Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paige - Mass observation

Sunday 9/6 Afternoon walk

It’s about 2 pm and across the street from my building a girl in an old car appears to be stalled at the intersection. The car smokes out the back and the engine roars in protest, but she manages to peel out of the stop. The day is hotter than I expected, and the sun beats down from the west. A few blocks from home, a homeless man with a blue cap staggers out of an alleyway and lingers pensively at the sidewalk. At the Guadalupe intersection, an older man calls “hey, Jean” to alert his wife, when the pedestrian light turns. They’re both hesitant and ambling when they follow behind me. Two bikers in matching uniforms come down the intersection in the opposite direction, wobbling slightly as they swerve to avoid the dense crowd of pedestrians. I don’t take my usual route, instead cutting through the square in front of the Union. A pair of girls walking ahead of me discuss Facebook stalking – one has been studying the listed interests of a guy, presumably, and doesn’t know how to mention it to him.“How do you strategically bring it up without sounding creepy? ‘I heard you had these three interests and guess what? I also have those three interests.’” The hand-painted student organization signs in front of the Union are collapsed haphazardly; there is one lone promoter who propositions me about something concerning Schlotzky’s. A woman passes, carrying a two-by-four over her shoulders like a yoke. At the cul-de-sac behind the Flawn Academic Center, another pair of cyclists and the man makes a show of riding with no hands. Passing the turtle pond, a group of three take pictures, and one man steps out of the frame and into my path. The turtles are piled up on the rocks to soak in the sun.

The campus is quiet, and the construction site empty. The CAT vehicles are abandoned; some appear halted in the middle of a dig. The iron skeleton of the new building towers over the street. I catch my friend Aaron on his way down 24th street - he’s headed to the Fine Arts library to study – and we note on the coincidence of running into each other on a Sunday afternoon. Our short conversation is punctuated by an acorn that falls onto the hood of a parked Honda. Down the street, two workers swing open the long fence door to the second construction site, which blocks the path down the sidewalk, so I cross to the side running along the Service Building. At San Jacinto I take a shortcut to the art building through the path up to the Texas Museum – on the stairs a man plays with his three children racing up the steps, one announces his victory as I take off down a dirt path up the lawn.

I come down the stairs to the first floor. Behind the double doors into the Art Lab someone is playing opera. I’m inspecting the flyers as a girl with a Chelsea hair cut emerges – the aria is clear for a few brief moments – and gingerly shuts the door behind her.

Wednesday 9/2 Morning walk

A garbage truck unceremoniously deposits a dumpster in the middle of the back alley – its fork rises over the top of the truck. Down the street a biker swerves to avoid me, the bike is covered in colorful tape. There are a few runners – those in jogging clothes and others with backpacks, tardy to class. One man sits on his bicycle in a parking space, seemingly lost in thought. At Guadalupe, an androgynous kid with a wooden surfboard-shaped skateboard glances at me from the other side of the pedestrian crosswalk. She jumps on it and takes off in front of Sutton hall, not long before the bell tolls 9.

A janitorial crew in tan uniforms saunter, laughing, through the parking lot into a low floor of Battle Hall. The square in front of Main is quieter now, there’s a student organization stand set up for something I can’t quite make out, and a UT utility truck parked on a walking path. At 9:13, a tan-shirt crewman heads towards the parked truck - he lowers the back platform and rises with it slowly. It’s 9:15 when the man returns from inside the truck with a dolly, and the student stand breaks out into an indistinguishable school cheer. The flags are at full-mast again, at half-mast only two days ago. There’s a discarded beer in a paper bag at my feet. The sun beats down on the unshaded concrete and a student mumbling into his phone walks, unperturbed, in aimless circles, scuffing his feet.

An old man with a great Santa-beard walks with a gimp and a blue eco-bag, lumbering up the slope. 9:30, a girl with a massive TI83 does homework on the edge of a plant bed. One girl lays prostrate on a bench, immersed in a book. A group of girls at a table chatter something difficult to make out above the incessant noise of the construction across the way – a whistle and a shout from the site. A street lamp knocked over, lying in the gravel.

There is buckling in the brickwork where the ground seems to lurch up – dirt and pebbles collect in the shallow valleys. I pass a deep trench of mud in the otherwise pristine grass; it’s 9:45 when a man with a guitar case passes. I stop to talk with a friend heading to work – she tells me about her anonymous Q & A sessions for her class; instead of geology questions she sends in drawings of dinosaurs, much to her TA’s frustration. She goes on ahead of me.

The fountain is off and the water stagnant and green. One girl coming up the stairs remarks “OOH that water’s nasty,” but it’s all the same to a crow perched on the edge of the fountain, who ruffles his cropped feathers. In the shade of the theater building, a man discusses the Johnny Carson show with a friend. A parked truck has some motorized device in tow – it churns out a low hum. The intersection of San Jacinto and 23rd is a practiced routine of hurried students half-jogging down the crosswalk as long lines of cars and buses wait for their turn to go. It’s hot and my clothes are beginning to stick like a second skin.

The bell tolls 10 when I make it to the Art building. “ST” is fingered into the dust on the sign labeled “ART” (it spells “START”). A construction worker inside screws a circuit board into the wall panel between the two bathrooms. Another worker walks by, happily humming an odd tune, and the vending machines whirr into life beside me. A sour-faced girl emerges from ARTL with a moleskine - I follow her upstairs.

Group Map-Katrina, Emily, Paige, Lauren

Refined Last Call Map

Monday, September 28, 2009

Michael's Mass Observation

10:00 AM

The door to my apartment is still broken. It can’t stop from opening on its own when shut, and a maintenance request seems to not have been the answer. I lock my door and make my way down the dimly lit corridor of my apartment. There are lighting fixtures on the wall, but not a single one has ever been turned on, so my walk in the dark is no surprise. I make my way down the stairs, avoiding the dirt layered railing. I count 12 beer cans and 4 can taps on my way to the front entrance of my building. This time tomorrow these cans will be gone to only be replaced by cans from tonight’s parties. Last night’s choice was Budweiser; I wonder what tonight’s could be?

