July 29, 2004

Quiz Mania

It's only Thursday, but it feels like Friday...(better kill some time 'til my internal clock matches up with the real world). Quiz links thanks to Half-Cocked.

You're Brazil!

You're athletic, charming, and probably a good dancer.
 Unfortunatley, you don't really mind chopping down the rain forest, and you probably
consider homeless people expendable in certain circumstances.  Of course, your
personality is so diverse that it's hard to track down exactly what you're like.  You
definitely like Pele, the World Cup, and shouting "gooooal" at the
top of your lungs.

the Country Quiz at the href="http://bluepyramid.org">Blue Pyramid

You're Alaska!

You're big, bulky, and extremely wild. At the same time, you're rather
cold and standoffish, even a loner of sorts. Taming you may be one of the last great
quests of the people who do manage to find you or even seek you out. So many of them
just want to plunder you for what you have of value, but there are a few, the ones
who will stick with you, that truly value your rugged remoteness. As long as no one
is spilling stuff on you, you are truly beautiful.

Take the State Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


Is not going as well as planned. E and I've been hitting the driving range once a week and we've played a few times. This AM, my phone rang at 6:37--Bear was on the phone wondering where I was. The 6:30 back 9 would be played without me.

Apparently, I set the alarm for 6 PM. Rad.

July 28, 2004

Control Freak

I've got quite a few lists currently sitting on my desk at home. Some are even normal and rational:

  • Winter Break 2005 Travel: dates with proposed cities for each date, hotels booked, cities/dates where lodging still needs to be secured, E's travel dates to see the fam, possible departure and return dates to join E with the fam (on hold 'til my finals schedule is available), useful websites with information about the New Year's destination.

  • To do between now and the first day of school: pay bills and completely balance all accounts, clean, price required books on-line, stock up at Costco, handle some annoying legal crap with my brother's landlord, figure out the mess that is E's taxes, dual boot the laptop, get the pictures off the digital camera and up on the Interweb where people can actually see them, and, of course, finish off the other lists as much as possible.

  • The Thank You List: I just had a birthday, there's a stack of cards which require letters in response.

  • The OCI list: buy a suit (UGGH), update the resume, front-load any of the work that OCI will require so that I don't have to do it during school.

But the one that wins me awards for ridiculousness is The master time-line of the next few years with tentative dates for all major life events (graduation, the bar), travel and/or vacations (as well as proposed vacation locales). The time-line has at least two branches after law school right now: one for a clerkship and one for a firm. All branches include a plan to take at least 2 months to travel with E (either a bar trip, or after the clerkship).

Last night, I tried to pin E down on some 2006/2007 details. Went over about as well as you'd imagine. E's good for me that way. Logically, and even at the gut level, I know my life will be a chaotic mess of chance and circumstance. In fact, I'm often at my best when flying by the seat of my pants, I enjoy the chaos and I know it. But, for whatever reason, the world makes more sense to me when I have a plan, even if it's only something from which I readily deviate.

July 26, 2004


In Junior High, I was a Robert Ludlum addict. I'd been in remission for years, and figured I was cured when The Bourne Identity, while good, did not pull me off the wagon.

Remission is not a cure, my friends. This weekend, I saw The Bourne Supremacy with my father. I want to re-read every book Ludlum wrote and can't wait for the Bourne Ultimatum to come out. Yes, the movie was only loosely related to the book, but it was smart and fast and true to the feeling that Ludlum was famous for creating.

In other news, I'm feeling very silly. Today, I found myself hiding behind corners at work and stalking up to my secretary to catch snippets of her phone converations before she realized I was there--I hope I get over this soon.

July 25, 2004


Everyone is looking around at each other like no one's wearing any pants.
-- Anonymous guy at my high school reunion.

This weekend, I went to my hometown for my high school reunion. The class president was lazy for a while, so this was the first official reunion despite the fact that most schools have had at least one and possibly two in the time we've had none.

