Sunday, February 28, 2010

Multi-modal food transfers

Yes I know its an odd title, but let me explain my reasoning a bit. I made butter this evening, using 16oz of whipping cream from Organic Valley this time, as we were out of Evans. It's wonderful as usual, I got a bit over 8oz of buttermilk left over. Reducing the recipe for butter-milk pancakes by 1/3, the original was for 12 and required 3 eggs, I used 1 egg (my last one) and a cup of buttermilk and a bit of whole milk into the recipe, this basically used up all the buttermilk I had just created from making butter. Added some butter into the mix along with the flour and other yummy things, made some pancakes and then used a bit more butter and honey on top to finish it off (I am out of maple syrup)

Now that's what I call a multi-modal transfer of food, that buttermilk was moving all over the place!

I took pictures of the finished products, and will put some up maybe later tonight. I am still eating though, hence why they are not included.

Recipes/instructions I used

Butter making
buttermilk Pancakes

a moment to reflect

I was talking to my girlfriend yesterday (she is in Spain on a Fulbright scholarship) when I started having a hard time hearing her due to, well, noise. I am not talking about the near hurricane that is bearing down on the northern coast or the cannons that seem to go off every day, nor the church bells going at all hours of the day. I am talking about children.

When I was in Leeds, I lived in a poorer area, in that they tended to be immigrants or multinational working class. They were younger families and typically of Middle Eastern or Indian background. I lived in a semi Uni-owned high rise that had both students and more traditional families and had been renovated with water savings as well as high R-value windows and efficient appliances. It was not directly let from the University, but through another agency. I loved this area actually, for a number of reasons.

One it was 2.5 miles from campus, Ideal cycling distance!! It was lower in traffic than places closer to the university, meaning quieter nights in general and the distance from campus meant a good distance away from the "Otley pub run" students who tended to be out every night until 3am. I could walk to the bus or train stop with multiple connection options. I had access to a natural food co-op(they have not updated the site in awhile) run business about a mile away and there was a local farmers market every month. Not to mention the Permaculture Association of the UK was literally down the hill from me and I could just see them if I looked out the right window.

However one of the main points of why I liked this area, and I know this is a point of contention with some, was the fact that there were kids. They mostly didn’t speak English while outside with friends, but that didn’t matter. What was important, what I miss was and is, children playing. I don’t get that here, maybe I am in the wrong part (I am far out of town) but even when cycling through the city after school is out, I rarely (actually I don’t remember ever) hearing children playing. (During recess and at the university day care does not count)

It made me feel safe, it made me feel content. I don’t know how to explain it or even what it means but all I know is that despite the economic hardship of the area, despite the seediness of some parts, it was alive. The local primary school was just down the road and if I were up early, I would see parents walking their child to school or waiting with the older ones for the bus. They would all come out when any one of the four ice cream men came by on any given day (yes there were four, all different!!)

It felt in a way, what a community should feel like, what a real community feels like. Not one over run with parents who see a predator around every corner, or one were they fear their child will get a bruise or get dirt on themselves, or one where the car takes primary ownership of everything. Taking them to soccer (football) didn't happen, because the game was right in the street, if a car came by everybody would move and the car would come by very slow.

I was not really a part of them, I was a lowly American in their lives for 6 months with little interaction except standing in line for an ice-cream cone, or being that weird guy on a bike every day. That did not matter, that there was life, was enough. That I would be working in the afternoon and look out my window and see them playing and hear they having fun, that made me smile, that was enough.

So many places in America lack this for many reasons and sometimes it takes relative newcomers, sometimes from a different economic bracket, or cultural background, to truly see what we all have lost.

I wish I lived in an area where it was safe enough for kids to have fun outside and play, in a way this is and can be a start to a true livable street. Its one of the many things I truly miss about this part of Leeds.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Google maps link

I just got done watching a formatted version of Malls-R-Us on CBC TV. This Documentary came out last year and talks about the evolution of the malls in North America and around the world, it also goes into some detail about the feelings of users and what they are looking for, the mystical properties as well as what is left after the malls have been leapfrogged over. I recommend you try to catch a viewing of the full film, this was about half of the actual film, so I would like to see the whole film at some point.

I found it interesting, nothing new, and more of a nostalgic feeling for the loss of our malls. A feeling I don’t share in the least, I am glad they are dieing, and really, they can’t die fast enough. The picture I used on here is the North Country Shopping Center, and is not yet listed on the deadmalls website, however Champlain Center South is and looking at the area we have 3+ dead malls that tried to take advantage of the Canadians and their tax free shopping weekends. It is officially no more, it was destroyed last fall and now all that remains is an empty parking lot, a small bowling alley/bar a new theatre complex, and a billiards club across the street. The theatre is actually doing pretty well, considering the Regal we have in the main mall area is literally decrepit, but in a way so is that mall, despite the new Target stores and Best Buy.

