June 30, 2009

Back in Lawyer Land

18.5 hour work-day.

Yeah, I vaguely remember this...

Good night.

June 29, 2009

For the Record

I had a very full weekend.

18.5 billable hours between Saturday AM and Sunday PM does not make for a very good hostess.

But, I managed to fit in some breaks for some nice meals with our guests, including one where we had to drive on the freeway.

Apparently, a PT Cruiser can flip through the air and roll for a total of 3 rotations or more, including one going over the front end, and another where the car appears to be suspended and spinning on its long axis, shedding glass from a fountain of sparkles that begins with a car suspended higher than the tops of the other cars on the freeway. I thought that type of crash only happened in the movies, but, it turns out, it can happen in real life.

More impressively, it is possible (if you have a good driver, thanks E!) to observe a PT Cruiser do this ridiculous performance while riding only 2 cars behind it and to watch it finally come to rest on broken rims, right side-up, 4 lanes away from where the flipping started without hitting a single car.

Most amazing, it is possible for the driver to find herself seat-belted in facing on-coming traffic at 30 degree angle, completely alert, only slightly bloody on her hands and knees, calmly (in shock, most likely) sitting behind the exploded airbag, staring at the sunken safety glass blanket, above the dropped engine, beside the crushed door, looking curiously across the broad expanse of freeway where all of her personal items have scattered (don't turn your head!) and able to answer your questions when you are the first person on the scene and call 911.

I'm still processing that one.

In less dramatic news, Garlic scapes are a wacky botanic miracle, taking the warm weather queue to spontaneously twist into a tangled mess of curly hair on the top of your hard-neck garlic crop.

When cooked, they have the consistency of green beans and taste slightly spicy and very earthy with only a warm hint of their garlic nature. They are definitely one of the reasons to consider growing garlic yourself.

B is an awesome out-of-state houseguest who worked with me to start a home-cooked dinner of garden and farmer's market leftovers in our fridge. I had hoped it would turn out well because the starting ingredients has so much California-produce potential. When I had to stop cooking to take my half-hour conference call (that ended up being an hour of course), she just kept on cooking and prepared the meal in my absence so that when I finally got a break, I could enjoy it with E and the guests. Bonus, it turned out delicious.

Summertime Pasta Bake

For the Vegetables:
-1 red onion chopped
-1 cup chopped garlic scapes (chop into 1-inch long pieces until you reach the portion of the scape stem once it gets slightly woody)
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1 head cauliflower, washed and chopped
-2 lbs mixed summer squash, washed and chopped
-4 Heirloom tomatoes

For the Pesto:
-6 cloves garlic
-1/2 C pecans (all we had, turned out great)
-1 C mixed basil from the garden
-1/2 C olive oil
-1 T salt
-2 T red pepper flakes

For the bake:
-2 C fresh mozzarella pearls

For the pasta:
-1 box penne, water, salt

1. Sautée onions & garlic scapes in olive for 1-2 minutes & pre-heat oven to 450F.
2. Add Cauliflower & continue to cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add squash & cook for 3 minutes.
4. Add chopped tomatoes, bring to a simmer, pour off excess liquid (reserve) and stir for 2 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and cover.
6. Prepare pasta according to directions (this step may be done first, if you prefer) and strain, return to pasta pot.
7. While pasta is boiling make the pesto in cuisinart.
8. Toss the pesto, pasta, and vegetables in the pasta pot. Arrange in baking dishes.
9. Top baking dishes with mozzarella and pour reserved vegetable juice on top. Place in oven and bake until cheese is melted and slightly browned on top.


June 28, 2009

Gearing Up

I've had a relatively mellow first half of 2009, as far as being a lawyer is concerned.

I've been averaging somewhere slightly below 150 billable hours per month and enjoying my nights and weekends for the most part, plus taking some vacations.

