December 31, 2006

2006: My year In Books

I think you can learn quite a bit about a person based on what they read. So, here's a test of that theory by looking at myself in book form for the year:

1. Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track (Michele/Richard Feynman)
2. Harvests of Joy -- How the good life became great business (Robert Mondavi)
3. On the road with Charles Kuralt (Charles Kuralt)
4. The Tomato in America -- Early History, Culture, and Cookery (Andrew F. Smith)
5. The High Tech Start Up (John Nesheim)
6. All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy)
7. Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World (Haruki Murakami)
8. The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook (Andrew Doughty)
9. Kauai Trailblazer (Jerry & Janine Sprout)
10. Deep Lie (Stuart Woods)
11. Running With Scissors (Augusten Burroughs)
12. Lipstick Jungle (Candace Bushnell)
13. Flatland: A romance of Many Dimensions (Edwin A. Abbott)
14. I'd Rather Laugh (Linda Richman)
15. The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion)
16. Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul (Canfied & Hansen)
17. Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal (Rachel Naomi Remen, MD)
18. The Elegant Gathering of White Snows (Kris Radish)
19. Nigella Bites (Nigella Lawson)
20. Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (Julie Powell)
21. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (John Gottman, Ph.D.)
22. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (John M. Gottman, Ph.D)
23. Quick & Easy (Martin Yan)
24. Vineyards in the Sky: The Life of Legendary Vintner Martin Ray (Eleanor Ray/Barbara Marinacci)

What does this say about my year? Well, I see more than 2 books each on food, travel, wine, mourning, guilty-pleasure chick-lit, and marriage. These main themes are rounded out with singular books devoted to the spicey random additions that struck my fancy including math, physics, espionage, cyberpunk, classic literature, entrepreneurship, and one of this year's NYT best-seller memoirs of a neurotic family.

Yup, that's a fairly good summary of where my spare brain cycles for the year were spent, whether reading or otherwise.

(Reviews for some of the books here and here).

December 30, 2006


The United States may be one country, but there are regional differences in culture that make natives of one region slightly out of sorts in others.

I love the warm welcome, the open arms, the fattening comfort food, and the languid lifestyle of the South. It's perfect for a holiday. But it's also almost confusing. Almost. That's right. Because half of the weirdness is the comfort. Everything feels just like home. But it's just slightly different.

People are more gentle here. They don't directly address conflict, they prefer to hint at it and smooth it over before it bubbles to the surface.

What do I mean? Well, the best examples I can describe are all rooted in subtle linguistic differences. First, there's the accent, which I, of course, have been picking up despite my best efforts. The mouth is more open. The speech is much slower. People pause between sentences and rarely interrupt each other. They stop and talk as if they have all the time in the world.

Then, there's the toned down speech patterns. Nothing is certain or definite.

When you meet someone for the first time, you shake their hand and say (slowly, while looking them sincerely in the eyes), "Nice to see you." When you see them again, you do the same thing, "Nice to see you." This neatly solves my problem with the horrid memory of names and faces, so I will consider brining this particular custom back to the West with me.

Example 2: I mentioned to friends that I'd heard that some of our joint friends were planning on coming to their New Year's Party (which the joint friends had told E's sister, who told us.) E quickly interrupted me and said that we'd heard that the joint friends were going to be contacting them about the New Year's Party. This was not the literal text of what we heard, but no doubt, it is what they meant. I have spent enough time here to know that my interpretation of the direct, literal truth will offend people by conveying a message I do not intend, so I no longer pretend to understand the subtle differences. I'm just happy when E jumps in to save my hide.

When leaving a social event, you should say to everyone, "We should do dinner sometime," or "You should come visit when you are in our area." They will respond in the affirmative. This does not mean that you intend to make plans with all of these people. Rather, it is a way of expressing affection and letting them know that you like them. To fail to make some sort of overture in this direction is often an insult.

Similarly, if you actually want to make plans with someone, you must go so far as to say, "We should go to drinks tomorrow evening." "Yes, we should, that would be great." "Okay, I'll call you after dinner." This one is complex because, particularly with younger folks, it can go either way. It may mean that they will call you tomorrow night. It may also mean that they do intend to make plans with you in the near future (the message we'd convey in California with the 'We should do dinner sometime.') What is difficult for the Californian to understand, however, is that by no means have you made any plans for tomorrow night. Feel free to make other plans. No one will be offended or consider you a flake.

The list goes on. I'm slowly learning my way around what at first glance seems exactly like the culture I'm at home in.

Towards that end, E and I've been visiting all the local sights to fully immerse me. Today's trip was to the Cyclorama. E wanted to take me as a joke because he remembered it as something incredibly lame from his school fieldtrip days. Little did he realize, it would be my favorite attraction thus far. It's so Southern, and so absolutely different from anything I've ever seen in my life that it resonated with me.

This place is different from home. It's great. I like it more with each visit and am learning to love it. But, the South has its own strong culture and a Californian default view will occasionally get you into trouble.

