Sunday, August 30, 2009

A new wind blowing

I have noticed a change on campus. I am not sure what’s causing it, but I am seeing more of the classic cruisers around, albeit with breaks and at least 3 speed gears, you know the full uprights that the rest of the world uses as commuter bikes. This is actually very different from last fall, when the majority would still be either full road or mountain bikes. There are fixies here too, and the riders are apparently thinking they are a bike messenger in NYC the way they are weaving though traffic, gives the rest of us a bad name but that’s another topic.

I think it might have to do with the resurgence of the cycle-chic movement, blogs like Amsterdamize, and Copenhagen cycle chic have imitators popping up in every major city, the bike as a fashion symbol or statement is catching on among the “young and hip”. I have some reservations about that and the chic movement as a whole but, you know, if its gets more people on a bike, and more people see more people on these “stately” bikes sans lycra then maybe just maybe things are changing, even way the heck up north in the Adirondacks, and that change looks for the better.

There is lots of further reading on this, a simple google search will give you more information then you already need, any thoughts on this resurgence? A help or hindrance?

thanks to the folks over at Bikelite for the picture, and fujibikes for making this beauty.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Infrastructure: Where The Sidewalk Ends, and beyond

We’re back! Ha!

If you follow me a little bit, you will know that I recently moved back to university and chose an apartment 5.2 miles from campus in order to force myself for a proper bike commute. It’s the end of workweek one, and 56+ miles traveled, results? I need a new seat, and raised handlebars. No way in hell am I wearing lycra every day to school either. I will just take a new bike then eh :D. Seriously though, it has been good, bit of rain a couple of the days but today was wonderful, 68F or so perfect weather. Got a bit of sunburn as well actually, need to remember that for when the snow is here, glare can kill ya.

For today’s infrastructure picture(s) I am going to show you my route, that I am biking ever day. Why did I title it the way I did? Well the sidewalk ends at the social security administration building about a mile and a half from where I live, and technically I don’t even live in Plattsburgh, I live in Beekmantown, but I won’t tell if you don’t. yes it’s a bit of a play on the ol Shel Silverstein book, and I can still see that funny cover, but there is life beyond the sidewalk in suburban America, unfortunately there is a whole lot.

I start off at the university, obviously, I didn’t take any pictures today of the first 2 miles of my journey home, so you start when I am about 3 miles from home, a bit after the Georgia Pacific plant on route 9, if you know the area.

That car passed a bit too close for comfort!
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That's what we call infrastructure in the Adirondacks! you betcha!
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The mall that never was, under demolition, click full size to see it, I will be chronicling this mall more in a few weeks.
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The open road
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The local friendly farm stand, fresh pressed cider in a couple weeks!!!
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Google Maps rout, obviously only part of the commute, but its the part you see

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A very important PSA

For those that follow these things, the latest craze has been texting while driving, not just talking, texting has been shown to be as dangerous as talking (hand-free or not) and in some cases can be worse. Thankfully states and communities are stepping to the plates with bans, but just as its illegal to drink under 21, there is unfortunately a large % of the population that either does not care or does not know that what they are doing is illegal. Infrastructurist posted this bit earlier this week on as PSA created by a Welsh (UK) community on the dangers of texting. this is not some happy-go-lucky PSA, this is harsh in your face and bloody well frightened me, and I don't do either of these things, but that's the point it can affect everybody, I bike to school ever day 5.2 miles each way in unprotected cycle paths, thankfully I have a mirror and I always watch the cars behind me, but I am scared to death every day really about getting hit by somebody crossing the white line on their phone, or texting, or because they dropped their big-mac on the floor or their hit coffee. In December I totalled my car(well 3k damage, it was an old car) by reaching down to grab my water which had fallen on the floor, I am a safe driver (as much as possible) I even have advanced training in control, none of that helped I was off the road and in the ditch faster then you can blink.

this is work safe, and yes it says 18+ but teens are driving at 15, they are the ones that need to see this more than anything else, its gruesome and it will scare you it should, Do not drive distracted ever! Everybody else is depending on that.

what's the answer? I would like to think that we would voluntarily not do these things, not call while in the car and so forth, however I fear a draconian policy of putting a jammer in every car so that no calls can be made while the engine is running will be needed, I hope to god not but I see no other effective solution...