10:05 AM

The 30 yard wide plot of grass in front of my building appears to have no life in it. There is a slight shade of green, but with all the dirt and dead patches, no one will ever notice. This, however, doesn’t seem to bother the Border Collie that is playing on it while on its morning walk. “Connie Let’s go back inside”, the owner yells from her first floor balcony, and like a soldier, the dog listens and retreats. Making my way through the parking lot I noticed that the car of choice seems to be a Honda Civic; I count 10. A Ford Prism is missing a window, but with glass clearly spread out on the floor, could this have been an accident or theft? Neither would surprise me. Ever curb in my complex appears to be a fire tow away zone, even in very obvious unnecessary areas. Are these spots really hazardous? The owner of a red Ford Focus must not think so, as they are parked in a clearly “hazardous” zone. The only bike on the bike rack seems to have been stripped of its handle bar, tires, and seat. The bike frames discoloration suggest it has been here a while. I come across more beer, this time empty bottles. A foul stench is surrounding the garbage bin to my right. The bin has been outfitted with the ID TDS-4211340. The number is located on the side facing a wall, so it’s safe to assume that the number could have meant something Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

some point, but is now a mere decoration. A girl, about 5’6’’, leaves her apartment building, and passes me wearing a Longhorn shirt. In a somewhat single file fashion, we both make our way to the bus stop. Hesitating at first, she decides to run after noticing the bus arriving and fixing to depart. I run as well and we both enter the bus from the north entrance.

10:15 AM

There are five girls sitting in the front, and five guys sitting in the back. Almost automatically I am compelled to take a seat in the back as to continue following the established flow within the bus. After taking my seat, I notice that everyone on this bus appears to be paying no attention to anything going on around them, as though stepping on the bus has made them oblivious to the world. As the bus begins to depart, the bus driver attempts a conversation with a girl in a black shirt near the front, but stops after getting no reaction from her. This same girl then turns to her friend on her left and begins a conversation with her with a little more enthusiasm. The bus makes a stop and the guy directly in front of me with blonde hair motions to get off the bus, but after realizing where he was again, sits back down. There are many posters on the walls of the bus, which I have never noticed or read. It seems as though placing a poster on a bus like this is like decorating a wall. The poster becomes ornamentation rather than a beacon of information. One of the girls in the front opens her backpack and takes out her iPod, and like dominoes, so do the 3 girls around her. In the ten minute drive to campus, not a single person has looked up. We make a left onto San Jacinto. First sign of movement: Boy in an orange t-shirt glances at a passing Toyota Tacoma. Today the bus decides to skip its first stop on San Jacinto. A look of confusion hits the blonde haired boy, who looked like he was planning on exiting the bus. Driving through campus, there is a crowd of students exiting the stadium to my right in a very sluggish manner, while a group of eager high school students on my left take a tour of the campus. The bus makes its final stop on 23rd street. I follow the blonde haired boy, who waits patiently on the steps inside the bus, while the girls, oblivious to his act of kindness, exit the bus.

10:26 AM

There is a man drinking a cup of coffee near the Daily Texan newspaper dispenser. Top Story: UT Begins $5 Million Dollar Budget Upheaval. He grabs one and walks off, almost being sideswiped by a departing UT shuttle bus. The man at the O’s CafĂ© stand smiles at a customer as she makes her purchase of coffee and bagel. The land sculpting/maintenance workers are hard at work, tending to the shrubs and trees to my left. One appears to be tired; there are sweat marks on his tan shirt. I pass the barely legible “Art Building” sign and make my way up the twenty seven steps to the Art Building. Construction within the building is still going strong, with the noise level at an all time high. One worker signals the other, who has a very angered look on his face, to go with him to the back. Both retreat as I make my way down the corridor, stopping as a group of students exit their class. Turning the corner I caught a conversation between two girls. Conversation: How to make a good cup of coffee. Two scoops of sugar seems to be the key ingredient in any good cup according to the girl who talked using her hands while she was making her point. After walking up a small flight of stairs and taking two lefts, I arrived at my class.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Soleckshaw

The Soleckshaw has recently been unveiled in India as a solution to India's congested roads and air pollution. With a carbon footprint of zero, the Soleckshaw is an eco-friendly alternative to motorized vehicles. It's modeled after the traditional rickshaw, but in an effort to revamp their downtrodden image, the Soleckshaw has been redesigned to include a 36-volt battery and 28 solar panels. As it is motor-assisted, there is less of a physical burden on the rickshaw puller. Since the Soleckshaw costs almost three-times as much as a traditional wooden rickshaw, India's Center for Rural Development, an organization that has been helping rickshaw pullers for years, along with India's government is coming up with a plan to guarantee loans to potential Soleckshaw drivers so they can purchase their own vehicles and then pay back the loan in daily installments of 30-40 rupees. Under the traditional rickshaw plan, rickshaw pullers must pay a daily rental fee, and most never get to own their own vehicle.

News story at the Times:

More technical details about the Soleckshaw:

More information about rickshaws, their pullers, their plight, and what is being done:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sarita Mass Observation # 1

Mass Observation # 1


Bus commute 4:10 pm

Upon my reaching the bus stop, people from various directions came running towards the bus in order to catch it before its quick departure. Students standing behind one another start to indirectly add pressure to pile into the bus, by hovering over the person in front of them. A cluster of students eagerly gathers around a line near the rear door of the bus to sneak in line for their opportunity to get into the bus. As a result, there is little room for people to exit the bus with ease.

Once I got into the bus, two seats remained empty in the back of the bus. I opted to sit in the front of the bus in an empty seat between an athletic male wearing a wrestling club t-shirt, and a female wearing a pair of Sofee shorts and a white tank with her backpack on her shoulders, hunched over while clasping her phone.

Soon after, the bus driver steps out of the bus for a break. All three people seated parallel to me, motion their heads towards the driver stepping out, and then pull out their ipods and phones and plug in their headphones. A boy sitting diagonally across from me looks at his phone and then outside at the bus driver who is pacing his steps in a straight line. After taking another glance at his phone, the boy gets up and exits the bus. Another boy wearing a UT Longhorn shirt and headphones hops into the bus soon after and sees the empty seat where the previous boy was sitting was now occupied by a blond-haired girl wearing a sorority t-shirt whose legs were crossed over with her white and maroon Jansport bag resting against her onto the seat next to her. She looked up at the boy wearing the Longhorn shirt and then turned her attention to look at her diamond studded watch.