I imagine that's true for just about any two regions in this country with their own cultures, I just never experienced this level of foreignness in a place that was within the borders of my own country. I imagine it's because all of my other visits to regions of the U.S. have been just that, visits. But, I married into family in the South, so I'm having to learn how to behave like I belong. It's more work than I expected. But it's fun.

December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice Happiness

It's the shortest day of the year. For someone like me, who loves sunlight, the fact that there will be more sunlight each day for quite some time is a cause for celebration.

Plus, I've got all sorts of little things to celebrate:

E and I went to our local sushi joint (where we are known and get gift sushi) for dinner tonight. It was great to have a date with the husband. Then, as we were leaving the hostess/owner gave us hugs and wished us a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I don't know what it is, but something about the local restaurant owner giving you a hug for the holidays just really makes the world seem like a wonderful place.

For the last week, more of my mail has been personal cards from people I know than either bills or junk mail.

I left work at 5:30 today and talked to one of my best friends for over an hour, a luxury in which I hadn't indulged for at least 2 weeks.

One of the partners I work for took back one of my projects so that my winter holidays won't be spent working.

Tomorrow morning, the weather genie claims it will be neither raining, nor below freezing, for my run.

December 19, 2006

Mean People

Tonight, I left a ton of work (which I like) to attend a social event where I was surrounded by people, who frankly, treated me like crap.

They made fun of me in a language they knew I sort of spoke. It was this odd test of politesse...I'd made the apparent faux pas of speaking their native language poorly so they were going to talk shit about me in it and dare me to admit that I was eavesdropping. Surprised at their rudeness, I declined to take the bait.

Later, in English, they made self-deprecating comments comparing themselves to aspects of my life I'd mentioned earlier only exaggerating what I'd mentioned and saying things like, "of course, I couldn't possibly compare to the cultural greatness of your highness over here..."

The worst part? I really have no idea what I did. But clearly I offended these people. Granted, they were quite drunk.

But still... I wasn't too fond of being the butt of their jokes for over 2 hours. I had the last straw when one of them asked me in a snide voice, "I hope you aren't getting up before dawn tomorrow to run? That's horrid. Of course it does help with the alcohol, doesn't it? [Insert knowing look]"

I silently observed the person make this comment to try to figure out what they were saying. I'd mentioned that I'd been up at dawn to run to compare the frigid temperatures that we'd all be experiencing and someone had commented on, not to try to impress people or say that I get up earlier than anyone else or to go on some holier than thou I work out more than thou train -- to make conversation. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that I'm a slow runner. I honestly feel no need to even try to compete in that realm. So I couldn't quite figure out the gist of the comment.

But I'd also only had 2 glasses of wine, the second of which I hadn't quite finished. So the alcohol basis for the comment made no sense as well.

After a bite of dessert to compose myself, I asked what they meant and they said, "I meant no offense, I just saw your necklace and heard you say you got up and dawn and figured you must be an 'athlete' you know, a *professional runner.* [sly grin] Before I could even start to get annoyed, they followed up with, "and I don't want to talk to you anymore." At which point, they turned their back to me.

I'm not kidding.

I seriously was told, "I don't want to talk to you anymore" by the person sitting to my right at a dinner party, who then turned their back to me.

Needless to say, I made a small scene by quickly and somewhat quietly leaving. I told people it was a pleasure to meet them and got a few knowing glances. One went so far as to shake his head affirmatively after he asked, "you're not going are you?" and I said, "I fear I've offended some people." That's when I got the affirmative head shake.

I'm not in the habit of offending people (without intending to do so, anyways...)
And, I am quite agitated by the whole experience.

Why would people choose to pick on me like this? It's such a terrible feeling to realize you probably did something that really made someone hate you. I want to go back in time, to examine the whole evening in detail and to apologize for anything I could have done. But, no.

E tried to cheer me up by pointing out that one of the perpetrators was peeing publicly outside the event as he left. I'd like to excuse the whole thing with alcohol, but it's not just that. Your gut knows when people intend to pick on you. And these people did. I just wish I knew why.

Oh well... C'est la vie. Tomorrow is a new day.

December 18, 2006

The sky is falling

Okay, really, it was just frozen this AM and I had to use an ice scraper to clear my windshield. What the hell? I live in California.

In other news, blogger is getting all invasive and wants me to use a gmail account to login. I think I may go on hiatus until I can figure out a migration scheme to get away from the hive mind.

December 16, 2006

The old folks do the city

It's a Saturday night. I'm home at 10:20, in my pajamas, face washed, glasses on, in front of the computer screen (which is where you can find me prior to putting myself to bed).

Friday, E & I drove back up to the city and checked into this weekend's hotel for our 4th trip to the city (granted some weren't overnight) in 6 weeks. The occasion this time? We were invited to go out out for beef in Union Square with one of my old companies for their holiday party. Of course we went! While we were enjoying dinner, one of the attendees was drunk enough to walk up to another patron at the restaurant and confirm that he was, in fact, Andrew Firestone. Always makes you feel good to be enjoying a meal in the same location as someone you know people want to emulate, but this time was nowhere near as cool as the time we were with the same crew at the same location and saw Richard Kiel (aka "Jaws" from Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me).