I left E at home, which was a good call. I couldn't really imagine why E would want to meet a bunch of people with whom I didn't keep in contact. I mean sure, I'd love to show off that I've managed to find someone really cool who doesn't mind being seen with me, particularly since I was so unsuccessful at the whole dating thing in high school--but please, I'm above all that. No really. I most definitely did not make sure to mention E to every happily in-love couple that approached me.

D, my cousin and I met for a drink beforehand so we could arrive with the backup of a posse. Good thing, too. The first 30 minutes in that room were the most socially uncomfortable minutes of my life to date. (Note, I'm not exactly what you'd call smooth.) For those few minutes, I was supremely glad I hadn't made E come, and I wasn't totally certain why I had come either.

But, I looked around the room, and I realized why: Despite the fact that I barely remembered most of these people, I was primally curious about what had happened in their branch of space-time. I was not alone, as we all seemed to feel it. Most of us initially roamed in packs and asked the vital questions: "Where do you live? What are you doing? So who's the lucky guy or girl? Any kids?"

The conversations were short and repetitive. I shook a lot of hands and doled out hugs, kisses, and compliments as appropriate. I was surprised at the number of my classmates who were balding and impressed with the way most of the crowd seemed to be healthy, confident, and genuinely happy.

Despite the awkward beginnings, the party quickly turned into a fun event. So much so that D, cousin, and I went to an afterparty and talked the night away with strangers. Soon enough it was 4 AM. And then, exhausted, we left. I probably won't see any of those people again until the next reunion. Logically, I can't find any reason why I should have enjoyed the event so much--it was awkward, full of people I don't feel compelled to stay in touch with, dominated by what's-your-status conversations, and just plain weird. But, I had a blast and I'm glad I went.

July 22, 2004

Hungry Eyes

I haven't taken copyright yet. I've only prepared the filing for one U.S. copyright, and turns out, it's just a fill-in-the-blank type form, so I didn't learn very much from that assignment.

I'm vaguely aware that useful artistic works can be copyrighted, but I'm not very clear on when you'd want to file a design patent versus a copyright (except that the copyright is much easier and cheaper to file).

So, as an educational exercise, I read the 7th Circuit's recent opinion on the copyright of a mannequin head, Pivot Point International Inc. v. Charlene Products Inc. (No. 1-3888).

Am I the only one who finds this sentence hilarious?

In the mid-1980's Passage [the hair designer who founded Pivot Point] desired to develop a mannequin that would imitate the "hungry look" of high-fashion runway models.

I thought not.

July 20, 2004

Random Bits
After all, what is your hosts' purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they'd have simply sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi.
--P. J. O'Rourke

Last night, E and I had a great, but oddly international, evening. First, we went to play it again sports because the gods and I successfully conspired to convince E into buying a set of golf clubs [rubs hands, EX--cellent]. Then, we headed to the Japanese grocery store near the play-it-again because we're rarely in this area of town and how can you not go to the Japanese market? After we drooled over the sushi-grade fish selection, we picked up all sorts of good stuff that we don't normally get to have at home like chili rice crackers, fresh frozen mochi, roasted barley tea, fresh frozen soba, and noodle dipping sauce. Shopping when you can't read is always a fun experience--it's sort of like traveling very quickly. We finally left the market when it became apparent that we were picking up stuff because we were hungry, not because we knew what it was or whether we'd enjoy eating it.

From there, we headed to a favorite Mexican food joint that is renown for their tequila selection which includes upwards of 300 blue agave options. We savored simple enchiladas de pollo, chile colorado, y margaritas. The one drawback was the accoustics--there was no avoiding the loud voice of the salesman in the corner (bouncing off both walls). E and I were treated to a jargon-filled explanation of his start-up to an older, more experienced-sounding gentleman (aka a grey-hair). The economy must be on the upswing if this guy's getting funding, either that or he just popped out of a time machine from 1999 and no-one's bothered to explain the new rules to him. Dude, you need to understand the words you use. At least some of them.