Link to the bit from Infrastructurist

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Enemy

Dear, headwind...GO AWAY k thanks. for the second morning in a row, bloody headwind coming from the south west, just what my legs need. I need to be going at a very good clip to actually get to class on time, its taking me 30 minutes on the way in and while I don't know how fast I am actually going but its faster then 10 mph which is the speed I should be going to get to class in 30 minutes. I think 5 miles is a lie ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 1

Yesterday was the test. I picked an apartment for the fall semester ~5 miles from the university. That’s a 10+ mile a day ride, which will be done all by bike, in all weather and at all times of the day. So yesterday, being the first day back was the test. Commute in took around 30 minutes the longish way, and a very brisk pace, no problems, actually met one of my co-workers at the local co-op in her car passing me, we stopped together at one of the intersections on the rout. There is a 40mph 2 lane boulevard I travel on for about a mile and a half, about 2 miles from where I live, and people were nice, moving into the far lane and giving me the entire lane for travel. Might have helped I was in full reflective vest, lights flashing and a nice red helmet, as well as my pannier system on the back. Of course I also don’t have my front fenders on, as I had them off for the trip up, so naturally it rains like cats and dogs just when I need to go get food to stock up and be able to actually eat! I got very wet, and I never thought I would miss having chain guards, like my Velocampus bike had, but man do I miss them. The sun came out later and everything dried up nicely, and my ride home was nice except I forgot that the segregated path north actually dumps me off halfway down another road and I have to cross 4 lanes of traffic and cycle west to pick up the road I was already on, no wonder nobody uses it. Promptly slept for like an hour when I got home. Pictures will be coming once I have a day where I don’t have to make it in early or rush, its really a nice ride.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Somebody was thinking

So the family and I were coming home from a nice little local restaurant over the line in Maine, and we are driving back through Dover, of course have to stop and get a bit of icecream ;) Well it was about time for the Downeaster to be roaring through on its way to Portland, Maine from Boston, and right on time, 6:30 rolls into the station. Now I love catching the train, I remember the inauguration of the rout back in 2001 as the line reopened after 40 years or something, it has also been the fasted growing line in the entire Amtrak network, and I think either breaks even or might make money, either way, its a wonderful train and I am happy to have the options! What I did want to mention was the way it connected to the local bus services. Wildcat transit, which is run by UNH from Durham had arrived at the station about 5 minutes before the train and waited until after it had left the station to leave, and 2 of the Coast buses came, one before and waited and then one after. All of the buses have bicycle access through front racks, to ease in transportation mode changes. The train does not carry bikes from the Dover station, but I am working on a way so they in theory could, anyway. It was nice and refreshing to see, even the little public transport options we have, working together and syncing up. Too often in the US nobody pays attention to these things and you either miss the connection by 5 minutes or you have to wait an hour. So cudos to Amtrak, Coast, and Wildcat transit for working together.

Coast Bus
Wildcat Transit

Friday, August 21, 2009

How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, a Mini Review

I had been meaning to pick this book up for quite a while, finally splurged and grabbed a copy. I had seen interviews of Mark Bittman where he talked about his food philosophy and since this closely paralleled my own, I figured this would be a useful book.

Now I have only cooked a couple of things from this so far, but wanted to give everyone my impressions of the book overall. First off, this is very much what I call a FOOD book as opposed to a cookbook. What this means is that there is a lot of good basic information about how to prepare food as opposed to just an endless string of recipes. I prefer food books to cookbooks. A cookbook will have a recipe calling for Kaffir Lime leaves, a food book will tell you what they are, where they come from, how to use them, and hints on how to find them. I spent two very pleasant evenings reading this book, another difference from a cookbook, a cookbook you will leaf through and read interesting recipes, a food book you can sit down and read.