That party went on 'til 1 AM and ended in that incoherent searching for a cab, or something to do, or somewhere to go state where the entire group is looking for momentum but can't really find it and no one is quite ballsy enough to say, "uhhh...guys, looks like the night is over." Eventually, the group meandered to within walking distance of our hotel, so E and I walked to our hotel and closed down the bar with one last drink. Yeah... I had a headache this morning. I wish I could say it was because we went out like punks. But really, it was fairly mellow as far as holiday parties go. I'm just getting older.

Despite the headache, today was a productive day. We started with a delicious brunch with a friend at the least climate-controlled cafe in SOMA. From there, we did Christmas shopping and are now completely DONE! We also fit in tea tasting and purchasing: thanks to E2's gifts from china, our black, oolong, and green tea selection is fine. But we were short on herbal teas, and we are now the proud owners of violet, chrysanthemum, rose blend, and camomile herbal teas.

In a serious lapse of judgment, we'd promised to show up at tonight's holiday party with 24 cream puffs from beard papa. This required braving the traffic and people involved in the holiday shopping madness. We barely survived, but we did. We recovered with a beer and some chips at taqueria cancun. From there, we hit the holiday party and ate ourselves silly. 4 hours after arriving, we found ourselves leaving with white elephant gifts of roughly the same (okay, we got one of our own back) quality as the ones we left (read: amusing crap from Clement Street).

Tonight's holiday party was great. But we were out of there by 9 PM. (and exhausted to boot). Yeah, the next time one of the first years tries to tell me there's no difference between being a young 1st year associate and an older one, I think I'm going to puke.

That is all.

December 12, 2006


I think next year, around this time, when I'm slow on a Friday 2 weeks before the holidays, I'll enjoy it more than I did last week.

What a difference a weekend and a Monday make.

I am now staffed on enough work to keep me comfortably busy (read: billing at a 10-15% premium over goal) through New Years. Only problem is that everyone wants it done before the holidays. And, I do too... I have plans to be out of town.

I'll see you on the other side, one way or another...

December 11, 2006

Odds & Ends

Blogger forced me to migrate to blogger beta (hence the 25 hits on the feeds if you subscribe, sorry 'bout that). Blogger still exists. I can log in with my old account, but once I'm in, they just tell me to go over to beta and log in with my other account. Annoying.

Maybe now that I've actually migrated away from the desktop I built and used for 7 years to permanently using my lawschool laptop in a port replicator, I'll tag migrating the blog for my next project. Any suggestions? Seems like many of my techy friends use typepad. Why so?

Tonight, I tried to price out some flights on It's my favorite travel porn site, where I can construct myriad vacations to far-away lands with imaginary money...

Only tonight, Kayak is down for upgrades. Unlike the usual boring corporate drivel, they suggested we try what their engineers find interesting, including two sites I'd never visited: gridskipper (to which I have already subscribed) and miniclip, which I will be visiting the next time I have no billable work and need a break from the self-education I try to do while waiting for the feedback that allows me to continue with my billable work.

E's comment is that Kayak must be a much smaller company than he realized. My comment is, "I hope not!"

December 9, 2006

Holiday Excess

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen.

Today, after stuffing myself silly on dim sum, I came home and got on the scale to realize that I'd actually gone above my 10-pound free-range grazing zone.

Mind you, this is while I'm training for a marathon.

Today, for example, the beautiful weather in San Francisco cooperated and allowed me to run 15 miles from the Embarcadero, through the Aquatic Park, out the pier, through Chrissy Field (making me a surprise participant in a Girls on the Run Race for a mile or so), across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. This, in turn, pushed me to complete my first 30+ mile week of 2006.

Yeah, I've got 8 weeks to go and I only now crossed the 30+ mile marker. I'm doing my own slightly modified version of a very easy marathon training program. Low Key. Turns out, I'm doing less mileage than last year, when I trained all the way through the 20-miler before it became clear that life did not intend for me to complete that marathon. I'm also able to do my long runs at a better pace. I don't know if this is because I'm a better runner or the extra rest allows me to go harder. Either way, I have no complaints.

But, perhaps the easy mileage totals are part of the problem. I think between the month of free lunches on the firm to welcome me, the choco-riffic challenge, my increased social life now that my life is fairly drama free, and the holiday goodies and parties, I've been calorically intaking as much as if I was a 200-lb male doing the mileage I wish was in good enough shape and had enough time to do.

Well, kids, let me tell you, there is nothing like feeling of pain in my hips, knees, and calves right now to set me straight. I reject the holiday excess. Or at least I'm gonna try. I declare the choco-riffic experiment done for now (perhaps some day I will make recipes 5 & 6, but clearly I don't need to do so anytime soon). Wish me luck in seeking out lighter fare between this week's planned meals of 7 courses of beef, brunch, Morton's, Triptych, and a holiday party.

See, I'd really like to actually complete this marathon. So far, it appears that life is okay with that plan too, so long as I can learn to exercise a little more moderation.

