March 30, 2008

Postcards from the Weekend

End of Quarter

As a corporate lawyer, you would be well-advised to mark the end-of-fiscal quarter in your calendar. It is likely that you will be asked to put in some hefty last-minute fire-fighting to help your clients close some deals.


I discovered the the Crystal Springs Trail today. Slightly rolling hills, off the main road, 5.5 miles of trail along gorgeous nature preserve...what's not to like?

When I mapped out today's 20-mile route, I was looking for elevation change, low stop-light density, and proximity to lucky_girl, in case I could talk her into joining me on the last few miles for some walking. I got lucky on all 3. I did more hills this weekend than the impressive hill-work I did last weekend on my 22 mile run. I'm feeling very strong and ready to attack the not-so-hilly course in nagano.


Damn. I've never gained weight while training for a marathon. I'm certain some of it is muscle this time around. The speed training has paid off. The hill training too. I'm definitely the strongest I've ever been, as a runner. But, the 4-visits to mexican food this week are certainly not helping...

Also, Mexican lentil soup as adapted by me (thai peppers instead of jalapenos, spanish shrimp bouillon instead of broth) a la Diana Kennedy rocks.

General Thoughts

I can't wait to go on vacation. I'm like a little kid, bouncing off the walls. That is all.

March 26, 2008


I wanna live forever...

But seriously. I've never seen it this close and personal. And it was so civil in this flavor, but I still was overwhelmed for her.

That's right, tonight, E and I went to a live music show for the first time in a long time. First since 2001 for E, or so he claims. I think it hadn't been quite that long for me, but I really couldn't be sure.

Anyways, E knows Kaki from back in the day, as does C, so, we decided to use it as an excuse to meet up and hang out and listen to amazing music with friends. That's how we found ourselves at the Great American Music Hall (for the second night in a row we were up in SF for a social event -- is hipsteritis a diagnosis?).

First of all, I expected she would be amazing. E had spoken highly of her and he's generally light on the musical compliments. Plus, I'd heard some tracks online that blew me away because they sounded like multiple classical players doing a duet on the guitar but were supposedly her, alone, live, as in not overlaid tracks. And, of course, I'd heard the rumor that she was the only female to be inducted into the Rolling Stones new guitar gods list. How could I not expect the awesome?

But the show hit me harder than I expected.

At times it was cheesy and I felt for her as she is no doubt still struggling to find her voice. But, at another point, when she was shredding the shit out of an accoustic guitar, solo, on stage, and keeping some percussion while she was at it, I cried.

It was so perfectly beautiful: such greatness from the stage, so close. Daddy would have really liked her music. He would have used big superlatives to describe the awesome talent of the tiny sprite. And I missed him through her fast finger melodies more than I had in quite some time. I hadn't even cried the last time I'd visited his grave, so this took me by surprise. In truth, I've always been auditory, (and in order to continue my ability to be so, I had to plug my ears for the loud, crazy-loud finale of screaming punk at this event as well), so I don't know why I was surprised that great auditory art would hit me emotionally hard. Opera makes me cry. Why not good guitar?

Anyways, at the suggestion of her stage manager, after the show, we waited around to say hi. And then, she was there. Immediately, she was accosted by several fans, all waiting to speak with her and keeping a respectful distance, but they slowly, as a pack, ever so slowly, closed in.

Someone swooped in to give her a glass of white wine. But, despite her awesome musical powers and the healing powers from the vine, she seemed tiny, small, and in need of protection. The crowd was awed, and amazed, and truly, just wanted to be in the presence of greatness. So, they pressed in, and one-by-one, the more aggressive made their way to the front. Of course, her interactions became less and less open.

I saw that she was overwhelmed and my heart went out to her (much like it went out to Kevin Federline when I last saw him, but that's another story).

So, I grabbed E's hand, pushed through the crowd (I can be one hell of a battering ram when I need to be) and acted the part of the proud wife:

Hi, I'm sorry to swoop in here, but you know my husband from back in the day...