The bus driver returned to his seat, kicked the brake loose, and hit the gas pedal while steering the wheel towards the middle of the road. At the back of the bus, the seats were occupied unevenly. A girl sat with her head looking down at a book folded over at its crease loosely enveloped in her hands.  Right next to her sat another girl with arms stretched out, taking quick glances at her book. Sitting directly across her was a girl in jeans and a white t-shirt looking straight ahead at the front of the bus in anticipation of the next stop.

At the next stop, a boy with crutches climbed the steep ramp at the front door of the bus. A girl seated on one of the handicap seats asked the boy, “do you want to sit here?” The boy replies back with a chuckle, “ya, actually”. The girl gets up and takes hold of the pole next to the handicap seats.

Walk commute 4:18 pm

As I exited the bus, I entered a mass of people saying, “excuse me” as they were slightly running each other as they walked in opposite directions. Two girls walking in front of me were talking to each other while maintaining a set distance between that seemed to spread them across the entire sidewalk. People behind them attempted to pass by their side, but failed and just took a step down onto the road, then sped past the girls and got back up onto the sidewalk.  Both girls were dressed in Nike shorts and shirts promoting social events. Both had cell phones tightly gripped in their hands and walked with an even stride as if their conversation led them to synchronize their walking pace.

Sarita's Mass Observation # 2

Mass Observation # 2


Bus Commute: 7:45 am

As I was approaching the bus stop, most students walking ahead of me looked back over their shoulders repeatedly to check if the West Campus(W.C) bus was in the vicinity. Each time they glanced over with a glimmer of hope, their eyes seemed to evoke an increasing eagerness. A brown curly-haired girl rest her belongings on the bench and stood in front of it while shifting her weight from one leg to the other. I stood by her, while getting slightly wet in the rain; because of having forgotten an umbrella and there being no roof at the bus stop to secure cover under.

Five minutes had past and there was still no sign of the bus. After seven minutes past I decided to walk the mile to the art building. But, as soon as I started to step away from the bus stop, the brown-haired girl mentioned that she had only been there for two or three minutes before I had arrived. She said this was her first time riding the West Campus bus. She usually drove her car to campus from a far location (not mentioned) and parked in East Campus from where she took the E.R. bus to class. She expressed it was inconvenient to return to her parked car in between classes, because the only option would be to take a long route with the E.R. bus. "It's so frustrating!" She exclaimed. At that moment she was attempting to figure out if the West Campus bus route would provide a more suitable option. 

Ten minutes past now. the brown-haired girl and I turned our heads towards the road, hoping for the arrival of the W.C bus. A girl with a tightly wrapped scarf steadily cycled past on the road in front of me. Several other students seemed cautioned by the rain and peddled along the long stretch of the road at a slow and steady pace. I grew eager as I didn't want to be late for class for the second time this week. I skimmed over the bus schedule posted on a pole to check the frequency of the bus during the morning commute. 

It listed: Time: 7am-9am      Frequency: 7 minutes

After thirteen minutes had past, I noticed the bus slowly creeping up the hill at the end of the road. The brown-haired girl exhaled a loud sigh of relief. As the doors swung open and I attempted to get on the bus, the platform seemed unusually higher off the ground. The platform required me to step onto it while forcibly thrusting my full body weight forward. 

The bus was densely packed near the doors and the front part of the bus. I quickly attempted to get a grasp of the black looped grips hanging off of the poles on the ceiling of the bus. As the bus driver kicked his leg off the break and stepped onto the gas peddle, everyone standing jerked backwards and quickly tried to regain a stable stance. A boy in a black hoodie and jeans next me struggled to gain a stance throughout the ride. While he kept a firm hold on the looped grips, his entire body rocked back and forth in place. His earlier sleepless and dull facial expressions seemed to have disappeared as he progressed to test the grip of the pole above the loops. He seemed to have failed again as he stumbled a few steps forward into the person in front of him and then back a couple. When the bus arrived at his stop, he cautiously took his steps towards the front door to exit. 

Bicycle Diaries

For most people, bicycles represent a means of transportation, a fun activity, or even objects of affection. For David Byrne they’re much more – they offer a unique opportunity to experience the culture, history, and vitality contained within our built environment. Due for release today, Bicycle Diaries is a freewheeling travelogue that finds Byrne pedaling through the cities of the world as he expounds upon architecture, infrastructure, and life within the world’s great cities.

According to Byrne: "Our values and hopes are sometimes awfully embarrassingly easy to read. They’re right there – in the storefronts, museums, temples, shops, and office buildings and in how these structures interrelate, or sometimes don’t… Riding a bike through all this is like navigating the collective neural pathways of some vast global mind“.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Travis Mass Observation

September 11, 2009

Walk from Apartment to Fine Arts Building

I leave my apartment at 11:00am and walk up 25th Street. There is a cool breeze. The ground is somewhat wet from the rain last night. I look up at the sky and am greeted by dark grey clouds. I mutter to myself “I hope it doesn’t rain”. I look around at the apartment buildings and see several people, probably students, scurrying out of them and heading east towards campus. I approach Leon Street and decide to take a right. Walking down this street, I notice the lack of a sidewalk and the excess of parked cars. Do I choose to walk in the street praying that I don’t get hit, or do I slog through the mud lamenting that I should be walking on a sidewalk? Then I see it; the gated backyard, the white house, the packed parking lot, the Greek letters, and the red plastic cups strewn in every direction - the pinnacle of college learning - a frat house. I decide to slog through the mud.

With my shoes caked with mud, I take a right onto 24th Street and head east, again toward campus. I notice a couple slowly walking west on the opposite side of the street. The girl is wearing a hoodie and carries a plastic bag with the CVS logo clearly stamped across it. The boy is walking his mountain bike, gripping it with both hands so the bike will not escape and roll down hill. My gaze upon them is suddenly interrupted by cars zooming by. I am startled for a moment but regain my composure and notice that most of the traffic is heading east on 24th Street.

