Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Little Wet... no make that A Whole Freaking Lot Wet

Yep its that time again, seems us crazies on the bike have a whole lot of water to deal with (poor brits are getting drenched!) so I have a question for our two readers out there (hi mom! hi Jim!)

I don’t mind too much riding in the rain; it’s annoying but doable.

How the heck do you keep the water off your glasses at night, cause when its raining at night I literally cant see anything, even if its a light drizzle, water drops on the glasses magnify any light out there and my headlamp which works nicely, can not even be seen by me. I have a very rural stretch, about a mile, and I am scared I am going to hit something, either a living animal crossing the road, hearing no cars coming, or a dead one that missed the cars use road memo. It scares me to death. In the urban setting I am mostly ok and know the route enough to be fine, but I am biking on a 50mph rural highway! Lucky my double Planet Bike rear lights are bright enough to make sure I don’t get run over but none the less, how do you do it???

Second my franken-bike is a mountain with front shocks, which means I have no mounting ability for a front full fender. I have a mountain bike fender that prevents water going into my face, but it does not go low enough so my shoes, pants, socks, and lower legs are always soaked, and it’s not a fun feeling. Is my only option to replace that front fork with an unsuspended one and deal with the (loads) of potholes (they hurt as it is and I can feel the shocks working)

Thoughts on this?

Oh and while I am at it, in the winter I wear a full lycra mask to prevent my skin from freezing (no joke, it happens) its nice and dandy and all but unless I breath properly and even then sometimes the air travels up and fogs my glasses, which promptly freezes and then I cant see anything. I then have to take them off and everything becomes a big fuzzy blur, but it’s the only way I can get home when that happens, short of stopping ever minute to warm and melt my glasses.

Is somebody trying to tell me if I wear glasses I shouldn’t bike? Cause they are certainly causing problems...

The frames are metal, couldn’t I hook some type of heater to them and heat them up, maybe using a battery or my own body heat? Or white Vinegar to prevent fogging?
I am also thinking Rain-X (the car windshield stuff) for the glasses but idk how I feel about that stuff so close to my face all the time and having to reapply it every time I clean them...


So remember how I said I would have lots of stuff up from Washington DC from the trip? Yeah well being stupid I formatted the camera because I was asked to do some show pictures, I then filled it halfway again. I was(still am) so pissed. I will be running some image data recovery programs on it today in hopes to get something back, I will still cover some of the things I saw there but its easier for me if I have photo's as it helps me recall specifics and/or problems with what I saw.

Been a bit sick since Thursday, running nose yesterday and still a bit clogged today but going away. I finally officially joined the Livable(goggle dictionary wants to call this lovable, somehow that fits too...) Streets Initiative, you can find me as John_in_NH why that, since I am actually in NY, well idk but its what I used from my blogging days 5 years ago and it stuck and better then jjpell27 (my other most common username) :P

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So I Had a Craving

Do you ever get a craving for something? A taste, a flavor you haven't had in a while? When this happens to most people, they rush out to their favorite restaurant to get what ever it is that they crave.

Me I'm a little different, I rush to the computer, then the grocery store, then my kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I love eating out, but there is something satisfying about making something yourself, especially the adventure of making a particular dish for the first time. I had such a craving this weekend, the culprit? Gyros!

Before we dive into the recipe, lets have a few words on my process in doing things like this. I never look at just one recipe when I do things like this, in fact I rarely use one recipe. Instead I tend to look at several, take some notes, cut the recipe down (I'm usually cooking for one, average recipe feeds four)and come up with my interpretation of the recipe. If it is a really odd dish where I don't know the flavor profiles well, I will follow it step by step (first time I made Thai curry I did this, now I can whip one up from whatever is in the fridge). Another big tip, always, always read the comments from others, they have made this before, if everyone is saying increase the liquid by 1/2 a cup, well you should probably do that.

Now onto my craving for Gyros. Gyros, for those who have never had the pleasure, is a Greek originated sandwich. Wikipedia has a much better description than I do here. So I looked at about 7 recipes, most of which used a combination of pork and lamb. Some seemed overly complicated, some used spices that didn't make sense to me. I finally settled on one from Food Network star Alton Brown. His made sense, had some good tips for achieving the correct texture or "mouth feel", and I felt would scale down well. Alton's recipe can be found on the Food Network site.