Mark's stated reasons for this book is that the American diet contains too much meat, and producing and consuming all of that animal protein isn't doing us or the planet any favors. Besides, we are missing out on some simply wonderful meals because we feel we need to have meat at every meal. I discovered this myself several years ago while dating a vegetarian. I was doing all the cooking and wasn't going to cook two meals just because she didn't eat meat. I bought a couple books and started making meatless dishes at home and having meat when we went out. To this day some of the recipes I discovered during that time are still my favorites. Mark states in the book he doesn't expect everyone to become a vegetarian, he isn't. He just wants people to cut down on meat consumption and try some new things or ways to cook that they may not have explored before.

I love the layout of the book, Mark talks first about the focus of the chapter. Vegetables, grains, breads, soups, and then gives basic techniques for cooking. For instance in the chapter on beans and legumes, he starts out with a very basic recipe for cooking these which would work with any of the varieties, he then offers two additional methods and discusses pros and cons of each. Then he has a chart showing the different types and substitutions if you want to make a recipe and can't find or are out of a particular ingredient. All of the chapters are laid out in a similar manner and the book is worth the cover price for the cooking and substitution charts if nothing else.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be flexibility, there are substitutions for everything and different versions of many of the recipes. I think this stems from Mark's background as a home cook instead of a trained chef. The nice thing about that is most of us are not classically trained either, so we can relate to this style of cooking. As a person cooking for one most often, I appreciated his suggestions for making a larger amount of things like grains and beans that take a long time to cook, then using them through out the week in various recipes that could be put together quickly.

There was only one thing I was disappointed in with the book, many of the recipes were very basic and simple. Mark is a fantastic cook and I was hoping for some knock your socks off recipes. However, since the point of the book was to teach people the basics of cooking vegetarian I should have expected that. That's not to say the recipes in the book aren't great recipes, I was just looking for a little more pizazz than I got.

Overall I would add this book to my collection of must have cooking references. Ever wanted to know how long to cook quinoa? What to do with that half a head of cabbage in the fridge? It's in there, but more importantly this book makes eating locally and sustainably a reasonable choice, you could cook out of this book for a year and not make a dent in it's information.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Toe Path Treks

I want to give a quick welcome to all the folks coming over to us from Toe Path Treks in the UK. I loved cycling on the Leeds-Liverpool canal and have loads more pictures from that time that I will get on-line, if you have questions about that specific path drop me a line, I would love to be able to help. Otherwise enjoy the rest of the blog and stop by often, as I will be posting on the canal work in Birmingham as well as more from the Leeds-Liverpool path.

link to the website is down on the right under "other links"

Tow Path

Welcome to NYC

Yep its been a while since a post by me, nothing bad happened, just lost high speed access(summer job ended) and the connection is worse then dial-up at home now, thanks to the wonderful cable company and the internet providers. You really cant do anything with 14.4 speed, thankfully we are not paying for that.... Anyway as I mentioned, I think, I was in NYC this past weekend for various goings on, seeing some exhibits, Summer Streets, visiting the High Line Park, and the Tesla motors store. A good trip overall if not hot. There was one thing I experienced for the first time though, a pedicab. Yes, you see them all over Europe and they are around times square in NYC, the pedal taxies. It was really good, my parents and I managed to squeeze into the back of one and we were off, now our driver was one of the lucky ones with a front mounted electric assist, but it was only slightly noticed, except for the whine of the regenerative breaks turning on at the lights. One interesting thing did happen in the 4 blocks we took it to Grand central, a large tour bus, you know the big coach ones, pulled right up in front of the bike and stopped on an angle, making our driver screech to a halt, with full re-gen whirring. If he was going any faster or we were a single cyclist we would have been coach smush. The idiot knew we were there, he drove right past us, yet didn't have the care to pause for 10 seconds and let us make it past where he wanted to stop. I think it opened up my parents eyes to the ever present dangers of cycling in a car based society, more so then anything I ever say would, I think they better understood the things that cycling planners are working against. I got a picture of the number to call on the back asking “how's my driving” so will need to do that as soon as I can, cause his was reckless and down right crap. NYC is making progress, especially for the recreational cyclists, but for the commuters, for the people making their living on the bike, as messengers, as taxi's, as vendors, they know the true horror of cycling in NYC, and their lives are not improving nearly as fast. NYC is the only city in the US where the majority don't even own a car for christs sake! I would hate to try that in LA. I give my best to them all, (and an extra large tip) because these are the true hero's on the road, and they know where the problems are, yet are too often ignored by those making decisions.