Last weekend, however, I had to work all day Sunday. This weekend, I'm working both Saturday and Sunday. One of the attorneys in my group just went out on maternity leave, and it looks like business is picking up. I was just staffed on two very large deals, at least one of which will require some cross-country travel for negotiations over the next few months in addition to my regular client-work.

I'm actually excited about the big deals. As I've said many times before, I love the law and I adore what I do. It's just the stuff that comes with it that is sometimes difficult to manage.

As the years have gone by, I've gotten better at dealing with the associated stresses and the last-minute cancellations (we have guests this weekend, so my need to work all weekend has not been ideal, but they've understood).

But I'm certain my feelings of being a well-balanced lawyer as of late have been partially attributed to the reasonable amount of work that has been coming my way: enough that I have felt fortunate not to fear for my job, but not so much as to overwhelm me very often.

However, given the trends I'm seeing and being down one attorney in my group, I suspect the mellow portion of 2009 may be waning and have warned E of as much.

I'll do my best to keep some of the balance I've been better at managing when the workload was lighter, but if my prediction is correct, I suspect my life for the next few months is going to be a little heavier on the lawyering and lighter on the social, family and food.

Wish me luck...

June 27, 2009

How Do It Know?

Remember the great garlic planting back in October?

After following the Gourmet Garlic Gardens instructions, every single clove sprouted in November (bonus -- check out the sprouts in the far part of the box -- those were the baby artichoke plants, back when we thought perhaps we could fit more than one in our raised bed):


From there, each sprout grew to be a stalk of grass-like leaves about 4-5 feet tall, eventually, some sent up scapes and finally, it was harvest time:


Towards the end of their growing season, I commented to E that garlic was somewhat anti-climactic and quite a bit of effort for a fairly easy to obtain return. Last weekend, at the Farmer's Market they had California Early Garlic Bulbs--one of the varieties we grew--for 50 cents each.

However, the satisfaction I got from pulling each large head out of the ground and the wonder at its reproduction changed my mind.

Just put a clove in the ground. With water, winter, spring, and summer, it'll clone itself into multiple cloves, each associated with a huge blade of energy producing monocot leaf.

DNA, and the miraculous replication of life is so amazing!

June 20, 2009

Corpse Flower

E and I had the luck of visiting the Huntington two weekends ago.

We were able to see the Amorphophallus titanum (aka, nondescriptly shaped huge phallus) prior to its bloom.

I just heard that the phallus (helpfully located along the path of signs with photos and the tagline, "something's getting bigger...") we were lucky enough to view finally bloomed (and stank like rotting meat... mmmm...) last Thursday.

We were able to see it in its huge (nondescriptly shaped) phallic glory pre-stink and pre-bloom, which, apparently is a once-in-a-decade-or-so-event.

How cool is that?
June Bloom

We've got fruits galore!

Tons of Tomatoes:



Baby Eggplants:


More Artichokes ('cause the plant is out of control! Look closely. How many can you find? It's like one of those hidden treasure pictures, I swear...):


Overall, in the last two weeks, we've gone to this:


From this:


Which means they look different *every* day. It's fun!

In other news, we're still waiting (not so patiently), on a few laggards.

Peppers (refer to the tomato plants on the left for scale):




And Winter Squashes, a vining and non-vining cucumber, and onions:


And finally, remember our Very Californian Easter Sunday? Well, this is what San Gregorio looks like in late spring. Absolutely breath-taking:


Have a great week!

June 19, 2009

No Plans Tonight!

After 7 evenings straight of social commitments (sometimes multiple events in one night), I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to stay at home and interact with no one except E tonight.

I have been getting more and more exhausted with each evening of social fun.

I would prefer to stay home and avoid the office today for many reasons, but the largest one is I'd rather avoid all smalltalk for at least 24 hours.

This weekend? After I recover? We've got 2 parties to attend. I am actually slightly relieved that I will be required to miss one due to work.

One of the greatest things about summer is that the warm weather makes people more likely to go out and interact with each other. Summer, for me, means barbeques and opportunities to see friends I haven't seen in at least a year.

