Friday, March 29, 2013

bento friday: a favorite

A fried rice bento, lamb style

We are fortunate enough to have a source for local organic lamb, so once a year our freezer fills up with the stuff.  On Monday, Husband surprised me with pan-roasted lamb chops, spiced zucchini, and wild rice when I got home from work. 


Strategically, there were two small lamb chops left over after dinner, so these were set aside for some bento action.  Lamb fried rice is something I've gotten pretty good at, and it's one of his favorites.  Like most of my dishes, it's pretty ad-hoc and not necessarily all that authentic.  But it's yummy.

Lamb Fried Rice
With sesame oil in a big fry pan, stir-fry whatever veggies need using up, diced small.  Onions, carrots, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, ginger, green beans, bean sprouts, bell peppers, cabbage, spinach, garlic... whatever, really. 

Push the veg to the outsides and plunk a pat of butter in the middle.  Scatter day-old rice over the butter and ignore it for a while.  It's really important to use day-old rice, because fresh rice is far too sticky.  Resist the urge to stir.  

Resist, I said!

(I over-stir.  It's a problem.)

When it's gotten a little browned and crunchy, go ahead and stir around a bit.  When you're satisfied with the crunchiness factor, stir everything up together and again push it all to the sides. 

Re-butter the center of the pan, mix an egg up with some soy sauce, and dump it in.  Stir *constantly* with chopsticks as the egg cooks, to make little scrambly bits.  

Little scrambly bits.  That's a technical term.  

Finally, toss in your diced lamb (or whatever meat), let sizzle for a very short amount of time, and mix everything together.  Finish with generous quantities of soy sauce, a healthy squirt of Sriracha, and some more butter.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

fly girls

It turns out that during WW11, a group of ladies called the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) flew all sorts of planes domestically to test them out, move them around, and even tow targets for live ammunition shooting practice.  These gals were kick-ass and handled everything the air force could throw at them.

They were disbanded after just two years, and they were unceremoniously sent home without ever being actually recognized for their service.  The documentation for the program was sealed and classified.  Several lost their lives in service, and still weren't recognized, and the other ladies had to chip in for funeral expenses.

Way to go there, government.  Way to acknowledge.  Boo.

But!  The good news is that now they're being recognized, and being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  It's about 65 years late, but I guess it's something.

Ladies, you rock.

Monday, March 25, 2013

chemist cocktail corner: tuscan strawberry

Having a chemist in the house sure does come in handy.  Husband happens to be a fabulous mixologist/bartender, owing partially to his chemistry training.  Our liquor cabinet is truly epic, and when I tell him to make me a drink, I often get very pleasantly surprised.  Case in point: last week's creation, the Tuscan strawberry. 

The Tuscan Strawberry: tasty in a glass. 

I don't always want a cocktail in the evening, but after getting home from work on Tuesday I decided to have a libation.  I had been unable to resist the lure of the crate of delicious-smelling perfectly-ripe organic strawberries at Costco over the weekend, so I suggested something involving muddled strawberries.  It was beautifully balanced; it's a 'girly drink' without being overly sweet, and has a very delicious complexity.

He made this. 

I drank this. 

I was happy. 

Tuscan Strawberry (a chemist Husband creation)
1 very ripe strawberry
pinch of sugar

1.5 oz vodka (vanilla recommended)
0.5 oz Maraschino liqueur
0.5 oz St. Germaine (elderflower liqueur)
1--2 oz sour mix (to taste)
splash vanilla schnapps (omit if using vanilla vodka)
splash Limoncello
splash lemon juice
dash Peychaud's bitters

Muddle the strawberry and sugar in the vodka.  Add the rest, shake with ice and strain into a short glass.  Garnish with strawberry slice.  Enjoy. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

bento friday: sesame beef

an experimental bento: sesame beef and soba

This week's bento feature was a bit of a departure for me.  I make a lot of veggie bento, tamagoyaki (egg) bento, with occasional supplements of chicken or sausages.  

But I'm actually kind of phobic of cooking beef. 