I think I'm noticing a theme in my life...

December 6, 2006

Don't call the Gods' attention to your fortune!

A long time ago, there was a little girl. She read a book about a Chinese-American girl her age that made quite an impression on her. Unfortunately, the reader-girl was bad with names (still is) and titles, unless they have some independent meaning to her.

So, the reader-girl is grown up and doesn't remember the title of the book, but she does remember that the character-girl's mom told her not to call the Gods' attention to her fortune and to always be humble lest the Gods realize that the little girl didn't actually deserve the good things she had and take them away. The little reader-girl remembered that lesson because even then, she knew she was horrid at hiding her fortune from the Gods.

She just couldn't help but be happy when she was happy. She couldn't help but announce her successes to all, assuming that they would be as elated as she would be when she heard of theirs. She craved acceptance and approval, like most young kids, but she often received it, so she never really learned to keep her mouth shut about her happiness.

Over time, the little girl grew up and learned to temper her enthusiasm in certain social circles. Not very well, mind you, but at least she could pass as less than thrilled when it was not fashionable to be excited.

Except not today. Today, I'm a real lawyer for the second day, and I *fucking* love my job. I *LOVE* it. I get paid to think about things and research them and write and answer phone calls requiring my gut response, which may get checked by a partner who knows way more than me and can tell me how many ways I was wrong, but that's cool too because I learn stuff, and, and, and....

Kids, many people hate the law. But for those of us that love it, all the hell of the LSAT, law school and the Bar Exam is worth it. I have no doubt there will be days when I hate my job, but today is not one of them. I am responsible for 5 projects for 4 clients reporting to 3 partners and I feel so useful. I feel like I'm doing what I should be doing. It's fabulous.

And, by the way, if lightening strikes me, both you and that little Chinese girl from the book know why.

December 5, 2006


I tried to give blood today for the first time in 10 years. (Long story).

Apparently, I like to travel to exotic places that are on the do not donate list.

Cheerily, the nurse explained that I could donate just 12 months after my last visit. In response, I asked if our spring vacation destination was also listed in the binder as a no-go. Sure enough...

I was bummed. Dad was able to attend our wedding thanks to several pints of donated blood.

One of the partners at the firm jokingly tried to cheer me up by pointing out that now that I was a lawyer, I would probably not be going to exotic disease-ridden places every year.

At least I think he was joking...

December 4, 2006

Rituals: the oath

This last year has been a year of rituals for me. My papa's funeral, my wedding, graduation, my dad's funeral, and any number of smaller rituals like my gran's 80th Birthday, Fourth of July barbeques, being a guest at other people's weddings and birthdays, and more.

Today, I added one more: I took the oath to become a member of the California Bar and to become admitted to the United States Court for the Northern District of California. I am officially a lawyer.

It was more emotional than I expected. I opted to take the oath through the local bar association at a local Jesuit university. This meant the oath was administered in a Catholic church.


I'd meant to go visit a church ever since Daddy passed away. His funeral was outdoors, as it should have been. He went through a few years of regular church attendance to support us in our religious education, but after and before that, it was not a major part of his life. So, it wasn't a major part of his funeral either. We had an ordained minister perform the ceremony, but truly, the memorable part for everyone was the memorial party afterward, not the actual funeral.

Anyways, I like churches. But I don't go on a regular basis. I'm not exactly the brand of christianity that most churches support given my focus on zen buddhism, taoism, and whatever else seems to work for me on the spiritual level. But, unlike many of my demographic, I haven't completely abandoned or rejected the idea of Church either. When I travel to foreign countries, I often go visit the local Christian church, whatever its denomination may be. Generally, I kneel and say a prayer of thanks and awe and love, and, often, I cry. If there are candles, I buy one and light it. If there's a statue dedicated to a saint, I learn about that saint and do the same. More often than not, the denomination is Catholic, which is convenient because my upbringing was 3 years of Lutheranism and several intermittent years of Catholicism mixed with random other Christian church outings.

So basically, my rare visits to churches tend to be big emotional events like Weddings, Funerals, heartfelt prayers of thanks in foreign lands, and the like. I show up ready to cry.

Today was no different. Daddy would have wanted to be there. I wanted him there. And, of course, I hadn't yet taken the time to go do my ritual at a church since his death. So, today's visit to the church was also a big emotional event.

Thankfully, the holy water was accessible to the side of the registration table. I walked through the heavy dark wood doors and took a deep breath. The church was beautiful. I crossed myself with the holy water and selected the alter in front of the saint (?) holding a baby. Unlike usual, I didn't have the church to myself and couldn't take the time to read about the saint. So, I quickly looked to the ground and said a prayer of thanks, asked for a blessing on my future life and career and a hello and good wishes to Dad.

Then, I walked outside and met E. I cried briefly, sad, but proud of myself.

In an amazing display of efficiency (which is why I opted for this ceremony over the State Bar ceremony), A and I took our seats at the front of the church, we followed a state judge and a federal judge through our oaths and 40 minutes later, we were lawyers. It felt right to share that moment with her. I noted that we were the only oath-takers I could see who hugged immediately after saying, "I will." A is yet another reason why I am thankful tonight.