I will be posting again, regularly, as I gain high speed access again, I have a bunch of infrastructure pictures from NYC, as well as from the High Line Park, which will be going up in the coming weeks, and looking ahead I am going to start training with the hopes of cycling ~130 miles round trip up to Montreal for the weekend in October, I can do ~75 in a day but that was on a bike more designed for on road cycling, then my current mountain bike, and that was when I was doing a5-10 miles day commute. Did I mention I want a new bike now too?

NYC Pedicab Association

Thanks to PRI The World's photo stream for the picture Really good show if you have not listened to it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tomato Time

It took forever for my tomatoes to ripen this year but now that they are, they are coming in faster than I can eat them. Last night I made a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. Today I have about 20 small roma tomatoes I am going to roast. what are you doing with your tomato bounty? See more at Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Favorite Cabbage Recipe

I had promised to do a recipe post on Kholrabi, however I haven't been able to get any more. Weather has warmed up and they like the cold so that is over until the fall. In it's place I am going to submit my favorite cabbage recipe. The cabbages at the farmers market have been fantastic lately and I love the versatility of this vegetable.

When most folk think of cabbage, they think either a slaw or boiled with potatoes. This is a quick saute with flavorful spices and some nice white beans to make the dish a main course or hearty side. The this is a simple dish that you can throw together in a couple minutes but is full of flavor. you will need:

1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 small white onion diced
3 cups sliced cabbage
1 can northern or other white bean, drained and rinsed well
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 cup water or broth
Salt and pepper to taste

First thing you want to do is "bloom" the spices. This can be made in a wok or a saute/frying pan. I used my trusty cast iron this time. Heat the pan with NO oil and then add the tumeric and cumin seed, give it a shake and toast for 30 seconds or so. The tumeric will darken slightly and the spices will become very fragrant.

Add the oil and then the onions and saute until soft, the cumin seeds will "pop" a bit in the oil.

Then add your cabbage, season with salt and pepper, I find this dish likes salt fairly well. You may or may not need to add a 1/4 cup of water or broth at this point, depends on the water content of the cabbage. I use my homemade vegetable broth. Cook the cabbage to your liking, I like mine still a bit crunchy.

The cabbage will take on a wonderful yellow hue from the tumeric. Add your beans and continue cooking until the beans are warm.

Remove from heat and serve garnish with tomato or fresh herbs. This also tastes great the next day and reheats well.

This recipe responds well to some fiddling, I have added serrano chilies for extra heat, diced tomatoes tossed in at the end, or you could add chicken to it to make a non vegan version. I think some diced pork would also go good in this, play around with it and make it your own.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Weather Changes and Food

So it has been an odd year for weather, according to meteorologist and climate scientist, this is only going to get worse. I'm not going to pretend I am qualified to talk about the possible causes of that etc. There is plenty of information on the web about that.

Instead lets talk about melons, tomatoes and peppers. I have for the last several years grown roma tomatoes in pots on my patio. Usually by early July I have ripe tomatoes. This year I had tomatoes, more than usual, I was ecstatic! I love nice ripe homegrown tomatoes. Bruschetta, sauces, salsas, tossed in a pan with a little garlic and olive oil over fresh pasta. Nothing beats a fresh, ripe tomato. Problem was I was missing the ripe part. Here it is, August 11th and I have just yesterday got my first ripe tomato. Seems the cool weather we have been enjoying slowed down the ripening process. Tomatoes are used to it being hot to ripen and we had had night time temps in the lows 60s high 50s. Just the last couple days we have had a good wave of heat and finally I have ripe tomatoes.

