November 28, 2006

If there is a conspiracy, it's complex

Barrett v. Rosenthal was handed down by the California Supreme Court on November 20th. Internet defamers rejoice! Internet republication of defamatory statements is not actionable. Doesn't matter if you have malice. (Unless it's a conspiracy to divide the creation of the content and the publication to the internet, which if you plan to do, you might want to read Judge Moreno's concurrence.)

The CA Supreme Court spent quite a few words saying, this may not be the smartest decision, but we're bound by section 230 of the CDA. Pre-emption. You know, the stuff my buddy Erwin's all about.

What struck me, however, was the line up in favor the respondent defendant. On the side of strong first amendment protections and low protections for individuals subject to internet defamation you've got:
the EFF, the ACLU,, Inc., America Online, Inc., eBay Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corporation, Yahoo! Inc., ABC, Inc., Ask Jeeves, Inc., Cable News Network LP, LLLP, Compuserve Interactive Services, Inc., Earthlink, Inc., ESPN, Inc., Netscape Communications Corporation, SBC Internet Services, Time Warner Cable Inc., The Washington Post Company, Association for Competitive Technology, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Information Technology Association of America, Internet Alliance, Internet Commerce Coalition, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Netchoice, Netcoalition, Newspaper Association of America, Online News Association, Online Publishers Association, TechNet and United States Internet Service Provider Association.

No liability for repeating what you heard or read on the Internet. Apparently that's something EVERYONE can get behind.

Strange bedfellows make the best stories, don't you think?
Choco-Riffic Recipe #4

This one may be my favorite so far. We took it to a party, it was a hit. It was a little too crumbly the night of, but today, the leftovers... mmm... can you say breakfast, after work snack, and dessert?

Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Swirled Brownies

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate (chopped or shaved)
2 1/4 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 Eggs
1/2 cup smooth all-natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon Light Corn Syrup

Heat oven to 325-degrees. Butter a 13"x9" baking pan. Chop the unsweetened chocolate and melt it (40% power in the microwave for 2 minutes at a time, approximately 3 times, with stirring between works wonderfully). Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large pot, melt the butter. Let cool. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually stir in the flour mixture. Divide dough in half. Stir the melted chocolate into one half and the peanut butter and corn syrup into the other.

Drop the batters by large tablespoonfuls into the pan. With a spatula, swirl/pat down the batters to marbleize. Bake until edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting or it will crumble too much.

Comments: next time, I think I'll actually wait 'til the butter is completely cool. This time it was still warm and I think it may have cooked the eggs a bit, leading to a very doughy dough. Alternatively, I may opt to add 1/4 cup of milk to the dough to cool it down and ensure moisture before separation.

November 25, 2006

Choco-Riffic Recipe #3

Well, Thanksgiving came and went. I made recipe #3 for Thanksgiving. Thus, I missed the self-imposed deadline of 6 recipes by Thanksgiving, but I'll keep cooking and the Scharffen Berger is still in the fridge, so there should be more happiness in the future. It'll just be the gift that keeps on giving. Longer.

Dark-Chocolate Glazed Peanut Butter Tart

COOKIE CRUST (make the night before, or at least 5 hours before to allow it to cool):

1 package sugar-coated chocolate graham crackers (1/3 of a box).
1 1/2 oz (3 Tbs) unsalted butter, melted.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F & place rack in the middle. Crumb the crackers in the cuisinart. Pour the butter over and pulse until evenly moistened. Push into an ungreased tart pan with a removable bottom (or, if you are me, and don't own one, a 9-inch pie pan). Bake until it smells nutty (10 minutes or so). Allow to cool.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp table salt
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup very firmly packed light brown sugar
4 tsp all-purpose flour
4 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) creamy all-natural peanut butter (only peanuts & salt)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Bring milk & salt to a simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Whisk egg yolks, brown sugar and flour until well-blended. Slowly add hot milk, whisking constantly. Put the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking consistently until it thickens and comes to a full boil (approx 3 minutes). Continue to cook for another minute. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla and stir until well blended. Pour into crust and spread evenly with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap to avoid a film and freeze for at least 2 hours before glazing.


