Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Food Democracy Now

Stolen from my brother's blog, which found it on BoingBoing:

If the quoted text (below) sounds like something you might agree with, we recommend going to http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/ and signing the petition. There are some significant figures whose names appear on it already. Join the movement.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices. We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to invest in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic success.

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.
The Sustainable Choice for the Next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

1. Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
2. Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE.
3. Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.
4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
5. Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
6. Neil Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, IA.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Grizzly Adams...?

...did have a beard.

I decided almost two weeks ago to grow a finals beard. I've never had a beard before. And at the ripe old age of 25, I still can't grow a full beard (the force is strong, but it's a little sparse and patchy in random spots). But it's...growing on me. Get it?

It goes through phases. The first couple days were fine. That slightly overgrown stubble works for most people. But the severely awkward in between stages that come after stubble, but before it's clear that you are trying to grow a beard...that's when it's embarrassing to leave the house.

I made sure my intentions were clear to everyone that saw me. Before they could think to themselves, "Yikes, he should shave until he can actually grow a full man's beard," I pointed out my superstitious ploy not to shave until after finals. Now that it's become a part of me, I'm wondering if I'm going to be okay with shaving it on Tuesday. It was a rough week of itchy awkwardness that I don't expect to want to repeat.

Then again, my sister is getting married in less than a week, and she would probably appreciate me looking a little cleaner since I'm standing up in the wedding. And no one in my family likes facial hair (my paternal grandmother particularly hated it). My brother has experimented with it, but is, as far as I know, clean-shaven these days.

Melissa was against it at first, but has begun to come around.

I even recruited the other two guys I've been studying with to grow beards with me. Fun times. I may even post a picture Tuesday before shaving it off so that everyone can see what I look like with the best beard I have to offer. Who knows, if I do well on my finals, I may make this a semesterly tradition.

Retro-active happy birthday wishes to my mom, who celebrated her day on Saturday (theoretically for me, it's still Saturday since I haven't yet gone to bed, so I'm not late in publicly wishing you well).

Friday, December 12, 2008


It took me about 30 seconds to realize I was in over my head, so to speak, during my civil procedure midterm. Before you jump to conclusions, I'll explain.

I spent the week leading up to the exam learning everything I could learn about civil procedure. All the things I didn't understand or learn or apply during the semester (which, as a result of my stubbornness and the style of teaching my professor employed, was just about everything) I taught myself. Actually, the more I think about it, the more impressive it is that I even went into the test with any confidence at all. How many people could learn civil procedure in a week?

So why was the test so far outside my scope of understanding? Glad you asked. The simple answer is, we weren't tested on civil procedure. No, the 24 page outline I created as a study guide with every single piece of relevant information, the separate outline indexing each of the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and each of the relevant statutes in Title 28 of the U.S.C., was not even the slightest bit helpful on this exam.

You would think the professor who said class attendance was voluntary (I only missed one class all semester not counting the one I missed while I was in Annapolis) would test in a way that didn't involve classroom discussion heavily. Or, maybe he would make the first three questions, comprising one hour of the two and half allotted, on legal philosophies and our views on the effects of legal decisions on their respective fields, on the confusion of statutory language, and on the idiomatic references to federal common law, requiring that our views on these topics reflect only classroom examples. That would probably do a much better job of testing us on our knowledge of civil procedure. I hope that's what he did. Oh wait, that is what he did.

Nothing kills studying confidence and momentum like walking in the door knowing you're going to do well and walking out feeling like it's time to let go of your ankles (sorry parents for the graphic reference, I can't think of a more colorful way to explain it) and in the meantime finding out within 30 seconds of receiving your first final as a law student that even your best attempts at BS-ing won't do.

The only positive is that everyone says my professor doesn't ever fail anyone on anything. And my midterm grade in there (worth 30%) is very solid, top 10 in the class.

Regardless, I have Torts tomorrow. This is the test everyone warned us would be the doozy. So, if Civ. Pro. was the easy one (it was open note, while Torts is closed note), I'm really excited to find out what a difficult exam is like. At least this test is mostly multiple choice. Even if I'm clueless, I'm statistically required to get some points.

I'm still feeling good about Contracts on Tuesday, despite not having looked at my notes once for that test since classes ended. I did extremely well on the last midterm, which is being weighted pretty significantly (63/67.5), which was actually a 14/15 on multiple choice. Makes it so I have a little more wiggle room on the final.

Back to the frigid east coast in six days.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sports, Briefly

I know most of you hate when I blog about sports, but I have to throw a couple comments in about the things that happened this weekend.

First of all, huge amount of pride in VT for winning the ACC Championship. We're heading to the Orange Bowl for the second consecutive year (very big deal, to those of you who aren't familiar with the process). With the way this team played for most of the season, it's a miracle we made a bowl game. But we won when it counted most, which is more than you can say about every other team in the ACC. We survived one of the most bizarre conference seasons in history, but it turned out to be somewhat historic. A conference record 10 teams are going to bowl games. We have a league-best .771 win percentage over out of conference teams. The only problem with the league is that it doesn't have any stars.

As for the Redskins, I can't begin to describe my disappointment. I wish the Redskins brass would realize Jason Campbell is not the answer. He's awful. He doesn't belong in the NFL. I was against the team drafting him in the first round. I've been against him starting ever since he took over for Mark Brunell. While they're getting rid of him, they could ship Carlos Rogers off, too. The two of them were first round picks out of Auburn. Their senior year, the Tigers went undefeated in the SEC and didn't get an opportunity to play in the National Championship. I think they've had a loser's mentality ever since.

Virginia Tech basketball is showing signs of life. Sure, we trailed Navy at the half, but we scored 51 points in the second half to pull out a big W on the road. Yay, Hokies.

T-minus 2 days until Civil Procedure exam.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The apartment. It's not really new anymore...but it's new in terms of your perceptions. None of you have seen pictures, beyond what I showed in the Thanksgiving chronicles.

So, here are some shots of the new place. It has really come together nicely. We need more on the walls to get rid of all the negative space. It will feel much more homey and cozy with some calming artwork on the walls. Too much white space is a little...discomforting I guess.

The bed and night stands. Hard to get a good shot of the whole room. If you're standing behind the camera looking at the bed, the window is to your left. There is a set of drawers and a hutch to the right, the door to the room is over your left shoulder, and the hallway/closets to the bathroom are over your right shoulder. another pine cabinet is to your left, between the door and the window.

The first southwest style purchase that we made: a shower curtain. The hand towel is southwest themed as well, but you can't really see it. The black towel has a kokopelli towel draped over it.

The kokopelli towel, in a close-up.

A better view of the bathroom. I'm standing in the door on the kitchen side, just in front of the laundry closet.

A shot of the kitchen, through to the bathroom, standing in the dining room. Between the kitchen and the bathroom, there is a laundry closet to the right. To the left is a sort of foyer with coat closets on each side of the hallway.

Here, I am standing just inside the front door, looking to the right at the living room, our Craigslist TV that was unspeakably difficult to get into the house (it took three different vehicles before we found one that could fit the TV for the 15 minute drive from Gilbert. The Taliesin photos are on the wall there. The sliding door leads to the patio (below). The dining room is pictured as well. The third window that would be pictured all the way on the right is the one I almost fell out of.