[pained look from Kaki as she turns back from the suprisingly frank gesture she made just prior to our arrival gesture: one of hands in the air, shoulders shrugged, as if to say, and now? What next? How do I deal with this large crowd? I've never sold out a venue this large before...]

Ian...Ithelios... she struggled through her memory to place E's name.

E..., I helpfully replied. [Kaki glanced my direction, but in truth, she looked through me and then looked to E, searching for something familiar.]

[C, E, and I formed a very effective barrier between Kaki and the rest of the crowd, if only for a brief moment.]

E! [She buried her face in his chest with a big hug. She took his face in her hands. She hugged him again. And then, gleefully, more animated than she had been for at least 10 minutes, she backs up and studies him.]

You've grown up! [She hugs him again and she looks to me, so I introduce myself and C, another person she knows from back in the day.]

Her relief is palpable. I can only assume it is because she feels she knows us.

But, truth be told, she doesn't, really. And, despite the brief interlude of hugs and false proximity, we all know it. Her first thought is of the same story of crank calling E as a kid that he told me about her, so we laugh about that. Then, I compliment her on her talent. She asks what E is up to and we briefly discuss his company. We discuss her little sister and the fact that we have all seen her recently.

And finally, we leave. I can't help but feel, from the furtive glance she gives us as we leave, that she wishes we weren't making room for the pack of less familiar fans behind us.

I desperately wanted to go speak with her manager. I wanted to say, "She is tired. Overwhelmed with the sold-out show in a venue where she first opened her west coast presence as an unknown 5 years ago. Give her a graceful exit from tonight's amazing performance before she tries to create one on her own, for goodness sake!"

But, I am not a professional content producer or a manager of any similar talent. No doubt, they know what they are doing.

I'm not sure I would have the strength to bear the reality of finding foreign comfort in the hug of a home-town friend I hadn't seen in at least 5 years. Certainly not while recovering from the Flu. And yet, if she goes on to the greatness and fame that I suspect she will, she will have to find this strength often, unless or until she becomes so famous that even those from back in the day get the scared glances.


March 23, 2008

What it takes

Denise of Bag and Baggage's recent post resonated true with my experiences:

This is all consistent with something Professor Joan Williams at Hastings told me recently: "78% of male partners are married to women who earn no more than 25% of the family income. That really highlights the fact that this all-or-nothing pattern of be a go-getter makes law firm partnership seem available not only not to most women, but also to men with a specific family model."

This is the pattern I see played out not only in the field of law, but throughout Silicon Valley with successful CEOs, venture capitalists, and business leaders.

And it's not limited by the gender of the party who is rising to the top. While there are certainly more men in the traditional "power roles" in Silicon Valley, there are some ridiculously successful women as well.

I recently attended an event titled Successful Women in IP Law and listened to three panels of intelligent, experienced, and all-in-all inspirational women speak about their careers. When asked, most responded that the single most important thing to their success was that their personal commitment to excellence in their career was backed by an understanding and supportive partner who made it possible for them to pursue that excellence.

All but two of the panelists were married to a supportive husband who had a career (in several cases, one of full-time or part-time homemaker) that took a back seat to her career. Of the remaining two panelists, one was a co-partner in litigation with her husband, and they had outsourced many of their familial support functions (nanny, land management, shopping, laundry, etc.) to a family that lives in the house they purchased behind theirs, effectively making their arrangement that of a specialized division of labor between two families instead of two individuals.

The one woman on the panel who did not refer to a supportive partner as a facet of her success was a single mom who, at times, when necessary, unabashedly and unapologetically took her child to many events where children are generally not seen as welcome (e.g. business meetings, depositions, etc.).

I think this reality is one that the our society doesn't address as openly as it should. One benefit of the historic division of labor in nuclear families was specialization, which is very efficient, if not always emotionally and intellectually rewarding for the individuals who specialized. When we move to a model of variety, where more equal responsibility is held for earnings, then equal responsibility should also be held for family duties, and the flexibility required for them to be met. Only, this often is not the case. If many successful leaders follow the traditional model, outsourcing or relying on a home-focused supportive partner, then those who wish to get ahead feel pressure to emulate this model as well. Whether this is for efficiency's sake, or because it is the only way to get ahead professionally in a system that expects you to have the support structure and not need flexibility, I don't know.

