Thursday, August 29, 2013

V E L O = L O V E


"How can I convey the perfection of my comfort on the bicycle, the completeness of my union with her, the sweet responses she gave me at every particle of her frame? I felt that I had known her for many years and that she had known her for many years and that she had known me and that we understood each other utterly." - Flann O'Brien

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I've mentioned my love affair with the bicycle before, haven't I?


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The bicycle has meaning here in Europe. Is is a legitimate form of transportation, used by millions every day. If you live in a large city, a bicycle is ideal - no problems with parking, no poisonous emissions, and you can transport a small amount of cargo, more than what you could by bus or streetcar. Should you be so bold as to ride your bike to work, you are not immediately labeled as a environmental freedom-fighter or super eco-freak. More likely that you are trying to keep fit and want to spend a little less on fuel every month.

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I am attracted to the duality of the bicycle: it is both simple and complex at the same time. Most people don't consider the engineering that goes into a bike, the geometry, the mathematics, the physics that allow a bike to function and stay upright. They only understand that if they pedal fast enough, they won't fall over.

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No other machine is so well distributed. There are roughly twice as many bicycles in the world than automobiles. Many of the technical developments for bicycles have revolutionized industry.

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The bicycle has helped alleviate poverty in many countries. It has been a force in the emancipation of women. It is a common connection between generations and it serves as a catalyst for personal freedom around the world.

Try that in your Ford.

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Things that happen via bike that you probably didn't know about:

Mail delivery
Pizza delivery
Police patrol (I did this back in '94-95)
Paramedic Response
Bicycle Infantry

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The bicycle, in a word:

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Aren't we all looking for some?

With that, I bid you all Peace and say "Go change the world. Ride your bike"


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Where have I been?


Some of you may have noticed that there is a rather large hole in my postings since April.

I'll try to get you caught up...

Sometime around the end of May, I turned 40. As much as I had expected that this day would herald in a new era of my life, that I would somehow feel transformed, it was another day just like the rest. The party was great, even if the weather wasn't. Oh well...

We moved house.

We found a duplex in a village about 5km away from our apartment. 4 bedrooms, garden, lots of space, 3 rooms in the cellar, etc. Really nice. Quiet. Just what we wanted.

This was a major undertaking, involving huge amounts of equipment and time. It is still amazing to me how much stuff we had accumulated as a couple in a short five years. Even more amazing is how we were able to fit all of this shit in our tiny apartment!

Another exciting event was moving our 180 liter (50 gallon) aquarium. 5 people, technical support, and countless buckets filled with fish and plants. We did it though, with only one loss - one poor fish got sucked into the filter. :( Amazing that everything lived.

As you, dear Reader, can imagine, we are still in the process of unpacking and organizing the house. It seems like every time we empty a box, two more appear in it's place. There's still so much left to do...

So, all in all, the only excuse that I can give is that I've been lazy. It's not like I haven't been grilling or cooking great stuff - things have been going great. I've still got tons of ideas, thoughts, etc. I just haven't expressed them.

More coming in the near future.

I bid you Peace,

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday Wings - This Is How We Roll...


Someone had a birthday - I'll let you guess who. A hint - she's the most wonderful, caring, loving, patient, & beautiful woman in the world.

A small gathering of work colleagues was planned for Tuesday - we all still had to show up and take our turn at the Corporate Millstone the next day, so we decided to keep things small: eight people total.

Since we have a couple of picky eaters and we wanted to keep it simple, quick, and delicious, our menu was as follows:

Wings from the grill - Barbecue and Sweet
Crispy Fan Potatoes from the oven
American-style Brownies and Vanilla Ice Cream

Let's begin with the wings, shall we?

We bought 6kg of wings. Some of you may be saying "Holy Piles of Poultry, Batman! That's a lot of chicken!" - I will only say that despite having bought so much, only seven (7) wings are leftover. That's like a light evening meal for one. The wings went over well.

Another thing - we buy our lamb and chicken from the Turkish grocery near our home. The quality is incredible and it is inexpensive in comparison to the big chains. I won't buy anywhere else if I don't have to as we prefer to support local small businesses.

