Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Other Duties As Required

I don't write a lot about work these days.  Mostly because work is uneventful, and not a whole lot happens in a small law firm to really justify the use of precious blog space.  (I mean, these inches are not cheap, people.  Why, just last year, they had to double my salary to keep me from leaving for Wordpress.)  But the last few weeks have been, at least, interesting.  We moved the office. Yep, from one place to another place (two doors down.)  In case you've never done this, moving an office is at least as much fun as moving a house.  Maybe even more fun. No, you don't have kids running around playing in boxes (well, yes you do actually; remind me to get back to that) but you do have certain grown-ups acting like kids, in the whiny, grumpy sort of way that so endears me to kids on airplanes.

(Which, when you think about it, isn't really their fault.  I mean, they're kids.  Somebody has to bring them there, put them on the airplane, mess up their schedules, keep them awake through naptime and tell them they can't play with all the new things that keep coming into their tiny frames of reference as they go from check-in to boarding gate to actual airplane.  If I were three years old, I'd start howling too.  And you see a lot of much older kids howling on airplanes.  55-year-old men, sometimes.  Flight attendants should get a big raise.)

Anyway, there were a large number of files that needed to be disposed of before we could leave.  Like, a really large number of files.  We called a shredding service and they came and hauled away (get this) 360 boxes of old files.  That is a Lot. Of. Files.  Some of them dated to the mid-1980s.  I don't think I can actually conceive of how many boxes that is, but let's just say they filled up an entire room.  That room is empty now, which is pretty cool.  I don't think the carpet's seen daylight since, well, sometime in the mid 1990s at least.

Our neighbor attorney was also cleaning out his office (the whole building was sold, so everybody had to go). His family came to help him out and one of his kids promptly disappeared into a box.  I never saw the kid again, but this box kept walking around and bumping into things.  A laugh and a little bit of levity that were very much welcome as the air conditioner failed, the heat climbed into the 90s and somebody asked me for about the fifth time was I sure I wanted to do such and such.

(And best of all, I never saw a single silverfish. I. Really. Hate. Silverfish.)

We're in the new space now and it's time to unpack it all.  Well, what's left of it. (360 boxes into the shredder, remember?)  I've locked myself out twice, gotten in trouble for leaving an office chair outside once (we were moving, okay? Sheesh) and had to talk my boss out of firing one of the helpers three times.  A coffee table disappeared, never to be seen again; stuff got left behind and had to be fetched; a big ugly dust mouse (more like a rhino, actually) formed around a Milk-Dud and made its way into one of the boxes, from which it promptly fell into my lap.  So I'm pretty tired, and I'm pretty stiff and sore, and I'm pretty much ready to be done with the whole thing. But, I got a new office chair out of the deal, I got myself a cushion so it's much more cozy, and it's possible the sore muscle in my hip will finally start to heal now that I'm not running up and down the stairs every five minutes.

But dang, those stairs were good for my knees. On some level I will really miss them.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hijabs and Head Trips

I have a fascination for all things Islamic.  The art, the music, the food, the stories--all completely awesome.  I wonder if I wasn't a Muslim in a former life, because seriously, if I had nothing else to do and there was nothing good on television, I'd find some people who speak Arabic and just follow them around all day, listening to them talk.  (I might add, this wouldn't work in real life. I'm kinda obvious, and I'm sure they'd get tired of being followed around by this weird fat white chick.  But not until they'd said inshallah quite a few times.)

 I'fact, if not for the whole religion business, I think I'd have made a good Muslim.  (Again, religion; no matter how small it is, it's too big for me to swallow.)  Certainly the wardrobe wouldn't have been a problem.  If I could get away with it, I'd dress like a Muslim woman now.  (I don't think I can get away with it.  I mean I'd be the worst kind of poseur, wouldn't I?  Not to mention insulting to real Muslim women.)  But I do wear loose pants and long shirts, and I've been known to put on a hijab, especially in winter when it's cold (those little guys are great for staying warm.)  I'm extremely fond of Muslim fashion.

