Sunday, October 02, 2016

Sunday Morning Baked Eggs

A difficult gardening season is winding down. The difficult summer—hot and dry—is over. This was the first year I've ever said, "I can't wait for fall." And it's here!
We still have plenty of gardening time left in Georgia. Our pepper plants are still producing. The Egyptian walking onions, having walked all over the front and back yards this summer, are producing green onions now. We have herbs—flat-leafed parsley, curly parsley, sage, basil, Thai basil, rosemary, thyme, red shiso, green shiso, ngo om, sorrel, pineapple sage, catnip, chives, lemon verbena, and oregano. We have perennials to plant. Many of the flowers are still flowering, like this annual, re-seeding red salvia, and the pink zinnias in the background.
Red salvia. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
But now it is cool enough to have the windows open. It is cool enough to sit outside even after 9am. It is cool enough to be outside all the time! Luckily, my husband just made this storage bench for our front porch. Now we have more seating for entertaining, and instead of a chaotic mess of garden gloves, tools, and plastic pots that blow around the neighborhood every time there's a storm (sorry, neighbors!) and cause me to spend the next couple of days running into people's yards saying, "Is that my pot?" and trying to grab the pot and run away before being we just have an attractive bench. (Gate and chair setup is so that we can keep the door open, for air circulation, without worrying that the cat will get out.)
Husband's storage bench and my junk on the table. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
 (Which she can do, if she's on her leash.) (That mysterious mound in the background is our attempt at hugelkultur - a post for another time.)

Cat on a leash on a purple porch. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
We had breakfast on the porch this morning, these baked eggs I am about to tell you about. I logged into Pinterest last night for the first time in months, and was inspired by the first pin I saw! Mexican Baked Eggs from Closet Cooking. I didn't actually read the recipe - just glanced at the ingredient list and thought the idea of something like eggs in purgatory, but with refried beans instead of tomato sauce, sounded delicious and perfect. Just skimming that website transformed me from overwhelmed to inspired! I had a ton of cooked kidney beans that I didn't know what to do with, half a can of tomato paste that I didn't know what to do with, and a selection of peppers and onions from the garden. I cooked the bean mixture last night, and assembled it all in the pan this morning.

 A Sort-Of-Recipe for Baked Eggs in Beans

I warmed some oil in a skillet, and added a little chopped garlic and chopped onion—it was just some teeny Egyptian walking onions, so these aren't necessary and could be replaced with shallots. I cooked the alliums in the oil. Then I added the beans - about two cups of cooked kidney beans, plus their cooking liquid (which I had saved in the jars where I stored them, post-cooking.) I added some chopped peppers from the garden, a mix of cherry bomb and some mystery pepper that isn't very hot. As these cooked down, I added about 2tbsp tomato paste and then I started adding spices. I dumped in some Adobo seasoning, Italian seasoning, and carrot powder and celery powder. (These are the results of having a juicer and an Excalibur dehydrator and refusing to throw anything away, ever. I started saving the pulp from the juicer, dehydrating it, and grinding it in a spice grinder to use as seasoning/a soup stock add-in.) Once the vegetables had softened and the liquid evaporated into a thick sauce surrounding the beans, I turned off the stove, put everything back in the glass jars that had housed the beans, and put in the fridge. (I cleaned the skillet, too.) (Had I used a different cooking vessel, I would have put a lid on and put the whole thing in the fridge, but I hadn't planned that well.)

In the morning, I re-oiled the skillet, warmed it up on the stovestop, and dumped all the bean filling back into the pan. Once that seemed warm (after a few minutes), I created wells and walls to keep the eggs in place. The pre-baked picture demonstrates shows the bean barriers better than the post-cooking picture:
Before the eggs were baked. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
I let this cook on medium while the oven pre-heated to 350F. I put everything in the oven and checked on it every ten minutes. To my surprise, the eggs looked cooked after only 20 minutes. I turned the heat to warm, threw some scallions on top of the pan (pre-chopped from another recipe), and went outside to gather some fresh herbs for embellishment (because Adobo seasoning, Italian seasoning, and carrot and celery powder were not enough!)
Still getting stuff from the garden! Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
(The new storage bench also makes a lovely backdrop for garden harvest pictures!)
Baked eggs and kitchen clutter. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

Basil, sage, oregano, and flat-leafed parsley were chopped and added to the top of the pan, after it all came out of the oven.
Baked eggs close-up. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

This is a perfect time of year. Warm, but the air-is-soup humidity of summer is past. We can still get (part of) breakfast from the garden, and we can enjoy it outdoors!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

More rain, more pickles

This posted was written, edited, and eventually abandoned in June. Now that the bar exam is behind me, I am publishing it.
Inside a tunnel of art, looking out a window, at Howard Finster's Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

I've been meaning to tell you about the trip I took with my husband to Paradise Garden earlier this month.

