Off-season Biking

As we all know, I'm a huge fan of biking as a mode of transportation. In places that lend themselves to biking* during nice weather, it is a no-brainer. I bike places instead of driving because it is enjoyable as well as being good for the environment, etc. Well, when you take away the good weather and the bikability of a place, then what?

I'm currently housesitting in Bellingham, which, in itself is a pretty bike friendly town. I'm about 3.5 miles from downtown, so a quick jaunt is not as quick as in, say Anacortes, but there are bike lanes and off-road paths, so it's not so bad. Headed away from downtown, however, is a different matter. I've been riding out to Alger recently (10.5 miles one way) which is all on back [shoulderless] roads. It's a beautiful ride, though, and not much traffic.

But no matter where I ride, chances are that the weather is going to be against me. Rain and wind are autumn* trademarks of the northwest. A rider has got to be prepared to get wet, which, whether I was prepared for it or not, has happened a good number of times in the past 2 weeks.

All this is to say that even despite the less than ideal conditions, I'm still loving my chosen form of transportation. I feel good about what I'm doing for the environment* and about what I am doing for my body*. I share all this in hopes of conveying that whatever the obstacles to you not riding are, they can be overcome.
Tuesday October 27 2009File under: transportation, environment

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350

This past Saturday was the International Day of Climate Action sponsored by 350.org. People around the world gathered together to bring awareness to climate change issues and, in many case, discuss what can be done. My feelings regarding climate change's place on politicians' and media's agendas vis-a-vis* less narrow topics aside, these events spread some good information and energized a lot of people to act, which is what we need.

I attended the Anacortes event, where there were brainstorming sessions, bitch sessions, a couple of presentations, and a wonderful spread of donated food. Seeing people gathering together to talk about taking action filled me with hope. Hearing someone suggest we turn off the lights and use the natural light of the space filled me with happiness. Knowing that at least one person will walk away from the gathering with the motivation to make some of the changes that we all need to made also make me happy.

But the real reason for this post* is to encourage any and all to take a moment to assess your environmental impact and entertain ways in which you can lessen it: turn down the heat, finally get around to organizing a carpool, if it's yellow let it mellow, etc. After all, everyone needs friendly reminders once and a while. Consider this that.
Sunday October 25 2009File under: environment

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FC 86 - Incoming Message

I'm going to attribute this comic to Erik of Anacortes Kayak Tours. Well, I won't place the responsibility of the comic on him, but he does get credit for the joke. He said he saw some high schoolers playing soccer and at any given time, at least one of them had their cell phone out for texting. He naturally assumed that they were texting each other and what else would you text to a fellow teammate.

Speaking of text messages, I can receive them now thanks to my google voice account. Texting is a whole other culture of which I never felt a part, but now I'm starting to get it. its gr8! (If you want my fancy phone number so we can be text buddies, e-mail me (or contact me via the contact page)).
Thursday October 22 2009File under: comic

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Processing Oats

I've always thought of oats, or any grains for that matter, to be one of the least processed food stuffs. Some form of grain is at the base of most diets around the world. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I found that getting oats from the stalk to my belly to be such an ordeal.

Step 1: Harvesting - I first attempted pulling up the whole stalk (or cutting it off low to the ground). To separate the grains from the stalk, I tried whacking the stalks around in a big bucket. A few grains were freed, but the majority stayed on. I ended up having to run my fingers down each stalk to free the grains, much like you get the thyme leaves from the stem. For my second field, I bypassed pulling up the whole stalk and instead just did the seed pinch thing with the stalks still in the ground.

Step 2: Separating Seed from Hull - (I know I am using the incorrect terms all over the place here, but hopefully you will still get the point) So when an oat comes off the stalk, it has a papery hull on it. You're not supposed to eat this part. To separate it, I first tried rubbing between my hands (as if you were warming your hands). This worked pretty well, but many seeds still had their hulls, apparently because they were dried out well enough. To remedy this, I put them in the oven for 20 minutes on low heat. This dried them out sufficiently to be able to disengage the seed from the hull, again via the hand warming method.

Step 3: Filtering Chaff from Seed - Now that the seeds and hull were not connected, I needed to actually separate them. This is possibly the most ingenious part of the process to me. Since the seeds are a good deal heavier than the papery hulls, a good cross-wind will aid in the separating. I used a fan to keep a constant airflow.

After all this processing, I ended up with maybe 2 quarts of oat seed. Thinking about how much effort went into preparing the soil, obtaining and planting the seed, harvesting, and processing, I have a much better appreciation of all grains. I realize, of course, that using a machine to do all the work makes it significantly easier (and arguably more efficient). That said, however, there was a time that combines didn't exist and people did it by hand. In those days, the work equal to a bowl of oatmeal was nothing to sneeze at.

