August 27, 2008

Work Insomnia

Despite less than 3 hours of sleep last night (which I realize is nothing compared to what those with newborns get), and over 13 billable hours yesterday, which helped me finally get close to in the clear, I woke with insomnia just now, amped about work.

Overall, I'm much better about leaving work at work this year. But clearly, subconsciously, I've got a ways to go.

I can't wait for this morning's run to get out the jitters (I had to skip yesterday's due to too much on my plate)... if only I could just go do it now.

August 23, 2008

A Perfect Saturday

E and I are evaluating whether to remodel our house or buy a new one and move. It's a big decision, and either way, it means we will have to cut back on our disposable spending, which, for us, primarily means reigning in the spending on restaurants and travel. I think I'm ready to make the switch, but, seeing how much joy I get from those two activities, I've been somewhat sad about the new world order, if, indeed, we do decide to go down one of these routes. But, I'm getting super-excited about the prospect of a gas stove and a better kitchen, where I can derive more joy from cooking, especially, the things we grow in our garden (and, of course, my favorite part of the garden, the tomatoes).

This morning, I got up to take advantage of a local race and fundraiser. I knew it was sponsored by a local Indian charity, and expected it to be a cultural experience, but it was even more so than I expected. B (of law school fame), my across the street neighbor, her sister and I all showed up about half an hour before the race to register. We heard the announcements that thanks to all the participants and their race fees and fundraising, at least 200 surgeries in India would be funded to save 200 from curable blindness. Man, that really helped to reinforce my recent feeling that I should be spending less of my disposable income on selfish pleasures.

At least 90% of the participants appeared to be of Indian descent. This made the race very different from all of the races I've done in many ways. The start time was merely a suggestion, and I think the true start time was at least half an hour later. Before our race, the emcee led much of the group through 20 minutes of music-inspired calisthenics. It was a sight -- B and I were chatting and then we looked over to see at least 1,000 folks, the majority of whom looked Indian (and thus much more visually homogeneous than I'm used to seeing in a crowd that large) jogging in place, lunging, swinging their arms and basically looking like my high-school Phys-Ed warmups. This was not your typical bay-area race. Folks were friendly, significantly less focused on running or the organization of the event than I am used to and more focused on socializing. As an added bonus, the post-race treats included a full plate of Indian food. All for 2/3 of what I generally expect to pay for an organized race. B and I left full, amused that we wouldn't have to go out for a post-race meal and wondering what the most-delicious of the mushy treats we were served with Idli was called.

I arrived home thankful that I live in such a culturally mixed place that I can take part in an event that clearly brings foreign cultures to me and welcomes my participation. Perhaps I don't need to travel as much as I thought...

Also, I was pleased to see that my recent re-commitment to speed training had paid off and I wasn't as slow as I expected -- I ran the 10K at close to boston qualifying pace -- but, predictably, B easily kicked my ass, because it turns out, she's on track to qualify for Boston in November, and if you want to be ready to qualify for Boston, you need to be able to run shorter races at a MUCH FASTER pace. Today made me happy with my overall fitness, but glad that I decided that if I was going to try to qualify, the race I would choose to do so would be next March.

Once home, relaxed and cleaned up from the race, E, brother, and I headed to downtown for lunch and then we looked at some houses. And, when we returned home, we did our Saturday harvest ritual and I found myself elated with the glorious fruits of our labor:


This picture actually does the garden justice. I am thrilled to be home to enjoy the glory of what a once-weekly harvest can be! It goes to show that 7 medium-healthy tomato plants produce a gift-giving amount of fruit in our neck-of-the-woods in August. Plus, the okra, the new growth from the treated and (hopefully) recovering crook-neck squash plant, and, of course, the herb box mean that I don't need to acquire that much at tomorrow's farmer's market (not that it will stop me). Clearly, next year we need more tomato plants, okra in the ground instead of pots, 1/2 the basil plants, more dill plants, chives in a bigger pot, we should ditch cilantro altogether, one sage plant and one Italian oregano plant is just about right, and one marjoram plant produces entirely too much for one family to consume.