3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 Tbs. light corn syrup

Mix all 3 ingredients over low-medium heat and stir constistently until the mixture is smooth (approx 1-2 minutes). Remove the plastic wrap from the chilled filling and pour the glass over the filling & spread it evenly. Freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Serves 12.

Comments: So far, by popular vote, this is the best use of the dark chocolate for cooking purposes. I'd prefer the custard to be slightly firmer, but perhaps I need to bring it to a more rowdy boil before taking it off the heat. Next time...
Choco-Riffic Recipe #2

The quest to find the best use for the Scharffen Berger splurge continued for a viewing party to watch the CAL-USC game. I don't want to talk about the game. But the chocolate was good stuff.

Pecan Chocolate Squares

6 oz. (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. table salt
2 oz. finely grated bittersweet chocolate (I used 3 oz. as it's a bar of the Scharf)

10 oz. pecans (3 cups) toasted (I used 4 cups, they came in 2 cup bags)
1/4 lb (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbs. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. table salt

Preheat oven to 350F and put a rack in the middle. COOKIE BASE: Put the buttter in the food processor along with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon and salt for about 20 pulses. (If you are making this at your brother's house and he's not really the food-processor-type, then you can improvise by cutting the butter into the flour, etc. until it is well combined.) Scatter the dough into a 9-inch square baking pan and press envenly. Bake until browned (about 25 minutes). Cover with shaved chocolate and let it melt. PECAN TOPPING: While the chocolate melts, pulse pecans in food processor (or, at brother's house, crush them while still in the bag with a rolling pin or the flat side of a butcher's knife.) Melt butter in saucepan & stir in the dark brown sugar, honey, cream and salt. Simmer for a minute while stirring occassionaly. Stir in the pecans. Pour the mixture over the cookie base. Bake until much of the filling is bubbling (not just the edges). Let cool completely in the pan & cut into squares.

A few comments: While delicious, it was VERY rich and crumbly. A small square and a coffee would suffice to keep anyone with a sweet tooth quite busy. Lucky_girl thinks the structural integrity would be helped by a double batch of cookie layer. I think cooking longer (too ensure that the entire thing is, in fact bubbling) and allowing it to completely cool, perhaps overnight or in the freezer would also help.


November 23, 2006

Bar: Advice & Recap

I found reading blogs of those who took the test before me to be very helpful. I also looked to the bloggers who were taking it at the same time as me for support and distraction.

Well, I've got enough distance from the stupid test that I can now compile one big summary post for those who are looking for information. So, I'll throw out the lessons I learned as a thank you to those who did the same before me.

Be Honest With Yourself

I'm fairly certain that I would have failed the test had I not been extremely honest with myself back in July. My assigned essays weren't looking very much like the BarBri sample answers. My graded essays were coming back marked FAIL. Although I didn't know much about how I was doing, the little bit of feedback I was getting said I was going to fail unless I learned to make my essays look more like what they were expecting.

I have always been the one who arrives at conclusions via a different path. This is often rewarded in life. But the bar exam grader who has 2 minutes to read my essay was not going to reward my unique thought processes. If I didn't do something differently, I was fairly certain I was going to fail. Unfortunately, BarBri does not offer any strategy on how to construct an answer that looks like everyone else's. They teach the same material, then give the same model essays as feedback, and a majority of their students fall into line. If that is you, great. Keep on the path. But, that may not be you. In fact, if you have a tendency toward intellectual curiosity, you may be in serious trouble with the bar. Intellectualy curiosity can lead you to discuss side issues that may demonstrate knowledge of the law, but not the knowledge the grader is looking for. BarBri will claim that people fail because they don't use the facts. Some people may do that. But people like me, we would fail because we use the facts too much.

Seek Other Resources

One of the main reasons, if not the number one reason this test is difficult is because of the mental warfare and mystery the CA bar and BarBri create and propogate. For example, no passing scores and tests are released. It would be very helpful for second time takers to be able to compare their failing essays against passing essays. It would be extremely helpful for those studying to compare failing essays against passing essays. But, no. It's a *mystery.* So accept that aspect of the stupid exam and recognize that you are going to have to do some work in a void, which will be very frustrating. If you, like me, even begin to suspect that barbri is not giving you enough feedback in the void, then my suggestion to you is to seek out other feedback in order to feel comfortable.

