Tuesday, November 01, 2011

11/1 Roundup of stuff I like.

First off, a poem:

Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing

The world is full of women
who'd tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they'd say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I've a choice
of how, and I'll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it's all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything's for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can't. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape's been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there's only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it's the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can't hear them.
And I can't, because I'm after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don't let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I'll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That's what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They'd like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look--my feet don't hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I'm rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I'm not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you'll burn.

Margaret Atwood

Blog post:

Friend of the Chaliceblog Joel Monka tells an amazing story about the work he's been doing in his Prison Ministry


I'm really loving Privilege. It is a fashion blog, but like all good fashion blogs it is about a lot more. Also the author is a wonderful writer.

I've never had any real knack for lipstick, but you wouldn't know it to see me in Buxom's Big and Healthy Lip Stick. Idiot proof, I promise.

Non-fiction book:
When I was studying for the bar, I was doing a crazy (for me, probably not for you if you're physically fit) amount of cardio and some strength training besides because of The Spark, a book by John J. Ratey on how exercise is incredibly good for your brain. I'e slacked off a bit since starting the day job, but I'm hoping to get back into the routine because I felt great.

I think Peter Abrahams' A Perfect Crime might be the best crime novel I've ever read. Complicated and darkly funny, with amazing dialogue, every word of it is a joy. I'll go ahead and say there are some pretty big coincidences in it that might stretch credulity, but I sit here the grandchild of two women who lived down the street from each other in Texas as little girls but never met until their children met in North Carolina and decided to get married, so coincidences don't bother me so much in fiction. Anyway, Abrahams has a bit of a Carl Hiaasen vibe, but with the zaniness taken down a notch. I will probably read all his work eventually, though for the moment I'm reading Michael Connelly's The Poet which is so far perfectly enjoyable if not quite as well-written as "A Perfect Crime."

I went to London for a few weeks about a decade ago and while I was there, I got very sick. There was a Hitchcock movie marathon on and I watched a lot of it. For whatever reason Shadow of a Doubt was the one that really captured my imagination. I haven't seen it in some time, but if you're up for a low-key thriller you should really check it out. I loved it.


Friday, October 14, 2011

On Passing the Bar

Coworker: When's your swearing-in?

Me: Halloween.

Coworker: You should get sworn-in in costume.

Me: I think I'm going to feel like I'm wearing a lawyer costume.

Coworker: Yeah, it always feels like that for awhile.


Friday, September 23, 2011

A scattered roundup of stuff I like

First off, I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but PoemHunter.com just sent me this again. I like to use it as a chalice lighting for youth stuff, though I don't have it memorized:


Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Come wake me up. Come any hour
Of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before, and show me.
See that I see. Talk to me till
I'm half as wide awake as you
And start to dress wondering why
I ever went to bed at all.
Tell me the walking is superb.
Not only tell me but persuade me.
You know I'm not too hard persuaded.

Robert Francis

Short Fiction.
I was facebook chatting with a friend and he told me about this short story. The ChaliceMom is a big O. Henry fan, but I don't recall reading that one in any of her collections, though I'm sure it was there. I've read what was essentially the same story in a Roald Dahl short story collection, but I liked O. Henry's version better.

Long fiction
I'm parway through Will Ferguson's Happiness but I don't know if I will make it all the way. Comic novels are often like cheesecake for me. Each individual bite is great, but at some point, ick. Still, the bites have been good so far.

I've also been rereading My Life and Loves by Frank Harris. I realize my love of bawdy novels is not a universal thing, but this one seriously isn't that bad and it is a great read.

OK, I haven't SEEN this, but the preview makes it look like exactly my sort of thing

Short Non-Fiction
The Economist, of all places, gives a shoutout to people who talk the way I do.

I know a lot of you have probably read Tender at the Bone but I was telling a friend about it the other day, so I thought I'd mention it here. It is the the memoir of a former food critic for the New York Times, and it isn't even about her food critic years, though she has written a good book about those too. I can't even really describe what I like about this book in that my memory is there are parts that arn't all that compelling. All lives have uninteresting years, I suppose. But when Reichel's life is interesting, it really is. Her childhood has some things in common with mine, which made that part an extremely compelling read.

Also, because I'm a huge nerd, I've been keeping Robert's Rules of Order for Dummies next to my bathtub for long sessions of bubble bath and procedural law. Don't knock it
'til ya tried it, kids.

I've recently started reading Sex, Drugs and June Cleaver, mostly because I met the author at a con and became a big fan of her as a human being. I've been sticking some of my favorites from her archives on Facebook.

I haven't been to a good gallery show in a long time, but I saw this at the National Gallery with Melina in May, and it is a great show. While it was too broad to be a good show for learning all that much about what I'm looking at and how it all connects, but I got to renew my crush on Modigliani, so that's something.
I feel like I'm a bad abstract expressionism fan if I don't make it up to the DeKooning show at MOMA before it closes at the end of the year, at the same time, I think I'd rather go see the Zaha Hadid show in Philly. If anybody wants to make plans to see either of those, I'm there. Seeing Mary-who-Dances and going to Fabulous Fanny's might make the DeKooning show a winner after all.

Too many to name, but I started reading this one today and have already learned a lot.

I've been listening to a lot of Bird and the Bee recently:

who is also on book four of the Dresden files, FWIW. I'm told they get better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Disconnection

I've been going back and forth for nearly 48 hours over whether to write this.

That usually means I shouldn't.

But I was ready to drive home from work today and the sky opened up. A smarter person would use this valuable quiet office time to catch up on work, but I've had a pretty productive day and I don't think I'm going to.

Because something's bothering me.

