When I contemplated beginning a blog again one of the issues foremost in my mind was the issue of anonymity. I notice, with unease, the amount of personal information some of my peers, but mostly people a bit younger than me, put on the internet. My facebook profile does not include an address, birth date, relationship status, or interests (this slate article talks about how in 87% of cases a person can be individually identified with just their zip code (retrieved through an IP address), birth date and gender. Yikes.), I often do not use an actual picture of myself for my profile picture (currently, it’s this) and I am pretty diligent about removing tags of pictures that I wouldn’t want an employer to see (even though my profile is private). I am baffled by the amount of people who ‘check-in’ to different programs that track their location or leave their profile open to the public. Despite being a Millennial, there are aspects of the information overload that make me deeply uncomfortable.

This is why, for now, I am not putting my name on this blog. Sure, most of you (probably all) who are reading this are doing so because I’ve linked to it from my facebook profile. You obviously know who I am. But, as someone who is going through the process of looking for jobs, I would really rather not have my personal writings so readily available to someone who is supposed to be evaluating me professionally.

There is also an aspect of writing for the public that I do find problematic. While in college, a friend from high school once recalled something that I had said to her, which reflected pretty poorly on me. And do you know what? I didn’t even remember it! And this was a close friend, not someone that I would intentionally have tried to put down or hurt. But luckily (for me, anyway) this was verbal and the only place it still exists is in our memories (well, hers – I only have the memory of her recalling the event). I was a pretty smug, pretentious person as a teenager and I really am so very pleased that the bulk of this immaturity is not written down for posterity (I do have a bit of writers remorse when I look back at some of the pieces I wrote for my high school newspaper, but luckily those are mostly in landfills now). Similarly, I kept journals throughout college. I love reading these! They give me an insight into the person I was and consequently the person that I have grown to be. But I’m also so pleased that these are for my eyes only, and whoever I chose to individually share them with (probably no one! Ever!). To put something online is for it to be there forever. There are some things that, while I’m happy to share now, I may not want available for all to see 15 years from now.

So, why start a blog in the first place? Well, I guess it’s because while I didn’t think it was possible to ever procrastinate more than I did as a student, apparently it is. I really identify with the young blogger in this New York Magazine article who says, ‘ “I always find myself more motivated to write things,” Xiyin, now 19, explains, “when I know that somebody, somewhere, might be reading it.” ‘ As much as it pains me to admit, knowing that someone might read this crap actually motivates me to get writing. Which is nuts because I really enjoy writing! But, after a day staring at a computer screen at the office, it’s not exactly my first choice of activities once home in the evening. I love to write, but often I’d just rather be reading a book outside on a nice day, which I don’t think is unreasonable.

So, in an effort to force my hand and getting pen to paper (er, fingers to keyboard?) I’m going to give up a bit of my anonymity. But just a bit.


Black Bean, Red Quinoa and Chorizo Skillet

As promised, here’s a recipe I cooked up recently – this one actually was my dinner last week and not hurricane fortification, but never mind that little detail!

On my first trip to Eastern Market in DC I was happily surprised by the butcher station, which had gorgeous looking chorizo sausage. I never – NEVER – pass up chorizo so I went back the next week and made my purchase! I created this dish around the chorizo and ended up using a bit of tobasco on top as the sausage wasn’t as spicy as I’d expected. You could always add hot peppers in at pretty much any stage for some more heat and I suspect some sharp cheese or a dollop of sour cream would also be a nice addition.

Begin with fresh ingredients

  • 3 Chorizo Sausages
  • 1 cup Dried black beans (or 2 cans)
  • 1 cup Red Quinoa
  • 3 Shallots
  • 1 Sweet yellow pepper
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 1 Vegetable bouillon/stock cube
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 3 cups Water
  • dashes Salt and pepper

Prepare black beans by soaking overnight, then cooking until tender (about 1 hour).

Place 1 1/4 Cup water in sauce pan and heat, add tomato paste and stir until incorporated. Add quinoa, 1/2 the garlic, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. The quinoa will take longer to cook than normal because of the tomato paste, so stir periodically.

Simmer quinoa with tomato paste

Slice shallots and yellow pepper lengthwise. In a pan heat EVOO and saute half the shallots and yellow pepper until soft(ish)


While shallots and peppers are cooking, dissolve bouillon cube in remainder of water. Remove shallots and peppers from pan.