And yet, the thing that's got me most excited about this weekend is the one-on-one runs with 2 good friends and the alone-time I've got scheduled for the garden.

It's times like these that I am convinced that I'm definitely an introvert.

June 16, 2009

Awesome Visitor

Brother came to stay for a short visit.

Yesterday, he did a roof inspection and gave us the awesome news that the drips we had been worried about could be easily fixed with a small bucket of tar in less than a day.

When we found out we had surprise dinner guests from out of town, he volunteered to be our chef, making barbeque tri-tip, barbeque artichokes (an awesome innovation), and barbequed potatoes & mushrooms. Yummm.

Last night, after the guests left, I lay on the couch with my belly full of food, with my head and shoulders cuddled up on E & Brother just below my feet. Content beyond belief, I fell asleep to one of my dad's favorite movies.

Today, Brother's going to patch the roof and then head home.

Am I a spoiled sister, or what?

June 10, 2009

Delicious Disaster

The dinner plans called for salad with artichokes from our plant on the side, with dippings pre-prepared.

What could possibly go wrong? OH, I have 2 ideas:

1. The Aphids love the artichokes. We have not beaten them back. The neem oil is insufficient. We may have to cut all fruit, aggressively wash the plant and treat with soapy water, or garlic water, or serious chemicals, depending on who we listen to. Regardless, despite our harvest, we did not have 2 healthy non-bugg-ified artichokes for dinner. We had one.

2. The gorgeous romaine lettuce I bought at Draegers when Arvay was here? Yeah, it molded. And not a little bit. Think, "wow, that looks like cotton candy on the side of that lettuce... that is so weird..."

So, instead, I boiled the one remaining artichoke in onion cuttings and a last minute addition of olive oil, salt and black pepper for 40 minutes, then added Quinoa (which E had never had, and proclaimed, "weird, but oddly good") and the remaining sauces we used for dipping the artichokes when Arvay was here (read: mainly mustards and butter).

At the end of the day, it was quite good. And it tasted healthy. So, if you get a chance, enjoy:

-1 cup red quinoa
-1 artichoke, top cut off, washed
-4 cups water (or more)
-2 T salt (or so)
-2 T black pepper (or so)
-4 T mixed butter, lemon juice, and mustards

1. Boil artichoke in water for 40 minutes. Add olive oil to artichoke at 20 minutes or so.
2. Add quinoa, salt, pepper to water and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add butter, lemon juice & mustard mix and boil remaining liquids from the quinoa
4. Serve 2 bowls of quinoa, each topped in 1/2 of the split, cooked artichoke (contrary to what many cookbooks will tell you -- artichokes from a plant often need to be boiled/steamed for 1 hour +).

June 9, 2009

The Painful Truth

Sometimes, you have to listen to people you care say things about you that hurt.

Your job is to listen to these things and to grow, and become a better person. Not to focus on how hurtful it is. Not to challenge them and ask why they felt the need to hurt you. Because, really, they are giving you an opportunity that others wouldn't give you. Others would take the easy way out and let you continue in your destructive patterns without challenging you. So, if you are honest with yourself, you have to be thankful.

But damn... wouldn't it be great if there was a way to have the growth without the painful reality?


June 7, 2009

The Social Professional

I've been networking like crazy lately -- it's something I let fall by the wayside the first few years of my practice, so I'm trying to make up for lost time. I've been meeting with lawyers of all levels of experience from contract attorneys, to solos, to attorneys at small, medium, and large firms, to attorneys who are in-house, to government attorneys.

The practice of law varies quite a bit -- there are myriad ways to have a career within it, and all of the different personalities I've spoken with have found different ways to make the career work for them.

Most recently, I went to 2-hour lunch with female partner who had left my law firm to be a partner at a much larger firm. Because of her time at my firm, she had wonderful insights and helpful suggestions on how to be happier and succeed at my firm (and she was excited to share them with me!). Also, I could be more candid with her about my experiences and concerns because she doesn't have a vested interest that aligns with the firm anymore.