Really it's just because I don't have much experience with it, so I tend to drastically overcook it.  This one... wasn't really an exception.  But I'll get better eventually.  I hope.  And in the interest of reproducibility,  I'm going to start writing up general recipes to go with bento!  Yay recipes.  I'm calling this sesame beef, because of the sesame oil and seeds, but the sauce was totally just made up on the spot.  I offer precisely zero guarantee that this is in any way authentically Japanese, but it is yummy.

sesame beef with greens and soba

Boil soba noodles, drain and rinse well with cold water.  Put soba in bento box(es). 

Sauté thin-sliced beef in sesame oil, attempting not to overcook it into leather.  Set aside.  Sauté whatever greens you have (I had snow peas, pak choi, and scallions), and put on top of noodles. 

Dump into pan: garlic, soy sauce, sushi vinegar, pepper flakes, sake, a bit of brown sugar and a sprinkle of cornstarch.  Stir around and reduce a bit, then add beef back to sauce and stir to coat.  Pour beef and sauce over noodles and veg.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  


Thursday, March 21, 2013

overheard progress

This is epic and you should read it.  Some of the linked content is possibly NSFW, so the crunchiest bit is below.  This was overheard on an NYC subway.

Guy #1: My wife wants me to get fixed like a dog but I don’t see why she can’t just keep taking the pill.
Guy #2:  No more kids for you two?
Guy #1:  No, she figures we’re both getting too old for a baby.
Guy #2:  How is your boy anyway?  Haven’t seen him in awhile.
Guy #1:  Oh John’s good, pitching this year varsity.
Guy #2:  He’ll definitely have the girls hanging around him now.
Guy #1:  Yeah if he had any time for them.
Guy #2:  Focused on baseball?
Guy #1:  Focused on boys.
Guy #2:  You’re shittin’ me!
Guy #1:  I kid you not.  Came out to me and Mary Ann bold as daylight last year.
Guy #2:  Well I’ll be damned!  I’m not supposed to know it but I overheard Patrick Jr. tell his sister he might be gay not two months ago.
Guy #1:  We all saw that coming though.
Guy #2:  You’re the second person to say that. How’d everybody see it but me?
Guy #1:  It was just a feeling, Pat.  He was always a little soft, ya know?
Guy #2:  I guess you’re right. But damn Charlie, we both have gay kids. What do we do now?  Both our sons are gay.
Guy #1:  We don’t do anything.  We let em be gay and if some kid calls ‘em a faggot we go to their house and raise hell with the parents like normal.
Guy #2:  Well I guess John and Lucinda won’t be getting together like we thought awhile ago.
Guy #1:  Guess not.
**long pause**
Guy #2:  Hey Charlie, you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?
Guy #1:  I was for about half-a-second then it got weird and I started thinkin’ about somethin’ else instead.

Ordinary people being awesome.  Rock on. 

Steubenville link roundup

Jim C. Hines responds to the bafflingly heinous quotes surrounding the conviction.

Crates and Ribbons asks when we'll finally get around to considering that women matter in this world.

The always fantastic and eminently erudite Melissa McEwan points out the obvious, and extends compassion to the true victim.

I already linked to it once, but John Scalzi has written one of the best summaries of why all this bullshit is bullshit.

David Futrelle chronicles noxious victim-blaming tweets regarding the verdict (strong trigger warning on these).

Rather impressively, likely as a result of the massive backlash from the original hellaciously victim-blaming and rape-culture-propagating coverage, there have been several much more respectful and reality-acknowledging pieces, even in mainstream media (or at least mainstream media blogs).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


So this girl in Philadelphia has been playing football since kindergarten in a Catholic youth league, proving her ability to play the game quite effectively.  Apparently the Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently booted her out, saying she shouldn't be allowed to play any more 'for her and other girls' safety.'

So she rallied support, and started a petition.

