Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the morning peloton

Every day, I bike across the Hawthorne bridge - arguably the most iconic of Portland's 12 river spans. It's certainly the most crowded, as literally thousands pedal over it every day; the bulk of these riders, like me, travel east to west to get downtown, to the med school, or to the West Hills. As such, depending on when I get my start in the morning, I tend to be in a crush of about thirty other cyclists. This peloton contains casual commuters like myself, bespandexed muscle-cases, scrawny bike messenger-types, middle-aged power-riders with bikes far more expensive than necessary, cruisers on cruisers, and so on. There's a bit of reshuffling, cries of "on your left!", before we all drop into the chute, the downslope that raises Madison street above the Southeast industrial district. Once we're speeding down that course, it's single file for a quarter mile because of heavy foot traffic. The pedestrians merge onto the bridge and skitter like mice while biker after biker zips by. Only assholes try to pass on the bridge itself during morning rush hour.

I used to bike into the heart of downtown (which admittedly is not at all far from the Hawthorne bridge), but now I turn off earlier and cruise down Naito parkway. Most bikers opt for riding along the waterfront, but I can't stand all the traffic (foot, bike, recumbent and rent-a-cop) and there's no easy way to get to my turn from that path. Natio has a straight-shot bike lane and very few northbound cars. I'm going half a mile to a mile further everyday now, but it doesn't take me any longer than it did to wend and wind between cars in the thick of downtown's morning riots used to.

The peloton will thin out when the rains begin. Don't think that I'm sad about it, either. The camaraderie of dozens of speeding bikers wears thin, just like a pack of Toyotas caught in the 7:45 jam. The wet makes it harder to stop quickly, and less experienced bikers will often eat shit because their brakes aren't reacting "normally" in a downpour. The rain itself is an obvious deterrent, too. The familiar faces in the pack are the folks I've seen day after day for months, folks I've commiserated with during storms and heat alike. Still, the crowd becomes more of a trickle. For the here and now, though, my morning peloton gives me such a fucking rush. It's my own personal Tour, contracted into a fifteen minute bridge sprint.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

lentil raviloli AKA super-yum wads

Note to vegans: Wonton wrappers without some kind of egg derivative or whey are EXTREMELY difficult to find. If you are lucky enough to have a fairly thorough Asian market near you, that's probably your best bet. My co-op did not have much to offer, despite their ordinarily thorough veganishness. So use whatever vegan pasta you can dredge up.

2/3 c lentils
half a medium onion, diced
a couple cloves of garlic, minced
1 or 2 tbsp minced ginger root
cumin, curry powder and coriander to taste
small splash of oil
diced spinach

1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 c rice vinegar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tbsps minced ginger (I used more)
cinnamon stick

Saute onions, garlic and ginger. Throw in the spices until things start to get fragrant. Add the lentils with enough water to cover. If you want some spice, add hot sauce or cayenne here. Cook until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape. Add the spinach until just wilted. Remove lentil mass from heat and let cool a bit. Some heat is fine, but it shouldn't be hot.

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar on medium-low heat. Add the tomatoes and cinnamon stick and simmer until you can smell the cinnamon. Remove the cinnamon stick and keep the sauce warm. Adding a few dried cranberries is pretty tasty, too.

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the filling into a wonton wrapper, leaving a half inch of clearance on all sides. Seal the wonton, using a little water as glue. Boil the ravioli-wontons for about four minutes. Top with sauce and serve. Makes four modest portions. Goes well with beet salad.

ETA: Ginger in the sauce. Toss it in with the tomatoes. Trust me.

My kingdom for tickets...

"San Francisco non-profit City Arts & Lectures has enlisted good folks
from around the music world for a series of conversations and
performances it calls "Talking Music".

The list of music-makers taking part in the series over the next
several months includes John Darnielle (the Mountain Goats), Neko Case
(herself/the New Pornographers), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Stephin
Merritt (the Magnetic Fields) and Laurie Anderson. Each of these
"Talking Music" events feature the musicians "in conversation and
song" alongside a literary light acting as host. Merritt has been
paired up with his Gothic Archies partner Daniel Handler (who also
writes the Lemony Snicket books), while Laurie Anderson is "in
conversation" only (no music) with Our Band Could Be Your Life scribe
Michael Azerrad.