Finally, I've found a more senior female mentor who wants to be involved in helping me grow my career. Hurrah! [As an interesting aside, I never seemed to have trouble finding women to play that role when I was an engineer -- despite the facts that (i) women make up more than half the law school grads and only about 25% of engineering school grads and (ii) the average engineer is significantly more introverted than the average attorney.]

I'm not sure why I was reminded of this, but recently, I thought back to an unfortunate incident that happened when I was about 2 years out of college. A guy I'd studied with as an undergraduate had interviewed with my company at my recommendation after he had been laid off. He'd been a casual friend, and I'd wanted to help him out. Several months later, he sent me a creepy hand-written letter professing his love for me and his anger that my new boyfriend at the time (E) was in my life.

I was surprised and annoyed. But, worse, he sent an email to my boss at the time asking if he had obtained the "boss seal of approval" despite not getting the job offer because he "knew that I respected my boss's opinion." My boss, obviously, was also surprised, and asked me what the hell the e-mail was all about.

Embarrassed, angry, and looking for some more experienced advice on how to handle this situation, I called my uncle, a high-level executive at a tech company. His initial response was not what I was expecting:

Oh. That's bad. You don't want to get a reputation as a woman who has stalkers. That is very unprofessional. You need to get rid of this situation, ASAP.

At the time, I thought his response was callous and a bit insensitive. *OF COURSE* I needed to get rid of the situation, duh! But, why is it *MY FAULT* that I had a stalker? Why would it be considered *UNPROFESSIONAL*?

Didn't really matter though -- I sent creepy-letter-guy a curt response explaining that despite the advice of many people I respected who had read the creepy letter, I was not sending it to the police, yet (but that those folks had copies and knew where he lived and if anything bad happened to me, he was going to be suspect #1). Rather than file charges, I explained to him that his behavior was absolutely unacceptable and I wanted nothing to do with him. I wrote that if he ever contacted me or anyone else about me again, I would have no choice but to consider it an aggressive act of stalking and would have to press charges.

I never heard from him again.

Now, after several years of professional experience under my belt, I think I understand what my uncle was getting at (although I still think he could have been a bit more empathetic and supportive in the delivery of his message).

There are people who regularly bring their personal drama to work and share it with everyone, including colleagues who are uncomfortable with the intimate details they feel are none of their business. Some of these people appear to believe that by sharing their personal issues, others in the workplace are now bonded to them and should help them accomplish their job responsibilities in the face of their problems. (Group 1)

In contrast, there are others who go through very difficult issues (death of a loved one, miscarriages, family problems, divorce, serious illnesses) and share the issues only with their close friends at work, if anyone, unless it's unavoidable. They do their best to accomplish their responsibilities despite their personal issues, and if they do need help, more often than not, they quietly go through official channels to get it. (Group 2)

I think my uncle was trying to say,

Because someone you brought into the workplace is creating drama around you, you look like you belong to the first group. To the extent you have the opportunity to control the situation, it's usually better, professionally, to do so in a way that makes you belong to the second group.

Certainly, this is the dominant paradigm in all companies and environments where I've worked, even as a teenager. From a purely business efficiency standpoint, it makes perfect sense.

But, I do have a nagging suspicion of sexism (or perhaps just general unfairness) when I think about the reality that the workplace doesn't reward people for being open with their personal lives, and, may actually punish them for doing so. The sexism suspicion stems from the perception (true or not) that women are more likely to experience emotional issues and need to share them, discuss them, and openly deal with them than men. I, however, don't belong to that group of women. I am an intensely private person and if I need to discuss personal issues, will seek out my long-term close friends for support. So maybe this isn't a sexism thing, and rather is unfair to extroverts of a certain type.

I don't mind when people are open with their issues so long as I can leave the room without repercussions if the details make me uncomfortable and so long as they get their work done without expecting that others will help them out.

