Three wheels in the evening

I bought a new toy earlier this week, and am now the proud owner of a TerraTrike Rover.

I should note that I’ve never been a cyclist until this purchase.  That is, I had a bicycle once upon a time when I was quite young; for various reasons I never properly learned to ride it, and learning as an adult just never seemed to happen.  But having the trike means I don’t need to worry about the complicated part (i.e. balance); in fact the interface feels quite similar to a car in many ways.  (Plus the peddling, of course, so maybe like a Flintstones car?)

So far I’ve taken it out and back again on two trips, neither of which would have taken me more than 20-25 minutes by walking (and which took maybe 10 minutes by trike). It turns out that the area around here has a lot of hills that I’d never noticed before. Also, people seem to talk to you more when you’re riding a contraption like this. (Ann assures me that it’s because riding a bike marks you as “good people” and automatically friendlier, much like walking a dog does.) I’ve already had to make one repair, having lost my rear inner tube to a stray bit of glass or something, but it turns out that those kinds of replacements are cheap!

Further updates as the experiment progresses.

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Once more into the breach, my friends


So once upon a time I had a blog here.  Now I have a different blog, because publishing the old blog to this spot proved to be difficult and annoying for a variety of reasons.  So this is my all-new blog: new server, new software (WordPress, which should allow me to do \LaTeX among other things), and hopefully a new commitment to actually updating the damned thing.  We’ll see about that last one.

It’s probably going to take me a while to get this up and running the way that I want it to, so bear with me.

If for some reason you’re looking for stuff from my old blog, I’ve imported it onto the new site.  I’m not sure exactly how well it’s worked, but that’s what makes this an adventure.

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Bread book: Heritage Rye

Flour: 3c unbleached white wheat; 2c whole “Red Fife” wheat; 1c dark rye; 0.5c ground rolled oats.
Other: 1 tbsp. or so of honey added to the water-yeast mixture.

This was the first batch of dough this year, although technically I started it last year (and baked up the first loaf as part of our new year’s eve refreshments). Red Fife is a heritage wheat, the first cultivar to be widely planted in Ontario; I picked up a batch of it at the local bulk food store, along with a number of other random flours.

I had trouble with the first loaf, due to timing. My usual method is to mix the ingredients into dough, let it rise for a few hours, and then refrigerate — overnight at least — before actually baking with it. This time I was operating under time constraints — the bread bowl had held the last of my Beer Cheese dough (about which more another time) until quite soon before, and it I wanted a loaf for the party there was going to be no chance to chill the dough. The major upshot is that the dough was very sticky, and hence I dumped a whole lot of extra flour on top in order to extricate my hands. This gave the loaf a powdered look that quite quite pleasant. The crumb was moderately dark (though not the darkest I’ve baked) and pleasant enough to the taste; not much in the way of strong flavours.

I’ve currently got the last batch baked up as rolls or buns; I did this because the second-last batch barely rose at all. This is probably because I was a very neglectful baker who laid out the loaf and then let it sit for multiple hours before remembering to bake it, thus allowing the dough to expand outwards slowly rather than upwards quickly.

Notes for next time: the flour on top worked really well. Maybe try seeding the loaf somehow: sesame on top, maybe. This might work well as a nut bread. I think I also want to try this with a lighter rye flour.

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General notes on bread recipes

One of my current interests/hobbies is baking my own bread: maybe because it’s totally badass, maybe because the workings of yeast seem like tasty little miracles. (My interest in homebrewing, which I haven’t explored yet but hope to once I’m back in my own kitchen, is perhaps founded on similar principles.) At the moment most of my technique is taken from the excellent Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is full of kneadless bread recipes where you make a single large batch of dough that you stick in your refrigerator, to be portioned out and baked over the next week or two as desired. Most of my experimentations at this point have involved varying the types and proportions of grains in the recipes; most of the basic recipes use 6.5 cups of flour (which yields four loaves of bread), so it’s a matter of what kinds of flour (or other sources of starch) I’m using for that. The other basic ingredients are water, salt, and yeast; anything in addition to those will be listed in my notes.

Also, if you’re doing home baking then I must recommend the use of pizza stones or stoneware baking sheets. I’ve found that metal baking sheets give a crustier bottom to the bread, which isn’t always desirable and often results in uneven baking. Also, and probably related, I’ve had a lot more trouble with bread sticking to metal sheets than stone.

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New year, new purposes


It’s been a very long time since I’ve been posting here regularly, for several reasons. One is that I’ve been even more preoccupied than usual for a year or so; my being in a usually-long-distance relationship has generally meant that my communication efforts are channelled elsewhere than blogging. On top of that, what posting I’ve been doing has generally been elsewhere in a more private space, where I can feel freer when it comes to, say, complaining about my job and aspects thereof.