The living room set. The couch and the table are from the Gulleys. The table, which matches the night stands in the bedroom, is from Ikea.

The patio furniture that Melissa bought and I put together. We haven't gotten a ton of use out of it yet. Just too busy. We'll get there I'm sure. The plant is a majesty palm. It is our first attempt at "landscaping," and is clearly a feeble effort at that. Once we have a yard, the "garden" will expand.

So...welcome to our home. Come visit if you want a better view.

Friday, December 5, 2008


If I had only known I was a handy man all along. Living on my own, I've forced myself to take on projects that only a certified jack-of-all-trades could complete. What's that you say? What did I do? Well, let me tell you.

First, I installed my first shower head. I know what you're thinking. That sounds easy, right? But there is so much involved. First, you have to pick the shower head that's going to make you happier than the shower head you are replacing. It has to be sleek, attention-grabbing, effective, eco-friendly, and more. It's the first thing you experience on the average day.

So you've picked the perfect shower head. We opted for the hand-shower with a long hose on it so that you can take if off the wall mount and move it around. If there's a more official term for that, feel free to let me know.

Then, you have to figure out how to get the original shower head off. Maybe that's easy when it's a good quality shower head and mount to begin with. But when you're in an apartment that has had who-knows-how-many previous tenants who probably didn't care too much about it, you have to assume the shower head is old and cheap and is the victim of prior abuse. So I took a slow approach. I tried loosening it up here and there, not trying to bring an all out attack from the beginning. Eventually, after several failed attempts with my bare hands to unscrew the original shower head, Melissa discovered that the nozzle detached without removing the screw-on mount. That gave me an easier grip, so I returned with a renewed aggression.


Eventually, against the instructions on the side of the new shower head, I used a wrench. I got it off with no problem. Thanks to my brother's advice, I knew what the spool of not-quite-tape, not-quite-paper, but not-quite-plastic was, and what its purpose was. Plumber's tape, apparently, goes around the threads of the wall mount before you screw on the new shower head. (Interjection: I'm making up terms for all of these apparatus-es...apparati?).

So I wrapped the threading with plumber's tape and attached the new shower head. It is phenomenal. I should have used more tape, 'cause we have a very, very minor leak at the attachment. We may or may not detach and remedy it.

Shortly after my sense of accomplishment began to fade, we came across another problem. The can opener was on the fritz. In order to open a simple can of tuna for a late-night study break snack of tuna melts on crackers with Muenster cheese, we couldn't get the two rotors on the can opener to turn in 'sync. We had to spread the device and squeeze it closed over and over again to cut the can open one bit at a time. Very tedious. So after I opened the tuna the hard way, I went to work on fixing the opener.

I dismantled it and sought out a lubricant. The only thing available was olive oil (cringe!). WD40 would have been ideal, but we have none. In fact, many other types of oils would have been more ideal than olive oil. But you have to work with what you have. So, I lubed the faulty portion of the device with olive oil and re-assembled. Success! Another handy job.

I've also hung some pictures around the house. But I didn't just hang them. I measured out distances, leveled them, made sure they matched their counterparts across the room. I made an art out of hanging art.

This independence thing is starting to be quite the learning experience. It appears that my biggest motivator to get things done in life and around the house is wanting to procrastinate on studying and learning the law.

First final in t-minus 5 days. Tuesday morning, Civil Procedure. Yikes.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One Year Anniversary...Plus a Day

I missed my blog's official one year anniversary, which also signifies the (not quite the same date) one year anniversary of Sean Taylor's death.

You've all heard about my Thanksgiving, so I won't talk about that.

Most of you don't care about my sports entries, so I'll be brief on that, too.

Arizona State finally won a game again. They tied an NCAA record with four defensive touchdowns (zero offensive touchdowns) in a Beamerball-esque win over UCLA (jerks didn't accept me to law school). Then, immediately after, ASU basketball (undefeated and ranked 15th in the nation) lost to unranked Baylor in a preseason tournament. Losing teams follow me everywhere.

Virginia Tech played in one of the more significant games we've had in recent history today. Not only was it our final regular season game, but it was senior day for a great class of guys. It was against in-state and now conference rival Virginia. Virginia needed the win to become bowl eligible. Virginia Tech needed the win to return to the ACC Championship game (despite three conference losses...the stars aligned for us this year) for the 3rd time in 4 years. If we win the ACC, it will be the first time a 4-loss team earns a BCS bid. A win today gave us our first undefeated season at home in about 6 years. Our offense was pretty good until it got into the red zone. The endless frustration there continued. But I like what I saw from Tyrod Taylor for the first time all season. Defense was not as good as last week, but still great.

Lots of crazy wins in college football otherwise today. The ACC went 3-1 against the SEC (very very unexpected), with the only loss being FSU to Florida (very expected). Georgia Tech surprised Georgia, Clemson routed South Carolina, and Wake Forest handled Vanderbilt.

Redskins host a Plaxico-less Giants tomorrow. Pleeeaaaaassseee win it, Skins. I hate the Giants and their strong chance for repeating as Super Bowl champions.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 6: Aftermath

As I type this, I'm eating my first round of leftovers (not counting the plate of food we made late-night while people were here). I made a white meat turkey sandwich with mayo, cranberry, and stuffing, on whole wheat white bread (from the farmer's market).

Last night's dessert didn't get a write up, so I'll touch on that now. We haven't gotten into the pumpkin spiced pudding pie yet, but the traditional was fantastic. We had it fresh out of the oven with frozen Cool Whip (Mel's thing, I had never heard of serving Cool Whip that way, but it was good).

We had a couple friends over last night for drinks and relaxing after dinner. It was nice. We all stayed up kind of late just shooting the...stuff.

Mel and I are both resisting the overwhelming urge to go out and spend money on Black Friday. We're trying to convince ourselves that the crowds aren't worth the prices. I'm probably going to do some online shopping after she goes to work at 5.

Last thing for now before we go run errands...just want to thank everyone for reading yesterday. I checked my counter and I had 130 readers from 31 different countries and 112 cities visit my blog. My previous record was about 35 people. I had no idea so many people would be interested in my Thanksgiving experience.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 5: Couched

And we finally sat down to eat. After a great, long day of cooking, we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I've been trying to enjoy the moment, as they say, recently, rather than constantly think about what else I could be doing at any given moment. It's a hard transition to make, especially since I have no idea why I'm not capable of it in the first place.

But I enjoyed today. Except I found myself easily distracted.


Dinner was a monumental success. The turkey was cooked perfectly (thanks to the advice from my dad, my sister, and Mel's mom). I carved it, albeit slightly unconventionally, successfully as well.

Turkey: A+

The green beans turned out a little wet. Still tasty, but very runny and not quite as casseroley.

Green beans: B-

The mashed potatoes were a very good consistency. Very creamy, a little lumpy (how we like it). Could have used a little more unhealthiness for flavor.

Mashed potatoes: A-

The sweet potatoes were out of this world. I wish I could divulge the secret recipe. I saved them for last.

Sweet potatoes: A+

Stuffing was good as well. I had already gotten a taste of the stuffing other night when Mel jumped the gun on cooking T-day style. I knew what I was getting into this time around.

