly, I was pretty dead by the afternoon lecture (given by this guy), even though he said some pretty awesome and quotable things. My poster presentation went much better than I expected. I didn't think I'd garner much interest, given that I'm not a planner or an engineer. Boy, was I wrong. I was late to my afternoon lectures because I was fielding so many questions!

While the day ended with a killer reception, I had to skip out to catch the bus back to Redondo. I met some lovely economists in the PhD department. Getting home was a relief. I don't remember much, only a margarita and sleeping on the couch.

Saturday, March 2
Conferencing Day 3: Bicycle Workshop

The last day of the conference was optional: workshops. We had a choice between checking out the Sepulveda Pass construction or checking out bicycle infrastructure in Santa Monica. (Guess which one I chose?)

I was BLOWN AWAY! We started at the Bike Center, where a few of us borrowed bikes to cruise around. I got stuck on a hybrid and wished I had brought my cleats, to ensure I'd be on a road bike. We cruised around town and checked out the new barriers, parking, green bikeways, and my favorite: a bike driveway. This provides a VERY large space for people to learn and practice what to do with bike lanes, bike barriers, and practice basic bike skills. I was really impressed with everything Santa Monica has put in and it's obvious the level of success the city has had. Even in the smaller bike lanes on the busier streets, cars were very much aware of the group and didn't act the way I expect cars to act towards cyclists. On this ride, I started considering looking for jobs down in this area.

After we wrapped up the ride, I left the UC group and went with Cat and Drew to breakfast at this BOMB waffle joint. Seriously, the place is so good that if you don't make a reservation, GOOD LUCK in getting a table on any given day at any given time. After brunch, they took me on a tour of Venice Beach. I don't even know how to put into words all the sights, sounds, and smells of this place. No wonder people flock from all over! This was a perfect day of bikes and sunshine (even though I forgot the sunscreen) and family. The day wrapped up with margaritas and playing pool.

Sunday, March 3
Today has been the most relaxing day in I can't remember how long. I spent the morning doing school work (and trying to write this entry) and the afternoon hiking Palos Verdes and checking out the tide pools. The hiking has renewed my desire to do something active (and different) once a week. It's not been enough to just ride my bike to class on Wednesdays and the occasional ride on the weekends. I feel like I need to do more, even with my commitment to my thesis.

As of now, I am still on the golden path to finishing this program. Most of the work remaining is writing the damn thing, but I still have to finish the new and improved survey and complete a few parking surveys. It's still quite a bit and my draft is due in just over a month. Oh...maybe that is a lot in just a short time.

Looks like it's back to the grind...again.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

You Know You're an Academic When...

I'm moving up in the world!

Last week, I submitted my very young research to the University of California Transportation Center to present at their upcoming research conference in Los Angeles. AND I GOT IN!

My research is still very young but it boils down to this: Sustainable Transportation Practices in the context of a college institution. Feel free to discuss this with me outside of this blog and over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

This feels like a really ginormous step in my life. People who have never heard of me will soon know me (and hopefully like me) enough to consider me a part of the team, whichever team that may be! The conference is supposed to be only for students in the UC system, but when my Cal professors encouraged me to submit my preliminary research, I figured "Why not?". You only lose by not trying. So I tried. And I got somewhere with it! I also see this as a step forward for Mills and students in MPP, being recognized for work that isn't immediately associated with public policy.

However, with great work comes great responsibility. And the greatest responsibility: finances. I've been a bit concern in the last week, especially with how finances play into this. Two conference fees and transportation fees rack up quickly. Thanks to the Air Force who elected to have my sister station at LA AFB, I have a place to stay and transport around the area. Students from the UCs are able to have their travel and conference fees reimbursed, but who knows if I'll be so lucky? Mills has been facing a financial crisis the last 3(ish) years and the MPP program is also struggling to stay afloat in some respects. I don't expect I'll be reimbursed for this, so I might just set up a fundraiser.

Money aside, this is a fantastic opportunity on so many levels. Transportation! Los Angeles! Other transportation nerds! Bikes! Seeing my sister! Getting my name out there and representing Mills. Even if it's a short presentation alongside a poster of my work, WHO CARES?! Just when I thought things were grim on the job front, this opportunity comes along. And as expected, my habit of linking revealed to me other organizations and job areas I'm considering pursuing*

*And by this, I mean an MUP in Transportation Policy and Planning

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Last of the Last

I have an excuse for this nearly two month delay in posts. It's called family-time-thesis-research-back-to-having-no-life-after-not-having-a-life-to-begin-with. Here's a brief recap on what's happened since I last wrote and what direction I'm heading in now.

I went home.
I went home to San Antonio for a week at Christmas. It was a nice little visit, though I didn't get to do much. A week at home is enough to see all the friends you wanted to see, drink with the family, visit Dad at the office, and not much else. The highlight was, as always, being with my family and joking with my brother. Having friends over for drinks and chocolate cake wasn't too bad either.

I came back to the Bay.
Other than last year when I was in Jerusalem with Cameron, this is the first time I have celebrated New Years Eve not in Texas. I went to a friend's house party where I got to dress up and be very fancy...and was eye-googled by the many low-caliber men that were in attendance. Complete Sausagefest. I'm not a fan of the ladies in the bed department, but I would have faked being gay that night.

I got sick.
As per usual, I did not get a flu shot this season. I'm glad I didn't waste that money since most EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY got struck with this sickness, even if they got a shot. Though, I'm not entirely certain it was the flu that I caught. I'm pretty sure my sickness was my weak immune system finally giving into the two straight weeks of drinking and cross-country travel. Whatever it was, it put me on my ass in bed for about two weeks. I went through four rolls of toilet paper in a six day period. It was bad.

I got job interviews...and rejection letters

These, I realize, are part of the "Becoming an Adult" process. I applied for an internship with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) doing GIS and mapping for this year's Bike to Work Day. I worked for them last year under a different position and loved the work. While I got the interview, I didn't get the position. Considering I've only been doing GIS for 4 months, it was inevitable that someone else had more experience than me. I also got a rejection letter from the State Auditor's office in Sacramento. This should have come as no surprise, since my writing assessment was absolutely atrocious. My coping mechanism included half a bottle of wine and a hot bath, followed by some irrelevant internet surfing. While it's not my most graceful moment, I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and able to move on. I anticipate I won't have to go through this process again for future rejections.

Other than that, I am on my usual track of writing my master's thesis, (occasionally) riding my bike, fixing other peoples' bikes, and trying to maintain my sanity through various outlets. This semester, despite the gravity of my final project, should not be as bad as last semester and should be manageable. Which means you'll get to hear from me more!

(I promise.)