The wings were separated into two groups. The first group was the "sweet" version. I bagged the wings and added about a cup of Raichlen's Basic Barbecue Rub, to which I then gave a generous splash of soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Bag closed, I shook vigorously and waited about 30 minutes.

Protip: Using a clean plastic bag for applying rub and/or marinade solves a whole series of problems:

Easy to use
Keeps your paws clean while rubbing the meat
Better distribution of marinade (get all the air out first before knotting)
Simple transport
Don't have to wash a bowl
Easier to put in the fridge overnight

Need I say more? I prefer 25 liter clear plastic bags with handles. Oddly enough, I like to see what's in the bag...

So, the first batch hits the grill:

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I let that grill indirectly for 30 minutes or so until the internal temp reaches 85.C. As this was going on, we tried making "Crispy" Fan Potatoes...

What you do is take potatoes, wash em, and then stick a wooden skewer lengthwise through the spud about a a third of the way down. This will get used as a cutting stop. Cut slices in the 'tater about 6mm apart until you hit the wood. Take out the skewer and bend it open.

Now, traditionally, you should put a small piece of butter between each slice but we were lazy and only put our oil /rub mixture in there.

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With the potatoes baking merrily away in the oven, it was time to brush on the secret weapon:

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Yep, maple syrup.

You would think that the chicken would end up tasting like pancakes but with the rub and the smoke, it only gives a wonderful sweetness to the wings. These are the preferred wings in our circle - so much that I kind of have to force the barbecue sauce version on everyone if I want to have any!

So, brushed and ready, I closed the lid for five more minutes...

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Don't they look great? Our guests descended on the bowl of wings like a pack of hungry wolves on a three-legged cat! Nothing but bones and napkin bits flying everywhere!!!!

The potatoes were done as well:

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Now, they look all crispy and tasty but I can tell you that they were best described as "floppity". Now, the flavor was slammin' but the crispiness was apparently not part of the order, so they were only "edible" I have had worse potatoes...

Honestly, I have had nothing but problems with potatoes as of late. The wedges work and the potatoes from Easter were good but honestly, they usually suck. I think it has something to do with our Bronze Age oven. No circulation = just gets hot. I'm amazed Anna can bake so well...

Moving right along! The second batch was barbecue:

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Oh yeah - sweet, smoky, and sloppy!!!!

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Now to prepare these wings, I used a rub from the book Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces - specifically Tommy Byron's rub on page 77. I like the spice combination and the sage in the rub makes it something a touch different.

(Edit: by all means, buy the book. Paul just doesn't give you recipes, he explains to you in detail how spices, herbs, vinegars, etc work and how you can use this to make your own rubs and sauces. It's a fun read and worth the time/money)

For those of you who know me, I like my sauces. The more obscure and difficult to obtain, the better. Here is one of my favorites:

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Bill Johnson's is only sold in Arizona and I have a secret source there! Ok, you can order it online but they don't ship internationally that I am aware of. It's still damned good sauce!

Here's a big bucket of goodness!!!

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And a plate of happiness:

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And as that wasn't enough (I swear that half of everyone was fighting off sleep at the dinner table!) Anna wanted American-Style Double Chocolate Brownies (!) for dessert!

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That's all I have to say about that.

I bid you Peace,


Thursday, April 04, 2013

All In - The Easter Lamb Challenge


Sorry for the long span of time between my last post and this one. A brief hospital visit including surgery (don't ask...) and general lack of anything so compelling that I had to post has led to this information drought.

I say to you, my faithful followers: the dark times have passed! The information (like the Spice) must flow!

So I submit the following for your approval - the Easter Lamb Challenge

Anna's parents have been visiting over the Easter holidays and, despite my horrible cold, I wanted to grill up something memorable. The fun began on Good Friday...

Anna likes fish on the grill. We've done a few variations of this but her favorite is whole Dorade with a Caribbean-style marinade/filling. I consulted Raichlen, How to Grill and found the appropriate passage. Here is the result:

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As a side, we made rice with peas and corn with bacon bits. A bit of Emmentaler mixed in didn't hurt either... ;-) Also, there was spinach from the Biokiste that needed to be used.