I didn't realize how much really until I was thinking over a dream I had yesterday. In my dream someone was telling me how cold I was, a charge I've heard before though rarely from my own mind.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 really didn't resonate with me. I'm a little weirded out, partially because I follow a lot of awesome and spiritual people on twitter. All of yesterday, my twitter feed and my facebook feed were an ever-pumping heart of emotion. Sadness, even despondency, at the loss, anger at the Bush administration, it was all there and vital and real.

I watched it all unmoved.

I retweeted something at some point about how we should watch porn to prove the terrorists didn't win. Over dinner, theCSO pointed out that they did win. I countered that they hadn't gotten exactly what they wanted to the degree that they wanted, but yeah, he has a point. Malcolm Gladwell argues in one of his books that the amount of time we spend on TSA related delays adds up to 14 lifetimes a year.
I don't take Malcolm Gladwell as fact, but that's at least truthy.

Even still, what's 14 lives? Seriously. 14 people will easily have died in the amount of time it takes you to read this blog post. Does it really matter if they choke on hamburgers or suffer kidney failure or die in a terrorist attack?

It isn't that national events don't effect me. A good look at my blog archive reveals a woman who kinda whacked out when Hurricane Katrina beat up the City of
New Orleans and the government left her for dead. Ok, that's not what happened, but that's still how it feels years later.

9-11 doesn't have that resonance for me. And I'm not sure why because the two events have a lot in common. I've never lived in New York like I did in New Orleans, but I like New York and strongly associate it with Mary-who-Dances. I do view both events as essentially natural disasters. I don't know that either disaster could have been prevented but strongly suspect not. I do know that both could have been handled a lot better in the aftermath.

Maybe it is just that I feel like America cared about 9-11 and I still have a sense of betrayal, just or no,* about New Orleans.

After Hurricane Katrina, one of my coworkers said "I hear there are people in New Orleans who are shooting at the cops."

I said something flip about them likely being the same crackheads who are always shooting at the cops, the only difference was that now the narrative was being used to let us think that the victims deserved what they got.

Ok, I don't think I put it that well at the time but it is what I meant and I think that might be part of what's bothering me. The huge line between mostly rich white people (like me) being unquestionably heroes and mostly poor black people (not like me) being looters and ungrateful and spendthrifts and everything else that was lobbied at them. (You think no 9/11 survivor got a boob job with some of the money? I suspect someone did, though I don't know. But we know for certain that a Katrina victim spent government aid money on one. The media made rather a big point of it.)

I love my friends and I'm sure a lot of the stuff that has been written about 9/11 is moving and awesome and helpful to the people for whom this crisis is still a real wound that is deeply felt. But the only thing I've read on the topic that has really meant anything to me was Laura Miller's essay Why we haven't seen a great 9-11 novel because she says what I've trying to articulate to myself for some time**:

a firefighter who dies trying to pull people from a garden-variety house fire in Queens is no less brave or heroic. The civilians who perish in that fire or in a six-car pileup caused by black ice on an interstate or in a boat caught in a sudden storm or in a massacre by a gun-toting maniac in an IHOP are just as dead and just as fiercely mourned by their friends and family as those who died on 9/11.

Miller goes on to say that 9/11 was a tragedy made to be a media spectacle, made to force us to look on a real-live Micheal Bay movie. Once you're past that, the deaths don't fundamentally differ from any other deaths, the heroism no different from any other heroism. And like for the rest of life, there is no easy narrative that perfectly suits what we've always thought politically, despite many people's desire to create one.

So, that's where I am on 9-11. And I know nobody was sitting on the edge of their seat going "but what does CHALICECHICK think about 9-11?" but I guess part of me needed to see someone other than Laura Miller be the cold one who doesn't quite get it.


EDIT: I got a very kind and smart email from a nice person who pointed out that I am friended with a whole lot of ministers who were trying to reach out and care for those around them, something that it wasn't as much my job to do. That's an excellent point and one that should have been obvious to me, but wasn't.

*Yes, I'm aware that I'm the one who relentlessly pushes FBI statistics on crime in border towns and doesn't care how people *FEEL* about the crime rate due to immigration in the face of the fact that Arizona cities have comparitively low crime rates. The difference here is that I'm not trying to legislate my arguably irrational and unsupported-by-fact feelings. Arizonans did.

**To clarify, I recall being as upset as anybody else in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

"Dude, you should check this out," a model for real world evangelizing.

Over the weekend I was on my church's retreat. Yes, we're a large church and we have one. We rent a YMCA camp.

We do a lot of workshops there. I taught one on Bellydancing (which I'm a relative newbie at) and making weird stuff out of duct tape (which longtime Chalicesseurs will know I'm pretty good at.)

There was also a discussion group with a church committee, part of which became about
growing the church.*

As a group, we seemed collectively nervous about the idea of evangelism. And I get that, because I am too. I've lived in the South, where people coming up to you and inviting you to go to church is a common thing. At the same time, the discussion made me think about how I evangelize other things in my life that I like and appreciate.

Point of fact, sometime last year, my husband and I discovered a kickass Thai restaurant. If you're in the DC area, you probably want to know that this place is called "Elephant Jumps"** I learned about the place at my old job. The owner was my boss' brother-in-law. TheCSO and I first went just to give them some business, but we were blown away with how good it was. It was the best curry I'd ever had, and I love curry. It was cheap, it was delicious and they had some Thai-American fusion dishes so we could even take our friends who view Thai food as gastronomically adventurous. (The ChaliceDad is one of those people.)

It was, in short, everything we wanted in a Thai restaurant. As new restaurants have a something like 50 percent survival rate in a good economy, it was very important to us that this place survive. Like a church, a restaurant must essentially grow to survive, especially in the DC area where lots of people are always moving away.

