## Monday, February 25, 2013

### repost: gender rant

Metapost: my first attempt at the newfangled blogging thing ended when I decided I no longer identified with the name I'd chosen, and thus The Organized Geek was abandoned.  However, there was some good stuff in there, and I'll be reposting a few selected entries occasionally, so they don't get entirely lost to oblivion.

Originally posted on 04.26.12, this post contains a rant about gender policing and the power of gendered insults.  Looking back, I still had (and still have!) a lot to learn on the topic, so some of my ideas are a little simplistic.  But here it is anyway.  A few notes and links have been added.

...honest discussions about gender politics, as with this amazingly well-written and empowering letter and the comments upon it.  The Internet is an amazing place, and it's full of both thoughtful, insightful people who know how to be civil to one another and insecure jackasses who need to insult each other with every remark for no apparent reason.  It's so nice when the former group can get together and have a real conversation!

To be more on-topic, it's always bothered me profoundly when people use the terms 'girly' or 'gay' to be insults.  A casual 'what a pussy' or 'that's gay' is both incredibly denigrating to a huge proportion of the population and usually completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.  I've heard people call each other gay for the silliest things, like messing up in a game or being late to an event.  What on the green hills of earth does sexual orientation have to do with punctuality?  I was once called a slut for standing in the way in a hallway.  The irrelevancy just about caused my head to explode with confusion even as I was reeling from the shock of the strength of the insult.  What's the point here?

Okay, okay, I know about the male need to verbally bash the bajeezus out of each other in order to show affection.  I don't have to understand it, but I get that it's a thing.  However, there's a difference between calling someone an incompetent jerk (which might be at least subjectively true based on immediate evidence) and using an incredibly personal insult that has nothing to do with what's going on, may or may not be true, and at best denigrates an entire sector of humanity to everyone in earshot.  Associating unacceptable or 'inferior' behavior with being a 'jerk' (or insert your favorite relevant insult here) is one thing (jerk being a descriptor that is defined by such behavior), but associating that unacceptable or 'inferior' behavior with being a 'girl' or a 'fag' is quite another.  What message does that send to any girls [update: ye gods.  Girl?  Really?  I apparently wasn't bright enough to use the more appropriate non-infantilizing word 'woman' here] who might overhear you?  That they're automatically inferior, and it's a bad thing for anyone to be lowered to their level.  What message does that send to straight men in the room?  That they'd better be afraid of having any 'feminine' qualities [update: this also reminds men that women are bad and inferior and not to be taken seriously.  Hooray for reinforcement of pervasive and deeply problematic cultural narratives].  What message does that send to your friend who hasn't yet quite worked up the courage to tell his buds that he might be gay?  That he's bad, wrong, inferior, and should shut up.

Even if you make the case that the terms have become divorced from their original meanings in the head of the person using them and are generic insults completely devoid of gender-related or sexual meaning, what excuse is that?  Oh, because it's an unthinking propagation of destructive stereotypes it's okay?  Words have power, whether you're bothering to think about it or not.

\end{rant}

Wow, that apparently touched a nerve.  I didn't intend to do quite that much ranting on the topic!  Moving on.

Taken from the comments of the above letter:

As soon as children learn that gender roles vary by culture, they can start thinking about what sort of culture they want to see when they’re adults. And that, historically, is how social revolution begins.

Hear hear!  For even more perspective, dig this take on historical gender perceptions!  From that article:

The more research we do, the more it seems like the only behavior consistently considered normal is the tendency to be way too strict about what normal behavior actually is -- and then being really shitty to the people who don't conform.

Pink used to be considered to be infinitely more manly than blue, and the danger of dressing your baby androgynously is that it might grow up to be the president of the united states.  Cultural biases are not only localized in space, but in time.  It's all remarkably arbitrary, which makes it even more ridiculous how fervently people will cling to the discrimination fads of the moment.

And here's my favorite definition from the comments to the open letter linked above:

Homophobia: The fear that gay men will treat you how you treat women.

...explains a lot, doesn't it? [update: this is an extremely simplistic view, is largely presented for humor, and fails to take quite a few issues into account.  This statement is not to be taken literally, and is one of those cases wherein I need to learn to grow up a little.]