Similiarly, if your MBE scores aren't where you'd like them to be, seek out help and feedback.

Your mileage may vary, but I highly recommend the additional resources that I used to prepare for the essay portion of the bar exam:

Bar Breaker Volume 1 and 2: The last 2 weeks before the bar exam, I read the intro to each subject and outlined or wrote sample answers to every question in this book. I entertained his approach and adopted some of his methods. I found them very helpful. I completely bailed on the last half of the BarBri assigned essays. I found that many of them were assigned in these books, so overall, I probably did the majority of the BarBri assigned essays. In particular, I found these answers so ridiculously simplistic that I couldn't believe they would be passing answers. But, the sense of relief I felt after reading each question during the bar exam and knowing that I could write an answer that looked something like the ones I'd reviewed in these books was huge. I think that if you know you can write a simple answer that covers the basic law for every possible exam topic you will have the confidence and time to fill in the random other side issues that will get you extra points.

Bar Exam Survival Kit. I think if I had to prepare for the bar exam again and I was only allowed one resource, this would be the one I would choose. The last two weeks before the bar, I read and re-read the 6-8 page summaries for each topic and made certain that nothing they mentioned was missing from my issue outline/checklists. I made certain that I could recite the rules for each major area. I memorized stupid mnemonics to ensure that I could name every major sub-area for any topic. As a final step, I condensed all of my outlines into a 5 page 2-inch by 3-inch flip book of my mnemonics. This is all I used to study while at the bar exam. Every night, I'd review the mnemonics and comfort myself with the fact that I could recite every power held by every branch. I could sing a song of every single Tort and all of their elements. I could name all the constitutional limitations on powers. When I read that the call of one of the questions was the 1st Amendment, I typed the headings from my mnemonic before I read the fact pattern: state action, and then all of the various tests. I was appalled to read the question and find that they presented the issues to be addressed in the exact order of my mnemonic, which was straight from Jeff Adachi's Bar Exam Survival Kit. That question drove home the point to me. The California Bar exam is NOT a test of legal knowledge and skill. It's a test of keeping your cool, and learning enough law plus tactics to demonstrate that you can be just like everyone else who has figured out the game.

I also did every free seminar offered by Scott Pearce. I think if I had failed the bar exam, I'd hire Scott Pearce as my tutor for the second go-round. Often, while doing his seminars this summer I toyed with the idea of having him grade one of my essays for more feedback. I learned the trick of reading the call of the question and doing the big picture outline of the answer before reading the question from him. This proved to be a life-saver in helping me avoid legal side-tracking.

Know how you are going to take the test before you take it

Towards the end (last 5 days before the bar or so), I'd do 50 PMBR questions a day and outline any essay I could get my hands on to ensure that my approaches/mnemonics were available in my head and to make sure I wasn't missing any major issues. I outlined almost all of the past exams on the California Bar Website and the majority of the BarBri essays I'd put off by doing BarBreaker. This meant I'd seen and outlined many of the past questions twice before going into the exam. Turns out, the Bar repeats many of the topics it presents, so familiarity with the outline form for past exams was extremely helpful.

On several questions during the exam, I read the call, wrote the basic outline as typed headings, read the facts and filled in my sub-outline with sub-headings and rules all with a sense of deja-vu because I'd done the exact same outline, headings, and sub-headings just a few days earlier.

Don't forget to do something to stay sane

Work out. Cook/Eat. Visualize getting passing results. Visualize the act of taking the entire test. Hang out with non-law friends. Whatever it is that you need to do to get those stress hormone levels to lower. Do it regularly throughout the entire process. I found that much like visualizing a sports performance, the few minutes each week (and every morning during the last two weeks) I spent visualizing taking the test and getting passing results gave me a sense of calm during the actual test itself.