I used this example, though with less detail, in the discussion at the retreat. I said that theCSO and I made a concerted effort to spread the word about Elephant Jumps. At the same time, we didn't, and at this point I turned to address the guy sitting next to me, an occaisional Chalicesseur (Hi Tom!), and said "We don't say 'I'd like to tell you about my journey of personal growth that has lead me to a really good restaurant."

Everyone laughed, and I did say it in a funny way, but my fundamental point about evangelism was serious. We get so scared of evangelizing, but we do it all the time.

The thing is, I don't know that the type of evangelism that we're afraid of is the kind of evangelism we should be doing in the first place. Elephant Jumps didn't have a "bring a friend" day and theCSO and I never talked to strangers about it directly. I didn't wear a button that, symbolically or literally, said "Ask me about Elephant JUmps."

The owner of Elephant Jumps told us proudly recently that he's thinking of opening up a larger or second location. And, again, they opened in a terrible economy.

Anyway, here are the elements of the model I'm proposing, let's call it the
"Elephant Jumps model of Evangelising."

1. A kickass product.
We have an amazing interim minister. I've always thought this, but I realized how deeply I believed it when someone on facebook was looking for a DC church to visit. I looked up what the service was about and I found myself responding "My minister is preaching about Canada. I know that doesn't SOUND promising, but every service she gives is good."
I've rarely felt comfortable saying that so confidently. Indeed, the last time I've had a minister who was consistently thoughtful and awesome in the pulpit every single Sunday was when I was in Katy-the-Wise's congregation.
Now, I don't kick ass at my job every single day, though goodness knows I try. I assume even our minister has off days, but even if she should have one, our music director is so tremendous that I still feel confident saying "Come to my church and Sunday morning will rock." I don't say that if it's a lay service because we've had some mediocre lay services in the past. Mine may or my not be among their number.
But anyway, our church manages to have consistently awesome preaching, much like Elephant Jumps does consistently amazing things with tilapia.

I couldn't have evangelized about Elephant Jumps if they didn't have amazing food in the first place.

2. Get the word out to your friends.
This should not be an awkward discussion. IMHO, if it is awkward you're doing it wrong. If you had a fabulous meal at Elephant Jumps and someone were talking about good noodle dishes, you'd bring it up, right? Evangelism for church should work the same way. Saying something like "(My minister/this lady at my church/a religious education class I took) made the most fabulous point about that..." at a relevant point in a conversation about spirituality/life/etc is my favorite way to evangelize to friends. Don't make recruitment your goal. Make modeling how a person can be relgious without being a pain about it your goal. Don't go recruiting, but don't hide how much you like your church and how much it enriches your life.

You can invite people to church, of course, but I only do that when I'm pretty sure there's something the person I'm inviting would be specifically interested in and include a social thing with you afterwards. (E.g. "I know religion and homosexuality is something you're interested in. My church is doing a thing on that this Sunday. If you show up, I'll take you to brunch afterwards" or "Doing anything on Friday? I wrote a mystery story and I'm reading it at my church cabaret. Show up and we can go for dirnks afterwards.")

3. Get the word out in an even wider way. \
My first step in getting the word out about Elephant Jumps wasn't even verbal, though I told lots of people about it in the ensuing week or two and have done so in small doses since. My first shoutout about Elephant Jumps was on on Yelp. As I've mentioned here before, I found my first UU church, Katy-the-Wise's, from their website. My latest bit of online evangelism is to tweet about awesome stuff I hear about in church using a hashtag for my church.
The spiffy thing about this is, I have some friends who do things like that too. We've formed what feels to me like the beginnings of an online religious community as we just tweet stuff that is meaningful to us. I love this because honestly having church be somewhere I can "check in" whenever I'm low on spiritual fuel is more important to me than having it as a place to go Sunday morning.***
More importantly, it sends the message "You think I'm cool enough to follow on Twitter, well, here's something I think is cool enough to write about."

Anyway, that's my plan for evangelizing a church. It's what I'm comfortable with, and honestly, it's what I feel would work for me. If I were looking for a church, I'd check it out online**** and when my friend was jazzed about how great his/her church, was, I'd listen.

It's not going on on street corners, but I really do think it could work.


*there were also discussions about stuff like the Middle East, with guys who would be in a position to know. I personally couldn't deal with that at a retreat because my perception is that I start smelling like a horse within minutes of arrival, but I'm delighted that we have these things. One of the badass things about going to a large church is that we've got members who do all sorts of cool stuff for a living. If my church could figure out a way to use its human capital more efficiently, we would be in great shape to actually do awesome things in this world.

**If you know Northern VA and want to get specific, you know that place "Grevey's" in Meriffield near INOVA Fairfax? Same shopping center.

*** I know you may not agree. I do see the value of brick and morter churches, I just find words and ideas churches as valuable if not more so personally.

****Negative reviews online aren't inherently all that offputting to me. That someone would have a bad experience is going to happen. But positive reviews mean a lot to me. I don't yelp about every restaurant, I yelp about the ones that make the experience memorable.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

I don't blog much, but I do still comment

I just left a long-winded one on The TogetherBoss Blog.

TogetherBeth has a blog now.

If you go there and my comment isn't up yet, feel free to come back and read her post again. Most people need to be told things multiple times these days.

Including me.

who is having a long day.

Friday, July 08, 2011

CC's FAQ on Google Plus

I realize I owe y'all a post on the ethical eating project. But the question I've been asked most often in the last few days and some of the other related questions bear answering.

1. You sent me a google plus invite, what does that mean

I like you and wish to remain connected with you and/or video chat with you at some point in the near future.

