Mental Reset Days

This lifehacker article about Personal Inventory Day makes a bit of sense.  The gist is to take a week every month to reset and make sure things are going in the right direction.

I’m not sure formalize it this myself, but I do make a point to get an espresso on Friday mornings to square up and make sure things are pointing in the right direction for the last workday of the week and the weekend.  Maybe I should also use it to just assess things in general.

That Bread!

I got out of Berkeley at the bottom of the dot com bust so I ended up working as a landscaping laborer. As could be expected I had a pretty hefty caloric demand but was light on cash. Furthermore our lunch breaks were also quite short (we bundled our paid breaks into a paid 30 minute lunch).

So my solution was to bring loaf of bread with meat in a can, usually Vienna sausage but anything would do. I tried to upscale this simple menu by baking my own bread. But I didn’t know what I was doing and had very little luck, though I did end up making a sourdough starter that made some awesome pancakes for a while.

Earlier this year, Jing read about sourdough pancakes in the New York Times.  The thought of sourdough rekindled the old nostalgia and so Dara and I made a sourdough starter, which then lead to the old bread baking thing getting fired up again. In the intervening years the whole hipster artisan bread baking fad had started including the major innovation of baking in a Dutch oven.  Conveniently we had acquired one on sale from the back of an Ace Hardware on Westheimer in Houston, even though it was used only once in the intervening eight years. Along with internet content, the library had Jim Lahey’s My Bread and Ken Forkish’s excellent Flour Water Salt Yeast cookbooks.

It took a week of baking every day to accidentally make a decent loaf that wasn’t hard as a rock. We danced around the kitchen that evening. And then two more weeks of baking every day to start doing it consistently. Over the past eight months I’ve been banging out lean breads about once a week – water salt flour (and accents like raisins and walnuts) – hearty stuff with a hard crust and varying crumb cause I’m just aight. But after she started buying bread (hint, hint) I broke down and decided to make an enriched bread this weekend.

Actually I forgot I was going to try an enriched bread yesterday morning until after the initial mix. But after all these other experiments and reading Ruhlman’s Ratio and Robertson’s Tartine books I’ve come to realize it’s all fairly improvisational once you got a feel for the basics so I threw in a little extra flour, milk, sugar, and butter. And after letting the guy proof all day I baked it at a nice sedate 350.

I woke this morning and tried a slice. And well here it is. The bread I dreamed about making 16 years ago.

First night in!

So we just moved into our new house that we’ve been working on for four years and change (1,479 days to be exact).

Still plenty of things to do, but it really was gratifying to cook dinner with the girl and with Jing in our own place for the first time in almost five years.


Lilo and Stitch

Fake Sleeping. She wasn’t about to leave mommy’s side.

Morning Kefir

Breakfast Pancakes


an irascible love of the game

On Sunday morning I woke up to a message from an old friend, who I worked with while interning at Asakura Robinson Company, a landscape architecture firm out in Houston.

Unfortunately, the news was a complete shock, Patrick Chang, one of the principals, had a sudden heart attack and passed away over the weekend.

Patrick wasn’t a principal when I worked at ARC, but he was one of the lead dogs at the small office when I was there.  As I pondered my two summers as a grad student intern, I realized how much I have since modeled myself on his example. He was a superb project manager, thoroughly understood the technical aspects of the profession and could run a project to make great drawing sets.  More coarsely, Patrick knew his shit and fucking made the trains run on time. He never bothered to get his licence, but he was exactly what you would have wanted in a landscape architect, except for passing a couple tests.

He worked hard (maybe too hard) but he would also take time to talk shop at that dingy cafeteria with a big vinyl graphic of a tulip garden at the basement of 2990 Richmond. And those conversations were real. As a PM he could be honest about how things were going, both good and bad, by both outsiders and within the hierarchy. He spoke truth about the firm and the profession. He didn’t have to hide what annoyed him, because he was confident in his love of the work.

For some folks, A+D is a passion you wear on your sleeve.  You aren’t just an architect, you’re an AAArrrkkitect. I’m envious of those folks, cause I’d also like to be super cool like that, but constitutionally that ain’t me.  I like the job, I enjoy the work, and I want to run a smooth process while banging out clean drawing sets. But I’m not going to be all in your face about how much I love this shit.  I mean, I do, but I don’t have to keep emoting all the time, do I?

The phrase I kept mulling all Sunday was that Patrick had an irascible love of the game.

He wouldn’t wear it on his sleeve, but it was obvious that this was his passion and he loved the profession.  He loved his teammates and he loved the work, the design, the documentation, the process.  In all, I worked with him maybe four months.  Not a very long time, but his example has resonated throughout my career, even if I don’t huddle up in a dark blue hoodie every time the AC goes into overdrive.

Every Christmas I send out a holiday email out to old friends and colleagues.  And every New Years, Patrick made a point to say hello back and see how I was doing.  In a couple months, I’ll send out another card, but he won’t respond.  He was the consummate professional and he will be sorely missed.