Ultimately, boys are better at peeing standing up, and girls can grow new humans.  Other than that, we're pretty much people.  Aside from the Grand Unifying Theory of Gender Relations, of course.  [update: another semi-serious, semi-humorous, rather thoughtless reference.  The more I learn, the more problems I see with this 'Grand Unifying Theory' that I used to adore.  Perhaps I'll deconstruct that at a later date.]

Let's teach the next generation a little civility and acceptance, shall we?

## Friday, February 22, 2013

### bento friday: lemon chicken

Bento is a meal (sometimes of Japanese food) packed attractively in a box.  I love making bento, and will be showcasing my current and past creations periodically.

Lemon chicken, broccoli, and soba.
Not shown: teriyaki noodle sauce.

I love soba.  Have I mentioned that?  It's just a simple buckwheat noodle, but it's so delightfully chewy and full of flavor.  Mmmm, soba.

This bento involved lemon chicken nuggets, soba, and some steamed broccoli.  The very slight cornstarch crust on the nuggets got a bit soggy by lunchtime, which tells me that I need to let the bento cool more thoroughly before closing it in the morning.  But the flavor was excellent.  I also packed a little container of bottled teriyaki sauce to toss on the noodles, as they'd get somewhat soggy themselves if they were left to soak in a sauce all morning.

On the note of teriyaki, Maki taught me how to make teriyaki sauce.  My goodness, but it's easy.  I'm now somewhat amused by the fact that we Americans actually buy the stuff in jars.  Sure, it takes having a few culturally unusual ingredients around, but they're so versatile in other things that it's really not a problem.  Regretfully, I had purchased a Costco-sized bottle of teriyaki a bit before starting bento, so I'm working on using that up, and that's what went with the soba this day.

On a side note, regarding teriyaki ingredients, whatever you do, do NOT touch something called 'cooking mirin.'  Holy hell, but that isn't food.  Lesson learned.

## Thursday, February 21, 2013

### best-dressed pooch

Menswear dog is one dapper fellow.

Seriously.  This dog is handsome, and has fantastic taste in clothing.

## Wednesday, February 20, 2013

### brilliant infographic

Well.  This infographic totally blew my mind.

I'm often vaguely intimidate by more esoteric grains, largely because I lacked this particular and rather simple bit of easily-googled information.

Someone has compiled together and formatted it rather nicely.  Now I have no excuse.

## Tuesday, February 19, 2013

### wine and overthinking

This nifty infographic depicts a fairly naïve (I feel) but impressively thorough approach to pairing wine with food.  Husband and I are amateur foodies and also do adore our vino (bringing two cases of ice wine through customs in Niagara was less painful than you might think), but we usually don't put too much conscious thought into pairing.  I think most dinners-with-wine go something like this:

'Want wine with dinner?'

'Sure.  How about that neglected bottle we bought ages ago?'

'Sounds good.  Oh wait, what are we having with it?'

'Meh.  Pour the wine.'

Well, I'm approximating.  But we go more by vibe and momentary preference than any cerebral hard-and-fast rules about how thou shalt pair thine wine with thine food.  I'll leave that to the sommeliers of the world.  For me, I know that if it's red and Australian, it's bound to be delicious.

But hey, this infographic might be helpful on occasion.

## Monday, February 18, 2013

### repost: eat food

Metapost: my first attempt at the newfangled blogging thing ended when I decided I no longer identified with the name I'd chosen, and thus The Organized Geek was abandoned.  However, there was some good stuff in there, and I'll be reposting a few selected entries occasionally, so they don't get entirely lost to oblivion.

Originally posted on 01.04.12, this post contains some of my thoughts about food, specifically related to food budgeting.  The timeline is of course out of date, and a few things have been updated from the original, in order to fit into the new vernacular of this blog.

I found the above fabulous flowchart from The Summer Tomato today.  It puts me in mind of Michael Pollan's summary of the entirety of his own advice, 'eat food, not to much, mostly plants.'  How many of us truly follow this type of advice?  Unless I've bought the given product before, I'm constantly reading labels and getting jumpy if there are unpronounceable ingredients or my favorite, 'natural flavoring.'  However, I'm sure I still purchase and eat more than my share of not-food.

In my budgeting adventures recently, Husband and I sat down to take a real hard look at our financial situation.  Our main expenditures are for housing, fuel, and food.  Housing costs are pretty stable and unchangeable, since our rent isn't likely to change and we already keep the house between 55 and 65 F during the winter.  It was the spreadsheet cell labeled 'grocery' that was truly staggering.  There's absolutely no reason, even with rising food prices and an unstable economy, that two people should need to spend that kind of number just to keep fed.

