Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I've been a bit delayed, but I thought I'd post some pics from my newest diversion, SURFING. I got a call from our friend Matt who happens to own two surfboards and two wetsuits and we headed out about 10:00 on December 2 to Ocean City to foray into the wild world of surf. I spent most of my time trying to get out past the breakers, and had maybe 3 chances where I could maybe have stood up on the board. I didn't really stand a chance. I emerged about 2 hours later, exhausted but strangely exhilirated.

A couple of observations: Wrestling your way into a wetsuit on a 40 degree day is not exactly fun, but is in no way as bad as wrestling your way out of one, wet, on a 40 degree day.
Secondly, Waves, while they may not look crazy from the shore, are much bigger when your head is only inches from the surface of the water.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I had so much success making a bike at home that I thought I might diversify... TO BACON!!

After reading several accounts on how inferior store bought bacon was, and how easy it is to make your own, I decided that I had to try it for myself.

Step one is to get a pork belly. I happen to have a butcher at hand who not only sells pork belly, looks like he has a little one of his own! You take the pork belly and slather it with a dry rub of about 50% salt 50% brown sugar and stick it in a ziploc bag in the fridge for about a week. I thought that I would be creative and I took some pineapple and blended it up with the salt/sugar mix and pasted it all over the little porkbellies. Bad idea. Pineapple apparently has some sort of chemical in it which essentially digests meat protein. After about a week in the fridge, I looked in the bags and found that instead of drying out the juices and curing the bacon, the exterior of the pork belly had turned to salty pig slime. No matter, I simply washed off most of the slime and re-salted the little bastards, left it in for another 3 days and proceeded with the process.

The picture here shows the cured pork belly with the salt brine washed off. The most disconcerting part of the whole affair was the fact that pork bellies come with skin and in this case, a nipple, still attached.

Next step was to wait over night while the surface dried out into a "pellicule" and then smoke the bacon. I decided to turn our chimanea into a smoker by placing a plank over the top and front, and then suspending a piece of wood with spikes and a thermometer from the top. This would be my pork holder. I stoked the fires, and then quenched them a bit by covering the bed of coals with a double layer of tin foil. This kept the heat in the chimney at about 200-250 degrees, ideal for smoking. To create flavor, I put some water-soaked apple wood chips that my dad had mailed to me (think I'm crazy? Meet Ronn Ritz)on top of the foil layer. The water keeps them from bursting into flame and produces more smoke. Then I sat back and waited for about an hour and a half while the bacon smoked and reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

After smoking, the bacon was essentially done. All that remains is to slice,

and enjoy!!

Tastes pretty damn good. Next time I skip the pineapple, add some sage and some sodium nitrate!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If you're still curious about the bamboo bike project, I've posted more pictures on my flickr page.

There is some descriptive text next to each. The basic gist is that it wasn't honestly all that difficult if you have a sense for how bikes are put together. The total cost for frame materials was somewhere in the range of $200, and that includes the MDF and bolts used to make the jig. I'm hoping to put together a cyclocross bike for myself this winter some time--I think that the vibration damping qualities of the bamboo would be nice for that application. I've harvested some more bamboo and while waiting for that to dry, am contemplating my next frame jig, hopefully something more adjustable that will work for different frame dimensions. I'll post more on that process as it goes along.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wow, thanks to everyone who has complimented me on the bike, you boosted my ego just like I had hoped. I've received numerous inquiries about the project and a bunch of "You should sell that!" comments. No plans for such things yet, but talk to me in a couple of months and I may have a different opinion depending on how the job market treats me. I'm kinda not too optimistic about that; too many people are way to freaked out about their financial future to offer me a job. Kinda sucks, but I'm more or less resigned to it, and I've been able to find some alternate employment for the time being. My new gig is guinea-pigging for the NIH. I'm going to be a part of a cholesterol study in which they starve me, feed me heavy cream and then take a core sample of the fatty tissue of my ass. ALL HAIL SCIENCE! At least it pays well, $1200. I would imagine that it will be at least moderately unpleasant because the pay is so good. No one would pay you that much for something easy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tonight I finished Jennifer's Bamboo road bike. I have but two words to describe how I feel about the thing: Supreme Satisfaction.

