Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The problem with Voter ID laws

The SCOTUS struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, informing us that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in the U.S. Within hours, Texas immediately began working to pass voter ID legislation that was struck down by the courts less than a year ago for being unfairly discriminatory towards poor and racial minorities.

Cobbled & copy/pasted from a few different news sources:

  • Texas grew by 4 million people over the past decade (2010 U.S. census). Roughly 90 percent of that growth was attributed to minorities, and Latinos alone accounted for 65 percent of the population growth. (link)
  • Recent studies show that 25% of voting age African-Americans in the United States do not possess a government-issued photo ID, while only 8% of voting age whites lack such identification. (link)
  • 600,000 registered voters lack a driver's license or another form of government identification. (link)
  • Eighty-one Texas counties have no DPS office, and 34 more have offices that are open two days per week or less. DPS offices are not open late for the convenience of working people, meaning they’ll have to take time off and sometimes travel far to get a certificate that will allow them to vote. (link)
  • DPS will issue free Election Identification Certificates. But to get one, the D.C. court found, “applicants will have to present DPS officials with a government-issued form of ID, the cheapest of which, a certified copy of a birth certificate, costs $22.” (link)

This is, in effect, a poll tax. Requiring the working poor, legally registered voters, to take time off work to travel far, stand in hours-long lines, and pay for these IDs is untenable.

There are no documented instances of the type of voter ID fraud that such laws endeavor to prevent.

This is overtly classist, racist, disablist (and even ageist) discrimination.

Though photo ID is necessary for many other transactions, there are 600,000 legally registered voters who don't have it and don't need it in their day-to-day life. They may have used their SS card for work, or they may be non-drivers, elderly,* and/or dependents on other family members. They may be disabled.* They may have no means of transportation to the DPS. They may have to choose between feeding their children and now paying for photo IDs to exercise their legal right to vote.

If you think these are paltry excuses, you seriously need to check your fucking privilege. Six hundred thousand voters being denied their rights is no small matter.

*There are provisions to allow mail-in voting for legally disabled and people over 65, but not for the physically disabled who do not have legal status of it or for the elderly who aren't elderly enough, regardless of their health, ability, or finances.


Additional reading:

". . . as many as 15 percent of Americans making less than $35,000 a year lack a photo ID, as do 18 percent of senior citizens." (link)

"The reason voter impersonation fraud is so rare is that it is an incredibly stupid and inefficient way to rig an election." and "The greatest irony of the new crop of voter ID laws is that they do nothing to combat the more frequent problem of absentee ballot fraud." (link)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Who wears short shorts?

I am sick to the teeth of one of my purportedly feminist Facebook friends' (in a position of authority) yearly rants about short shorts. I pointed out that it is straight-up slut shaming and body shaming, which she repeatedly refutes.

Your problem with others' clothing choices is just that: your problem. Maybe you find bottoms offensive; in Korea, they find bare shoulders and decolletage offensive. Some cultures find bare heads obscene. That doesn't make your opinion fact. It is not anyone else's job to dress in ways that please you.
You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female."
And let it be known that I will be shamelessly sporting silver lamé hot pants at tomorrow's race. Better call the fashion police!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Take your chivalry and shove it.

I'm growing increasingly irritated at men who open and hold doors for me at my office building. Too often they hold the door when I'm still several yards out and not about to hurry up in high heels. Thanks for making it awkward, guy.

And then this morning, one rushed up behind me after I'd already let myself in the first set of doors, apologized overmuch for not getting them because they were heavy (uh . . . for a toddler, maybe?), and pushed in front of me to open the next set. Wtf? Your "chivalry" is misplaced, condescending, and irritating as fuck.

Hold doors for people irrespective of gender when it's convenient because it's polite. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Imperfect metaphors

Some days I still can’t run a mile without walking, but I’m registered for a 6-miler in November and minded to try for a half--13.1 mi--in December. Those are big, scary, ouchy numbers. But I have to remember to take it one mile, one day at a time.

The joy of using imperfect metaphors for training: My dad taught me to only see the slope 20 yards directly in front of me and plan out one turn at a time . . . as he coaxed teen Mon crying down a double black diamond slope he never should have taken her up. Like a foot race, I had no choice but to finish the run and try really hard not to break every bone in my body. Or maybe that’s not like a foot race after all, but the point is: take it one step-turn at a time. And the only way out is through.

Which is two points, really. And I guess you don’t actually *have* to finish a race, but I do. A year ago, I sprained my foot a mile into the Gladiator Rock n Run, but I didn’t know it was sprained and thought maybe I could walk it off, so I finished the remaining three miles and then it swelled up like a fruit, or something, and I couldn’t walk for a couple days or run for 2+ months. (I prefer stubborn over stupid.)

Which is not unlike my first race ever, which was an optional event on a weekend trip that took place a shortly after I slipped on water on marble stairs in a dark stairwell (because who needs codes or safety in Asia, right?) and sprained my ankle pretty bad and still had to walk a mile each way every day to work. I could have sat it out with the non-runners and waited for everyone else to finish, but what fun would that be and when else would I ever get to run across uneven, sucking mud flats baking in the summer sun, right? Anyway, I had a decent little cloth ankle brace that would protect me as needed, right? So I jogged a little and walked a lot, sloshed and stomped, and deliberately jumped and splashed in the deepest puddles, and eventually, in a little less than an hour, I cantered across the finish line where a volunteer placed a shiny dun, mud-crusted finisher’s medal around my neck. It was a “Booyah, I earned that!” moment.