Crossing San Gabriel I see a woman on the opposite side of the street exiting her car and trudging into Convenience Coin Laundry. Behind her is a bag so large that a human body could easily fit inside. This is when I realize that the majority of the people walking on 24th Street are on the opposite side of the street. As I continue my trek toward campus, many of the people are walking west, away from campus. Some of these people turn towards the University Towers private dorm, probably heading up to their rooms to rest for their midnight parties. I stop to observe the people on the other side of the street, when a boy wearing a dark grey shirt and a black backpack with long scruffy hair passes me in a hurry. I notice him for a second but at his pace, I doubt he noticed me. Once again my attention returns to the other side of the street where a large group of Asian girls walk slowly west on 24th Street. They are all talking and laughing at once in rather loud voices, but from a distance I cannot understand what is being said. They remind me of a cackle of birds by the way they continually hover around one another, all moving in a tight group. I really can’t make out any distinguishing features, except for one. One girl in the back of the flock is wearing a white knitted ski cap that bobs in unison with the rest of the group’s movements.

At that moment, two people walk past me. The first person is a girl wearing running shorts. She also has a white Jansports backpack with purple trim. As she scurries by, I notice that she is text messaging on her cell phone at an alarming pace. It amazes (and concerns) me how fast her fingers dance across her full keyboard, similar to a world-class piano player. It does not look humanly possible. The other person that passes is a boy wearing an Alpha Phi t-shirt and a small burnt-orange sack backpack with the Longhorn symbol emblazoned on it. He is also wearing black sunglasses; a peculiar choice since it is not bright out. He also has earphones on, listening to his ipod (which I surmise is emblazoned with the Longhorn symbol as well).

When I reach Rio Grande Street, the motor vehicle traffic increases. The pedestrian density on the sidewalks has also increased. As I cross Pearl Street, I pass in front of an UT Police car waiting to turn left on 24th Street. I decide to wave at him and to my surprise, he smiles and waves back. Continuing east on 24th Street, I pass a couple of guys standing and talking about signing a survey. In fact, upon closer inspection, I realize that one of them is the same guy with the grey shirt and long scruffy hair that rushed by earlier. As I maneuver past them, I decide to look up at the deck of Starbucks Coffee. I see several people drinking coffee and reading and another group of people dressed in similar black shirts with red trim talking business. I finally arrive at the crosswalk for Guadalupe Street and I wait for the light to change. The walk signal comes and I step onto campus at 11:42am. As I begin to walk across campus, I pass a church where a small group of children holding a blue rope step out. The children are all wearing matching green nametags on the backs of their shirts. Two middle age women, wearing matching white polos are supervising them. The two middle age women place themselves, one in front and the other behind the group of kids. The way that the kids are “bound” to the rope and flanked by the women reminded me of a chain gang from old-time movies.

Suddenly I feel raindrops hitting my bare skin. Yes, by 11:43am my worst fears for the day are realized. It begins to rain. Trying to protect my notepad from the rain, I look up to see a large group of people exiting Painter Hall from a lecture class that just ended. I cross the street because the sidewalk has been torn up due to construction on a new building and the large oak trees offer cover as the rain continues to ravage my notepad. As I stand, hiding under the oak trees I see how this part of 24th Street has become a “choke point” for all forms of transportation. Since the other side of the sidewalk has been torn up and blocked off for construction and the road has been blocked off by the construction workers, the only viable route down 24th Street is this stretch of sidewalk. This narrowing of the space creates an intriguing display of people, bikes and even cars weaving and dodging one another, all of them trying to occupy the same space at the same time.

At that moment a group of construction workers and a girl with a soon- to-be-common umbrella pass me. Seeing the girl carry her blue umbrella, I am now intrigued at how many people seem to suddenly be carrying umbrellas. I find a spot under the trees that seems to offer the most protection from the rain. After a minute or two, I count five umbrellas with colors like black, bright yellow, blue, pink, and one with black and white stripes. Just as I finish counting the umbrellas, another girl holding a black umbrella with bright pink trim passes me. I decide to continue my journey and I soon fall in behind a boy wearing a white t-shirt and a baseball hat with the Dallas Cowboys logo on it, he has the bill turned backwards. He is talking on his cell phone. Though I could not make out the complete conversation, I do hear the boy say, “Dude, it’s raining.” It’s amazing how we can communicate so much by saying so little. After passing the boy, a girl with long curly brown hair zips by me. Also talking on her cell phone, she is in a hurry but I can hear her trying to set up a lunch date with someone. As I cross Speedway, my notepad begins to look more and more like a Jackson Pollock painting with all of the ink being blended together by the rain. As I continue to battle the elements, a boy riding a long skateboard blasts down 24th Street. From the way he rides, it appears that he doesn’t even know it is raining.

I continue toward the Fine Arts building and I see several more construction workers. One is leaning against a small tree. He is wearing a green hard hat and is having a conversation with someone on his phone. Another worker is sitting on a stone bench on the opposite side of a chain-linked fence. He is wearing his orange construction vest and is eating what looks like a chicken salad. By about 11:50am I am a few feet from the Fine Arts Building and I decide to stop writing and put away my notepad, hoping all of my notes will still be legible.