My version was basically the same except I cut it in half and upped the spices a little bit, I tend to have a heavy hand with the spices. The Tzatziki sauce (a crucial component) I left as is. I baked it in a small loaf pan in the water bath as recommended. To prepare a water bath for baking, put your filled pan in a larger pan and add enough boiling-hot water to reach halfway up the side of the smaller pan. Don't worry about the meat sticking to the loaf pan, the lamb shrinks quite a bit and was easy to remove from the loaf pan. Below is my cut down version, you should easily get 8 gyros from this. I made one for breakfast the day after and grilled my slices of meat in a cast iron pan to warm them and I think this made the meat better. Next time I will do this even with the meat fresh from the oven. Make sure you follow all the steps including resting the meat with a weight on it. I used a large bowl with a couple cans in it as I had no bricks handy.

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

Source Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005


  • 1/2 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2-3 cloves finely minced garlic (garlic press would be perfect for this)
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped tomato and onion for garnish
  • fresh pita bread
  • Tzatziki Sauce, recipe follows


Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice.

Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl. This can take much more than one minute depending on your processor, you want a fine sticky paste.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. Slice, grill quickly in a hot skillet to crisp the meat up a bit and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes.

Tzatziki Sauce:

6-8 ounces plain Greek yogurt

1/2 medium or one small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Pinch kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

3 mint leaves, finely minced

Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the chopped cucumber in a medium mixing bowl, combine with the drained yogurt, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, next time I will be substituting 1/2 the lamb for ground chicken. I think chicken would be a good choice for this, the flavor should go well with the spices and will reduce the fat and calorie counts as well as making the meal a bit cheaper. I will also do my homemade pitas, I didn't bother this time as I wanted to focus on the new recipe. This is definitely a keeper and would do well for entertaining for a casual party. It could all be made up ahead and then the pitas heated and the meat grilled in a pan just before serving.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday Feature, The High Line

high line header

Its been a few weeks since my last Friday feature, annoyed at myself for that but that’s what I get trying to do too many things at once. However we are back and hopefully will be able to keep it up for a good long time. I will put up a generalized post about my goings-on in bike life from the past couple weeks maybe later today or tomorrow but for now I bring you back to mid august and to a Saturday of NYC Summer Streets (pictures from that will be coming too) and a visit to the High Line.

For those that have not followed the story of the High Line Park revitalization project, this is a former section of elevated freight track on the west side of Manhattan, it was constructed and opened to trains in 1934 and ran until 1980. It sat in derelict and threat of demolition until the Friends of the High Line group, was formed in 1999 for restoration as a public park and green space. The first section finally opened in June of this year, with the second section due to open next year. I have been following the project since the middle of last year and when I knew I was going to the city this August, I made it a priority to go and see it and document, at the time for personal reasons, but once this blog was launched as a way of showing the beauty that can come from reuse, and turning industrialized sites to public spaces. So without further ado, I present the High Line, elevated park in pictures.


The map from the website is very useful, I edited it down to show just the area that’s open and the subway stops nearby. Click the image for the full 2 page PDF map from the High Line website.


This is southern end main entrance to the Park, the line further south was demolished many years ago. It was quite crowded and the area is certainly experiencing a revitalization that is quite apparent with many new restaurants and shops. If you wish to see it as it was when the google street car last came through, the link is Here


I wanted to point a really cool feature out on this last image. If you look in the upper left corner you see separated wooden lawn chairs, well these can roll together on train trucks as the rails are restored, so you can combine two or three together and make a huge one or move away from the woman talking on her cell phone, very nifty. A closer image can be found Here


This stained glass piece is one of a number that hang on a wall inside one of the buildings the high line runs through. The artist took 700 pictures of the Hudson then digitalized them and added color depending on the water, he then created this piece by putting together the 700 pieces by hand. It’s quite beautiful. For more information on the Artist, who’s name is Spencer Finch, you can visit his website for the project Here. (there are arrows in the upper right, click them and you can see the progression of the installation). For information on the current exhibitions and upcoming works visit the High Line Public Art page Here


It was a warm day when I visited, and there were a good number of people enjoying the park, it was great to see people from all walks of life and all age groups enjoying this space. I would imagine, once its novelty wears down a bit and the full length is open, it would be an amazing space to do art or read or just sit and enjoy life.