Rain falling on Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

I've had a few ideas. A general post about my love of environmental art or folk art, which I discovered after moving to the South (where such art is abundant.) It would have included pictures of other folk art we've seen in our travels, such as the Alabama Museum of Wonder. Or pictures from Storm King in New York (not folk art at all, I think, but maybe environmental art, as it is a sculpture garden. I don't know what I'm talking about. Feel free to correct me, real artists/art historians), which we visited sometime before we moved to Georgia.

More view of rainy Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
I love the look of nature and manmade objects coexisting or juxtaposed. I love taking pictures of it. I love the way the art is not just the sculpture, but the experience. I love the way it changes every time, yet in a way is dependable. You can go back ten years later, at the same time of year, and despite the changes in the world and yourself, the plants and the weather and even the insects and animals are similar.
Rain-soaked sculpture by Howard Finster, at Paradise Garden. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
I thought about doing some research first, getting books about Howard Finster from the library in order to incorporate some of his own words into a post about seeing his work. Many of these were woven into the introductory video shown at the garden; many seemed relevant, comforting, or otherwise worth pondering and sharing, but I didn't want to use misquotations from my head, mangled by time and memory. So for now, I'll share some pictures, and leave the well-researched post for another day.

If you're within driving distance of Summerville, Georgia (in the northwest of the state, near Rome and about forty minutes south of Cloudland Canyon), I recommend visiting Paradise Garden. It's beautiful and delightful.

Photo of green mango achaar in progress, by me. CC 2.0.

The time for day trips as bar exam stress relief is drawing to a close for me. Instead, the outlet for my anxiety has been domestic projects. Above is a picture of my attempt at lacto-fermented pickled green mango, turmeric root, garlic, and cherry bomb chili pepper. The seeds are cumin. The story behind this is that my neighbor, a cashier at the market where I was buying green mangoes, asked me if I was going to use them to make pickles. I replied that I was planning to make green mango salad.

As a side note, one of the weird side effects of bar stress has been developing wild cravings for fruits and vegetables. This has something to do with a belief that doing healthy things will help me retain information, or at least combat the awful stress stomachaches I was getting at the beginning of bar prep season. On this particular day, I became fixated on green mango salad thickly sliced green mango in a light dressing (like maybe lime juice and a little fish sauce?).

But my neighbor rattled off, from memory, his recipe for pickled green mango. Just pack them in a jar with salt and turmeric and leave them on the counter for three days.

I perked up. I had just read something about the benefits of lacto-fermented stuff for people with angry stomachs, and I had tried a similar green mango pickle about a year ago. That recipe involved oil, and the whole thing was just an unappetizing, oily mess.

My neighbor informed me that I could use oil, but I didn't have to. Just salt and turmeric, and after three days, I could add chili and garlic and cumin if I wanted.

I went home and commenced Googling. Eventually, I skimmed a section in Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation, a gift I'd gotten for my husband. He accused me of getting this as a Rollerskates for Grandma present. I protested that he had, at the time, an interest in making fermented hot sauces.

("Rollerskates for Grandma" is a phrase invented, I think, by one of my grad school friends in Portland. This friend has a brilliant way with words, of clever phrases and comparisons. She uses the phrase "Rollerskates for Grandma" to describe giving someone a gift that is really a gift for yourself. I think this can be either a gift you'd rather have, or a gift you get someone else so that you can use it. Since my husband and I share both a house and certain hobbies, this phrase comes up quite a bit.)

Sandor Katz, or at least what I'd skimmed, assured me that this kind of pickling would be no big deal. If the something went wrong, I'd know. There would be mold or a bad smell. I could then simply skim off the mold or compost the whole mess, then start over.

And so I packed the slices in as much kosher salt as I could find, with some tiny cubes of turmeric root. I used a plastic bag full of salt water (the Internet said so, okay?) to weight everything down.

After three days and some more Googling (which told me that lacto-fermented stuff could stay on the counter for up to six days), I added garlic, cumin, and chili pepper. I had begun to suspect that I'd used too much salt, so I thought adding more vegetables would even things out. I added water to keep everything covered, and left it on the counter for another three days.