All of the bar posts

If you want to go through the whole experience with me with the random life stuff redacted, here you go:

Realizing that my Property professor didn't teach us jack shit about the real law. Bar-Blog Disclaimer. Early Bird PMBR. Discipline via self-bribery. The First Bar-Induced Freak-Out. Understanding Why. I heart Chemerinsky. Bar Dreams. Discipline. General Update. Realization that I'm Failing. Still Failing. My MBE study plan offered in exchange for essay study tips. Angry. The Game. Reciting rules on a date. Accidentally thinking I started to fail MBE's as well. Another Failed Essay. Passing my First Essay. The last BarBri Lecture. Released MBE's. The DO NOT THINK mantra. Con Law is my new least favorite subject. Lowest point in the process. Exercise. 1 week to go. In the Zone. Reality . My thoughts on the exam.

November 22, 2006


Ladies and gentleman, for the first time since 2002, tomorrow, I will be paid to spend time with family, gorge myself on turkey, and over-indulge in food and alcohol in the American Tradition.

I don't think I ever properly appreciated the beauty of paid holidays before law school. I'm not sure why. I worked before undergrad and during undergrad as an hourly employee. There must have been the first paid holiday after undergrad. But for some reason, I don't recall the same sense of joy and awe that I've had ever since leaving work at 4:45 PM today.


November 21, 2006

Culinary Balance

If you are making a version of Bagna Cauda that calls for oil and butter, it will be deliciously rich. The cookbook that suggests serving it only with fresh, bitter vegetables (to cut the richness) makes a good point.

It makes an excellent side dish.

But, it *is* a bit much, even for those of us who profess to love grease, when it is paired with roasted potatoes in olive oil and herbs as well as linguica and pickled horseradish.

Next time, perhaps with a white bean soup or a minestrone.

November 19, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad

Today was a tough day.

Back in July, Dad flat out promised me that he wouldn't die if I went home and studied for the last two weeks before the bar. He more or less ordered me to go home with a stern look and the phrase:

I don't want to be the reason you don't pass that test.

Well, Dad. You weren't.

I know you are proud of me and I will spend the rest of my life thankful that you were so selfless with your health that you did keep your promise to me. You let me finish the stupid test and celebrate my birthday before you said goodbye. You did it on your terms and I will always be impressed by the strength of the life force you exercised until the very last magical breath that you allowed your children to share with you.

I hope you like the flowers I left you today. I looked around and saw that everyone else left their bouquets in the plastic but that seemed wrong for you so I took out the 20 roses and arranged them on the ground at the base of the feathers.

While I'm not sure how you feel about the roses, I know you loved that Garry collected the longest tailfeathers from all the pheasants that the guys at the pheasant club got yesterday and put 'em at your head.

After visiting you, E and I had headed even further towards the hills and enjoyed a big, hearty, country-style breakfast in a family-run diner with vinyl covered tables and plastic chairs after we visited the cemetery. They don't have diners like that where we live. It was nice. They seemed to know all of the patrons except us, but they welcomed us with the open but guarded glances I sometimes saw you give city-folk if you were with the hunting boys and concerned about how the mud, the guns, and the trucks were going to be received.

I ate myself silly on a portion of huevos rancheros that was fit for a big man who does physical labor for a living. There were easily 6 slabs of bacon in the stack of refried beans, fried tortillas, eggs, and salsa that made up my up-in-the-sticks-version of huevos rancheros. Damn, it was good.

Later, sister, E and I went to your favorite bar and had a few beers while playing liar's dice with the owner. They have a little shrine up for you and a stranger came over to toast you and said he missed you. It was nice. Also, the owner of the bar won at dice, which we all figured you would like. Oh, and you are winning the football pool. But you probably knew that.

Anyways, Happy Birthday big guy. We all love and miss you.

November 17, 2006

Good News

Thank you to all of you who supported me with good thoughts, well wishes, comments when I was down, emails, hugs and more.

I passed the stupid California Bar Exam.

I'm very relieved to have that portion of my life finished.

November 16, 2006

Grumpy McGrumperson on the Economics of Going to Law School


I got an email from a recruiter today. She was looking to fill a position similar to those I held in my old life, pre-law, and must have found a VERY stale resume.

The email reminded me that I missed out on quite a bit of income to attend law school. In fact, in terms of pay per hour, I'm probably right where I started -- I'll make more as a lawyer, but I'll also work significantly more hours.

Ignore the increased hours, focus on the increased pay, add in the loans, assume I find out that I passed the bar exam tomorrow and continue in my current career, and it will still take me 7-10 years to break even, depending on the time value of money. I don't mind because I'm excited about practicing law -- I like it.