I think its good for us to look upon the mall and what it brought to this country, and what it encouraged. As a planner (not officially yet) and as somebody who deeply cares about environmental effects, I hate mall development, I hate chain based shopping developments, and I hate car-centered monstrosities to our failed version of capitalism. Maybe I go to far in my dislike, but in the end, they have done little good for few people and have destroyed many, many communities in their rein of terror.

With that I take deep offense to an individual interviewed and focused on in the film, he is a developer in Canada that developed the West Edmonton Mall and is looking to develop and in the process of developing a huge mega "green retail community complex" outside of Montreal. His goal is to destroy one of the last sections of pristine forested land around Montreal and put up this eco-village/shopping experience with the goal of being the largest green development.

I literally got pissed as he talked about this; this is a bastardization of the term green, of the term sustainable, and the term eco. A shopping complex can not be green, ever, by definition, especially one designed in a pristine environmental sensitive forest (listed as such by the government) with man mad trout streams so "condo residents can launch a fly out their window and eat the trout for dinner” its pure bullshit is what it is. I realize I may be a bit more radical when it comes to development then many of the people in the field I wish to go into (planning, even if the focus is transportation) however, I have a firm belief that pretty much all new development is bad unless its done a certain way. If all products sold here were manufactured within 100, hell even 1000 miles of this mall, if parking were metered, if public transport and bike use were heavily encouraged, if the residents could get fresh local produce, then maybe it would be a better option, but not in one of the last pristine environments around Montreal. Nothing that is built on land with wetlands and that is ecologically sensitive can be green in any way.

Call me an idealist, yes I am, but I cant stand especially when developers call their project green, no its not green its like everything else with a couple trees.

There is no such thing as a sprawl green development; there is no such thing as a sustainable commercial experience where you can choose from millions of products and many hundreds of stores. There is no amount of mitigation that can truly offset the effects of developments like this.

Unfortunately I only see one thing stopping this mass consumerism masking as green, that is peak oil and energy and resource requirements, its the one thing I truly hold out hope for, knowing that once we start paying the true price for things that developments like this will be as deserted as the town around Chernobyl.

There is hope, but man things like this make me evaluate how much real progress we have made and what we have to deal with still.

What a week!

I have to say this week was pretty crazy and limited my ability to be on the bike every day. I biked in Monday with no problems.

Tuesday I biked in but conditions after 8pm and slick(and snowy) shoulders persuaded me to take a ride home, so the bike and I piled into the back of a Forester of a good friend who lives only a 1 mile from me and away we went.

Wednesday comes along and snow galore, I wake up at about 6inches of wet snow, the roads are a mess and the rural highway I live on barely has the road cleared, let alone my small 2 foot section of shoulder I ride on. Classes were still on so needed to come in for 11, had my friend pick me up on their way into town. It snowed throughout the day with classes canceling at 4pm that day with the promise for much more snow on Thursday; I had a classmate bring me home.

The roads are clear mostly on Thursday thanks to warm temperatures around 39, it was very wet with lots of water but unfortunately the shoulders were only about 6in to 1 foot along the 2 mile rural rout I have to travel before I get to wider roads. So once again, my friend and her husband were carpooling into town so picked me up and made it to my 9:30 class. I had another good co-op friend bring me home that night, it was late due to Sign class so can be tricky for the people I know since most are home by the time I need to come home.

Today I brought the bike out as the roads were just fine, enough melting had happened to give me a shoulder into town, I knew it would be wet but that’s ok, I don’t mind too much.

Indeed, it was quite wet, I always forget that my front fender is only meant to prevent spray into my face and is crap at keeping it off the chain, my feet, or my legs. I cant wait for the full fenders on my Breezer, that being idk when it will get ridden in the rain since I will be very reluctant to ride it in messy weather!

Oh and the sidewalk was actually cleared! However as is typical the badly designed separated cycle path was not cleared. This city does a horrid job of cleaning sidewalks, mostly because it puts the responsibility on the citizen to do it, so in the areas where nobody lives, it does not get cleared, or in homes with old ladies, its not cleared. This is of course exasperated by the fact that the crews clearing the roads overnight need a place to put the snow and thus designate sidewalks as a dumping ground making snow banks of 2-3 feet in some locations and leaving maybe 1 foot clear right next to the building.