2. You didn't send *me* a google plus invite?

Either I didn't think you were into that sort of thing or I didn't feel like I knew you particularly well. If you want one, shoot me a facebook message. If we're not facebook friends, that's a big clue why I didn't think you'd be into that sort of thing.

3. What does google plus do?

It's a social networking site, kinda like Facebook.

4. Well, yes, but what does Google Plus do that Facebook doesn't?

A few things:

First of all, for legal types and other professional folks, being able to keep your work contacts separate from your social contacts is a lovely thing. Google Plus uses "circles" to make that easier. Arguably, if you don't want your parents to see something, you shouldn't be putting it on the internet in the first place, but if you like to keep your family stuff separate, that also is an option.

So far my favorite new feature is the "hangout" where you can announce yourself available to all your friends for video chat. I had a nice chat with a friend from college. Ok, slightly awkward, but nice. I'm really looking forward to using this for meetings in the future. I'm not sure I will keep it open most of the time, because I have stuff to do, but I will be trying it out over the next few weeks.

There's a feature called "sparks" that I haven't really explored yet. Something about sharing interests with other people. I will report when I figure it out.

So far, the most subtly striking feature I've seen is that any time I'm on gmail, I have notification box that lets me know that I've got a new message on plus. Given the number of people who use gmail for work, it is possible that staying off of google plus will rapidly become next to impossible for those of us with short attention spans.

5. How else does it differ from Facebook?

Well, as this XKCD comic indicates having a Facebook-like feel without being Facebook has some real advantages. The two primary things facebook has that google plus thus far lacks are annoying webgames and a willingness to hand out your private information like digital Halloween candy.

Of course, you're giving Google still more information about yourself, but at this point, it isn't like Google doesn't probably know everything about you that they want to. I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

Anyway, that's what I have to report. If you're on google plus, feel free to friend me. If not, I can't say that I see it as a lifechanging big deal so far.

6. Any implication for online connectivity among religious people so far?*
I've never had time to join a covenant group. I'd be interested in trying one one the "hangout" feature sometime. No, I don't think everybody's covenant group should be online. But I think it is worth a shot.

To me, at least, this video chat felt a little more natural. Goodness knows it is easier to use than most chat programs I've tried.

So that's that for now.


*If you're new to my blog, one of my serious interests is religious faith in a digital world and the way technology can be used to form meaningful connections between people. I realize this is kinda weird if you only know me in a law school context.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

And on the tenth day, theCSO said:

"You look tired. You haven't been sleeping very well. If you're cussed enough to stick this one out I get it and I'll support you, but I think you've proved your point and I think this is starting to impact your performance on bar stuff. Ten days is plenty."

You know how a nuclear power plant has those control rods, and when they drop, the plant shuts down?

Those were the control rods.

He's right. I'm tired. I did the best I could and I stuck it out for almost ten days. But I've eaten a buck and a half's worth of food today, and that isn't enough to study for the bar on.

I do have thoughts, and lessons, and other debriefing stuff. I'll write it later. Suffice to say, were I not studying for the bar, I could do this. If I started over knowing some of the stuff I know now, I could do this. I'm sure if I were a better cook or had more time, I could do this.

But right at this moment, I can't do this.

Sorry, guys.

Suffice to say, I am sure there are people who can do this, who are used to eating ethically on a small budget. But it is a lot to ask.


Ps. I didn't tell theCSO that the moment he said "I notice this is affecting you in a way that could impact bar stuff" I was quitting but that was always the plan.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Ethical eating project: day nine

Sorry for the late update.

Today I had my study group over, so I'm counting what I fed them, too. I skipped breakfast and the lot of us ate a box of quinoa pasta and half a jar of organic spaghetti sauce.

Quinoa ...............................4.39 (The CSO had some, but I'm charging myself for his too.)
Half jar of Organic pasta sauce.......1.48
Cheese bread..........................3.25

I drank skim milk......................47
One of my friends had a coke...........60

The other friend brought her own beverage. They also brought rice crispy treats and strawberries.

Luckily quinoa really sticks to one's ribs, so I just had two ears of corn on the cob and some more milk for dinner:

2 ears corn on the cob @ .50 ..........1.00
2 cups skim milk.......................94

Total for day: 12.13

Remaining money: 25.17

So I entertained and everybody ate pretty well. But I still have several days left and not a lot of money to spend on them.

In the comments a few days back, Dancin' Hippie pointed out that I have been getting a lot of my protein from peanut butter and that a lot of people with kids can't send them to school with peanut butter sandwiches. I thought that was a really good point and wanted to share it.

Also, Heather suggested I eat more eggs as they are a cheap protein. That was a good suggestion and I'm planning to eat more eggs in this final stretch when the money is really tight.


Monday, July 04, 2011

Day eight

Headed out so I figured I would go ahead and track since I'm done eating for the day.

Breakfast and lunch:

Three cups organic cereal @ .46 apiece -- $1.38
Two cups fat free organic skim milk -- .94

Tomato ------------------------------- .80


Cage free eggs, scrambled -- $1.23
Milk in preparation --- $.15

Bread for toast---- $.20

Two more cups of milk $.94

Total for the day--$5.64

Remaining money -- $37.30

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Day seven

Headed to the movies so I will make this quick:

We had a lazy day around the house with more snacking than meals.

I ate two tomatoes, an energy bar, a can of veggie chili, some macaroni, two slices of bread with jam and quark and a veggie corn dog.

I think this is about seven bucks worth. Will do the math after the movie or tomorrow.

Sent from my iPhone

Two organic tomatoes @ .80 ---- 1.60
Veggie chili---------------------2.69
Energy bar------------------------.50
Veggie Corn Dog-------------------1.17
Two slices bread-----------------.40
1/3 small container of quark cheese 1.25
1/3 small container of raspberry jam 1.35

9.71 oops.