$2,575. Yes, really.
Oh, so you don't think there's such a thing as Muslim fashion?  Boy, are you in for a surprise.  Check out these evening gowns by designer Nzinga Knight.  I can't afford to even look at most of them, so you'll pardon me if I avert my eyes, but isn't this blue number something:

And if you don't have $2,500 to spend on an evening out, you can also check out these items from

Aren't they fabulous? I'm giving serious thought to ordering that denim dress, which is not only concealing but also has POCKETS.  What fool decided women's clothing doesn't need pockets?  He (I assume it was a he) needs to be taken out and shot.  Imagine men's pants with no pockets.  There'd be an outcry.  No one would buy them.  The designer would be shaken awake in the middle of the night by an outraged Tim Gunn, who would demand to know what on earth the guy was thinking.  And in his sleepy, half-awake state, the guy would probably say something like, "Aren't you Tim Gunn?"

 So why for Muslim fashion, you are probably wondering.  Well, I think I can answer that in a word: Security.  I have this bathing suit, see, which looks a lot like this one here.  Until I found the aquatard, it was my suit of choice for swimming outside.  Not because Buddhists are supposed to cover up in the water, but because of the darn sunlight.  I sunburn very easily, you see.  What's more, I seem to be mildly allergic to sunscreen, or the waterproofing ingredient in sunscreen, anyway.  So the less of the stuff I have to put on, the less cortisone I have to slather myself with once I get home.  Both the sunscreens I can use and cortisone are kind of pricey, so it was a cost/benefit analysis.

Plenty of people stared at me in my blue full-length swimsuit.  Well, you could hardly blame them. I looked like a refugee from the Smurf Village.  But--and here's the important thing--they weren't really staring at me.  They were staring at the suit. They couldn't stare at be because they couldn't find me.  I was in there somewhere--something had to be animating the Smurf suit--but I was, for the most part, invisible.  And as someone who's had a large number of males make eye contact with her third button for most of her life, being invisible was pretty awesome.

My friends who practice magic have told me that it's impossible to truly be invisible.  It has something to do with bending light which can't be done because of the way light passes through a void, or something. Being hard to see, though, is not only possible but easy.  It's simply a trick of convincing other persons that you are unimportant.  Something they can overlook because it's not something to waste a lot of energy noticing, like a potted plant in the room.  Do this just right and there is no door marked "Employees Only" through which you cannot sneak.  The only people who will see you are those who are actively looking for you, and even they might overlook you because you just don't register as important on their radar.

So try wearing a hijab and an abaya.  Poof, you've disappeared.  Well, no, you haven't.  Again, a lot of people will stare at you, but again they're staring at what you're wearing, not who you are.  And they won't notice your big breasts or your fat stomach or that weird thing your knees do because all that stuff is covered up.  Security, I tell you.  Safe as houses.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Final Report, and Highly Educated Ghosts

July Swim for Distance Final Report: 30,525 meters (19 miles) 
Charities Benefiting: Mercy for Animals, Detroit Water Brigade and whatever my mom picked

(Yeah, I changed charities midstream. Normally I wouldn't do that, but do you guys know what's going on in Detroit? I mean, it's unbelievable.  And while some 17,000 families and small businesses are now without water, the city hasn't even tried collecting from its larger corporate customers, like the city golf courses and other businesses, who in some cases owe millions.  This is a human-rights violation and the exact polar opposite of how a city is supposed to treat its own citizens. Why is this even happening in America, in our time?) 

Okay, I've come to the end of Swim for Distance month, and my distance was a respectable 19 miles.  I was shooting for 21, but that would have required everything to fall exactly into place in an ever so perfect way, and life is just never that uncomplicated.  If you've been following me to see how much you need to send to charity, plunk that $19 in an envelope and send it.  You can also figure it by the meter (30,525; maybe a penny a meter?  A penny for ten meters?) or the kilometer (30.5) if you want.  Thank you, your charities thank you too, and we'll do it again next year barring alien abductions or other unforeseen catastrophes.  

