Prepare To Be Dissatisfied This November

Here in the city of Chicago, there are few visual signs that a critical national election is less than two weeks away. Our six Congressmen and two Senators mirror the city’s voting history – staunchly Democratic – and it seems that the sitting Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, is headed to a big loss, so get out the vote efforts are less noticeable than in places with more competitive races.

My reading of the electoral tea leaves tells me that we should expect some kind of “blue wave” on November 6, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives and winning more governor’s races than the GOP. There’s evidence that we’re headed to one of the biggest turnouts in mid-term history, which generally portends good things for Democrats – when more people vote, they tend to vote Democratic.

But because of where the contests for Senate seats are – overwhelmingly rural, Trump-friendly states – I don’t think Democrats will take control of the Senate. Even if the GOP maintains a razor-thin, one or two seat margin, it doesn’t matter. Control is control, and only one party can run the chamber.

But even so, Democrats have no chance to win enough seats to achieve a super-majority in the Senate, needed to avoid cloture, pass veto-proof legislation, or provide the two-thirds majority to convict a president of impeachment.

This election will provide satisfaction to nobody. Democrats will be cheered on by their new control of the House, but Republicans will continue to control the Senate and the Presidency. We will continue to clash, Trump will enact more horrific policies, and the GOP Senate will keep supporting him.

There will be no compromise between the two sides, and yet neither side will have enough power to overcome the other.

So this would be a good time to remember that democratic politics can be a slow process with many fits and starts. While there has been a number of tremendous progressive victories in recent years, notably legalization of gay marriage, the passage of Obamacare, and a growing, state-by-state decriminalization of marijuana possession, these changes resulted from decades of organizing.

We need to get everyone we can to the polls on November 6, and then remember that if we want lasting, meaningful change, we’ll have to do it again in 2020 in an even bigger way.

What Is Civil?

If you’re in news, or news biz-adjacent, like me, you’ve likely been trying to figure out how Civil’s blockchain-will-save-journalism play is supposed to work. Their token auction ends this week (See? It’s already confusing!) and it doesn’t look like it went well. Dan Sinker had a great, on point rant about this. Will someone please explain to me how Civil is supposed to help? And yes, I already listened to the podcast, and I still don’t understand.

I Hate Swimming, But I’ll Never Stop

The Welles Park pool in Chicago where I swim. In the summer, the walls slide aside to the open air. On winter mornings, sunlight streams in.

I hate swimming. The act itself is unnatural. Humans are just not built to spend long periods of time submerged in water, holding their breath. Think about the position a person takes in the water: Stretched out, windmilling arms, wiggling legs back and forth. There is no elegance, nothing attractive about it. When a person gets out of the water, their skin is pruny and tender, with hair a complete mess. They’re likely out of breath from holding it for so long.

And yet, I do it three times a week. I don’t think I’ll ever stop swimming if I can help it.

Swimming has changed my life. Since I started going regularly last January, I’ve lost weight, gained energy and for the first time in my life, managed to do something that requires long-term discipline.

Early in the morning I walk three blocks to my local park district pool. I change into my swimsuit, sharing the showers with a pair of very clean homeless men that shower there every morning. I push open the heavy metal door dividing the men’s showers from the pool, drop my ID on the table by the door and plop my towel on the metal bleachers to the right.

Then, I pad to the middle lane – the fast one with people doing freestyle or breast stroke rather than the crawl – and jump in the pool. I take a deep breath, and dive in. Twenty laps on weekdays, thirty seven, one mile, on weekends.

I get into the pool and start swimming as soon as possible. Some people hang out at the shallow end and talk a bit, or psych themselves up. I just go. Waiting is my enemy. If I wait, I’ll think. And when I think, I imagine other things I’d like to do instead of swimming. Instead, I just plunge in, forcing my body to do something it would much rather not.

Now that I’ve been swimming for a while, I’ve gotten to know the characters of my pool. The lifeguards are all interchangable and almost never interact with the lap swimmers. They do set the music on the boombox, which echoes throughout the room and fills your ears when you stop at the end of a lap. Mostly they choose pop stations, but one guy sometimes punches in the classical station, sublime on an early, cold morning. I wish he worked more often.

The swimmers however, are all very different. The first lesson you learn about lap swimmers is: Body type and age is not an indicator of swimming ability. Of course you can imagine some muscle-bound, trim guy or woman splashing uselessly in the pool. But your mind gets bent when a rotund woman in her mid-60’s does a flip-kick off the end, then a dolphin kick into a breast stroke, lapping you twice in five minutes. These are the people who intimidate me.

One of them, a woman I call “blue suit” (I have names for everyone in my mind) is blindingly fast and well into retirement. Sometimes a buddy of hers shows up in a black suit. Together they dominate the fast lane, setting a pace for everyone, so we all go faster, rushing not to keep up with blue and black suits, but to avoid the thing that silently creeps up on you in the pool: The overtake.

The overtake can be a delicate thing during lap swim. Either the person being overtaken stays politely to the right, or they flail arms everywhere, swerving back and forth so the faster swimmer needs to knock them about a bit. When someone like blue suit attempts to overtake Mr. Crawl, then everything goes nuts.

Mr. Crawl is a guy I just hate. He’s probably in his late 50’s, balding, wears a black volley shorts suit. And he does the fucking crawl, a stroke where your arms and legs go as wide as possible, in the fast lane. In my mind, this is an offense of the highest order. The fast lane is where you go fast. So, the crawl? He’s taking so much space, it’s almost impossible to pass. Basically, Mr. Crawl is saying “fuck you” to everyone in the pool, since he’s throwing himself into the pool as a monkey wrench to all of our attempts to keep a rhythm.

Don’t be Mr. Crawl. Go to the slow or medium lanes if you’re doing the crawl.

Now, just because I have strong opinions about my exercise doesn’t mean I’m some kind of pool nut. In reality, I’m a very mediocre swimmer. I swim five laps at a time, because I really start to run out of breath after that. Five laps, break, five laps, break, and so on. I don’t bring a water bottle or use any kind of swimming aide. Just googles, because swimming without them is plain dumb.

Eventually, after my twenty or thirty-seven laps, I pull myself out. Grab my towel and my ID card, rinse off in the shower, change clothes, go outside and walk home three blocks. I’m always super hot and sweaty. I pull out my phone and type my distance into Swimtivity, an app that allows you to enter exercise into the iPhone/Apple Watch activity tracker. I close my exercise circles for another day.

I managed to do it one more time. Even though I hate it.