The project has been ongoing much of the summer, I started in late May by harvesting some bamboo growing north of here along the Schuylkill River. I then dried the bamboo for about a month and a half out in the back. By the time the bamboo was bleached a pleasant tan, I was ready to begin the bike.

Stage one involved plotting out the geometry, along with about 6 hours of relearning trigonometry as well as drafting on the kitchen table to get things right. Then I built the jig, mitered the bamboo tubes and glued them together with epoxy.

Next I began the process of laying up carbon fiber sheets around the joints. I've got no pictures of this because my hands tended to be covered with epoxy at that time

After probably close to 100 hours off and on over the course of the summer, I finally finished the frame and then began the lengthy process of acquiring parts. I opted for Campagnolo, because really, it's the best. That, and I had a number of spare parts floating around from my various Campy bikes.

And here is the finished ride. The kanji on the down tube and seat tube read, Ichi go, Ichi e, which is a Japanese saying that translates roughly into, "you have one chance in life, so make it your best," or alternately, "every instance is unique and valuable." Honestly, it sounds a lot less corny in Japanese. I first heard this term on a sake brewery tour when we were in Nagano in which our host's actions truly exemplified the idea of ichi go ichi e.
As for the bike, I put it together at Trophy Bikes and took it for a quick test ride earlier today. The ride quality is TOTALLY SWEET! I realize that I have a bit of a bias, but truthfully I have ridden very few bikes that felt nicer. The bike seems to float over bumpy road surfaces, almost as if it were on giant baloon tires, but nope, they are just 700x23 clinchers pumped hard as rocks. My big worry was that I had not gotten the frame alignment right, but that seems dead on too; riding no-handed is no problem. Oh yeah, and it corners like a fricking roller coaster and it accelerates as fast as anything I've ever ridden. Maybe that's due to the fact that it weighs only 16.5 pounds! I had no idea that it was going to be so light and honestly did a full on "YESSSS!" complete with double fist pump when I hung it on the scale.

Despite my bias, I think that my claims are somewhat well founded. I had as many people as I could test ride it earlier today, mostly to show off, but everyone was suitably impressed, and I don't think that they were just doing it to be nice. I am SUPER PSYCHED, as was Jennifer. She insisted that I take pictures of the bike and post them as soon as I could, and then proceeded to put the bike in the bedroom so that she could take pictures of it. I think that she likes it.

Here are some shots:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I honestly don't give a crap about baseball. I remember one summer being cajoled by Jude and Alf to drag myself to a Twins game. It sucked. All I wanted to do was escape and I think I bitched the whole time about how slow and boring the game was. Shitty shitty baseball.

But, on the other hand, THE PHILLIES ARE THE 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!!
There's something pretty awesome about the collective joy and catharsis of a winning sports club in a city like Philadelphia. People here are pretty up front about their emotions and those emotions overflowed last night as people were honking, screaming and apparently throwing rocks late into the night to celebrate. I even found myself cheering a little when Brad Lidge struck the last guy out in the top of the 9th inning. Yes, I even know some of the players names now. I even know what some of the plays are called. The apocalypse has come.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Here are some pics from my latest cross endeavour.
I'm well into the third fall here in Philadelphia. It's been nice not to have school to contend with, but honestly, I'm getting a little buggy without fulltime employment. I have been assured that there are jobs out there, but damned if I can find them. I have thus far been able to occupy myself with small tasks around the house, building Jennifer's bike and various other things. Now I'm just antsy. At least I have a bike to ride.

I was cross examined this weekend, in a big, painful way. Result: Pass, but just barely.