Thanks for visiting the High Line with me
For more information please see their website or their blog. There are lots of ways you can get involved if you live in the city, as well as more resources, pictures, and video of the project and its completion.

For more of my pictures from my High Line visit please see my Flickr album.

Be sure to check out Jim’s post below as well!

Too Much Stuff!

So we all seem to have too much stuff. I've spent the last couple weeks helping my mother to clean out her garage, attic and storage shed. We went through box after box of baby clothes, old dishes, books, children's clothes and miscellaneous kitchen gadgets etc. Every box we opened evoked memories and/or horror that she had actually saved this or that. Her goal was that we, her children shouldn't have to go through her stuff when she is no longer with us. She did that when her parents died and more recently when my father passed away. Well we got it cleaned out and sent to resale shops or donated to those in need. Sad to say a small amount of stuff did go to the landfill. But since we endeavored to try and have things resused it was undoubtably a much smaller amount than most folk would have sent to the dump.

Now this post isn't specifically about my mother's stuff. We all have too much stuff, so lets take a look at why. Stuff doesn't just magically appear. We are responsible for our stuff, George Carlin had a few words to say on the topic that points out just how ridiculous our addiction to STUFF is. So I'll let him start this conversation.

I liked his analogy that houses are just a place to keep our stuff. The average size of the american home has grown tremedously in the last 40 years. The average American home swelled from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,349 square feet in 2004, a 140% increase in size.

Well you know what we did with all that extra room? We filled it with stuff. Carlin jokes about the storage industry, but the abundance of stuff is more the fault of another industry. Advertising and Marketing companies do their very best to convince us we need more stuff. They sell us paper plates, disposable cutting boards and other items meant to be used once and then sent to the landfill. We buy disposable plastic items to keep food in, never giving a thought to what might be coming out of that plastic and getting into our food.

I've tried over the last year to rid myself of some of the stuff I have accumulated over the last 40+ years. It seemed to be a monumental task, opening my spare bedroom which I am using for storage I would be over whelmed with sight of all the boxes I set in there 4 years ago when I moved last and never opened again. I don't need that stuff, I haven't needed it for 4 years and I am unlikely to need it in the next 4. However I was unable to just pick up a box and remove it, after all there might be stuff in there I wanted. Instead I would just look at the pile, say to myself "not today, maybe tomorrow" and shut the door.

Then I hit upon a way to rid myself of stuff and not make it a huge task. Everyday I try to get rid of at least one item. To remove that item from my life, downsize and simplify. Doesn't sound like you are doing much, just one thing a day gone. But when you consider there are 365 days in a year and you are getting rid of one OR MORE things every day. It quickly adds up. You eventually find yourself having to look for stuff you don't need. My residence is cleaner, less cluttered and guess what? I don't miss any of that stuff.

Jim you should take a look at this movie, The Story of Stuff, very good film and has been used in a number of places across the country in classrooms and has pissed a whole bunch of people off for sure! Its a simple little film but it sends the message. You can watch it or download it for free from their website! -John

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Google Bike There

To get back on track a little, its been really busy of late with midterms and then vacation in DC and Jim has had work out of town so has been very busy, but I now have a backlog of stuff to post on on will be getting with the program soon. This post though is one that we first heard a rumour on a good while back when the google street view trike first appeared. the idea of a google bike there function.

The best part about this new dataset is that we've been able to add a lot of new, detailed information to Google Maps - information that helps people better explore and get around the real world. For example, college students will be pleased to see maps of many campuses; and cyclists will now find many more trails and paths to explore. Soon we even plan on providing you with biking directions to take advantage of this new data. Of course, in the true Google spirit of "launch and iterate," we plan to work with more data sources to add new features in the map.

