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Fish cheeks chowdah

OK, so I just love fish cheeks -- on big fish, it's the equivalent of that tasty bit on the back of a chicken where there's a lentil of muscle with real taste and texture each side of the spine.  Same reason, too!  Birds gotta fly, big fish have to BITE.

So, in my likely first post of a series of how much I love H Mart in Burlington, I bought some very cheap haddock for chowdah there, and it was about half fish-cheeks.

Poach (don't boil) scraps of fish and about 3" of ginger root, slabbed, in water to cover.  Let cool till you can stick your fingers in.  Scoop bits out, and segregate:  skin to the dog; bones and ginger to the trash, flakes of fish to a bowl to hold.

Quarter perhaps a pint or so of small yellow potatoes, slice two medium onions thin, and maybe a scallion or two, chopped.  Add a squirt of bragg's aminos, a bit of pepper, and "italian" herbs.  Add a cup of wine and *another* 3" of ginger root, slabbed.  Slice up a scallion or three.  12 oz of sliced mushrooms.  Simmer until potatoes are soft.

Make a roux with 3T of butter, add about 3/4 of a cup of milk, then broth from the chowder-to-be until think and smooth, then return to the soup pot.  Add flaked fish to pot.  Warm (do not boil) if necessary.

Adjust seasoning.


(served with mixed rutabagas and purple-topped turnps, boiled so I can reserve the pot likker for the cook, salad, and curry and rice for my son who won't touch the fish)
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Make new friends but keep the old...

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."

So many kinds of friends, including those I don't know yet...

There are close friends with whom I've never had to agree because, for some unanalyzable subtle reason, my soul recognized them and I knew they would be Friends.  I have learned so much about people in general through this capacity I've had since I was a kid (and still do upon occasion even in my 50s) of finding someone I fall in agape/philios with on first sight, sometimes knowing that this is a person I will be friends with the rest of my life.  These people have included people whose politics, sexuality, religion, and other tasty foundations for debate I've heatedly disagreed with, and those people I possibly value most because they challenge my assumptions, build my compassion, and hone my worldview.  I can think of a few of those I have left in other cities, or never lived near, yet they live in my heart (and my world-simulation engine for fiction and non-fiction work!) as points of view I might otherwise never have been able to inhabit.  I love y'all, you're out there.

There are a few, very few friends who I feel have differences so (relatively) surface and trivial they don't even matter -- with whom I could comfortably, after years apart, stay up all night talking about...anything.  So few of those!  I cherish y'all, you have no idea, even if we are a thousand and more miles apart and/or haven't talked for years.  I am in love with y'all in a deeper sense than romance.  You are my sangha.

There are many other folks who I've never had time and opportunity to explore the ordinary but precious path of friendship with -- and sadly, I find as I get older, this is harder and harder, because of time constraints, because people have their inpenetrable cliques and couples established, because of my own health issues, because many of y'all have gotten prickly in your later years (and because I am odd enough to register with antibodies in many peoples' social immune systems).

Still if any woman is an island, it's not me.  Historically I rot at social self-sufficiency, and I'm famous for being the matchmaker, the organizer, the person who throws things together in a ferment until something fun emerges.  Nearly four years of illness has practically silenced this part of me that I always thought was intrinsic to my daily life...  And just in this past month, I'm realizing how much I miss that...

As I emerge from my cocoon over the next bit, please excuse any dropped emails, sense of pre-occupation, or other telegraphs of disinterest I may have put forward.  If you are reading this, you are part of a greater circle I define as community and acquaintance, and I'm thinking of you right now.

Let's figure out how to reconnect?
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    my 90yo mom listening to MS-NBC *so loud*
avatar, shava suntzu, secondlife

Late with a new year's resolution

Seeing many people at Arisia who I know post on LJ and use this as social infrastructure has inspired me to add this to my resolution to get back into general society this year.  As anyone knows who's been following this for a while, I've been sick for nearly four years, and barely maintaining my household.  The last couple years, particularly, have felt like constantly skirting material disaster while I waited to get better, since it was pretty patently obvious that I had medical folks stumped.

