Wednesday, June 30, 2010

About the Worst Place to Leave a Couch

Somebody really put some thought into this. Outside Jefferson Elementary in North Park.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shiny Bits

My new-old Peugeot is the first bike I've worked on that doesn't need much more than cleaning. At some point before it's finished, I will probably repack the headset, hubs, and bottom bracket, but for now just a good cleaning, polishing, and oiling of the moving parts is about all that's required.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Encontro Nacional Bicicletas Antigas (Portugal)

My stewardship over the Old Bike Blog put me on the radar of the Portuguese organization "Men in Bike" who put on an annual event called the "National Meeting of Old Bikes." Someday, I would really like to go to this event. They also design a nice poster.
The group "men in bike” was created in 2000 in the town of Burinhosa, in the neighborhood Pataias, in the district of Leiria / Portugal. It was a group of friends that over the years started to organize events related to the two wheels. After a study, the group discovered that one of the first and most important means of transportation of the human being was going into oblivion, especially in Portugal. Because of this lack of valorization, the group decided to organize a meeting of Old Bikes, a novelty in this field in Portugal.

Also, see photos from last year's meeting.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

I was struck by a bit of phrasing from my friend Esteban's recent media crit piece on bicycling at FlowTV. He refers to bicycling as,
...a daily practice that eschews the motorized and energy-intensive progress of late modernity and espouses a slower and more sustainable model for how to build a life and a society...
I've been trying to write a post that says pretty much exactly that for a long time. I am especially enamored of the phrase "daily practice" because it imparts an almost meditative, or even a craft-like quality to bicycling.

Along somewhat similar lines, I have been thinking of bicycling as a humane practice, one that imposes little or nothing on those who share my environment: no noise pollution, no exhaust, no danger of being killed or injured. The only thing bicycling demands is consideration for fellow humans who travel by non-dominant means. Although this sometimes seems to be too much to ask, I do firmly believe that more bicycles on our roads means a more humane world for everyone, whether they ride or not.

The idea of bicycling as an entry into larger issues of morality, humanity, and ethical action, and not just boring media buzzwords like "sustainability" or "livability", is endlessly fascinating to me. It's something that Americans started thinking about in the 1890s and early 1900s, when bicycling was not only mainstream, but was, in fact, a quintessential expression of modernity. A return to thinking about the bicycles, along with riding them, is one of the most exciting (to me) things to come of the recent resurgence in bicycle popularity.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Challah Buns or Rolls

Challah is a traditional Jewish Sabbath egg bread, typically braided to form a handsome loaf, but challah dough can also be used to make tasty buns or rolls. My challah recipe comes from the oh-so-recommended Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition).

Dissolve 2 1/4 tsp. yeast in 1/2 cup warm water (about 5 minutes). Add 1/2 cup flour, 2 lightly beaten large eggs, 2 lightly beaten yolks (keep the separated whites for a wash later), 3 tbsp. vegetable oil, 3 tbsp. sugar, and 1 1/4 tsp. salt. I use a whisk to mix by hand until blended thoroughly. Then, gradually stir in 2 1/2 cups flour (I usually stir in a 1/2 cup at a time).  Knead the dough for 8 minutes, until elastic and smooth (it shouldn't stick to your hands). Put the dough in an oiled bowl (I use olive oil for this), and cover with a clean cloth to let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).

Punch down the risen dough, knead it a little, and put it back in the bowl, cover it, and put it in the fridge for 2-12 hours. I usually let mine rise in the fridge for about 3 hours, which seems to be fine.

For traditional braided challah, this is where the shaping of ropes and braids comes in, but for the rolls/buns, just divide the dough into six balls of equal size. Lightly oil a baking sheet (again, I use olive oil) and place the dough balls on it, covered, in a warm place for about 45 minutes. They will rise substantially, so don't worry if they look too small at this stage.