We arrived home too full to move, swearing we'd never eat again (we regularly make this oath, it's sort of a religion for us). So, we sat on the couch and finished off our multi-cultural evening with L'auberge Espagnole. Nothing like hearing Japanese, Mexican Spanish, Catalan, Castillion Spanish, French, and a few phrases of Italian and Danish to give you f*cked up dreams.

July 19, 2004

An Idea in Its Time

It's simultaneously cool and creepy when there's convergent evolution of thought.

In this case, it's just good to see I'm not alone in my excessive thinking about golf (or putt-putt, but close enough).

July 17, 2004


While it's true that I still have no golf game, I really want to earn one. Last summer, I played for practical reasons--I knew that in law, and particularly at the firm where I worked, knowing how to golf was a good career move. Once school started, I stopped golfing because studying seemed much more important, career-wise, than working on my golf game.

But this summer, I'm enjoying golf for its own sake. I'm sore from the all-day 18-hole gorgeous PGA course on the ocean experience that the firm sponsored for the summers--it was a fabulous experience for which I am very thankful. Despite the soreness, I have a tee time for Sunday, and I'm looking forward to it. I want to go back because I want to feel that great feeling when you hit the ball well--it's addictive. I also love the sun, the way my back feels creaky and well-used after a long day of golf, the conversations with friends, and the lack of time pressure.

But more importantly, I've realized that one of the best reasons why golf is a great game is because it sits in the middle ground between so many types of people.

Indoors v. Outdoors:

Outdoorsy types get the sun and the walk and the view. Indoorsy types get the civilized tamed-down nature. The alternative is hiking, camping, etc. where the indoorsy would not attend, or indoor activities, where the outdoorsy would feel closed in.

Drinkers vs. Non-drinkers:

In your personal social life, you can choose the presence or absence of alcohol, but not so for activities where your attendance is required for other reasons. In my experience, more company/firm social activities cater to drinkers than to the non-drinkers. I've heard negative comments by the drinkers about people not drinking at cocktail parties or open bars (as in, why did they even come?). I've heard complaints from people who prefer to drink that it makes no sense for alcohol to not be allowed at family-friendly company activities. And, I've heard gripes by non-drinkers because the company was sponsoring yet another alcohol-soaked activity. Too often, the presence or lack of alcohol sets the tone for the event and alienates people belonging to the unrepresented group.

Golf deals with this problem quite well--the focus of golfing is golf. The secondary focus is the socializing between the people playing golf. People who prefer to drink and/or smoke when they socialize can do so at the golf course with no fear of people considering it uncouth. People who prefer to abstain can do so without any remarks to that effect. (On a slightly related note, having someone ask me if I wanted the remainder of my wine in a "to-go" cup when I decided to leave the clubhouse before my wine was finished was a VERY odd experience. Who does that?)

Jocks vs. Geeks:

Golf is equally a mental and physical activity--it caters to both athletic types and cerebral types. People who like their leisure activities to be athletic can practice for hours, swing with power, hit hundreds of balls before playing the course, carry their own clubs, and/or walk the entire course. People who prefer not to sweat don't have to warm up, can take only the required number of swings to finish the course, can play a finesse-based game without much effort, and can ride in the carts and stay in the shade. People who prefer mental puzzles can spend infinite time analyzing the wind, the greens, the clubs, and the swing.

I could go on about the balance between team players and soloists, competitive and social players, and those who play by skill and those who play by luck. But I'll stop.

I just thought I'd give you all a warning. Golf may be showing up on this blog quite a bit more often. I may have to add it to my description on the left corner. I suck, but I like it and I imagine with practice I'll get better. Wish me luck.

July 15, 2004

Gender Bender

DG posts about Nature v. Nurture and I've got to add my 2 cents.

First of all, I'm pretty odd for my sex. I've got a lot of the traits that are stereotyped as belonging to the opposite group. No doubt, my experience as a non-normal member of my sex colors my opinion.

I think there are inherent differences between the sexes ON AVERAGE which might as well be attributed to "nature" since we've got one nasty chicken and egg problem on evolution and the beginning of life that's too hard to address right this minute.