Now I seem to have a path to doing better underway.  I'm looking for a ful time job (just applied to a position at Berkman this week, wish me luck!).  And although I don't have much of a budget for being social in the way many of my friends like to be (invite me to dinner, but please consider treating me -- I haven't been this poor for over 30 years...), I'd love to catch up with folks over some of those best things in life -- a lecture, a free movie, a trip to the library.  Or near free -- the cup of coffee being canonical.

I haven't been idle for the last few years, but I haven't been consistent enough to predict my output, and after most of a career of careening through interesting driven positions, I have tried to take some of this as a sabbatical (if not a terribly productive one).  I'll catch up more on what I've been doing, and what I hope to be doing, over the next while.

The last couple of days I've been fascinated with Egypt, partly because my volunteer media monitoring for The Tor Project has kept me pretty immersed (we were even in the Globe today!).  But just the ginger hand with diplomacy everyone in governmental positions has been taking, the curiosity if the protesters agree about anything but their dislike for the status quo,, various bits...it's been fun.

You can track some of my reading on that and other issues on twitter (@shava23 there too).

<wondering why they don't equip these cocoons with zippers)

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    awake awake
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24 years since the Challenger disaster

1/28/86 - it's lunch time, and I pop out into the parking lot between ChemE and Building 20 at MIT where there's an awesome food truck.  The guy barely notices me as I come up to the truck.  He's got a 9" B&W TV going inside.

"The Challenger blew up," he says, flatly, as he turns toward me.  He looks pale.

It doesn't make sense.  By now, the Challenger has just launched.  Every schoolkid in the US was excited because a teacher was going on the space shuttle.  What did he mean, it "blew up?"

There on a tiny black and white screen, is an image of the shuttle, from a tape loop that burned into our memories over that day, the shuttle launched, and then the plume of the rockets expanded, and a plume of white, and the shuttle started to come apart, like some slow-motion bloom, hanging in the sky, twisted into a scorpion cloud, and falling, splitting, twisting through the Florida sky.

"Oh, God..."  They were all dead.  The shuttle program was dead.  Civilian space flight was dead.  NASA might be dead.  McNair was dead, just recently a grad student in Aero/Astro -- I knew people who knew him.

Lunch was out of the question. 

I tried to think of where there would be a screen, where people would be.  At the Media Lab, I knew, there was a room where they had a huge display.  Within minutes, I was there, joining the people who wandered in by ones and twos and threes, gathering in little knots, speaking in hushed tones.  A funeral.

I sat down, and eventually my friend David from the Lab came to sit next to me.  We didn't talk.  I didn't really cry, but I had tears in my eyes.  I couldn't have talked.

In 1969, just fifteen years earlier, the space program seemed unassailable.  All the science fiction I'd read about space exploration seemed only a few innovations away.  Bit by bit, the will had eroded, the costs gone up, the excitement to most Americans faded -- but to those of us who wondered about the stars and destiny, NASA was still the seat of romance, a certain hope, a geeky dream we shared.

Watching the networks replay the plume of gasses, the incredulous faces, the don't-panic tones of Mission Control announcing "a major malfunction," in my heart I knew it was over.  NASA had tried to graduate from the Apollo test-pilot adventure, to the Shuttle's science missions, to that day of civilian space flight -- and it was the worst timing it could have been.

Yes, we were all mourning the crew.  But some of us were mourning, anticipating the death of our dreams of space exploration in our lifetimes.  Dreams rooted in the 50's, carried for 35 years, fell mute.


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avatar, shava suntzu, secondlife

What I've been doing in the meantime...

