02 March 2007

Another in a Series of Infrequent Updates

Sorry about the infrequent nature of these posts lately. I've been diligently working on the dissertation, which takes up most of my time these days. And the deadline for applying for fellowships and grants and whatever in my department was a couple of weeks ago, so I was also spending quite a bit of time trying to put together a halfway decent application package. Which is a lot more time consuming that you'd think, since there are cover letters to write and CVs to update and five-page abstracts and one-page summaries to write and 40-page writing samples to polish and timetables to prepare. Believe it or not, the one-page summary was the thing that caused me the most grief. Trying to summarize something you've spent years researching and writing about in a format that short (and in a way that someone outside your field can understand) is kind of hard. But at least it's over for now. And besides, since so much of professional academia is related to either asking for free money or trying to explain your incredibly esoteric field of specialty to other people, the process was actually quite educational. Otherwise, there's not too much going on, though I'll elaborate on three points, just in case anyone's interested:

1) Last Saturday, Kate and I went up to the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia to see the second of the three Robert Moses exhibits mentioned in the last post. It wasn't as big, space-wise, but we liked this one a little more than the one at the Queens Museum of Art. It seemed somewhat more critical of Moses, and included a number of items in display cases in addition to photographs mounted on the wall. This installment was titled "Slum Clearance and the Superblock Solution," and sure enough, that's what it was about. In fact, it was devoted entirely to Moses' use of Title I of the 1949 federal Housing Act to clear out swaths of tenements and other buildings deemed "slums" in order to build huge housing projects. While the exhibit does a good job of pointing out things like the ways in which community organizations often fought hard for their neighborhoods, it glosses over a few others that might warrant more attention.

Race, in particular, is one aspect of the history that we both thought deserved more space. It was duly noted that although Moses did, indeed, build middle-class housing in minority neighborhoods, this often served only to reinforce existing patterns of segregation. Furthermore, many of the neighborhoods that were razed were home to large Latino, African-American, and immigrant working-class communities, and since the new housing was specifically designed for middle-class New Yorkers, these people were often displaced and left with few, if any, other housing options. Yet the space devoted specifically to these issues was relatively small, and almost felt like an afterthought.

Overall, we liked the exhibit, and I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who's interested in these things. The space is fairly small, and I'd imagine the average museum-goer could take in the whole thing in an hour or an hour and a half. Oh, and did I mention it was free? And right across Columbia's Morningside campus (and a lovely campus it is, too) from the 116th Street stop on the 1 train? Looks like you're running out of excuses.

2) Yesterday was March 1, which six weeks ago I imagined would be pretty close to the date that I returned to running. And while the general physical state of my body seems to have improved over that time, the hamstrings are as bothersome as ever. In fact, I'm starting to get anxious about the whole thing. During some online poking around, I read in a few places that hamstring injuries can sometimes take months to heal, and that sometimes -- especially for the over-40 set -- even longer! Worse, there's the possibility it's actually a back problem rather than just strains resulting from overuse. I'll admit the six-week timeframe for resting up was completely arbitrary, but I thought if anything, it was conservative.

Because of the vagaries of my grad student health insurance policy, any non-emergency medical visits have to go through the Student Health deparment in Iowa City. But since I'll be back there to meet with my advisor later this month, I'll probably make an appointment to see an actual, living doctor. No, I will make an appointment.

In the meantime, all I can do is wait. The running-all-of-Brooklyn thing can wait, clearly, and I don't want to jump back in if I'm still hurt. Taking the time off wasn't so bad, either, since the weather here has actually been wintery for last month and a half. But this past week, there were a few days when you could almost feel spring in the air. And when the nicer weather returns, it's going to be really hard to resist the urge to just go out and run.

3) Finally, my sister Mel and her husband Rob had their first child last week, so I wanted to take a moment and welcome my newest nephew, Nathan, into the world and congratulate his parents on their procreative skills. Maybe the little guy will even grow up to be a runner, like his mom. In any event, congratulations, guys. And good luck.

And because I feel obliged to post a few photos, even if they have absolutely nothing to do with either running or Brooklyn, here are three from last week's museum trip up to Columbia:

columbia library
The northwest corner of the library building

116th street walk
Looking west down the 116th Street walk

the fate of snow 2
A lump of melting snow