I ran a half once before (or mostly, because there was inclement weather and the organizers kept stopping us along the course to take shelter and shortened the course by a half mile before I finished), and I can do it again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Risks of Writing

Olivia wrote a lovely piece that I identify with about the risks of writing what we do:
"So visibility is important to me. I am a relatively successful and well-adjusted individual. I want others to see that someone they might view as extremely put together actually has a mental illness. I am not the stereotype of mental illness, and it’s important for people to see that. But perhaps most important to me, more than any of these other things, I want to be a voice that other people in similar situations can hear and talk to. If I can help one other individual understand their illness better, be inspired to get help, gain the confidence to talk to me, feel more comforted that they can get better, or find something of help in my posts, then it will be worth it. If I can in any way diminish the suffering of another person, or help someone head off their illness before it gets too serious, then Sweet Sagan will I be proud of myself. My potential job prospects are nothing in comparison to what this could do for other people."

"I have known for my whole life that if I can make this world a better place that is something that I want to do, perhaps even something that I need to do. I have a strong drive to make meaning in my own life, and the only way that I know how to do that is to try to improve the quality of life for all human beings. In addition, addressing issues like bias and bigotry in our culture affects all of us. It will help improve my own quality of life (something I’m fairly invested in) as well as the quality of life of those around me, people I am often friends with and whom I care about. I don’t want to sit back and let other people dictate the cultural climate around me. I want to be active, and advocate for the things I care about through my own life, and through my activism. I absolutely despise the idea of giving up any amount of power or control I have over my own life. If I were to give up speaking openly about issues that affect me, I would be giving up the power I have to affect change."

Friday, June 7, 2013

To Loose Weight

I love this phrase, I really do. Every time I read about someone's determination to loose weight or battle to loose weight, I picture them slicing open their own belly to set free flying adipose creatures into the world.

Be free!

And who can be irritated and pedantic with such amusing images in her head?

I wish the Hyperbole and a Half artist would tackle this one like she did Alot.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Can't Nobody Hold Me Down

How I became a runner

When I was 19, I could barely walk without limping, and usually did, after my sixth and final season of marching band, combined with previous years of soccer and bad luck in my musculoskeletal development that led to crooked, inflamed, creaky knees. My doctor prescribed physical therapy I couldn't afford and recommended in horrifying and graphic detail the steroid shots that could be injected beneath the kneecap and further surgical procedures if necessary. I was sent home with a thick, hot, heavy, ill-fitting knee brace that nonetheless eased my joint pain and made it easier to walk, no matter the buckets I sweat beneath it, my skin chafing and blistering all Texas-summer long. The doctor had pointed out the muscle in need of strengthening to support smoother knee movement, and I managed on my own to replicate the exercises needed for it, primarily by using an elliptical machine in reverse. Luckily I had a membership to the glorious campus recreation center.

The impact of running and the popping of bending and flexing my knees in the pool or on a bike hurt too much to pursue. But I managed to get myself walking at least, with manageable pain most days, and wore the brace to mitigate frequent flare-ups every few weeks, resigning myself to early arthritis and praying for technological advances to give me magical robot knees someday.

In 2010, I joined the Hash House Harriers, a self-styled drinking club with a running problem, while I lived in South Korea and walked the trails with the women of the group, glad for the chance to socialize. It wasn't long before model-esque marathon runner Countesstall, slender, and always smiling—cajoled a few of us into registering for a 10K race, and much of our group peer-pressured one another into joining. The date was far enough out to reasonably train, and we began running together, sharing our progress, and providing support and words of encouragement for each other. I was lucky enough to live near a lovely dirt trail, which made it a lot easier to run than on pavement or through traffic along short blocks without sidewalks. My doctor would have balked, I'm sure.

I had a chance to run an untimed 5K across the mud flats of Boryeoung at the Mud Festival that summer but had to plan on sitting it out since slipping on a wet marble staircase and twisting my ankle. I couldn't stand to just watch and did it anyway in sock feet so as not to lose my sneakers to the sucking muck. I couldn't run, especially under the hot coastal sun, but I walked and skipped, jumped, splashed, and giggled maniacally in the biggest puddles. It must have taken 50 minutes or more, but I sure as hell earned my finisher's medal. And I was desperately grateful for the chance to float off my feet with the cool water soothing my ankle as a balm when I swam later at the beach.

A few months later the race took place near the DMZ, on roads that wound through golden farmland betwixt stunning navy mountains on a cool, foggy morning with water on the ground and in the air from a previous rain. I ran alone, my pace too different from any of my friends', and we all completed it, high-fiving as we passed each other at the turnaround and waiting at the finish line to cheer, more than one crossing with tears in her eyes.