Melons, coming back from a couple days at my Mom's I passed a local fruit and vegetable market. I stopped in for a couple things and out front they had a big box of cantaloupe melons. However they were no bigger than a softball, the sign said "Personal sized melons $1". I thought to myself, "Cool must be a new variety" I was tired and on the bike (of course)so I thought nothing of it. Yesterday I went to the farmers market and one gentleman also had these personal size melons ($.50). So I asked about the variety, his answer surprised me, they were just the normal melons he always planted, however again due to the weather they just hadn't gotten as big as normal. Most of his crop had come in that size. I bought one and it was if anything a little over ripe. I suspect he left on the vine as long as he dared trying to get some size.

I then stopped by the lady that sold hot peppers, I posted a picture of her wonderful selection a couple weeks ago and she had urged me to comeback in a week and she would have even more and a rainbow of colors. Well this had been two weeks and the selection hadn't changed. I asked her and she told me "they just aren't getting ripe, too cold". I had hoped to post a picture of her table for you, however again the weather didn't let me.

It is sometimes the small things that get overlooked in the talk about climate change. This has the possibility to change things in our lives we never even considered. Take the pepper lady, she undoubtedly earns a fair portion of her income from her pepper patch, what happens to her when she can no longer grow peppers? Politicians focus on what we need to do combat climate change and they argue about how much it costs and how we can't have a "normal" life without SUVs and more highways etc. Maybe they should ask the pepper lady what she thinks?

btw, John is busy moving back home again from his summer job. He should be back with a post later this week-Jim

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Friday Feature (on Sunday!),A Line Anew

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Welcome to the weekly Friday feature. Today, I am 2 days late, but still not a dollar short. Anyway been very busy, kids were going into town yesterday so prep for that was a bit crazy.

So with this image we cross the channel into mainland Europe and the wonderful Austrian city of Vienna. The very nice folks over at Cycling Is Good for You are the ones that tend to focus on things like this, and I am sure they have mentioned this specific path somewhere as it is relatively new and well done I think. This line is rather short but very nice and the addition of green spaces makes it quite peaceful. It runs around the well known waste incinerator designed by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser in 1992. before that it was one of the first waste to energy plants in the world having been built in the 1980's. According to my friends who I visited with, he initially did not want to do it fearing a corruption of his ideals and ideas. However he eventually agreed with the thought that he could make it better and make it beautiful, and that he certainly did, he made it into a modern landmark in a city steeped in history.

The path itself is a paved cycle priority mixed use path. I remember seeing multiple walkers as well as a Rollerblade and cyclist or two while I was there. it is a well labelled and mostly thought out connection to the tram, bus, metro, and rail transport station at Spittelau Bahnhst. The reason I say mostly is because it runs through the middle of a housing and mixed unit development that flows under over and through the walkway, but it does not directly have access to it. However, one has to go down to the ground level and then walk to the end and then walk back up the path to the elevated station, that part of it was not thought out but that's more the fault of the housing developer then the cycle path. I say flows because of the unique design of the building, the architect escapes me at the moment but it has had some issues selling due to its location to the heating plant, it is certainly an area ready to be developed. I believe the housing was designed as low cost for the next-door university for apartments and the like, but I am not sure.

The heating plant is the Spittelau District Heating Plant and has a small museum detailing its history and what it does, apparently guided tours are also available but we visited on a Sunday so everything was closed.

The trail itself is a former underground to elevated rail line that was put into disuse sometime in the past 20 years I believe.

Google maps
Technical information
Wien Energy

Tower and the side of the facility
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Facing away from the tower and toward the housing development
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A view toward the rail station
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Two views of the mixed use development built around the path
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if you have more information please let me know so I can add it in.