Sunday, November 14, 2010


Also posted on Recipes and Ruminations

I'm baking.

Yup, you heard me right, I'm baking.  I feel as if I'd just taken off the training wheels, or, better yet, found myself wobbling upright on my own two legs.  I wish I could explain the feeling of accomplishment I feel right now.  30+ years of "there's no way I can learn to do this" is washed away in one weekend of "shut up and try."

I stumbled across a web site called The Fresh Loaf and followed the first lesson.  I don't know why this was such a challenge for me, but I decided to make a loaf of bread.  Perhaps the simplicity of the instructions, the fact that I wanted more than anything to bake, the fact that I needed to feel a victory, I can't say, but I mixed flour, salt, and yeast with water, and worked the dough by hand.

Confession time: I hate the feeling of dough clinging to my hands, clumps between my fingers, that sensation of stickiness drives me nuts.  This may have something to do with my fear of baking.

I managed to get past the feeling of the wet dough (with the help of lots of flour) and created a smooth, satiny final product -- that didn't stick to my hands, much to my relief.  It raised, I punched it down and shaped it, it raised again and I put it in an oven.  It baked and I had bread.

That's it.  "Golly, that's all there is to this?"  I felt sort of stupid.  Huh, that wasn't hard at all.  So, I pulled out my bread baking books (I have a couple) and took a look at the first recipes.

I made the first recipe from  Jim Lahey's My Bread, an artisan loaf that is simply made by mixing flour, yeast, salt, and water and letting it set for a 18 hours.  You then roughly shape the loaf and let it ferment a second time and drop it in a hot Dutch Oven or casserole dish and cook it at high heat for 30 minutes and then with the lid off until the loaf browns.

This loaf is amazing.  The smell, the crumb, the taste, the texture and the crust are just something to behold.  I was convinced to purchase this cookbook by a focaccia recipe in the local paper.  I managed to make one (actually two; with first, the non-stick pan's "non-stick" coating flaked into the bread, ruining it) and I was impressed with the ease of it.  He gave me the confidence to try a "real" bread and you can see the result.

I then followed the basic recipe from Ed Brown's The Tassajara Bread Book and this is the opposite of the "fire and forget" Jim Lahey recipe.  You make a wet "sponge," let it sit, and then add oil, salt and more flour and then knead the dough, let it rise, then punch it down and let it rise again.  You then split the dough into loaves, shape them and then let them rise once again in the bread pans.  You finally bake it.  This is the labor-intensive loaf that most people (especially me) fear.  The true amount of time needed is considerably less than you would think, so the work is worth it and kneading the dough is fun.

I've much more to learn and a long way to go, but I'm having a blast and I've essentially conquered a fear or overcome a prejudice or basically improved myself in a non-destructive manner.  Go, me!  I had no idea that flour and/or yeast was an addictive substance...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's been a while

Been busy, so here's a sweet little song to tide you over

Yeah, I can't help it, I'm a sucker for cute pop songs and especially ones with a jangly guitar...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The streets are paved with AWESOME!

(This image was stolen from Rigtenzen, and I give him posthumous credit.  He may not be dead, I don't know, but this is his...)

I've just stopped flinching on the last turn to my home on the ride from work. The fine folks at the Minneapolis Public Works recently milled off some of the streets and then paved them over with brand new tarmac.

OOHHHH that's gonna be nice.

There were a couple of bicyclist-crippling potholes in my path and I've finally stopped having to adjust my line and panic when I don't immediately see them. Thank you to all of the fine folks that made things happier for me!

It's funny how used one gets to a small tic to avoid a larger unpleasantness, anticipating the bad street, the well-known pot hole, the traffic one expects when coming to a familiar street.  It's nice lose one once in a while.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sweet video

From my buddy Lee:

Of course, I have neither the sweet old ride, the hair nor the style. I don't care, I feel the same regardless...

[Edit] Nor the video either.  Sorry for the bother.