That Christmas I received a pair of Vibram toe shoes and waited impatiently for weeks for the ice to melt from the sidewalks and my dirt trail so I could safely run again. The trail was about 3 miles with a half mile extension from it, and one day I thought to myself, What the hey? and decided to try a second lap. I started slow and made a point of giving myself permission to walk most of it if I needed to . . . but I didn't. I ran the whole 7 quite comfortably and began doing it more frequently, eventually running a half marathon May 2011.

And I've been free of knee pain for years since I started using the Vibrams, excepting after races on pavement, which always enrage my knees and hips. These days I sign up for more mud runs than road races. The obstacles range from simple to tough and are difficult to train for, always presenting an enjoyable and exhausting challenge come race day. I never dreamed I'd be a runner.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Can Men and Women be Just Friends?

The answer is: not if either party is married because there is nothing to be gained from friendship with the opposite gender* except advice on attracting a mate, or making that friend your mate.

According to Brett McKay from The Art of Manliness (I swear I did not even make that up):
"And while opposite-sex friendships can provide benefits, those benefits really only apply to singles. Your guy friend can provide insights into how the male mind works, which may help you navigate your romantic life more successfully. Or—perhaps an unexpected benefit—an opposite-sex friendship could evolve into a fulfilling romantic relationship. Many solid marriages begin from a solid friendship."
Instead of planning to regularly communicate with your spouse about mutual needs and expectations and respecting the boundaries you establish together, you really ought to defriend everyone the same gender as your spouse. Or if you're bisexual, I suppose, don't have any friends. Ever.
"Sadly, my wife and I know a few people—both men and women—who ended up cheating on their spouses with a close opposite-sex friend when the above scenario played out. These people were ardent proponents of the idea that men and women can still be friends, even while married . . . right up until those friendships destroyed their marriages."
Personal responsibility is hardly a necessary component of a healthy relationship as long as you only have friends you're not attracted to. Because it's not people who decide to cheat but friendships that ultimately destroy marriages.

Silly me. My little lady brain had thought there might be mutual enjoyment to be had from conversing with interesting people of the opposite gender about anything other than my supposed perpetual search for a proper penis to fulfill my lifelong dreams and validate my existence in this world. I guess I should know better, especially since a random man on the Internet says so, and everything Men say is Highly Logical, Well-Reasoned, Irrefutable Truth.

So, I guess I have a long list of men who need to break up with / unfriend me now. When I explained the situation, one assured me he only ever befriends women he intends to have sex with, but we agreed: Ain't nobody got time for dat!

Well, it's been nice knowing you fellas, but we just can't be friends anymore because other people have been known to cheat on their spouses and there may come a day when my Sinister Lady Bits** lead you into temptation, and there will be NOTHING you can do about it! Muwahaha! You just can't trust 'em, those wild vagina-raptors, always on the prowl for innocent, married prey.

*Sorry for the hetero-normative wording. I'm not sure how to reword it any better.
**Dibs on future band/troupe name.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Miles of Mud

Saturday, June 1 I complete the 4 miles and 40 obstacles on the Miles of Mud course, which was really more miles of rocky hill climbing/walking than mud or running. I had to pass on 3 obstacles, more than I ever have, and it's dragging my self-esteem down.

  1. I cannot climb a rope, haven't since the third grade, and I'm OK with that. Especially not a slick muddy rope, and I don't even feel the need to try.
  2. There was one obstacle that required too far a leap (pictured above) from too slick starting and end points for me to maneuver, especially as tired as I was and loath to risk landing hands and previously weeks-long-bruised knees on the board. I was much too tired to attempt it safely.
  3. The one that got me down, though, was immediately after. You had to climb up the side of a long rectangular dumpster bin with the help of a rope, jump down into it and a foot or more of water, and then climb out without a rope. I scaled the outer wall easily enough and sat atop it to watch my running partner attempt the rest. But seeing his exertion to climb the wall higher than our heads, I was unfortunately certain I wouldn't make it out the other side, so I hopped down the way I'd climbed up. He offered to help, but I worried at over-balancing him perching atop the ledge. I might have been able to scramble up a dry wall or definitely with a rope, but there were no volunteers at this obstacle for when I surely got stuck.
I'll keep working to improve my strength, but this course simply was not designed for short people, and I'm otherwise lucky that I'm as fit, able, and sure-footed as I am. I can climb walls at neck-height and reach for high ladder steps set far apart, but only slowly. I'm not sure I'll ever climb a rope. I know there's a trick to wrapping it around your foot, but these a too thick and too slick to do anything other than hoist your whole self up with your arms.

I was surprised and impressed, though, at how few people passed us up on the course and that we caught up midway with some of the sprinters.

My major complaint is that there was no water at the finish line. Or near it. Or anywhere other than the mid-course water stations. Finishers had the option of spending their two drink tickets on beer, soda, or warm flavored water, which I nearly spat out. That seems like a pretty basic race necessity to fuck up. Even taking advantage of every water station on the way, I'd stopped sweating by the end of the race and it was sheer luck that the morning remained overcast until we finished and cool for summer in Texas. And that I'd packed water in my race bag and extra in my car. But I was pissed and will be penning a very angry letter to the event organizers.