'When she first stepped on the field, the boys on Caroline's first CYO team were uncomfortable lining up against a girl, said her former coach, Jim Reichwein. Those concerns dissipated once Caroline showed she was tough enough to take the rough and tumble of the game. 
"We didn't make a big deal about it," said Reichwein. "Anyone who went head-to-head with her ended up on the ground. After a week, (her gender) was laid to rest."'
 This is yet another case of kids (both Caroline and the male players) getting the hell over arbitrary gender performance requirements, while adults freak out.  Does gender equality mean that girls are inherently better and should be allowed to hold positions they're unqualified for?  No.  Does it mean that all female-bodied people have to be interested in sports?  No (I'm not, as it turns out).  Does it mean that a little girl who loves football and pwns at it by any measurement should bloody well be allowed to keep playing, and that we stick-in-the-mud grown-ups need to back off with our baseless gender expectations?  Hell yes.

'While waiting for Caroline to return from school, Seal Pla said her daughter taught her a powerful lesson. 
"Always fight for what you believe in the right way, with respect and persistence," she said.'
Eventually the Archdiocese gave in, and Caroline gets to play again.  Rock on, little one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

about Steubenville

I am tempted to write something about the Steubenville rape conviction, but I'm not sure I have the peace of mind to accomplish that.  There is not enough rage in the universe for the rapist-sympathizing and victim-blaming going on in mainstream media right now.

So I will refer you to John Scalzi's very good piece about exactly why all of that is very very wrong.

That is all for now.

Monday, March 18, 2013

hair and agency

When I was 11 or so, I marched into a local mediocre chair haircutting shop confidently, slightly bewildered mother in tow.  I sat in the chair and told the scissor-wielding employee exactly what I wanted: for her to transform my waist-length, infuriatingly prone-to-tangles 'do into a cute pixie cut.

You see, I was sick (and tired!) of bringing myself to tears every day in the process of brushing my hair.  I have superfine, superstraight hair, and that leads to mega painful tangles.  As I recall, during one such session I declared that I was going to cut it all off, and that felt good.  It tasted like agency.

So I found myself in that chair, explaining my demands to the hair stylist.

She refused.  Point blank.

She said I'd be sad, and that I'd cry if I 'lost' my 'beautiful hair.'  I didn't really have the words for it at the time, but some part of me wanted to point out that it was my hair, I was the one who would have to live with it, and I could bloody well be trusted to make choices about my own damn body, thankyouverymuch.  Please stop lecturing me on my own desires, needs, and preferences, oh person-I-just-met.

In reality, we just went to the place across the street, where they were at least willing to do their job.

The slightly-less-reluctant stylist did, however, keep checking in with my mom to get approval before touching my hair.  My mom, in turn, kept deflecting back to me by pointing out that it was my hair.  And then she hid in a book to avoid the panicked permission-seeking stare.

Yep.  MY hair.

In my freshman year of college, I decided to dye my hair emerald green for a halloween costume.  This wound up necessitating bleaching it first, as my natural color apparently repels dye like you wouldn't believe.  When that faded, I had purple, blue, green, and red stripes.  Then it was blonde with green tips for a while.

Silly antics of a teenager?  Sure.  But it was also an expression of personal agency and, yes, responsibility.  My hair is my own, and I'll do whatever the hell I want to do with it, just to show you that I can.  See?

Over the last three years or so, I'd been growing it out again, and it was quite long.  I really enjoy change, and the long straight thing had gotten boring.  But Husband really liked the long hair, and was saddened by my proclamations of a desire to cut it.

So I squelched the desire for a while (to be super clear, this isn't his fault.  This is my own issue revealing itself, here).  I would rage silently at my tangly, unwieldy, boring hair, and then quickly remind myself that I 'should' keep it, and to stop fantasizing about haircuts.  So I stewed and grouched and hid it all behind a forced smile.  I fixated on the mythical haircut.  Everything would be better with short hair!  I'd be happier, and I'd enjoy life more, and I'd be a better person!  Fester, stew, grumble, pine, mutter...

Boy, did that not work.  Ya know what happens to suppressed anger that's allowed to stew?  It builds up pressure and it explodes.

Eventually I snapped, while detangling it yet again.  I even flung my brush across the bathroom, in what in retrospect looks like a toddler's adorable tantrum.  I yelled, peevishly, that Husband wouldn't 'let' (ha!) me cut my hair!

Poor guy.  Never knew what hit him.