For reference, I've been tracking my own spending for nearly the past year (see immediately previous post), but have not been following the spending out of our joint account.  This despite the fact that I have personally used the shared debit card for an awful lot of grocery shopping, for the simple reason that I didn't have enough money in my own account at the time.  Bad me for not paying more attention!

In addition, while I do make an effort to take frugal measures when shopping (scouring the circulars to figure out where to do the week's shopping, clipping coupons when they present themselves, stocking up on stuff when it's on sale, etc.), obviously there's been more than a little mindless spending when it comes to the grocery store.  We do tend to splurge on good ingredients fairly often, since we both love to cook and are amateur foodies.  Food spending falls into three basic categories:

• Deliveries from our local CSA: I'm not giving this up unless I absolutely have to.  Fresh, in-season, local food is absolutely worth it.  I need my fresh veg.  Maybe it should drop to every other week.
• Pet food: our dog and cat are both on species-appropriate whole prey model raw diets, but I already buy their meat only when on sale and portion and freeze it myself, so I seriously doubt this eats up too much of the budget.  The guinea pigs get fresh veggies along with their pellets and hay, but it's generally leftover bits from prepping ingredients like carrot peels, stuff that's about to be past its prime anyway, or cheap bins of leafies from Costco.
• General grocery
So what really is to blame?
• Too much processed food: this is pretty minor, since we do both cook so much.  But why are we always buying so much store bread when I love baking?  The answer, of course, is that I'm just a little too lazy and don't have enough of a plan to make the time to bake enough bread for the week.  This applies to multiple things; what business do I have ever buying pickles, when I've canned up so many jars?
• Over-purchasing:  looking into our pantry is a fear-inspiring endeavor, since it seems the piles of goods may fall on you at any moment.  Heaven help you if you wanted to add something to a shelf.  The fridge, similarly, is quite a deathtrap.
• Lack of inventory management: last year sometime we organized and inventoried everything in the pantry, fridge, freezer, and chest freezer.  However, it hasn't been updated particularly regularly, and so has fallen into irrelevancy.  Not knowing what we already have leads to both over-purchasing, and...
• Food waste: throwing away what was perfectly good food and only isn't due to inattention is idiotic.  Far too many containers of leftovers get lost at the back of the fridge only to be discovered when they're developing intelligent life, and far too much good produce goes to the crisper drawer only to turn to slime out of either negligence or simply not thinking of something to do with it.
The solution: in addition to re-instituting some sort of inventory management system, I think it's finally time to try out menu planning.  Ordinarily meals are crafted by staring into the fridge for a while until an idea occurs to one of us.  This means that we both have to keep a huge assortment of ingredients on hand at any one time for any unknown genres of food (hence part of the overstuffed fridge problem) and that shopping is done on the simple method of replenishing whatever gets used up whether it's truly a staple or not, coupled with whim.  And whim gets expensive.  My CSA orders are similarly random, and I just guess what we might find a use for in the coming week, thus leading to languishing slimy lettuce.  There must be a better algorithm to find a practical optimum for the system.

In theory, sitting down to plan a week's menu shouldn't take too much time, and should allow for both more selective shopping and less stress after work.  I've never done this sort of thing before, aside from planning a few days' worth of bento lunches at a time.  We'll see how it goes.

Along with all those plans, we're talking about a new policy that prohibits using the shared account for food.  If I have to use my own money, it's quite likely that the pressure will be a great help in enforcing frugality.  It's working for everything else, so why not apply it to this as well?

I think there may be all of three people who know this blog exists at this point, but in case anyone has input, what do you think?  Any thoughts or tips on menu planning or reducing grocery expenditures?  How are these things handled at your house?

## Friday, February 15, 2013

### bento friday: a semi-success

Bento is a meal (sometimes of Japanese food) packed attractively in a box.  I love making bento, and will be showcasing my current and past creations periodically.

a simple bento: chicken teriyaki, veggies, and soba

This bento was kind of thrown together, and didn't take very long to assemble at all.  I'd set aside a few individual chicken thighs to hang out in the freezer against the day of another teriyaki bento, so that was easy.  Unfortunately I overcooked the chicken a bit (oops), and my hastily-concocted teriyaki sauce somehow lacked balance (double oops).  I thought I kinda dropped the ball on that, but Husband's box came home quite empty so apparently he wasn't too disappointed.

