Friday, July 23, 2010

Chopping the Pack

Photo courtesy Flickr

I thought I might increase my chances of survival in an emergency evacuation if I bought myself a Binford Weightmaster 4500 Pack. I fell for the color, installed quite a few dollars worth of gear in it, and thrashed around it in the back of the closet whenever I was looking for something else I don’t use very often.

Over the week-end I realized that it would be more elegant to fuse the pack and my rolling briefcase into one piece of gear that serves both purposes and is more likely to be with me. As the Seals say, “You never need it until you really, really need it.” At the luggage specialist downtown, I was happy to find that the first rolling backpack of the late Nineties has morphed into a model that weighs a third of the original, costs a third, is too small to carry more weight than I should, stows under a plane seat, and is not likely to attract pirates. My intermediate rolling backpack had a single handle that made it easier to tow but less serviceable for cargo-never could lash anything to that single strut. A double handle makes it easy to pile on extra totes and parcels.

It gripes me to have money tied up in slowly obsolescing inventory that I never use, and since I had something better to do, I pulled out the Binford, emptied it, and cast a cold eye on the design. I worked my way through the maze of adjusting cords and pulls and realized that I could separate the bag from the frame in a reversible process. Twenty minutes’ fiddling yielded a featherweight rectangular pack sack attached to a folding hand truck with lengths of Velcro. The sack has two horizontal battens top and bottom that hold it in shape, a wonderful surprise that makes me sorry I didn’t look it over sooner. I lopped off exterior dingbats and confusing interior pulls, and excised the internal baffles, a Navy Seal trick that makes any carrier more efficient. Now I can pack in a flash with zippered nylon cube kits or whatever else the day demands.

-30- More after the jump.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fried Salad

Photo courtesy Flickr

I’ve been careful about washing salad greens since E coli morphed into a mortal threat. Found some advice about spraying greens with vinegar and then with hydrogen peroxide to kill surface bacteria. It’s a pain in the neck but yields uniquely firm and crisp leaves. Spray peroxide first, rinse, and then let the vinegar be part of the dressing, sort of, even though the oil should go on first. You can add a little sour cream and some spices and call the salad ready to eat, or dry the greens and proceed. Look for sour cream with cream in it.

Recently, a grocery chain had a special on pre-packaged mixed greens, and I inadvertently bought more than I could use right away. The next evening, I stared stupidly at the contents of the refrigerator in the usual meditation and recalled a 1940s Joy of Cooking recipe for lettuce cooked with peas. I presume this is a recipe from the kitchen of a property with a garden full of surplus lettuce. Old cookbooks are gold mines.

There were some whole-grain wraps sitting around, and I stir-fried half a bag of greens in a generous slug of olive oil in lieu of dinking around with spray bottles. Fried salad was delicious, quick to prepare, and calming to digest.

Last night I stir-fried a bunch of spinach-just trimmed off the ends of the bunch in one swoop, rinsed them in a bowl of cold water, parked them on the drainboard while I did something else for a while, and set up to fry, having chopped the spinach so it didn’t tangle. Added ten or twelve drops of smoke seasoning, some garlic powder, and half a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to the liquid in the pan, and had a substantial meal by wrapping the spinach in a whole-grain tortilla with some sour cream, a few very thin slices of local cheddar, a little hot sauce, and a few minced leaves of basil.

Adding some fruit and a snack bar made a perfectly decent, easy meal.

-30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Or smarts, I’m not sure which. This improvised mud flap was a fine surprise last time I was on Fourth Avenue. It supports local culture, local cuisine, and upcycling. The carbon load is trivial, the fabricator keeps up his skills, and he, I presume it’s he because of the bike, doesn’t have to make the money to buy a mud flap or find the time to shop for one. And he probably made it in front of TV.

Pablo Picasso said something to the effect that the first time you make something, it’s going to look weird. The people who come after you are the ones who make the same thing look slick. The poet Langston Hughes said something similar, that awkwardness is a sign of strength.

There’s a PBS series called Everyday Edisons that Channel 9 uses to fill Tavis Smiley’s dawn slot on Monday. It’s illuminating to watch a product develop from the beer-can fender stage to a glossy info-mercial or strategic shelf position in a big-box chain.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Go Dig A Hole

Photo courtesy Flickr

One moribund morning in July my mother sent my brother, me, two neighbor kids, and a couple of shovels into the garden with that instruction. We spent the rest of the summer happily excavating, flooding, and re-excavating one shady spot under the tree where the jay liked to scold us.

Other activities that kept us all sane were making popcorn without a lid, skating on the cement floor of the basement with a dressmaker’s dummy on wheels, costume variable, and jumping the living daylights out of an old innerspring mattress.

Culinary experiments with stale spices yielded an education in bad and good smells, the button box presented a special kind of tablecloth chess, and we couldn’t wait to eat up a box of cereal that had a cut-out vehicle printed on the back. Toy-A-Day at has similar graphics-they’re great for training fine motor skills. Cereal boxes and dry cleaner’s shirt cardboards were our sources for inexpensive playthings.

A friend who grew up on a dairy farm said he learned at an early age never to complain about having nothing to do because the first time he said that, his father sent him to muck out the calf barn.
More after the jump.