So that very day, I went to another mediocre chain haircutting shop.  But as I was sitting in the car before going in for this fateful cut, a funny thing happened.  I realized that, now that I no longer had a perceived force preventing this event, it wasn't actually all that important to me.  The coveted haircut had lost its power, and I considered not bothering, and just keeping it long for a while longer, because I wanted to.  Not because I was afraid of cutting it, or because I felt social pressure to keep it, or because I want Husband to be attracted to me.  Because it's my hair, and it's MINE, and I could totally do that, too.  I don't hate my hair, even when it's long; I just wanted a change, and to check to make sure I still could effect that change.

I ended up going through with it, lopping off about 14", but that moment was really revealing.  It's not about the hair.  It was never about the hair.  It's about bodily autonomy, it's about choices, and it's about freedom.  If I'm not free to do what I want with my own body, then something has gone fundamentally wrong.

When Emma Watson cut her hair, she loved it.  She also got some significant pushback from Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and random schmucks everywhere.  Because somehow we make a woman's choices about her body into fodder for public commentary and judgement, and seem to think that's okay.

That is not okay.

When Willow Smith cut her hair, her parents had to endure an endless torrent of questioning about why they would LET their daughter do that.  The Smiths totally get the Awesome Parenting Award of the year for their response to the situation:
"The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women,girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day."  --Jada Pinkett Smith
"We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it's like how can you teach her that you're in control of her body?  If I teach her that I'm in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she's going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world.  She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she's going out with a command that is hers."  --Will Smith

On the first workday after my haircut, the first thing my boss did was ask me 'why would [I] do such a terrible thing.'  Dude, I don't have to justify what I do with MY BODY to you, and that is not your value judgement to make.

My hair is mine.  And I do feel great with the decision, and may cut even more off.  Or maybe not!  Because it's my choice.  Because I can.


I read a number of foodie blogs.  One that often provides a nice brief brain-break in my day is The Kitchn, which hosts short and to-the-point pieces about some aspect of food or kitchens or kitchen tools or chefs or really anything vaguely food-related.  It's often really valuable information, but always offered in snack size.  Often I simply scroll through most of the entries in my RSS reader, looking for something that jumps out at me.

A few weeks ago, one did.  A dude in a video was claiming that you could peel a whole bunch of garlic with minimal effort.

Now, I like garlic.  A lot.  But peeling the stuff is really freaking annoying.  If you just try to peel it with your fingers, you'll spend all day trying to pry the skin off the clove.  There are fancy 'garlic peeler' gadgets on the market, but they always strike me as a remarkably clever way to extract money from people while providing them with a completely useless tool.  I was taught to smash the individual cloves with the flat of a chef's knife, which does loosen the skin, but you still have to smash every single clove and then peel the skin away from the smooshed garlic meat, and in the process absolutely everything --- your knife, your hands, your cutting board, your counter, the floor, the ceiling (don't judge me) --- gets appliquéd with bits of garlic skin, thoroughly glued down by sticky garlic juice.

It's not a pretty sight.

So while fresh garlic is delicious, we only pull it out occasionally.  When we have the time and energy to invest in this rather intensive procedure.  So we have one of those Costco jars of pre-chopped and preserved garlic in the fridge, and the lovely local bulbs of fresh stuff sit in the bin, give up on the prospect of becoming part of a delicious meal, and slowly, hopefully, yearningly attempt to grow into full fledged plants.

So hey, it's worth watching like a one-minute video given by some wacky dude who seems to know a better way.  His way, inexplicably, involves putting the cloves in between two big bowls and shaking the bajeezus (that's a technical term) outta them.  Kind of goofy.

But holy crap.  It totally works.

We don't have two conveniently-sized prep bowls, so I use our biggest stainless steel bowl with a pot lid over it.  It does take some real shaking, so it's a good arm workout, and it's loud as hell.  But when you're done, there are the little naked beauties, just nestled in among the loose skin.  It's freaking magic is what it is.

So now every week or so I'll peel up two or three bulbs of garlic, toss them in our cute little mini food processor, and then we have a jar of actually fresh chopped garlic in the fridge.  It takes like fifteen minutes.  Including cleanup.