Stuffing: A

Cranberry sauce was quality. I'm not a big fan of cranberry in general, but it was a great complement to the rest of the dishes.

Cranberry Sauce: A

We made little whole wheat dinner rolls that I was not too fond of. I didn't ask Mel what she thought of them, but neither of us went back for seconds.

Dinner rolls: C

Our appetizer might have been the crown jewel. Brie baked with honey, almond slices, apple slices, pear slices, and halved grapes. Served over toasted wheat French bread and Breton crackers (greatest crackers in the world).

Brie and Cheese Platter: A+

Overall grade: A+ (Yep. I used a very complex formula to determine this grade. You wouldn't understand if I tried to explain it. It is a combination of hours worked, ingredients included, enjoyment of experience, pleasure of company, taste of food, quality of work space, and other elements).

I'm being encouraged to mention that while Melissa is eating her third serving, I have yet to return for seconds. Dessert!

The whole spread. Bon appetit!

I'm carving away. Antsy to get eating.

That's the young man himself, basking in all his glory.

Us. Obviously.

The brie and fruit platter.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 4: Home Stretch

The turkey is out and cooling off. Hopefully it's cooked all the way through. I had to run home while Mel showered to pick up the closest thing to a carving knife I could find (funny, the things you forget about until the last minute). I showered while she put the finishing touches on some of her creations.

We're still waiting on stuffing and for now, the potatoes are just potatoes, not mashed. The sweet potatoes and the green beans are almost done cooking as well. But it's getting close. The brie is smelling fantastic; I just pulled it out of the oven. It's waiting for us to eat it as an appetizer.

The first cocktail of the night was met with mixed reviews. Cranberry vodka in apple cider with some fresh lime juice squeezed in. Mel is a bigger fan than I am. I might just have wine or beer with dinner.

We're thinking about having some people over after dinner for a pot luck dessert (maybe), relaxing, have a couple drinks, play some games kind of after holiday. I miss the Melting Pot post-dinner Thanksgiving parties at the Masons. Maybe we can start a new tradition like that here.

Back to work. Thanks for reading. We're almost set for dinner. No pictures this time around. Don't take it personally.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 3: Coming Together

Cranberry concoction: check.

Brie with honey, almonds, pears, grapes, and apples: ready for baking. (I didn't mention this in the last blog. But I have pictures to prove its existence. Read on.)

Mashed potatoes: boiled and ready for mashing. (We took the peelings from some of the potatoes and fried them with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, gray salt, and pepper and snacked on some homemade potato chips).

Sweet potatoes: mashed and ready for cooking, casserole style. The recipe is again being omitted to preserve secrecy (McD Specialty Dish). Waiting for marshmallows (added against the head chef's better judgment for my sake).

Green Bean Casserole: ready for baking, mixed with chopped mushrooms soaked in Worcestershire, organic cream of celery soup, unsalted butter thinly sliced on top. Waiting for crispy onion toppings (the salad kind, not the canned).

Stuffing, pumpkin pie, dinner rolls: coming soon.

The apartment smells like holidays. We're pushing on.

Beginnings of the green been casserole.

Hot potato jacuzzi party!

Sweet potatoes, mid-mashing.

The brie plate, reminiscent of the Middleton's experience.

Our own potato chips. One of the most successful parts of the day, thus far.

Ingredients, before my Ginsu chopping was employed.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 2: Prep Work

I'm getting dirty looks for writing while I should be working. But I'm doing it anyhow. I have a reputation and I don't want to disappoint my readers (one of whom is separating herself from the "reader" category, despite being one of my biggest advocates and placing herself squarely in the "girlfriend doing all the work" category, the existence of which I was unaware until now).

I candied some pecans. But they may have to be redone. We didn't burn the nuts, but some combination of the butter, the organic honey, and the organic brown sugar burned in the pan. The burner was set a little high, I'm afraid, and the 'simmer' step may have been unintentionally replaced with the 'burn' step.

At about the 45 minute mark, I popped the oven open to check on the turkey. It's starting to brown a little bit. The smell is indescribable. Something about cooking your first T-day turkey. Magic. We pulled it out and sucked some juices from the bottom of the cooking tin and squirted them right back on top. We're not sure if the turkey is supposed to be filled with juices on the inside as well. We're hoping that's normal, and treating it as such.

We're starting on the cranberries as well. We put a bag of fresh cranberries in a big sauce pan and poured in water and organic sugar. Boiled for awhile. Note to readers: raw cranberries have a unique talent. They can make your cheeks contort in unimaginable ways. Very sour. Recommendation: avoid at all costs.

I just scrubbed the potatoes and gave them a pre-mashing bath party. They were cooperative.

We just QC'd the pecans. Synopsis: "Those are definitely burnt."

We mixed up the makings for dessert as well, and it is currently chilling in the refrigerator. Literally. Ingredients: Cool Whip, reduced fat graham cracker crust, pumpkin spiced pudding (sponsored by Bill Cosby), a pinch of cinnamon and some vanilla extract (I might have overapplied the 'niller).


Pecans...a little burnt. But still looking delicious. The taste test proved that our ingredients and ideas were good. We missed on the execution.

'Tater party!

Stirring the cranberry goodness.

The Bird. We tried to think of a name. Mel was a little amused and disgusted when I said "This will be your final resting place, young man" as I deposited him in the cooking tin. So we've just been calling it "Young Man." Yea, weird.

And into the oven we go.

The first stages of golden-brownness. Smells magical. This is pre-re-basting.

Thanksgiving Live Blogging Episode 1: Breakfast...ish

We got a late start to the festivities today. After waking up, we both went out on to the porch to enjoy the perfect 70 degree, sunny day. I just built our bistro patio table yesterday while Mel was at work, so the porch is on its way to being functional, finally. Pictures to come later of the apartment, now that it is mostly furnished. Back on topic, I'm going to post several times today as we prepare our first Thanksgiving dinner together (and first without our families, whom we miss very much). It's a strange feeling missing my first family holiday. Hopefully it's not something I ever have to get used to.

Breakfast...ish (We ate around 1pm):

Protein Pancakes (quantities omitted to preserve sanctity of secret recipe):

Whole wheat pancake mix
Fat free organic milk
Apple Sauce
Ground Flaxseed
Organic raw sugar
Organic local honey
Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
Kashi Go Lean granola clusters
Vanilla extract
Egg whites

Mix it all together. Cook. Enjoy with butter and organic maple syrup. I think we're on to something good with these (not to take full credit, we were inspired by US Egg), but we didn't get the amounts quite right. Much like the infamous Pumpkin Bread Bungle 2008, we had a little doughy-ness, and not quite enough sweetness.

While we were preparing that, we threw some turkey bacon on the skillet and snacked as we invented. I think today is going to be all about snacking while working.

(On a soft, unrelated note, as I write this, the Lions v. Titans game just ended. They are doing a T-day montage with family pictures of every single member of their broadcast crew--from director down to key grip--with a sort of sappy/happy song in the background...very touching)

I started work on the turkey, too. I'll get to that in the next post. Here are some illustrative pictures. Hope everyone enjoys their holiday.

Happy Hokie Day!

