Thursday, November 29, 2007


Well, I won't be blogging for a while. Mostly because, in theory, I am working my backside off. More honestly, I'd be moaning about my work, and enabling my self-pity and procrastination by distracting myself. So there you go.

The pressure is, somewhat, getting to me. But I will overcome. Oh yes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

When You Got So Much to Say

... it's called Gratitude.

Yes, today represents a horrible thing, in that the people who lived here have slowly been eroded from public life, made less important (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I think describes this beautifully). However, I like horrible holidays - Guy Fawkes' Night being my favourite - for what they represent now, and try not to think about the symbolism or motivation behind them.

For me, Thanksgiving is about several things: one, the beauty of all the foods for Christmas, eating and drinking yourself into a stupor while watching tv, but NOT having to give / buy presents. Brilliant. Two, it's about the hospitality of Americans, who kindly open their houses and families to us foreigners without a place to go. Three, it's about remembering why your life is not so bad after all.

Here are ten things that have made my life good this year and for which I realise I am extremely lucky:
  1. LCD Soundsystem. No, seriously. The album, the concerts, have been some of the highlights of my year. And it has brought about a remembrance of the deep passion I felt for music as a kid, that obsession, the need to see every concert and know every word, and for that I am doubly grateful.
  2. Football. Although last night was a disaster, and the ramifications are now becoming clear, my playing has been fantastic. The Tigers are now a team with TWO WINS since September (bringing our all-time total to three), we are scoring, playing well, and with the same good energy. The mixed team I play on is a social and physical joy, week in, week out.
  3. Netflix. Why exactly did we wait so long for an on-tap source of joy?
  4. Hot Fuzz. Watched it again last night, and still deeply love it. It made my exam period earlier this year a lot happier.
  5. TOH and, particularly, his continual making up of songs. Today's: a rendition of "Do They Know It's Christmas" for the cats and thanksgiving. It's sort of hard to explain.
  6. Rediscovering my love for scrabble. Although I'm not sure it's going to help my GPA.
  7. Tea. Always tea. Yorkshire or Earl Grey cannot be beaten.
  8. Baking, which has become a new soothing pastime. Particularly good is baking in my awesome A&P apron from the summer. Aprons are incredibly useful. Who knew?
  9. Football Weekly Podcasts. They make my week.
  10. Annie Mac's mashup. Radio to get excited about, bringing me back to 1. And that Catherine Tate sample which does make me chuckle every time...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Sporting Chance

It's been fairly clear, I think, that I am a huge fan of sport. I'll watch almost any sport on tv. One of my biggest horrors was the emergence of Tiger Woods and the realisation that I actually quite liked watching golf; another set of hours lost to that every year. My no-nos consist of NASCAR and motorsports in general; darts, snooker, fine, and I have not yet been tested on ten-pin bowling. I'm hoping no.

What I haven't really talked about are the negative aspects. I have the tendency to be dismissive of women's dislike of sport, I know, in part because I don't really understand it. One, I think that a lot of the dialogue is dismissive of men - to treat it as a silly hobby, pastime, and trivial, is to dismiss a great deal of men. Whether that's in reaction to women being excluded or otherwise, I don't know; what I do think is that it's not positive or healthy for relationships and understanding between the sexes. Two, I was good at sport, loved it, and I went to an all-girls' school, so the pressures of running my newly-developed body in front of boys didn't happen. Plus, I know that schools didn't talk to us about the need for DECENT sports bras that might protect you.

I think one of the things I like about sport is its giving me an excuse to be combative, and I don't mean in the usual sense of competition. Every time I meet new people, particularly men, I have to "prove myself." There are assumptions made, presumptions spoken, and prejudices revealed about women and sport, be it our knowledge of it, or even ability to know about it. Every time I hear the words "play like a girl," yes, I'm dismayed, disappointed, but I also know that I get to challenge a lazy assumption, even from the most educated and intelligent men.

So many men seem to think we do not belong in sport, be it playing, in front of the tv or at the game itself. It's a last bastion of hypermasculinity, heterorthodoxy. It's interesting that, in lots of ways, I thought that American crowds are more accepting of women and "others" than in the UK - because there are tons who watch their colleges in the bars, who sit at the baseball and yell along with the blokes. However, a couple of things have come to my attention this week that show that this is a veneer; underneath, there is an underbelly of loathing, hatred and fear of the other, that expresses itself through bigotry and violence.

Jill at Feministe has a wonderful (although awfully sad) piece about the brave little college kid fighting for his right to spew homophobia at a game. If you scrape the surface, as she does thoroughly and carefully here, the bloke reveals himself to be a typical rightwing victim of the liberal elites, who hates the gays, thinks they shouldn't be allowed, wants to shout offensive stuff about them BUT is somehow a victim for being suppressed. Hmm. Funny how people do NOT understand the First Amendment at all - it's that Congress - and so government actors - cannot dictate your speech for you, not that I per se can't ban it, as a private actor, in my home, or as a private college in my sports ground. You don't have an unadulterated right to say whatever the fuck you want, unfortunately for these misguided souls. I really, really cannot wait to take First Amendment next semester; I will be reporting back on what I learn. It's going to be interesting.

Anyway, then I open the NY Times sports page this morning and this greets me: yes, apparently the Jets fans are demanding that women flash their tits for them as half-time entertainment. They even boo when they don't get to see enough. And even better - women DO IT for them; of course, they're the ones who are warned about indecency laws when they expose themselves. I don't know what makes me madder - but it's all pretty good for stoking up the rage before 9 in the morning.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


So, say you're walking down the road, you're bundled into a car, at which point you are held down and gang-raped fourteen times.

