Why I’m Not Voting for Voter I.D.

When I first heard about the Minnesota Voter ID amendment, I thought, “Yeah!  Let’s squash that voter fraud!”  I think many people thought the same.  But I’ve since learned a lot about why this amendment isn’t necessary (i.e. vote fraud is virtually nonexistent) and why it’s harmful (i.e. it will make it very difficult for senior citizens, low-income citizens, people of color, and students to vote).

Here’s a video made my by UMM’s MPIRG chapter that explains the further implications of such an amendment:

And here’s a video made by Sarah Silverman that explains the same from a national stance (and with much more profanity; you’ve been warned):

Just to Pass the Time Away: A (Haphazard) Running Manifesto

I run not because I like it, nor because I’m good at it.  I run because it makes me feel strong, because I imagine my ancestors ran 5Ks every day, chasing deer across the savannah.  I run because I want to be able to keep up with them, even in my daydreams.  Spear throwing I may never master.  Running is attainable.

I run next to Gretchen at the gym.  We do our three warmup laps round the track, and then   reserve treadmills three and four.  We stretch on the blue mats in the corner, dangling our arms helplessly in the general direction of our toes (neither of us is particularly flexible).  We press our hands against the wall plastered with 80s aerobics posters-I’ll never be able to unsee the drawing of a woman in a leotard doing the butterfly stretch-and flex our calves.  I take care with this one, remembering when, a month ago, I woke up at five a.m. to an agonizing shin splint radiating through my left leg.

The usuals are in place already: the fellow treadmill runner who always wears a green shirt, the two women with calves of steel on the stair steppers, the scattered junior boys who watch themselves lift weights in the mirror that spans the back wall.  Gretchen and I take our places: she on the left, me on the right.  She flicks the TV to Jeopardy, which coincides happily with our run.  We look at each other, do some encouraging eyebrow wiggles, and hit “start.”  And then my track lets out its customary whine, as if it’s preparing once again to be trampled on by a clumsy twenty-two-year-old.  It starts to move, faster as I click the arrows up, and soon I’m running and taking care (as I do at the start but neglect at the finish) that my shoulders are straight and my gait even.  I feel as though I could run ten miles just like this, with Alex Trebek outlined in blue above me (benevolent as a god amidst a bright sky), and the vinyl road circulating comfortably below.

I am obligated to mention here, as I tried to disclaim at the beginning, that I am by no means a romantic, one-with-the-road runner.  In fact, a few weeks ago, when I closed my eyes while running in an attempt to attain some sort of zen enlightenment, I unconsciously slowed my pace and flew off the back of the treadmill, almost crushing an innocent passerby.

I can’t hope to provide much advice for those of you who want to start running.  All I can say is to do whatever Runner’s World tells you to, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.  I read an article about mantras recently, and scoffed at it.  George Harrison may have had a mantra, but I’m more down-to-earth than that.  And then I had a hard run, and there were five minutes left, and I was this close to faking a sprained ankle and telling Gretchen that we absolutely had to stop or I would never walk again.

In that moment of exhaustion, I decided to adopt a mantra.  “Pain is a state of mind” was first.  I mouthed the words, trying to match them to my pace, and thinking about the source: Freak the Mighty, a magnificent book I read in 6th grade.  As noble a quote as it was, however, it wasn’t working.  The next mantra that popped into my head was, inexplicably, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”  Over and over I sang that childhood song to myself, making up lyrics when my memory failed.

I’ve been working on the railroad

All the livelong day

I’ve been working on the railroad

Just to pass the time away…

And the tune seemed to meld with my footsteps, and before I knew it the five minutes was over, my ankle was intact, and Gretchen was looking at me like I was crazy:

“Were you singing, Holly?”

Orlando

It’s just past 4 p.m., and I, most blessed of women, am reclined beneath quilt, reading Orlando.  He frolics about Elizabethan England, writing poetry and serving the Queen and staring curiously at peasants frozen in the cold (which, Woolf tells us, we don’t have anymore).  And I listen to the sound of Grace’s mother arriving downstairs: “Here’s the living room, here’s the table, which is actually worth about $3,000 (we have to be careful with it).  Here’s the kitchen, which was clean yesterday.  Here’s my room.  The clothes on the floor are clean; I don’t have drawers, so I have to keep them there.”  Her mother replies that it’s okay, it’s okay, she’s not here to judge our quality of life.  There’s a ring around the bathtub and the floors grit a little underfoot, but she won’t say anything, because we’re in college, and because all she wants is to take her overworked daughter out to dinner.

I, dutifully, line up my tasks: annotated bibliography, Orlando, Urania, Lexicon, OED worksheet, MLA worksheet, Teach for America application.  I’ve accidentally left my Christmas lights on all night and all day, and slowly they are winking from blue to white.  Like dying stars, I don’t realize until it has already happened, and then I run my eyes up and down the string, counting the changes.  Seven whites so far, four light blues.  The rest shine steadfastly on, lighting the corner while I read Orlando.

Second Snow

I’ve been grinning like a fool all morning, ever since I opened my eyes at 8:15, when my alarm sounded.  I didn’t get out of bed right away; my legs were curled perfectly under mounds of blankets, and my arms inside my sweatshirt and my toes inside my thick socks were warm.  But I knew right away what had happened.

A trip out to the hall window confirmed it.

Snow changes everything.  Even our gravel alley lined with garbage cans looks sufficiently magical.

I was stopped by two trains on my walk to campus, but how could I care with slush at my feet and heavy clouds hanging promisingly above my head?

And then, and then, I walked into work.  Sharon handed me, as she does every few mornings, signs to be posted on specific classroom doors.  The signs announce that a class has been cancelled, and I always imagine this task of mine to be a noble one, for what other announcement causes so much joy amongst students?  But on this particular day, as I posted the signs, I read them: “Cancelled: Latin American History, 2:00-3:40.”  It was my class.  My only class for today has been cancelled.

I suspect I don’t have to tell you that I squealed with delight and jumped up and down and bounded outside to make a snow angel, and then wasn’t even disappointed that there’s not quite enough ground coverage for that kind of joyful expression.

I still have a paper to write today, friends, but Thursday has come through again.

Gone Translatin’

I’m holed up in the old copy editing office again, marking articles with my red pen and chuckling at comments overheard from the other room:

“Everyone, a local candidate running on the independent ticket will be here in ten minutes to discuss placing an ad.  Nobody say anything snarky, or I’ll hurt you.”

Grammar and Language class today was phenomenal.  After lecturing for a half hour on Germanic languages and runes, the professor handed out two sheets: one listed the symbols of the runic alphabet, and the English letter equivalents, and the other contained the photograph below.

“Start in the top left corner, and decode the runes,” the professor said, grinning widely.

So we did.  We translated runes. From the 8th century BC.  Probably one of the cooler undergraduate assignments I’ve ever been given.