Kokusho is suspicious of countertop pickles. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

The resulting pickles taste of nothing but salt. I haven't thrown them out; I'll probably add them to something I'm pureeing instead of salt, in case I can get some kind of lacto-fermented benefits from that. I've since learned that it's okay to use saltwater brine, that one need not cover the produce entirely in salt, to keep out bad germs. If you're wondering why this wasn't obvious to me, keep in mind that my head is currently being filled with the intricacies of the Rule Against Perpetuities and miscellaneous powers of Congress; in order to retain things like when the rights of a third-party beneficiary to a contract actually vest, I have to force out a little common sense.

Friday, June 03, 2016

It Finally Rained (Plus Pickles)

Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0. Baby okra plant.

      Several days last week, rain was predicted, typically at noon. I waited. Sometimes, I watered, but mostly, I waited, not wanting to waste resources or over-water and rot my plants' roots.

Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0. Iris leaf (blurry).
      Sometimes noon would bring clouds, a heavy dark layer and heavy, humid air.
Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0. 'Rutgers' tomato plant.
      It was supposed to rain last Thursday. It was supposed to rain this weekend. It was supposed to rain on Monday. It finally rained yesterday, a different Thursday.
Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0. Do Chua.
      In the evening, I made carrot and daikon pickles (do chua), using a different recipe than I have in the past from a blog I discovered last week when trying to find vegetarian dumpling recipes that didn't necessarily involve tofu. (Not that I have anything against tofu; I just don't always have a package in the fridge that I don't have other plans for. What I do tend to have on hand are dried beans.) It wasn't just the recipe for mung bean dumplings, but the writing before the recipe about the author's life, which drew me in. I immediately wanted to read more of this blog, The Viet Vegan.
     This is the third do chua recipe I've tried. In Portland, my husband and I went through a brief banh mi phase. I don't remember what recipe we used, but I'm sure it involved grating the carrot and daikon. Last summer, we started to work our way through some of our cookbooks that were sort of neglected. We started with Delightful Thai Cooking by Eng Tie Ang, and switched to her Delightful Vietnamese Cooking, and very quickly became fixated on this book. Her do chua recipe involves chopping, not grating, the carrot and daikon. The resulting pickles seemed huge to me, and even though they were good, I thought maybe I'd done something wrong.
    I went to the First Oriental Market, a small market near my house. It deserves its own post, because it is sort of magical seeming. First of all, it looks small, but the inside is deceptively large. Second of all, it's no H-Mart substitute for when you don't feel like going to Buford Highway. They carry things that H-Mart does not have. Third, they always have different things, including plants for the garden, and fourth, the women who work there give great advice. Sometimes I go there with a shopping list and a plan, but sometimes I go there just to see what jumps into my basket. (Usually, it's a plant.) It's where I got my shiso plant last year, which reseeded into many beautiful shiso plants.
     Back to the pickles. One day last summer, I had grand plans to surprise my husband with banh mi, all component parts made from scratch. I'd made baguettes, mayonnaise, and probably some other things I'm forgetting, but I was second guessing my do chua. So I stopped at the market and asked if they had carrot and daikon pickles in a jar.
     "People usually make that at home," was the puzzled response.
     "I tried that," I replied. "But I don't think I did it right. They're really big and they're kind of smelly."
    After clarifying what they smelled like (sulfur, radishes, that brassicaceous smell), the woman confirmed that I had done everything right. I wasn't supposed to grate or shred the vegetables. They'd be too soft! They're supposed to be crunchy! And that smell was normal. She told me that some people open the jar outside and wait ten minutes.
     Even though my husband and a friend called them "fart pickles," everyone agreed that despite the smell, they were great on banh mi.
    I'm not sure what compelled me to try a different recipe. Is it because I was excited to find a new blog? What I mean to say is, I wasn't concerned about the "fart pickle" issue, but I'm happy to report that this most recent batch of do chua does not smell like anything unpleasant. Also, they are delicious. I've eaten about half of the contents of a pint jar.
     I recommend The Viet Vegan's recipe for do chua. It was easy and fun, and the pickles are delicious! Even though I waited too long after buying the daikon, so the daikon matchsticks are not crispy and don't stand up straight in the jar. Notice how beautiful The Viet Vegan's pickles are, standing nicely in the jar. I hope to someday develop the skill to arrange the pickles neatly--mine are jammed haphazardly in the jars.
Shiso and Asclepias tuberosa.Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey.  CC 2.0.
     That is one of the shiso plants that re-seeded from the plant mentioned above. The last draft post from that summer is a long-winded story about buying it and impulse-buying other herbs with it. I love the way the purple shiso and orange butterfly weed look together. Finally, this morning, I got a picture of them that didn't include ugly sidewalk or random garden implements.
     When I bought that shiso last summer, shiso wasn't regularly available at any nearby grocery stores, so having my own plant feels special, like a botanical blessing. The orange butterfly weed growing next to it is also one of my favorites in the garden, a plant I grew from seed and has thrived, despite my initial low expectations. I planted it before I'd had much success with anything grown from seed, when I thought of myself as a terrible gardener. It too feels like a botanical blessing. Seeing them together next to the front walk, I'm momentarily taken away from studying stress; it is replaced with a brief calm and a surge of happiness.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Tulips Flourished