Javier's Mass Observation

Sep11th Walk
It's September 11th 2009. It appears to have rained earlier this morning before my 8:00 AM commute. Grackles, mostly brown females, peck about in our front yard; they are still young with their short tails and pristine bodies. As they peck in their immediate space they seem aware of each other trying to keep a set distance, thus creating a strange moving geometry. Their moves are calculated. A blond woman with her hair pulled in a pony tail, from the 3rd house across from ours, gets in her white Honda. The vehicle moves slowly and clumsily like all cars at the beginning of their day. The woman inside seems haggard; she rubs her eye, turns the steering wheel and goes west. A man wearing glasses and a white t-shirt, 2 houses to the right of ours, stands on his porch; his hands are clutched and resting on his hips. He stands there looking down at a black woman, who is standing few meters away in his front yard. They appear to be talking about printers and printer repair. Meanwhile her grayish dog runs about the yard, it seems to have the need to relive itself, but seems unable to take any action. The man invites the woman inside his house. The lady on the Honda reappears going east looking more awake, but still with her mouth wide open as if still in a sleep like state. On the parking lot to the right of Mangia's a shortish man with a strawberry blond beard and spectacles unloads some boxes and looks at a man strutting across the parking lot with a pink yoga matt. He continues performing his task as the man vanishes from his sight. On the corner of 30th and Guadalupe a student arrives at the bus stop, he wants to sit, but this presents a challenge, for the bench requires some mechanical manipulation. Here you must flip an uncomfortable, spring operated, six -inch wide aluminum seat. He spends a few seconds figuring out the workings of the contraption. He manages to sit, but seems rather uncomfortable, as his buttocks is not in proportion to the seat. The scene is made more awkward as he has been doing this on his phone. He finally sits cross legged. The bus arrives seconds later and has to stand up. Across the street by the Wheatsville bus stop, a homeless man picks up a ragged bag from the bus bench; he fiddles violently with it and drops it. Upon closer observation the man is missing a hand. He makes a dangerous attempt at crossing the street. He seems to be having a conversation with the incoming traffic waving his arms and feet in a Soviet like march. About a hundred yards from where I’m standing a man stops by a trash bin putting a white cup of coffee on the rim of the receptacle; he lights a cigarette. He picks up his coffee and resumes walking with cigarette in mouth. As we pass each other I can see he is wearing a Boston cap. He nods, but I hesitate to retort as I am a Yankee fan. From my right on 29th emerges a guy wearing a brown and white horizontal striped polo shirt. He walks with his head down miraculously keeping his black rimmed glasses in place despite his strange head bob. He continues his walk and goes into a doughnut shop. The man and the store keeper laugh. I can tell this by their facial expressions, as the sound is impeded by store’s window front. The store keeper shows the man a doughnut; they laugh once again. A few yards ahead and across the street, a pair of girls walks north; these so far have been the only commuting pair. One of them, and Asian girl wearing a grey t-shirt and short shorts, is doing most of the talking. Her friend, a red head wearing tight black pants and a silky tube top, smiles, as her friend enthusiastically talks with both mouth and hands. Forty feet behind them on the Torchi’s parking lot, a middle aged man of the same fashion sense as the frat boys from frat house down the street, goes into his red, midsized, Chevy pick-up. He looks annoyed with a hint of desperation indicated by his blank stare, opens mouth and slightly raised right eye brow. From behind re-appears the doughnut man, passing by me walking in the same manner as before; that is looking down bobbing his head, but this time with mouth full of doughnut. He takes a bite. His bob contains enough force to enable him to wrip off a piece. He carries with him a white paper bag containing a fresh supply of more food. It must be that through recording my observations, my pace has slowed down, for I am now being passed by two other fellows. One of them wears a brown plaid shirt. His bald head shimmers with sweat. His upper back is bowed downwards. He seems oblivious to his surroundings. On 24th street, to the side of Welch, a group of four construction workers get off an electric cart. They all have neon yellow vests and white construction hats .They look about and around as if thinking of their immediate space, their movements seem to have a purpose. Two of them look at the other two, there is a strange geometry here. They stay there still for less than a second all looking at each other. They then turn towards Welch carrying some equipment. The remaining two look at the two drivers, who by some imaginary gesture, are signaled to look back to safely turn around. I sit on a bench and see the construction across the street. A similar behavior occurs here. Workers look at each other and their immediate space. A worker gets on top of the bed of a 5 ton truck, looks around and sees another worker at the end of the truck who happens to be looking at his peer on top of the truck. A third is watching them two and his immediate space. I remember I need to go to class and thus suspend further observation, thus becoming part of the observed.

Stephanie Osan Mass Observations

Morning of September 2nd, my apartment to campus

Almost no one stirs as I cycle out of my apartment complex’s parking lot. Two students, walking, cross paths. The female looks up from the book she is reading. A curly haired biker passes and looks at me. He wears sunglasses but no helmet. Many of the girls wear sandals; I wonder if they are rubbing blisters. The sun is in my eyes, so I stop at the stop sign (a rare occurrence) to put on shades. There are many dog walkers out at this hour. A fellow biker carries his supplies in a backpack. Mine are in a crate over my rear wheel. Students eat breakfast as they walk—smoothies, bagels, coffee. The sun is hot on my back. The road is cracked and uneven, particularly along the curb where I ride. Pedestrians do not wait until they reach the corner of a street to cross—but do so whenever and wherever it seems safe. Soapy water trickles in the street; it is coming from Cain and Abel’s—I hope I don’t splash a girl I’m passing. A biker avoids waiting at the street light by turning up onto the sidewalk. There is no longer a bike lane when I turn onto 24th, and a car honks at me. I cannot honk back at the car. Both the biker behind me and I choose not to observe the red light as a sign applicable to us, changing our alliance from the car to the pedestrian. People cross intersections even when it is not their turn. A car does not come to a full stop at the stop sign and whips out in front of me. At a four way stop inside campus, bicycles do not stop. Neither does a skateboarder. I could not imagine walking in this heat, particularly in jeans. I am thankful for the breeze a bicycle provides. A University of Texas truck pulls up six inches away from where I am stopped (by the curb) writing. I am nervous he will try to tell me I am doing something illegal. More irritatingly, he has blocked me in, and to continue on, I have to dismount. As I approach the blockage on 24th, pedestrians seem to jump out at me from behind the parked cars lining the street. Because of the roadblock, I take the sidewalk, but I am not sure this is legal. I vaguely remember a sign about NO biking (and skateboarding) on the sidewalk. Pedestrians make for slow cycling and lots of weaving. The crossing at 24th and Speedway is chaotic, but it is not as bad now as it typically is at midday. Small electric university cars are brought into the mix of traffic—one also goes up the sidewalk on 24th? Presumably because of the blockage. There is a police officer stopping street traffic at the end of 24th, where it joins San Jacinto to allow an ambulance to turn around. Consequently, there is a back up of three miniature UT cars. As I wait for the delay to clear, I notice that many walkers wear earphones—can they hear the traffic, or do they rely on their sight to keep them safe? An SUV almost backs into me near the art building. I arrive at the bike racks at the same time a UT bus pulls up, declaring: “Route: West Campus, Please do not walk in front of the bus. Por Favor! No cruce en el frente del autobus!” And then the overpowering hum of the engine, as I lock up my bicycle.

Afternoon of September the 3rd, campus to my apartment

Waiting for the bus at the Art Building is an experience that happens in the sun. A girl shades herself with an umbrella, and inadvertently jabs a woman walking towards her—she was flirting with a boy next to her. Apparently, the umbrella-clad girl did not notice that she was blocking the whole sidewalk.

