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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Baking update

Believe it or not, I have worked as baker. I did some time over the deep fat fryers you might find in fast food restaurants, dropping raised doughnuts in by the dozen, for hours at a time, day after day; I picked cake doughnuts off of a conveyor belt; admired the mechanizations of industry that made it possible to produce maximum quantities with minimum effort, mixed fifty pound bags of flour together by the ton before 8 AM and also once made a créme brûlée recipe with Tablespoons of sugar, rather than Teaspoons.

Hundreds of dozens of finished product, being carried out double doors, box by box, started at six in the morning, being escorted to urban businesses by vans and trucks...the sort of mass produced quality gas stations and hospital cafeterias are famous for, but there you have it. Four years of frying, sheeting, baking, cutting, mixing, picking, packing and watching the cake decorators painfully constructing magnificently complicated works of art, while I and three or four other bakers hammered out chocolate coated biscuits by the thousands.

Other experience, if you needed to know, came from three or four other bakeries, where I learned about cutting butter into scones, shaping boules, making croissants, the relevance of salt in bread, the amount of time it takes different flours to become active starters in a sourdough recipe and how to listen to bread to make sure it is done. It takes less time to blink though, to trace down a wealth of information on the internet. The thing I draw on more and more, is those days working over a fryer making the lowest common denominator, than the few months I spent in a kitchen making chocolate croissants from scratch.

So, if anybody I ever worked with reads this, thanks for the help. I'm no expert, as you probably recall.

Here are some pictures of the bread I have been baking lately, almost all made with honey, nuts and cranberries, high quality flour from my local Co-op and dry active yeast. I haven't tried making a sourdough recipe since 2009, a Thom Leonard recipe I found in Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer, which I highly recommend.

Nut and Berry bread, photo by michael McKinney

Cedar Lake Minneapolis balancing act, photo by Michael McKinney

Nut and Berry bread, photo by Michael McKinney

Nut and berry bread, photo by Michael McKinney

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Recapitulation, 2015

I didn't get much accomplished with the extra reading time I had sitting around with two broken bones in my foot, according to my 2015 books list on Goodreads...four or five of the books I didn't even finish.

Oh well. Adding to the gift of hindsight seems redundant, but according to a witty blog post I saw this morning on the bus, there are at least twenty words in foreign languages that do not occur in English that express a universal sentiment. The feeling expressed when two people make eye contact and both feel impelled to take action but do nothing; "Mamihlapinatapei", the pleasure of seeing your friend in pain; "Schadenfreude", for example. "L'espirit d'escalier" translates to "Staircase Wit" but it is a french expression for knowing exactly what to say after re-hashing an exchange subconsciously, perhaps humiliatingly, a thousand times.

I'm sure The Simpsons character Comic Book Guy would have a Klingon word to contribute to the Argschnaddle.

So 2015, in Book Breads and Bikes had less to do with baking, reading and getting around on my bicycle than accommodating a moderate injury that hampered my ability to pursue the healthy activities I have taken for granted since quitting smoking 15 years ago.

I did get a few good photos here and there of whatever Minnesota Nice Ride I happened to be riding and a few decent loaves of bread were produced in between limping to and from my three separate part time occupations.

I read a really good article about the extreme athlete Dean Potter, a Patagonia Sponsored rock climber, wing suit flyer and BASE jumper when he died. He did a lot of things I wouldn't try. High lining, wing suit flying, free solo climbing and BASE jumping seem pretty far beyond the reach of the average person, and thankfully, according to the New York Times article I read, the mentors have a nose for the unworthy.

The word that has stuck with me from that article was one that a French associate of Potters used to describe the appeal of  BASE jumping, or wing suit flying; "Impuissance", which translates poorly to "impotence" but has more to do with powerlessness. This avid wing suit flyer likened the first few moments of free fall to powerlessness, an abject surrender to whatever preparations you have made, to your experience and your understanding of physics. Something gets lost in the translation.

A single specific favorite bike ride of 2015...probably one of many including a Minnesota NiceRide, a fishing pole and some intermittent success pursuing fish along Minnehaha Creek and the Minneapolis chain of lakes.

Willow River, WI. July 2015. Photo by Michael McKinney

Saint John's University Arboretum Stick House, February 2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Minnehaha Falls, February 2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Minneapolis Sunrise, May 2015. Photo by Michael McKinney

Pottery Greenware, St. Paul MN, April 2015

Rush river, WI, August 2015. Photo by Michael McKinney

Minnesota Nice Ride at Minnehaha Creek, Minneapolis, September 2015. Photo by Michael McKinney

Bread, Photo by Michael McKinney

Minnesota Nice Ride at Sunrise, Hamline Avenue Green Line Station, September 2015. Photo by Michael McKinney

Selfie at the Walker Sculpture Garden, December 2015.

Minnehaha Falls, December 2015.

Wells Fargo Tower, Minneapolis. December 2015.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Meantime, the fishing has been decent.

