(Soundtrack for reading: Texas, I’m Trying, But You’re Killing Me Here, set to the tune of LCD Soundsystem’s New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.)

This year I became a Texan.

I’ve been living here since 2004, but was a full-time student until 2010, so during that time I elected to remain a “resident” of my home state (Texas gives students the option), since that meant I was voted for the last presidential election in a blue state, plus the damn county here wanted to charge me $300 for the privilege of issuing me a new Texas title on the vehicle I already own. Grrr. So I dragged my feet on adopting Texas as my new home for a long time.

This year I figured I should finally get around to it. I grudgingly forked over that $300, then waited for 3 hours at the DPS to apply for my new driver’s license. Handily, applying for a Texas driver’s license and for voter’s registration can be done all in one go. On the DL form, there is a question that asks “Would you like to register to vote?” I checked “yes”, and received my new license in about 3 weeks, as promised. I did not however, receive my voter’s registration card in the estimated 8 weeks…but I forgot all about it until the week of our local midterm elections 4 months later.

It speaks for itself, really.

Noting that I had not received the same volume of junk campaign flyers as the mister did, I remembered that I had never received my voter’s registration card either. So I called the county clerk’s office, spent about 30 minutes wading through a labyrinthine voice menu (I HATE those! What’s wrong with touch tone entry???), and finally reached a human being who confirmed that the county had no record of me as a voter. I read off the receipt I had from my driver’s license, indicating that I had indeed applied. That did not clear anything up at all. I asked if I needed to submit a new registration, but was told not to, that this could trigger an inquiry into “voter fraud” if my original registration of which only I seem to have a record were to resurface. I was told I should turn up to my local precinct, vote on a provisional ballot, and that this would result in someone more capable turning up my presumed-pending registration.

So that’s what I did. (It was kind of exciting – I’d never voted in person before. Shortly after turning 18, I moved to California, which does NOT allow full-time students from out of state to be residents, and so I’d always voted absentee.) The folks at my precinct were very helpful, and studiously walked me through the provisional ballot system so that nothing was amiss, and they assured me that if my registration were somewhere in the system, casting this ballot was sure to turn it up.

Two weeks ago I received a disappointing piece of mail in which I was informed that my provisional ballot was rejected because there was no record of my voter’s registration anywhere. I felt chastised, and a little hopeless about trying to navigate this whole mess again in order to become an enfranchised voter without triggering any kind of mess.

Then, miraculously, a week ago I FINALLY received a voter’s registration card in the mail, after no further action on my part. It states that it is valid from 3 December 2011, to 31 December 2011. So, not early enough for my ballot in the last election to be counted and just in time to expire before the new year. *LOLsob*

To sum up:

Stated method for becoming a registered voter: 1) check the box on your DL application, 2) receive registration in mail

Actual method: 1) check box on DL application, 2) call country clerk when nothing happens, 3) DO NOT re-register in order to avoid any accusation of voter fraud, 4) vote via provisional ballot, 5) have provisional ballot rejected because you are not a registered voter according to everyone, 6) FINALLY receive a voter’s registration card valid for a 29 day period during which no elections are held, and which does not retroactively include the provisional ballot that you have already cast, 7) later, rinse, repeat upon expiry of current 29-day-long enfranchisement?

It’s almost like they don’t want me to vote.

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Chicken Lust

October 19, 2011

I am having nesting urges. I do not want babies. I want chickens. I want to get up in the morning and let them out of their hen house and listen to them cluck with glee as I dole out kitchen scraps. I want to eat eggs with vibrant orange yolks for breakfast, and know that they got that way because the hens are keeping our resident cockroach population in check. Circle of life, and all that jazz.

We live in an urban neighborhood, but houses on our street (including our own) all have small yards, and it is even LEGAL to have chickens (under a certain hen/sq. ft. density – no roosters allowed). We eat a lot of eggs and I feel like a small flock of less than half a dozen would satisfy my farm girl itch for a while.

However, it would be rather impractical given our current state of uncertainty. What if we take new jobs in the next 6 months? Who do you give your chickens to when you move out of state? I have no idea.

So, no chickens for now. Look, but don’t touch. I know how you feel, kid.

Fucking chicken. Can't even take it home with me.

The Big Uglies

October 11, 2011

The Little/Big Uglies - whimsical paper cutouts by Vladmir Stankovic

*deep breath*

Some days, being objectively no better or worse than other days, are just crushing. I’m not really sure why, but there it is. Today is one of those days. Monday’s productivity lost to a sinus infection, looming deadlines at the end of the month and the year, and a general sense of futility with regard to the emotional fulfilment that I seem to feel entitled to in my job (HA!). Plus the never-ending to-do list of tiny little wedding things – very few of which are particularly urgent or important at this precise moment, but if dealt with now, they will never get the chance to pull the whole train off the rails later on when there are bigger and more important and more urgent things. Today, it is all sitting on my chest, and my throat feels tight. I try to breathe, let it all out in the exhale but it’s still just parked there. It feels about the size of one of our cats. We have large enormous cats.

One or two of these things would not be so bad, but there isn’t just one or two. What’s that they say about balancing work, life, and family? It’s actually very easy: just pick two. I think the same is true of balancing the Big Uglies in one’s life. Right now, it’s the job, and the wedding planning. The third is our financial no-fly zone. One of us is (under)employed (unhappily, but at least securely and with health insurance), and the other of us is unemployed (unhappily, sans health insurance). Fuck this economy, is about all I can say about it at the moment.

Some days, it’s all a bit much. Today is one of those days – it’s a little hard to breathe, and although my boss has been making rumblings that he’d like to see me spend less time in my office (where I am productive) and more in the lab (where I appear productive, to him), I find myself holed up behind my desk so that I don’t “accidentally” deliver a fatal puncture to someone’s jugular with the sharp end of a P1000 pipettor. Yikes. It’s not anyone else’s fault, or even mine, really (stop berating yourself, Magpie). These things that I am dealing with so poorly are at least for the present, very much outside of my control. And the things within my control (like the itty-bitty wedding planning goblins) are being beaten within an inch of breathing in my effort to wrest some semblance of productivity out of my day, even if it’s not the kind that really matters. I’m just not sure how to refocus the frustrated rage toward something useful (like the tedium of generating sequencing primers). Instead I sit here quietly hyperventilating, which is neither solving my problems, nor is it accomplishing anything useful towards my work. Tomorrow will probably feel better, even though it is unlikely that any of the Big Uglies will have worked themselves out overnight.

Anyone else feel like this sometimes? How do you snap out of it? Or at least redirect it?