The noise of a bus is overwhelming. The girl next to me speaks on her cell phone in Spanish. Several people stand, swaying with the motions of the bus—they do not hold the canvas hanging straps; they hold the metal poles. Other women converse in Spanish. A boy studies a book. He awkwardly avoids elbowing his neighbor when he takes out a pencil to write notes. Several blondes listen to iPods and stare blankly out of the windows. A girl with a nose ring and exposed cleavage texts. Two females and a male leave without saying thank you to the driver. When the bus stops and people flood on, a girl chooses to stand rather than try to squeeze into a middle seat at the front—the seat remains vacant, even though over five people are standing. No one offers his or her seat for anyone else. A girl, bleached blonde hair, takes up two seats—one for herself, one for her bag. The entire frame of the bus shakes as the driver accelerates again. The tissue of my cheeks matches the bus’s vibrations.

I thought the girl next to me was speaking Spanish, but really she was speaking Hindi. The Spanish came from elsewhere. A boy with a white UT hat keeps his mirrored aviators on, even though the windows are tinted and it is not sunny inside.

The seats, although they appear padded, are really just carpeted. My body does not fit well in them at all, and I wonder if anyone’s body sits comfortably. People hold their bags on their laps, as there is no room for them elsewhere. An African American male doesn’t remove his bag from his back as he sits.

A man offers his seat to an art student carrying her portfolio. She politely declines. She holds her supplies between her legs as she stands.

A loud, humming noise pervades all other bus noises. It’s causing a strange vibration in my ears.

Now I am standing because I believe I am nearing my stop. Unfortunately, the pull chord is out of my reach. I either have to lean over the seated passengers to request a stop, or ask one to pull the cord for me. I lean over.

After the bus has pulled over, I exit. As the bus pulls away, I realize that I got off the bus too early. I have never taken the bus to my new apartment before now. I continue the journey on foot, as it makes more sense to walk to my fairly nearby apartment than to wait for the next West Campus bus to come. 


Robbie's Second Mass Observation (Car)


Today a friend picked up my roommates and I from an apartment complex in the area of Austin known as “West Campus.” The apartment was at 25th and Leon Street, and it was called “The Block.” We needed a ride because we took a UT shuttle from our place on Riverside (1300 Crossing Place) on Friday night that didn’t run on Saturday, and so we had no transportation home. We could have taken a taxi, but we wanted to spend as little money as possible, since we were going out to eat on the way home. It was raining constantly when she arrived at about 1:15 PM. When we got into the car, we talked about how it was difficult to see the lanes on the road, especially with the pooling rainwater. She had parked on the wrong side of the road thinking it to be a one-way street.

We weren’t sure what our destination was at first. We all wanted food but no one could decide where to go. Driving in the rain is stressful enough on its own; with no direction it’s even worse. At a stop sign, we waved the car stopped across from us through the intersection, to buy time to figure out where we wanted to go. I ended up making a snap decision on where to eat, and we pulled into the parking lot. Unfortunately we had to park in a spot that wasn’t very close to the door, so we got wet as we made our way inside.

When we were finished with our meal, at around 2:30 PM, our friend (the driver) offered to bring the car up to the door so that we didn’t have to walk in the rain. As we drove home, standing water on the road and reduced visibility forced the driver to slow down. She was afraid of hydroplaning. The other traffic was also moving slower than normal. The constant drizzle and swinging windshield wipers had a hypnotizing effect, which grew stronger in conjunction with the grey light emanating from the clouds. Large puddles on the road became distractions as cars plowed through them in giant splashes. When traffic lights changed from red to green, most cars hesitated before cautiously accelerating. Traffic on the highway was thick, moving steadily forward at a moderate speed. We merged in without any problem. It seemed that most drivers chose to use the highway despite the inclement weather. It did not appear that the weather impacted the number of people on the road—traffic seemed average or perhaps slightly above average.

As a passenger I did feel slightly more nervous than usual, simply because I wasn’t in control of the car and wasn’t sure how experienced my friend was at driving in rain. I kept my attention focused on the road, trying to be prepared for any accident or unexpected situation that might arise. I did not see anything like that happen on our trip. I was slightly annoyed by the slow speed that the rainy conditions demanded, because it increased our travel time by at least fifty percent. We arrived home at about 3:00 PM.

Robbie's First Mass Observation (Bus)


Today I had lunch at Texadelphia on the drag (Guadalupe Street). After finishing my meal, I needed to get from the drag to the east side of campus, where the art building was. I could have walked; that’s how I got to the restaurant in the first place. But, because my class started in less than a quarter of an hour, and also because it was quite hot outside—I knew if I rushed to class on foot I’d be uncomfortably hot and sweaty when I got there—I decided to use the Forty Acres bus. I still had to walk to the nearest Forty Acres bus stop, located where the West Mall meets Guadalupe Street. I saw the bus approaching the stop when I was still a good distance away, so I crossed the street before I got to the designated crosswalk and ran towards the bus. I was the last one on the bus before it began to head towards the next stop.

On that stretch of the journey I was standing just behind the yellow line that divides the driver’s area from that of the passengers. The bus was completely full, but not uncomfortably so. I noticed that from where I was standing, I could see out the front windshield into the street and keep track of where the bus was heading and what was in front of us. However, a drawback to my extremely frontal position in the bus was that I was not at a place where I could see the clock—it was behind me, above my head, and out of my view.

The first stop the Forty Acres bus made lasted for what seemed to me to be an inordinately long time. This feeling was certainly exacerbated by the rapidly approaching start of class at 1:00 PM. As passengers got off the bus I was able to snag one of the sideways-facing seats in the front section. I noticed a girl get on the bus being led by a dog—I could tell by the harness it was wearing and her tentative motions that she was visually impaired. As the dog directed her to an empty seat, she reached out in front of her and gently felt for a place to sit. At first she inadvertently touched a male passenger’s knee; soon she had located the empty seat next to him and carefully sat down. As she sat, her guide dog parked itself under the seat. The handle of its harness bumped into the girl sitting beside her, and she quickly apologized. I noticed that most people around her kept silent as she tried to take her place on the bus, yet looked uncomfortable or awkward as she made an effort to do so. I marveled that she was even able to use public transportation—how did she know where the bus stops were? Was it not extremely disorienting to be dropped off in a new location without knowing which direction to head in to reach your destination? Her presence led me to pay closer attention than normal to the automated/computerized bus voice, checking its announcements for accuracy. I found it to be satisfactory, though not very specific—it announces the intersection of the upcoming stop and what other buses that stop is a transfer for, but not where those buses pick up. It was unclear whether you had to make a trek to a different stop to catch those other buses.