On a more positive note, Oddfellow Studios has been doing odd and amazing stuff.  Some of y'all may have seen the multimedia show we did at Arisia under combat conditions nearly a year ago.  That's not even the tip of the iceberg of what we've been doing. In January of 2008, I was barely watching Fish do some work on our multimedia show in Second Life, while I was doing something real on another monitor on my desktop.  All of a sudden I found myself getting vertigo, from an image on a 17" LCD I wasn't really paying attention to. I got him to massage the effect -- a little more this, less that -- more trippy, less dizzy. By March, we were doing whole shows based around the effect, and in a rush of recognition, I realized that what I was feeling was very much like insight meditation, Vipassana -- which in technical terms is an intense theta state, the EEG profile most people only get while dreaming. I got up with a quantitative psych friend out of Columbia, and he confirmed it.  And also a friend who works with an addiction therapy research group in the midwest (addiction therapy has used neurofeedback with theta since some VA studies back in the 60's). My psych friend also gave us a whole list of reasons why it probably worked.  Half of them were right -- the rest set us on a merry chase for a few months. By year ago fall, we knew we were on to something -- a way to deliver euphoria over the Internet.  Snow Crash for good, I'd like to think (although we've figured out some sort of grey/ikky applications, ask me more).  We didn't know *why* it worked, but we had a good technical grasp of what worked and how to make it a bit more effective every week. We've been doing at least two demos (performances) in SL every week -- you can see how to get into SL and see our prototype "experience" with the instructions on the bottom of our homepage. In July, after a year of independent research and geekery and development, I figured out *why* it works.  And the answer is most likely, we've discovered a new principle of perceptual psychology. But I can't talk about that until we have patents filed on the resulting tech. We got well enough known for all this that we got asked to headline the Second Life Community Convention entertainment track in SF in August, and were a featured local game company at the Mass Technology Leadership Council's "Tech Tuesday" in September. Long story short, we have at least two and possibly several more patents sitting with the lawyers, who are trying to figure out how to describe what we do. And we've also created a nifty game with entertainment and therapeutic applications.  The glib elevator pitch is:  "We get people stoned over the Internet." But it's been busy, and until we have totally dealt with the patent office, I can't say much more. Still you can come *see* what we're doing if you have a sort of middling game computer.  Link above!  Shows are 11am Pacific (2pm Eastern) Sunday and 7pm Pacific (10pm Eastern) Mondays.  Be there!
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Mea culpa...

Forgive me LJ, it's been 57 weeks since my last confession.  ;)

That was about the time we incorporated Oddfellow Studios, Inc.  (http://oddfellowstudios.com)

We've had a helluva year, all ups and downs.  Fish has been sick *ALL YEAR* and it looks like they may have found a medicine that works on him, after going through several months of primary care, over half a year of GI specialist, and finally a visit with a world expert in his kind of gut things.  The stuff is blood level, so we're tentatively optimistic after a week.

Joseph got mono at Boskone, and was down from then to May.  Then he developed a food allergy problem over the summer that's kept him out of school with completely *different* GI nasties since October 1st -- but the happy by-product is that we're getting him homeschooled for the rest of high school (he's a junior now).

And, of course, my mom's been with us since year ago Mother's Day weekend, and she's got Parkinson's and LBD and a dozen other insults of age (she'll be 89 in February).

So, I've been CEO of an indy game company and covering for everyone in my house on as little outside income as we could manage -- for over a year.

Ergo no updates.  But I ran into Justin last week, and he convinced me there are people I'm just not in touch with if I'm not out and about, or on here -- and I miss y'all!
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avatar, shava suntzu, secondlife

more good news/bad news on the health front

So, today my doctor put my on thyroid replacement therapy for Hashimoto's Disease, a fairly common form of autoimmune hypothyroidism.  There's lots on the web about this, but the interesting thing is that since my poisoning adventure last year, I've notice I have good days and bad days -- and the bad days were always associated with swollen feet and often with my skin getting very dry and just dying in layers on my face and such (yum, I know...).

Anyway, this was a clue to my new doctor who did a full thyroid blood panel on me, and found that my levels merited replacement therapy.  The problem with this is -- well, once you start this, you can never stop, because your own thyroid will stop making the stuff and atrophy.  But hell, it's $10/mo retail, one pill a day.  Most of my friends in my age cohort are taking some pill that saves their life (anything from cardiac to tricyclic anti-depressants or whatever) and I got to 49 without a daily pill.

But now, I'm afraid to wonder what will or won't get better.  My hearing?  My weight?  My feet that are often so swollen that I can't wear anything but slippers?  Some of this brain fog that's plagued me sometimes for days?  My hair loss (and you wonder why you never see me without a cap...well, wait, I've always worn a cap, but now I have more reasons...)?  My crappy energy levels?