[Edit the second] Fuck Vimeo. Praise Youtube. Video restored.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm happy to be here

I was returning from beers at Town Hall, I decided to take the bridge to Cedar. As I was descending, I missed a turn and ended up literally sideways -- on my knee and the bike on its side. This is a "bad" part of town by common knowledge, but when I ended up ass-over-teakettle, there were a several people in cars and a couple walking by that inquired as to my well being.

I just ended up stopping faster than my load, and I'm fine and I state as much to every one around. I am grateful to all the inquired about me and I will say that I escaped with just a scraped knee and increased appreciation for my fellow citizens here in the Minne-Apple.

Life is really pretty good here in Portlandia East...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

And there was much rejoicing!

The prodigal Dummy returns!

I received a PM from someone on with a phone number to call. Apparently, some homeowners found in their front yard. Whomever helped themselves to it, gave up trying to push it, I left it around 28th and the Parkway (about 48th St, for those not from the 'hood) and it was left at 16th and 50th. The neighbors wondered if one of the folks got a new bike and someone else had notified the police.

Anyway, the homeowners returned from the cabin and saw this strange bike in their yard. Mr noticed the stickers and general strangeness of the bike's appearance and called a local bike shop (Angry Catfish) asking if they knew anything about this bike. I think the PM I received was from someone at AC. They gave me the homeowner's phone number and I went and got it.

I'm utterly amazed at the bike community here. Jaw-dropping, sobbingly astounded at the speed at which some of this stuff happens. I'm truly grateful to all involved, and that includes you, dear readers. Your posts with the picture, the calls to action. I love you all. Thanks.

Beers to be delivered to parties involved in the rescue of my great green behemoth.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Dumvee is missing!

After beers last night, I thought it would be better to take a cab home, so I locked up the Dummy and went home. This morning I went to retrieve it and it is missing. Last seen in the area around 34th and the Parkway. If you see it, please leave a message here.

My heart is breaking...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Rigtenzin asks...

...the yamster delivers.

Anyone up for a beer or more at the Falls on Friday? I'll be there as I'm Bachelor For A Day due to the loverly Mrs' departure to all points North. 4:30 or thereabouts. Hijinks may follow (or lead, I'm easy).

Number One with a bullet...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Show of hands...

 ...who's riding today?

I am.

Lanny called the Winter Pub crawl for the last Sunday in January.  I can hardly wait.  Weather's gotta be better than this.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Meta biking - the hot Surly-on-Surly action mix

I had to leave a bike at work on Wednesday, so Thursday I took the bike I had taken to work that morning home on the bike that I had left the evening previous.  I ride past my wife's uncle's house and he shouts, "What, one bike isn't enough?  How many bikes do you need?"  How many bikes do you need?  I don't know, how many golf clubs do you need?  How many TVs?  How many cars?

Answer to my uncle-in-law's query: NC+1 where NC is the number of current bicycles owned.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's been good to know ya...


Ominous reports are leaking past the BP Gulf salvage operation news blackout that the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico may be about to reach biblical proportions.

251 million years ago a mammoth undersea methane bubble caused massive explosions, poisoned the atmosphere and destroyed more than 96 percent of all life on Earth. [1] Experts agree that what is known as the Permian extinction event was the greatest mass extinction event in the history of the world. [2]

55 million years later another methane bubble ruptured causing more mass extinctions during the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM).

The LPTM lasted 100,000 years. [3]

Those subterranean seas of methane virtually reshaped the planet when they explosively blew from deep beneath the waters of what is today called the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, worried scientists are increasingly concerned the same series of catastrophic events that led to worldwide death back then may be happening again-and no known technology can stop it.

The bottom line: BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation may have triggered an irreversible, cascading geological Apocalypse that will culminate with the first mass extinction of life on Earth in many millions of years.

The oil giant drilled down miles into a geologically unstable region and may have set the stage for the eventual premature release of a methane mega-bubble.