The next day, our scrambled eggs had so much fresh garlic in them.  At six in the morning, when I usually don't have the time or the wherewithal to even cut up an apple.  Fresh chopped garlic.  Because I could.   And they were delicious.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with that damn Costco jar...

Oh, and here's the video.

Friday, March 15, 2013

bento friday: lazy stir fry

a lazy bento: basic veg stir fry

Our fridge is full.  I mean really, really, full.  Like, it takes a Tetris master to fit anything into it. 

This happens a lot, admittedly.  It's something we're working on.  

Anyway, veggies take up a lot of space, so this week I made a really simple stir-fry bento from whatever veg I could find in there, in an attempt to clear space (and make a lunch, of course), to serve atop white rice.  That wound up meaning onions, snow peas, shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts, baby pak choy, and scallions.  I chopped everything up the night before, along with a generous amount of fresh ginger.  

Unfortunately I totally forgot to add the fresh garlic to it in the morning.  Bah.  

The sauce consisted of random things I threw in a mason jar and shook up, reduced down a bit to coat the veggies.  Some combination of soy sauce, mirin, a bit of brown sugar, corn starch for thickening, oyster sauce, stock, and red pepper flake, as I recall.  

Despite the red pepper flake, it turned out disappointingly bland and not spicy at all.  Bah.  I really should have added some Sriracha.  Sriracha makes everything better.  I must get better at sauces.  

But this does go to show that a totally legit bento can totally be thrown together from what's hanging out in the fridge.  There's no need to overthink things. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

rainbows and grammar

This might be the best discussion in the history of the Internet.

A science fiction author posts a question about a song in a cartoon, and the Internet responds by delving into an extremely academic linguistic analysis of said lyrics and the context that is being a self-aware Muppet frog with hopes and dreams.

Some favorites:

I’ve always thought the song was about discovering love and passion. The rainbow symbolizes the connection between two people (or maybe one person and their calling), and “the other side” symbolizes the state of the person after they have found the passion. --Laurel K. 

 I always assumed he was wondering about “the other side” from a theological/spiritual perspective. It’s a rather melancholy song, so wondering what happens after we die isn’t totally out of context. As someone upthread pointed out, “Have you been half asleep/And have you heard voices?/I’ve heard them calling my name/Are these the sweet sounds/That call the young sailors?/I think they’re one and the same…” seems to bear this out. “Sweet sounds that call the young sailors” is clearly a reference to the Sirens from Greek mythology, who would enchant sailors with their singing. The sailors, wanting to hear more of the lovely music, would sail ever closer to the shoreline, where their ships would come aground. We get the phrase “(singing a) siren song” from this tale.   --Jennifer R. Ewing

Kermit, alas, is, in fact, singing a song about death. Or, to put a finer point on it, life under the eye of a god or God he doesn’t quite grok. You’ll have to forgive me, but I’ve always thought it’s the song of a frustrated existentialist. It’s not rainbows and the other side. It’s rainbows….and The Other Side. How many songs (about rainbow or otherwise) is probably irrelevant outside of the song’s time and meter contexts.   --Brad

I disagree violently with Brad. This is NOT a song about death. It is a song about art. Rainbows are not tangible, says Kermit; they’re only illusions. And yet, they are of powerful significance to everyone who has every listened to a song about rainbows. “Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it, and look what it’s done so far.” he sings. He’s a frog with a banjo in a swamp, but he wonders if he could be something more- an artist, someone whose songs and stories would bring meaning and joy to others.  “There’s something that I’m supposed to be,” he concludes, just as an opportunity to go to Hollywood presents itself.   ---Contented Reader

I put this to my own wife, whose immediate response was “For all we know there are hundreds of frog songs about rainbows, as they would tend to be focused more on natural phenomena, and to assume that the one Kermit chose to share is the only one is culturally insensitive. For shame.”   ---C. A. Bridges