(And this is interesting:  Every time I get out of the pool at the end of a session, I have this brief moment of sadness that it'll be another 24 hours, or sometimes 48, before I get to jump back in again.  File that under "You know you're a swimmer when...")

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I saw a guy this morning who was wearing a pro-UT, anti-A and M t-shirt this morning and realized that I can add yet another thing to the long list of things I don't understand:  School spirit.  Okay, I understand that it's got something to do with raising children to be patriots, and the way you get them proud of their country is to make 'em proud of something smaller first so they'll grow up to be little rah-rah flag waving drones, but I don't get why anybody over the age of eight actually buys it.  I mean, there are millions of schools out there.  How in hell can yours be the best?  

Actually, let's back up a second.  I get the whole "My school is awesome!" thing.  My high school, for example, was pretty awesome.  What I don't get is the "My school is awesome and yours sucks!" thing.  I mean, there's no logical basis behind it.  Is there?  If you don't go to a school, how can you know if it sucks or not?  I know of which I speak. I went to Arizona State. Arizona State and the U of A have this rivalry thing that's, well, pretty epic.  And I won't bore you with all the stupid examples I saw during my 4 1/2 year sentence, but there were lots, okay?  And maybe I was just tired and cranky a lot (and I was; and not medicated, either), but I was always "For Christ's sake, can't we talk about something else?" whenever it came up. Because, honestly, I didn't much care who won the game of the week or got rated higher on the Playboy party schools list.  

I'fact, I got to wondering if the school spirit thing is the beginning of our culture's We vs. They.  I know, I talk about this a lot, but hey, I'm a Buddhist.  You wanna celebrate in-grouping, go find another blog.  I'm of the opinion that We vs. They is the cause of most, if not all, of humanity's problems, and if more people would figure out there is no They, it's all We, then maybe we could start solving some of them.  Let's face it, it's hard to solve problems when you're busy sorting people out into little boxes .  If They, for example, are Communists or terrorists or Aggies, then They are different from We and They can be discriminated against, shut out, killed or otherwise inc0nvenienced.  We can treat Them that way because They are not We.  The trouble is, when We single out a They and then treat Them badly, We are setting ourselves up for They to do the same thing to We.  Which inevitably leads to retaliation and another round of justifications for why They are not We and I could go on and on about this, but I'll stop now.  

In closing, an apocryphal tale:  I was at the university bookstore one evening near the end of my sentence.  A bunch of Josten's class ring people were in front of the store, passing out flyers and harassing passersby generally.  I watched one of the Josten's people come up to a weary-looking guy who was leaving the bookstore, having doubtless left all his money behind on the counter for the single book he was carrying.  Thereupon an exchange began, in which he apparently told her he was not interested and she would not take no for an answer.  At some point, she said something like, "But sir! Wouldn't you be interested in shiny chip of glass-like material that costs more than the down payment for a house to fondly remind you of your years at Arizona State?"  The guy looked at her and said, "Lady, I wanna forget I ever heard of this place."  

Now that's school spirit. Rah rah.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


July Swim for Distance Progress Report: 29,425 meters (about 18 1/4 miles)
Charities Benefiting: Mercy for Animals, Goods 4 Girls Africa, Survivors of Torture International and whatever my mom picked

Do not adjust your computer screen. That figure is not an error. Last night yours truly really did swim the Big Swim, the 2k race, in 59 minutes and 17 seconds.

You can't see this through my goggles, but I have my eyes closed.

That's approximately 100 meters every 3 minutes (I had two really fast ones at the beginning, 2:40 and 2:18, which is what got me under an hour).  That's almost a full ten minutes faster than last year.  Ten minutes.  Truly, I'm stunned. I was pretty sure I had a decent shot at breaking an hour but I somehow wasn't prepared for that when it actually happened.

I've done the Big Swim four times in four years, and this year was markedly different.  It seemed like it went by really fast, which I guess it did.  I usually start running out of air at about 800 meters, which didn't happen at all this year.  I also tend to start seeing things that aren't there, which probably goes hand in hand with running out of air.  That didn't happen this year either.  On the one hand, polar bears and Hillary Clinton in a white suit and spats make for entertaining diversions when you're swimming up and down a 50-meter pool over and over again.  On the other hand, I'd sort of rather have reality stay the way it is until I'm finished, if it's all the same to you.