The warning signs of an impending planetary catastrophe—of such great magnitude that the human mind has difficulty grasping it-would be the appearance of large fissures or rifts splitting open the ocean floor, a rise in the elevation of the seabed, and the massive venting of methane and other gases into the surrounding water.

Such occurrences can lead to the rupture of the methane bubble containment—it can then permit the methane to breach the subterranean depths and undergo an explosive decompression as it catapults into the Gulf waters. [6]

All three warning signs are documented to be occurring in the Gulf.

S'pose I just ought to quit my job and bike until the end comes. Why face the hammer behind a desk...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rebuilding MKS Grip King Pedals

The left pedal on the DumVee was starting to click more and more, driving me to distraction.  While purchasing a chain for the MTB, I mentioned the clicking to Jim at HCHQ.  He suggested that I pry the dust cap off and squirt some grease in it.  I went home with a plan...

After prying off the end cap, I saw that there was a nut, a slotted washer and a cone -- all of which were accessible and easily removed.  This allowed me to completely disassemble the pedal, save the bearing (which were in good condition) and clean and re-grease the whole thing.  Here is a picture of the tools I used and the parts when the pedal is disassembled:

After cleaning everything, I put a good squirt of grease in the crank arm side of the pedal and put 12 bearings in, covering them with grease.  I then took the end cap and put it on, slotted side pointing away from the crank arm like this:

I then slid the pedal on, squirted another good shot of grease into the race and replaced the bearings. Covering the bearings with yet some more grease, I screwed on the cone until the pedal ground just slightly since it will loosen up when I ride it.  Sliding on the washer and tightening the nut so that the pedal turned and putting the dust cap back on completed the task. 

It rides without noise now and I have found another reason to buy the good stuff: you can fix it.  Woo-hoo!  Success.

Of course there is a little tragedy in every victory, and in this case I was said victim.  I drained the degreaser into a soda can I had next to me in order to easily retrieve the bearings.  Later that evening whilst cleaning up, I gathered up all the cans (Mrs. Yam had cleaned out the car) and I shook one of them, noticing that there was a swallow left in my soda.

That's not Diet Coke...

I spewed citrus degreaser so hard the dog jumped and started barking.  But, no lasting damage as my taste buds are finally functioning perfectly this morning.  Citrus degreaser doesn't taste like orange juice.  Just sayin'.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The loneliness of the short distance commuter...

Others have been prattling on about Bike to Work Week and the festivities and breakfasts and bike busses and whatnot.  I don't get to do any of that as I don't work downtown, but in a second ring suburb that, if not encourages, at least tolerates, bicyclists.  I ride through the warm, flabby grandmotherly arms of Richfield and I rarely see anyone on a bike save an occasional QBP guy heading south.

I don't mind though.  It's nice to have a little quiet time and I've been riding the DumVee because it's slow and I can put my messenger bag in the back and live without SBS (sweaty back syndrome).  I wave to moms and kids waiting for the bus, avoid getting crushed by the garbage trucks that hurtle through the neighborhoods and generally enjoy the morning.  Many mornings, I'll wave at the garage man -- he's a fellow that has a table and chair set up inside his garage and he just watches traffic go by.  Sometimes it seems that he'll be there all day because I'll pass by him in the morning and on the way back home in the afternoon.

Bike to Work Week is a little silly, anyway.  Every week is Bike to Work Week for me.  Try to make that way for you too.

Friday, June 04, 2010

S24O anyone?

Anyone up for a group S24O?  I would like to be able to grab a tent and some friends for an evening of biking, beers and a campfire-cooked meal.  In an attempt to make this a family-friendly affair, I don't think that we'd go all that far and we needn't go all that fast -- perhaps a lazy spin to Baker for a night?  If you are interested, scribble in the comment section and we can perhaps get a date and a destination chosen.

Also, the second Friday is coming up and I do believe that we need to meet for beers again (does anyone see a thread here?)  If anyone wants to make Snak Shak's Make-A-Wish happen a second time, lemme know...

