Wednesday, May 21, 2008


If one were to visit Minneapolis right now, it could be understood why someone would want to live here. May is one of my favorite months to be a Minnesotan. The bugs haven't really arrived (save the Noseeums around the Lakes), the days are clear and warm, the nights are starlit and cool and the perfume of crabapple trees and flowers fill the air. This is a magical time to live here and even better to bike. The heady scent of plant sex fills my commute and my yard is redolent with the blossoms of plum and pear trees.

It is when this occurs, me lovely Mrs and I get the garden ready. A trip to the garden center, some quality time with a rented tiller (ask me about my arms and back some time) and the planting begins. We here at the Yam household enjoy cooking, and cooking with fresh herbs is the greatest treasure of all. I have a lovely herb garden that gets sun and heat, so all Summer long, we get the best of basil (Greek, Sweet and Holy), oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram, savory, rosemary and more lives happily under the kitchen window. What sweet toil it is to hoe this garden as the plants give up their scent as the tool nicks a leaf and to pick fresh herbs for dinners, lunches and, especially, weekend brunches.

Last year's refuse is turned into compost and makes this year's tomatoes and peppers. Heirloom tomatoes have turned into a passion for the Mrs and me and the nine types we've planted will be about the only joy I can summon during the miserable months of July and August. I'm glad they're good for something...

I've added a couple of new peppers to the mix this year; the Bhut Jolokia and it's equally devastating cousin, the Dorset Jolokia. Also, a Tobagan pepper called "7 pot" (due to it's ability to heat up 7 pots of stew) and some not so hots for everyday food -- Jalapeno, Serrano, some sweets for grilling and some for sauce. We also planted cucumbers (I love cucumbers) and zucchini (because a freshly picked handful tossed on the grill is a great treat).

It's a bunch of work, but I don't mind. I love the smell of fresh dirt and good compost, the act of wrestling a tiller down the block from the hardware store to the garden, the sweet agony of tilling ever more dirt -- our goal is rid ourselves of grass completely -- and satisfaction of looking at gardens with sweet black dirt and new life and the promise of fresh produce in the upcoming months.

Twenty years ago, if I knew this is how I'd be, the young me would laugh at the current me. But, I guess that's fair since the current me laughs at the old me. Delighting in flowers and hard-won produce is worth it. I just wish I could have talked me into doing this a lot earlier.

You know, I don't mind getting older...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bikin' to da Bar (Bike to work day radio mix)


Oh, others were trying it? Good for them. We had two occasionals and a newbie. Newbie rode in on a LeMond Zurich he bought used. $800 -- yow. Where can I find a deal like that?

Biked to Town Hall after work in the most splendiferous of days we've had this year. Fought a headwind (surprise!) but I didn't mind. I felt strong and made most of the lights on the way up Park. The Greenway was SRO with every kind of bike you could imagine and a one you probably didn't. Some Dude was cruisin' east with a cruiser with apehangers and Maltese Cross rear view mirrors, multiple horns and bells and a trailer with his cat in it. Don't see that every day. Chatted with him and as I left was serenaded with a blast of horns and bells. A one-man-band-cycle...

Lots of bikes around Seven Corners tonight and everyone was in a good mood -- cars, buses, bikes, bladers, etc. Rode home in the gloaming back along the Greenway to Nicollet.

It's a good day to be in Minneapolis.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Your cultural notice of the week

Saturday night will bring the inspired lunacy and hilarious hijinks of the Asylum Street Spankers. Get your tickets at the Cedar Cultural Center. So, step out of your safe, focus-groupped cultural bubble and join me and mine at the Cedar on Saturday. Heck, if you find me, I may even buy ya a drink...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy customer

I've been biking almost constantly and I have a Banjo Brothers messenger bag as my glove box, trunk, back seat and front floor. It's been a companion pretty much since I've bought it and when it broke, I was heartbroken. Contacting the Banjos service department consisted of getting one of the Brothers themselves. "Mail it to this address and we'll fix it for you" was the reply. Since "this address" was on my way to Town Hall, I attempted to drop it off last Wednesday, but I was there after 5 PM and everyone was gone. I then stopped by yesterday and the fine folks at their warehouse made sure that one of the Banjos got it.

This morning I received an email that said that they fixed the strap and that they added a feature -- a D-ring to ease loosening the main strap. Nice touch. He then asked where to mail it, but when he found out that we're damn near neighbors, he said he'd drop it off at my house. Now, that's service. When I got home from work, my beloved bag was there, right as rain and there was a prize inside! I'm now an owner of a brand new medium seat bag. Now me darlin' Mrs has two Market Panniers and I have convinced my coworker to purchase one also (heck, I'll probably get a pair), so I was already a Banjo Bros. fan, but now after the service I received I guess I'm a, uh, super fan. Cleverly designed, well-built and now with a service that can't be beat.

They don't have the have the name like Crumpler or Chrome, but they don't have the price either. Plus, the designs are well thought out and eminently practical. If you are considering a new bag, you could do worse than check out the Banjos.

