Sunday, May 31, 2009

Women in tight dresses riding bikes in Amsterdam

Check out these photos of men in business suits with briefcases on bikes and every other possible type of attire simply because bikes are the way to get around in Amsterdam.

And note the bloggers' commentary on how anomalous these scenes would be in the U.S.

The obvious inference is: in the U.S., biking is for exercise or leisure, not work/commerce. But why? Cars are expensive and who wants to battle the parking?

Yesterday I rode up on a skirt to the building where I would be giving a presentation at a conference (on my campus). Conference attendees were outside smoking and talking in between sessions and watched as I locked my bike and helmet and put on my badge to get in to the building. Why a skirt? Combination of look passably nicely dressed for conference, AND enjoy nice weather (no nylons; flat sandals).

Yes, I knew I am an anomaly. But I had just had a lovely 20 min ride in our currently great Boston weather. To shake off the negative social evaluation of being non-normative, I browse the scenes from Amsterdam (or think back fondly on biking in Beijing as in my prior blog post).

But check out this photo from chic cyclist.

Still remember, a decade ago, one of my students returned from a summer school where some of the profs knew me from grad school. Those profs had one question about me, "Does she still rider her bike?" "Still --" because I'm no longer a grad student?

Why is biking an okay commuter option for students but not the over-40 crowd?

I came up with the following reason for why biking is leisure, not a commuting option in the US:

The profit margin from from promoting biking for commuting is smaller than the profit margin that can be derived form promoting biking for leisure.

Or are there just too many other factors in U.S. culture that together converge to produce the striking contrast documented in the Amsterdam bike pages?

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Office Burned Down

My office burned down. I was restless at home, unable to go to my familiar place. Limped around my husband's office. A day later mine was back, beautifully pristine, but every file drawer empty, desktop spotless.

Barely another blink. My office was crammed full again, but filled with old crap. I wandered around like a time traveler, picking up this or that item from 2006. Worse than the real thing, sea of silly notes, names that were once important, barely begun projects that I know are now beautiful, now finished.

But where is my real office? The one my father said was joined to my hip when I last traveled home. It's just in my brain, now, my brain that strikes, refuses to work without external memory. And that special kind of memory, long term.

I could try to reconstruct. Scattered CDs claim they have some of these projects in various stages. Collaborators and students can send me the manuscript drafts I once sent them. Unless its all returned intact from the magic of the clean room. I live in limbo.