Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A week later...

...and I am too swamped to write anything.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Secret Lives of Dogs (or what the bus company doesn't want you to know)

You know the picture of a greyhound on the side of a bus? You know, this one:

Most people are led to believe that the greyhound is running. This would make you think that the bus company will get you to your destination quickly.

The truth of the matter is that as an owner of a greyhound I know what the real scoop is. That dog is not running. It is passed out on its side too lazy to move.

Here is proof:

I don't know what this means for the bus company (maybe I will be sued), but the truth had to be told.

[This idea was actually Sara's, but I got the pictures first and she is too "boring" to post them]

Monday, March 19, 2007

Which one is Real?

This picture of Zephyr reminds me of the scene in ET where the critter is hiding in the closet with all the stuffed animals.

Of course Zephyr was not really hiding from anyone. She is just so lazy that when I started piling the toys on her, she refused to move. She is also cuter (although equally strange looking) than the space creature.

Here is a picture from that scene for comparison sake:

That's about all I have to say. Spring Break is over and it is back to the madness of juggling four courses, research, writing, dogs, and life.

At least I got my taxes done, saw my psychiatrist, got thrown off a subway during a snow/sleet/ice storm (because the subway stopped running, not for any improper behavior on my part), and took some long walks with the dogs.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Feuding Deities?

Sara and I were riding the subway to midtown Manhattan the other day. To pass the time, rather than anthropologically observing the people riding with us as I usually do, I was looking out the window into the dimly lit maze of tunnels.

I have the secret hope that I will sometime catch a glimpse of the "mole people" that make their home there. So far I haven't.

There is evidence of activity all along the tunnels, though. It is mostly in the form of graffiti. Some of it is related to the transit workers marking switches, outlets, and the sort. Other marks is just the work of random "taggers".

My second hope is that I will catch a glimpse of some wonderful artistic masterpiece that is hidden in the depths of New York's catacombs. That hasn't happened either.

What I did come across that day, however, was a clearly written statement meant to disparage a Norse deity:


Since then, I have been wondering who the heck wrote it and what it means. My mind has been playing images of a scene out of something like Neil Gaiman's American Gods where a disgruntled Aztec deity (perhaps my friend Xolotl) is marginalized to the subway tunnels of New York City and has it in for Thor.

Who knows? It's as good as an explanation as any....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Strange and Awkward

No better way to define the day today.

The morning was warm, almost muggy. Yet tomorrow they say snow: three to six inches.

I had a conference call as part of an anthropologist committee I am on. Having people pop in on an ongoing conversation is a bit strange. With all the issues going on with people in the gov't listening to conversations they aren't supposed to, it has made me a little paranoid I guess.

I went to a lecture by one of the leading anthropologists who studies homeless people. It was a smallish group. Who happens to walk in? My psychiatrist with whom I have an appointment tomorrow morning.

By the way, I will throw a set of questions out there for anyone who wishes to answer it (they came up during the lecture today):

When did you first learn about homelessness? Who explained it to you? And how was it explained to you?

Ever since the last post, the Pink Floyd song has been running through my head. Especially that last line: Come on you miner of truth and delusion, Shine! I guess that is the most concise description I have come across for what it is that anthropologists do.

Time for bed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Shine On

I spent the better part of yesterday and a good chunk of today doing taxes.

Someone does not like me. In 2006 I worked in three different states (MA, RI, and NJ) and I resided in two (MA and NY). Adding it all up, it means that I filed 6 sets of taxes: 1 Federal, 4 State, and 1 City.

And each state has its own convoluted way of figuring out its taxes.

Last year I thought I was so cool because the previous year I worked in WA that doesn't have state income tax. I am paying for it now - in more ways than you can imagine.

Meanwhile, Zephyr is the image of tranquility: she is passed out, stretched out on her pillow, her mouth slightly open, while Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond chills the air. How apropos!

Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Pile on many more layers and I'll be joining you there.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
And we'll bask in the shadow of yesterday's triumph, and sail on the steel breeze.
Come on you boy child, you winner and loser,
come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine!

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage

- Smashing Pumpkins,
"Bullet With Butterfly Wings"

My lovely day of being screamed at in Chinese and attacked by giant wild turkeys ended with my new computer's operating system dying.

I called Apple's tech help line and got pressured to purchase the extended help plan before I was given any real help. I would have probably purchased it anyway, but I did not like them preying on the panic one has when there is a computer crash.

As I suspected I had to reinstall the operating system, losing everything that was saved on the computer. While I had not backed anything up officially, since the computer was new there was not much new on it. Most of my files for teaching are also on my computer at work (I email them to myself there). A few pictures are gone and some music, I think. Everything else is still on the old clunker, so I just had to transfer everything over again. Not a good way to spend a weekend, but it could have been worse.

One annoyance is the fact that you cannot upload your music from your iPod back to the computer it is synced with. Your iPod should be a way to backup your music files, but that it ain't.