An anonymous commenter kindly commented on my last post that it was not boring, and that they wanted to know how the tulips fared.
Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.

They not only survived the temperature changes of our late winter, but grew tall and bloomed. The rest of our spring bulbs followed suit. We had two kinds of tulips, crocuses, a small blue-flowering Allium aureum, and an abundance of Scilla siberica, a spring flower to which I attach a lot of affection and some memories.

Scilla siberica. Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey. CC 2.0.
Especially delightful was the success of the checker lilies. I had tried to grow Fritillaria meleagris in previous gardens with no success. I'm not sure if my Portland checker lilies even bloomed before dying. I had such little hope for them in Georgia that I think I deliberately forgot that I planted them. But they grew. They persisted in breaking through Georgia red clay, persisted despite my neglect, and bloomed in at least three different beds in the yard. I hope they come back next year. Perhaps I will plant more this fall.

Look at the cool pattern on the tepals!
That's not a typo; they're really called tepals!
Photo by Sarah E. Kelsey, CC 2.0.
This was a short update between bouts of bar prep. In drafts, I've started further updates on the topics from my last post. A lot has happened in the last four months! I had pneumonia, I got better, I graduated from law school, and now I am studying for the bar exam. I'm doing an online, flexible program, so I have time to do the outside things I like (such as listening to lectures while weeding and reading study materials on the porch). In between studying tasks, I'm still gardening, cooking, reading, taking pictures, and writing. Once I start revising, I'll have more to share with you!

More soon!

Monday, February 01, 2016

A boring update just to get back in the habit

Hello again from Atlanta on a strangely warm winter day!
Lots of things are happening! I'm in my last semester of law school! Soon, I will be blogging much more regularly--but for a class, in a different blog, only about constitutional law. (For those interested, I plan to focus on the areas of constitutional law in which I'm most interested, about which I feel the most confident and informed, such as freedom of speech/expression and equal protection, with a little Fourth Amendment thrown in.)
Even though this school year has been just as busy as the previous two, to some extent I have more control over my time.  This is not true every week, but some weeks and weekends I'm able to schedule my responsibilities with enough flexibility to leave large blocks of time to pursue other, more fun things. This includes writing for fun and knitting and kitchen projects and plants and all of the things I typically write about. Also, the stiff writing style of school and work seems to have leaked into my fun writing (just look at the first two sentences of this paragraph--ugh!), and more regular writing will hopefully help break me of that.  (Which is, incidentally, also important for my blogging class--it's a class on public legal writing. One of the main goals is to get better at writing for the public, writing about complex issues not in the style of a memo.)
Some of these fun things that are new this winter are that I got a juicer for Christmas. I could write and write and write about my juicer for many posts. I love my juicer! It's a cold press slow juicer, and having never used any other kind of juicer, I don't know if the things I'm going to talk about are unique to cold, slow juicers or not. It's quiet. It's a bit of work to clean, but not frustrating - there are a a lot of parts, but they are each individually easy to clean - things don't get stuck in impossible places. The solids that separate from the juice are useable, and so not only do I have access to the new cooking world that is juicing, I also get to explore the new world of making things with the juicer remains! Which is more appealing than I just made it sound! Vegetable pulp goes in the freezer to be added to meatloaf.  (Eventually, I'll try adding it to things like veggie burgers, meatballs, lentil loaves, and regular meat burgers.)  Sometimes it gets added to healthy breakfast muffins--although my first experiment, healthy beet ginger muffins, is nothing to get excited about. (They're not inedible. They are filling. They serve the function of a healthy, filling, portable, easy breakfast item. That's the best I can say about them--they're functional. Just what you want in a baked good.)
I also have been using the saved, frozen juicer leavings to add to tea! Some juices are great added to tea, too.  This is the main reason to keep ginger juice or turmeric juice around, but I found over the weekend that chai tea made with half boiling water, half sweet potato juice is delicious.  At the moment, I am drinking the results of steeping dried orange peel, green tea, dried rosebuds, and ginger juicer pulp in the tea pot, with turmeric juice and honey added to the cup. Yum!
In news outside of the law school and the kitchen, I've started hosting social knitting at my house. This began when I shared a Facebook post about the new Warmth for All chapter in Atlanta, a charity group that is coordinating with International Rescue Committee to donate handknit items to Atlanta's refugee community. I have, since this past fall, been determined to get more involved in helping refugees, and for reasons I won't discuss on the blog (not now, anyway), my schedule has gotten restrictive in a way that makes me hesitant to sign up for a volunteer orientation or designated weekly volunteering time slot--I would hate to cancel due to a last minute obstacle outside of my control, that nonetheless inconveniences the organization. A lot of the knitting community is helping refugees by working with 25,000 Tuques and other international efforts; I was planning to start that, too, but thought, "It seems silly to send hats only to Canada when there are refugees in my own city." I thought about starting my own group--contacting IRC and World Relief Atlanta, and then contacting local knitting groups--and was delighted to find someone else has already done it!
After I shared Warmth for All's Facebook post, a bunch of my friends responded that they wanted to participate, but wanted to learn how to knit. I offered to host and teach in my living room. Just like I used to do for my college choir ten years ago! Other friends came to help teach, and we're going to do it again this month--maybe every month!--as well as go to Warmth for All's stitch-in events!  I finished my first scarf to donate this weekend, a plain old Lion Brand Homespun scarf in a colorway called Wild Fire. (Another post could be dedicated to Lion Brand Homespun, the yarn I learned to knit with, the budget yarn of my dreams. It gets reviled by some knitters, but I say they are wrong. Homespun is soft, comes in beautiful colors, durable, machine washable, and because of its price point, accessible.)  Here's a picture of my finished scarf, displayed on the arbor in our garden, with a close-up to show the colors of the yarn.

