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

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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Supreme Court v Dallas Aquatic Masters

There are times I truly loathe and despise being in the legal profession.  Usually those times have nothing to do with work and everything to do with what some appellate court has said or done lately.  I think it's possible to be too well-versed in your professional lingo, and that may be the case for me with the Supreme Court and the whole Hobby Lobby thing.  This was one of those times where I pretty much knew what was going to happen before it was announced and then, to my horror, I turned out to be right.  Not only that, but my analytical brain began examining the various heretofores and quid pro quos and making sense out of them, to the point where I start saying, "Okay, I see why they did that."  And, people, I don't wanna see why they did that, because what they did is fucking ludicrous.

Except, of course, that it isn't.  It all makes perfect sense in the context of the cutely named "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" and the Constitution and previous decisions like Citizens United and Griswold v. Connecticut.  And if you have no clue what those two decisions had to do with each other, it's probably because you're not in the legal profession, which, by the way, is just fine.  Lots of people are not in the legal profession and no harm comes to them.

Anyway, I could go on at great length about all that and probably will at some point, but right now it's July in Texas, so grab your hand paddles and kick up your fins!  It is time once again for Swim for Distance Month, that thirty-one day period of aquatic mayhem in which I and my fellow water citizens try to swim as far and fast as humanly possible.  The winner gets a t-shirt (well, actually, everybody gets a t-shirt) and bragging rights. And while I don't think I'll pull a Diana Nyad and swim from Cuba to Florida this year, I am endeavoring to swim 33 kilometers (a little less than 21 miles)  between now and July 31, which is roughly the distance across the English Channel.  Maybe one of these days I'll swim the real English Channel, and--probably disappear halfway across, which would make for a lousy epitaph.  Okay, scratch the real English Channel and we'll stick to the pool, here.

In previous years I've collected money for charity while all this was going on.  I'm sort of going to do that this year, too, but I'm taking myself out of the equation because I can't seem to settle on a good charity for this year.  Or rather, there's lots of charities I'd like to donate to, and I can't seem to narrow it down to one.  So here's how it'll work.  If you want to pledge me by the kilometer, the mile, or even by the day (there are 21 swim days in July), earmark the money for your favorite charity and I'll keep you updated with current mileage (kilometerage?) totals.  This way, I have motivation to swim farther and faster, and you have motivation to put aside a few bucks for something you believe in.  As of right now we're at 1.8 kilometers, or a little over a mile.  Oh, and I'm assuming just for the sake of the argument that your favorite charity is not the Republican National Committee.  If it is, don't tell me.  Thank you.