Next week should be better, in good news the temps are warming a bit, which I always welcome!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

from: Imagine No Cars

Imagine No Cars: Thoughts on Alternative Transportation and Urban Design: I was Almost Killed Last Night Because of a Bunch of Redneck Fucks

Post over there from CarFree Stupidity on a very close encounter with a car in what would otherwise be attempted assault with a deadly weapon (or should be if state law classified a car as a weapon which it commonly can be). His extremely close encounter, I will leave you to read it, its scary, is thankfully nothing I have every come into contact with or had an issue with, I have been honked at, yelled at and other things, but never truly feared for my life
Remember, stay safe out there, many people hate cyclists on the road and all they need is Glen Beck or others to go off on a rant before they take matters into their own hands and start attacking. Its not paranoia, its reality, and until you ride a bike daily, you will never truly know

Stay safe, be prepared, be courteous, and when needed, ride like the wind.

Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits - The Slow Issue - GOOD

Trying out my first post with the blogthis! option on Google chrome. I was reading this the other day from and if you do not know about them, I highly recommend them as a read on all sorts of issues. Anyway, this one was especially important because it involves the urban growth boundary and its effects.

Now I am a huge fan of the boundary, yes I know it stymies development, that’s the point, too much is developed too fast without people truly seeing the cost. No not all development is bad, but unfortunately, my view is, and that most is. Downtowns are empty while we push further and further out, people sometimes think that they want more space and more "freedom" but reality usually hits them hard after a couple years when they figure out that indeed that is not what they are getting and so they want to move further out to get away from everybody else.

That is not what we should be doing, the boundary in this case, for all its faults, has allowed local food to be huge in a large metropolis, it has pushed urban densities to where a world class transit solution is viable, it has allowed cyclability at huge percentages (for the US) and has enabled Portland to be a microbrew haven. This would not have happened without the boundary and it needs to be placed in more cities and states.

We love Vermont for all its natural beauty and old traditional New England towns, that was not possible without the growth roadblocks that were set up many years ago, that prevent Wal-Mart from taking over the state, that encourage local production and farming and that allow limited smarter growth. Yet time after time we see the same people who yearn for the Vermont life, voting for this development or that shopping complex when it comes time due to, "expanding the tax base" it never does and never will. It is a myth in all but the smallest communities, and even then, once the long-term social costs have been taken into account, it’s truly rare that a community truly benefits from strip development. There is a cost to this and its time people in positions of power at the city and state level realize this and make amends before we all end up like another suburb of Los Angelus, disconnected from each other, with little public transportation, and few true open spaces.

All development is not bad, but most is, and until the first thought of planners and planning boards is not to allow that new development, but to make sure the downtowns are filled with mixed residential/commercial buildings, encouraging walkable communities, and encouraging cycling and other active transportation, and focus on true densities and mass transit options, things will not change.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

rant time at the bar and grill

I don’t want to get into detail now as I have to finish studying for a geology test tomorrow as well as a bunch of other things but nonetheless wanted to update. Yep its a rant, sorry about that.

I think I mentioned here that I submitted a grant proposal for new cycle racks on campus through the campus Green Grant fund. This is student money raised by an optional fee that can be used toward student projects throughout campus.

I had an 8000$ (max) bid in for new proper hoop racks as the first stage in creating proper cycle infrastructure and parking on campus. I had full support from faculty and staff on the allocation committee but was whittled down to less then 6000 by some of the student representatives who I consider my friends, unfortunately I could not attend the decision making meeting, and there was no place for me to attend anyway. However one of the students felt that two or so racks "over here somewhere will be fine" so I guess I should be lucky anything came through. However to do a proper plan for campus would involve 30,000$ in racks both at classes and dorms, plus more for proper covered parking at both classes and dorms. I could take every bit of that fund that’s left and put it to use within 6 months and have results on the ground

I am pissed though and it means that I will, instead of working for outside sources be back for more. We have 2/3 of 26,000$ that are not allocated and are sitting in a fund not making money, just sitting there and they could not give me an extra ~2000$ to bring in more racks and do a proper first phase roll out. I will be writing a letter to the campus newspaper as the students involved did this to my project, as well as to a bid for recycling containers outside around campus, and that is not acceptable to me and shouldn’t be acceptable to any student who paid the fee and is seeing NO results on campus. Of all the projects supported so far (6) mine is the MOST visible with the fastest turnaround in terms of installation of any project, current and past. It took a year before our bio-diesel converter even got online and its still not fully operational, yet certain students feel the need to nickel and dime me to death on a subject they know NOTHING about. I am a transportation planner (in training) this is what I do, I do the research, and I know what cyclists need on campus. I am sick of non-cyclists dictating to me what is best for me and other cyclists, I know they don’t know the subject, which is why they should defer to somebody who does. I don’t tell a firefighter how to fight a fire, because I am not one, it’s the same deal.