Anyway, I am trying to not set myself up for disappointment over the next month or three, as I wait to see what, if anything, in my life is transformed...
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many things come to pass...

So, I'm realizing that I haven't posted here in a LONG time, partly because some major things have happened in my life that have dominated my time over the past couple months.

A lot of the current somewhat fertile, somewhat frantic chaos happened when my sister-in-law called me two weeks before Mother's Day.  The essence of the call was, "I have cancer -- you have to take your mom."  After my dad died, my mom did the grand tour of us kids and decided to move closer to Joe and Sue.  Sue didn't work (at least didn't work full time, I'm not so clear on this) and had more time to help her out.  Mom's objection to living near me was twofold -- I invited her to come live *with* us, and she wanted her own place, and I am too much the gypsy -- "You'll just move."  Although I assured her that if we moved we wouldn't put her in the yard sale, she remained unconvinced.

Now, I feel like of the three kids, I got along best with my mom (although I'll confess to being more daddy's girl in a lot of ways).  But this is her decision.  I come from a family of stubborn, opinionated folks.

So when my brother, some months before May, found that he was moving to Colorado and was moving mom to an independent living facility there, I called my mom and said, "OK, so you're going to have to move anyway.  Do you want to come here?"  And after some soul searching going back and forth she said no.

The other thing about this was that I was surprised that mom's dr's thought she'd be ok in an independent living situation.  She'd been in lock-down in a home for terminal dementia patients for four years.  Joe and Sue had told me she'd been better the past few months, but I had no concept she was that much better.  She's not quite deaf as a post, so phone calls with her were often a bit absurdist at best, without thinking there were delusions involved.

So of course, I said yes.  This was around May 1st-ish and on Mother's Day weekend, Mom moved in.  This gave us two weeks to change the whole house.  The eating table in the kitchen went to the dining room, which we'd been using as a living room.  The living room moved to the greatroom in the basement.  Fish's magic workshop, which had only recently swapped rooms with Joseph, went to storage, and we moved down there.  This left the master bedroom on the first floor for Mom, so everything she did could be on one floor (she has Parkinson's, and some issues with mobility).

That was nearly as fun as moving the whole house.  We even had to hire movers to be able, on a practical basis, to get all Fish's magic stuff to storage.  The little buffer we had in the bank (which was essentially cash flow buffer) disappeared entirely as we incurred extra expenses and lost working hours.

Mom moving in had a set of adjustments.  She'd never met Fish.  She wasn't sure about anything here for a while.  But we've kind of all settled in together.  We've lost loads more time trying to get all her stuff with meds and doctors and social services and whatnot set up.  It's like having another kid, for the workload, and we also have the issue of monitoring a pretty inflexible medication and meal schedule -- which also means sleep schedule -- and if you know us at all you know that's really changed our lives radically.

By late June, Sue was gone.  Ladies, get yourself screened for ovarian cancer.  I'm impressed by just how vicious and fast it can be.

So in early July, we spend another week orchestrating a trip to DC for the funeral by car. *OMG*   My poor brother -- forty years of marriage to his college sweetheart, in one of those nearly anachronistically gender differentiated marriages that probably happen more in military families.  He's learning to keep a house and balance a checkbook for the first time in his life at 64.  And he's *still* moving to Colorado, away from his support networks.  For the first time in my life, I am worried about my big bro.

And then the next week, Joseph leaves for NC to spend some weeks of the summer with his dad.

It feels like it's been nonstop.

Have I mentioned I'm trying to be in startup mode?  And that's going slowly for obvious reasons -- as of now, I'm wondering if I can sustain startup mode at all.  So we're talking to a possible business partner next week about a fit, perhaps subsuming our project under his already funded aegis.  And we're pitching a book to O'Reilley -- Magic for Makers -- based on a class we're teaching in September/October.

We seem endlessly busy, and at the same time endlessly broke.  I'm getting tired of it.  I want something to move so we can have a better idea of What's Next?  Not that we aren't having fun along the way!  But May to now?  Too much.

That's life in a nutshell.  And nuts is about it.

Wouldn't want my life to be boring...right?
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