Remaining money - 43.94

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Ethical Eating Project--Day Six

Yes, this is going to appear under theCSO's name, mostly because he's logged into blogger on this computer and I'm too lazy to switch over to my name.

We're having a little card party with friends. Before that I went out to dinner, which is impossible to track for food purposes and expensive. But it was nice to eat out. I won't be able to do so again for the rest of this project.

The Farmer's market was an education. I have eaten tomatoes as my primary vegetable all week since organic tomatoes are cheap and relatively plentiful in Virginia in July. Going to the farmer's market, I found that, yes, they are cheap and plentiful there too. It seemed like vegetables were in two categories--relatively cheap and prohibitively expensive. For one example, I bought more corn than I will probably be able to eat this week for two bucks, but a relatively small number of peaches were $6. Lettuce was $5 a bunch. So corn, not peaches or lettuce.

I'd been missing eating something that tasted like dessert, so I got some really excellent local and organic raspberry jam. Also, I would be a bad nerd if I didn't buy the cheese called "Quark" I'm thinking that I will have jam and cheese on a slice of bread a few nights in the coming week.

Also, I drank a quart of relatively expensive local skim milk. I was really thirsty and I started drinking and it was gone. I called that "lunch." So that was the other thing I learned. When outdoor market shopping, take a bottle of water.

I'm having a study get-together on Tuesday and I got some nice bread.

I've stopped tracking calories because I feel like I have the hang of this enough to know that I'm not seriously undereating or seriously overeating. If anyone would seriously like me to go back, I will, but in the absence of that request, I'm not going to bother.


Energy bar .50

Quart of milk 4.00

Pad thai 12.00

Total for the day: 16.50*

Amount left: 53.65

Level of suck: It was great to eat out again, but uncomfortable to spend that kind of money in the middle of my project. Still, a friend was in town and she wanted to go out and well, stuff happens. It makes money tighter for the rest of the week, but I sort of welcome that since this project has probably been a little too easy thus far.

Part 1 analysis: The energy bar and the milk were fine. Don't know about the pad thai, but I kid of doubt it. So this was not my best day for part 1.

Part 2 analysis: Ouch. If this doesn't end up having been my most expensive day, I will have really screwed up.


*This suddenly seems like a truly decadent amount to spend on food in one day

Farmer's Market Haul

More on this tonight.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Ethical Eating Project - Day Five - FAQ

Ok, have some questions that people have emailed/chatted/facebook messaged to me.

What's the deal with not tracking when you're at a friend's?

Because I don't want to be the person who comes over to your house and says "this is what I eat" unless I have a really good reason. This is a perfectly fine thing to do myself but I don't want to impose it on my friends, husband or dog.* TheCSO, FWIW, thinks this is unreasonably restrictive of me in that lots of people say "this is what I eat." And yeah, I don't care if people say "this is what I eat" for:

(a) Health reasons
(b) Religious Reasons (i.e. Halal or Kosher, less so "my religion is boycotting tomatoes this week.")
(c) Permanent dietary choices (or even people who observe "meatless Mondays.") As long as it is a long term commitment thing. This is not me trying to be a bitch about other people's choices, it is just a massive convenience thing for my friends. For example, FortiesGirl keeps reform kosher. She's one of my best buds, so I keep Kosher food around. When I say "Hey Fortiesgirl, wanna stay for dinner?" I know that means I'm making kosher food for dinner. Similarly, Jana-who-creates is allergic to cinnamon. I've got friends who are in recovery. All of that is A-ok because I know what to expect because all of them are permanent conditions.

If I decided to say, go vegan, I'd just say "I'm a vegan now" and all my friends would know what to feed me. If three months later I was like "Yeah, turns out I like bacon. I eat meat again now," fine.*** But for me to be like "I'm only eating Organic or Local or Fairtrade food unless none is an option and no overfished fish and meat only once a day and you need to keep track of every penny you spend on me so I can put it on the internet" would be well, weird. Can't have that.

So yeah, that's my justification. If you think it sucks, what can I say? Start your own damn ethical eating project. If it helps, I'm having some friends over to study next Tuesday. We're going to eat spaghetti and I'm going to charge myself for everybody's food.

Can your husband buy you food? What about food you already own, do you have to pay for that?

Second question first, if you're taking the bar exam, all I need to tell you is that I'm using cash accounting rather than accrual accounting.


Ok, for the lucky rest of you, that means I charge myself for something when I eat it. Not when I buy it.** Therefore, I am eating the organic peanut butter that we already had. But I called up Trader Joe's and I found how much they charge for it and am billing myself equivalently. If theCSO and I split a large container of soup in roughly equal portions, I'm charging half of what we paid for the soup.

That also answers the first question. Even if theCSO bought the food and put it in the fridge, when I take it out and consume it, I'm charging myself. FWIW, despite the fact that I am eating what people serve me when I go over to friends' houses, I'm not actively trying to beat my own system. That would be silly. So yeah, I'm not going to be like "I ate a steak because my husband bought it for me." That's just straight up cheating.

You're not eating many vegetables.

No, I'm not. Tomorrow is the farmer's market. I've been eating extra cheaply this week because I'd like to add an additional $20 worth of ethically-compliant vegetables to my diet next week. But I will suspect that one of the major hypothoses I will have at the end of this is that one can eat ethically, eat within food stamp requirements or eat healthily, pick at most two.

Why do this so close to the bar?