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The final result:

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The fish was super tasty, the marinade/filling was the perfect counterpoint to the fattiness of the Dorade. Everything was grand!

Now, I noticed on Saturday night, I wasn't feeling so great but I blew it off and thought nothing more of it....

Sunday morning arrives and at 0700, Kali (Agent of Chaos) decided that she was hungry. After feeding the girls, I figured that I could start with the deep prep - I wanted to have garlic in oil as a garnish instead of making a sauce (difficult from the grill). So, I began the process of peeling and grating 4 heads of garlic:

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Right around this time I noticed that i was starting to really feel like shit. It was not to be ignored - I was officially ill.

This matters nothing to a seasoned grill chef such as myself and I pressed on.

So, we purchased 2 bone-in legs of lamb, each approximately 6 pounds. We knew there would be NO WAY we could eat all that but then we would have leftover lamb and doing two is the same as doing one.

Again, Raichlen was consulted and Anna and I prepped the lamb. Spiked with fresh rosemary and garlic slivers, I rubbed a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and Herbes de Provence.

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I put the legs on the grill and grilled them indirect for 2.5 hours at roughly 120'C. Target temp was 60'C internal which would net us a nice medium rare in the middle, leaving the ends more done for those who wanted it so.

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In the mean time, I'm beginning to feel like I'm dying and the meal needs to continue. Anna and I decided that we would make green beans wrapped in bacon and rosemary oven potatoes as our veg and starch. These were slam-dunk choices: the potatoes go in an hour before the lamb should be done and the beans get done à la minute.

When the meat was done, I realized that I didn't know how to carve such a thing. This is why the Internet was invented. I made a YouTube search and found from the fine folks at a video by Chef Eric Crowley on how to portion out a lamb leg. Armed with this info (and having rested the meat for 30 minutes), I proceeded to carve the meat for serving. As is the chef's right, I snuck in a few pieces for myself.

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The meat was indescribably tender and juicy. Seriously, this is only something that you can experience as words just don't do it justice. People thought I was having a crisis at the cutting board from the sounds I was making.

The final plate:

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A truly epic meal for Easter! I have rarely been so proud of myself but this was something that turned out far better than my expectations.

Damn, that was good.

Until next time, I bid you Peace.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013



Normally, I don't this sort of thing but I really think that it's necessary.

As some of you know, I am a passionate Battlefield 3 player - I've been involved with more than one clan over the years but i just haven't found the fit that I was looking for.

Strangely enough, I made a few friends on servers and after running a few rounds with them and chatting with them on Teamspeak, I came to realize that this was the group I had been looking for all this time.

No silly rank structure, no clan initiation rite, no probationary period, no secret handshake. Hell, they don't even have a website!

No, I want to give out mad props to the Men of Mayhem [MoM] and Always The Same Squad [ATSS] - despite that fact that I am more a Man of Mediocrity, this bunch of young punks keep me around because, apparently, they think it's funny to call me "Papa" (the 2nd oldest is 26, I think) and I entertain them by yelling obscenities in English when my rounds go bad (all too often...)

Never in all my many years of online gaming have I met such a group of singularly talented players who are dedicated to teamplay, each with their own style and rhythm. It's an honor to run with them and I can only say that my gameplay is vastly better when I battle along side them. I try to do my part...

In no particular order, I would like to give a special shout-out to:

Ambro900 (for the invitation)
EGY-Reaper (the Egyptian connection)
Bambudscha (From the [KoKs] clan)
ToNtaub3 (from the [BWD] guys)

These are the guys that are usually in the [ATSS] Teamspeak server and tolerate my whining that I suck.

You all kick much ass! Thanks. See you on the battlefield...

Confusion to our enemies,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I dream of two wheels...

"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Just to switch things up, I felt that it was time to make a post about my bicycling adventures. I hope you all don't mind.

June 2012...

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January 2013

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As you can see, my bike has taken on a few improvements and changes since my July 2012 post.

Let me first talk a bit about my "philosophy" of bicycles.

I truly believe that the bicycle is an extension of my body. It is a vehicle where the passenger is at the same time the motor. I also see a bicycle as an empty canvas, awaiting the stroke of the rider to make it their own.