Heat another dab of EVOO and add second half of shallots. Once these are translucent, add black beans, cumin rest of garlic and 1/2 Cup water, adding water periodically as it absorbs (if you are using canned beans you could just not strain them and cook them in the canning liquid).

This process just makes them a bit softer and gives them some more flavor

In a separate pan, heat on low and add a drop of EVOO. Place chorizo in pan and cook until outside is browned a bit and they look almost cooked through.

Be sure to keep on low heat so you don't char the outside before the inside is cooked

Once quinoa is done cooking, remove it and black beans from heat and mix together.

Once chorizo has cooled a bit, slice them into rounds and then add them back to the pan with shallots and peppers and quickly sear the outside to ensure the sausage is cooked through (this also gets some of the spicy sausage oil onto the peppers, which is very yummy!).

I obviously hadn't added the peppers yet...

Serve chorizo/pepper mixture overtop the black beans and quinoa


If you try this recipe, let me know what you think. I’m new to publishing recipes so any feedback is much appreciated 🙂

Weekend Round-Up

So, after a week of procrastinating, I finally finished the letter of inquiry for the grant that I’m working on for the Public Leadership Education Network. Woohoo! Now I’m rewarding myself with a glass of wine and some blog writing.

Well, this week was was interesting! I was in my first ever earthquake and hurricane! Luckily both were fairly anti-climatic and merely resulted in a 15 minute building evacuation and some downed tree branches, respectively. I spent last night on hurricane Irene watch with my new (and temporary) roommates drinking and hanging out. It was nice until I realized that they, being recent college grads, are closer to my younger brother Nolan’s age than mine. Then I felt old.

I also did a bunch of cooking in preparation for possibly losing power due to the hurricane, which never actually happened. As a result, I have new recipes! You can check them all out at my Food52 profile, and I will feature one in my next blog post.

I’ve decided that on Sundays I’m going to post a Reading Round-Up of the most interesting things I’ve read over the week. This week’s is pretty small because I only thought of this today, but to close out this post, here are my recommended reads!

Reading Round-Up

The Atlantic looks at the very scary growth of student loan debt compared to other household debt. I am definitely a contributor to this alarming trend. Woops. See article

Slate has a gallery of pictures of people smooching. Not high-brow, but completely sweet. See pictures.

Good has done it again with another amazing infographic. This one charts the cost of healthcare over an average woman’s lifespan. This graphic was created in honor of the Department of Health and Human Service’s recent announcement that “the full range of FDA-approved contraception, yearly well-woman visits, support for breast feeding, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, and screening and counseling for domestic violence are essential women’s preventive health services and should be covered by health insurers with no co-pays.” It’s about freaking time, too! For more information, see here.

Lastly, the east coast got a lot of flak last week from Californians making fun of the seemingly extreme reaction to the earthquake. Yet, in Ta-Nehisi Coate’s open thread over at The Atlantic, I learned a lot about east coast infrastructure and how easily an earthquake that barely causes an eye blink in California could topple cities over here. Search for the contributions from ‘peteinbaltimore’ for the full discussion.
That’s all for now, stay tuned for a recipe!





Wordless Wednesday

Some of the blogs I follow do a feature that I really like, which is Wordless Wednesday, and is generally accompanied by pictures – often of very adorable children doing very adorable things. I have no children (or even a cat – sob!) so I had planned to take pictures around DC while on my bike ride home from work. Well, I forgot my camera at home this morning, so instead I am bringing you a short clip from PBS’s current series on inequality in America.  Although perhaps I should have saved this post for a ‘Thoughtful Thursday’ series…

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.




For some reason the video isn’t embedding properly, so you’ll have to follow the link to the website to watch (and please do!). I’ll try to figure this out and get it embedded in the future.

First Recipe!

I love to cook and for a while have contemplating creating a food blog… but really I don’t cook enough for something like that to be even remotely interesting. I specialize in dishes that I can cook on Sunday and eat all week – not really the kind of thing that is worthy of an entire blog.

So, I will periodically publish recipes I’ve created here – you can also check out my profile at Food52, which will, with any luck, be as continuous as this humble blog.