Honestly, because a few days after the bar, LinguistFriend is moving in with us. I didn't want him to have to put up with these restrictions. TheCSO has been really tolerant. Also, because poor people have busy lives too. If I had tons of extra time to lavish on this project, I wouldn't be doing it justice as a model.

How come it is seven o'clock and you haven't updated?

I eat late and I'm busy. Expect updates at circa ten p.m.

Do you have something planned for the day you finish?

No. I'm fond of those Brazilian steakhouses, but I decided having something food-wise to look forward to that was off the plan was a violation of the spirit of the project.

Poor people who are trying to eat ethically don't have a magical day ten days away when they will get to go to a Brazilian Steakhouse. Why should I?

What I miss most, and this is very sad, are microwave burritos and Lean Cuisine. Bar prep tends to get me home around twoish and I really like coming home and eating lunch five minutes later. That is most easily achieved with sandwiches and I'm tired of them already.

Sermon over, on to today's stats:

Breakfast, as it were: (190 calories each)
Energy bar 2 @ .50 1

Peanut butter sandwich made of:
Two tablespoons organic peanut butter @ .28 (200 calories)
Two tablespoons organic raspberry spread @ .47 (45 calories)
Two slices of organic bread @ .20 each (110 each)

Sloppy Joe leftovers
Vegetarian sloppy joe sauce 3/4 cup 1.00 (120 calories)
Veggie faux meat crumbles 1/3 package 2.00 (200 calories)
Two slices of organic bread @ .20 each (110 each)

Skim Milk: .94 (172 calories)

Tomato soup: 1.59


Total for the day: *7.88
Remaining money: $70.15

Tomorrow: The

*Organic dog food is a thing, but it is not covered by foodstamps.

** Do not treat this as a gospel example of the cash method of accounting. It is more of a metaphor.

*** FWIW, I have a permanent preference not to eat veal or foie gras because they depress me and I make efforts to avoid overfished fish even when I'm just eating regularly. And okra is gross.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ethical Eating Project: Day 4

Three energy bars for breakfast

Clam chowder and three cups of skim milk for lunch.

Going to a friend's house for dinner. Won't track there.


Sent from my iPhone

Three energy bars (570 cal) 1.50

Can of clam chowder (280 calories) 1.50
One organic tomato @ .80 (22 calories)

Total for the day: 3.80

Remaining money: $78.03

ADDED LATER: As Cubit pointed out in the comments, I had the wrong day. Ate pretty simple stuff today then had dinner at a friend's. I had wondered if I would eat a lot more the first time I had the chance to eat for free. I really didn't.

Will update numbers and stats tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Ethical Eating Project - Day Three

Yesterday was great as far as money went, but I found myself really exhausted. 1400 calories a day is not a starvation diet by any means and it could just be that I'm adjusting to a different diet or didn't sleep well, but to be on the safe side, I decided to try to eat a bit more protein. Probably some more vegetables will help with my alertness.

Breakfast, as it were: (190 calories each)
Energy bar 2 @ .50 1

Peanut butter sandwich made of:
Two tablespoons organic peanut butter @ .28 (200 calories)
Two tablespoons organic raspberry spread @ .47 (45 calories)
Two slices of organic bread @ .20 each (110 each)

1/2 cup organic applesauce .23 (40 calories)

2 Cups of organic skim milk (for preparation, drank the rest) .94 (172 calories)

Vegetarian sloppy joe sauce 3/4 cup 1.00 (120 calories)
Veggie faux meat crumbles 1/3 package 2.00 (200 calories)
Two slices of organic bread @ .20 each (110 each)

Cup of organic skim milk .47 (86 calories)

Calories: 1,683

Money spent 6.99

Money remaining: 81.83

Level of suck: Tonight was ok. I'm getting tired of peanut butter for lunch, though. The fat free organic skim milk adds a lot to my enjoyment of my meals.

Part one analysis: Good, although I'm not actually sure the tomatoes in the sloppy joe sauce were organic.

Part two analysis: Eating more did cost more, but I'm still saving up for my trip to the Farmer's market.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Ethical Eating Project - Day Two

First off, thanks for all the comments and love on the overview post, and thanks for the emails and facebook messages. A couple of general points in response:

-The big one is the food desert. Fresh fruits and veggies are hard to get in the city. Lots of people have suggested farmer's markets and I plan to hit one on Saturday, but while I'm not going to make any serious attempt to simulate a food desert, I'm not going to go really far out of my way to make it to a Farmer's market before one comes to my neighborhood. There are two within walking distance (ok, anyplace is within walking distance if you have the time but these are within three miles) McLean's is Fridays and Falls Church's is Saturday's. I have to be downtown on Friday mornings for bar prep so the Saturday market it is.

-Preparation time is also an issue. I'm studying for the bar. When I'm not studying for the bar, I'm reading Harry Potter fanfic, writing self-pitying emails about how I can't concentrate and having sociological debates on Facebook. I like to cook but I don't cook much for myself. My guess is that folks on food stamps also often have this issue, too, so in a sense not going overboard with cooking is a hat tip to the part 2 analysis.

-TheCSO wanted to know about food that is being thrown away. If someone is about to throw away a sandwich, does that sandwich have to be organic for me to eat it? I've consulted the statement of conscience and decided that it is OK for me to eat the occasional thing that was about to be thrown out, but I may revisit that if I find myself abusing the privilege. (Hey, if I don't drink this can of Ginger Ale I opened and left on my own coffee table this morning, it's just going to waste...) I'm planning to do the same thing for friend's houses. As in, if I go to dinner at someone's house, I'm going to eat what they serve. People on food stamps are dinner guests too sometimes, and I have no intention of showing up and being like "Oh, by the way, this is what I eat this week" because I hate those people.