Prepping the turkey. We're pretty excited about it. Notice the pictures hanging in the background...I finally hung our first art yesterday. Mom, you might recognize those (obviously they are too small to really see) as the three prints from Taliesin West (technically, two from Taliesin and one from Falling Water). We're both hooked on new artwork, hoping for a desert/southwest theme (scenic, reds and oranges and yellows, cacti and sunsets, things like that). I'm a fan of kokopellis. Not that I'm asking for anything.

The spread. Couch, courtesy of the Gulleys. Table, courtesy of IKEA.

Having a great time cooking up some flap jacks.

Squeezing in the organic local honey. Helps me with the allergies, hopefully.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Story of George P. Burdell

Came across this today. Pretty hilarious.

A student of mystery, a student of legend - the forever student remains alive somewhere at Tech

Like all enduring legends, the story of how George P. Burdell made his debut at Georgia Tech has remained a mystery. But a likely account was told by William Edgar "Ed" Smith, BS 30, to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Magazine in 1977.

Smith, an Augusta, Ga., businessman, claimed creation of Burdell in 1927, when he was filling out his enrollment papers. He decided to turn in duplicates on George P. Butler, his high school principal and a staunch University of Georgia alumnus. After writing in George P. Smith got cold feet and finished the entry with the last name Burdell, the maiden name of his best friend's mother.

Smith then added Burdell's name to the class rolls. He even took duplicate tests using Burdell's name, altering the handwriting just enough to disguise his writing and fool the professors into believing Burdell was indeed a student in their classes.

By 1930, George P. Burdell had taken enough tests to "earn" a bachelor's degree from the Institute - he later received his master's degree and he became an official alumnus. At the same time, he has managed to maintain his student status.

During World War II, George P. Burdell served in the armed forces on many fronts, his name appearing around the world. He was listed on the flight crew of a B-17 bomber, flying 12 missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force in England. However, when a Tech graduate became the new operations officer for the crew, he immediately recognized the name on the flight log, and Burdell's flying days were over.

When Georgia Tech computerized its class-registration process in 1969, Burdell signed up for every course - over 3,000 credit hours. And despite subsequent fail-safe procedures to prevent it, he did so again in 1975 and 1980.

The spirit of George P. Burdell remains alive. He continues to post letters to the editor, baffle insurance salesmen, and get paged at football games. He's also displayed a generous nature - his signature has appeared on numerous product rebate checks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brighten Your Day

This has to cheer you up, no matter what might be bothering you.

Live Puppy Cam

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another Open Letter

Dear football,

I hate you.

Yours truly,
Sam (and Jon and Jay)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Camelback Mountain: Conquered by Day

In the words of Ice Cube, today was a good day.

First of all, it was Veterans Day, so thank you to all who fight for our country. And thanks for the day off, and making sure it landed on my worst day of the week (on campus from 8:30-3:30).

So, to celebrate the day off, I--along with Melissa--conquered my first mountain. I've hiked before. I've even hiked on, around, and up mountains. But never have I 'climbed' to the summit of a mountain. Especially not in the desert. But on this day, we conquered Camelback Mountain. (Don't let the photos fool you, the path we took did not have handrails. In fact, I'm a little annoyed we were unaware of such a path, though I would feel like I cheated if we had found it and used it.)

Our plan was to take the Summit Trail all the way up, but accidentally found ourselves on the Cholla Trail (any Spanish/Native American speakers who want to pronounce this for me?). It is 1.5 miles. Sounds laughably easy. But it is also 1,200 feet up. A little harder. Then the description says "This trail is recommended only for experienced hikers. There are steep, rocky sections with drop-offs on both sides. Difficulty: Strenuous and difficult."

You're probably thinking what I'm thinking. You can't use a word in its own description! Difficulty=difficult? C'mon. That's like wearing a Jordan Knight shirt to the NKOTB reunion tour. Really?


This hike started off pretty easy. It was a winding, beaten path with man-made steps in the rock. We had a leisurely stroll up the side of the hill for a bit. Then, once crotchety old Camelback lulled us in to a false sense of ease, the steep, craggy rock faces struck! We were on hands and knees, literally climbing sheer rock walls. Ravines on either side of us screamed imminent death (no, not imminent enough to get me that life flashing before my eyes experience I was robbed of last week). The constant danger of scorpions, rattlesnakes, desert tortoises, and chuckwalla lizards stalked us as we endured the climb. We came across a ferocious, fanged ground squirrel, who quickly scurried away to warn the others of our approach.

I took a video of the panoramic view at the summit. But apparently, my camera doesn't save videos once pictures are taken after it is recorded. Twice now, I have lost videos (one of Willie "Big Eyes", and now one of this view) as a result of this camera that I was rushed into purchasing. I'm not saying I want a video camera (digital? HD? sure!), I'm just pointing out that Christmas is around the corner.

But the views were spectacular. Tomorrow, I imagine muscles we didn't know existed will be sore beyond belief. I can't wait to sit through four hours of class in indescribable pain. Yay, exercise!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dear Health Care,

This is an open letter to health care.

Over the years, I have been stricken with--and suffered from--more injuries and illnesses than I can count on all my digits. I generally avoid the doctor whenever possible. I'm not saying I don't trust doctors as a rule, I'm only saying that I've never had a doctor fix me properly.

I had chronic ear infections as a kid. I was treated locally, and on a case-by-case basis, each time. No consideration for the reason I kept getting them ever came up. Now, I have poor hearing.

I had nosebleeds as a kid. One doctor suggested I have my blood vessels in my nose cauterized. It sounded fun. I assure you, it's not. Imagine someone striking a match, blowing it out, and then--quick as they possibly can--sticking it up your nose. That's what it feels like. And I still get them all the time.

I have bad knees, and have had them for as long as I can remember. It took visits with (I want to say dozens) probably five different specialists. It took at least that many before the first one said I had a legitimate, diagnosable problem. He called it chondromalatia, which means 'soft cartilage' in some stretch of Latin. No cure. Chronic pain persists to this day in both knees.

If that wasn't enough, I blew out my right knee on a touchdown scoring play in football (it got called back on a horrible decision by the official, who claimed I stepped out of bounds when I was about 3 yards inside the line), tearing my meniscus and MCL. The first specialist I saw misdiagnosed me, so I walked around in pain for about 3 months (the time he said it would take to heal on its own). The second guy suggested surgery, and I jumped at the idea. Better than another three months of pain. Little did I know that surgery was really painful. I had my knee scoped and then went through a couple months of physical therapy. Range of motion is almost back to 100%, and chronic daily pain persists in both knees (I favor one or the other, and the one getting the extra pressure hurts as a result).

Then, the genetic sinus problems. My first sinus infection was misdiagnosed as mono, then a common cold, then allergies (great work, Schiffert Health Center). The allergist poked me with 42 different needles containing common allergens before announcing I had zero allergies. None. In a family where three people are allergic to cats, one person to almost everything, one almost deathly allergic to many types of nuts, I managed to escape with no allergies whatsoever. Nice. So, five years and 7-10 sinus infections later, I lost hearing in both ears. Imagine being under water...that's how my hearing made everything sound. So, I went to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) and it turned out the only part of my sinuses that was not clogged with anti-infection muck was my nostrils. My Eustachian tubes were so clogged that water from my ears couldn't drain and I lost hearing. My ear drums had too much pressure on them to vibrate. More surgery! The doc promised this would reduce all my sinus problems forever. They went in through my nose and drilled open all 6 sinus openings in my skull, widening them for better drainage, and sucked out all the mucus and goo that had accumulated with some sort of sinus vacuum. Then, they put tubes in my ears (no swimming or showering without ear plugs), which stayed in for about a year, until they became partially dislodged and disrupted my hearing again. The surgery itself was awful. I will avoid the nitty gritty of the recovery, but the bottom line is - avoid at all costs.