He’s a frog that lives in a swamp and knows it. And he’s making poetry.That said, with that line he’s clearly talking about the popularity of a song that muses about rainbows AND the other side all in one. But his overall theme is talking about illusions leading to fanciful dreaming. Maybe, just maybe, there’s something to all that dreaming. Is this a denial of reality or a new and more full understanding? Tough questions from the frog on the log in the swamp.   --Other Bill

Clearly what both you and your wife are missing is the crucial Swedish Chef element within the Muppets. 96.7% of all Swedish music relates directly to skaldic tradition and the Bifrost bridge. Thereby bringing in all the songs about rainbows and what is on the other side. The song Kermit is singing is really not about either of them, but questioning his apparent ability to understand the Swedish Chef despite being unable to speak Swedish. I would not know this myself, but I had a friend working for Google on their Translate function and he worked closely with Kermit on the Swedish Chef translate. There are also quite a few Klingon songs about rainbows (did you know bloodsplatter also can cause a rainbow if fine enough?), but I suspect Kermit might not be that into Klingon ethnomusicology.   --Rob Meyer

It also devolved into the classic Oxford Comma debate at one point.  Word-nerd squee.

EDIT: for what it's worth, I'm totally with Krissy on this one.

Monday, March 11, 2013

repost: why I declutter

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 05.11.12.

Stuff is a part of life.  Stuff is accumulated, it serves various purposes, it's an indicator of wealth (did you see how big his flat-screen television was?), it makes us happy.  We need stuff, and over the course of history, most possessions have been valuable, scarce, and often important for survival. 

But that was then.  In the 'developed world,' at this point, stuff is cheap.  Ridiculously cheap.  Most things are essentially disposable; clothing, electronics, furniture, and even vehicles are all purchased with the expectation that they'll break, wear out, or fall apart in a relatively very short time and need replacing.  Where our grandparents would save up for and treasure a good winter coat for many years, we offhandedly own twenty that are all shoddy.  But it doesn't matter, because even before their short lifetimes are up, we'll probably get bored of them and buy new ones out of pure whim.  

Minimalism isn't really about not owning stuff.  It's about identifying value.  

At first blush, it might seem that the root cause of overconsumption, rampant consumer waste, and an actual topic and audience for the TV show Hoarders is over-valuing our stuff.  I can't possibly get rid of any of my twenty winter coats despite the fact that live in the tropics because I love them.  I need them.  They give me a sense of worth, and I would be losing something valuable if I didn't have them.

But let's think about this.

Is this really value?  What is value?  Is it what someone else would pay for the object, or some quantification of the pleasure or usefulness that you personally derive from it?  It's in your possession, after all.  Are you truly happier with many cheap, flimsy things than you would be with fewer really spectacularly well-made ones?  How do you know?

If you're deriving neither use nor happiness from the item, regardless of what you paid for it or what its 'original price' was, it is worthless

Are we, perhaps, actually under-valuing our stuff?  The phrase 'materialism' is generally used to indicate the hoarder-like behavior of accumulating stuff for the sake of accumulating stuff.  But what if we could forge a better relationship with our possessions, and genuinely care about them?  This is a fundamentally different approach.  Appreciating, taking care of, and really enjoying the things in our lives, rather than being ruled by them, seems to me to be a better form of materialism.  If you fell in love with an excellent coat, wouldn't you want it to last for years so you could go on enjoying it instead of throwing it away after a season?  Disposable culture has redefined our relationship with stuff, and not for the better.  Perhaps the problem is that we're not materialistic enough!

When I was little, I participated in the pog craze.  In case you skipped that one, it was technically based on a game developed with milk caps but turned into a pre-teen consumer frenzy in the mid-90's.  Kids bought, collected, hoarded, and traded these little cardboard discs with pictures on them.  Very rarely was the game actually played; it was mostly about the collecting process.  We'd set up little trading posts with each other, and proudly display our expansive collections.  It was quite the phenomenon.

At the time, I had some good friends who lived just down the street.  I'd go over to their house, we'd each claim a corner of the room to set up the pogs we were interested in trading, and then go visit the other 'shops' to haggle and barter.  My little mind was struck with a notion that seemed to have some merit.  My shop instituted a 'quantity for quality' policy, wherein I would encourage my friends to offer their good pogs and in exchange I'd give them piles of crappy ones.  I even made a sign.  They thought this was a wonderful deal.  They were getting ten pogs, while only surrendering one!  What a chump I was!