Unfortunately, the group of folks who share their issues and then expect that others will step in to help them may have poisoned the well for those people who merely need the emotional outlet, but don't need any additional professional support. Because, whether or not it's fair or sexist, in my professional experience, the folks in group one are perceived as less likely to be dependable in the workplace.

What do you think?

June 2, 2009

June Showers

Tonight, it broke into a 10-minute loud rain that stopped all conversation around 9 PM.

June? Heavy rain? In Silicon Valley?

Crazy. And yet, true.

Just now, it started lightly showering again.


The plants should be happy.

Update (23:42 PST): The heavy rains are back... this is so odd.

June 1, 2009



Tomatoes! (even on plants that have gotten a wee bit sick -- see the purple tint to the stem and leaves? Bummer.)

The garden has grown quite a bit (and ideally, will grow much faster now that I fertilized with fish/kelp emulsion 'cause my plants were just not as green as most of my friends' plants...).

As you may recall, it started out like this:


A month later, it looked like this:


And now, 2 weeks later, we've got this:


The biggest tomato so far is a little 1 inch diameter fruit, hanging off of Brandywine Red Lantis (I have no idea what the Lantis stands for, that's just what Cynthia called it):


And much to my surprise, the most prolific fruit producer, in terms of total mass so far has been White Oxheart. Weird. I would have thought some of the earlier maturing varieties would be kicking its butt at this stage.

In the meantime, while we salivate over the future tomatoes, we get to enjoy good stuff while we wait:


The fruits of the ridiculously prolific artichoke plant, the mint (which we transplanted out of the raised beds because it was taking over and threatening Gold Nugget), baby basil leaves, the end of the parseley, and the first garlic to fall over, which has now been hung to dry.

Other than that, the garden is coming along as gardens do. We've got aphids. We've got some fungus. We've got ladybugs, bees, earwigs, and worms. I spent several hours on Sunday fertilizing, pruning, tying tomato plants to stakes, and harvesting. The plants appeared to very much appreciate it in less than 24 hours, which is very gratifying.

G & C gave us a cucumber seedling that is infinitely superior to the one remaining living cuke I'm nursing along (I planted 2, one died). I think, if there's one thing I learned this year, it's that seedlings don't like direct sun until they are a little bigger than the first true leaves. Oh, and that I probably should have watered the seedlings more while they were small. So I'll be planting that cucumber and taking out a couple of squash plants to give to them in return.

Finally, I made a Worm Castings Tea and plan to spray tomorrow in the hopes that it will help ward of pests and encourage additional growth.

Oh, and E (with the help of C) built me a new compost box in the back yard. Our plastic bin is completely full of black gold. I turned it and watered it on Sunday and found that the only identifiable matter were some egg shell pieces. The rest was just dark, almost tar-colored, soft dirt-like soil. I can't wait to use it for the winter garden! Finally, after 3 years of composting...

Because the bin is full, we've been donating our kitchen scraps to the city compost, but I wanted to save them and use them in the soil. Thankfully, E & C were in a handy mood after the afternoon at the Maker Faire. So now we have a new two-cell compost bin made of pressure-treated wood. Yay!

In short, the gardening hobby grows. Literally. And we're having much fun.
40 Years

This weekend my sister and I helped host my Mom's retirement party.

She was a teacher for 40 years (with a couple of years in the middle where she took a break to run her own business and do some child-rearing).

Over 200 people came to the party, most of whom took a turn at the microphone to speak about how she had helped them and made their lives better.

One of the speakers was a man who had been a student of hers when he was in a car accident and then a coma for 45 days. When he woke, he had a diminished memory and couldn't speak. He couldn't remember many things, but he remembered my mom. And after he finished physical therapy for over a year, he returned to her classroom with a speak-and-spell (he still couldn't talk) to finish high-school and graduate.

I couldn't help but think that it was highly unlikely that my retirement party would be anything like it. No matter how good I am, have been, or will be at the jobs I've done, am doing or will do -- I probably won't have a positive professional impact on anywhere near as many people as she did.

Teaching really is a noble profession.