However, I know there are plenty of people who fall outside the nature bell curve for their sex. I imagine nurture plays a stronger role for them than the people who sit happily in normal-for-their sex land. If your formative years are spent around strong gender-role role-models, presumably, you will absorb their essence, whether it's smack-dab in the center of the bell curve, or way off in outlier-land.

In short, I don't think you can say very much that's useful about a single member of either sex simply because they have the XX or the XY. But, if you get a big enough group together and you could probably make some reasonably accurate generalizations.

Finally, there's the nasty feedback loop: generalizations about groups of people of either sex are most likely derived somewhat from the bell-curve of nature. But the truthfulness of the generalizations makes them part of society's idea of gender roles. Once society accepts it as normal, it becomes nurture.

Raaaaiiiiighhht. I'm saying something oh-so-clearly here. It's this: I think there's a balance of sorts, but there's not really any way to know whether nurture or nature plays a larger role because they are inter-related.

Time Keeps on Slippin'

Yesterday was J's birthday. He's a little depressed about getting older. Okay, he's a lot depressed.

He informed me over lunch that he did the math and figures he's only got about 2000 good weekends left in his life. He's pretty certain that past a certain age, the weekends won't be worth anything either.

I retorted with, "Well, I try to remind myself that I'm on borrowed time every day. I could die today. So could you. No use assuming you've only got 2000 weekends left. You could have none--stop moping and have a good day, dude. It's your birthday."

Not the typical birthday toast, but I think he needed it. He smiled. We finished lunch with laughter and stories of our favorite birthday memories.

July 14, 2004

A Gift

I'm going to give you something. If you aren't into food, you'll probably think it's not that great of a gift. But, if you are, even just a little bit--you should try it out. I bet you'll be glad you did.

See, I love home made gnocchi. I've made it about 6 times in the last 2 years. Each time, it's turned out differently. First, the balls were heavy, doughy, starchy rocks. The next time, they fell apart in the boiling water (probably because I was scared of overkneading and adding too much flour due to the previous time). The third time, I followed a different recipe and steamed the potatoes instead of boiling--they turned out perfectly although it was very time consuming. The fourth time, following the exact same recipe, they were mealy. The fifth time, I went back to boiling, and again, I had a sauce-topped potato soup. Last night, I decided to try the renegade recipe in Pasta Al Dente.

Thanks Biba! The gnocchi turned out perfectly, and required the least amount of effort of any time I've ever made it.

So, take it from me, in order to make the simplest, easiest, most wonderful gnocchi, follow these steps and skip the boiling, steaming, and eggs.

Ingredients per person:
1 russet potato
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt

To make the Gnocchi:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Wash, scrub, and dry the potatoes and cut a deep inciscion lengthwise in each one.
3. Bake them uncovered for 1 hour ('til soft).
4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
5. Peel potatoes while still warm and run them through a potato ricer, or for the hard core, mash them with a fork. (Trust me, the food processor, the mixer, and mashing with a masher do not get the consistency you want.)
6. Slowly knead flour and salt into potato mush until the dough is complete.
7. Flour a flat surface and roll orange-sized balls into long ropes.
8. Cut the ropes into 1/2 inch long pieces and pinch the sides. Optional: roll them over a fork or grater for sauce grooves.

(You can refrigerate the uncooked gnocchi for a day or two)

To Cook:
9. Boil a pot of water with a dash of salt.
10. Add the gnocchi about 20 at a time.
11. When they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon.
12. Place them on paper towels or in a collander to allow the excess water to be removed.
13. Serve immediately, topped with your favorite pasta sauce. (Hint, you can use the pre-heated oven to roast onions, bell-peppers, garlic, etc. for the sauce while you work with the dough.)

You're welcome.

July 12, 2004

I Wish

I were funnier.
I knew how to tango (not just pretend).
I was more passionate about writing so I could hole up and do it instead of dream of doing it while having a more balanced, but less author-like life.
I took myself less seriously.
I knew when it was okay to cross the line.
I didn't question myself as often as I do.
I wasn't so judgmental.
I wasn't so quick to think I know the answer.
I was more focused.
I was more spontaneous.
I could have infinite time and opportunity to do the things I want and to spend the time I want with the people I care about.
I had more patience.
Summer wasn't half-way over.