But it is troublesome to me. E and I are both very career focused. And I fear that at some point if our relationship is more important to us than our careers (which it is), then one of us will have to choose to have a career that is more flexible in order to allow the other one to succeed. Perhaps not. Maybe society will evolve. Maybe we will find a way to make our own way. But it's scary, none-the-less.

March 19, 2008

Vacation Anticipation

After over 18 months straight of working as an attorney, I'm ready for my first big vacation. For someone who made liberal use of the time off during law school, the 18 months of work has been a serious sacrifice.

So, I've spent the non-travel time planning. In our office, there are no less than 5 books on Japan in a stack, most of whhich I've consulted in the planning stage, but now, they sit there, ready to be packed and referenced on our trip. In my car, there is a full level 1 set of Pimsleur Japanese CD's. I'm on lesson 24 and expect to finish lesson 30 before we depart. I'll report back about the success or failure of the endeavor when I return -- thus far, I have failed spectacularly at making a reservation, but at the time I was only on lesson 12. I think I might be able to muddle through at this point (okay, probably not, but bear with me...)

Today, in a fit of excitement, I ordered another 5 Japan-related books (Japanese literature, food books, history, etc.) as well as 2 other pleasure books that I hope to enjoy on the trip.

Bascially, I'm bouncing off the walls with excitement. I can't wait for the cultural experiences, the food, the wackiness, and, of course, the multiple days in a row with E, without work, where we will share unique experiences that we won't have shared with anyone else in the world except each other.

Also, yesterday, the hotel madness for the Marathon and our booking through the travel agency supposedly handling the international athletes (or posers, in my case) was finally sorted out. We now have a hotel room in Nagano (albeit with twin beds) during the race, and, assuming no injuries or other catastrophes, I will be running the Nagano marathon.

Part of me cannot believe that this trip, which I have been researching and planning for over a year, is finally here. The other part of me knows that of course it is coming, because time moves no matter what, and we set the days and planned the cities and bought the flights, and I've been training for the marathon, because I registered, so the march goes on, and duh...soon enough, we will be there. Of course, it all will NOT go according to plan. But that will be half of its beauty.

Anyways, in the waiting period, lately I've found that work is mellow and mainly more of the same, albeit at a less intense pace. Last weekend, I managed a frenetic visit to the hometown where I saw everyone (literally) that I needed to see who was in town, and now I'm clear on the hometown visits 'til Memorial Day, which is a great feeling.

Also, lest you think my life is all tamagotchi and butterflies, you should know that while at dinner tonight with E and some business buddies of his, I had to take a time out to acknowledge the receipt of an email where a partner referred to a letter I drafted today as Kloodgy. Awesome.

March 17, 2008

Unexpected Speed

I am happy, nay, thrilled, to report that the doubt was sorely misplaced.

I PR'd my half marathon by 3 minutes.

Holy shit.

In theory, if I keep training this way, and I was lucky enough to get good conditions (and to have my hotel accommodations situation sorted properly), I might qualify for Boston in Nagano.

If I am honest, I must admit that I went for a PR today because I thought I wouldn't get hotel accommodations in Nagano and I thought this might be the only race I'd have to show for my training.

But then, thanks to my buddy Derrek, the pace-group leader for (what I thought was my unrealistic) time goal for today's race, I had to face the facts.

BT. You are going to PR. By at least 2 minutes. The only question is, are you running this for the best half-marathon time, or are you training for a marathon?

So, even while I knew it was unlikely I'd actually run in Nagano due to the hotel mistakes, I reined it in. I slowed to the pace and stayed on it. Thanks to that, I finished with energy and smiles to spare, despite kicking it up on the last mile.

And then, I came home to find an email from Japan informing me that twin bed accommodations had been found. Not my favorite, but it will do. I'm holding out for a better hotel, but it looks like I will be running in Nagano.

