It's Saturday morning of the week when I think I finally finished my first year of graduate school. At least, let's say I have. I will plant my flag here. I took my last final yesterday. Of course, research continues on for eternity -- no rest for the wicked and the righteous don't need any (put me in whichever category you like there) -- I still have data to collect, and I plan to spend at least some of my weekend scrambling around for elderly folks who can't wait to be stuck into an MRI scanner on two consecutive days. That eager anticipation of post-finals relief that motivated me all the way to the undergraduate degree-- now it seems no longer valid. No relief. Not quite yet. Someday I just need to hop into my car and take a vacation from Pittsburgh. We'll see when that day comes.
Anyways, you all accompanied me through this past year, and you can attest to the fact that I'm still alive, and the probable mental degeneration that resulted from a year of grad school has now been well-documented with the U's kind patronage.
So, now it's time to (somewhat) catch up with the rest of life. First, for my civic duties-- the Pittsburgh mayoral race is coming up. Technically, it's the Democratic primary that is on May 17th, but from what I hear, the winner of the Democratic primary has won the overall race for the past 80 years. At first, I was uncertain that I would even vote at all. I've only been here since August, I know very little about local politics, and I know even less about how to fix this city. My impression was that our elected officials were uniformly inept and this city was fairly helpless under their guidance. My attitude was partially motivated by a cover on our independent weekly, the City Paper: The three major candidates appeared on front with the telling question, "Why would anyone want to be Mayor of Pittsburgh?" And, that sounded like a pretty good question to me -- the city is broke, litter lines sidewalks in even the best neighborhoods, bumpy streets go perpetually unpaved, and it's not unusual for the bus to be packed to sardine capacity or, on the worst days, emit a disturbing urine-like smell. So, I dismissed all the bland-looking male candidates as power-hungry men who wanted to preside over their own little kingdom, even if this was the only kingdom they could get.
But recently, I have seen my impressionable, undecided-voter mind be pushed around by the forces of propaganda. This has given me some insight into the mysterious undecided voters that were such a focus of attention during the Bush/Kerry days. How are our minds swayed? The other day one of my research subjects arrived with a "Vote for Peduto" button. This is Bill Peduto, one of our candidates who, if nothing else, probably has the most well-designed yard signs. The woman was in her 60's, a retired professor who had worked in my building. She was the most awesome research subject ever, describing the MRI experience as "fun". (I am not kidding.) She conversed easily about her happily married daughter in the UK, and about what she has been reading lately in her subscription to The Economist. And so my impressionable voter mind starts seeing a profie match -- this woman is of my general cultural/political/socioeconomic niche. I must vote for Bill Peduto.
I can see her clipping on that button in the morning, knowing that she would be meeting with a naive and ignorant young voter. Well, it worked.
Also supporting Bill is the Partisan Project, a clever Pittsburgh development that grew during the presidential election. They published reams of simple but hard-hitting posters, 100% aimed at discouraging the Bush vote, that they distributed to coffee shops, grocery stores, and so on. Hundreds to thousands of us had them taped to our windows in our offices and residences. Now these same folks have made the very catchy banner, "Sometimes I hate Pittsburgh because I love it so much", which beautifully captures an ambivalence that I know at least I feel about this place. Anyways, it's worth checking out their website.
So, I'll be at least minimally involved in a civic sense. Now, what else to resume in terms of Normal Life. Aside from cleaning my apartment. Hmm. My bike is in a perpetual state of disrepair (Hi, Jim). I can't think of any time in my life when I've had a bike that's been comfortable to ride, because it seems like there's always been something wrong with them, and I'm too lazy to fix it. I just stop riding it. After having 2 bikes stolen in the Twin Cities, I finally settled for an old, yellow Bridgestone that I bought for ~$110 at Varsity bikes in Dinkytown (nope, I don't have a picture) It did an OK job, I guess, at getting me from Marcy Holmes to Stadium Village every morning. But in Pittsburgh it's been sitting in the laundry room of my apartment. Part of that is attributable to the *very* intimidating hills, the narrow streets, reckless drivers, and so on. You could only dream of a bike lane. Ha ha ha. Sometimes I'm not even sure there's enough of a lane to fit an entire car. But the other issue is that I think I need a new tire. This seems to happen, like, every other month. Why do I keep messing up my tires? Hoping that the tire was just a little low, I invested in a snazzy hand-held air pump and tried to add some air, to no avail. So, I hear that there is a do-it-yourself bike place a couple of miles away that will provide you with the supplies to change the tire yourself (and therefore save the money that would otherwise be spent on labor). So, I should maybe go do that. I don't know if I can work up the motivation. I think my bike has other problems aside from that but I don't even know how to describe them. I can never seem to shift into a comfortable gear. Always too much tension or too little.
So, that's enough material for one coursework-free morning. More later.