Future Step 4: Maybe Another Separating Step? - So now I've got a bunch of seeds. I thought I was done. The seed that is remaining, however, is still in 2 parts, one kind of enveloping the other. I might need to separate those from each other, but I don't know.

Future Step 5: Making the Seeds Usable - Most of us are used to oats as rolled oats or steel cut oats for oatmeal. It turns out that rolling oats is really hard (needs a big old machine) and I have no idea what steel cutting is, except maybe just cutting somewhat regularly. I'm thinking that the most accessible way to prepare my oats for my belly is to grind it into oat flour. From there, I'm sure there is something I can come up with.
Wednesday October 21 2009File under: food

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Anacortes Pictures (through the eyes of a visitor)

I know Anacortes is a beautiful place. Seeing it through the eyes of a visitor always serves as a pretty good reminder, though. Julie, the visitor, also happens to be a bit of a shutterbug. She took these photos and agreed to let me make a post out of it. Enjoy!


Monday October 19 2009File under: Anacortes, pics

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The Lion Juggles Tonight

I recently had my on stage solo juggling debut at this month's Vaudevillingham. I overcame my persistent reluctance to perform on stage by making the act to be more about the music, costume, and props than about what I actually did. It sure does take the pressure off.

The place was packed probably past capacity which only added to the intimidation factor, but that's okay. I would be lyin' if I said I killed it, but the audeince roared with laughter and appreciation a few times. Not bad for a debut. And if it wasn't for the costume being borrowed and Vaudevillingham's rule against performing an act more than one time, I might be able to work out the kinks and turn it into a really neat act. Maybe if I can find another venue...

Here is another picture of me on stage. I saw someone got some video of the show, so maybe I'll be able to track down a clip and post it (because the music really adds to the whole gag. The juggling...not so much).
Friday October 16 2009File under:

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FC 85 - Getting From Heeah to Theah

It's kind of funny how much drawing time goes into background elements. "Yeah", I think, "I could probably leave the wall blank, but it just doesn't sit well with me. Sure, I'll just throw some picture frames up there. Oh, those picture frames now need pictures. There went another hour."

But it's good. It gives me practice drawing things not too precisely*. I've been trying to use clip art and cut and paste less recently, as the pros don't do that, but I did go and grab that pretty kitty from the internet (although with a tweak to the direction she is looking).

Anyway, just another interesting tidbit from the world of comic drawing through the eyes of yours truly*.
Thursday October 15 2009File under: comic

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Wedding Pics

Katy and Jule tied the knot this weekend over in Spokane. It was a lovely ceremony, a great time with friends and family, and a rockin' party afterwards. There was a good turn out of people to wish them the best, with a spirit of support and love all around.

For those of you that couldn't make it, here are a few of the pictures I took.


Monday October 12 2009File under: pics

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FC 84 - A Personal Aroma Calling Card

I know you've all been anxiously awaiting the stink lines that I promised a couple of weeks ago. And since I am a man* of my word, here you go. The stink lines didn't turn out great, but hopefully they convey the idea appropriately enough.

So I was going to use my name instead of "Mike" because I have noticed that dogs tend to recognize me earlier leading to less barking when I've just come from frisbee or wearing clothes for the 3rd day in a row. It has proven to be very convenient, actually. But when my comic goes international*, people won't get it. They might not even get that it is a name or whatever. So I went with Mike, not because I think this applies to any Mike that I know, but because it is a good universally recognized name. (I bet you didn't realize so much planning and scheming went into my comics, didja?)
Friday October 9 2009File under: comic

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Plants Grow

Back in May, I embarked on a little experiment. I planted oats (remember?). The skeptical among you might be saying to yourselves, "That doesn't sound like much of an experiment." To that I say, "Please save your questions until I'm finished."* The premise of my experiment was this: plants grow. That's what they are programmed to do. All this micro-managing that we impose on our growing of plants helps increase yield, allows us to grow plants not well-suited for our climate, etc. but my theory is that it isn't necessary. If you put some seeds in the ground and walk away, they will grow.

I'm pleased to report that my oats did just that. Despite having one of the longest rain-less periods in years, my oats, which I didn't weed, water, or fertilize, grew just fine. Had I done any of the above, I'm sure they would have grown better, but without doing anything, I still produced a yield. And while I'm sure this plant-and-walk-away method won't work for every crop, it works for oats here in the Northwest.

This concept, that plants grow, really makes me happy for some reason. It reminds me that many things in life are often much simpler than we are taught. It makes food production accessible to me, even though I may not be willing to devote 2 hours every other day to its pursuit. It reinforces that biology hasn't been completely reversed with all our fancy cross-breeding and specializations. Basically, I just think it is neat.

Now what to do with the oats? Stay tuned and you will see.
Thursday October 8 2009File under: food, misc

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