The Granogue race was on saturday. The race course is laid out in a segment of the DuPont family estate, and has a wide variety of hills, dales and rooty trails to negotiate. Overall the course was on the technical side with those riders who could get out in front quickly and stay away in the following melee at a distinct
advantage. I, without the virtue of preregistration, found myself squarely starting in 108th position at the line. Not the ideal place to be on a course in which crashes and ugly conglomerations of riders make moving up relatively difficult over the long haul. I felt pretty decent, had no real mechanical failures and eventually found myself in no-man's-land toward the middle of the race. This is not quite as bad a place to be as in a road race, but it still no easy feat to bridge
up to riders further along the course. With one lap to go, I managed to get a side stitch and lost 3 or 4 places to various other folks and ended up in 49th.

Wissihickon on Sunday. Got there plenty early and the wide open course was great for spectating but also great for whipping any last trace of heat from a person's body. I'd raced the course in past years and had a bit better idea of what to expect, plus the wider trails allowed me a bit more chance to pass people. I also preregistered (a must for a big cyclocross race) and was a few spots ahead of last this at the start line. The race went pretty well, and except for my general weakness in the tighter technical spots, I did a decent job of making up ground
against other guys. I ended the day in 30th spot. Another Pass.

The best part was sitting in the sun afterwords, drinking some Victory beer and watching the OTHER guys suffer. That's what cyclocross is really all about.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ahh, I just had a true hankering for the home country, the midwest. My sister, Leah, recently wrote an article for Minnesota 2020 about locally produced beer from Minnesota. Beer brewing has always been an autumnal hobby for me, mostly because summer is too goddam hot to boil up a kettle of boiling wort. Fall days though, bring me the desire for hoppy, malty goodness.

For some reason fall always produces ueber strong feelings of nostalgia in me. I don't know what the deal is, but the crisp, cool mornings and the smell of drying and decaying leaves suck me back in time to previous years. Fall rolls around and suddenly I can think of nothing more than bike touring through Europe, or hiking through the mountains above Nagano, or running in cross country meets across the upper Midwest. Why, it was just about 8 years ago to the day that I ran my best 8k time at Lacrosse, Wisconsin. 26:24 I believe.

This fall has been occupied with thoughts of job getting and bike riding. Jennifer's bamboo bike frame is complete, I just need to get some components and build the thing up. I'll post pictures of it when I get things all settled. I had a great time at Interbike with my dad; we totally got overexposed to bicycles but somehow I still want more. Part of it is that the show is like candy for me. I just can't bear to let the sugar high go, and so I want to purchase all of the stuff that I saw there. Maybe when I get a real job I'll be able to afford all of these goodies.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Though it may seem obvious to some, a couple of beers is not a good prerequisite to an evening of sharpening knives. As per usual, I learn through trail and error. Mostly error.

Monday I head out to Las Vegas to meet up with my dad for a father-son-bike-geek-out at Interbike, the largest bicycle industry trade show in North America. It should be a blast. I have rarely had an overload of bicycle stuff, but this may be a chance for me to do just that.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yet again, far too long since my last post.