Please ignore the terribly blurry photo.  My dinky little dumb-phone camera appreciates your kindness.

For veggies, I tossed in some simple steam-fried baby bok choy and some spicy sautéed carrots, all with veg from our sadly-only-once-a-month local farmer's market.  The bok choy was tossed with some fresh ginger, and the carrots were given a liberal coating of schichimi togarashi, a spicy Japanese pepper blend.  Tasty.  Add to that some soba from my stash with green onions and some bottled teriyaki sauce I'm trying to use up, and we're in business.

Also, this bento marks a new experiment, as it was packed in a 3-cup Pyrex container.   For christmas a few years ago Husband was marvelous and got me some subdivided plastic bento boxes that I fell in love with after Maki's review, and those were great for a while.  Unfortunately the latch on mine broke, and then broke again just to spite the attempted repair with contact cement.  But then I found my little metal tiffin, and all was well again with the world.  Husband's bento are still usually packed in his unbroken plastic box (though I assembled a Frankenbox by using the lid from mine; weirdly, the black lid came with really inane rugby trivia on it.  Ah, the Japanese.).

Bento, largely due to having been developed before refrigeration and easy heating were the norm, are designed so that they'll be safe to sit around at room temperature until lunch time, and then are intended to be eaten at room temperature too.  I do this, but Husband chooses to refrigerate and microwave his, and hey.  I pack his lunch; I sure a heck don't tell him how to eat the thing too.

Anyway.  So far, I'm digging the Pyrex, as the glass is non-plastic (makes the environmentalist/chemical-phobic me happy), microwaveable, and relatively attractive.  I don't mind the extra weight, as it really doesn't add much.  And yeah, the lids are still plastic, but I can only fight so many battles at once.  It seems to be relatively leak-resistant, fairly attractive in a grown-up blank-slate kind of way (as opposed to kawaii), and at least the food itself isn't sitting in plastic all day.  Plus, Pyrex is great for not staining, a feature I greatly enjoy in food containers in general.

Plus it was half off at the store.  So there's that.

## Thursday, February 14, 2013

### chocolate

Happy chocolate-themed, excessive-spending-laden, cutesy-idealization-of-heternormative-love day!  Also known as the day before OMG ALL THE CHOCOLATE IS ON SALE day.  I like that holiday a lot.

So, chocolate.  For some, it's a deeply profound experience.  For others, it's something enjoyable, but nothing to write home about.  I do have one coworker who actively dislikes the stuff.  That, at least, baffles me entirely.

I fall somewhere toward the decadent-indulgence end of the spectrum, as a really good piece of chocolate really can send me to blisstown, though my taste for sweets has decreased rather dramatically in the past few years.  In any case, my poison is the really dark, bitter stuff, so that's not in too much danger of dropping in priority.

For an incredible description of both the process of chocolate-gasm and the bewilderment this leaves some with, see this incredible little story by John Scalzi.  No really.  Go read it.

Also, this menu for an all-chocolate-all-the-time dinner kinda gets me going.  Nothin' quite like a good savory chocolate dish.  Mmm, molé...

Finally, on a not chocolate-related but still very romantic note, I totally dig this guide to cooking with your sweetie.  In my household we call this the 'kitchen dance,' and it's a tricky proposition indeed.  It's funny how the other person unerringly stands in front of the one cupboard you need to access.  Perhaps it's a natural law or something.  We often fall into temporary head/sous chef roles, depending on if we're cooking on of 'his' or 'my' dishes, but I liked the suggestion in the article of formalizing that relationship.  Then it's clear who's in charge of creativity and who just needs to chop the damn onions already.

Hey, you do what works.

### look at stuff

"Take a look at the standard way of the world. Everybody goes to school, then they go to college, then they get a job. Does that fit your life or are you just doing it? Take a look at stuff. It’s possible to take this whole life and shape it so that it’s something that fits you as opposed to trying to fit so hard in to it. That’s the root of it. That’s the real reoccurring theme of the record , fucking doing what you want, because it will lead to happiness."
--Stef Alexander (via Gala)

Living an unexamined life is giving away your power.  It's given away to habit and cultural expectations and 'common knowledge' and autopiloted scripts into which we're supposed to pack ourselves.  The only way to fight against this is to take a good hard look at who you are, where you are, and what you want.  To 'look at stuff.'  To figure this shit out.