And now, two years later, I have my fourth sinus infection since the surgery. If it's possible, I'd say my sinuses got worse after the surgery, which cost me (and my parents, who were generous enough to help out) thousands of dollars because the health insurance policy I had was a scam (maybe not really a 'scam,' but I was sure surprised that I owed about $8,000 for surgery).

And the ASU health center is far worse than Virginia Tech's, if that's possible. One hour, two paper forms, three nurses and doctors who each asked all the same questions I answered on the forms, and a pharmacy wait later, I have a sample pack of antibiotics and a generic nasal spray that was prescribed "forever."

So, modern health care, I appreciate everything you have done for me. Thank you for putting so much of my time and money to good use.


What we're really learning here

ASU law student fights off burglar, holds him until the police arrive.

This kid is a 1L. I don't know him personally, but he is a friend of friends. I heard about this last night and found the news article. Pretty crazy stuff. From what I hear, the student is about 270 lbs, and the poor burglar was maybe half that.

Good for him though. That's the kind of thing all guys hope they'll have the cojones to do if the situation arises. Under similar circumstances, I like to think I'd have the same success. Hope we never find out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

I went with a couple other law students, some siblings, and some significant others (mine included) to a jazz club in Phoenix called Rhythm Room to watch a performance last night. My contracts professor, along with his wife, three other top attorneys in the Phoenix area, and six random musicians, are all part of a 10-person rhythm and blues band called the Repeat Offenders. They do cover songs, mostly. But they were very good. My professor plays the drums. I think he was happy to see that a couple of his students came.

After their show, however, we were treated to a little old-school jazz magic. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, who has toured with the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Rolling Stones, among many others, was the headliner. He has been nominated for several Grammys. We got to hear him play for a $4 cover at the door. Nice little surprise.

We bought one of his albums on the way out. I'm listening to it as I write this. It's sort of inspiring, I guess. It's called "Born in Arkansas," and his son told me it is his best compilation. I had him sign it to Melissa, but I think we struggled a little with a language barrier. I don't speak jive, and he doesn't get yankee. So it's signed, "To Merissa; from Willie Smith," and he drew a cartoon caricature of a circle with two huge eyes.

Sadly, his eyes aren't really all that big. But he plays a mean harmonica.


I had a near-death experience the other night. Melissa's apartment is on the third floor of the building, overlooking a courtyard with some concrete dividers between the mulch 'gardens' and the grass, and more concrete walkways spiderwebbing throughout. She had just gotten new screens in her dining room windows (three windows wrapping around a corner). We had them open, opting for fresh air instead of running electricity, since the weather has been perfect since she got here. I was walking by her, squeezing between the dining room table and the window when I got bumped (accidentally) into the window. My entire upper body went through, knocking the screen out in the process. Mel managed to grab hold of me just enough so that I could regain my balance in time to watch the screen plummet to the ground and smack the concrete garden divider.

But I got cheated. My life didn't flash before my eyes. I didn't see any lights. I didn't get a flood of happy memories. I just sort of blacked out for a minute. I hear all these wonderful stories of visions before death. I didn't get a single one. It almost makes me want to go out and intentionally defy death again so that I can see what it's all about. Maybe when I go skydiving or something.

Until then, take my advice. Avoid near-death experiences until I can report a little more fully on what they are like. Don't try this at home.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm back...and hitting the ground running

I have had too much going on lately. Unfortunately, the first thing that suffered from the line-item veto was my blog. I have to have my priorities, right? I've realized that keeping up with my blog kind of runs concurrently with my moods. When I'm enjoying things and not too stressed, I write more frequently.

Today's entry is to announce a personal accomplishment of sorts. We started running again. I've been thinking about starting for awhile now. It took Melissa coming out here and thinking about it with me to get us both to actually do it.

Problem number one: how long of a run is realistic in our present conditions? Problem number two: how do I figure out a good running path and make sure it is a reasonable length?

Well, number one we chalked up to a guess and check solution. Number two was a little more complex. Fortunately, I remembered my brother mentioning a web site where you can map your runs. After racking my brain trying to remember the site, I began to search through his blog (which lacks a search function, apparently). I found the first entry that had a fitness meta-tag and clicked that. Right before my eyes, I see a link to MapMyRun.com. Somewhat creepily, when the site opened, it was already centered over my house in google maps. I guess that's a cookie's work?

So, I mapped out a run of about 1.88 miles. Seemed reasonable. We woke up at 7am, debated going back to sleep, but then got up and got a move on. We made it about 1.3 before walking, but I won't say who quit first.

I'll try to be back here in the blogosphere more often. Just having trouble finding the time these days. Someone should have told me law school was so time consuming. I'm just trying to get everything done early today so I can watch the Redskins walk all over the Steelers (and hopefully have their defense outscore the Steelers' defense by 30 points in fantasy).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Umpire Strikes Back

Now, I'm no NCAA official (though I played one on TV for awhile), but I think this is against the rules.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hard Life of Rich Dogs

Cliquez pour regarder HomeAlone

Looks like the French don't know the right way to embed videos in a blog, so this takes you to the site, rather than just playing the video in my blog. It's short, and worth the trip.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bills at Cardinals

I apologize for the poor chronology of my posts. This one is a week overdue, and it follows my Taliesin West trip from yesterday.

Anyhow, thanks to a friend at the law school, I got my hands on four tickets to the Cardinals game last weekend. We took the Haiks, who have been extremely good to us (especially me since I came out here), as a half birthday present for Diane/half nice gesture to give something back.

Melissa put together a pretty delicious medley of tailgating food - a chili bean dip, some tuna salad, and guacamole. The Haiks brought chicken and some cheeses and salsa. Everyone brought lots of beer and water. We got there about an hour and a half before the game, and lucked out by parking next to a guy with a satellite radio broadcasting the Redskins v Eagles game (poor timing to speak highly of the Redskins, I know).

We headed inside right around kickoff and found our seats, which were pretty great. Very low, only about 20 rows up from the field, in the corner of the end zone.

We got a good view of the upset. And of several people getting arrested for fighting in front of us. Cardinals knocked the Bills out of the ranks of the unbeaten with a pretty solid win.

Good times had by all.

Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright's Desert Masterpiece in Scottsdale was amazing. Mom and I went on Saturday and paid (top dollar) for the 90 minute tour through the famous home. Wright purchased 100 acres on a barren Arizona hillside and, along with the 23 students of his newly founded Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, began to build Taliesin West (Welsh word for shining brow). Taliesin was built in Wisconsin, where his mother lived.