If you're in a country where the hudood or hudad is law, as Pakistan was, you'd be bloody lucky to get a conviction, given that as a woman you require four male adults to testify to witnessing the rape; while a gang rape may have those four male witnesses, they're also probably the perpetrators.

Therefore, that there was a conviction - particularly coming as I do from a country where the rape conviction rates currently stands at 5% - was a good thing. That the rapists were only given five years - pretty disgusting but there you go. It's still a good result, right?

Oh, but what you didn't bargain for, maybe, is that you - the victim who was raped just the FOURTEEN TIMES - will receive lashings and a jail sentence for having been in a car with a man to whom you were not related, either by blood or marriage. Yet that is exactly what happened to this woman in Saudi Arabia. Originally she only had the lashings - she was given the jail sentence (and a doubling of lashings, just for extra spice) as punishment for trying to "manipulate" the judges. Now, I don't know the circumstances of this case; maybe she wasn't grabbed and forced into the car, maybe she got in of her own free will. Yet somehow the judges felt the need to punish her beyond the trauma and misery that came with the rape.

"Gah" seems inadequate. But what isn't in this situation?

Friday, November 09, 2007

The 300

Yes, I've been pouring out random ranty crap on this blog for 3oo posts now. In honour of this highly momentous occasion, I don't really know what to do. Ok, I'll do "how my life has changed since I started this blog."*
  1. Babies are becoming normal. One of my closest friends from undergrad had a baby a month ago, I have two good friends who are now pg, and it's weird. But sort of becoming normal. I'm still not really ok with it, but it's not a "you're so young, we're too young, ulp" sort of thing, but more of a "congrats, this is going to change our lives but I'm happy for you" sort of thing.
  2. I have cats. This is about as much responsibility for another creature's life as I want, to be honest. I honestly couldn't imagine our house without them, now, although I still have memories of not finding plates / coffee pots / glasses smashed when I get home. And the fluff. Ye gods, the fluff.
  3. I eat meat. Now, that has been a big change, in theory, but it really has just felt natural and I'm really not sorry. I am a tad ashamed that I don't eat only organic, free-range, I should; next year, it'll have to happen. But I love it; bacon alone has been entirely worth it. And those afternoons at Tequila Jack's would be much less fun without the wings deal...
  4. Africa. I always thought central & southern American would be my thing, because of the language. But after Malawi, I know I want to work in and on Africa. And I know it's reproductive justice and healthcare that I want to work on. That's been a good thing.
  5. Coffee. For better or worse, I have a problem.
  6. Embracing the US - love of Ken Kesey, Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee, knowing the AP top 25 College Football teams, dressing up for Halloween. It's all good. But it just makes me feel more English than ever, really.
I'm sure there are more, but my brain is not working - one of the things that has not changed is that whole drinking too much and rotting my braincells.

And it's time for work.

* and by "this blog," I mean this url, not the general idea of blogging on the old site, because that's just too much.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up

This week I have used my powers, such as they are, for good. No, really.

For those who are not familiar with the evils of law citations, last year I spent a great deal of time in the library doing something known as bluebooking. You check people's cites, make sure the content is accurate, and that it follows the right format. There are many, many, many rules. It sucked the life out of me last year, but undoubtedly helped me get a job, so, you know, not too many grumbles.

It also came in handy when I helped citecheck an amicus brief for a Supreme Court case. No, seriously. My red scribblings on a piece of paper have formatted and checked a Supreme Court brief for content. Ulp. ULP. The case is going to be argued very soon, this term, and supports petitioners' contentions that the three-injection method of execution is cruel & unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. This is based on a lot of scholarship of a prof at my school, whose latest article (The Lethal Injection Quandary: How Medicine Dismantled the Death Penalty) is briefed here and is excellent. It really does explain the utter lack of research or reason behind the lethal injection - except that it makes people feel more comfortable about the death penalty. Another prof had an interesting take on this yesterday, arguing that if society is going to have a death penalty, it shouldn't hide behind ideas of humaneness and false reassurances that the person doesn't suffer or this isn't a violent taking of life. Instead, use a firing squad. Of course, having read that brief I could have told him that both Idaho and Utah actually do have firing squad options. Seriously.

While I see where he's coming from, I like this continual undermining of excuses and reasons for certain methods of the death penalty - I'm hopeful, although not too much, that it will eventually be undermined entirely. It's not soon enough, obviously, but it may bring about a sea change in what people view as acceptable punishment.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Nothing to do?

Read some of my favourite posts from the past week:

Thursday, November 01, 2007


My whole body aches today. All of it: shoulders, back, upper arms, feet. All, bizarrely, except my knees. Those knees that have been holding me back, somehow, for about five years now. More than the knees though - the creaking, the locking - has been my head. I've been using treadmills because I thought they would be better for me, yet I think they've been worse. Because I've fixated on the figures up and invariably tried to go too fast, and my knee has started locking at somewhere around two-and-a-half miles. I've been expecting to fail at a certain point and speed.

But I let myself listen to TOH and go slowly, without a watch (although, of course, I checked TOH's at the end), just going comfortably. We overtook some, got overtaken by many, and my flat-footed running style wasn't pretty (I really don't raise my knees at all). This was an exercise in both trusting someone else and trusting my body without the bleeping and LEDs.

So yesterday's near five-miler was a triumph. Without knowing time or distance I managed it. Not quickly - probably just under ten minutes per mile. Not without pain or difficulty - my knees creaked a lot early on, got better, but were, well, unhappy towards the end, but they got me through.

I have friends running marathons, qualifying for Boston (8:23s the whole way), doing triathlons and winning for their age groups, or even just managing to do the whole 26 and some miles. This is not heroic, or even that impressive. But it was exciting. And fulfilling. Let's hope it's not another five years before I run that far again.