I, for one, want out of the cycle.

## Wednesday, February 13, 2013

### Möbius strip house

Möbius strip house.

You guys.

Mobius.  Strip.  House.

The universe has now thought of everything.

Every Wednesday(ish), I write about something I love that day.  It doesn't necessarily have to be remotely related to anything; it just has to be fabulous!

## Friday, February 08, 2013

### repost: conservation of dollars

Metapost: my first attempt at the newfangled blogging thing ended when I decided I no longer identified with the name I'd chosen, and thus The Organized Geek was abandoned.  However, there was some good stuff in there, and I'll be reposting a few selected entries occasionally, so they don't get entirely lost to oblivion.

Originally posted on 01.03.12, this post lays out my fundamental approach to finances and budgeting.

Budgeting.

It's not a dirty word, I promise.  For most of the past year I've been tracking all of my spending, and adding it to a spreadsheet on a month-by-month basis.  A few small cash expenditures almost certainly slipped through the cracks, but overall my spreadsheet represents everything that comes both in and out.

Before I started tracking, I naïvely assigned fairly arbitrary 'budgeted' values to the various categories I'd made up off the top of my head.  The reality of my spending adjusted those numbers quite a bit.  I'd like to share a little bit of my financial tracking system here, as well as illustrating the lessons I've learned.

The Equation
I've always loved being able to reduce a seemingly complicated system into its simpler parts.  If all the rest can be derived from a few core principles, why bother remembering all the fiddly details?  Despite all the specific, complex, and/or baffling budgeting tips out there, it all comes down to one fundamental equation.

$in >$ out     (1)

As long as this holds, your financial plan is sound.  It's really all you need.  All the rest (earn more, use x or y pesky little money-saving tip, clip coupons, etc.) follows.

The Tools
For day-to-day tracking, I'm in love with the pocketmod.  It's really just a way of folding a piece of paper into a little book, and you can specify the type of list or information you want on each page, and it will let you print it out.  I use the first two pages for a running to-do list, and the rest for recording transactions.  It's super low-tech, but it works for me, and always lives in my bag.

I know people out there love Mint, Quicken, etc., but I'm a fan of old-fashioned spreadsheets.  More specifically, I love Google Docs simply because I can update and read my budget from anywhere, and never worry about not having an up-to-date version of the file.

To calculate how long it will take to pay off various debts, I was thrilled to find this debt snowball spreadsheet.  It lets you choose from a variety of methods, including the downright sobering figures on how much interest you'll be paying for how long if you choose to only make minimum payments.  While the higher-interest-first method makes the soundest financial sense in that you wind up paying less interest, there's a lot to be said for the psychological encouragement that comes from the lowest-balance-first plan since you get more victories earlier in the game.  Fortunately, for me those wound up being one and the same.  Thanks to this sheet I know exactly how much to throw at each debt in turn, and exactly how long it will take.  You can also enter in 'snowflakes,' or one time payments, in case you want to toss a little extra money on the highest priority debt, and it will take that into account.  Get Rich Slowly also posted a review of this spreadsheet.