I don't even know how to describe the architecture. If you're not familiar with Wright's style, it is called organic architecture. It is meant to be built in to its environment with a kind of natural harmony, so that it blends in and uses its surroundings, rather than standing out like an eye-sore. His most famous project, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, is now a priority on my travel list.

The pictures I took don't do this place justice. But I'll include a few anyhow. I can only hope you appreciate it from my photos as much as we did.

This was an archer in his sculpture garden (cast by one of his students who still lives there I believe) that for some reason really caught my eye.

Enjoy. I'm going to start researching organic architecture and make it a side hobby of mine I think. The book I looked through in the gift shop about it was mesmerizing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Culinary Accomplishments

Lots of cooking and eating went on this week while Melissa was here, and it has continued now with my mom here (I traded them out, with my Mom landing 3 hours before Melissa's flight took off). We overlapped for lunch at the airport. Very convenient.

1. I made breakfast for Mel for the first time. She decided it was "the best breakfast ever," but we're not allowed to tell her dad. That's his claim to fame. So no spilling secrets. I did one of my breakfast wraps, with some diced red onions, eggs, old bay, sea salt, black pepper, milk, and thin sliced turkey sizzled in butter. We added a little sriracha for flavor (Chinese hot sauce).

2. I made another breakfast, this time one of my better kept secrets. I have always enjoyed my own French Toast, which I believe is derived from my dad's recipe. I won't give away all my secrets, but I can tell you it involves egg, milk, cinnamon, sugar (organic), and nutmeg, with quality bread. This time, however, we got a little adventurous. After throwing the French Toast in to the pan (melted organic butter in the pan first), I sprinkled sliced almonds on top. They stuck to the batter soaked in to the bread, so when I flipped it, the almond slices didn't scatter. Add some 100% pure maple syrup and you have a perfect French Toast. Coupled with the scrambled eggs that Melissa made (diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, salt, pepper, and I think some garlic, with milk) and our breakfast was unparalleled.

3. I feel like I'm forgetting a dinner that we made, but maybe I didn't cook any dinner this week.

4. I was treated to the best dinner imaginable on Thursday night. Mel marinated some filet mignon from Fresh 'n' Easy (greatest...grocery store...ever) in a little barbeque sauce, some Montreal steak seasoning, and olive oil, while the rest of the meal started up. She sauteed baby bell mushrooms in butter and (somehow) figured out how to microwave-steam broccoli. We also got some pre-prepared twice-baked potatoes from the F 'n' E that tasted like freshly prepared twice-baked potatoes. I don't have a grill, so she broiled the steak, which actually worked out very well. It was much juicier than I expected, and although we overcooked it a little, it still had plenty of flavor. I picked out two bottles of wine (F 'n' E has great prices on wine), a cab shiraz blend and an organically grown California cab. They were both pretty good, but I think we preferred the regular cab.

5. Tonight, I owned up to a promise to cook dinner for my mom, which she asked for after reading about all my culinary conquests of late. I took her to the trusty Fresh 'n' Easy and told her to pick out a meal, and I'd prepare it. A bold move for a novice like me, yes, but if you can't be confident in yourself, how can you expect others to be. So, we got some chicken breasts, pre-sliced stoplight bell peppers and onions (cheaper than getting them whole, and we don't have good knives here), a bag of fresh broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, some teriyaki marinade, brown jasmine rice, and lightly salted roasted peanuts (refer back to my original stir fry exploits, where I mentioned the lack of peanuts). We fried the vegetables and peanuts in EV olive oil while the rice was being made. I meant to fry some eggs in with the rice and stir fry, but the rice took too long and we didn't feel like it. We burned the veggies a little, but you couldn't tell from tasting them. The chicken I put on last, with the teriyaki marinade. We were a little tentative about the quality of the dish after burning ("singing on one side" would be more accurate) the veggies. However, it all came together perfectly. I think it was one of the best dinners I've made yet. Not a whole lot to compare it to, but I can say it with confidence.

Next up, I have to broaden my range a little. So far, I know I can do pasta and stir fry. It's time to step up my game a little and see what else I can throw together. Ideas are welcomed.

More to come about this week's adventures. Stay tuned for details about "First Friday in Phoenix," the Bills at Cardinals game, and random nights in Tempe.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Notable Quotables

Trying to enjoy a little contracts reading...

Complexities are fun to talk about, but, when it comes to action, simplicities are often more effective. - P.J. O'Rourke

Friday, October 3, 2008

You know you have to register first, right?

Voting. It's what the cool kids are doing.

The first half is really funny, then the second half is actually just a PSA. But it's important. I'm hardly political, but I try to at least exercise my basic rights and duties. You don't have to know much to go out and vote for the right candidate. There are web sites everywhere that compare them in layman's terms.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Steve Fossett

Symptom #128 indicating a lack of motivation to study: Today I learned all about Steve Fossett. I don't know if any of you have heard of him, but the little bit ("all about him" is a vast overstatement) that I know is incredible.

I'll just paste the tidbits that ESPN offered first:
Fossett was an accomplished balloonist, pilot and outdoorsman. Among the things he did:

• September 1985: Swims the English Channel from France to England in 22 hours, 15 minutes.

• March 1992: Finishes the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska, covering the 1,165 miles in 14 days, 11 hours, 58 minutes and 18 seconds (47th-place).

• February 1995: Sets the world distance ballooning record with a nonstop flight of 5,435.82 miles from South Korea to Canada. It was the first solo balloon flight across the Pacific.

• June 18-July 2, 2002: Becomes first person to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon, taking off from Australia, and crossing the finish line 13 days, 12 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds later, covering an estimated 19,428.6 miles. Made five previous attempts between 1996 and 2001, including an August 1998 attempt in which he went 14,235 miles in eight days and 13 hours before crashing in the Coral Sea.

• April 2004: With crew of 12, breaks the round-the-world sailing record by six days (58 days, nine hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds).

• March 2005: Becomes the first person to fly a plane solo around the world without stopping or refueling, covering 23,000 miles in 67 hours.

• February 2006: Completes the longest nonstop plane flight in aviation history, flying 26,389 miles in about 76 hours.

• August 2006: With a co-pilot, claims a world glider altitude record of 50,671 feet during a flight over the Andes Mountains.

Think about the amount of worldly knowledge he would have to have in order to accomplish these things. A vast knowledge of geography, survival, mechanics, aviation, and boating, and that probably just scratches the surface. There are people who get lost trying to find a bank near their house. But Fossett circumnavigated the entire globe in a balloon. He completed the Iditarod (longest dog-sled race in the world). Sailed around the world in record time.

I'm astounded and envious at such accomplishments. Just thought I'd share.

The reason he is in the news is much more unfortunate. He went missing in early September after taking off in his plane from Barron Hilton's house. He was not heard from again. A hiker found some cash and a few IDs belonging to Fossett in the woods. Shortly after, the wreckage of his plane was found crashed in to the side of a mountain. It's a shame the world has to lose someone with such genius, who was able to channel his talents in to something that truly made him happy.

Fortunately, he died doing what he loved. I think a person couldn't ask for much more.

Thank you, come again!