I was dropped off at the intersection of 23rd and San Jacinto, about two minutes after my class had already started. I rushed to the Doty Fine Arts building and made it to the classroom without having missed too much of the lecture. I was disappointed to have been late, but glad that I wasn’t uncomfortably warm as I would have been had I walked.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lauren's Mass Observations

Mass Observation 1
Bike commute from campus to apartment, 9/15/09

"Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on!"

A girl wearing a burnt orange UT shirt runs in the direction of the West Campus bus while talking on the phone. I turn to unlock my bike and fumble for a bit, feeling a northerly breeze ruffle my hair. A man wearing a black Harley Davidson shirt and woman wearing black leather pants walk hand in hand approaching 23rd street. I watch the Forty Acres bus allow them to cross and I mount my bike headed north towards Dean Keeton.

Ahead of me near the stop sign at 24th street, I can see a young man riding the opposite direction towards me in a bright turquoise t-shirt. He's booking it. Right before we collide he maneuvers swiftly to the right as if he had planned the encounter. I glance behind me and see a plant peaking out of his half-zipped bag like it's trying to jump ship. I halt for the red light at Dean Keeton and observe several construction workers to my right patching the sidewalk. I smell water but can't discern if it's the hose they are using to smooth the cement, or the sky, which has become increasingly dark with the prospect of rain. I anticipate the green light and proceed (illegally) with the rest of my commute.

As I approach Clown Dog bike shop, I decide to stop and air up my back tire because it feels like it's lagging. While I pull up, a woman is walking demurely with a baby in her arms. She smiles at me as I dismount and continues on. I decide to pump up both tires for insurance and feel the pressure in each with my thumb to make sure they are even. I press on heading north. At 30th street, a man is paying for parking at a new pay station. He wears a cast on his right arm that matches the blue "P" on the side of the station. As I approach a four way stop a new mother pushes a stroller while simultaneously tangling the leash of the dog she is walking. As she slowly crosses the street I look past her and observe a student climbing up the stairs to his apartment with a bike slung over his shoulder.

My turn arrives and I start to pump while standing in order conquer the small incline and clear the intersection quickly. I pass the fire station out of breath as the smell of mexican food escapes from Trudy's and hits me in the face like a wall; so strong I feel like I'm eating it. I take a right onto Hemphill and immediately after, pass a yellow taxicab. Down the street a man sits on a bench with his dog, enjoying the newly rejuvenated creek. I take a left up a gravel alley to reach 38th, and after waiting for traffic to clear, cross over into the parking lot of my apartment. I dismount and swing my bike up the two large steps of the entrance, startling a girl smoking outside her apartment.

Mass Observation 2
Drive from girlfriend's apartment to Big Lots, 9/18/09

It's exactly 1:17PM when me and my girlfriend leave her apartment. She shoves her foot in the doorway as she closes it behind her in order to prevent the cats from escaping. She jingles her keys around, searching until she finally grasps onto the gold one, the right one. All of the rest fall out of her hand and dangle from the silver carabiner as she twists her wrist assertively to the left, locking the door. The gravel glistens with a slight sheen as we descend the stairs and walk towards her car.

I pull on the handle of the passenger car door prematurely several times in an impatient manner until finally it unlocks with a "click." I take a seat, shut the car door, and instinctively reach behind me to pull the seat-belt across my body and observe another "click," signifying that I'm securely fastened. I hear the ignition and we pull out of her apartment complex on Avenue B towards 45th street. We don't have to wait long at the stop sign before we are able to make a left turn. At the Walgreens on the corner of Guadelupe, a middle aged blonde woman dressed in knee high white socks, pouffy denim shorts, and a pale pink shirt smokes a cigarette on the bench. Across the way there are several people waiting for the 1L/1M bus, including a blind man, who stands displaced slightly from the covered bench and the rest of the crowd. We take a right heading north on Guadelupe and pass a 7-11 near 51st. Outside an old silver Cadillac with large chrome rims is parked right beside the air pump, and nearby a young asian couple waits to cross the busy intersection. It's Friday at lunchtime and traffic is bad. Cars drive like sardines down the street, trying to make it to their destination. A white SUV weaves through traffic aggressively up ahead, making surrounding cars anxious. It turns onto a small side street before causing any harm.

As we approach Koenig, three homeless people are stationed holding cardboard signs, each at a different median. One in particular holds my attention. He is confined to a wheelchair and appears to be badly sunburned, despite the fact that he wears a hat. His clothes aren't wet, but I can tell by the color and shape of the dirt stains that they once were. I have thoughts of the man sitting in the rain as we pass the police station and DMV. There is a sea of police cars parked in front and several men in uniform appear to be in training near the building's entrance. Stopped at a red light near Justin St, three hispanic males stand outside Quicky Tattoos complacently. One of them wears a plaid cut off shirt marked with paint and dirt. He talks on the phone while the other two smoke under the shade of the awning.

The light is green again and shortly after passing Airport Blvd we make a right into the parking lot of Big Lots. We traverse two unsubstantial speed bumps before finding a spot right in front of the store. I release my seat belt, open the car door, and immediately smell sandwiches. I had forgotten there was a Subway next door.

Mass Observations: One man, Two journeys

September 15th 10:27

Before opening my truck door I scan the parking for anyone else who is about to depart from the apartments. The parking lot consists of two parallel rows of parking slots, and it seems like only half of them are being used. I place my car in reverse, being aware of the maintenance truck that is illegally parked behind me in the fire lane as I pull out. I am cautious as I turn around the corner heading toward South Congress. The construction crates and trees make it hard to see cars entering the lot. The speed bumps toward the exit reduce my speed significantly; hitting them hard causes my truck’s frame to shake. Breaching the edge of South Congress, I check both ways before crossing into the bike line.

The morning rush hour is over so the turn onto South Congress is hassle-free. Making my way toward Oltorf, I notice several people waiting for the bus. By association of their accessories, most of the people waiting for the bus were shoppers at the nearby H.E.B. Walking toward the Oltorf light was a woman pushing an elderly woman in a chrome wheelchair. Two fixed gear bikers pass between me and several commercial work trucks to get at the front of the right hand lane. This makes me happy, I’m in the left hand lane and won’t have to wait for the bikes to pick up speed.