Honestly, the people most likely to invite me over are Fortiesgirl and Cerulean anyway and they're the sort of people who would regard this eating challenge as a chance to try out this great new recipe they have for gruel.*

Now today had a special challenge, a birthday party for a judge I used to work for. It was in a dive bar I love with amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. (Yes, the buried lede there is that I used to work for a judge so awesome that his birthday is in a dive bar. Indeed, I will venture to guess that this might have been the loudest judicial birthday party DC will see all year.)

My plan was have a beer. Dive bar beers are like three bucks. Guinness calls itself "a meal in a glass," right? So I ate very carefully all day, and like a happy little lamb I marched up to the slaughterhouse that was the Judge's birthday party.

It was right about when I hit the door that it occurred to me.

Per part 1, my beer needed to be organic.

Mother fuck**

I ate nada.

Not even cake.

Luckily I have the fat girl advantage as far as turning down cake. Everybody loves a fat girl who turns down cake. "Bless her heart," they think, "She's trying." I actually saw the skinny wife of another judge pressured in to cake. When I said "no thanks," my refusal was enthusiastically accepted.

Anyhow, here are my stats for the day:

Breakfast, as it were: (190 calories)
Energy bar @ .50

Peanut butter sandwich made of:
Two tablespoons organic peanut butter @ .28 (200 calories)
Two tablespoons organic raspberry spread @ .47 (45 calories)
Two slices of bread @ .20 each (110 each)

1/2 cup organic applesauce .23 (40 calories)

Box nature's promise organic macaroni and cheese: 1.59 (675 calories)
Cup of organic skim milk (for preparation, drank the rest) .47 (86 calories)

Daily Subtotal $3.94

Remaining amount in budget: $88.12

Approximate calories consumed: 1,417

Level of suck: A lot better than yesterday. It's hard to feel anything but awesome when you just ate a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese. Missing out on the grilled cheese and beers sucked at the time, but sweet mother of all that's swell that fake cheese powder over organic noodles made me happy.

Part 1 analysis: Pretty much perfect. Literally ever crumb that went into my body was organic today. I also didn't eat any meat.

Part 2 analysis: I totally get why poor people don't eat enough vegetables.


*Ok, truth is I've been meaning to try gruel since I read "Emma." I love Mr. Wodehouse. My interpretation is that it isn't that he's really a hypochondriac, he just hates change. As often as I advocate for change in things when I think it is the right thing to do, in my heart of hearts I can't stand it, which is why Mr. Wodehouse and I could totally be friends.

** If you're new to the Chaliceblog, you will find that I curse a lot. Most often in my head, but what I write in my head ends up here. I also curse at the youth a lot, but my church will tolerate a lot from anyone willing to spend a weekend sleeping on a floor with the youth group.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Ethical Eating Project - Day One

The major coup of the day (which actually occurred yesterday) was expired energy bars.

I know, kinda questionable, right? But I know a place that sells energy bars that are about to expire for 50 cents. I poked around there and found some organic ones. So I picked up quite a few. I probably won't make it to a Farmer's Market until Wednesday at earliest, so I had to content myself with some canned vegetables and one fresh tomato. I'm hoping that I will be able to do some good soups in the slow cooker once I make it to a farmer's market.

Anyway, here's what I ate and how much it cost: (calories)

Breakfast, as it were: (190 calories each)
Two energy bars @ .50 1

Tomato sandwich made of: 1.20
One organic tomato @ .80 (22 calories)
Two slices of bread @ .20 each (110 each)

Can of clam chowder* (280 calories) 1.50

Half can of vegetarian organic refried beans (140) .75
EVOL Bean and Cheese Burrito (440) 3.49

Daily Subtotal $7.94

Remaining amount in budget: $92.06

Approximate calories consumed: 1,482

Level of suck: So far, I'm ok, if a little hungry. I'm going to hold off on seeing if I need to eat another energy bar. If I do, I will come back and charge myself for it.

Part 1 analysis: I'm doing pretty well on the Ethical eating part. I'm probably eating more animal products than would be ideal, but for a first day's efforts, this seems pretty good.

Part 2 analysis: I was a little over eighty cents over budget. Not a big deal, but I need to figure out ways to eat about ten percent less expensively. The energy bars were a real find but probably shouldn't have had the burrito.


*Clams compassionately gathered, rest of soup organic. Clams are ok to eat from a sustainable fishing standpoint and I'm not sure how you'd mistreat a clam anyway. This soup is at Trader Joe's and I loved it, FWIW.

The Ethical Eating Project - Overview

First some background: at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, we passed a Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating. I didn't like it. Here is the draft closest to what we passed, though a few mostly superficial amendments were adopted from the floor. Kinsi had a nice discussion of the class issues in the first draft. There were some changes made to that draft (reflected in the draft at the first link) to at least tone down the overall elitist feel of the thing. To my reading, it still doesn't reflect a real understanding of how difficult this stuff actually is if you aren't upper middle class. Further, it was clear from the overall tone of the debate on the floor that people just didn't get what a privileged position we were speaking from.

In response, the (total cutie) Rev. Nate Walker issued the following challenge:

(Summary: Just as an experiment: try to live on the amount of money that folks on food stamps have to live on.)

What the Rev. Walker didn't do was actually put the two ideas together. What if someone on food stamps actually tried to live by our statement of conscience?

Now, "living by the statement of conscience" is something of a misnomer in that the statement of conscience itself doesn't list any real edicts, though goodness knows the vegetarians gave adding them a shot.