I'm also working on the same projects I was working on a month ago--a yellow cardigan and a pair of plain Vanilla Socks for myself in pretty yarn. I'm planning to cast on two more projects for charity--some kind of hat, once I locate my size 4 circular needles; and the Wheat Scarf by Tin Can Knits in some pretty, colorful yarn I found in the Tote Bag Which Houses The I Have No Idea What To Do With This Yarn! Collection.
In botanical news, my spring bulbs are coming up. I have no idea if that's bad or if that's just gardening in Georgia.  It was nearly seventy degrees yesterday.  It was in the twenties the previous weekend.  This is just how Georgia is, I guess.  I suppose it would be nice if I had taken a picture of these plants to share with you, right?  Next time!  Anyway, I'm not the only one.  This morning I noticed a neighbor's daffodils, which I'd been observing on my daily walks, are blooming. I think they were not blooming yesterday; they waited just until February.
Also in botanical news, I had a visitation from a botanist and she gifted me with seeds. A friend from college stopped in Atlanta on her way road tripping from South Florida back up North, and she brought Miracle Fruit! I'd heard of this for the first time about nine years ago, when a friend told me that she and her boyfriend had ordered these strange fruits on the Internet that you eat and then everything you eat after that is sweeter until the effect wears off. This post is already getting long, so I won't write a plant profile on Synsepalum dulcificum or an account of my experience eating key limes (delicious!), star fruit (yum!), or cornichons (pretty much exactly the same!) under the influence of miracle fruit--not today, at least.  We saved the seeds from the fruits to attempt propagation at home. I'll document that process!
In unrelated life news, I want to try Stitch Fix, but I'm afraid to commit. First of all, in my tiny house, I have a ton of clothes I don't wear (and am slowly moving to the "donate" pile--to eventually actually take to a donation site!).  Second, what if they send me stupid stuff that I hate and I waste a bunch of money?  Third, I'm just being weird about breaking out of my routine while concurrently giving control of an aspect of my life to a stranger. Do any of my readers have thoughts on this?

Well, this has been long enough for a "boring update" to get back into the habit of writing about non-work-related things for the public. Happy February!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

1990's Teen Angst Cat

A touchscreen laptop seems like a great idea. However, when you have a cat who likes to sit on keyboards, the touch screen just increases the potential for chaos.