Projects underway as of September 1st:
-Home carbonation techniques have been refined. I have made my first batch of tonic water and have perfected my recipe for carbonated coffee. It surprisingly delicious.
-Jennifer's bamboo bike project has come into the final straightaway. I merely have nto sand away the excess epoxy and give it a final finish. I've already got the head tube badge logo figured out. It should be pretty classy
-Tomatoes are delicious, even if they have managed to get the goddamn blight for two years running. At least it seems to only affect the leaves. I've eaten little but BLTs for the past three days.
-Sourdough starter is finally up to snuff. I have discovered the joys of the sourdough. It's not difficult, and need not be all that sour. My biggest problem lies in following a recipe, so I end up with a lot of different breads coming from the same general list of ingredients.
-Job Hunt is on. I recently interviewed with the Montgomery County Planning Commission and found the job to be much to my liking, though the commute wouldn't be. It would require a 10 minute bike to a 40 minute train followed by a 5 minute walk. Given my current spoiled state in which I can roll out of the door 18 minutes before I need to be at school or at the bike shop, this would simply not do. I came to Philadelphia for the walkability and convenience of living in a city, and this would be a sidestep at best.
The second interview was with an outfit called the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. In addition to sounding important, they actually produce a great deal of good work; primarily in the form of policy documents and reports on issues affecting livability and economic vitality of the Philadelphia region. Given my firm belief in regionalism and in the fact that the fellow with whom I interviewed was a bike nerd of similar caliber to myself, I think it would be a good fit. We shall see what the second interview will hold.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm finally getting the hang of this bike racing thing again this year. It always takes me a few races before I start to see any of the front of the pack. Last weekend 5 of the other Smurfs (Quaker City Wheelmen have an amazingly smurfy kit) and I lined up in Mount Holly NJ for an action packed race complete with hill, tight corners and fun fun fun. I ended up missing the key breakaway by just a few meters. Two riders had gotten away early in the race, and I had gotten into a group of guys who were briding up to the leaders at about 15 miles to go. Unfortunately for me, the hill came up at just the wrong time and something, no everything started hurting really badly on the short climb. I got gapped and never caught back on. The picture above is my last view of the winning move. Maybe next time.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I've been meaning to fill in on the rest of our California trip with some photos of Pete and some insights on why the Bay Area is so ridiculously expensive. But instead I will grace you with the South Park version of myself. I think that it's reasonably accurate as a representation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Time to do a little updating about our recent vacation to California. Jennifer had a conference, so I flew out as well and we had a SPLENDID time. We saw the sights of San Francisco and then met up with Pete Dillon in Berkely. I hope that people have half as good a feeling when they leave my house as we did upon leaving Pete's. That guy just rocks!

The picture above is from our overnight hike into Yosemite. The peak in the background is called Cloud's Rest and is a pretty scenic slab o' granite, it sits right north of Half Dome. I'll post more pictures on the blog in a bit, but the address of the web album will allow anyone who's interested to check out my pictures en masse.
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Yes, I actually graduated my program, and have the pictures to prove it. I actually just got a card from my grandmother today, "Congratulations on your Master's Degree" it said. I didn't even know that they made Congratulations on your Master's Degree cards. In it she wrote, "Here's $10, I guess that's enough for 2 gallons of gas. Maybe you'd better stay put. You finally have done something that you can be really proud of yourself for. I know I am."

Finally? Well, I guess that Grandma must have high expectations of us, since the bachelor's degree apparently wasn't enough.

Pictures located here:
99 degrees in the air, 120 on the pavement. It was a hot day for the Philadelphia Classic. This is the longest running and longest course of any professional bicycle race in the US. 200 riders started and only about 80 finished after 156 miles. Needless to say, I was stoked just to be there. The video shows the second to last of the small finishing circuits, with Svein Tuft, former Canadian Time Trial champion making one final bid for victory as he solos off the front. Badismo.
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Among my other projects, is the one that you see here. These parts, along with a little epoxy and some natural fibers (ie bamboo) are going to help me complete a life long dream! I'm in the process of creating a bamboo bicycle for jennifer. It's going to be SUPER SWEET! I'll post pics of the progress as it comes.

Just goes to show that there is a benefit to being unemployed.
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Holy shit it's been a long time since I posted. Fear not, all is well. Items to update include:

Graduation Status: Yes, Graduated
Job Status: No, no job (yet)
Relaxation Status: Relaxed, very relaxed
Vacation Quotient: Full, but anxious for more
Home Repair Status: Work in Progress, but actually working
Side project Status: At least 3 totally awesome side projects

I'll attempt to post pictures and musings later today.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

At long last, school is over.

I must say, I am relieved, but I'm going to have to learn how to relax a bit. Though the finals period were hardly as bad as they have been in the past (April/May 2007 was pretty rough) I'm still a bit edgey, and I have the sneaking paranoia that there is something hanging over my head on a daily basis. I'm sure that something will sneak up on me, like a forgotten assignment, or maybe I didn't turn in a paper or something.

Then I remember, "Aaron, chill out, you're DONE!" Then all is good again.

Now I just gotta get me a job!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

When it comes right down to it, I may miss school. I will not miss homework however. I've been putting off my last take-home final until the bitter end because I can hardly bear the thought of staying indoors on days like today. Sunny, low winds and a temperature in the upper 70s make for ideal cycling weather.