Dinner was a big celebratory Italian meal at one of our local favorite restaurants. The chef was in fine form and spent quite a bit of time entertaining us. He raved about his all-vegetarian lentil soup -- apparently, it's that time of year. E and I agreed: mine won on flavor, but his won on texture. You just can't beat a perfectly puréed soup.

And tomorrow, what do you know? I will go to work for my first day as a real lawyer.

December 3, 2006

Spicy Lentil Soup

After the weekend of debauchery, E and I needed something light and healthy for dinner tonight. Also, I hadn't done the shopping for this week, so we didn't have much in the way of ingredients. I read a few recipes for lentil soup to find that I did not have the required ingredients for any of them, so I improvised, and am happy to report a success. Enjoy:

3/4 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 small can tomato paste
3 serrano chiles, chopped (left the seeds in for a super-spicy soup, your preference)
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 can vegetable broth
water, as needed
sea salt
italian seasonings (literally, I have a big old container titled "Italian Seasoning" but I'm guessing any combination of oregano, rosemary, etc. will do)
1 Tbsp. white vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar, I'm guessing any light white vinegar would do)

Sautee garlic & onions in olive oil until soft. Add broth, lentils, chiles, tomato paste and cumin & bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, and adding water as needed (the lentils should be covered with liquid at all times) until the lentils are soft (1.5-2 hours).

Remove from heat and stir in sea salt, vinegar, & italian seasonings to taste. Serve immediately.
Happy, Happy, Happy

I am exhausted and slightly grinning. I would smile wider to accurately express my contentment, but that would require effort, and I am much too pleasantly lazy to make any.

Saturday AM, E2 and I ran a race in the hills. I did 10.6 miles and about 2000 feet of elevation change. The Garmin claims I did 5129 ft of total ascent. I guess that means there were many little hills in between the big hills. This explains my hips and shins. Last weekend I did 13 miles flat and didn't feel half as sore as I do today.

From there, we headed to the local hole-in-the-wall bar to watch Big Game, eat greasy pub food, and drink beer. We cheered. We sang. We owned the bar.

Until, that is, the entire California Gators posse showed up. Holy shit, they were serious. They had a mike man. They had flags and cutouts and everyone was in jerseys. They raffled prizes. Like us, they also sang and cheered. It was clear that it was actually they and not us who owned the bar from the moment they rolled up with the guy in a football helmet and the woman carrying the life-sized cut-out of an alligator that she placed at the entrance.

It was contagious, and we'd been given free beer for our musical performance, so we joined the crowd and cheered for the gators for a while after our game was over.

Then, we watched UCLA kill USC's chances at the rose bowl. We celebrated more.

We walked to dinner because none of us planned on being so... umm... celebratory, and truly, none of us could drive. After dinner, we sat and talked with college friends until 2 AM.

This morning, after sleeping in, we went to a Sunday breakfast where home-made sausage patties, hash browns, eggs benedict and huevos mexicanos stuffed us each to the point of excess.

And now, I will be taking my hoarse voice to lay down for a nap.

Is that the perfect weekend, or what?

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.

October 30, 2006

The devil will not be wearing Prada

I thought I had a great idea for a costume. The devil wears Prada. I bought some devil stuff on Sunday after running a half marathon and hitting a local mexican joint for barbacoa. Mmmmm....

Today, I headed over to Nordstrom after work to pick up some Prada. I had done some searching on-line and figured I could get something at a ridiculous, but not completely absurd price. Right, try again. Nordstrom doesn't even carry it. They sent me to Nieman Marcus, you know the place that only takes cash or american express. Raaaaaiiiiiiigggghhhht.

But I persevered. What price fashion? What price winning the halloween costume for 1st year associates?

Oh, $310 for the shittiest nylon piece of crap "purse"? That's the price? Well, that price is just too steep. Sure, I love some of the shoes. But, I'm not in the market for shoes that cost more than a weekend vacation. Come to think of it, there are very few articles of clothing I'd be interested in that cost that much. It would have to be some sort of wonder mateial that was going to last forever. But I digress.

Keep an eye out for me. I will be the devil wearing a hand drawn FRADA emblem of some sort. I'm going to claim fair use & parody.

Happy Halloween.

October 29, 2006

More than one way to cook a squash

E was suprised to learn that spaghetti squash wasn't a meal involving spaghetti topped with some sort of squash sauce.

Nope, it's stringy, delicious, healthy, and fun squash that looks like spaghetti when you pull it from the shell. If you are looking for a slightly labor-intensive but relatively healthy dinner, serve the spaghetti squash pancakes below with salad. As a post-salad course, one 7-inch squash makes enough pancakes for 3 hungry or 4 dainty eaters (none of those 'round here...). Even lazier? Just bake the squash, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and separate with a fork until it looks like spaghetti. You can serve each half topped with salt and pepper, or if you've got it laying around: pasta sauce, olive oil and garlic salt & pepper, or salsa.