Within the past several months, Kokusho has developed an irrepressible urge to walk or sit on my laptop keyboard. I try to lower the screen when I leave my laptop unattended, but sometimes I forget, or think she's asleep, or think that in the short time it takes to refill a glass of water, there isn't much she can do. How wrong I am.

The first time I discovered the cat's proclivities, I was working from home, while I was new at my job and felt the need to prove myself not incompetent, working close to a deadline on some document that was near its filing deadline, with a group of attorneys--not just my boss. I had gotten up to refill a glass of water, during which time a group e-mail arrived. I returned to the keyboard to find Kokusho sitting on the keyboard, a reply window open, with all attorneys copied, and a message that read something like "zzzzzzzzxxxx x ffffdssfdlfjklrjirwedsesdfkjf " I carefully removed the cat from the laptop and discarded the draft. Panicked, I opened my "Sent" folder to make sure she hadn't sent a similar message to all of the attorneys for whom I was not yet familiar, to whom I was desperate to prove I was not a nitwit. At that moment--sometime between 2:30 and 3:00--Comcast began its frustrating daily reset.  "Connection lost," said Outlook. The four lights on the router went dark, then began blinking weakly. The next thirty seconds dragged on, feeling like thirty minutes. Finally, the router and Outlook returned to life, and to my relief, Kokusho had merely created nonsensical draft reply-all messages; she had not sent any of these strings of nonsense to the attorneys.

(A tangent - another time when I was working from home, I set out a pot of rice to steam while I edited a brief. Suddenly, a smell like burning hair wafted in from the kitchen. I ran in to find the cat sitting on the kitchen counter, looking content and perfectly healthy. Upon closer examination, however, I realized that the whiskers on one side of her face were much shorter--and singed. She blinked at me like, "What? I don't see a problem!" Her whiskers have grown back--both cat and brief were fine.)

Another incident--the one pictured above--showed me just how much damage a cat can do with a touchscreen. Luckily the damage was reversible. I'd left a PDF of my English Legal History reading assignment open, gotten up from my desk just for a moment, and returned to find the document rotated ninety degrees. Thanks to the touchscreen, Kokusho can rotate PDFs with her butt.

There's also the usual, expected cat+keyboard hijinx--sending Google Hangout and Facebook messages to my classmates. Intermittent strings of random characters punctuate discussions about journal or an upcoming assignment--that's Kokusho's contribution to the conversation.

But the strangest yet was the event that prompted the name of this post.

The program I use to listen to music is Clementine. It's similar to Amarok, which was my preferred program that I used on Linux, but designed for Windows. When I play a song or an album with Clementine, it gets appended to whatever playlist tab I have open. It's like a "now playing," list, but until I close the tab, it just stores whatever I've been listening to since the beginning of time/since I opened the tab weeks or months ago. Another of Clementine's quirks is that when the program re-opens, it opens all of the tabs that were open during the last session. So, I have things like "Work Playlist," "Quiet Focus Music," "Sea Creatures" (a mix of Sea Wolf and Seabear), and a few "Playlist 1" or "Untitled Playlist 2"'s of random stuff I was listening to at work.

Recently, I opened Clementine. My most recent "Untitled" playlist opened, with all of the things I had last selected or played. Or someone last selected or played.  "That's funny," I thought, "I don't remember listening to Pavement recently." I scrolled up to see that every Pavement song on my laptop was on the list. And above that, PJ Harvey. Above that, Tori Amos. Lots of PJ Harvey and Tori Amos. I had no memory of making this playlist. Kokusho!!!!!

And so, not only did Kokusho make a playlist on Clementine, by walking on my keyboard and bumping into the touchscreen, but also, she made a playlist with a theme. My cat made the playlist of an artsy, angsty 90's teenager. My cat has a 1990's teen angst heart.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

10 Things for Thursday

So many draft posts lingering in the drafts folder.  Some are completely written, and waiting for pictures.  Some are completely written, but are excessively wordy and waiting to be edited down.  Some are outlines.  Some are a mix of text, pictures, and outlines, such as my Salad Roll Tutorial that I started after a summer solstice party, to which I brought salad rolls that were such a hit that I felt I should share just how easy it can be to make them.

So, I thought perhaps if I gave myself permission to write up what's going on in the form of short list items, without the pressure of a fully developed and illustrated post, I might actually get some content published and get back into the habit of writing again.

1. Why blog at all in the first place, especially when law school and managing a home and garden makes me so busy?  Because every time I made time to blog while in school, I found that it improved my writing.  I was able to write more clearly and even more quickly for work and school.

