Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Restless

Since my last two posts have been Powerless and Treeless, I figured I'd continue the "less" theme based on last night -- restless.

We watched the news last night to hear the grand jury's finding in Ferguson, and we both woke up around 1:00 and decided to turn on the news just for a minute (which I don't think we've EVER done in the middle of the night) to see what was going on.  General concerns about mass chaos I guess, though neither of us really thought that was likely. 

I can't say I disagree with the grand jury's finding.  Of course they are in the best position decide having heard all the evidence, rather than reports of it, which is all I've heard.  For me, hearing about the blood evidence inside the car was most convincing -- that to me meant that Brown was in a position to threaten the officer and not shot from a distance when arguably less lethal tactics should have been considered first.  Of course it's tragic, and it should not have happened, and there are so many better ways it all could have unfolded, but it's very hard to judge the split-second decisions of people in distress.  And now the stories about crime, protest, looting, and fires seem to take away from what I feel like is the real point, which to me is racial inequality in the criminal justice system in this country.  In many ways I understand why this is such a tipping point, it's a big problem and obviously a segment of the population feels victimized. 

Setting aside the actual events in Ferguson, the fact is that the US prison population has a very different racial composition from the country as a whole.  And there's no particular moment or opportunity when people are motivated to really think about that, discuss it, or protest it.  So this grand jury finding seems to be as good an excuse as any to demonstrate that feeling of victimization. 

The incarcerated population is so different from the actual population, and I have to ask...

Why?  What makes the racial composition so different?  Is it actual differing levels of criminal activity (and if so, why?), or is it differing levels of enforcement and then processing through the criminal justice system that creates the disparity (and if so, what part of that system?)?  Pre-police contact or post-police contact that creates this racial discrepancy among the incarcerated? 

Is it the police and enforcement?  Targeting areas where minorities live in higher proportion?  Subjecting minorities to higher scrutiny in a true race-blind encounter (responding to a call, or a motor vehicle accident, or whatever)? 

Courts?  Mandatory minimums or federal sentencing guidelines?

DAs charging differently or allowing pleas? 

Juries?

Or is it more on the pre-police end?

Education? 

Discrimination in employment opportunities?

Something else?

It's not something I've ever really looked into (pretty much all my "free" research time is spent on WWII), but is there good data about whether it's as much a class/economic disparity as it is a racial disparity in prison?  I know there's tons of overlap of course, but do non-minority poorer people have the same issues, or is it really race at the core? 

As to education, I think (my opinion only) that is equally awful without regard to race -- it's more the economics of the area, district, school, etc.  And I think there is a higher police presence in any economically disadvantaged neighborhood -- regardless of the racial composition of that neighborhood.  Higher police presence yields more police contacts, more arrests, more people with criminal histories, etc. 

I don't think there's any real belief that our society is actually color-blind.  I've never had a non-traffic encounter with the police other than calling for assistance (always promptly dispatched, though when you call 911 in Dallas (which I've done numerous times, largely to report accidents I've witnessed, you frequently have to hold before getting an operator)) or making reports as a crime victim (in Italy for a "legit" crime, and here in Dallas a couple times for property crimes (being in a hit and run, someone breaking into my car (though, the top was down at the time, so less breaking, more entering)).  In all my police encounters (I don't count airport checkpoint screenings as a police encounter), I've never had to step out of the vehicle or been searched. 

Is that partially related to my sex as a woman?  My age (though I had more tickets and traffic stops in my teens and 20s than in my 30s)?  Where I drive (I'm generally within a 5 mile radius of our house)?  My perceived socio-economic class?  The fact that I drive a fairly nice car -- even though it's older now?  Interestingly enough, I was stopped in Dallas more in 1 year in my old crappy car than in about 4 years in my beemer when it was new and I definitely drove it more quickly than my Olds, but that could be a factor of where I was driving, or whatever.  Or is it because of my race? 

Thoughts or any of it? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tree-less?

I had grand plans of putting up our new artificial Christmas tree this past weekend.  We usually put it up the day after Thanksgiving, but I had decided last weekend was best. 

I had a million good reasons to do it in my mind, but the primary one is that I thought it should go up early since we have so little time to enjoy it this year.  I have to travel for work next week, and the first weekend of December I'm out of town for a race in San Antonio that I always do with my girlfriends, the following weekend we'll be home (baking cookies, cheering for our local marathon), and by the next weekend (and the following), we'd be home with my family for Christmas. 