This is a power trip pure and simple, it’s a lack of forward thinking and vision and an acceptance and love of mediocrity that it seems permeates this campus and the North Country. Its not like we were out of money or anything, so once again most of the fund money goes unused and just sits there doing nothing for another year.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A deer in the headlights (or the bike light actually)

Well saw my first deer up close tonight cycling home about 8:20pm. It was located about where the yellow marker is in the above imagine from Google Earth. I saw a deer in the fall much closer to home, but it was many many yards ahead of me and way out of my headlights, this one was right next to the road in a fallowed field on the lake side of the road I ride on. I am very quiet when riding, my bike is well oiled and everything, but i did have a good amount of tire noise since I was going about 17mph on this stretch, it jumped up and bounded out away from the road.

I like commuting in a rural environment but I am always scared I am going to have a deer or other large animal jump out in front of me and I wont be able to stop. Granted I am not moving that fast but still there is a risk, especially since I am practically silent running and so an animal may think it safe. I am lit up like a Christmas tree so hopefully that's enough to keep most things away.

always an interesting ride home...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Butter making success!!!

Wooo! Second time is the charm apparently!

So I first tried basic make at home butter making with an electric mixer about 2 weeks ago or so, right after I came back to school, well that turned out ok, but I didn't mix it enough at all, it was a pain, a mess and made lots of dirty dishes :P. I used an 8oz container of Organic Valley whipping cream. It was still good for sure but not quite what I expected or what I really wanted.

Tonight that all changed! I used much more (1oz) of heavy whipping cream from Evans Farmhouse over in Norwich NY (near Binghamton). Their milk and yogurt is wonderful, its non-homogenized and low temp pasteurized, so all the goodness is inside! (NYT article on them and other artisan milk and butter makers)

Starting from this base, I used a large frozen bowl and started the electric mixer going. It took way longer then I expected and I think if I had let it sit more and warm up to room temp or let it sour just a tad that it would have gone faster, it took about an hour with the hand held electric mixer, such that I thought I had somehow done something wrong!

However the trick is to keep tasting it as you go, and I could taste and feel the itty bitty fat globules as I went along so I knew it was working right, suddenly it sloshed up with the butter sticking to the sides and buttermilk sloshing in the bottom!


With 1/2 of it wrapped and in the freezer and the other 1/2 out to be used (its wonderful on my cinnamon bread I made yesterday) I declare complete success. I also have almost exactly 8oz of buttermilk meaning I was able to recover almost all of it and washing didn't turn up too much.

A picture will be forthcoming

in the meantime, this is the site I used to help me along the way, and I found it very useful for background as well as pictures during the process.

What our Food tells us about ourselves

In many ways we are actually what we eat and this article over at the blog for planetizen highlights some specific areas using GIS data that tell us a lot about ourselves as a country.
For thoes who don't know what Planetizen is, it is a:
public-interest information exchange provided by Urban Insight for the urban planning, design, and development community.

It has listings of jobs as well as books graduate schools and really lots of other very interesting and useful links and ideas for people in the planning field, especially people my age in undergraduate programs.

The blog entry I am highlighting was a quick mention of a new resource from the USDA, the Farm to school network, CDC, and the University of Illinois, Chicago(which has a good planning grad program actually) (among others). I was looking through the online Atlas, which gives an online visual representation to the data that was compiled by the group for this resource. It involves obesity percents by country, farmers markets, distance to food markets, restaurant expenditures, junk food taxes, percentage of fast food restaurants; big box stores and a whole lot more.

This data will be extremely interesting in raw form and put into a GIS database and manipulated to see more trends then the basic ones provided on the viewer. I was very excited to see this and I cant wait to have the time to take a look at the data and do some work normalizing data to population or land area to find some truly significant trends, as the article from ediblegeography (highlighted by planetizen) talks about looking at just diabetes rates, you can clearly see the significant proportion of the population in the south and south eastern US suffer from this health issue. Compare that to the %weight of fruits and vegetables eaten and you see that in this category the south does not consume as much as the west, east and west coast, is this a significant trend? I personally think so but you can look at the data and decide for yourself.

From planetizen via ediblegeography

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The cold kills things I think...

sorry updates and posts are sparse, with limited time and very limited energy its hard to get on here and get something moving. I will try but never fear I am still at it and will update when I can.

that said, my nifty little trip odometer suddenly stopped working this afternoon after a week and a day of service... I think the cold might have done it in actually bit I honestly dont know, I am quite disappointed really, as it was useful to have the time, speed, total distance, average speed and so forth on a nice little display.

in other news its still really cold, but no snow... unlike the rest of the east coast.