2. Which leads to my other blog.  Intermediate Scrutiny is up!  For real!  We have content!  Why write a law blog (I refuse to write "blawg"...that is an unfortunate word that sounds like onomatopoeia for feeling ill) when I have so much actual homework to do, and real work; why give myself more homework?  Because it's good practice researching and writing about legal issues; I'm really enjoying doing legal research and writing on topics I picked myself (although my co-blogger actually picked our first issue), and I bet it will make me a better researcher for my real job after law school.  I think part of our delay in publishing is that we are really concerned about being accurate and precise with our facts, and conscientious with our legal analysis (that last one in particular, I think we're all concerned about, because we're still students and don't feel like we know as much as long-time-practicing (I'm sure there is an actually adjective for that, but I'm writing pre-coffee) attorneys.  But while not many people are writing approachable analysis, accessible to the layperson, of legal issues that affect people's rights, while not many long-time-practicing attorneys are doing it, we may as well.  A podcaster I like always says that if you have something to say, you should podcast--in this case, we are blogging.)  Oh, would you like a link to this blog I keep writing about?  Ok!  Here it is!   It is only a matter of time before I pick up the bad habits I see in so much legal writing, such as starting sentences with conjunctions.  Considering that I see this in Supreme Court opinions, I may be the only former English major bothered by this.

3. Which leads me to the social media thing I'm currently really into--Facebook's "On This Day" feature.  For all the complaining I do about Facebook, I have to give them credit for this.  I love going to my Gmail and doing date searches, to see what I was doing on September 10th on different years.  Today's included a Facebook comment exchange about how I was REALLY MAD at the feminist websites I followed and relied upon for updates about legislation affecting women's rights.  I hated its incomplete presentation of facts and even more incomplete (if present at all) explanation of the legal issues....which are pretty pertinent to things like legislation and judicial opinions.  While I didn't tell anyone at the time (or at least not post it to Facebook), this was when I started to have the idea for Intermediate Scrutiny.  Someone should write a website that presents these same important issues, particularly the ones that mainstream media aren't covering, with a breakdown of the legal background that's accessible for non-law-school-educated readers, with meticulous attention to the facts and coverage of all relevant facts that the writer can track down, with sources properly referenced and with an attempt to exclude their own bias or at least acknowledge it--with the goal not of preaching to the choir, without alienating anyone who might be on the fence, so that readers can make up their own minds and, if they want to do something about one of these issues, have the appropriate understanding of it to act effectively.  The article that apparently pushed me into a Facebook comment was this one.  That surprises me of 2015, because this isn't a terrible article.  What I was so annoyed about on September 10, 2012, was what I saw as an incomplete presentation of facts--did the woman appeal the unemployment decision?  What happened if she did?  (I could have learned this by just clicking the link to the New York Post article referenced by the Jezebel article, which still doesn't tell me everything I want to know about the story, but does clarify that yes, she appealed and won.  But why did she only get compensation for a few months?  I want to know!  And why didn't the Jezebel article mention that?  It's relevant that the state to some extent had her back when her employer flat out lied and said she quit.  If the state went along with that narrative, that seems to tell a different problematic story, one I want to know more about!)

4. Which brings me to my rant of 2015: New Google.  Or Newgle.  Noogle?  Whatever.  I hate it.  The only Google product I know of that has a "Complain to Google" button in the corner is this here Blogger which I am using to write this here blog post, and it takes some restraint, sometimes, not to click that button to make my complaints about unrelated Google issues.  I can't think of any problems I have with Blogger.  There are features I'd like--such as having the Stats broken down by post, rather than just being able to see, "Here are the posts that were popular this week" and "Here are the search terms that brought people here"; rather, being able to see "Here are the search terms that brought people to this specific post" but I digress, and in the middle of a sentence no less!--but for the most part, it's not Blogger that I want to complain about.  It's Google Maps.  It's the loss of Google Reader (I know that's like, a 2011 problem, but I know I'm not the only one who's still griping about this.  There is to date no replacement that is half as good as Google Reader, particularly if you want to read the archives of a blog that has been around for many years--or even more than thirty days).  In general, it's the way Google--going down the path of all computery businesses that Google was supposed to free us from--has become less customizable and more bossy.  The reason I don't like my husband's iPhone is because I feel like Apple thinks they are smarter than I am and are trying to tell me what I want.  Sometimes, yes, entrepreneurs and technology geniuses do know what people want, that they didn't realize they want.  But sometimes I really know what I want.  I used to feel that Google understood this, that it was intuitive, helping me figure out how to do what I want, that it did not try to think for me and boss me around.
     No more do I feel this way.  For example, this morning, when I was trying to search on Google for that September 10, 2012, Jezebel article about women getting fired for being pregnant, I knew that I wanted an article from Jezebel.  But when I searched for "jezebel pregnant woman fired" and change the date range to be September 2012, Google gave me a bunch of results for other websites, with a little note under each search result showing me "Missing: jezebel".  Every single search result had "jezebel" crossed out.  That was the main search term I was looking for.  THAT WAS THE ONE THING I WANTED, GOOGLE.  WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO DICTATE WHAT I WANT?
     Luckily, I know some advanced search functions and was able to revise my search to " pregnant woman fired" and get what I wanted.  But why do I have to do this?  I feel like Old Google would not have done that to me.