So really, it made sense to put it up early.  And this year, we have a new tree.  Last year, a bunch of the strands of lights stopped working on our old tree.  I'd had it for more than a decade probably and I didn't want to deal with taking off the pre-strung lights and hanging our own, so instead, right after Christmas, we donated it. 

And then I spent TONS of time researching trees on Amazon, narrowing it first by height, then by width, then by light count, then by tip count, then by warranty, then by weight, then by price.  And I clicked "buy". 

But then that whole Buffalo snow storm thing happened.  Unfortunately, it turns out that's where our tree was born (or at least shipped from China). 

Here's the current status:

11/20/2014 11:45 P.M. We were unable to dispatch the trailer on time. This may cause a delay. / Delivery will be rescheduled.
Buffalo, NY, United States 11/18/2014 12:28 A.M. Departure Scan
Buffalo, NY, United States 11/17/2014 6:06 P.M. Origin Scan
United States 11/17/2014 10:27 A.M. Order Processed: Ready for UPS

And now I'm worried we won't have a tree at all this year! 

Since there seems to be no chance we'll have it over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and since I'm not sure we could manage putting it up on a weeknight, and since our one weekend in Dallas in December is chock-full of plans, I'm worried we won't have a tree at all.  That makes me sad! 

It was fairly expensive, and I'm pretty dead-set on the criteria by which I picked it, so I don't like the idea of ordering or buying a new one.  And since we're gone for more than a week to visit my family, a live tree is not an option.  Major bummer. 

And now I wonder, does the warranty run from when I ordered it (and paid for it), or from when I actually get it? 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Powerless

I woke up to an upset stomach today and concluded on the drive to boot camp that I think it's in my head.  Yesterday I spent hourS on the phone (which I never do) with one of my favorite people in the world, a friend I first met in law school.  She lives halfway across the country and the best way to describe her current status is distress.  She's so unhappy and I want more than anything to be able to fix it somehow.  It hurts my heart to know how sad she is.  She's already been through a lot in terms of a divorce, a move, the death of a parent, fertility struggles, the serious illness of her other parent (who didn't take care of herself well as she dealt with her husband's illness), one of the most stressful jobs in this country (complete with being assailed on various "news" networks), the death of both of her dogs within a couple years of each other, a stress fracture, and now, a supportive partner who is AWOL due to his own insane work.  God never gives you more than you can handle, right?  Actually, I don't buy that -- sadly, some people decide they can't handle it.  I'm not worried about her in that regard, but I wish so much I could make it better.  I'm hoping that I can manage a visit to see her in January, but that's a long time away.  I'm at a loss.  I wish I had Inspector Gadget arms and I could just stretch them out and give her the biggest hug ever. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jogging

I don't know what it is lately, but I cannot get into my running groove.  I've tried all my usual "hurry it up" tactics -- running with friends who are faster, going to the track, fartleks on the road, attempting to pick it up on the downhills -- and it's just not working.

I even added my running commute back into the mix this week for the first time in ages, and I just get out there and jog.

I was actually planning to do the running commute yesterday, but I had a flat tire on my car before boot camp, and then I decided I wasn't comfortable being car-less until Friday (when I work from home anyway and could have the tire change guy come do it) (and yes, I realize I'm loser for not being able to change my own tire, but part of the problem is that my car has very small jack points and I think my jack is bent so I'm very afraid of attempting to jack it up and having it crash down).  So I made my husband come back to pick me up to go to boot camp together (he was already almost there and was planning to go straight to work afterward), then I got a ride to the office with my neighbor and grabbed my laptop to bring it back home.  I worked from home in the morning and got my tire changed.  But in the end, he didn't see anything wrong with my tire -- he said it's still so new that it has the whiskers, whatever that means, and that he didn't see a nail or split or anything else, so he just put air in it and put it back on the car.  So I drove to work, worked, and then ran home. 

This morning I got up to meet my friends at the track and just went there on foot.  I made the decision last night that I'd go straight from the track to work. 

It kind of sucks to not get to go back home after my workout to watch the news and drink my smoothie and my coffee before running to work, but I just felt so lazy.  The track is right on my way to work.  So I would have had to run 1.5 miles north, do the track workout, run 1.5 miles home, then run 3.75 miles north to get to work.  So I wore my running belt (with my phone, work access card, house key and credit card) to the track, left it trackside during the workout, then put it back on and continued north to the office.  I ended up with just over 8 miles for the morning since the track workout wasn't really very long. 

And here I sit, at my desk before 7!  Still in workout clothes, freezing, about to head down to the gym to get ready for the day...

Blah post, but still feeling very blah...