Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

That's the first line of the opening song from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, a children's show that I very much enjoyed as a kid. And this is the introduction to my neighborhood, made especially for those who will never get a chance to visit me in Miami.

I live in the Design District, which is in between Midtown (aka Wynwood in the sign) and Little Haiti.
My neighborhood is filled with houses built in the early twentieth century, many of which are built with a porous rock called coral rock. I can't find any good references to coral rock, so maybe that's not the real name. But it does look like coral. There's a mix of one- and two-story houses and many have red tile roofs. The house below is pretty typical, except for the enormous eight-foot tall angels guarding the front door. Aren't they incredible?
The design district is full of people who are hipper than you or me. Lots of building sport murals.
This is on the main road through the neighborhood. It's art, but I don't know anything more about it. It's been there since we moved in, and it looks pretty permanent, but it doesn't look polished, the way civic art usually does. Maybe it's the chain link fence around it that gives me the raw art vibe.
We have lots of furniture shops. Lots. And you will find nothing from the Colonial, Victorian, or Arts and Crafts styles here. It's all trendy - mainly white and streamlined. Leather, glass and plastic are welcomed. You don't see a lot of tapestry, I must say.
Here's my favorite part of the tour. When we moved in, my landlord told us how to get to the store: Walk down three blocks, cross the railroad tracks, and then go through the hole in the fence. The store's on the other side." And there's really a hole cut in the fence. To go around the fence would be a detour of a dozen or so blocks, so everyone uses the hole. Sometimes there's even traffic, and I have to wait for people to pass through before it's my turn.

And since we live near Little Haiti, we see signs in Creole and murals of Obama.
Have I convinced anyone to come for a visit?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This and that

It's a quiet cool day today, which makes it perfect for lots of cooking. We're having our first guests over for dinner tonight. I don't know why I waited so long to start inviting people over, except that I somehow thought that I should "know" people better before I invited them. But recently it occurred to me that inviting people over would allow me to get to know people. And cooking at Christmas reminded me how much I enjoy doing big, elaborate cooking for people.

Andrew's been in and out of the house all day. He only arrived last night, but has plenty of car repair planned during his stay here. If there's one thing I've learned since meeting him, it's that there's always one more thing you can repair or tune up on a car or motorcycle. It occasionally drives me crazy to lose whole weekends to car repair (you'll recall that we're a one car family, although we live in a very walkable neighborhood). However, I do appreciate that our car, aged sixteen years, has never been un-driveable.

I've been consumed with two problems since I got back from Jacksonville. One is personal and one is business, but neither is tragic. First, our refrigerator isn't quite working, and it took me several days to determine that for certain. The landlord has been great about this, and has had the repairman out twice. The freezer is working fine, and it appears to be a leak in the seal between the door and the fridge compartment. While parts are being ordered, I'm able to keep things sufficiently cold by rotating jugs of ice between the fridge and the freezer.

At work, I've been struggling with a challenge. Presenting my ongoing research at the conference last week made me realize that I'm trying to make new kinds of claims with my data that I haven't done in the past. In particular, I'm trying to see if I can use video data, which is best at telling you details about a particular moment, to talk about larger patterns in students' behavior. It's frustrating to be so stuck, but it's also nice to have a challenge. I've set myself a deadline: if I can't say anything meaningful by April, I'll move on to a new project. But in the meantime I'm reading lots and discussing lots with people who might have good ideas.

I've had some good news too. Andrew has picked a committee and set a defense date (April 7th!). This means he almost certainly will have moved down here by this summer, and that makes me very, very happy.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Getting to know you

Tomorrow I'm off to Jacksonville, Florida for a conference. (Note for those less familiar with U.S. geography: this conference is in my state, but it's at the northernmost point and I'm at the southernmost point. That makes it a seven-hour drive, so I'm flying.) I'm especially looking forward to this conference. Since moving to Miami last summer, I've been trying to make friends, but that takes times. And it's rare now that I get to spend time with old friends, the ones you have a shared history with. I've been going to these conferences twice a year for five years now, and so while it is work to prepare talks and attend meetings, it's also great fun to catch up with people I've known for quite a while.

I've had some difficulty figuring out how to make friends since I moved here. My coworkers are great, but I know I need non-work friends too. I'm not much of a joiner - my hobbies of cooking and reading are generally solitary, and I couldn't find a club or organization I really want to join. In the fall, though, it occurred to me that church might be the thing. An old high school friend is active in the Unitarian Universalist Church, and I've attended them in the past. Unitarians provide religion for the non-religious (atheists and pagans welcome), and the church that we joined has an extremely liberal definition of "young" for those who participate in the "young adult" group. (Basically, anyone who's not retired seems to turn up.) I've met lots of people, and lots of people I'd like to get to know better. (That's my definition of a potential friend, I guess.) Tonight I'm off to volunteer with some of them at a fundraiser. I think I'll be bussing tables, which is the work I tried to get away from by earning my PhD, but it's all for a good cause.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Back and forth

Andrew and I have our airport routine down pat. He always leaves on Tuesdays on the 7am flight, because that's cheap and gets him to school at Maryland by midday. So yesterday we woke up before 5am, and I drove him to the airport. It works out pretty well, because then he sleeps on the whole flight to Maryland, and I have enough time to go back home and sleep for a few more hours before heading to work. Yesterday I had driven back home, had something to eat, and was crawling, gratefully, back to bed at 6am. The phone rang and Andrew said, "It turns out my flight is tomorrow. Can you come pick me up?" I should have told him to wait at the airport until tomorrow, but I'm awfully fond of the boy. So I drove back and picked him up and then today we woke up at 5am to do it again. This time he actually flew away.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy New Year!

My New Year's Eve was filled with a bit more drama than I normally prefer. I like celebrating New Year's Eve even in a low-key way, but since I've met Andrew our celebrations for this holiday have been hit or miss. The weekend trip to Chicago to visit my cousin? Terrific. The night in Wales when we forgot to buy sparkling wine and Andrew spent the evening trying to find a a single spot in the room to place the TV aerial (antenna) so that we could see some sort of celebration on the TV? Not so great. (Wales is a lovely country. But it's pretty dead on New Year's Eve.)

This year I planned our evening well in advance, determined to have a proper celebration. I bought tickets to a musical and made reservations afterward at our favorite Indian restaurant. The drama crept in, though, because of the car. Our car needed a new half-axle and Andrew thought it would take about a day to do it. Just to be sure, we blocked off three full days, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, when we wouldn't need the car. I worked from home, and he promised that the car would be done by Friday evening so we could drive to the theater. Unfortunately, the car repair didn't go as smoothly as hoped, and on Friday afternoon my living room was filled with tools and car parts. I was ready to cancel everything, since it seemed like it would be difficult to get taxis on New Year's Eve and the we had not chosen our destinations for ease of bus access.

In the end, the car was finished thirty minutes before we needed to leave. (Well done, Andrew!) We saw Beauty and the Beast, the musical (which earns an less-than-enthusiastic endorsement from me), had a great dinner, and managed to be home before midnight. That last part was important, because the Miami population celebrates with both fireworks (European-style) and gunfire (Afghan-style). I had heard of occasional deaths from all the celebratory gunfire, and wanted no part of that.