Dog Running a Magazine Stand

I don't know why this makes me laugh. But it's funny.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Midterm's Eve

Tomorrow constitutes my first real test--literally and figuratively--as a law student. I guess. One could argue that moving out here with no ties to the state of Arizona, no friends, and no knowledge of the area was my first figurative test. In fact, all sorts of figurative tests could be applied to my experiences since August 15th. But just because I'm studying to become a lawyer, doesn't mean I need to argue this with you.

So for argument forbearance's sake, let's say this midterm is my first test as a law student. Like that? I'm using real live legal terms. Get used to it.

I have kept up with all my reading all semester and attended every class thus far, which is more than I can say for my eight undergraduate semesters (sorry Mom). It's not quite to the point where I'm inspired by learning, but I am motivated to make the best of the money I am spending here. I have matured enough since undergrad to realize I'm here for my own betterment, and I should act accordingly.

The last week or so, I have started to review information and draft outlines after compiling all my class notes and reading notes, as well as some of the notes of my classmates. I know everyone has different styles of learning. Unfortunately, mine is not conducive to classrooms, lecturing, or reading text books. The only way I learn things is by interactively applying the information. If I can have one conversation about a topic with someone who knows what they're saying (or maybe even knows a little bit about what they're saying), I can usually shelve the information for later retrieval.

I'm rambling. Must be my guilt for neglecting the ol' blog recently.

So I have spent time "synthesizing my facts" as they say here, and now (hopefully) have complete outlines for both of my midterms (Contracts Thursday morning; Civil Procedure Friday afternoon). But all the while, I have felt like I'm not putting in the effort that the other law kids are. I feel like I've done all the outlining I can. I've gone over the example questions. I did well on those. But I have been bored with nothing more to do while everyone else plugs away, stressed and overwhelmed. Maybe I'm too disconnected from academia to be stressed yet. I just hope I don't get a rude awakening after the midterms.

But, I'll give it my best shot in the morning. I can't see how hard it could be. I'm familiar with the concepts, theories, and terms. And both midterms are open note. What could go wrong?

Wish me luck.

Another 'Do Dinner Story

First things first: before I get in to dinner, I want to point out (against my better judgment, in regards to jinxing) that the Redskins and the Hokies have not lost a game since Adelina was born. Quite the opposite, in fact, since both teams have notched upsets (Redskins over Cowboys might be one of the biggest wins the 'Skins have had in a long time, and VT over Nebraska--though it was not a huge upset in terms of rankings--was a huge win in that we are very young, and were one the road in one of the most hostile environments in football. Nebraska has only lost 4 times at home on a Saturday night in the modern era, and we beat them decisively, even if the score doesn't portray that).

But that is neither here nor there. Let's talk culinary arts.

I went to the grocery store with a plan this time. I wanted some fresh vegetables to mix with the chicken I've had from CostCo. I'm down to the last four chicken breasts (2 went down tonight, so two left once I finish these leftovers). So I bought a red, a yellow, and a green bell pepper (stop light peppers, for those less savvy vegetable shoppers), and a red onion. I thawed out two chicken breasts on Sunday and sliced it in to bite size pieces. Then, I threw it in a bag and marinated it with a teriyaki and pineapple marinade. Today, I chopped up the peppers (all of them) and half the red onion.

I started with some white rice (real live rice, not Minute Rice) and threw it in a pot of boiling water, as per the directions, with some ground sea salt. Then, I sprayed a separate frying pan with olive oil and threw in the peppers as I chopped them. The onions went in last. I dusted the ingredients with more sea salt, ground black pepper, and some powdered garlic, then poured on a little of the teriyaki marinade as I sauteed them.

The rice finished a little sooner than expected, so I had to let it sit on minimal heat while the rest cooked. The pan was not big enough for everything, so I had to deposit the peppers and onions in a bowl while I cooked the chicken. Once that was almost finished (and had some time to shrink in the heat), I poured all the peppers and onions back in and let them sautee together. I let it cook a little longer than necessary for fear of salmonella-ridden CostCo chicken. I'm still alive, so I think I'm safe.

The whole time I was cooking, Melissa hung out with me on the phone so it was as if we were making dinner together. Cheesy, I know, but with these long distance things you have to find your pleasures somewhere. Don't judge.

Once it was all finished, I spooned out a large portion of rice (probably enough for two, though technically I made four servings), then scooped what was probably an entire pepper, a third of the onion, and most of a chicken breast (I cooked both). All in all, I think my plate could have comfortably served two, with at least three more reasonable servings leftover. But, me and my tapeworm need satiating, so I went to work on the monstrous plate. Mel stayed on the phone while she ate some leftover Chinese food. It was like eating dinner together, I suppose.

Analyis: Delicious. By far the most extravagant meal I have ever made on my own. I opted out of making a salad because I figured it would just be too much food and too much hassle. I was getting enough veggies with the peppers and onions. Next time, I'm going to throw in some roasted peanuts (cashews could work, but would be second place behind peanuts) with the same recipe. I think it was missing a little crunchy texture. Other than that, it was almost perfect. And I have tons more to enjoy tomorrow.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

This Weekend in Sports

First of all, I have to recognize the catalyst for our sports karma for the last two weekends. Since the birth of my niece, Virginia Tech and the Redskins are a combined 4-0. In three of the four games, the wins have of the come-from-behind variety, and all four have been hard fought, and not necessarily expected wins. So, it has been good. Unfortunately for ASU, Addie's good luck does not stretch to the west coast. "My" Sun Devils are not doing so well, going 0-2, including an overtime loss to a horrible UNLV program.

However, I'm not really interested in talking about that. Most of you know that I don't much care for baseball. But today, I decided to switch off the Cowboys v. Packers Sunday night matchup in order to watch the Orioles and the Yankees close out Yankee Stadium. I've never been to Yankee Stadium. But I do know the recent trend in baseball hasn't been a very positive one. The majority of the games don't even fill the stadiums at half capacity. I believe the Marlins (could have my facts wrong) are lucky to get 1,000 people. Judging by the O's games I've been to, things aren't much better further up the cost.

But Yankee Stadium is electric right now. I can sense it through the TV (mind you, a pretty nice new HDTV I treated myself to). I think it's more impressive that I can sense the emotion in the fans and the players in a sport I never watch, nor care about. Just thought it was worth mentioning. With each Yankee who steps up to the plate, or on to the mound, the fans go wild. Cameras flash endlessly, capturing every last moment of history for the people who shelled out top dollar to attend this game.

Anyhow, here is my good-bye to the Yankee Stadium I never knew I'd miss.

(As an afterthought, it's unfortunate that the Oriole's are losing. But it seems fitting; I wouldn't want the Yankees to lose the last game in that stadium. And as I type this, the Yankees got the final out at first in the top of the 9th.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stealth Cat

Pay close attention to the cat's position each time.

EDIT: Embedded video doesn't appear to be working...here is the link.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Adelina Sheehy Renaut

Born at 9am ET on Friday, September 12th, 2008.

Weight: 8 lbs. 2 oz.
Length: 21 1/2"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dinner at The 'Do

Location: The 'Do (my first attempt at a nickname for the condo has clearly failed, but no one stepped up with a better suggestion).

Time: One hour and thirty minutes ago.

Reason: Combination effect of hunger + dinner time.

Event: I cooked dinner.

