Bike Commuting

BikeMapAside from the (what can feel like an eternally) long winter, Minneapolis is a great city for biking.  Currently, I live about five miles from campus and so when it’s warm enough, I often commute to and from school by bike.  Not only is it practically free (aside from replacing the occasional tire and general bike maintenance), it’s easy to park and is great exercise.  During the fall semester I was able to bike for most of August through October and really enjoyed it.  I’m looking forward to commuting by bike again now that it’s finally warmed up!

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about what works well and what doesn’t.  So, in celebration of a late spring that has finally arrived, warmer days ahead, and plenty of opportunities to bike, here are my nine bike essentials:BikingToSchool

  1. A bike.  Okay, this is pretty obvious.  Recently I’ve been riding an old (free for me) Trek 720, but really any bike will do.  I will say, after trying a few different bikes, I prefer to sit closer to upright when I’m commuting so I try to avoid more “serious” road or mountain bikes.  Usually, though, you can find a great bike for less than $300 on Craigslist or at a local bike shop.
  2. A Timbuk2 bag.  The brand isn’t so important, although I do like my Timbuk2 tote quite a bit, but the easy-to-open top zipper allows me to access my books without taking apart my entire bike basket.  I regularly carry my computer, power cord, 1-2 books, a notebook, a file folder, snacks, and water (among other things) and have never had a problem.
  3. Sunglasses.  I like to bring sunglasses for two reasons.  One, it can be sunny, but also, sometimes when riding on the road cars can kick up dirt and other things, so I like to have some eye protection.
  4. REI Flip-Top Vacuum Tumbler.  This is one case where I feel pretty brand loyal.  After trying several different coffee travel mugs, this is by far my favorite.  First, it has a great seal and so when it’s closed you can turn the mug over and shake it and nothing will spill.  Seriously, I’ve tried.  Second, it keeps things warm for hours.  I’ve burned my tongue on hot tea 4+ hours after making it.
  5. Water bottle.  It’s important to stay hydrated in general, but especially when bike commuting.  I prefer glass water bottles mostly because I don’t like the way that plastic bottles taste after a while.  In any case, find a water bottle you like and fill it up!
  6. Plastic crate.  When my husband and I first started school and were feeling especially poor (after moving half-way across the U.S.) I decided that instead of buying a fancy bike basket, that I would attach a plastic crate we had on hand with some zip ties.  Several months later, I’ve never had a problem.  There is plenty of space for my bag, books if I stop at the library, etc.  Eventually, I might get a better bike basket, but for now, my bright teal crate does its job well.
  7. Comfortable pants.  On a whim I tried the J.Crew Minnie pants and loved them.  Not only do they look professional, but they are ankle length, have some stretch, and are durable.  I find them to be excellent for biking to school, then hopping off for a meeting or class without having to change.  (As a side note, they are technically dry clean only, but I’ve had good luck washing them on a delicate cycle with cold water and hanging them to dry.)
  8. Rain coat.  In the morning it can be quite cool here, so having a raincoat that doubles as a wind breaker can be nice.
  9. Helmet.  Don’t forget the most important part!  I got a fairly inexpensive helmet at REI and it works well.  (And, ladies, if you’re worried about your hair, I found a great tutorial here).

Do you ever commute by bike?  If so, what do you find to be “essential”?

Prized Posessions

Sorry for the long break!  After attending the annual Comparative and International Education Society conference, I was on Spring Break, and then desperately trying to catch up.  Ah, the ebb and flow of graduate school work.  Anyway, I should be able to return to regular posts soon.

In the meantime, have you come across the work of Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti?  Galimberti explores childhood through photos of children with their more prized possessions: their favorite toys.

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Alessia – Italy

Although Galimberti’s work speaks to experiences shared by children around the world, he also notes some differences in how children interacted with their toys:

The richest children were more possessive.  At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them.  In poor countries, it was much easier.  Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care.  In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.

Here are two other photographs from the series:

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Norden – Morocco

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Tyra – Sweden

What were your favorite toys as a child?  How many “prized possessions” did you have?  Did you have to share your toys?  Or were they wholly yours?

(Photos via)

Out of Print

Ah, that perpetual problem…  What do you wear as a graduate student?  Do you dress professionally?  Do you dress like your professors?  Do you dress like an undergraduate?  Or perhaps you wear some iteration in between?  Even The Chronicle has covered the topic (quite a few times, actually).

In any case, if you’re considering your wardrobe options for the weekend (or for the occasional library day)…  Have you heard of Out of Print Clothing?  They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, mugs, etc. featuring classic books. And if that isn’t enough to tempt you, for each shirt they sell, a book is donated to Books For Africa.  Here are a few of my favorites:

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Clockwise from the top left: 1/2/3/4

Babies in Cross-Cultural Perspective

A World of Babies

Childhood studies is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the issues, concepts and debates surrounding the study of children and childhoods.  Although there are several excellent introductory texts, one of my favorites from this field is A World of Babies by Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb.  The book is a collection of “manuals” similar to What to Expect When You’re Expecting from people and cultures from around the world, both historic–the book begins with the Puritans–and modern–the book includes manuals from the Beng, Balinese, Turkish, Warlpiri, Fulani, and Ifaluk perspectives.

The editors write:

Perhaps even more than with most cultural matters, child-rearing practices and beliefs reflect local conceptions of how the world is and how the child should be readied for living in it. […] All child rearing is based on beliefs about what makes life manageable, safe, and fertile for the spirit.  Even with the best, most rational, kindest advice from outside, child rearing will likely always be so.

Anyway, I highly recommend it, if you’re looking for a Spring Break read.  What are you reading these days?  Any thoughts or suggestions?

On the Purpose of Comparative Education

Properly done, comparative education can deepen understanding of our own education and society; it can be of assistance to policymakers and administrators; and it can form a most valuable part of the education of teachers.  Expressed another way, comparative education can help us understand better our own past, locate ourselves more exactly in the present, and discern a little more clearly what our educational future may be.

– Harold Noah, in “The Use and Abuse of Comparative Education”, 1984