So what does a person do with a painful case of gout and two broken metatarsal bones? How to navigate through the days when walking is painful and running is out of the question? Never mind cycling, trail running and self-sustaining behaviors of good intent, what about getting dressed in the morning without grimacing in pain, slipping in the shower or simply keeping a job?

I got back to working, eventually, but I had to wear a removable plastic cast on my leg for a month, and then intermittently for another month. I am still not running, but have been cycling more, and riding Minnesota's NiceRide bicycles as much as wearing comfortable cork and leather sandals will allow, (they're good for the gout).

Did I mention the fishing? Since working at Target Field in the early part of this year, I had the initiative to steer away from fly fishing a little bit, in order to more simply cast on lakes the Rapalas, Mepps and poppers fly casting does not accommodate without snagging tree limbs or pedestrians on the back cast. So while it has not been particularly pleasurable or devoid of pain, I have managed to catch a nice walleye, a couple northerns, a bass or two and made it back into some Wisconsin trout streams for the more refined "single barbless hook" fly fishing I used to enjoy more readily.

If it all sounds too good to be true, consider how stadiums are cleaned.

As per Breads, Bikes and Books, I did finally get out and ride my sixth or seventh century on labor day. It started as a nice day to get out and ride, so a simple ride out to Stillwater seemed feasible. As I started I added a short loop onto the front of the ride, and after sitting with friends and relaxing in Stillwater, completing a century didn't seem impractical or even all that noteworthy.

It was however a beautiful day with a surprising lack of confrontational episodes.

Here is the link to the MapMyRide route I created.

Lake Nokomis Largemouth Bass, Minneapolis; Photo by Michael McKinney

Mississippi River Smallmouth Bass, Minneapolis; Photo by Michael McKinney

Minnesota NiceRide Selfie, Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis; Photo by Michael McKinney

Storm Clouds, Minneapolis; Photo by Michael McKinney

Saint Paul Sunset; photo by Michael McKinney

Removable Cast and NiceRide, Saint Paul; Photo by Michael McKinney

Goose Biot Stone Fly; Photo by Michael McKinney

Willow River Rainbow trout, Wisconsin; Photo by Michael McKinney

Stearns County, MN, Blue Moon; Photo by Michael McKinney

Minnehaha Creek walleye, Minneapolis; Photo by Michael McKinney

Pierce County, WI, Brown Trout; Photo by Michael McKinney

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis; Photo by Michael McKinney

Friday, June 12, 2015

Browns Creek Bicycle Trail

The last time I caught a trout in Browns Creek was in 2006. I fished a size 16 Pheasant Tail Bead Head into a pool for an hour, and eventually caught what Simpson's folklorists would know as General Sherman, the massive catfish Homer caught in season two while on a couple's retreat with Marge.

The lone brown trout was probably just as surprised as I was to be caught, and I released it. The railroad tracks at that time were remnants of the logging industry that built Stillwater, as is most of the town's architecture and buildings - as recently as 2003 the original buildings that once housed logging mills were still standing, in fact I believe there are still a number of them there now.

After years of contentious land speculating, a group purchased the property, tore out the wooden rail ties and the steel rail lines and voila, a perfectly smooth, gradually descending, (or ascending) bicycle and pedestrian trail was born.

Of the handful of times I have ridden on the Browns Creek Trail, I have found people to be very courteous and respectful of cyclists, and I try as a cyclist to reciprocate that convention with "on your left" or simply slowing whenever an altercation seems imminent.

Here is a Strava route, running from Saint Paul to downtown Stillwater, nearly fifty miles of exclusive bicycle trail, including the newly completed Browns Creek Trail.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Stress of a Metatarsal Stess Fracture

Saint Paul Black Lives Matter Protest, 1-2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Half Ass Kitchen Bread, 5-2105. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Metatarsal Stress Fracture, 2-2015. Photo by Michael McKinney

Ford Parkway, St. Paul, 3-2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Rice Park, 1-2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Smallie, Lake Nokomis, 5-2105. Photo by Michael McKinney.

New tires, 5-2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

St. John's University Stick House, 2-2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Minneapolis sunrise, 4-2015. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Well let me tell you, it's been at least three months. Three months of a small little man swinging a carpentry hammer into the middle of my foot every time I walk. You'd think more people would see the little fella, but maybe people mistake him for a Dachshund or a vicious little Pomeranian...I hear Papillons are particularly savage, given their size.

Ha. Just kidding.

Rewind back to the first weekend of February - I'm a little overweight, enjoying hibernation and trying to resume a workout routine at my local YMCA. I lift some weights, I jump-rope one footed for a couple minutes, I run, I load up my overloaded backpack and walk home. The next day I lace up my tight hockey skates and skate around, the day after that I jump on my cross country skis and sprint around a Kilometer race with my Nephew...and lo and behold...a Metatarsal Stress Fracture hits my foot and I limp for three days before seeing a Nurse Practitioner who tells me I'm Shit Out Of Luck.