July 10, 2004

I Got No Game

I started playing golf a bit last summer. I took some lessons and tried to either get to the driving range or play 9 holes about once a week. By the time school started I could regularly hit the ball over 100 yards with my irons and occasionally drove the ball closs to 200 yards.

Then school started. I haven't touched my clubs since October.

Soon, the firm is taking us on a golfing day with the partners. It's rumored that the partners attending are all quite good golfers. One partner suggested scramble or best ball format, but the others wanted to play a full 18 holes themselves. So, most of the summers are pretty sure that we will be embarrassing ourselves for 18 holes.

I went to the driving range for the first time in 8 months just to make sure. It was like starting from scratch. I took a large bucket of balls and managed to get a blister on my non-gloved hand (bought a second glove) while topping some balls, whiffing a few more, hitting several ground rollers for 20 yards, and regularly slamming the ball into the net immediately to my right and left.

So yeah, I'm going to suck at the golf course. Oh, well, I guess there's no pressure on me--barring a miracle, it's impossible for me to do anything but suck.

July 8, 2004

Stop Making Stuff Up!

It's been a while since I've spent time with an atomic table. The application I'm working on includes references to the following:

1. Tantalum (mmm... tasty)
2. Hafnium (the C2 of metals, apparently)
3. Niobium (doesn't this sound like a planet just waiting to be discovered?)
4. Indium (really?)

July 7, 2004

One Thing They Got Right

If you ask me, there's no arguing with the 9 months of education, 3 months of work model. By the end of the school year, I was sick of being a student and ready to be a productive member of society. Here, I may not be the MOST productive citizen, but I'm doing things that matter to some people--I'm actually getting things that people need done and I feel useful.

I'm learning, too, but it's a different kind of learning than school. First of all, much of it is too practical for what they teach in school. I've learned about several gotchas you have to check for when a file is transferred from an incompetent lawyer. I've learned that much of what I did in my prior career is considered "legal skills." And, I've learned that I shouldn't bother spending time on formatting documents because I'll never be as good as my admin at word processing and any work I do just makes her workload increase when she has to undo it.

It's also a slower type of learning than school. It's the spaces between the grunt work where there's actual legal stuff (some of which I haven't seen before)--that's where the learning occurs. After the whirlwind of last year, it's nice to cushion knowledge acquisition between easy required tasks and pretty-please-come-work-here perks. Having weekends and a paycheck are additional bonuses which I am doing my best to enjoy heartily.

Now, I'm almost halfway through my summer and I can see that after another half of a summer, I'll be ready to re-enter school with a healthy thirst for speed-demon learning. I know this because when I see issues that I'm not qualified to address, I'll think, "why can't I be done with school already? That work looks so interesting and the only reason I can't offer to take it is because I don't know anything about it (and I'm a Summer)."

In short, I think the 3/4 of a year at school and 1/4 of the year in the environment where you may eventually work is a fabulous model for education. I wonder why more fields don't do it. After two summers, when you get out, you actually have a chance at having a clue and being useful. I certainly think that engineering educations would be better if everyone was required to do an internship or two before they graduated. You need the fish-in-water portion of your education, and it's either going to happen on your first job, or before you get out. Why not graduate qualified people who have some idea of the field where they will be working?

An associate asked me whether I liked working or school better. I told him that I really liked the 3/4-1/4 split, but knew that it wasn't sustainable. He smiled and said, "yeah, those were some good years..." and walked off. I wonder if that should scare me. I try not to think about it, but I suspect that next year is going to be much more demanding than last year. That's fine, I'll handle it. I'm just happy to have this summer to slow down a bit, get a feel for what I'm working for, and enjoy life before 2L.

I guess this is my thanks to the organizations, agencies, firms, and schools who make the 3/4-1/4 split a reality. It's really quite a good life I've been living for the last year.