Added: OB says Sea Salt is fine, so we'll be there starting at 4:30 or so.  You needn't any more of an invitation than this, so join us one and all, even if you weren't in the thread or at the last one.  Just look for the fat guy with a Big Dummy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Never fails...

Sure, it's beautiful this week.  I take last week off and it was cold and rained all bloody week -- no gardening or bike rides as I had hoped.  Friday was nice and I finally got out for a slow, tourist-like ride around the lakes and the Greenway to the river.  Stopped by HCHQ and chatted with the lads and then got to play Make-A-Wish  for Snak Shak; a couple of local folks stopped by the Falls and drank beers in the utterly gorgeous Minneapolis evening.

Well, at least I was able to accomplish one goal last week: I got all of the junk out of the office and organized it a bit.  Two car loads of junk.  That's a lot of junk.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Neologism (perhaps)

As I was biking into work this fine day, fighting a hill and the wind, a lad of perhaps 10 or 12 years old was roaring down the hill with the wind at his back.  The exuberance with which he waved and the million candlepower grin on his face was enough to make me soar up the hill and ignore the wind for the rest of my short trip.

The joy expressed by that little guy made me think of a (possible) new word for commuting by bicycle:


The simple act of enjoying your trip.  You know, this:

not this:

Have a good ride..

Ed: I have failed to consult the great hive mind that is Teh Grate Gazoogal

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Been riding, not writing

I've been commuting on the Trucker and I'm impressed.  It's been a long time since I've ridden a bike with 700c wheels (15+ years) and I had forgotten the feeling of "rolling."  It's an amazingly comfortable bike and now that I've taken the rack from the Bleriot and put it on the LHT, it has become quite a bit more useful and an outstanding bicycle for getting to work.

When I first returned to biking, I went from a Specialized hybrid to the Rivendell Bleriot, a jump in magnitude akin to leaving the rutted and muddy oxcart trails

for the TGV

Adding the LHT wasn't so much a revolution as an evolution.  The Bleriot handles well enough, but with the smaller 650b tires and the low bottom bracket, I snag a pedal fairly often while pedaling around a turn.  I've just now un-learned the "no pedaling while cornering" habit and that has made quite a difference in commuting.  The feel of the bike along with the larger tires gives a completely different ride and I've come to really like the impression of ease of motion I get with the Trucker.

I am looking forward to adding a front rack and getting on the road for a little camping and/or distance riding with it.  The Bleriot has a many good features, but touring is most definitely not its strong suit -- especially with a load much beyond my expansive posterior.  I've added a Minnehaha Bag Company Medium Bag to it after moving the rack to the Trucker.  I'll probably get some bigger tires for it and use it as a day-tripper.  I've also a mind to sell it and save up for the Pugsley that I've been dreaming of.

Anyway, the stable is, uh, stable for now and I'm looking forward to riding more, but that will probably wait for a couple of weeks yet as the gardens need planting.  More on this later.

TTFN, Yam.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Gardening without misery

I was able to help the lovely and charming Mrs Yam clear up part of the yard today. Typically, I find myself later convulsing with swollen sinuses, dibilitating fits of sneezing and a temporary blindness due to my eyes swelling shut. I would attempt to alleviate the symptoms with anti-hystemines and a neti pot.

This year, none of that happened. I began getting alergy shots last fall and continued faithfully with the regimen throughout the winter and now I'm seeing the benefits of the shots. I'm thrilled to see that they actually work and I am looking forward to May and August this year (tree pollens and ragweed pollens, respectively) as months that I can see, hear, smell and taste without the use of allergy medicines.

It may not be for you, but if you are the least bit curious, I heartily endorse it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

So, the League of American Wheelmen brought forth their own destruction?