Perhaps if I had known that I wouldn't have ran so hard today (but then again, I did rein it in).

Certainly, if I had known that I would be running in Nagano, I wouldn't have smoked 3 cigarettes today.

Yeah, that's right. I PR'd my half marathon time by 3 minutes and I smoked 3 cigarettes today. For the first time in quite a while, due to drama in friend's and family's lives, I found myself in situations where smoking seemed like something I should be doing.

And now? Well now, I fear that in 5 weeks, if I don't meet my time goal by a scant 45 seconds or some other painfully close margin, I may want to blame today's cigarettes.

Oddly, I think today's whole experience (between the success on the course and the enjoyment of bad habits) when viewed in full view, will make me train harder. I just don't want to deal with that failure mode.

And now... sleep.

Update 3/17/08 PM: So Sore. I can't even imagine how much more sore I'd be if I hadn't listened to Derrek. I've never felt so good at the end of a race and then so comparatively sore the day after. I guess when you race at the edge of your fitness level it hurts. Or something.

March 12, 2008

Medium Term Goals

So, my new year's resolution was to relax more, to let things go, to forgive myself for my mistakes, and to roll with the punches.

2.5 months in, I can say that it is quite a struggle for me to reach for this goal, but that it is a good one because it makes me grow by forcing me to re-evaluate my behavior when I otherwise might not.

I'm quite uptight, it turns out.


And, in a typical display of my uptight nature, I recently asked E what his 5 year goal was. Quickly, he responded, to single-handedly control an impressively large army of robots.

I hope he was joking.

But then, when he turned the question to me, I realized, he could at least answer the question, joking or not. I could not.

It has been a long time since I didn't have a 5-year plan. First there was the high school, get into a college where I could afford to study what I wanted while doing the sports I wanted to do plan. Then it was the find a way to pay for school, finish school, and play sports plan. Then it was get a good job, get a better job, and finally get into law school plan. Followed by the get through law school, and get a good job as a lawyer plan.

And now... all of a sudden, I find that my long term goals remain intact, and my short-term goals are relatively easy to define (if hard to attain), but my mid-term goals elude me. There are a million paths to my long-term career, balance, and financial goals and I'm not wedded to any of them.

For the first time in a long time, I'm not at odds with the current path I'm on. I'm not looking for a way off of it. I wouldn't object to an opportunity to leave it, if it was better or made sense. But I'm not actively seeking to find a better option.

This is such a unique experience for me that I found it paralyzing.

And then I realized I could just set my mid-term goals in other areas of my life and work on those while keeping on the somewhat comfortable professional/financial path I've found until it becomes uncomfortable.

So, while E's mid-term goals may seem fantasmical, mine are simple: in the next 5 years, I'd like to become fluent in Spanish and to live in a house with right angles, a nice cooking range, and very few cracks.

There, now I've got short, mid-range, and long-term goals. I feel better.

March 9, 2008

Egg Leek Soup

In a fit of Mexican food craving, I marked several recipes from Diana Kennedy's 544 page oevre: The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. The recipe for Sopa de Puerros from Oaxaca caught my eye more than most, so we put it in the menu rotation for the week. In typical style, when I went to make it tonight, I couldn't resist modifying it just a bit based on our ingredient availability and my general preferences.

E and I agreed, it's quite tasty, and also, quite unique. (Plus, it's very healthy).

-3 leeks, white and light green portions diced into 1 cm squares or smaller
-1 cup of chopped parsely
-4 T butter
-6 hard-boiled or hard-cooked eggs, separated into diced whites and yolks
-1 box chicken broth (1 L)
-5 thai chiles
-4 corn tortillas, sliced into 1 cm wide ribbons of 2-3 cm length

1. Scatter tortillas in a baking pan and bake at 400 F
2. Place stockpot over medium heat and melt butter.
3. Add leeks and parsely and cook approximately 8 minutes.
4. Add broth. Add whole chiles. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Remove tortillas from oven, douse with some olive oil and toss before allowing to cool.
6. Beat yolks into simmering broth, mashing against the side of the pan to get as much to dissolve into the broth as possible.
7. Remove soup from heat, mix in chopped egg whites and allow to cool briefly.
8. Ladle into large bowls, top with tortilla strips and serve immediately.