Spaghetti squash pancakes

1. Pre-heat the oven to 375.
2. Stab the squash over a dozen times with a knife.
3. Bake for an hour.
4. Cut in half, take out the seeds and pull out the strands of squash with a fork.
5. Mix squash strands, 1/2 cup or so grated parmigiano cheese & 1 cup of flour or so.
6. Form 1.5 inch diameter patties.
7. Fry in a sauce pan drizzled with olive oil on each side until dark brown.
8. Serve warm with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

October 27, 2006

Next Friday?

I'm taking a poll. What does it mean to you if I say, "See you next friday?"

If the day I say it is a Friday, clearly, I mean the next Friday. But what if it's a Thursday? What if it's a Monday?

E, on multiple occasions has asked for clarification when I say something like, "next Friday we are having dinner with so-and-so." Typically, his clarification sounds like this, "do you mean this friday, or next friday?" And I always think, if not say, "Goodness, listen to yourself, Man!"

But today, a friend called me up thinking we were hanging out tonight. My email had said, "We're free next Thursday and Friday." I meant Thursday and Friday of next week. In the future I will not be so vague.

But I can't help but wonder why anyone would think I'd use the word "next" if I could just as soon say the exact same thing without it. It's so inefficient. If someone took the time to throw in an extra word, I'd assume it had something to add to the context. But, I've decided I'm probably in the minority.

So, here's the question. If someone says "next Friday" to you and it's a Monday, how many days in advance do you think you are discussing? Please reply in the comments if you have the time. I'm curious how off I've been. Is there anyone with me? How many of you think I'm hilariously pedantic and insane?

I beseech you, help me understand, for I have no doubt I've gone wrong, I'm merely trying to measure the angle of stray.

October 25, 2006


Last week, I was in the self-indulgent, unemployed, read self-help books, sleep-in, cry whenever the hell I feel like it, watch movies, pseudo-depressed-but-really-more-self-obsessed, what-the-fuck-is-up-with-my-life? mode.

This is not something BT has ever been before. Multiple hours were spent in therapy discussing why I haven't indulged in this mode in the past, how it is healthy, what's been stopping me, why it's uncomfortable but necessary at this point in my life, yadda-yadda-yadda.

At dinner the other day, an acquaintance (wife of one of E's friends) was taken aback when I explained that, no, I wasn't working, and the reasons why (kind of had a little break down, needed some time to reevaluate my life priorities, etc.). I, after hours of reading self-help books, crying, watching sad movies about people who've been through much worse and suffered much more, didn't think much of my revelation. She, however, responded, "Oh, BT, I'm sure you're exaggerating. I can't even imagine you being remotely out of control, much less 1/4 of the mess you just described."

And there my friends, though I can't quite understand why or how, lies the rub.

So, now I'm back at work and back in the swing too. I LOVE IT. I really do. In addition to starting work, it was like this major ass-kicking energy hit the rest of me as well. I finally started doing the basic life stuff I haven't touched for lack of time or lack of motivation. I made a dentist appointment, found a new doctor, called on transferring my medical records (doctor that I love had the nerve to retire!), made an appointment to see new doctor, made an eye doctor appointment, booked flights for the holidays, planned our spring vacation and made plans to see people besides the friends that were willing to put up with me over lunch during my 3 weeks of self-indulgent lunches with friends.

All of a sudden, after starting work when I'm ready to do so, I feel so alive, so full of energy, so pulled in so many directions, so ready to prove my ability to cover so many foxholes, so, so, so, so....

But, according to E, I'm a little ADHD right now. Or maybe much more than a little, but he's from the South, and very polite, you see, so he'd never say exactly how much more than a little the lot truly is. But me, I'm from California, and right now, I can't follow a conversation long enough to do calendar for the both of us the week (while looking at the damn calendar, mind you!). That shit pisses me off but also amuses me. I'd prescribe myself some medication if I was my parent right now. Gotta check out this link, think about this thing, discuss this other thing, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Because I'm an adult and not on ritalin, I get to observe this sub-mania. It's weird. I think I must have always operated at this level of high-strung. Returning to this energy level feels very comfortable. And yet, after the self-imposed slow down, I'm having trouble with something. Perhaps it's just a bit too much? Maybe this is my new self's way of saying hey, BT, watch it. Slow down. Just a bit. Your previous ridiculousness is most likely not sustainable even if you felt like a superstar while pulling it off in the past.

Moderation? Anyone?

Of course, then I think of the famous quote, "All things in moderation. Especially moderation." And, I should look that up...who said that? I bet I'd like to read their writings....

October 24, 2006

Savory Excess

Note 1: They should sell horseradish in smaller quantities. I bought the smallest one at my local store and took home a root 10 inches long ranging from 1 to 2.5 inches in diameter. It was sufficient to prepare 1/2 cup horseradish cream PLUS 3-4 cups of packed horseradish in vinegar.

Note 2: If you grate horseradish by hand, you cry. Also, it takes a very long time.