Continuing down hill on South Congress, most of the cars in the same traveling pack are doing 40 on the 35 mile per hour road. There is less anxiety at this time because the side of the street parking is nearly vacant. This alleviates the stress that comes from anticipating any cars suddenly pulling out onto the street and any pedestrians making a dash across the road. Approaching the condominiums on South Congress, I start to see a lot more people jogging. Watching their stride forces me to notice the condition of the roads - cracked and tar laced. The slight increase and decrease in the elevation of these ground faults are just enough to interrupt the smoothness of my ride. Passing Barton Springs Street I am now traveling over the bridge and coming face to face with the wall of high-rise condominiums, hotels, and office buildings that make up downtown.

Through multiple trial and errors it has become habit for me to switch into the middle lane because it is most of all three lanes. The left lane has no green arrow, so one car needing to make a left hand turn at Ceasar Chaves Street could hold up the entire lane for one traffic light session. The right lane seems optimal due to its emptiness but is also a mainstream lane for buses: at some point you will be inconvenienced. Driving through downtown most of the automobiles obey the speed limit. This is most likely due to the abrasive increase in sources of tension such as cyclist, pedestrians, oversized buses and massive buildings that distort your peripherals. As I watch a black homeless male wave his arms in the air by a bus bench, I nearly run into the side of a trolley. Observing others’ interactions with the city can be very distracting. I come to the light at 11th Street and watch as several Sigway riders cross the street. The lady in the car next to me smiles at them as they pass. I check for oncoming traffic and proceed to make a right hand turn on a red light. Immediately I forget that between the hours of 7a.m. to 7p.m. you are not allowed to make turns on a red light. My awareness for cops is heightened, wanting to spot them before they spot me, as if it would save me from a citation.
The lack of traffic makes my traveling through 11th and onto Trinity effortless. I make a complete stop at the first stop sign on Trinity due to its history of police surveillance. I notice a homeless man is riding his bike in the opposite direction of the street but still in a bicycle lane. While trying to question the legality of his path I realize there is a bag of cans strapped to his back that is twice the size of him.
Confused by the isolation of the right hand lane, I make an illegal lane change to the left by crossing two solid lane dividers. Waiting for the light change to drive through campus, I notice peculiar acts of human behavior. A man who is jogging straightens his posture as he crosses the street. A girl exchanges nasty looks with two boys that blatantly check her out as they cross paths. Continuing into campus, I am waved through by the guard without effort. I am sure he probably mistakes me for a construction worker (I am a Mexican male in a scratched up pick-up truck). There are a small amount of students walking through campus – I must have arrived during a class period.
I am patient at the crosswalk intersection of 21st and San Jacinto Blvd. I wait as many of the pedestrians on both sides of the road carelessly walk past the waiting cars. I congenially press forward slowly pass the crosswalks. I want to be respectfully but at the same time feel the pressure of traffic behind me. Similar to the street parking off of South Congress, the parking along San Jacinto is an area of risk as students and cyclists spontaneously pop out from behind vehicles. Approaching the intersection of 23rd and San Jacinto I play the same traffic game as I did at 21st. Now looping around toward the back of the Art building I significantly reduce my speed as a reaction to the neon colors of the construction area. I pull up the loading dock slope and throw on my blinkers as instructed by the sign. I have a pending parking ticket and cannot afford another boot on my truck.

September 19 3:45 pm

It is a warm afternoon when I arrive at the front of Ayham’s house on 31st and Guadalupe. I exit my car and pull my fixed gear bicycle out of the bed. I place it on the ground and begin to fasten my backpack tightly to my chest. I mount my bike and look behind me before I start peddling – a fixed gear has no conventional brakes so I always exercise extreme caution. Making my way toward Guadalupe St. I notice the poor condition of the road. Its cracks and bumpy mortar provide an uncomfortable ride for my narrow tires.

I approach the end of the street with a reduced speed to peak around the building that is too close to the road, blocking my view of traffic. The oncoming traffic causes me to pull out of my pedal straps and wait to enter a free lane. A man left to me, sitting on the bumper of a white van, looks at me uninterestedly and turns his head. A couple to the right of me holds hands and talks to each other through smiles.

Traffic smoothes out and I begin to peddle on the right hand lane. I still have yet to master flipping my pedal upright to slide my foot in immediately. This always alarms me because out of frustration I begin to watch my struggle instead of the road. Both feet in their straps, I start to pedal toward the left lane. I am forced to stay in it rather than moving all the way over to the median because several cars are parked waiting to turn. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but a suburban is insisting on letting me know how slow I am going by tailgating me.

I make a quick left onto 30th Street and begin to proceed downhill. My first causes for concern are the parked cars that line the Trudy’s on 30th. Like campus, I have to be careful of opening doors and pedestrians who spontaneously intersect the bike lane. On top of the spontaniety, I have to alternate with the gravel that collects on the side of the road (a.k.a the bike lane). I catch looks from three brown-haired and bearded guys and a runner who waits for me before crossing the road with his blood hound.

Now pedaling uphill, I start to reach the more residential area of north campus. People going to and from school by way of bike and walking are a lot more present. Here the cars are substituted for blue trash cans and debris that clutters to the side of the road. Heading back downhill toward San Jacinto, I reduce my speed and start looking in all directions for cops. Seeing that none are present in sight, I begin to roll pass the stop sign and begin to dodge the deep cracks and potholes that make up the intersection. After the dilapidated intersection the roads becoming increasingly smooth and optimal for bike riding. I pass Clown Dogs bike shop where I am always greeted with a wave and a nod.

Making my way toward the intersection of Dean Keeton and San Jacinto, I begin to slow down due to the presence of flashing police lights. A vehicle being pulled over causes me to dismount my bike and wait for the light change; rather than weaving through traffic to avoid standing in the sun. The light changes and I pedal toward the art building. Even though a girl was illegally crossing the street, she still shoots me a nasty look as I nearly run into her. Continuing down San Jacinto I once again look for cops and then roll through the stop sign at the expense of their absence. Now at the art building, I dismount and head up stairs to class.