I graduate from gradual school in a little over a week, and from there the world is my oyster. Kind of an accurate description when you consider that oysters are damn hard to get open without a shucking knife and some fortitude. Kind of like the job market, as well, now that I think about it. I missed out on the job opening at my current internship, my hyper-productive fellow intern took that spot. It's not enough to just be nicer and more personable, you still have to prove your worth with reams of paper and text. At least I interview well. All that time spent in front of the blank stares of Japanese school children has made me relatively impervious to the discomforts of the type awkwardness found in job interviews. Ganbattemasu ne?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Just two more weeks to go in my educational career, then I can stop learning for good. I have been stressing myself out with the various classes and things that I've got to do before the end of the year. It's not even that I honestly have that much to do, it's just that I'm already mentally checked out to a degree. That, and I'm still very much on the job market in these somewhat fiscally constrained times. In positive news, I am somewhat older than I was last week, and feeling none the worse for wear. I bought myself a bottle of mezcal and a pink bike seat for my birthday. It turns out that mezcal is kind of like the scotch version of whiskey- a taste like a fire pit and lots of kick. I like it, but it seems that most other folks don't have such a fondness. I guess I just enjoy flavors that kick me in the taste buds.

The pink bike seat completes the pink and silver bike ensemble magnificently, however it does crush my ass, so we'll just have to see who gives in first, me or the bike seat. If only there were more manly choices in pink available to a fella.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

So I'm looking for jobs right? Hopefully something that I studied to do, is close by and will pay me a wage that will allow repayment of the $50,000 loans that I have hanging over my head. Something along those lines would be ideal. Jennifer said that she'd help me find a job and I saw her looking at the "employment" section of some website.

Jennifer suggested that I work at Turkey Hill Farms in Lancaster. Apparently the pay is pretty good and as a bonous, I'll be able to take home a lot of extras at the ICE CREAM FACTORY!

Maybe she wanted to ship me off because I wouldn't walk to the store and buy her a half gallon earlier tonight, maybe it's the fact that she's peeved that I spend most of my waking time in front of a computer at work or school. I don't know. I do know that I'm going to need to locate a job if I'm going to prevent myself from getting shipped off to the ice cream factory.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A quick listing of the ingredients found on my Torta Cubana at El Zarape, on the corner of Morris and Passyunk streets, about a 5 minute walk from here:

Refried Beans
Fresh mozzarella
Chorizo and potato hash
Fried Chicken Breast
Chicken-Fried Seak
Fried Egg

It was as close as I've ever been to a heart attack, and it was delicious.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hey, our studio project got in the newspaper!!!

I guess that one would expect it if a guest was a reporter for the Philadelphia inquirer, but here you go.

Now that I'm famous (indirectly and actually not at all) the job offers should be flooding in.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

At long last I have put together a selection of photos from the recent trip to London and Toronto for my Studio Class. The ostensible reason for travelling was to examine these two cities and their transportation systems and take back ideas for use in the Philadelphia region. Overall, we got a lot of ideas but they were mostly of the, "London is soooo much better than Philly, there's no way we can do anything like that here," variety. London IS waay better than Philly, and I will go so far to say that it is the BEST city that I've ever been to. I say best in the all inclusive sense; it has history but is vibrant with a modern urbanity that is refreshing and interesting. The city is well run and is trying to get better still. They place a great emphasis on global warming and in fact are truly taking the lead on that front. Things are generally clean and they've just pledged 500 million pounds for bicycle and pedestrian improvements by the Olympics in 2012. Stupendous stuff.
After London, Toronto could only play second fiddle. They are much more comparable to Philly, but the city felt like a wierd mishmash of Minneapolis and New York in collision. We did get an opportunity to hobnob with some of the best and brightest from Toronto and Philly at the "Sips and Nibbles" event, which was a good chance for me to practice my "hire me" face.

More pictures are available at my Picasa site:
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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sheeeit, three weeks of non-stop school work behind me, now I just gotta get through another two easy days and I'm off to London!! Our regional transportation studio presented the midterm report on monday, and as I was one of the 4 suckers who presented, I ended up wearing a suit for the first time in 3 years or so. I cannot honestly remember the last time I put my Goodwill suit on, but I looked SHARP! I gotta remember that when I go looking for jobs in the near future.