Note 3: Instead of crying, you can split the horseradish into strips and use the cuisinart's grating attachment, which does not take much time at all.

Calling for recipes! Other than the roasted squash soup with horseradish cream that I'm making this evening, the remaining 3-4 cups of horseradish are up for grabs. Sure, some of it will be great when I puree it with cream or butter for a meat accoutrement. But the rest? Please don't leave me to my own devices here, people. It won't be pretty.

October 23, 2006

Take 2

This time was much better.

I am ready to work. I am excited to be at a law firm. I can't wait to be assigned to projects and I enjoyed the conversations I had with my colleagues.

Glad I did what I needed to do.
In hindsight

E and I agreed. Last night's dinner of israeli couscous (saffron, chicken broth, scallions & pine nuts in the couscous) topped with a sauce of onion that made me cry, garlic, basil, thyme and plum tomatoes was delicious and healthy.

Unfortunately, I now have saffron stains under some of my fingernails. Those suckers aren't coming out any time soon. I discovered the stains when I realized I had that onion/garlic smell coming out of my skin, including my fingernails.

I'm post-shower and sonicare, on my way to my first real day as a new associate. I still smell and my fingernails look like they are growing a yellow/orange experiment.


October 22, 2006


I'm generally a lover of savory cooking. Herbs, spices, anything with garlic or onions, chiles, etc.

But, part of the whole put my life on hold adventure has been learning to accept and embrace the parts of me that I have been ignoring.

I already figured out that I was an unbalanced chef this summer and did my best to bake desserts while studying for the bar. But I never fully embraced the decadence of chocolate.

Things are about to change, my friends.

At the Bookstore, I was seduced by a magazine. The cover? Square white ramekins of dark chocolate souffle cakes filled with chocolate espresso sauce being presented to the viewer, broken, with a bit on a spoon. Inside is nothing but pictures and chocolate recipes: breakfast, cookies, cakes, brownies, mousses, sauces and more. I now own this lurid magazine. It almost feels dirty to page through it.

Last week, while at lunch with H at A.G. Ferrari I picked up about $70 worth of Italian imported happiness. On a lark, I bought a bar of 70% cacao from Baratti & Milano.

Finally, thanks to Wintermute, after my last lunch with a friend during my weeks of unemployment, I stopped in at Scharffen Berger. Thirty-two dollars later...

So, our fridge now contains $32.00 $31.00 of Scharffen Berger (I already demolished the 1 oz. nibby bar, but it wasn't for baking anyways. Those bean bits would be hell to deal with in a recipe, right?), some Guittard baking chips leftover from the summer's baking and a bar of Baratti & Milano.

Also, for those who love to read about food, I just finished Julie & Julia. No real chocolate porn to speak of. But, I still enjoyed it for the savory food porn, and would recommend it for the solid literary stuff it can offer to anyone who likes to read about the role of cooking food in a slightly unstable woman's life and how being stuck in one place in your life can lead you to find a release and somewhere to grow elsewhere. Plus, it's irreverant as hell and hilarious.

But then again, I just went through my own sort of wacky breakdown and I'm prone to taking on projects that are too big to prove to myself that I can do them and make myself grow in the process. I wish I was more irreverant and tad more unstable in my day-to-day life. You may find that her blog is more entertaining and more focused on things that interest you (each individual recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking). I wasn't a reader back when Julie was floundering her way through the project. Perhaps someday I'll go read the blog from start to finish. But for now, the book was perfect for my needs: hilarious, informative, and a very honest portrayal of someone crazy enough to take on a silly but wonderfully larger-than-life food project.

So, In the spirit of Julie and Julia tempered by the reality of starting work as a new associate on monday, my mini project is to simply use the chocolate in the fridge to make 6 chocoriffic recipes from the magazine by Thanksgiving. Stay tuned.

October 19, 2006

Celebrate good times... (come on!)

Starting October 18th, I get to sleep at home in my own bed with my husband for an entire month straight. Exactly one month, mind you. We've got somewhere else to be on 11/18, but for the next 30 days we are here. We can try and compare the local barbacoa joint, the local valley folklore joint, and the local diner for weekend breakfast/brunch. We can meet up with local friends for meals that have been in the works for months, if not years. We can eat home-cooked meals made of local ingredients from the weekend farmer's market, freezer stash that's been on the list to prepare for quite some time, and little accents from the local snotty gourmet store. I'm ecstatic.

I announced this over dinner, of which I was quite proud. In celebration of my last worknight without a job or plans to go out, I prepared a bacon-browned, quartered cornish game hen, roasted over herbed sauerkraut in wine with a side of green beans (cooked in bacon grease, onions and garlic).

Between bites and happy noises of culinary delight, E was quick to point out that it was not like a month at home was a return to normalcy. Rather, he pointed out, it was a rarity to be cherished and celebrated (preferably with more good food!).

Because I'm a data fiend, I have records, and I checked. Sure enough, the last time I had 4 weeks at home without a night away was June of 2005 (16 months ago). Before that was November 2004 and before that was (forgot about thanksgiving) February 2004. 2004, aka 1L, was quite the year of domestic tranquility, it would appear.