However, given that this space is still here, I feel a vague onus to do something useful (or at least, hopefully, interesting) with it. By happy coincidence, I’ve been thinking recently about taking a couple of my hobbies a little more seriously of late. These two great tastes taste great together in the following way: I’m going to start using this space as my notebook for hobby-related activities.

What does hobby-related mean? It means that I’m probably not going to spend a lot of time talking about my research or my teaching, since those fall very firmly within the category of my real job. I’m also not going to talk much about truly personal things, since as mentioned above I have an elsewhere for those. That leaves, well, everything else. Music. Food and drink, with particular emphasis on baking bread. Theatre, sometimes. If I’m particularly affected (or enraged) by a book, movie, or TV show then that might show up here as well.

As an experiment, I’ve also chosen to turn comments on here, on the off-chance that there’s anyone who hasn’t deleted this blog from their RSS feed already. If you’re reading this, then great! Feel free to let me know.

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Wiping off the dust

My last post here was four months ago. Hmm.

Anyhow, I’m here again, though who knows if anyone’s still got this bookmarked or whatever. Let’s see how long I can keep going this time.

Random note #1: Google Chrome exists for the Mac. A cursory examination reveals no obvious way to open a whole batch of bookmarks in tabs, which sad to say is a deal-breaker for me. I’ll stick with Safari and Firefox for now, thanks.

Random note #2: I’m really good at procrastinating on grading, it seems.

Random note #3: In roughly thirty-six hours I’m planning to be vacating my current temporary premises, packing up my room, random kitchen devices, and my office into my car and spending a couple of days(ish) driving. I am so not ready for this, and can’t wait to see how I pull it off. I suspect that tomorrow’s going to be very, very busy.

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On the whole, I think I prefer the Internet

So I stopped by my local Suncoast today to pick up DVDs. If you’ve never met the store (and I’m not sure if they exist outside of the States), Suncoast sells DVDs and almost nothing but; the rest of their stock is fannish gear of various sorts (“Anime swords! $19.99 each!”) I don’t go in there often — it’s in The Mall, and I don’t go in there often either — but generally they’ve got a better selection than anyone else in town.

However! They seem to have a new corporate policy to make buying things as annoying as possible. I bring the DVDs up to the cash, and get asked in quick succession:

  • Do I have a membership in their club? (No.)
  • Would I like one? It costs $10/month and gives you a 10% discount here and at various other unspecified places. (No.)
  • Damage insurance on the DVDs? (Um, no. Especially since they’ll be leaving the country shortly.)
  • …any magazines that I’d like to subscribe to? (NO.)

I don’t know if I’m justified in resenting all of this, but it does seem weird that I spent more time refusing offers of upsells and side deals than I did actually entering the store, finding what I wanted, and waiting in line at the cash.

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I’m back

Yes, long time no post. My current theory is that I’ve got something of an upper limit when it comes to communicating with the world, and recently most of my communication energy has been directed elsewhere. But I’m making an effort to return to the on-line life; we’ll see how long it lasts.

Really, this is part of a broader effort on my part to shift around some habits. I’m going to be on sabbatical this coming year, which will give me the perfect opportunity to shake up a couple of things that want shaking. Maybe I’ll even develop a work ethic; who knows?

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Ceci n’est pas une pipe (bomb)

My, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Apparently I’ve been distracted for the last month and a half or so.

So consider this report:

A pilot alerted airport police when he saw a bike with a sticker that read “this bike is a pipe bomb” parked near the passenger ramps of Terminal C at Memphis International Airport, according to the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

This provoked airport security to clear out large portions of the terminal; it was later discovered that the bike was not in fact a pipe bomb. The explanation, apparently, is that “This bike is a pipe bomb” is the name of a band in Florida.

So my question, or possibly concern, is whether this is what one learns in airport security training: that explosives will typically be labelled with helpful signs reading “bomb”, “TNT”, etc. Even accepting the notion that an object can be simultaneously a bicycle and a pipe bomb — an assumption not without epistemological difficulties, I suspect — does it really seem likely that such a hybrid object would be clearly proclaiming this fact? Particularly if it is, in fact, being used in a subversive fashion to destroy portions of an airport?

I mean, really, which of the following seems more suspicious?

  1. A bike with a sticker that reads “This bike is a pipe bomb”.
  2. A bike with a sticker that reads “This bike is not a pipe bomb”.
  3. A bike with a sticker that reads “Cthulhu ’08: why vote for the lesser evil?”

Maybe it’s just policy that any mention of the word “bomb” (or any other term on the No-Fly Words List) requires further investigation. But this seems like too much tempest in too small a teapot.

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This is only a test

Just making sure the system’s working. Not much new here; I’ve been visiting family for the last week, and will be heading into southern Ontario shortly for another while. I’ve got a to-do list that I should really start dealing with one of these days.

…and that’s about it. More later.

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