This was brought to my attention (h/t mississippifarian) by Luke Frankl about a the book Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes (whew!) According to Mapes' book:
The bike became established through much of the world in the years around the turn of the twentieth century. In Europe, the bike became an accepted means of transportation and achieved an enduring place in adult society. But in the U.S., the bicycle seemed to literally pave the road for the motorcar.... Hiram Maxim, who worked with [bicycle pioneer Albert] Pope on his first automobiles, described the bicycle not as an end in itself, but as the consciousness raiser that led to the car:
The reason why we did not build mechanical road vehicles before this, in my opinion, was because the bicycle had not yet come in numbers, and had not directed men's minds to the possibilities of independent, long-distance travel over ordinary highway. We thought the railroad was good enough. The bicycle created a new demand which it was beyond the ability of the railroad to supply. Then it came about that the bicycle could not satisfy the demand which it created. A mechanically propelled vehicle was wanted instead of a foot propelled one and we now know that the automobile was the answer.

And, so to continue my utter lack of effort in researching anything in this post, we have Luke's conclusion:
So the invention of the bicycle held the seed to its own destruction.

I will mention, in a pathetic attempt to add something of my own to this post, that the Hiram Maxim mentioned in the top quote invented both the mousetrap and the ultimate mousetrap, the Maxim machine gun.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What daylight savings?

It's now dark when I get up and ride to work...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sweet -- Google comes through again!

It appears that Google has completed its beta alpha testing of the new "Get Directions" software and the "go by bike" option is now live.  I haven't played with it yet, but I'm excited to see how it compares to Cyclopath for route generation.

Sadly, it is not available on my Android phone yet.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


So my fellow commuters are shedding their studs (e.g., Snak Shak and VelociPete), but I remain firm I will not remove the Nokians until at least April.

Hmmph. So there.

But there is nothing wrong with perhaps riding a bike that doesn't have studs? I need to get some fenders for the new LHT and I'm set. I've been jonesing to ride it since I purchased it and now the time is right. But the threat of rain this week has me in search of fenders. So I'm studded until my fenders have been installed.

Wetbutt sucks.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Shaken, not deterred

Luckily, I'm not posting this from a hospital bed or the morgue.

This morning I've the closest of close calls while riding to work. Typically my ride is essentially through suburban streets, but there is one choke point. Interstate 35 splits south of the Twin Cities and runs like two great scars on either side of the Mississippi river. One of these gashes slice through my commute at a rather dangerous intersection:

I enter this morass from the east on southbound Emerson Ave.  The two other yellow "streets" astride 35W are the entrance/exit ramps and these intersect 66th with street lights.  Today the lights and traffic were with me and I crossed 66th at Emerson and got on the sidewalk along the south side of 66th.  I waited for the light to change for the off ramp and crossed on the green.  The highway passes over the intersection and the westbound side has three lanes; two for westbound traffic and one turn lane for the entrance to 35W south.  I have come to expect that people turning across traffic to enter the freeway will not see me if I'm on the sidewalk or crossing the intersection as they're looking downstream for a gap in traffic so that they cross and accelerate. 

This morning, I saw a person in an SUV and on their cell phone poised to turn and I wanted to make sure that I stayed well clear of someone who was not looking.  Eastbound traffic was heavy and I thought I was clear to cross the intersection when someone entering the ramp from eastbound 66th almost turned onto me.  I looked ahead just in time to give little strangled yelp as I stared into the oncoming SUV.  Luckily, we both managed to brake before someone (aka me) got hurt.  We stared at one another for a moment and then he backed up to let me pass -- right into another person turning onto the entrance ramp.

This fellow wasn't having a good morning and as I watched the woman of the stricken car get out to asses the damage, the SUV driver growled a "just go on" as he went to face the next horror of his morning.  I'm sure I will be the "some asshole on a bike" in his story at work, but I did have the right of way.  Not that it means much, but my wife and other survivors could have taken solace in that fact...

As I mentioned in my previous post -- stay frosty.  This is not spring and don't be like the tourist cagers, there is still March to contend with and I expect a lot of snow before I get to plant my radishes in six weeks.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dangerous times

These are the times that try Midwesterner's souls. Oh, sure, the air temperature is 30F (-1C) degrees, but what temp was it when you got on your bike this morning? 4F (-15C)? Did you really believe the weather guy (or Weather Guy) when you got up and saw the long term forecast?