I am not a gram shaver - actually, I'm the opposite: I search out robust pieces that I know will last and serve me in the long run.

Nor am I a gear whore, although many cyclists (and most likely my girlfriend...)would describe me as such. I do not buy gear simply to satisfy my desire to have the latest, greatest, or lightest.

Replacing gear on my bike is an ongoing process of seeing what works and making adjustments as needed to assure that riding is a pleasant and satisfying experience. For me, the journey is not enough - although this is a large part of why I have decided to start riding - the process of making my bike a harmonious extension of myself is something that has fascinated me and that I have striven towards since I was a teenager.

I greatly desire to have a minimalistic single-speed but, sadly, it's totally impractical for me. Most of these are delicate works of art, designed with underfed hipsters in mind who will probably never ride the thing, only hang it in the hallway of their home. I also do not live in a city like Berlin, München, or Hamburg where something like that would be ultra-practical. I live in a village next to a larger village - the ability to transverse both distance and various terrain while carrying loads is a requirement. Finally, they just don't make 'em strong enough.

So, I've got what I've got.

You know, what I've got ain't too bad.

So, what did I change this time?

Most importantly, I washed it. So many people refuse (for whatever reason) to wash their bikes and I simply don't get it. You spent a lot of money on your bike, why not take an hour to make sure that the object of your passion is clean? I know that some off-road types think that to have a clean ride is somehow a sign of weakness but I wholeheartedly disagree. Not only do you get a good-looking bike but it's a great time to look and see where minor adjustments need to be made and how things are wearing.

Corollary: should you wash your bike with a high-pressure sprayer, I hope your bearings sound like a flock of angry sparrows and you are mocked and reviled endlessly by passing schoolchildren!

So, after cleaning up, I decided to lube my chain. I'm a real fan of the KryTech product from Finish Line. The addition of wax (mostly paraffin) really makes a difference when the weather is bad or I ride mostly trails. Oddly enough, I like to use the stuff around the house, like for sticky locks, door hinges, and window mechanisms. The dryness of the lubricant stays where I apply it and doesn't attract dirt.

Now, maybe I'm just strange but I find that oiling my chain is very meditative, like reciting a mantra. Each pivot gets a drop. Takes me forever. Very calming.

Once finished with that, I replaced my old Conti TownRides, a versatile, dry-weather city tire with something a bit sportier from Maxxis - the WormDrive.

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Don't get me wrong - the Contis are a great tire, it's just that with the winter weather cycling between dumping snow and then warming up, I felt I needed something that had a tad more grip but wasn't a pure offroad tire. When you factor in that manufacturers have forgotten that there is an entire group of people who ride 700c wheels but want tires wider than 35mm, my choices were rather limited. I ordered the Maxxis' on Amazon, only to find out that Maxxis has discontinued the line. So now I'm burning tires that I can probably never replace.

Oh well. I like the added grip and safety, despite having to get used to the higher rolling resistance. I pumped those suckers up to 5.5-6.0 bar, so we'll see how long they last.

Now, if you would have told me when I was 16 and a budding road cyclist that someday I would be excited to get a new light for my bike, I would have had you declared as insane and probably never talked to you again. Well, I was really excited to get a new light for my bike:

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Busch & Müller's Lumotec series is (here in Germany) the last word in affordable, innovative, super-bright bicycle lighting. I purchased the model Cyo T LED Senso Plus, which has daytime running lights and a 60 lux main light. This means that it's bright as hell at night without being blinding. Now, I run a light from my hub dynamo like you are required to do here in Deutschland and my old light was just not cutting it. On my ride through the forest to go home, I damn near ran over a family walking in the pitch dark (!!!) if it weren't for the little one waving at me in his white jacket. Now, this will no longer be the case, as I have a great light pattern to the front while the daytime lights provide peripheral vision.

I also replaced my grips. I am of the opinion that the contact surfaces (grips/seat/pedals) are some of the most important point on the bike, I invested some money in ergonomically correct grips.