Lucky_girl often laughs whenever I describe what I cooked for E & me for dinner. She often claims that what I make couldn't possibly be enough food. And, I guess, with a soup like this, which the recipe claims serves 6, I could see her point. But, the secret is -- we're into big servings.

With this soup, we solved the problem by dividing it into 2 servings, and we each enjoyed a substantial dinner of roughly 1.5 leeks, 2 T butter, 1/2 cup parsely, 1/2 liter broth, 3 eggs, 2 corn tortillas, 1 T olive oil, and 2.5 thai chiles.

Thoughts on Marathon Training Programs

For those of you into this stuff, I thought you might like to know my thoughts on this 3rd pseudo-Jeff-Galloway-inspired approach to marathon training that I'm doing versus my previous experience using Hal Higdon's Novice Program and a slightly modified version of his intermediate program.

Both approaches have focused on gradual build-ups and neither of them has left me feeling likely to be injured. The max long run in Hal's program is 20 M. With Jeff, it could be as high as 28, but since I got a late start and seem to be dropping mileage, mine will likely be 22 M. The max mileage per week is 40+ in Hal. Jeff seems to keep me below 40 until a 24 M long run (which I won't be hitting).

#1 -- the mid-week speed-building sessions are probably the biggest difference between my Jeff-inspired-program and prior programs. I started at 25 minutes straight at an 8:30 pace and have been adding 1 minute per week. Last week was 29 minutes straight at an 8:30 pace. This week will be 30 minutes. I do these on the treadmill and they push me to run consistently at a faster pace than I otherwise would maintain (I tend to be more variable).

#2 -- The lack of longer medium length run during the week makes it easier to hit the mid-week mileage goals. With Hal, I often found myself doing make-up runs on the non-long-run day on the weekend. Now, I run 4 days a week and find it relatively easy to fit in all 3 mid-week runs (2 6-milers and the one speed session), and I have been able to fit in some short bike rides or walks on the weekend off day with E, which is nice.

#3 -- For some reason, many of my ultra-long weekend runs have a way of getting cut short by life. This weekend was 18.5 instead of 21. Two ultra long-runs ago was 14.6 instead of 16 or 17. It's only 20 minutes or so in each case, and yet, those minutes seem to be hard to come by.

#4 -- The run one mile, take a minute walk break approach does make it easier to make major mileage increases between long runs (Over 4 weeks, I jumped from 13, to 15, to 14, and then up to 19.5 without too much trouble). But, I'm starting to have concerns about my speed. I know, I shouldn't really worry about it 'til taper, but given my struggles yesterday with the distance, and the fact that I was going relatively slowly, I can't help but be concerned.

#5 -- In terms of overall mileage, 17 weeks on the Jeff-inspired program will put me about 35 miles over the last Hal-inspired program for the same number of weeks. But, the last 7 weeks on this one will total 16 miles less. In theory, that's because I'll be recovering and pushing speed during the week with shorter runs, while simultaneously doing longer long runs on the weekend for endurance. Again, I'm skeptical, but that's why I'm doing this experiment, to be disciplined and see what works for me.

#6 -- Overall, this program works into my life better than the other two programs I followed, which means regularly running marathons is more likely to be sustainable on this program. So, I'm hoping this approach does result in Jeff's promised benefits (although I'm already falling behind on the long runs, so it would be reasonable to find that it does not deliver).

Yesterday's run sucked, big time. I was supposed to do 21 miles after a Friday night of homemade Mexican leek soup, yoga, no alcohol, lots of water and an early bedtime.

Instead, Friday night we had to celebrate. We went for sushi with friends to celebrate E's resignation and F's new job. It was fun and delicious. But, we started the meal with sake. Then the servers forget to bring our *complementary* miso soup and salad (you know, the few bits of the meal that could actually pass for somewhat healthy). I joined the celebration and toasted and sipped on sauvignon blanc, all the while gorging on sushi and finishing the meal with deep fried green tea ice cream (hell yeah!). Then, E & I caped off the night watching the weird but clever and fun Donnie Darko 'til 1:30 AM. So, well, I had accepted that my long run was not going to be exactly what I'd hoped.