Lessons Learned
• Don't bother setting initial budget values.  Just track your actual spending, and go from there.
• Feel free to revise your categories.  Today I wen through and made a brand new sheet for this year's tracking, and took the opportunity to reformat, recategorize, and edit.  There were several categories that are no longer relevant, and instead of having a random list I have to poke through every time I want to add a value, I sorted them into categories.  The pie chart at the top of this post has my new projected monthly expenditure breakdown for 2012.  There's not a lot in the 'savings' wedge, admittedly, but that's because I'm throwing everything I can at my debt snowball right now.
• Include notes in your budget.  If you're using a spreadsheet for tracking spending, I highly recommend a second column next to each month's numbers, for notes.  That way, in case you wonder why the heck your 'other' category was so high in April of last year, you'll know that it was because your best friend got married and you suddenly had to buy an overpriced chartreuse layer cake gown.  If you set the column to not wrap the text, then you can simply make it super narrow and it effectively disappears.  Then it won't be in the way of looking at the overall figures and you can always expand it if you get curious.
• Tracking really isn't that hard!  I got lazy sometimes and would figure that I could always just look at my debit card bill and figure it out from there.  Unfortunately, the 'what the heck was this charge for' line on account statements are often far from clear, and I've spent my share of time looking up addresses in an effort to divine where I spent that particular \$15.  Just writing it down when I'm at the store is a lot easier.
• Put a place for income on your spreadsheet.  The corollary to this is that you get a savings entry, being the difference between your income and your spending.  This number gives you a healthy little panic attack when it goes negative, meaning that you broke the cardinal rule.  See equation 1!
• Don't accrue more debt while you're paying it off.  My general financial awareness improved by several orders of magnitude when I set a personal moratorium on credit card spending.  When you're spending real money instead of pretend numbers on a statement, you suddenly care a lot more.  A couple of times I've gotten pretty close to being genuinely broke, and then had to become a serious cheapskate for a week or so until my next paycheck came in.  It was a good experience.  While I was previously in a pretty good habit of paying off what I spent on the credit card (above a certain amount of permanent balance; bad me!), it just feels different when you feel each purchase rather than just tossing whatever lump sum you've got around on the card later.  I'm definitely spending less on trivial things this way.
Some Final Thoughts
Tracking my spending and building a real budget has been quite an illuminating process, and is actually kind of fun.  You don't need to learn complicated software or get a budgeting app, and the manual process is probably more satisfying anyway.  Give it a try!

## Thursday, February 07, 2013

### new prime discovered

Apparently a dude in Missouri computed the 48th Marsenne prime number.  It has 17 million digits.

Computers are neat.

## Wednesday, February 06, 2013

### today I love...

...Leo's recent post about savoring life.

Sometimes all that's needed to re-center from a state of frantic distraction is to take a moment, really pause, and really be where and when you are.

It's something I desperately need to learn, and am working on embracing.  Leo, of course, articulates it incredibly well.

Every Wednesday(ish), I write about something I love that day.  It doesn't necessarily have to be remotely related to anything; it just has to be fabulous!

### bento!

In my household, we've settled into a weekday pattern surrounding food.  Husband gets home an hour and a half earlier than I do, so he generally pulls dinner together, and I get the lovely benefit of a tasty meal that's all prepared when I walk in the door.  He's awesome like that.

I, on the other hand, take care of the lunches we bring with us to work.

What are the goals of a brown-bag lunch?  To save money, certainly.  Many of my coworkers go out for lunch every single day, and I can't imagine spending that kind of money on daily mediocre restaurants.  To use up leftovers, and this does happen a lot.  It's a handy way to eat through overly large batches of food from dinner.  To provide more nourishing, healthy food than grabbing a burger.  And finally, and certainly NOT least importantly, to be interesting and beautiful and tasty.

Ultimately, sandwiches and leftover pizza, though easy and cheap, get boring.

A few years ago, I discovered bento.  More specifically, I discovered Just Bento, an absolutely fantastic site that makes bento accessible for even ignorant Americans like myself.  I found the idea... intriguing.

Fundamentally, a bento is simply a meal packed in a box, and almost any packed lunch would technically qualify.  But generally it means several different dishes packed together, and intended to be eaten at room temperature.  Often they contain Japanese food, as bento is a Japanese concept, but they certainly don't have to.  Admittedly, I've been getting a hell of a kick out of expanding my repertoire to Japanese cuisine, but eventually I'll probably calm down and branch out into other options.

Some bento, called charaben or kyaraben, are incredibly detailed works of art that must take hours to assemble.  I don't have that kind of time in the morning, people!  But Maki of Just Bento focuses on tasty, healthy bento that are appealing to the eye without involving painstaking amounts of effort.

So I worked up my courage, picked out some simple-seeming Japanese recipes, and packed lunches for us in some random tupperware.  For a first attempt, I remember it being reasonably tasty and reasonably pretty.  I got the satisfaction of having prepared something special and thoughtful for our lunches, and it gave me something to look forward to through the morning in a way that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is simply incapable of.  And Husband was surprisingly supportive.  Also, it made my coworkers somewhat jealous.

I was hooked.  It's a simple way to expand my culinary ability, take care of Husband, and feel taken care of myself.