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As you can see, I chose the Ergon GS1 grip in black. The support that these provide is simply unbelievable. I figured that it was a gimmick but I would give them a shot. I can say with certainty that I will be a long-time fan of these grips. Over longer distance, they allow you to rest on your bars without causing your hands to fall asleep and I feel that you have better control.

Being that I am an innovator (yea, right...) I saw in the 'Net that someone was designing a leather frame carrying strap and I figured that I could do something similar out of paracord. The reason for my choice of materials is that leather would look out of place on my bike and I have *lots* of paracord. So, I made this:

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Well, my version sucks.

Not the concept - the handle makes it a thousand times easier to carry my bike up and down the stairs (I store my bike in the cellar)- but my handiwork is rather lackluster. I figured that I could run a four-strand braid, tighten it enough to make a hold and then tie a double salomon bar between.

It sort of worked but the loops are loose and the thing slides all over hell and gone. I also made the carrying handle itself far too long, which give tons of play in the entire construction. I want to come up with a better solution for the loops that go around the tubing but I have failed up to this point. The use of premade Velcro tie-down straps looked really promising but failed spectacularly as soon as I weighted it - the Velcro was bound around the D ring via plastic heat weld bonding. That died almost instantly.

Footnote: By all means support Walnut Studiolo. I think that this is the kind of simple but effective innovation in the bicycle world that needs more support and I hope that they are successful in their endeavor. That and they make really cool bike stuff out of leather!

Other changes that have been made not supported by photographs:

I pulled my old Time pedals off my mountain bike to replace my Shimano PD-M324s. The Shimanos were a good pedal but the SPD system just doesn't give enough play to keep my old, broke-dick knees from hurting. Remember - contact points are important!

I replaced my aging, tired Cateye Enduro 2 bike computer (now being sold as the Enduro 8) with a spiffy new wireless O-Synce Urban Free. Wireless is the way to go with bike computers and O-Synce breaks out of the mold set by Sigma and the others. The little remote is a bit fumbly at first but with time became one of those "how did I live without this" things.

My El Cheapo™ waterbottle cage got switched out for a SKS Slidecage, which holds my water bottle better and has the possibility to hold non-standard size drink holders like thermal coffee bottles.

Oh, to address the lack of cat-related content, I leave you with Kali, doing what she does best...

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"Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race." ~ H.G. Wells

I bid you Peace,

*Extra Disclaimer* - I don't get a single cent nor do I get any
swag from any of the manufacturers whose products I have shown and/or linked to.
It would rock, but it's not to be. All opinions are my very own. So there! :P

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The "Post Xmas and NYE Insanity" Epic Novel Part Two

So, where were we?

In Part 1, I regaled you all with the wonderment and magic that is the German Christmas Market. Now, I want to discuss an important topic, one that is close to your heart if you live in the Rheinland Palatinate...


That's right - the both feared and revered dish that is the very definition of all things Pfälzig. That which Helmut Kohl served to every visiting dignitary he could think of, not as a way to test their stomachs, but to show off something that he thought was the greatest thing in all of Germany.

I agree with him. Yet again, this is something that had humble beginnings as poor-man's fare and is now made with the finest ingredients possible. There's even a World Championship for saumagen.

You may be asking yourself "what does this have to do with Christmas and/or New Year's Eve?

Well...nothing. Does it matter?

Anyway, on the advice of a good friend, Anna and I traveled to a tiny village of Harthausen in the Palatinate to get what is regularly considered as the best saumagen in all of Germany. This is where Helmut Kohl (allegedly) got his to serve to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher so I assume that it is good enough for us.

That place is Metzgerei Schreiner.


A rather unassuming place. I can assure you though, the meaty delights inside makes the trek worth the time.

There are essentially two styles of saumagen: with or without chestnuts. I find them both to be delicious. I was given a tip from the woman at the counter: coat the slices with flour to keep the chestnuts from falling out into the pan. Worked quite well...


Now, the traditional style of serving is with sauerkraut (which I dislike) and good, hearty bread.


I tend towards serving it with mashed potatoes. Maybe it's the leftover American in me but for some reason I like it better.


This is living!

More Saumagenses

I can only say that if you somehow have the opportunity to get some, do it.

You won't be disappointed.

Guten Appetit!