(I'm just kidding about Hillary Clinton.  It was actually Karl Rove.  Brrr,)

Another thing:  Sometime before I'm halfway finished I tend to start wondering why in the hell I'm doing this, anyway, what does it prove, isn't this kind of stupid, all this backing and forthing.  That didn't kick in until around 1400 meters, way too late for it to affect anything (by that time you can see the finish line). And somebody, I forget who, told me to try playing my favorite album in my head, switching songs every 100 meters.  If you do that you won't lose count because you just figure out what song you're on and count backwards from there.  Whoever it was, thank you.  It worked brilliantly.

As "races" go, I came in dead last.  But who cares.  A long swimming race is like climbing Mt. Everest: Are you alive when you get to the top? Good.  Carry on. (And in the case of Mt. Everest, getting down alive is also kind of important.  Just ask Andy Harris.  Oh, wait, you can't.)

Big big thanks to my great friend and massage therapist, Kellum, who counted laps and kept time for me!  (And by the way, he is awesome, so if you need someone to rub you the right way, check him out at  Big big thanks are also due to my swim instructor/coach, Douglas Moyse, who taught me a new breathing pattern leading up to the Big Swim and got me down to 1:17 on a typical 50.  Anybody who wants to swim faster and longer without killing himself/herself in the water should be dropping Doug an email:  He also coaches kids' swimming and is a great guy all around.

There are still a few days left in Swim For Distance Month.  I'm not sure I'll make the full 21 miles, but I shouldn't be too far off.  And now, I think I'll do something radical and go to bed early.  Because, let's face it, I'm kinda tired.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Postpone Me Not

July Swim for Distance Progress Report: 19,700 meters (about 12 1/4 miles)
Charities Benefiting: Mercy for Animals, Goods 4 Girls Africa, Survivors of Torture International
It's not too late! Pick a charity of your choice and sponsor me by the kilometer, the meter or the mile.  Put aside your chosen denomination of currency and send it to your charity at the end of the month.  Oh, and let me know which charity you picked so I can list it here.  You'll feel better, I'll feel better, your charity of choice will feel better. Win-win-win!

With another 11 days to go, I'm just over halfway to 21 miles for Swim for Distance Month.  That doesn't include The Big Swim, of course, which will happen next week (Oh God, that's only a week, I'm not ready yet, can I postpone?).  So that's pretty good.  I'm optimistic that I'll get there and post a nice total at the end of the month. Some years I've done upward of 25 miles in July, but 21's enough for this year.  And if I go over, great. Charities get a few extra bucks.  Next year I want to do the 5k instead of the 2k (that's 2 1/2 solid hours of swimming, minimum).  But I'll need to work up to it.  It's hard to contemplate 5k when the farthest I've ever managed was 2800.  Still, that's more than halfway there.  I wonder if I could get one of those waterproof iPods to wear while I'm swimming.  Always arguing that I could hear myself think over the splashing and the deep breaths and the pool noises.  You'd think it'd be pretty quiet underwater, but it's not. On the contrary, it's darn noisy.  Except for the very first moment when I jump into the pool.  It's like my ears take a second to adjust from land noises to water noises, and for that second there's this Absolute Silence like the beginning of the world.  Which, you have to admit, is pretty cool.

I've probably mentioned this before, but I don't exactly look like a swimmer.  Swimmers are tall, lanky people with long arms and impeccable midriffs.  I am short, fat and have li'l T-rex arms.  But you know what? I swim anyway, I swim with a masters team, and it's fine.  No, I'm not very fast (though I'm a heckuva lot faster than I once was).  Yes, I hang around in Lane Six with the older folks, the recovering-from-shoulder-injuries and other people who are, well, slow.  And that's okay.  Slow people get where they need to go. It just takes them longer.