All "Talking Music" events will take place at the Herbst Theatre in
San Francisco's Performing Arts Center."

(kiped from Pitchfork)

Meg, you'd best hit this up.

Welcome to the inaugural voyage of posting-by-email, which makes for slightly less conspicuous goofing off at work and (I hope) slightly more plentiful posting on el blogadero. If there's a confidentiality message at the bottom of the post, please disregard.

Getting mistaken (once again) for a dude was a small price to pay for free tea from Amanda'splace of employment. Damn clueless middle-aged white men. Anyway, the tea is delightful. Spearmint! So fresh!

Everyone should read The Canon by Natalie Angier. Yes, I am given to hyperbole from time to time, but this book, by a Pulitzer-winning science journalist for such esteemed venues as the New York Times and NPR, demystifies the hard sciences with depth and hilarity. I actually want to take a statistics class, and I am the slacker queen of math. (I had modest talent for it in high school, but no motivation. So I flunked out of calculus and never touched a math book again. This turn of events kept me away from majoring in a hard science, despite my love of all things biological. Admittedly, realizing this while reading Angier's introduction made for some sour grapes.) The Canon fully embodies the somewhat cheesy but heartfelt blurbs on the back jacket. It's rad.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

filling in some gaps

First, and of minimal importance: the Cubs are doing quite well. Leading their division, donating several fiery arms and bats to the NL all stars, and only occasionally breaking my heart. I no illusions about the strong early and mid-seasons leading to inevitable heartbreak, but a girl can dream. That's what makes her a Cubs fan.

Anyway, I realized that this catch-as-catch-can blog doesn't really cover what I've been up to lately in any detail. So, an update. The new job - as an office manager in a 12-bed halfway house - treats me well. The clients (primarily homeless drug addicts, all men) are cordial, my coworkers are pretty interesting, and my hours are fairly flexible. That said, it's also pretty draining. Impulse control among the clients (and the occasional coworker) is lacking. Everything is URGENT. As the logistics gal, all of these demands fall to me. To say nothing of the lack of air conditioning in this sweat box. Damn August.

Family reunion number two commenced in Chicago, revolving around my grandfather's memorial service. My great-uncle, father, aunt, cousin and I all spoke, as well as some old friends and colleagues. I was surprised at the turn-out initially, but my grandpa was such a kind, intelligent, witty and generous man that I realized that he'd be remembered by many, many more. This was the first time I'd met some of these relatives. I met a very cool second cousin who seems to have a viable Broadway career, among other accomplished cousins and folks-once-removed.

I'm running. Boxing class starts in September, and (free!) yoga begins next week. I went vegetarian a few months ago and haven't looked back. The body is well on its way to detoxification after the abuse I put it through so far.

Presently reading The Red Tent. It's pretty disappointing. The time period fascinates me, but the writing is meh. I'm not wild about the biblical beget-fest or the aggrandizing of Earth Mama-ness beyond all reason. Still, I'll finish it. Ancient midwifery is kind of cool.

Law school may wait. There's a bit more youth to take advantage of before I consign my future to massive debt and a questionable career path. Still, it's in the cards.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

fun fact

There are no Saints by the names of Eric or Erika (with any spelling). However, the Catholic saint whose feast day is my birthday is Saint Bibiana. She just so happens to the be the patron saint of hangovers, the mentally ill, the insane, and "single laywomen." I sort of wish that I were a lapsed Catholic so I could enjoy this trivia all the more.

I've been having some doubts about the Law School in 2009 plan. There seems to be an awful lot more to do while I'm young and my debt is minimal. Thoughts?

Also: Dark Knight? Easily the best Batman flick so far. Discussion of responsible use of power and law enforcement ethics aside, the writing was excellent and well buttressed by good-to-quite-good acting and editing worthy of The Bourne Ultimatum. Christian Bale, as I was saying to my movie-going companion last night, is easily my favorite Batman. He's as good of a bratty Bruce Wayne in public as he is a brooding Bruce Wayne as Batman. The performative elements of that character came across really, really well. Props, Chris Nolan. Mad props.