After we worked in our garden for an hour or so, I was torn between doing absolutely nothing or combining chores with decadence. I called the dry-cleaners and they were about to close but would stay open 'til I got there, so my course was decided -- from there, I could head to the salon and get a pedicure.

Upon arrival at the dry cleaners, I was asked,

Do you have some time to help me?

Of course. (One of the great things of this stay-at-home-non-going-out-or-traveling-on-the-weekends lifestyle is I'm not too pressed for time, and since I stayed up late to finish much of my weekend work late last night, I really wasn't too busy at all.)

Turns out, our local dry cleaner, good old Sam, is the president elect for the Northern California Korean Dry Cleaner's Association. He's giving a speech tomorrow. It had been translated for him from Korean, into English, but he needed help with the pronunciation and grammar. So, I spent a gleeful half an hour working with Sam on his speech. For those of you who know me well, you know this is the type of thing that I absolutely adore about life. Language. Culture. Cadence of speech. Figurative speech gone adorably wrong and then explained and fixed. I was in heaven.

I left the dry-cleaners with a discount and even more convinced that I did not need to give up on my love of foreign language or culture in order to attain our financial goals. It's here. That's why we love it here. Perhaps if we stop leaving so much, I'll be able to enjoy it even more than if I traveled. What an amazing realization!

From there, I headed to the salon, where, predictably, my race-sore feet were soaked, primped, massaged, and painted a beautiful shade of purple. All the while, the massage chair kneaded my back and I listened to the melodic under-conversations in vietnamese.

I mean, really? What, exactly, do I think I'm going to be missing if I give up the opportunity to travel for a few years in order to attain E's and my financial goals?

Certainly not food -- more time at home means time to grow and/or cook great food ourselves (did I mention that we recently took delivery on some grass fed beef that's looking to be cooked?).

And, clearly, today shows that by staying home I don't have to miss out on cultural experiences, friendly folks with different life and national experiences, or exposure to foreign languages.

So, here I am, relaxed, happy, and fairly convinced that our next big move won't really even require the big sacrifices I thought it would.

Like the title says, this really was the perfect Saturday.

What a great day!

August 21, 2008

I dream of contracts

This is how I know I am very busy at work.

Too busy.

But, given where the economy appears to be heading, I'll count my blessings and get up early to finish the extra work.

August 17, 2008

My Food Life Through the Lens

Here are some of the cookies I used to make the crust in the Dingo Dave inspired peanut-butter-cheesecake-on-a-chocolate-chip-cookie-crust:


Unlike Dingo Dave, whose crust appears to be crummy, mine turned out more brownie-like in texture. I think it is because I used fresh-baked cookies from the grocery store deli, I pureed a wee bit too much, and once that was done, I figured I might as well skip the butter (no need to use it to hold the stuff together) and only used a touch of half-and-half.


The final result (plus the cheese, fruit & wine we had before it) can be seen over at 2 minutes for roughing.

In garden news, all of our tomato plants seem to be producing fruit and most have new foliage after we trimmed and treated them for the fungus (but they do look sparse). The weekly harvest for the last several weeks has looked like this:


The cucumber plan has been a consistent producer for quite some time. We've had 1-3 large, long cucumbers per week, which means at least once, if not twice a week, we end up with a summer dinner or lunch from our garden that is one of my favorite meals, and looks roughly like this:


Unfortunately, the cucumber plant now looks like it has one last cuke to go -- it has stopped flowering and appears to have gotten some sort of dry white powdery fungus on the leaves, but we're hoping that if we treat it and cut it back today it may come back for a resurgence.

The squash went into a miniature fruit production phase and is covered with aphids, so we'll try to spray it with soapy water to see if it that will help it to produce some bigger fruit.

The okra produced enough fruit that I was able to make fried okra last week (which made E say, this is why I married you) and each plant is still kicking out 1-2 fruits a week.