But, I don't think many people do that math before they go to law school.

The reality is, for the average liberal studies major straight out of college, missing out on the income from a $30,000-$40,000 post-undergrad job over three years (not even including raises), plus loans (which, on average, are $80,000) is a sizeable investment. That's at least $170,000. The alternative could be 3 years of a career, with a moderate social life, conservative living, investing, and possibly, a down payment on a home. Not to mention the possible background in a field that may help you land a legal job with connections to that field. If you have a specialized skillset the amount of income you are potentially giving up is even larger.

I think there aren't enough conversations about the reality of the legal market and the actual range of the pay available to people in it as well as the difficulty of finding work. I know many people who got into law for the money, only to realize the money didn't work out to be as great as they thought and they didn't even want to be lawyers. Other people get into it for the money only to realize that they aren't going to ever make the money that they thought.

Oh, and, there's the added bonus of the bar exam and possibly not being able to practice 6 months after you graduate, it might be 12 months, it might be 18 months.

Yeah, I sound like a big fat bummer on the night before California Bar Results come out. I should be more positive. But, I can't help but think that the bar wouldn't have to be such a shitty experience, nor would the pass rates need to be so low, if the people who went to law school in the first place knew what they were getting into and why they were doing it.

If some sort of dedication to the practice of law was required, perhaps a waiver stating that those applying to law school knew the practice could be low-paying and long-houred, but that they still wanted to do it. If something like that was required, there would be much less of us trying to access that stupid server tomorrow night when the verdict comes down, I'm sure of it.

All right. Enough of that. For those of us who already ran the gauntlet, let us toast ourselves. Regardless of the results tomorrow, we finished one major step on the path. And that, my friends, even if you hated every minute of it, is an accomplishment.

November 15, 2006


My 1st year class is all stressed about the bar results that will become available on Friday. I'm sure, in any normal situation, I would be too.

But when people talk about the bar exam, all I can think is, Dad died 3 days after I finished taking that stupid test. It just repeats over and over in my head anytime someone asks me if I'm scared or stressed or worried about the bar exam. I'm numb to their stress. I don't share it. I'd take that stupid test a million more times and suffer the humiliation of failing a million and one times if it meant Daddy could still be here. I know I can't make that trade, but for some reason, my subconscious thinks it's reasonable to consider.

The bar really is just a test. I'm amazed at my detachment and the clarity with which I can see this. I know if I hadn't suffered as I did this summer I'd be in the same spot as my colleagues. Instead, I'm alone and empathetic for their anxiety. Sure, I'm also wrapped up in my own anxiety about what seems important to me at this moment, it's just not the test. I want to comfort them, to tell them it's not really that big of a deal. But those words sound so hollow when it is a big deal to you. So I try to stay silent, except for the occasional outburst after the 6th person explains how upset and stressed they are and someone looks at me with the compassionate head-cocked to the side, as if to say, Are you worried too?

No. My dad died. For some reason that generally ends the conversation.

This Zen-like perspective on the bar is a strange gift, but I'll take it. Thanks Dad.

Also, yesterday and today, when I can bring myself to shake the association that the stupid exam has with my loss of Dad, I think of Beanie and smile. Go congratulate her! She passed the NY bar exam after a very difficult path. She inspires me. Between her and Dad, I have this calm sense that I can and will pass the exam. The only unknown is when.


November 11, 2006

Two Lessons Learned

1. If you accept staffing as the junior IP associate on a public merger that is scheduled to close in 5 days, you should expect to work straight through those 5 days, regardless of the silly "weekend" title.

2. If you have planned to make pumpkin gnocchi covered with elk-venison bolognese and you are late arriving home on the eve of your husband's birthday dinner due to issue #1, I suggest roasting the pumpkin at 400F for 35-40 minutes and slicing it on plates before covering it in bolognese. When push comes to shove, the time spent making the pasta by hand is the last 10% of the meal. It's the greatness. Don't get me wrong. It's the pinnacle. But when you are late enough, you have to accept that things have no possibility of reaching perfection in enough time to eat at a reasonable hour.