Saturday AM, the weather cooperated and was gorgeous, but I thought it would be a good idea to sleep in because I was relaxed. So, there I was, leaving after 9 AM for 21 miles. Around mile 10, without any tree cover for the 3rd or 4th consecutive mile, in the 70F sun, I realized that the prior night's festivities were not exactly helping me out.

So, I cut it a bit short, slowed down, altered the loop to find more shade, and at mile 18.5, I came back in the house with the intention of asking E if he'd like to walk the remaining 2.5 with me. Or maybe I'd run one more mile and he could walk the last 1.5.

Instead, I sat my exhausted and sweaty ass down in my chair, leaned my head back and admitted that the next time I was getting up was to go to the shower.

So, here I am, 5 long runs left 'til the marathon, and dealing with the realization that I am in the kind of shape where I realize I have to slow down to avoid doing another run from hell. The good news is, when I arrived home it was 75F, which is hotter than it likely will be in Nagano. The bad news is that it will be significantly more humid, and, as I learned in Miami, humidity kills me.

So, truth be told, I'm suspicious that I'm going to be in good enough shape to finish this marathon anywhere near my original time goal.

Thankfully, I've got a half-marathon on deck for next weekend. So, I guess I'll push the midweek runs this week for speed and see how I perform in the race, and from there, I'll be setting my new marathon goal (and likely adding some buffer time for the humidity).

March 6, 2008


Anecdotally, the economy, at least where I sit in it, is in the shitter.

-the house across the street from ours, which is gorgeously remodeled and listed at a very reasonable price, has not sold after at least 3 weeks on the market. This is unheard of for our neighborhood, since we moved here. Should be interesting to see how it plays out.

-traffic is lighter on my commute.

-the yen is up almost 20% against the dollar since I had the random thought 3 months ago... hmmm... we are going to Japan in the spring, perhaps I should buy some yen...

-lunches with various lawyers in litigation, patent prosecution, corporate work, etc. all confirm a slowdown in spending on the part of their clients.

The last time the economy sucked such that it affected me, personally, I struggled for a while and finally packed up and headed for Italy for one of the greatest adventures of my life. If, for some reason, I am unable to maintain my career during this downturn, I hope I have the courage to go on a similar adventure, although, I admit, I do not have the effort (over a year of night classes in language lessons) or research (reading about Italy incessantly and applying for various linguistic scholarships through the Italian-American cultural embassy in San Francisco) invested to make it as worthwhile as my last adventure.

Not that the lack of preparation or effort will stop me. I mean, an opportunity is an opportunity...

But, I suspect I may have to weather this downturn from the local trenches.

Let us hope we can have the character and strength to improve through the adversity and survive with character...

March 2, 2008

Farmer's Market Bounty

Today was a glorious day. We slept in 'til double digits, and when we finally pulled ourselves out of bed, it was to leisurely bike around town in 70F weather, enjoying the sunshine while looking at houses we either can't afford or don't want to buy because we like our current house better. Finally, we ended up at the local farmer's market, just before closing, where we loaded up on the ingredients to round out the collection for the week that will be making up our dinners:

-1 small tub of white truffle butter from the French foods tent
-1 medium tub of cilantro pesto from the Indian spreads tent
-1 sourdough batard from Acme Bread Company
-3 leeks
-1 bunch parsley
-2 artichokes
-2 carrots
-1/2 lb. Queso Bravo
-1/2 lb. tree oyster mushrooms

Tentatively on deck for this week's dinners:
-Sopa de ajo con pan y huevos;
-boiled artichokes with bread and cheese;
-tacos de hongos;
-and some other random combination of deliciousness composed of some of today's acquisitions plus whatever's in the kitchen, likely a vegetable soup of some sort. Should be a great week, foodwise.