So, here is my recipe for Roasted Corn and Chickpea salad – enjoy!


(Quantities are all approximate – I never measure when I cook, sorry!)

  • 4 Ears of corn
  • 1 1/3 cup Dry chickpeas (or 2 cans)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 Scallions
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Lime
  • Sprinkling Parmesan cheese

Mix olive oil and chili flakes and let sit over night to infuse.

Prepare chickpeas by either soaking overnight and then cooking until soft (about one hour) if dried, or rinsing if canned.

Cut kernels off corn cobs into bowl and then mix in chickpeas, chili oil, cumin and salt and pepper.

Spread corn/chickpea mixture into roasting pan and roast in oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes (or until corn is well-cooked (you may need two pans as this is a large quantity). Chop scallions while waiting.

When roasting is finished, remove from oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes. Mix chickpeas/corn with scallions, squeeze in lime juice and mix and top with a sprinkle of parmesan and slices of avocado.


The Roots of Greatness

I sat today in the small front garden of the house at which I am temporarily staying for over 2 hours waiting for the storm in the distance to roll in. Thunder was booming and the occasional lightening bolt flashed, but the imminent rain held off. This was, for me, pure bliss. I have always loved thunderstorms; probably the only time I curse my great ability to sleep soundly is when I don’t wake for them in the middle of the night. The  strong, shaking crashes of thunder are primal and soothing; my love of this experience was something that went unsatiated while in Edinburgh. Because of this, being able to sit outside, enjoy a good book and listen to thunder for over an hour was a perfect way to spend an early Sunday afternoon.

The book referenced above is Alex Hayley’s Roots, which I picked up yesterday at Capitol Hill Books (a treasure trove that will, I’m sure, be the topic of a future post, with it’s Hogwarts-esque towers of books that defy gravity). I’m only just beginning to acquaint myself with Kunta Kinte, but there was a moment in the opening of the book that provided a wondrous juxtaposition of subject and environment.

Out under the moon and the stars, alone with his son that eighth night, Omoro completed the naming ritual. Carrying little Kunta in his strong arms, he walked to the edge of the village, lifted his baby up with his face to the heavens, and said softly, “Fend kiling dorong leh warrata ke iteh tee.” (Behold – the only thing greater than yourself.)

As the thunder rolled around me, I internalized this message. Living in the city, and this city in particular, I see everyday our compulsive need to control; we control our environment with inescapable air conditioning and control the image of a city or neighborhood with gentrification, for example. Yet it is at our peril as humans to think that we can control things in such a way; nature always takes over. Our most humbling moments prove this – Hurricane Katrina, The 2006 Tsunami in South East Asia, the recent Tsunami in Japan, earthquakes, tornados – they all defeat us completely.

Yet, I take in all of the wisdom of Omoro’s statement, “The only thing greater than yourself.” Nature, the heavens, may beat us every time, but all of the world’s other failings are our own. As humans we harness so much power within us;  the power to hate and destroy but also the power to let fortitude well up within us and achieve the impossible. Every person has a cosmic ball of potential inside of them – I know that I often (usually) do not live up to this potential in my own life. I can be lazy and procrastinate and this is a trait in myself that I find truly frustrating and weak. Yet, on this day, I let thunder inspire me. I may be small and powerless compared to the sonic booms in the sky, but the power within me loses all potential if I squander it.

The roots of greatness are within us.

The rain came eventually, as well.

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Fresh Starts

Welcome to the inaugural post of District Dissonance.

After various other failed attempts, I have decided to try again with a blog. This may turn out as unsuccessful (or ignored) as my other ventures, but, as the title suggests, I am starting fresh in a new city (and country) and will therefore have a go at writing as well.

The title of the blog is probably obvious to anyone who has spent time in DC. This city is full of contradictions that in my short time here have already challenged and inspired me. My previous blogging ventures have, I believe, failed due to my compulsive need for posts to be well researched, edited and referenced… true to academic habit. My intention with this blog is to be a considered stream-of-conscious record of that which causes dissonance in my life; experiences, interactions and observances that provoke discomfort and challenge me, as well as my attempt to understand and grow from them (mixed in with fun things that strike my fancy).

So, here’s to fresh starts, may they be enriching and (in this blog’s case) continuous!