So the take home is that the meat sauce, that's 65-70% of the street cred right there. Don't skimp on the bolognese. Skimp on the vehicle for conveying bolognese. It will all be fine. Just open an extra bottle of wine.

November 10, 2006

Get Help If You Need It

I went to dinner last night with someone I met during my downward spiral.

She mentioned that while she didn't really know me, I had seemed a little "out of it" the last night we interacted. That would be the night before I started my 3 day crying binge. "Out of it" that night would be putting it mildly. I have never felt so helpless, lost, overwhelmed, and sad as I did during that time period.

This was my first time dealing with true depression. Before, I thought I'd been depressed, but really, I'd just had the blues. I now feel so horridly inept for all the things I ever said to people who were going through a similar experience. It was so much more overwhelming than I could have imagined before facing it. I can easily say it was the worst I've ever felt in my life. It was as if the bad feelings from the my Dad died, the day of my Dad's funeral, the day of my Grandfather's funeral, the days of bad childhood fights with my parents and every bad break-up I've ever been through all needed to be felt at the same time.

The good news is, I got help. I read books. I sought therapy. I let myself sit on the couch and cry for days on end, which is something I've never done. Apparently, I had a ton of sadness, guilt, negative thoughts and frustration that I needed to address. I even let myself be somewhat spontaneous and emotionally-driven with my career decisions. This is something I never would have done in the past. I always trusted logic and information over feelings. I thought feelings, other than love, were weak, and frankly, I trusted logic much more.

The emotional side of me rebelled and humbled me with its power and wisdom. For all the strength that I attribute to myself (which, for those who know me, strong is a word that I like to think describes me at my core), I was reduced to a sniveling, incapable, needy mess by my own emotions. So I guess that side of me is strong enough to subjugate my logical side when it needs to. It was very humbling.

But it didn't break me. The overwhelming negative feelings weren't permanent. I will still have negative feelings in the future, and I will have to face them. But the torrent released by the floodgate eventually slowed to a trickle. It forced me to make some decisions that eventually led to me being happier than I would have been had I not been emotional. And I am so thankful.

So please, if you are feeling sad, alone, overwhelmed, etc. or find yourself doing things that you feel are out of character, seek help. Nothing is permanent. This too shall pass.

November 8, 2006

For Me?

Today, on-site at a client's place of business, I had an interaction that reminded me of my not-even-remotely-politically-correct days at a few startups.

IT guy: I'm going to give you ethernet cables because I don't want to make you log into the VPN for wireless access.

BT & Male Associate: [looking up from stacks of papers] uh, okay. Cool. Thanks.

IT guy: [unwinds two ethernet cables, plugs one into the wall and tosses it on the table. Starts to unwind the second.]

Male Associate: [Plugs the cable into the back of BT's computer]

BT: oh. It goes in the back. Thanks.

IT guy: Actually, I've got a longer cable that I'd like to give to her instead.

BT & Male Associate: [Blink at each other at what may be a bad joke, but perhaps is just unfortunate phrasing. I was, after all, farther away from the ethernet jack.]

IT guy [slightly slimy voice, addressing male associate]: If you don't mind, that is.

I gotta say, while part of me is appalled, it was the most noteworthy thing that happened in my day. And, I've been laughing about it ever since. I mean, really? This stuff happens in the workplace?

November 7, 2006

Election Stew

I am embarassed to admit that I left the polling place this evening without voting.

It was chaos. They had run out of English paper ballots. 3 of the machines were down. They recommended that people go provisionally vote in nearby districts. The district in the building next door was making similar recommendations and sending people to our district. After about 30 minutes of observation and asking people who were leaving how long they had waited ("1h35 from where you are standing 'til now"), I looked at E and admitted the sad truth, "There isn't anything on this ballot that I believe in more than the stew I wanted to make for dinner."

So here you go. I'll make it next year too, only next year I'm going to remember to get my absentee ballot application in on time.

Fall Vegetable Stew

Step one: collect all the fall vegetables that are almost ready to be tossed.

2 small squash/pumpkins that were decorating the table for halloween etc. (toss 'em in the oven on broil while you make the soup base to soften the tough gourds)
1 half onion
5 cloves of garlic
olive oil
5 stalks of celery
4 yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup pickled horseradish

Step two: make the soup base

Chop the onion. Peel the garlic. Chop the celery. Sautee all three in olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add 1 large can of chicken broth (1 quart?). Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.