And, of course, the herbs, in true form, are wonderfully consistent and the source of much happiness.

August 16, 2008

Back in the Swing

July and even the first week of August were relatively slow at work, for me. I got into the habit of working very little on the weekends and blowing off the work I brought home at night, because, hey, it was very likely that I could finish it the next day -- all my clients seemed sleepy and well-behaved.

I kept this attitude about work all the way through last weekend, when I brought a bunch of work home but didn't do any of it. Unfortunately, work had actually picked back up to a normal pace and I was not responding appropriately.

This week, I was scrambling. I worked 'til 11 PM on Monday, 10 PM on Tuesday, and Wednesday, after an appointment with our realtor, phone calls to family & friends, and dinner to discuss our housing options, I still had a minor edits to one of my contracts. Ordinarily, I would have finished those edits before the phone calls, but I just hadn't gotten back into the groove...

Thursday afternoon I skipped lunch with my group to finish some work and I missed an internal deadline by an hour. Friday, I got the missed-deadline contract back from my supervising partner and I was embarrassed. I had missed several changes. I had made errors that showed I was rushed. It did not look like my work.

Thankfully, I work for wonderful partners (seriously), and this one took the blame for my shoddy work upon himself saying that we should have a more open dialog about my workload so that we could make determinations about whether the deadlines should slip or I should turn in rushed work.

This is a solid management technique. I already had realized I wasn't managing my workflow as well as I had in the past and needed to get in gear and I felt badly. I apologized when I saw his mark-up to my draft, but when my partner accepted the blame for what I knew to be my mistake, it made me even more motivated not to make it in the future.

And this, my friends, would explain the lack of blog posts this week, and how I found myself in a relatively empty office at 7 PM on a Friday, and why I'm up, at my computer, and ready to crank out some work this morning. I'm back in the groove -- my priority lists are updated. I actually know what needs to be done and I'm not fooling myself into thinking I can squeeze it in later. I need to work this weekend. That's part of the gig I signed up for.

When I explained to one of my other partners what had happened with the missed-deadline-contract, he laughed and said,

Don't worry, you just got out of shape. This job is much like sports in that way, when you've been training and you're in good shape, it's much easier to get it done right. But when you take some time off or things get slow, it takes a while to get back into the swing of things.

And on that note, I am happy to announce that I'm also getting back into the swing of running after the marathon. Last night E2 and I joined a small group of local runners for a full-moon frolic. It was beautiful, with hills and sand running by the crashing surf for an even paced 6 miles that made me feel like I was fully recovered.

August 8, 2008

Best Creamy Salad Dressing on a Home Grown Salad Ever

So, yeah, creamy salad dressing is one of the greatest things about life. It took me quite a while to come to this conclusion, what with my fear of white creamy foods and all... but let me assure you -- it's true.

I'm sure you agree with this, or at least admit it might be true, because, really, I'm so boring, that there's really no other reason to read this blog unless you subscribe to my particular food opinions, in some form or another.

It's convenient really, because I don't even feel guilty... So, annyways...

Tonight, we had a meeting with a friend of a friend who needs some pro-bono help on his charitable organization -- and, conveniently, they need legal help I'm actually somewhat qualified to provide. What a great feeling!

As he told us all about his efforts, I slowly chopped my way to the homemade and home-grown dinner, because, technically, he was a dinner guest, even though he just ate good cheese and left before we devoured everything else.

So, as he described his project, I chopped our latest huge harvested japanese cucumber. We've finally learned that the stem-ends are bitter. VERY BITTER. Think Lye. So, after many slices and tastes, it turns out, you need to throw out (or at least into the compost) at least 1.5 inches from the stem for an 18 inch Japanese cucumber. Finally. Done.