So, I've reviewed the latest draft of the statement I could find, and made the following food policies for myself that I plan to stick with for the next couple of weeks:

1. Eat meat (or chicken or fish) at most once a day
2. Only buy animal products that certify the animals have been well-treated.*
3. Buy Organic whenever possible**
4. Buy Local whenever possible.
5. Buy Fair trade whenever possible.
6. Eating Communally (Ok, I'm not even sure what this means so I'm honestly not doing it.)
7. Eat in quantities that do not lead to obesity.

So that's half of my project. Virginia's food stamp guidelines are relatively straightforward in forming the other half of my project:

Items that can be purchased with SNAP include:

Food or food products meant to be eaten by people
Vegetable seeds and food producing plants, roots, and trees for family consumption
Baby formula, diabetic, and diet foods
Edible items used in preparing or preserving food such as spices and herbs,
pectin, and shortening
Water and ice labeled for human consumption
Snack foods
Meals delivered to elderly or disabled SNAP recipients if the organization providing the meal is authorized to accept EBT cards

Items that cannot be purchased with benefits include:

Prepared hot foods in grocery stores
Any prepared food (hot or cold) sold and meant to be eaten at the store
Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
Cleaning products, paper products, toiletries, and cooking utensils
Pet foods
Items for food preservation such as canning jars and lids, freezer containers, or food wrapping paper
Medicines, vitamins or minerals***
Items for gardening such as fertilizer and peat moss

I will add that I'm going to try to not eat out and if I do, the cost of whatever I order will come out of my budget. I realize food stamps can't be used to eat out at all, but I'm not completely screwing my social life just for this experiment. Also, if I find that this stuff is seriously getting in the way of studying for the bar, I will quit.

So there we go. TheCSO doesn't have to do this and the number of business lunches he eats would make it impractical, so I'm doing this by myself. Thus my budget is the amount of food stamps given to a single person: $200 per month or $100 for the two weeks I'm hoping to stick to this.

I haven't figured out what I will do if I go over to a friend's for dinner, money-wise or diet-wise.

I've eaten only ethical food today and have kept track of what I've spent on it and I will post an update tonight with how my first day went.

Cheap recipes very welcome.

FWIW, I have read the Rev. Naomi King's excellent fleshing out of the food stamp challenge. But I'm not living by it. Her points are well taken, though. My suburban self will have lots of choices that people who live in economically disadvantaged areas don't have. I will have in the back of my head that if I say to my husband "Screw this, let's go get some steaks," he will agree. Hell, I will have the car for the trips to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's this will require.

So whatever I do and however much I complain, keep in mind that I'm still doing a really privileged version of this.

Again, cheap recipes welcome.


*I'm granting myself a de minimis exception here. That's lawyer for "If the energy bar has a thin layer of milk chocolate and I have no way of knowing how the cow that made the tiny amount of milk that is in the small amount of milk chocolate was treated, I'm granting myself a pass on worrying about it."

** 3, 4, and to a lesser degree 5 conflict a lot. (My whole foods has organic tomatoes and local tomatoes, but none that are both. A purist would likely not buy tomatoes at all, but even the statement doesn't demand purism, so I just picked one.)

*** I am continuing to take medication and vitamins and I'm not taking the cost of them out of my budget.

(ADDED: Sara, I hit the wrong button and deleted your comment by accident. Your encouragement is appreciated, I'm just an idiot.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Smart people in silly hats

So, I'm graduating today. And I'm all weird about it. Chalicessuers, and I do thank those of you who are still around, know that ritual has never been my thing. It still isn't. This morning I'm wondering if I should wear heavy makeup for long-distance photos or lighter makeup for closer-in photos, which is not to say I want any photos at all. Which fashion concessions do I make to formality and which to sitting in 80 degree heat, and will they be immaterial once I'm wearing a robe?

And why does my father, a stroke patient who has a lot of trouble walking without assistance, feel the need to show up at all? Doesn't he remember how graduations suck and how he hates that sort of thing? We all hate that sort of thing, don't we?

After my swearing-in that will be (knock wood) in October, my friend is throwing a cocktail reception. The air will be cool, the photographs will be minimal and the there will be wine. I have remained staunchly agnostic on the graduation attendance of every specific friend or relative who has asked given that I have this alternate event that will be a celebration of the true end of my "becoming a lawyer" experience and will suck a lot less to attend. Cerulean and Forties Girl still might be coming to the graduation, though Jana-who-Creates is wisely waiting for the wine and cheese.

I like the idea that the bar is in July and the party will be (again, knock wood, I realize I'm smart but this is a hard test) in October. It will give me time to reflect on the bar and to get some distance from the tremendous suck that is bar study, though the Rev. Dr. Lifecoach has been making a bad time better by talking me through the process.* I turned in my last thing for law school last Monday, as in, May 16. I haven't had that distance here. Indeed, I was in a clinical program, which is the wussier lawyer version of a medical residency, and it was a truly grueling amount of work. AND in the end I didn't get the grade I wanted.

So at the moment, Graduation feels like "a celebration that Chalicechick no longer has to hit herself in the face with a hammer every goddamned day."

I suppose that alone is worth wearing a moderate amount of makeup and nice shoes.


*If you're reading this, I have started the flashcards.

Monday, May 16, 2011


At about 5:00pm today, I finished law school. Like, emailed in my last bit of work for my clinical program. Then a client called. But by six, i was gone

At 9:30am tomorrow, my bar prep class for the Virginia Bar Exam begins, either right on time or a week late for the early bar prep portion, depending upon one's perspective. I'm taking bar prep with WickedSmartBetsy, my case team partner from Clinic.

So far, there's been an online video intro by a lady who uses the word "physically" excessively.

Updates are probably going to be sporadic for the Chaliceblog, probably from now on. But I'm guessing you knew that by now.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Boston-area nerds...

Anybody going to Arisia? I'm going to be there for a couple of days...