Step three: chop autumn vegetables.

I don't think you need to be too picky here. Peel the squash & pumpkin if you like. Cut warmed & softened squash/pumpkins and remove the seeds. Chop into bite-sized pieces. I like big pieces, but E always spends the first half of the meal chopping his pieces into mini-pieces, so I'm willing to believe that there is room to disagree. Clean and chop or slice the potatoes. Same for carrots, cabbage, anything else you've got lying around that would go in stew. Toss 'em all in the broth along with the horseradish.

Step four: season to taste.

I added paprika, red pepper flakes, garam masala, & coriander.

Step five: cover and simmer 'til vegetables are tender (approximately 45 minutes)

Step six: allow to cool briefly and serve topped with grated swiss cheese.

November 6, 2006

If the phone rings one more time...

I'm gonna do something.

I can't WAIT 'til this election is over.

Stupid political exception to the do-not-call list.

Don't forget to vote tomorrow, kids.

November 5, 2006

Weekend in the Big City

E and I left the city for the suburbs years ago. The suburbs fit our personalities. And, I can't say that the 20 minute commute is something that I don't silently gloat about at work -- the majority of the lawyers I work with live in The City while working in The Valley. I feel their pain because I was ridiculed for doing the opposite while a student. My fellow students went out for bar nights while I sat in the commute. They slept while I drove to AM class. It was their turn to be the efficient ones. But, for the most part, when you compare me against 1st and 2nd-year associates in the valley, I'm continuing my role as an anomoly. I *gasp* choose to live on the *peninsula* just a few towns short of the perceived cultural wasteland of the South Bay. Mind you, I think they are wrong. I think there is just as much culture on the peninsula and in the south bay if you know where to look. But, then again, I'm biased.

Anyways, the merits of the peninsula and the south bay are not the point of this post.

This post is all about our San Francisco weekend. Every once in a while, we revert to our youthful San Franciscan high-rent, no-parking, angstier and more-cultured than thou days and spend a weekend in the city. It's always fun, nostalgic, and reminds us that there are many reasons why SF is considered the best city in the world by many (If it weren't for the fog and the artier-than-thous, I'd probably agree.)

So, this weekend, we did the whole shebang. It was awesome.

Saturday, we drove to the city and ate ourselves silly on Dim Sum. It was delicious. MG and V introduced us to Shanghai pork steam rolls for the first time. Soup! In a steam roll! Engineering at its finest, I tell you. Good thing they went to China last year -- better living through your friends' travels -- it's something I do my best to embrace whenever possible. Plus, we got to love the uncomfortable reality of being in the backdrop of what was slowly becoming someone's Wedding Buffet while wanting to continue eating at a restaurant that honestly scheduled the wedding set-up and Dim Sum hour close enough that you could be *that* table. And we were.

From there, I dropped E at the new Bloomingdale's portion of the Market & Powell Mall to buy us tickets to Borat. I drove towards Fisherman's Wharf where I couldn't find parking, so I filled the car with gas at the station across the street and and ran across to pick up my race packet for today's half marathon.

Borat was sold out before E could buy tickets. Story of our lives in SF -- never quite fast enough on the cool kids' draw. We're valley folk (dorky, nerdy, and wanna be cool...).

So, instead, we went to the Japanese Tea Garden. It was wonderfully relaxing and decadent to be tourists in our own region. We volunteered to take pictures of the Fijian family. We smiled at the Spanish group with their Castilliano accents. We drank strong green tea and tried not to eat snacks. We failed and were full before dinner.

For dinner, we met friends at a delicious and small word-of-mouth-only vegan sushi joint in the Mission (the 4 of them stuck to veggie fare, E and I like fish, thank you very much). The vegan eel substitute was good, although it didn't taste anything like Eel, not that the vegans would know.

From there, we had a drink with friends at their home in SF and drove home so I could sleep before today's race.