Being fat, for a lot of people, means postponing everything.  "Oh, I'll go to Paris when I lose weight, I'll get a new dress when I lose weight, I'll start yoga when I lose weight."  I probably once did that, too, but I quit. I remember the day I quit pretty clearly, too.  I was probably 26 or so, and I kept driving by this karate school on the way to work.  Several times I thought, "I should really go in there and sign up," and the immediate thought following that was, "I can't do karate now. Maybe when I lose weight."  The irony being that that was almost a hundred pounds ago.  Well, anyway, one day I was driving by and I had the same thought, and I suddenly realized that I might never lose weight.  I might be fat for the rest of my life, and I would die having never tried karate because I was waiting to lose weight.  So I made the turn into the parking lot, went inside and signed up.  I took three classes a week for three years, made it all the way up to purple belt, and then quit during the great seismic shattering of 2001 when the Twin Towers fell and Stuart died and Joan's mom died and hey, it was not a good year.  'Nuff said.

The thing is, you don't have to be fat to postpone things.  I know all these people who have "bucket lists." Stuff they want to do before they die.  Why not do some of it now? I mean, you could die any time.  You could come down with some malignant neoplasm or get a terminal case of 18-wheeler.  I'm not sure if there's any time to regret stuff on the other side, but I'd hate to have the last thought that rushed through my mind at 80 miles an hour to be something like, "I should have taken up karate when I had the chance."  I mean, what a way to go out.  I'd much rather think something like, "Man, I had a good time."  Because I should.  We all should.

On that note, and because I have swimming on the brain, here's what a fat woman looks like in a bathing suit.  And don't let the sweet, innocent expression fool you.  I'm tough in the water.  Like a harbor seal.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pregnant With Contradictions

July Swim for Distance Progress Report:  11,200 meters (about 6 1/4 miles)
Charities Benefiting: Mercy for Animals, Goods 4 Girls Africa, Survivors of Torture International
It's not too late! Pick a charity of your choice and sponsor me by the kilometer, the meter or the mile. Put aside your chosen denomination of currency and send it to your charity at the end of the month. Oh, and let me know which charity you picked so I can list it here. You'll feel better, I'll feel better, your charity of choice will feel better. Win-win-win!

Hi, I'm Jen and I'm addicted to sugar.  (Chorus: "Hi, Jen."  Jen: "Hi.")  I'll bet some of you didn't know it was possible to be addicted to sugar, seeing as most of us ingest it in fairly large quantities every day and no harm seems to come to us.  But it is.  Check out this "60 Minutes" video or these news stories: New York Daily News, CBS News, National Institutes of Health. That said, though, you all know how addiction works, right?  You take a substance, maybe even only once, and you then discover to your dismay and chagrin that you now can't get along without that substance.  Something in your brain has fundamentally changed and without the substance, you not only can't function, you might get very sick and even possibly die.

This is why people who are addicted to substances will do ridiculous, illegal and even crazy things to get hold of the next dose of whatever it is they're addicted to.  Why they'll keep on taking a substance even though it's obviously causing problems in their lives, like causing them to lose their jobs or breaking up their marriages.  That guy who broke into your car and stole your stereo was probably addicted to something or other (car stereos have a very low resale rate, I'm given to understand, so it was probably something cheap, like crack).  And pregnant women, even if they know or suspect that whatever they're taking may be bad for the baby, will keep right on taking it.

Actually, in the case of pregnant women, it's even trickier.  Suddenly withdrawing from an addictive substance, like heroin or cocaine, can cause a miscarriage.  If you're pregnant and addicted to a substance, it's much better for you and your baby if you take maintenance doses of the substance.  Makes sense, right? Keep the mother stable, keep the baby stable, especially since addiction to opioids (ie, heroin, oxycontin, vicodin; the class of substances most commonly abused by pregnant women) hasn't been proven to cause any damage to the baby (or at least, the link between opioids and birth defects is "not well understood".)