Here's to hoping that the return to work brings similar tranquility to the return to school in 2004. I think we've both earned it.
Good Genes

All I'm saying is that when I'm 80, I want:

To have more than 100 people show up for my birthday party.

To select a cake that is ridiculous (equal parts white cake and whipped cream frosting, topped with toffee, anyone?). Each time I pass the cake at the party before the birthday song, I want to unabashedly take some of the topping and pop it in my mouth. I hope I'm healthy enough to have real sugar in my birthday cake (gran's cake could have given someone a case of diabetes, there was SO MUCH TOFFEE!)

To go to the casino with all of my kids and grandkids who enjoy gambling (that would be one aunt and me) and spend a full day at the slots and the tables. I want to have a hilarious system governed by superstition that involves telling my relatives where and what they must play to ensure that I receive optimum luck. I want to insist on paying for the all-you-can-eat buffet. I want to be the last one gambling when all of the young folks are worn out.

When we get home from the casino, I want to be tucked in bed for a nap that I won't take. Instead, I'll watch TV. The young folks can go pick up my dinner of choice (Round Table Garlic Lover's Pizza, in this case).

For dinner, I want to pair my selection with champagne and I want to enjoy 2 full glasses.

When I finally go to sleep, I want it to be after speaking with all of my children on the phone or in person and telling them what a great day I had.

Finally, at 1:30 in the morning after my full day of celebration, I want to wake up and insist that I want more birthday cake and champagne. I can only hope that I'll have children or grandchildren who will indulge me so we can spend just a little more time together before they leave.

October 16, 2006

Books That Heal

Part of the funk that I have been in these last few weeks stems from the fact that I never properly grieved for my father. I dealt with the details and I accepted the condolences but I never faced the deep pain of the loss. I thought I did. I cried a little bit each day. In Hawaii, I'd cry a few minutes by myself on my runs along the beach. But I never let myself cry for hours at a time for days in succession. Instead, I tried to go back to work. Yeah, that didn't go so well.

When I realized I needed to grieve, I turned to my favorite helpers: books. First, I went to the local library and cried while perusing the section on death and bereavement. There really aren't that many books in this section, which surprised me. Many of them were the "First do this. Then do this." style of self-help, which I don't handle well. I don't like anyone to tell me what to do, not even a book I can put down whenever I feel like it.

So, I took I'd Rather Laugh and Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul. I figured I'd pick up a few other books from the store when I needed 'em.

I'd Rather Laugh was a perfect introduction to the journey. I laughed and cried my way through it and took Linda Richman's story of survival to heart. We all get through the crap of life one way or another, it's just a question of how well.

Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul is a collection of short stories about grieving, loss, and recovery. I found it a bit sappy, but I think I needed the sappiness to help me maintain my sense of distance from the full pain of my loss. Even with the disdain I felt for some of the overly simplified stories I repeatedly found myself in tears and addressed aspects of missing my father that I wouldn't have realized without the book. I bet there's a better option out there, but in a pinch, if you just need vignettes to make you focus and grieve, this will do.

A friend recommended The Year of Magical Thinking. Much like I'd Rather Laugh, this is a very personal story of loss. Joan Didion lost her daughter and her husband in the same year. She was a journalist for years and I found that her writing was the most precise of all of the books in terms of explaining just how confusing and painful and crazy a human can feel while facing huge loss. I felt less alone while reading her book. It was perfect as the third option because I was ready to read about and face the full extent of my pain. It was a pleasure and an honor to do so alongside Ms. Didion, whose loss was different, but equally heartfelt.

Finally, on a lark, I picked up Kitchen Table Wisdom from the 3-for-2 table at Borders along with some sillier lighter pleasure books. Ms. Remen is an oncologist, a cancer and death counselor, and a 30-year sufferor of Crohn's disease. This book is a collection of stories about healing, facing death, the medical profession, judgment of the self and others, the life force, awe, mystery, spirituality, and more.

Daddy died of cancer. He experienced many of the symptoms and situations that the stories in this book address. His death also included some mystery and awe that made it beautiful. I refused to try to explain that beauty away with science, so it was wonderful to read about the common mystery of others in similar situations. Also, I needed to re-embrace the idea of the life force, spirtuality, and awe. What I really needed to do, however, was read stories about judgment and do some serious thinking about how judgmental I often am, both of myself and others. Judgment and expectations are a very strong force in our lives and I have been in the habit of applying them on autopilot. Daddy's death is not an autopilot situation. I've never been through this before. Come to think of it, I've never been through most of the stuff in my life before. Kitchen Table Wisdom helped me to recognize that letting go of my deep sorrow and moving through it was actually a way to embrace it. Along the same lines, the stories encouraged me to let go of much and relax to allow myself to change. I've studied the principles in this book in much of my Buddhist reading. But I found myself understanding the concepts at a new level while reading this book. It was profound, healing, and wonderful.

I'm very thankful that I took the time to read and be sad. I feel much more whole.