For baking, heat your oven to 375 degrees (F) and while it's heating, brush the dough balls with the egg whites (with a pinch of salt added, if you prefer). Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bottoms of the rolls sound hollow when tapped and the tops are golden brown. Let the rolls cool on a rack, and they're ready to be cut into buns for burgers or sandwiches, or used as sweet rolls for breakfast or snacks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quick and Easy Spanish Tortilla

I haven't posted a recipe for a while, so here's one I made last night. This is my typical "wife's not home for dinner" dinner, also known as the "minimum effort for maximum reward" dinner.

I slice half of a small potato into fairly thin slices, then cut the slices into chunks. I saute the potatoes in olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized sauce pan until soft (test with a fork), then add a small handful of chopped red onion for a few seconds. Whisk three eggs and pour them into the pan with the onion and potato. Then I grind a little black pepper over the top, turn down the heat, put the lid on the pan, and cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat, or until the center of the tortilla is firm.

I'm using a non-stick pan, which along with the olive oil, makes the tortilla easy to extract. While holding the lid firmly on the pot, flip the pot over so the tortilla falls into the lid, then up-end the lid onto a plate, and you're done. I usually add a little salt to taste after the tortilla comes out of the pan, and that's it. I've also had good luck adding rosemary to the mix before putting the lid on, but I'm not always in the mood for rosemary.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are These Slave Children?

I'd like to suggest that it doesn't matter if this photograph, recently discovered in North Carolina, actually depicts enslaved children, or if it depicts free or emancipated children. Their unspeakably sad faces and tattered clothing could be read as evidence of a slave regime's brutal cruelty, or it could be something else. Only those children will know for sure.

The bill of sale that accompanied the photograph for a slave named "John" seems to correspond with one of the children, who has also apparently been identified as "John." This provides some evidence for the assumption that these children, or at least one of them, was enslaved at some point, but we don't really know for sure if these children, as they sat for this photograph, were in fact enslaved, free, or recently emancipated.

The assumption that nineteenth-century photographs of Southern blacks depict slaves or conditions of slavery is a pernicious one. Because relatively few photographs of actual verified slaves exist from the pre-Civil War period, historians frequently rely on post-emancipation photographs to provide visual evidence for the conditions of slavery, the assumption being that the material conditions of black life in the South were not vastly different after 1865 than they had been during slavery. Fair enough.

But the implicit assumption that black life is equivalent to slavery, no matter what the era actually depicted, or the actual legal status of the people represented, runs the very significant risk of assigning an immutable association of "slave" to any photographic depiction of nineteenth-century blacks.

This is not to say that historians should not use what photographic evidence is available to them, or that they should ignore the very real fact that the majority of black Americans before 1865 were indeed held in slavery, or that black life in the post-emancipation South did not materially differ in many ways from slavery.  Rather, I would argue, the two sad boys in the photo above tell us less about slavery than they do about a broader and richer swath of American history that, yes, includes slavery, but like these children, need not be defined by it.


I've never been one of those here's-everything-I-do-every-day kind of bloggers. I suspect that most readers are grateful for this without realizing it. An average entry would be something like this:

"Didn't sleep well last night. Having a hard time getting going on work this morning. Got a few hours of writing done, though. Worried about the deadline. Made some pizza crusts to freeze for later in the week this afternoon. Did a little more work before bed."

Wow. That's pretty thrilling, huh? But there are other things that are slightly more exciting, or even just things that I come across on the Interwebs that are worth sharing, but out of sheer laziness, I don't post them here. I'm going to start trying to do it more often, though, so look out world, I've got some bloggerin' to do.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I discovered yesterday that the "Golden Hill Gateway" trail connects the neighborhoods of North Park and Golden Hill, running alongside the golf course. Who knew? Probably a lot of people. Anyway, I took this photo yesterday and monkeyed with the effects. This is right alongside the golf course and there are signs warning you that you might be beaned by a golf ball, so watch out. Soothing.