Well that’s the quote from the Google Latlong blog about their latest update to the system and base map interface adding a lot more data. So for now I will leave it at that and you can hop over to their blog to find out more of exactly what type of changes they have made. Look for a usual Friday infrastructure post tomorrow and setting up for a slew of posts from this weekend. Thanks to Infrastructurist for the heads up, and the website.
Thanks for reading and check back soon!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To DC I go

Jim and I have both had a very busy two weeks, my midterms came up and well Jim is just slacking he is so busy :P I am sitting in NYC Penn station waiting for my 5:45 Amtrak train to Washington DC for vacation. I will be showcasing the Solar Decathlon currently going on as well as cycling in DC including the just opened DC bike storage outside Union Station. I will also have pictures of the DC bike share scheme and the DC metro, which I feel is second best on the east coast, only to Montreal. So for now stay tuned for more updates and have a safe and happy Columbus day weekend.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cycle Path left turns

this is a nice quick little video picked up from the wonderful blog "A View from the Cycle Path" authored by David Hembrow. He is a British ex-pat living in the netherlands and does many wonderful posts about both countries and the differences in thought and infrastructure. This video involves the "old" planning and "new" planning differences when dealing with a left turn. Hell I would take either one over praying the 2 ton SUV's let me move into the left turn lane when I am on my bike. The author is Mark Wagenbuur and his you-tube page has a plethora of wonderful content. enjoy!

To Bake a Bread

So its no lie that I have been very busy, I asked Jim to do a bit more work and he has a bunch of stuff coming up, I will be back for a feature Friday tomorrow hopefully and be back on track sooner rather then later. I find that I have a lot of things to post on but they are all long and wordy, as is par for the course for me, so its a matter of getting the time and sitting down and putting them together. Maybe multiple posts in parts would be a good idea....

Today I am trying something new, we will see if this works the way it's suppose to in terms of post time. I wrote this yesterday and am advancing the post time to see if it will actually do it right... idk though.

I recently started baking bread, this has been a very long time coming and about time as my um habit was getting expensive. Let me say I like my bread!

I used this simple recipe and went from there. I have found that they use way too much salt, 1/4 tablespoon or one teaspoon is just dandy. I also added a bit more honey then they called for and a little bit more flour is a good idea, but the flour depends on what type you are using. I used 7-grain whole grain locally milled Adirondack flour that bakes a wonderful brown bread. You can use any flour of course but this recipe I think lends itself to a nice whole grain, or multi-grain flour.

My changed recipe for 7 whole grain flour

4 cups Whole Wheat Flour, preferably stone ground
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 (4 tsp) packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons molasses, honey or ribbon cane syrup
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried coconut (this was NOT enough for a flavour difference)

Again experiment with the flour you can use and the salt and honey can be factored to taste in progressive baking's. For my second baking I added cranberries and coconut. I would say 1 cup cranberries is good, or until it looks enough. I did not add enough coconut to make any flavour difference and I think I added 1/2 cup. I allowed my bread to sit and rise in the boiler room of the house; it provides a nice warm environment for the little yeast to be happy in. Baking time for my oven was good but temperature needed to be lowered a bit from 450F to ~425F.

This will yield, depending on the flour, a nice dark loaf with a very strong flavour. Very good for fall baking and great for soups! The shape is of little importance really, but I used cake pans for this loaf, and you can split it nicely between 2 round cake pans or it will work in one square pan as the ingredients are listed. Bread pans are much better for form and so forth but alas I do not have any at the moment, you could also go freeform on a cookie sheet if you wanted and see what happens, although it will need to be thick to do that.

Last note, make sure you oil (or butter) and flour the pans well! This likes to stick a whole lot!

Last note, experiment and have fun, this is great to do with the kids as its nice and simple and an easy mess to clean up ;) once you are comfortable, go crazy!

There will be more pictures and recipe variations as I experiment and garner success or failure.

(edited note) I think I got the hang of linking the images to the image main page on my flickr account where you click the image and can view it in a number of different sizes!