Method: This is where the story gets complicated. Bear in mind, resources at The 'Do are limited at best. Week one, you may recall a household trip to CostCo for foods and (Oregon Trail allusion in 3...2...1...) other goods. We filled the wagon with packaged goods, caulked the wagon wheels and forded the Lakeshore River home. Among said goods was a large package of frozen chicken breasts, separated in twos, and a huge bag of organic wheat spaghetti, along with two giant bottles of Ragu pasta sauce.

After some lengthy conversations with Melissa about the methods for combining these ingredients, I settled on a simplistic approach to making dinner. The only seasonings and culinary accoutrements we have in the house are salt, pepper, garlic, Old Bay (thank you, Mel), butter, some Wendy's packets of bbq sauce and honey sauce (yea, honey sauce...ew), thousand island dressing, and real honey.

So, I had previously defrosted one packet of two chicken breasts. I sliced them in to manageable pieces, threw some butter in a frying pan and dropped in the chicken to grill it (possibly a little too much). In the meantime, I began boiling water with some salt (learned from Darrell) for the spaghetti. The coordination of timing was impeccable, and I patted myself on the back several times in the midst of cooking.

As the chicken approached bone white, I tossed in the noodles so that they could begin to soften up while I finished the chicken. Once I deemed the chicken "cooked", I poured out the grease and other unknown liquids via strainer and put the chicken back in the pan. Then, I added the Ragu (decent amount, but not the usual 'too much' I am known to use), a healthy portion of garlic and black pepper, and set the range top to medium so the sauce could simmer while the noodles cooked.

In one final, magical moment, everything was finished. I grabbed a piece of sourdough bread (not the best bread, nor is it a good flavor combination, nor do we have a toaster) and scooped out half of the pasta and half of the sauce and chicken on to my plate. I poured a tall glass of cold milk (not my usual, but again, limited offerings) and settled in to watch some TV. The other half went in some Tupperware for tomorrow's lunch. Much to my dismay, I discovered that Carl was watching Project Runway. Seriously. And giggling. I was appalled. So I ate quickly, cleaned up every pot, cutting board, knife, serving utensil, glass, plate, etc. and went upstairs. I make that cleaning point for one reason and one reason only: no one else in the house cleans.

I had to clean around all the other dishes in the sink. I now appreciate more than ever before what my parents went through in raising us. Thanks Mom and Dad.

Uncle Sam

I got the big text this evening in the midst of cooking dinner (blog on that to follow this).

Congratulations are in order for my brother and his wife. Barb is going in to labor. For the sake of avoiding a freedom baby (9/11 birthday), they decided to go to sleep for a bit before heading over to the birthing center.

Still no word on the sex of the baby. I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to find out. They expect the birth to happen sometime Friday (today for east coasters, tomorrow for me).

So, I'm finally going to be an uncle! And...they're going to be parents, yeah yeah.

The Weekend

I had to put the blog down for a bit. Melissa was here all weekend (Thur-Mon), so I didn't spend much time on the computer.

We had a great weekend. Couldn't have asked for anything more, except maybe an extra few Saturdays, another couple Sundays, and a much longer Monday morning.

Thursday, we met some of the 1L's at Four Peaks Brewing Co. for the weekly ASU Bar Review Happy Hour. We got there kind of late, 'cause her flight didn't get in until a little later in the evening. But there were still 10 or so law kids there, so we all mingled. Mel got to meet some of the people I've been suffering through law school with. We went to Mill Ave. after Four Peaks, to a club called Zuma. It was really crowded, but it was fun. The DJ was playing good music, and there were lot more law kids there.

Friday, I had class, so I left Melissa near a bus stop (her choice) and let her fend for herself in Tempe. She made it to Tempe Marketplace and spent a couple hours shopping while I was in class. I met her there, and we ran in to Diane (family we stayed with over the summer) and several of her family members at Target. We spent the next few hours shopping around the Marketplace, relatively unproductively, before leaving to get cleaned up for dinner.

Lyn recommended a restaurant in Tempe, calling it the best kept secret of the city. It is called House of Tricks, and it deserves its title as the best date restaurant in Tempe. It is a bit off the beaten path and sort of hard to find. We made it in time for our 7:30 reservation and were seated immediately. We opted to sit outside under the water misters. It was a bit hot, but we managed well enough. We ordered a ton of food and finished all of it. For appetizers, we got the fire roasted poblano stuffed with sweet corn, Monterey Jack, cilantro, and sweet red pepper coulis, as well as a fruit and cheese plate with grapes, apples, strawberries, toasted French bread, crackers, and all sorts of cheeses that I can't name. I know it had brie, parmesan, and blue cheese, but there were maybe three others we liked but didn't recognize.

For dinner, Mel got the the seared duck breast with goat cheese gnocchi, watercress, and blackberry vinaigrette. I had the Australian grass-fed filet mignon (asked for medium rare, but it was closer to medium) with asiago mashed potatoes, oyster mushroom demi, and pepita aioli. Mine was phenomenal, hers was decent. The duck was a little fattier than we would have liked (I know duck is generally fattier).

Dessert was a tough decision, so we went with two. I don't remember their names, and the dessert menu isn't on the web site to check. The one we didn't like was an angel food cake with berries and a berry glaze reduction on it. The cake was not the right consistency, and the glaze was a little too sweet and processed. We also got a cappuccino torte with whip cream and caramel that was very good. It had a strong enough flavor, but it wasn't overwhelmingly rich.

All in all, the restaurant was a great spot, and we definitely plan on coming back sometime.

After dinner, I took her to the Big Bang, a local piano bar that I have grown quite fond of. There are dueling pianos, and the regular entertainers are very talented (as piano players, as singers, and as entertainers). We met some law kids there for a bit, then retired, exhausted, for the night.

Saturday, we did lots more shopping at Arizona Mills, which was incredible. I got all sorts of shorts, shirts, boxers, and ties from designer names, and the most expensive thing we got was a $30 pair of sandals. The deals at Arizona Mills are outrageously good. I will be going back there any time I need clothes.

ASU football hosted Stanford Saturday night, and after shopping we went home to be picked up by the Haiks for tailgating. That was a good time, but the game was too hot and muggy. We didn't make it through the third quarter. Exhausted again (the heat drains you here), I was falling asleep in the stands. Poor form, I know, but it's no Lane Stadium, and it doesn't keep my attention. We went home and went to bed after the game.

Sunday, we got a late start before getting lunch at Tempe Marketplace. We wandered around there for awhile before coming home. I bought a new TV for my room (very excited, 32" LCD HDTV) that has no cable (faulty cable outlet) until hopefully tomorrow when Cox comes back for the third time to fix it.

We did a late dinner at Ra and stayed there talking for awhile. We got lots of different sushi rolls and a very good dessert: it was a chocolate stuffed fried banana with Kahlua caramel sauce and chocolate ice cream.

We enjoyed a relaxing night of drinks there and then wandered around Mill Ave. before a night cap at Mill Cue Club (not so classy, but fun). We went home around midnight, despite needing to get up at 4am to get Melissa to the airport. Poor planning, maybe, but we wanted to maximize our time. No regrets.

I can't wait until fall break when she comes back and we get lots of free time to explore, maybe camp in Sedona, and relax.