After a few weeks of this, my friends noticed that I'd accumulated all their high-quality (this is relative, of course.  Fundamentally they were all just silly little cardboard discs.) pogs, while they were left with piles and piles of really cheap, lower-quality ones.  They got sore about it and stopped trading with me.

If what you value is having many things, you will surely wind up with (metaphorically speaking) large piles of low-quality pogs.  Perhaps it won't be a deliberate or conscious process (my friends certainly didn't think to extrapolate the situation beyond each individual trade), but over time actions will align themselves with core values.  Then all the stuff will weigh you down

So what happens if you value good things instead?  If you can appreciate having a smaller number of things, but everything you own is your favorite thing?  Where moving is easy, and there are no piles to trip over, and all your possessions bring you joy?  Wouldn't that be marvelous?

That's why I talk so much about getting rid of things.  Not really out of any ascetic drive or sense of self-deprivation, but out of selfishness.  I want to love all my things, instead of being annoyed by how they're in the way and dusty and taking up so much space.  I want the freedom to take a job across the country and move into a smaller place.  I want to spend much less time thinking about, stressing about, and cleaning my stuff.  I want good stuff that actually enriches my life, dammit!

I'm in no way unique in this, of course, and there are many out there who are on the same journey

On one of the above-linked articles (I forget now which one), one comment in particular struck me:
"I don’t want to be rich, I want to be free. And freedom is worth more than stuff."

Friday, March 08, 2013

bento friday: usuyaki sushi

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. 

an experimental bento: usuyaki-wrapped sushi, broccoli stir-fry, and spicy peppers. 

Usuyaki is a sort of Japanese egg crepe.  In this case, following the guidance of my Just Bento cookbook (have you noticed that I adore Maki?), I wrapped the crepes around simple sushi rice balls.  Sushi, you see, doesn't actually mean raw fish; it just means rice.  So I took vinegared rice, formed them into cubes, and wrapped the crepes around.  They were pretty tasty, if tricky to eat.  

While I wholeheartedly follow Maki's philosophy of taste and color being infinitely more important than cutesy bento details, I do occasionally try to add a little visual flair to my preparations.  This time I used a tiny cookie cutter to cut a star out of the center of each usuyaki, in the hopes that the rice would show through and be subtly pretty.  Unfortunately, cutting through the crepe was difficult, and it tended to tear instead.  Then after wrapping around the sushi, the star was generally kind of distorted and invisible.  So... that kind of failed.  But now I know not to do that again, so there's that. 

For side dishes, I threw together a really simple broccoli-ginger stir fry, along with some remarkably spicy bell pepper.  We had a lonely pepper half floating in the fridge, so I figured it would make an ideal side, fried up with some Laos chili paste gifted to us by a neighbor.  I guess I used a bit more chili paste than I'd thought, because wow those were an adventure.  I alternated bites with the blessedly mild and starchy sushi. 

Okay, so I'm a bit of a wimp. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


This lady built a lego scale Hogwarts.  It took a year.  Dude.

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!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

repost: matter

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 03.02.12, this post is about stuff and clutter.   This week's repost is a little late, due to my being out of town for much of last week. 

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." --William Morris  


Most of us, here in 'civilization,' have far too much of it.  It's so easy to accumulate, even if you're not a shopaholic.  Gifts, souvenirs, things that might be useful one day, clothing.  Thingamajigs that were on such a good sale, you bought three just in case.

But now there are far too many things, and the piles are so deep that you can't even find *one* thingamajig, much less your two extras.  Perhaps the house is even fairly clean and organized, but there is just physically too much stuff in the way.  You get frustrated when you need to find something, because the space seems too full and you keep knocking things over.  You find yourself needing to spend an obscene amount of time cleaning, repairing, putting away, and dealing with your stuff.  That's time that could have been spent on something a lot more fun!  Imagine how much time, effort, and money you've spent just to box up, move, and unbox all your superfluous items over time.