So yeah, on Thursday we head out to London some time in the evening and have a couple of free days before we meet with some grand high muckety-mucks at the London Transit Agency, London 2012 and some other place that I'm forgetting. Next Wednesday we then jet back to Toronto for a meeting with some important folks on this side of the pond. It's going to be pretty sweet, and in a nerdy way I'm hoping to get to see all of the city planning wonders that these places have to offer. We're going to ride the tube, see the sights and spend alarming amounts of money. Goddamn weak dollar!

Friday, February 22, 2008

What the hell is the "wintry mix"? Back where I come from, the Midwest, people have actual names for the kinds of precipitation that occur in winter. No, we're not quite as eloquent as the Inuit with their 50 odd words for snow, but we at least know the difference between things like sleet, freezing rain, hail, snow and ice. Not out here in the wild wild East. Here, when anything appears to be falling from the sky that is not immediately perceived to be rain, it is assumed to be the horrific wintry mix that gets Philadelphia's collective undies in a bundle. It just reeks of wussiness to me.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's a good thing that I screwed up my knee three weeks ago, or I'd be going crazy!

As those who know me already realize, being injured normally makes me into quite the whiny bitch when I can't do what I want to do. Not this time!! This time I have changed my tune, and I'm just taking it easy. Actually, my lack of preoccupation with what I'm not doing stems from the preposterous amount of school stuff that I've got going on. I can't imagine being any more busy, even with only 3 days of class per week. My studio class is really the killer; 6 hours twice a week in a dungeon-like room in the basement of Furness, really eats into one's motivation to do other things. That is coupled with three other classes for the fullest load I've taken yet. Yay. I'm getting my money's worth, that's for sure. At this point though, I feel kind of relieved to be overworked as it takes my mind off all of the things that I'm not doing.

In other news, we're hosting a dumpling party this weekend, it should be good times and good eats for everyone. I'm even going to bust out the tako-yaki maker for its thrilling debut in our house. Everyone can enjoy tasty fried octopus dumplings!!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In a fit of inventiveness, I decided that we should make hand-pulled noodles for dinner last week. Despite knowledge to the contrary, i thought, "How hard can this really be?" Well, after abotu an hour and a half of pulling and kneading and resting and doing it all over again we came up with some tasty but not quite as thin as they should be hand pulled noodles, a la Aaron. My favorite style!!

I recommend the experience to anyone, but honestly, it's a lot easier to buy the ones from the store, plus they taste almost the same.

Below is the final result, hand pulled noodles in a peanut sauce, delicious!
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Friday, January 18, 2008

Check out my pictures of the Hamptons, where Jennifer and I passed a fabulous newyears. Our friend Marie happens to be a real blue blood (though she fell on the hippie side of the tree) and her family owns a beach house in Easthampton on Long Island. Though her parents' house is a 5 bedroom, 3 fireplace job with a pool and room for a pony, it's rather modest by the standards of the area. Go figure. A house a kilometer up the beach had it's own observatory with the rotating dome and 15 inch telescope and everything. Now that's a a frickin' beach house.

Over the course of the holiday we broiled some salmon, flew kites and shucked our own oysters. It was truly a New Years to remember.

My photos are found at
Another good set is at Matt Lyons page

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Holidays beat work days, any day

Holidays are indeed better than work days, scientists have now proven it! The study was published recently in the International Journal of Studies with Sample Size One. In this study, a scientist took a sample of one person, himself, and found that work days are unequivocally less awesome than those days in which work was either optional or unnecessary such as holidays.

Ok, I admit, the journal is this blog, and the scientist is me, but dammit, I'm right here!

I'm in the process of posting some pictures of our recent escapades in the Midwest and East, but given the prolific nature of my photography, it's taking a while. Jennifer assures me that I take far too many bad pictures, but for me that was the whole point of getting a digital camera, I can take as many junk pictures as I want and just cull the herd later.