Thanks Eric and Co. You guys rock.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bikin' to da bar (beer induced bonk edition)

Yesterday was a near-perfect day for biking. Cool, clear skies, the scent of re-emerging life, cheerful people on the roads as if there were some cease-fire called between the cyclists and the cagers, a wonderful day. Except for the freakin' headwind. A spirit-grinding, consistent curse for those heading north -- like me, your humble narrator. I left work and headed into it with a coworker who also commutes by bike and neither of us were pleased.

But, so it goes.

I stopped at a warehouse to see if I could drop off my Banjo Brothers bag. I blew the strap anchor and emailed their warranty department which apparently consists of the owners themselves. I received an email back from Eric saying to mail it in and they'll take care of it but I noticed that the address is right off of the Greenway by Hiawatha. How convenient is that? Unfortunately, I was unable to get there in time and no one was there, so
I struggled my way to 7 corners and Town Hall and started my evening off with a pint of their new Maibock. Nice, malty brew with a hoppy snap on the finish.

I didn't eat much breakfast as I wasn't hungry and I didn't eat much lunch, so why should I eat dinner? Beer is as good as bread, innit? Well, the beer and the fatigue from pushing against the wind put the zap on me and I found myself too bonked to ride home. Beers+bonk is a bad combination, kids. So, with hung head I called for a ride. Mrs Yam, ever the patient and loving savior, swooped in and carried me and bike home where I ate a little and then crashed completely.

Monday, May 05, 2008

"Only poor people ride the bus..."

Huge increases in Metro Transit ridership for first quarter

More people rode Metro Transit buses and trains in the first quarter of 2008 than had in the same time frame over the last 20 years.

Some 19.2 million riders rode buses and trains the first three months of the year — up 1.3 million rides, and the most since 1984, according to a Metro Transit news release.

Metro Transit recorded ridership increases across all types of its service, paced by a 16.4 percent increase on the Hiawatha light-rail line. Three-month ridership was 2.1 million, the first time first-quarter ridership topped 2 million in the four-year history of light-rail service.

Locally, ridership was up 8.3 percent, and express bus ridership was up 4.3 percent.

Metro Transit officials said they are on track to meeting their goal of 78 million rides in 2008.

To make it easier to take the bus or train, Metro Transit implemented two new trip-planning features during the first quarter, enhancing online trip planners and adding maps.

Metro Transit, overseen by the Metropolitan Council, operates in metropolitan Minneapolis and St. Paul. For more information, go to

Is my neighborhood getting poorer? Considering the economic geniuses of the current administration, I suppose that could be so -- I'm not getting richer, that's for sure. Or could it be that people are sick of gas prices and getting around in other ways? A co-worker just traded in the Jeep for a new Ford Focus. He got tired of burning 4 gallons of gas a day to get to work.

Weekend off the bike

I don't what it is and it doesn't really matter, be it sinus infection, allergies or a cold, but I have been miserable lately. I'd write it off to allergies, but I have inflated sinuses and a pounding headache. But the itchy eyes tell me it isn't just a sinus thingy. And I'm sure the sore throat and cough are secondary ailments caused by whatever is bothering me.

Anyway, this toxic soup of misery has made any plans I have made worthless. Friday consisted of going home and sneezing and watching Rocky and Bullwinkle's Season 1 Disk 1 from Netflix. That lasted about an hour -- the jokes are really corny and the music and animation get on your nerves after a while. I'm going to cancel the rest of season 2 and the other disks that have been ordered.

Saturday started out nasty but turned into a nice enough day, but I just didn't have any steam for the HC ride. If you can't breathe, bicycling loses some of its charm. After the sun came out, we cleaned up the yard. Because, if you have allergies, molding leaves, decayed plant matter and dust are just what you need to set you right. Felt even crappier after that (but not as crappy as I thought I'd feel) and missed the blessing of the Maibock at Town Hall. Grilled a chicken instead and consoled myself with a pint or two out of a growler and went to bed early.

Sunday found me feeling better, so we went to hike and sightsee along the Minnesota River Valley. We took a nice drive to Fort Ridgely State Park and hiked there. Like the other parks along the river, this started out higher (it was a fort after all) and then took you down into the valley where a creek and the Minnesota River meet. A very nice 2.5 miler that was made even nicer by the gorgeous weather. We then followed the river back to the cities, stopping in St. Peter at the Co-op for lunch. We also got a stamp at Minnesota Valley where we hiked a year ago, but never found the mark for our "Passport."

Driving back up 169 was really unpleasant. After a day of country roads and no traffic, the speed, rudeness and general mayhem that is a freeway really jangles the nerves. I spent the day driving the speed limit, and in the Honda that means I get absolutely wonderful gas mileage. The 75 mph, bumper to bumper while completely surrounded by deepest, darkest suburbia's most repulsively titanic SUVs is not a good way to end a day. Well, I sorta can guess what the little furry mammal felt like, scurrying around the feet of the giant reptiles as the snow started to fall...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

KSTP - Busted!

Their fearmongering may backfire.

Assholes. Aren't there any immigrants or cripples you can go and pick on?