So,  I'm going to post occasional bento, with pictures and descriptions.  I don't have pics of all of my past creations, but I have a few and will get those up gradually.  Also, most of the pictures were taken with my crappy phone camera, so don't expect stunning quality (side note: learn how to take actually decent pictures of food someday).   I generally bento about once a week now, generally on Tuesdays.  My bento aren't spectacularly pretty or incredibly detailed, but they are yummy, and maybe someone out there will be inspired to give it a try.  It's easy and it's delicious.

Yesterday's lunch: cashew chicken and brown rice.

Ironically, this week's bento was remarkably plain, and probably  not one I'll be repeating.  I found a recipe for cashew chicken in a magazine, and it's been living in the 'to try' section of The Book for a while now.  I mostly followed the recipe, except for adding in a bunch of zucchini, as it was notably deficient in veg content.  I packed it with brown rice.

It was... okay.  The chicken was kind of dry (it would have been much better with dark meat rather than white), I slightly burned the cashews (oops), and the sauce was a pretty straightforward and uninteresting blend of chili garlic sauce and soy.  It's a very simple recipe, and possibly one I'll adjust and keep around in my head, but it definitely needs some tweaking and I think I can safely throw away that magazine page now.  Live and learn!

## Friday, February 01, 2013

### thinking, and new directions

I've been thinking a lot lately.  This will likely get fairly rambly.

There are many directions I could go with this space, and I've come to the definite conclusion that I am completely unsure of where this blog is going (see what I did there?).  It started off as a simple platform to get me writing, and to provide some measure of accountability for personal goals and projects.

Heh.  Yeah, about those resolutions and goals.  The ones I'm constantly thinking up and then abandoning.  It's not too encouraging.  And about that blogging schedule I haven't kept to, largely out of not feeling like I have anything pertinent to say.

However, maybe that's not the point.  Maybe the point is that I have this space, and I can say whatever the heck I want to say within it.  Even if it doesn't fit into my preconceived notion of what my topic is or should be.  So I'm going to go on an adventure.  I'm going to write about whatever is on my mind, whether it seems relevant or not.

Wow, when I write it out like that, it seems much less momentous than it did in my head.  I'm going to blog OFF TOPIC.  So brave.  But hey, small steps, right?

So,  first topic.  Feminism.

Yep, I said it.  Dropped the f-word.

You see, I'm a feminist.  I always have been, but it was in the lazy, non-introspective, inactive way.   Perhaps it's because I was so involved in my studies, but I never really bothered to poke my nose out into the world and see what was going on.  I didn't actively deconstruct problematic cultural messages, and I had never heard the words 'kyriarchy' or 'intersectionality.'  I pinned buttons with cheeky feminist phrases on my purse, but I didn't know, in a real way, that feminism had progressed past the free love movement of the sixties.

In other words, I was a complete dunce on the subject.

But in the last year or so, largely in response to unidentified feelings of ennui and quiet rage, I've really started immersing myself in the literature and connecting with some of the truly amazing folks writing about this stuff out on the big bad internet.  People like Melissa McEwan, Ana Mardoll, David Futrelle, and Libby Anne, to name just a few.

I've come across so many different perspectives, many of which make me breathe a huge sigh of relief. Finding safe spaces was a revelation.  I hadn't known that such thoughtful people were out there doing the work of identifying subtle double standards, of explaining tricky problems, of inspecting and dismantling rape culture.  People who expect more.  I got a huge awakening to what was going on in the world, and a call to examine some of the shitty messages I've internalized over the years.  Boy, can that stuff be unpleasant to unpack and really look at, especially when it comes to addressing one's unexamined privilege.  But it's also profoundly important, and I'm willing to put up with a little discomfort in order to become a better person.

I guess you could say I'm a baby feminist.  I've got a whole heck of a lot to learn and grok and incorporate into my goal of becoming a more thoughtful human being.

So let's just say that I was deeply and pleasantly surprised by what I found out there when I finally got around to looking, and immersing myself in the feminist blogosphere has rapidly become my main free-time preoccupation.  It's increasingly becoming a critical part of who I am.  This is something that I'm passionate about, and something I need to write about.  So perhaps this space will take on a whole new direction, or maybe it will just become a more representative sample of my thoughts.  There are no internet police to say I can't have privilege-deconstructing posts alongside sock-folding posts, after all.  They coexist in my head, so why not here?

My space, my rules.  Would you like to come along for the ride?