That's how I feel.  It takes me too long to get dressed in the morning, because I just have too many options. It's not even possible to walk through most of the office/craft room, because of my huge boxes of fabric, and the last time I sewed something was probably 2006.  We keep saying we need a bigger kitchen because our stuff doesn't all fit in the cupboards, and I've given up on my once cherished notion of clear counters with no perma-clutter.  Dusting is a pain in the neck because of all the knick-nacks.

I can't help feeling that life would be less stressful if we weren't always having to move stuff around to find what we're looking for.   That means (dun dun DUUUUUN) getting rid of stuff.   Not everything, but just the junk that's in the way.  I want to clear the quantity, to make space for the quality.  Remove everything that isn't spectacular.

Until recently, I owned a truly ridiculous quantity of pretty costume jewelry.  It was literally impossible to close the lid on my jewelry box, and if I wanted to wear a necklace it was usually so entangled with all the other ones that I would give up and just not bother.  I had probably hundreds of pairs of earrings, and couldn't wear any at all due to my ears' recent manifestation of obnoxiously good taste.  I went through and purged about 75% of the necklaces and bracelets, and got rid of all but my three favorite pairs of earrings.  Those I paid an annoying amount of money to put new (gold) earwires on.  Now everything in my box is untangled, usable, and easily visible.  I've actually started wearing and enjoying my jewelry again, since I can find the piece I'm looking for.  As a plus, I brought the big bag of castoff jewelry to a friend's party, and everyone had a grand time going through it and choosing new treasures to add to her own collection.  I call that win-win!  I want that great feeling in more areas of my life.

Today I came across a fabulous new term: joy-to-stuff ratio.  This perfectly describes what I want to do in this decluttering endeavor: reduce the denominator in that expression.  I'm sure I'll set missions for myself in the future that focus on increasing the numerator, but one thing at a time.  Ultimately, it's all about maximizing one's own joy-to-stuff ratio.

There are three main barriers to getting rid of superfluous stuff, as I see it:

  1. Laziness.  This one's pretty straightforward to circumvent.  This is not to say that it's easy; just simple.  Self-ass-kicking is involved.
  2. But-what-if-I-need-it-someday syndrome.  This requires relaxing a bit.  The world won't end if I suddenly become a seamstress and only have one bin of fabric instead of four.  If I take up professional kazoo-playing, I'll go out and buy a damn kazoo.  The universe has a way of working out, especially for those of us who enjoy thrift shopping and yard saling.  I don't need to hang on to anything that's not awesome for me to have right now. 
  3. Sentimentality.  But my great-step-aunt-seven-times-removed gave me that moldy afghan!  I can't possibly get rid of it, or I'll be haunted by guilt for the rest of my life!

It's this last one that I want to take a stab at tackling right now.  Living a life of guilt is no fun, so I'm going to give myself permission to actually feel good about clearing space in my life, even if it means no longer hanging on to sentimental (but useless) items.  This is challenging.  So I'm going to periodically write a post about some sentimental item that I'm ready to allow to leave my life.  The memories are not the items, I won't lose the memory of that special person just because I no longer have a particular bit of clutter to dust, and there are no happy-memory police who will show up on my doorstep and ticket me for getting rid of a gift from a loved one.  I'm going to explore the memories here, which are really what's important, and then allow the items to go on their way.  Here goes!

Friday, March 01, 2013

bento friday: miso chicken and unreasonably delicious green beans

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 super-tasty bento: miso chicken, broccoli, and green bean/onion stir fry

Now this was an unreservedly successful bento.  It doesn't happen very often that I nail a preparation and there isn't even a single 'blah' side dish, but on this day I lucked out.  My miso-marinated chicken was delicious (and I even got a specific compliment on it from Husband), and the thrown-together green-beans-that-were-languishing-in-the-crisper-drawer-and-onion stir fry was Simply.  Delicious.  I deliberately overcooked the onions a bit so they'd get a browned and soft with a couple of little burned bits, and added plenty of fresh ginger and garlic.  Oh my.  Lick-the-bowl good.