Some thoughts upon reconsidering “The Princess and the Pea” in middle age

Remember the “Princess and the Pea”? That’s the fairy tale in which a young woman proves she is a real princess by getting a backache from sleeping on a pea hidden under a pile of mattresses. This odd little test was arranged by the mother of the man she wanted to marry. This sounded completely sensible to me when I was 4. And now, at 43, it does again.

  • If you’re clear about who you are and what you need, and you are honest about it, it will be much more obvious, to you and everyone else, when people are screwing with you.
  • If your ideas require a literal pile of ridiculousness to challenge, but you spend the night anyway, you’re going to get hurt.
  • If your beloved lets someone else dictate his standards and boundaries, you are going to have to put up with some bullshit.
  • If you patiently sit through all the weird little tests your baggage-laden potential partner requires and only complain when it’s incredibly unreasonable, be prepared for your reward to be everybody calling you a fancy little princess.

Here’s what I recommend: Next time someone reacts to you saying that you’re sensitive about something by trying to wound you with that very piece of information, walk away. No potential partner is so cute or securely positioned or ready for commitment as to be worth tolerating being hurt on purpose. You won’t have time to think about how much you’re missing if you’re elbow deep in a coding class. And you can probably buy a bike for what you could get for that tiara on Craigslist. If it takes a frigging ladder to get into the bed, don’t sleep there. It ain’t worth it.


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The updated chili recipe, for anyone who cares

A little thematically inconsistent, but here’s a recipe. Couple times, people have asked me for my chili recipe. Not very long ago I noticed that it’s evolved a little since the last time I wrote it down, so I ran through it one more time. It’s essentially the same — chocolate and beer.

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • A big can of those yummy fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • A medium yellow onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Somewhere between 1 and 3 chipotles in adobo sauce (if you don’t have these in your pantry or fridge right now, well, I don’t even)
  • 1 jalapeno. Or 2 — fortune favors the bold
  • About a pound of ground beef, and, really, get some of that lean grass-fed beef. Totally worth it.
  • About a tablespoon each of chili powder and cumin
  • About half a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • A square of baker’s chocolate
  • A beer, divided. Divided into some goes in the chili and some goes in your face

Soak 1.5 cups black beans and 1.5 cups pinto beans in 10 cups or so of water overnight. If the beans don’t soften overnight, add a pinch of baking soda.

Rinse the beans. (Or, use 2 cans of black and 2 cans of pinto, save yourself the hassle and move on. But don’t rinse — you’ll want all the liquid)

Dump the can of tomatoes into the beans. Put the heat on medium-low.

Brown the beef in a medium-hot skillet. Drain by scooping up with a slotted spoon and smooshing down with a spatula, and then transfer to the pot of beans and tomato. Pour off all but enough fat to fry the onion in.

On that note, dice the onion and the jalapeno and fry them, along with the garlic — either squished in a press or chopped up fine by hand. Actually, you probably should have done this first. Hmmm. Sorry. Anyhow, at the last moment of frying, when the onions are starting to be translucent and the jalapenos are making you cough, add the spices to the onions and garlic and let them toast a bit before adding it all to the pot of what is now starting to look like chili.

The heat is still on your skillet, right? So dump in about half a beer and add the square of baker’s chocolate. Stand there and look smart while you sip the beer and watch the chocolate melt. You might have to add a little more beer. That’s why you have to stand there and look smart while you watch. But, you probably won’t which is why you’re allowed to sip the beer.

Once that melting process is complete, pour in the chocolatey beer, stir the chili but good, and hang close until it simmers. Once it does, stir it again with some real attention and commitment. Then put the heat down to low and put the lid on and leave it be for a few hours. It will be pretty good in like 4 hours. But it won’t be awesome until it spends a night in the fridge, so the best course of action is to make it on a Saturday so that it’s totally ready for football on Sunday.

NB: Sometimes I add more tomatoes, different beans, or delete the meat. Sometimes I add other dried peppers. The only rules are these: Chocolate and beer yes; cinnamon and sugar no.

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Old dog, new trick

There’s a guitar in the corner of my living room. My living room is about a mile from the Seahawks stadium. I have a dog. I watch the Seahawks on TV. When I do, I snack. When I snack, the dog keeps a close eye on me.

When the Seahawks score, they set off fireworks that sound like cannons. The noise scares the dog, who wants to get away, but not so far that she can’t keep an eye on my snacks. A few seconds later, the game, on tape delay, shows the scoring play and I holler “whooo!” My approval reassures the dog. The dog, sitting in the corner of the living room, next to the guitar, wags her tail. The tail whaps the guitar and sounds the strings.

Thus, the dog plays the guitar.

I’m taking a programming class. By keeping a close eye on a few people, and grabbing bits of help whenever they are offered, I’ve been able to use my hands on the keyboard to, technically, bang out a couple of short programs.

The dog plays the guitar. The writer writes code.

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Chilling Effect: Using Frivolous Lawsuits to Intimidate Free Speech

Sherrard Ewing

Protest Sign from the Charles St. Apartments Protest. Photo taken by my wife Protest Sign from the Charles St. Apartments Protest. Photo taken by my wife

I haven’t written on my blog since January.  There’s a reason.

Back in November of 2014, I was the target of a frivolous defamation lawsuit by notorious Seattle landlord, Carl Haglund, after I made a post on Yelp! relating my experience as a former tenant of his. I later found out I wasn’t alone. See the other posts for more details.

For nearly a year, as the machine of the legal system slowly churned, this lawsuit soured my enthusiasm for online self-expression. I’m sure this was the intent. Thankfully at the end of that difficult year, a judge ruled in a summary judgement that Haglund’s lawsuit was frivolous and a waste of the court’s time, as the Seattle PI reported earlier this month.

Carl Haglund knew from the start that his lawsuit had no merit. He gambled on the likelihood that…

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If I were qualified to give advice, I would give you advice

Our local alternative paper has a few cartoons featuring advice for 18-year-olds. I figure the time peg is sort of back-to-schoolish — college classes at most schools around here start Monday. Lots of us are writers here in this warm, loving space that is my blog that nobody but my friends reads, so we’ve seen several iterations of this story. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s maudlin. Sometimes it’s weirdly commercial. Now that I’m an old fart, I have come to like it — the comforting seasons of publishing for the masses.

Well, it’s far too late for me, and even my kids are over 18. But here’s my advice. Not that anyone asked.

Don’t be afraid.

Pay attention.

Don’t hurt anyone on purpose.

Don’t smoke and stay the fuck away from heroin.

But most of all, don’t be afraid — especially of the flip advice that people you don’t know give you. Stupid tattoo? You are still worthy of love. Stupid haircut? Still worthy of love. Appalling taste in music? Totally lovable. Abortion? Love. Failed a class? Come here, let me hug you! $50,000 in credit card debt with only beer and cheeseburgers to show for it? Oh, honey, we’ll figure it out — let me rub your head.

Seriously, 18-year-olds — don’t be afraid. It’s not like we don’t all know that the world is terrifying. It’s just that fear doesn’t help you cope. And we love you. We really do, and we always always always will.

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offended on behalf of wildflowers

setting baby fig trees loose

banking rebirth behind the shed

imposing futile order and drinking

from an unseen vineyard

burned skin skinned knees burning muscle

all gifts exchanged for peace, fruit

and a deliciously imperfect eden


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Perils of an open heart


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