Today, I had high hopes of being fast. Last weekend, I ran a leisurely 2h10 at the Silicon Valley Half marathon. I figured I had tons of juice to spare. My hopes were dashed when I parked 2 minutes after the start. I sprinted to the start line and breathlessly ran my chip over the start and hit begin on my garmin. My garmin never even had a chance to sync with the satellites, so my garmin functioned as the world's largest stop-watch. I never had a chance to intelligently plan my race after sprinting to the start for 3/4 of a mile. At the end, I ran 1h57ish according to my watch.

This year's race hurt (physically) much less than last year's. But I also had much less humility. I honestly thought 1h50 was a reasonable goal. When you are 2 miles out at 1h37 and exhausted with uphill miles in front of you, it becomes VERY clear that you are an idiot for thinking 1h50 was gonna happen.

So, while I'm not in as much pain as last year, my pride hurts. I really would have liked to clear 1h55 and think I should try to do that before my marathon. Whatever. I ran across the bridge on both sides. I ran through the Presidio. I enjoyed some of the most gorgeous views that our wonderful city by the bay can offer. So I'm content.

And I can't wait for next year. Weekend of City Happiness -- HERE I COME.

November 2, 2006

In a pattern

I am a creature of schedules. Of regularity. Of discipline.

I was shocked to realize I didn't have to be anywhere until 9 AM tomorrow, and even that was a soft limit.

Woo hoo.


Then I remembered the appointment I'd scheduled.

Damn it. I can't wait 'til my new toy gets here and I can have one calendar instead of this bastardized two-calendar system I've got going on right now. Turns out the old Zaurus is getting ready to go to pasture and I'm slowly migrating my calendar to big, bad, outlook.

Yeah. I see what I've become. I get it. I still want my damn phone to arrive.

November 1, 2006

Choco-riffic recipe #1

The first chocolate attempt was Toffee-Chocolate Candy, for halloween.

I was exhausted on Monday night, but I forced myself to make Toffee because I knew it would be worth it. To do so, I dragged my post 3-hour-from-scratch-white-bean-soup and 1-hr-of-yoga while the soup cooked butt back into the kitchen after dinner. I was in search of chocolate happiness. And I found it. I even fucked the recipe up pretty royally. But it's sugar and butter and vanilla and chocolate. And I took it to our friends where 6 of us ate dinner, drank wine and champagne, heckled and/or got sappy over the trick-or-treaters, and enjoyed toffee and pumpkin bars. So it was fabulous.

Fucked Up Toffee-Chocolate Candy

6 oz semisweet chocolate (I used Hershey's -- is it just me, or is it wrong that they have a "solution center?"), chopped
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 72% cacao Sharffen Berger), chopped
1 oz bitter chocolate (99% Sharffen Berger), chopped (I added this because I LOVE dark chocolate and 50/50 semisweet/bitter just didn't seem right with all the sugar in the toffee).
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1. Put all the chocolate chopped goodness in a bowl and mix it together, let it soften near the stove while you cook.

2. Put a bowl of water and a pastry brush by the stove so that when the toffee starts to crystalize on the edges you can brush it with water to reabsorb the sugar.

3. Apparently, you're supposed to combine the butter, sugar, water, corn syrup and salt over medium heat. I put my 1/4 cup of water in the bowl mentioned in #2. I also added the vanilla at this stage. My toffee ended up very buttery and slightly granular. I suspect the missing water is at least partially to blame for this.

4. You're supposed to slowly stir this concoction over medium heat until your candy thermometer measures 300F. Well, I've only got a meat thermometer and it tops out at 190F. So, I just kind of winged it, when it started to be this viscous liquid that wouldn't drip from the spoon and most of the butter was absorbed by the stubborn sugar, I poured it into a 9X11 baking pan. (For those of you that follow directions, you would do this at 300F, when the toffee is brown, approximately 18-20 minutes after you put the mixture on the stovetop. Also, you'd wait 'til just before pouring it to add the vanilla).

5. Tilt the pan 'til the toffee covers the pan evenly. My version had quite a bit of butter grease at the extremeties, but it was evenly covered and the sugar mixture that hardened on the spoon was damn good, so I wasn't too upset.

6. Layer the chocolate on top of the toffee and cover 'til the chocolate is melted. Spatula to an even layer, sprinkle with pecans and let it cool.

7. My version needs to be frozen to have the consistency of toffee candy. Otherwise it's a little soft, but still delicious.