That was three months ago, and last week I decided to test my rehabilitation with a ten mile run. I had been swimming, (I'm not a good swimmer) as much as I could in March, slowly starting to run on a treadmill, riding my bike again and felt like a solid run was a wise decision. It was not, and I limped for a couple of days.

I have been told by friends and acquaintances that a Metatarsal Stress Fracture is painful, but I have typically relegated it to a slight annoyance, however if you google it, and I suggest you do, you will quickly learn it sucks. So that being said, I have been out on my bike again this spring, and as a handful of nurses have reminded me, swimming and biking are okay with a Metatarsal Stress Fracture, but running is out. That includes running after frisbees, which I also found out the hard way a month and half ago.

So, don't worry, (I know you were not going to be worried) there is no small little guy walking next to me swinging a carpentry hammer into my foot, but damned if it doesn't feel like it just a little bit.

What did I miss...well I've been reading some, riding my bike some and baking bread, the usual suspects. Other than that, feeling like somebody has dropped a bowling ball on my foot has been a little preoccupying. Enjoy the pictures...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Early Spring, late return

I've gotten out riding a little lately, after taking the whole winter off. Since November 21st I stayed off my bike and used public transport as much as possible - last week I took the bike, cleaned it off and got back to riding. Five months is the most time I've gone without riding since 2008, including winters, it's also the most amount of time I've spent riding Metro Transit. The Twin Cities now has two Rail lines, and is adding at least one more in the next few years, so they add to the commuting experience as well, though riding again has been nice.

New downtown Saint Paul bike routes have recently passed legislation, and with another stadium being built, (completed), at the nexus of the Bruce Vento Trail, the Mississippi River Trail and the Lowertown Saint Paul Farmers Market, it seems reasonable to accommodate the growing demand of citizens. While I did not get much skiing in this winter, owing to a lack of snow and motivation, I did find it rewarding to take some time off and explore public transportation - drivers are great sources of route information, if they aren't too busy or running late.

David Byrne, (that David Byrne) wrote a great series of travel essays that all fit together under the bicycling moniker of "Commuter Experience". I recommend reading it, if not for the way he consistently finds the best in things when they are at their worst, then for the way he approaches being a knowledgeable person, with vulnerability and humility, every time he rides a bicycle in a strange city.

Bicycle DiariesBicycle Diaries by David Byrne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just watched "Birdman", so I'm all giddy with crossover artists. Way to go Dave. Nice travel memoir.

View all my reviews

Dried flowers, Saint Paul. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael Mckinney.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hogback toast

Minneapolis, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Minneapolis, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Saint Paul, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Minneapolis, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Lake Minnetonka, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

The long story is pretty complicated, so I'll shorten it to 2008, when a cousin of mine in Colorado printed out a GPS map of a fifty mile bike ride from Fort Collins to Boulder. I was riding his steel frame road bike, and though I had never ridden the route, it was easily the highlight of 2008 - I didn't get lost, it was a fairly challenging ride, and I handled it. I even enjoyed it. I surprised myself, really.

A hogback in Colorado is what the Boulder locals call a hill, and in Minnesota, it's what a lot of people would look at cross eyed and say "...that's the biggest hill I've ever seen." In a state with 55 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet high, it's pretty easy to see why misinterpretations regarding elevation are bound to happen. Take a minute to google "Number of 14,000 foot peaks in Minnesota" and reward yourself with a broad understanding of regional linguistics.

Anyway, this particular bike ride had a few good hogbacks and fifty miles at elevation, so my cousin planned it for me in advance with a map from MapMyRides and BikeRouteToaster, a fairly simple mapping program. When I got back to the level headed Midwest, I spent some time learning about MapMyRide; going on a bike ride on familiar roads, getting home, walking to a library and charting out my ride, sometimes printing out the BikeRouteToaster results for elevation and sometimes saving the work on MapMyRide.

Footnote, manually mapping a fifty mile bicycle ride on a public library computer and then having the map lost after a system wide reset is a little frustrating, almost as frustrating as the same thing happening at a coffee shop where the wi-fi is free as long as your coffee is pricey enough.

One thing led to another, and in 2013 I bought a wrist top GPS - a Garmin 210 heart rate monitor and GPS computer. No more manual mapping, but lots of statistics and Stravasshole-ism, (I had no idea "King of the Mountain" was anything but a game kids play at snowpiles while waiting for the bus), but there you go. Since then, the mapping and recording of rides has been a lot simpler. Rather than spending up to an hour manually entering turns and miles on MapMyRide, I plug in the Garmin 220, (I upgraded in 2014 after some technical issues), upload the data to Strava, MapMyRide and Garmin Connects and get on my way.

That is as uncomplicated as I can make it.

Thanks for reading, and here is my favorite bike ride from 2014, a double loop through the fairly hilly region of Cherokee Park, Kaposia Park and Mendota Heights, Minnesota.