You probably know where I'm heading with this.  Yep, the good ole state of Tennessee, which recently made it a crime to be a pregnant woman with a substance abuse problem.  In Tennessee,   prosecutors can now charge a woman with an "assaultive offense or homicide" if she takes illegal narcotics during her pregnancy, if "the child is born addicted, is harmed, or dies because of the drug." You'll note there's no standard of proof in there.  The state doesn't have to prove that the drug caused any kind of problem; it's basically a "because we said so" provision.  Lucky Mallory Loyola is the first woman to be arrested under the new law.  I think you should get some kind of prize if you're the first one to be arrested under a law.  Like, maybe free legal counsel, or something.

Now, let's ponder this.  There are 168 drug treatment centers in Tennessee (I looked it up).  Guess how many take pregnant women?  21. So less than 13% of drug treatment placements are available for pregnant women.  All the same, it's fine to toss them in jail if the state thinks the drugs might have harmed their newborns.  And what happens to the newborn while all this is going on? They're not staying with their mothers in jail; there's no nationwide policy in the United States that allows women to stay with their newborns if they're in prison, and Tennessee isn't one of the states running a pilot program that would let that happen.  So I guess the kid goes to foster care, or maybe to family members if DCS is feeling generous.

By the way, it's not illegal to smoke while pregnant.  It's not illegal to drink while pregnant. Both of those activities have been proven to cause actual harm to babies.  It's also not illegal to go skiing while pregnant, and while there aren't a lot of ski resorts in Tennessee, surprisingly there are a few, and you'd think they'd have at least thought about that while they were making it illegal to have a verified medical condition that most people can't do anything about without help (and see above re: how much help is available, ie, close to none.)

The ACLU is already challenging this law in court, and they have some pretty good precedent; no less than the Supreme Court of the United States told the state of California, way back in 1962, that it wasn't a crime to be a drug addict. And I'm gonna steal this whole paragraph from  "The prosecution of a pregnant drug-addicted woman infringes upon a woman’s right to privacy, as established in Roe v. Wade. In Roe, the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy, 'whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action ... or ... in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.' Advocates of the right to privacy contend that a woman does not lose her right to privacy simply because she becomes pregnant, and the constitutional right to privacy 'extends to both women and men, regardless of their biological differences.' Advocates therefore contend that because the Constitution does not differentiate among persons who are able to enjoy the right to privacy, the pregnant woman remains a 'person' as defined and protected under the Constitution. Hence, the State’s mechanisms — prosecution by child abuse, endangerment, controlled substance abuse, manslaughter, and homicide statutes — infringe upon a drug-addicted woman’s fundamental right to privacy because these mechanisms punish her simply for exercising her constitutional right to procreate."

You also can't treat pregnant women differently than nonpregnant women, or differently from men, under the law.  That pesky 14th Amendment. Astonishing as it may seem, pregnant women are human beings, and therefore persons.  If you don't believe that's so, ponder this: At what point in a pregnancy does a pregnant woman lose her civil rights?

Further, it's illegal to leak somebody's medical records under HIPPA.  So how did this woman get arrested in the first place?  If I were her lawyer, I'd look into whether any cause existed to arrest her at all, being as the evidence was obtained illegally.  Good thing I'm not a lawyer, though, because I'd take all the cases like this, never get paid, get burned out, quit on the whole human race and drive my Lincoln into the San Diego Bay from the top of the Bay Bridge, if I still lived in San Diego, which I do not.

I think I said that in another blog post. Well, so sue me.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mini-Post: Swim for Distance Progress Report

Hello all - just a mini-post to let you know that as of this morning, I'm at 6800 meters, which comes to roughly 4.25 miles. So far I've nailed a solid 1600, or more, each time out, which is great.  I will confess to having taken Sunday off because I was pooped.  We'll see if I can squeeze in a Tuesday or a Thursday this week to cover for it.  Otherwise, all is more or less well except for the cats, who are all having various and sundry issues.  On the plus side, Caesar seems to be eating more food and has perhaps gained a tiny amount of weight (to be confirmed by the vet this Saturday); at least, he doesn't feel as bony when I pick him up.  Sparrow, on the other hand, had an abscess that burst and ended up getting rushed to the vet.  Don't ask, it was gross.  And Chloe?  I think Chloe has fleas. Which means they all have fleas, darn it.