I know how it is; you see the sun when you ride in the morning and it's still up when you go home at night. The terrible divots in the street (at least in the Twin Cities) have melted with the "spring." Temps are in the 30's (single digits below zero for those with a sane temperature measurement) and you think that Spring is on its way.

Listen up and remember you're a Minnesotan, buddy. Ain't freakin' happening, okay? Don't fall for it! Keep your head boy! There's the whole month of March ahead, capiche? A little sunlight, a little thawing and you lose your head? Keep your sh*t together! It ain't over yet, not by a damn sight.

I see the glare ice on my way to work. I have a new bike I'm dying to ride, but guess what, it doesn't have studded tires and the roads aren't ready. Sure they look good on the way home, but when the temp is 4F (-15C) when you're on your way in and the streets are a deadly frosting, those studs will keep you alive! This ain't a drill, son. Spring isn't just around the corner.

A little sunlight, a clear path, doesn't a Spring make. You've gotta stay frosty. Don't be like the tourists in their cars that fall for this shit. Their spirits bob up at the first sign of daylight, but they forget about the March snowstorms. It ain't over yet!

Old Man Winter's back may be broken, but the bastard has a couple of tricks up his sleeve. Don't fall for this shit, keep it together boy! April, that's when we can start to breathe easy -- and not even then. We're Minnesotans and doubting weather is one of our greatest strengths -- don't give that up. Stay cool and you'll make it past this false warmth.

Things will loosen up around July, if not before...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Deep snow or not plowing

I worked at the liquor store last night and the 1.5 mile ride took 25 minutes. Deep snow is not my friend...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another addition to the stable

...and now one must go.

Talked to Jim at HCHQ and ended up with a used LHT; damn that man and his vodoo.

I'm now at the point where where the One In One Out applies.  In this case the Bleriot has to go, so it's on the block and up for sale for any serious bid.

I am selling the Bleriot, but not happily.  This has been the bike that restored my love for two-wheeled transportation, a joy for riding and the realization that biking has to be anything but painful, slow and ugly.  The Bleriot is a beautiful bike and I get complements from it when I ride and I never really thought that anybody cared or noticed anybody else's bike.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


As I age, I am noticing that I am less flexible than I was.  Partly due to office work, partly due to the fact I don't stretch, but I have noticed it quite a bit this winter.  I've heard good things about yoga, but I have some questions and I don't know where to start asking.

I'm a fat guy that needs to stretch, but I don't really want to join just any class.  I'm not comfortable sitting in a class of experienced yoga-ers while I strain and grunt and snap and whatever the hell I'm afraid this old husk may do.  Anyone in the Twin Cities area know any good yoga instructors that specialize in stiff, crabby guys?  Are there any other stiff, crabby guys that would like to take over a class should one be around?  What kind of yoga (I have an idea that there are different types, like martial arts, out there) should I be looking for?

I know that this may be a bit too much information for some and I apologize, but I'm really in a bind.  I don't know anything about it, I don't know anybody who does and I'm not comfortable just walking into a studio without at least some background.  Yoga instructors strike me as a rather personal choice, not unlike a therapist or bike shop and I don't want to walk all over hell and gone trying to find one.  At least not without some clue.

Anyway, thanks for letting me share...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Sugar-frosted Ride

The utterly frigid temperatures that we've been experiencing for the past couple of weeks have begun to abate and our annual "January thaw" has shown up on schedule.  This morning, there was fog/mist and this froze on contact, giving the world a ghostly, yet sublime look.  It's mornings like this that make riding worthwhile.

I wonder how many car commuters noticed the beauty that greeted us Minneapolitans?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Worked at the liquor store tonight and the talented and loverly Mrs Yam made a fabulous seafood dinner upon my return home (as is our tradition).  I recommend the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.

Also, a video purportedly from Romania, but I think the guy is from Wisconsin...

Warning: not really in the best of taste, NSFW, etc., etc...