[update: I changed the ratio for a 2/3-1/3 split to a 3/4-1/4 split because of the 9 months, 3 months ratio. In reality, it's more like 2/3 in school, 1/4 at work and 1/12 on vacation, which may be why I so thoroughly enjoy the distribution of my time.]

July 5, 2004


And the living's easy...

Camping was the name of the game this weekend. I'm so relaxed I don't quite know what to do with myself. I'm tan. There's a very solid v-shape on my feet to mark the flip-flops I wore everywhere except inside the tent. I swam in the lake. I needed a shower when I got home.

Some people couldn't make it due to food poisoning, getting into car/bike accidents and the usual crap that life throws your way. So, we had extra food. Obviously, I'm concerned for the ones who didn't attend and feel bad for their mishaps, but you don't want to hear about that.

What you want to hear about is this:

Corn Fritters, Southern Style

1. Cut the corn off of 4 left over white corn on the cobs from camping.
2. Mix 1 dried jabanero habanero pepper, corn, the yolks of 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of flour in the food processor 'til pastey.
3. Add a dash of salt, pepper, 1 tsp baking powder, a few TBSP of milk or cream and mix again.
4. Beat egg whites from yolks above until frothy.
5. Add egg whites to mixture in food processor and mix for 1 minute.
6. Pour mixture into bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups grated romano cheese.
7. Heat a 1 cm layer of oil (I used canola, bacon grease would probably be even better tasting, but worse for you, take your pick) in a sautee pan over high heat. Once simmering, turn down to 7/10 of the high heat temp.
8. Spoon mixture of fritters from bowl into simmering oil and cook 1-2 minutes each side. Flip once you can see brown on the edges.
9. Remove from oil when done. Place on paper towels to collect excess grease.
10. Eat immediately as a side dish, or if truth be told about E and I this evening, as a complete self-indulgent meal without any other additions.

Happy Independence Day Y'all.

July 1, 2004

Here I go again

I just called my county voter's office and volunteered to be an election official for the November polls.


Earlier today, I remembered getting all worked up over the Diebold Debacle and figured it'd make a nice brain-break over lunch to skim the electronic version of Black Box Voting.

The writing is a little too conspiracy-theory for me. It's clear that much of what is normal in software occurs at Diebold and other companies that develop voting software. Mistakes happen. Products are shipped in a hurry and QA isn't what it should be. Programmers make ascerbic comments in the code. Also, it's shocking but true that local government has a hard time upgrading technology in its voting processes and will fumble quite a bit.

This may be why most tech people don't support e-voting. The average standards of the software industry are not high enough to inspire tech geek confidence in using software for important crap like Fly-by-wire, medical software and individual rights, like voting. This isn't to say that it can't be done properly. It's just that if you transport typical software engineers into a mission critical product, ummm, most of the other software geeks won't want to be early adopters.

The actions of the Diebold programmers don't appear malicious to someone who's worked with software engineers under tight deadlines with bugs to fix and product managers who can't allow the product version to roll. This is a point that I think Ms. Harris misses in her book, and one that made me view the rest of her writing with cautious suspiscion.

However, the allegations of abuse are more serious. The lack of certification, horrid Access "database" design (no primary keys!), last minute upgrades on-site at elections, apparent tampering or removal of votes and denials after the fact are huge problems. The fact that major parts of the Diebold code were written by a convicted felon who served 2.5 years for multiple counts of embezzlement (and one of his jail buddies, a convicted cocaine trafficker managed a division of Diebold)--well, clearly, there's an accountability hole in this process somewhere. What I can glean from the book indicates that there's the potential to alter voting tallies in most versions of Diebold systems that have been deployed in recent years and the reports from election sites make it seem likely that tampering occurred.

But, before we all jump on the grand conspiracy cruise, it seems like CA Secretary of State, Kevin Shelly is on it. Santa Clara County met the re-certification requirements, so electronic voting will occur in November. I figure if there is a conspiracy, I should at least go participate in the process and be able to report back about how bad it appears to the poll workers. Should be an interesting experience, I imagine.

Regardless, I'll be using a paper ballot.