5. Back to what Facebook told me happened On This Day.  It's the two-year adoption anniversary of our cat, Kokusho!  Two years ago the little black cat who found her way from a parking lot into the hearts of someone allergic to cats, found her way into our home and hearts.  She immediately went into heat, before we could get her fixed, and kept us up all night meowing and crying and throwing herself at the back window where I guess there was a male stray cat lurking around.  It was the week my first (ungraded) legal writing assignment was due, and I was sleep-deprived and a little stressed out.  Here is a picture of her then:

and now:

It's not always easy to photograph a black cat.

One day I will take a video proving that she knows commands like "sit."

6. Also On This Day, five years ago, I wrote about going to Broder.  Broder is a Swedish restaurant in Portland, and it was one of my favorite Portland restaurants.  Around Labor Day 2010, they started serving dinner, on a sort of experimental basis with paper menus written the day of.  It was charming.  I've been having a lot of nostalgia for 2010 Portland lately, the year I became close with one of my best friends and the year I met my now-husband, a period in which I had a lot of free time to explore the city, go out with my friends, read, write, try new recipes, and secretly fret about having no purpose in life.  Now I have the latter and feel nostalgic for the rest.

7. I also keep thinking about September of eight years ago, when my purpose seemed to be continuing my study of botany, getting a PhD, and becoming a researcher and professor.  I've been doing a lot of useless "what if?" thinking.  There's really nothing useful to say about this.  Just that I've been daydreaming about places and people from the past.  I wish I could have a dream picnic where my friends from all of the places I've lived were in attendance, as well as my friend in Germany and her family, and everyone could make friends and play board games and ladder golf and it would be a potluck, it would be sunny and not humid, there would be no mosquitoes, we'd have a fire pit when it got dark out, and I wouldn't feel sleepy at 10:30 and be able to stay up waaaaaay past my bedtime.

8. I'll save most of this for the law blog--I don't write much about school or work because I want to keep my work reputation separate from anything silly I write here (like that time I thought a stranger going through the recycling was my now-husband and called him "Handsome Man"), and because there's a danger, when I get talking about such things, that I will drift...nay, plunge rapidly, into a loud, all-caps, table-overturning rant about something controversial.  That's not what people come here for.  People who come here at all come here for the bad stick figure drawings (those need to come back) of my dumb adventures (why isn't there a stick figure account of the time I thought the trash-sorting guy was my boyfriend?), accounts of my dumb adventures (see: man looking for returnables not my husband), pictures of cats and flowers and vacations, and rambles about cooking, crafts, and gardening. We don't need to talk about legal personhood or sad current events here.
      What I wanted to announce (blog-official!) was that I currently feel very committed--botany-nostalgia notwithstanding--to a career in civil rights and constitutional law.  I've spent my summer and part of this school year doing just that, and I don't want to give it up for something easier or more practical.  I really love it.  It makes me so happy, as happy as I was leading garden tours, doing herbarium research, or conducting research to track people down at my first law office job.  A year ago, this was what I wanted to do, but wasn't sure if it was a realistic dream.  But the only way to make it a realistic dream is to invest in it, so I'm fully invested (but not letting go of other issues that I think connect to people's rights and things that are important to me, such as consumer protection and land use.  In my dreams I will do what I am doing now plus things like fair housing and environmental justice work.)

9.  On a lighter note--banh mi!  I learned how to make it, and all components of it from scratch, and Handsome Man and I have been eating banh mi almost every day.  This deserves its own post.

10.  Along with the partially-drafted salad roll tutorial post and a partially-drafted post about buying new herbs for the garden at the Asian market between my house and my office.