Sara left to visit her family in New Mexico yesterday. I would have liked to have gone with her, but I just have so much to get done during this coming week of Spring "Break". I drove her to the airport - Newark. It is sad how they have turned airports into mass-hysteria zones. The area outside the "security zone" is a waste land inhabited by transients trying to get to their flights. Even though we arrived at the airport with time, there was absolutely nowhere where we could sit together and wait for her flight. No seats, no restaurants, no cafes, nothing.

Eventually Sara joined all the other departing passengers in the maze leading up to the security check. As I waited to wave one last goodbye, I noticed how the workers herded the people through the chaotic maze as the crowd ebbed and flowed. It really reminded me like cattle being led to the slaughterhouse. You could smell the paranoia. It was probably leaking out of someone's three ounce bottle of liquid in the one quart zip-lock bag.

It turns out that Sara's flight was delayed about an hour and a half. I do think the area in the "secure" zone has more amenities, so hopefully she was able to entertain herself and sit.

Property of Joseph A. Maloney © 2004

The airport experience along with teaching a course on urban anthropology, living in New York city, talking to my mother for the first time in a couple of months (she was traveling around Mexico and out of phone contact), and trying to ground myself over this "break", has made me reflect about the interaction we have with the people around us.

For example, the building in which we live has a lot of nice people, but we really don't know any of them beyond the usually pleasantries we may share if we pass by in the hall or elevator. The people who live below us are a young couple (with Grammy tickets) and a nice dog. We have spoken about getting together for dinner, but it has never come to fruition. Our most meaningful interaction has been picking up each other's mail when we were out of town.

The man who lives above us went to the same university where Sara and I got our Ph.D.s and his sister even has a Ph.D. in anthropology from there (she lives in Brooklyn). How did I learn this? When I went to investigate why water was dripping from our kitchen ceiling and I was happening to be wearing a collegiate t-shirt. We also have spoken of the need to meet up, but have not done so.

And then there are the students with whom I fished through the discarded books in the basement, the friendly and cheerful woman who seems to have a similar schedule as mine since we always seem to be in the elevator together. Our lives pass by yet they never do connect.

Beyond that, one of my colleagues from work lives about a mile away, yet we have only met up a couple of times. I know there are some alumni from my college here, but I have not even come close to looking them up. Even Frankie from this cyber-psuedo-reality lives and works a subway ride away (we were also living in close proximity in Boston) and have discussed meeting up on occasion, but never have done so.

I am not sure where I am going with this. I have no answers. I guess I am wondering if I have become a cog in the social wheel. Have I become trapped in the iron cage of modernity (extra credit to whomever can site the sources of those two references)?

I have become fascinated with rats. I get to see them running in the gutters, scavenging in the subway stations, eating at Taco Bell (the rats are-not me!), and sunning themselves in the park. I even bought this book:

which I hope to delve into over the next week. Perhaps I believe that they might have some answers for me. Either how to survive or how not to become a rodent like them. Dunno...

The gears are cranking in my head. Whether anything good will come from it is anyone's guess.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Highlights from Today [Take 2]

Take 1 was swallowed up when Firefox crashed. It keeps crashing on me - I wonder what is going on. It has been that kind of day.

An old and angry-sounding woman called my cell phone and began yelling at me in Chinese. I tried to tell her that I thought she had reached the wrong number.

I don't think she understood me. She kept calling back and continued the yelling.

Sometimes knowing how to speak Chinese can come in handy.

I wonder if she ever got to yell at the person she was meaning to yell at.

As if that weren't exciting enough, my car was attacked by wild turkeys - while I was driving it.

The turkeys were in the middle of the road, so I slowed down so as not to hit them. As I rolled past them, they charged the car and began pecking the tires. When I stopped, they backed off. There was something about the turning wheels that they did not seem to appreciate.

As I began to move again, they rushed to peck the tires again. I was happy I was in the car. They were rather large birds.

I wonder if someone will make a meal out of them.

Maybe the angry Chinese woman...

Life is strangely interconnected like that.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stocking up in NJ and taking stock of life

It seems that even though we live in New York, I end up shopping in New Jersey for most of our groceries and other supplies. True, I do work in NJ and I tend to stop to pick up things on my way to or from work. For groceries, though, it is just easier to shop just across the river than trekking down into the city. There is a Whole Foods and funky Japanese grocery just across the bridge. I also saw that soon there will be a Trader Joe's opening up just down the road (I hope they will sell wine there - the one halfway between here and work doesn't).

There is one grocery I do shop at in Manhattan - a funky place wedged under the West Side highway (an elevated freeway).

One of the benefits of shopping at the Whole Foods in NJ is that it allows me to stop and take in that I am actually living in New York City. The parking lot faces the river and it has amazing views of Manhattan. Living in our bubble in northern Manhattan and commuting to work in NJ, it is easy to forget that we are living in this city. I do have to drive over the George Washington bridge to get to work, but usually I am focusing on avoiding trucks and other drivers that I cannot take in the view.

At the Whole Foods parking lot, I can jump over the little dirt divider and take short stroll on the path along the water. Especially if the dogs come along for the ride like they did today. Although usually they are not all that interested in the view: they much rather figure out what it was that washed up along the shore.

Wow, I am living in this crazy city.