As he described his project, I chopped 7-8 middle-sized home grown tomatoes from our plants. We've gotten in the habit of harvesting red/orange/yellow and letting them shelf-ripen 'til soft. Amazing. To date, the 7 tomato plants we've been caring for have been one of the greatest efforts of my life. I'm SO PROUD! Particularly of the huge black krim fruits, which are all so green, but huge and waiting for ripening, after the great fungal infection, pruning, treating, and medicinal treatment from earlier this summer.

He kept talking. 5 cloves of garlic: ends and skins removed. 1 cup of basil, harvested 4 days prior and wilting in the fridge. I avocado, sliced, and removed from the skins. I took these 3 prior ingredients and put them in the cuisinart. I added olive oil around the dish a few times. I added rice vinegar around the dish a few times. I added floral honey from baja, at least a minute of pouring. I added red pepper flakes and sea salt. And then, I pulsed. I pulsed again. I pushed down with the spoon, and then I puréed.

And all of a sudden, the pro-bono client left. And we were left with the best creamy salad dressing ever: a combo of vinegar, olive oil, avocado, red pepper flakes, vinegar, garlic, artisanal honey, and sea salt.

If you can toss it over your home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers, all the better. And now, my friends, we're full!


August 6, 2008

On Privacy

Today, I attended a 3/4 day long conference on internet privacy. That wasn't how they billed it, but that's how it ended up playing out.

Many very smart people said many smart things, and most of them have my brain spinning and thinking and evolving. Perhaps if I collect my thoughts I'll post something useful. Probably not, though.

Acknowledging that I probably won't think, write, and post or be anything close to useful in that manner, I feel I should offer something. So, here it is:

Today, as counsel to many small cutting edge companies who struggle with many of the issues that were discussed, the most striking comment, to my ears, came from Lauren Gelman. She said (according to my notes),

Now, anyone can speak to the world about whatever they want -- but our stories aren't just about ourselves, they affect third parties.

I think, from the first person publisher privacy standpoint, that summarizes the whole ball of wax. Sure, you've always been free to tell your story from the street corner, but it used to require so much more effort. Now, it's easy. And you can bring along your acquaintances' reputations for the ride.

This is not to say that there isn't a huge discussion to be had regarding the entities who are collecting data, combining it with other data, mining it, and introspecting into our lives. That is a different and immense issue.

This is just to say that on the harms we can do to one another by exercising this new and ridiculously free, unprecedented power to publish to anyone in the world without a governmentally imposed filter -- I think Lauren's got it.

We've never been so free to permanently speak to millions about our neighbors, acquaintances, exes, and so forth.

It's a brave new world y'all...

August 5, 2008

Still Sore

E2 is not the least bit sore from the marathon. I, on the other hand, am still cringing with each step that I must take up and down the stairs at work.

So much for being the supportive friend with an easy run... [grin]

In other news, in case you hadn't seen the pics yet, It's truly a Party of 3 for lucky_girl and M. Go check the little dude out.

August 4, 2008

Quotes from the weekend

The leaders are on their way back across the golden gate bridge

-The announcer, before they started our wave of runners at the San Francisco Marathon.

That was the easiest half marathon I've ever done in my life

-E2, impressively strong and disciplined at the halfway point on her first marathon

I'm TOTALLY IN SHAPE!!!! I can't believe I just ran 23 miles!!!

-A girl E2 and I passed at mile 23, she sounded very surprised at herself and very proud as she screamed and laughed with her friend.

Yes, this is easier than the long training runs, but I don't have much left in me

-E2, at mile 24 or so, immediately before she picked up the pace to force me to run the two fastest finishing miles I've ever run at a marathon.

This is *awesome*. I could live here, just like I could live at Costco.

-A kid, looking down on the atrium of the San Francisco Hyatt Regency from the glass elevators as we rode up them to our hotel room for a post-race shower.

I don't even go to the halfs anymore

-E, at lunch with E2's parents and J. When we discussed that this was my 4th marathon and I've got a 5th planned for December. I don't really remember when I decided to become a *marathon* runner. But I guess it happened.