24 September 2013

Keeping The Citi Running

Biking regularly comes with maintenance and repair, and I've been wondering how all those Citibikes manage to stay in working order.

Once I saw a couple of workers open up one of the stations that wasn't working: it turns out they contain several car batteries, charged by a solar panel.  And I've occasionally seen bikes being loaded on or off box trucks in the dark, presumably to move them where they need to be for the morning's riders.

But maintenance remained a mystery until I ran across Knowlege and Lauren.
They work (part-time, it must be said) pumping up tires, tightening nuts and bolts, and checking that everything is in good working order.  They have a very cool trailer for their pump and tools and stuff, too.
I know the system has its flaws, including lack of availability outside of downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.

But since its inauguration just a few months ago, I think Citibike is challenging the car-centric culture of New York.  I biked down Seventh Avenue this morning -- no bike lane, but except for one insane individual who swerved at me while blowing his horn, the drivers seemed to be in agreement that the bikes could have the left lane.

I'm curious to see if the new bikers keep riding as winter descends.

23 September 2013

Nerve Noise Nausea

A pretty good summary of what it's like to commute by car, right?  Snapped on Grand Street.
Yes, that guy's vest does indeed say "Pedestrian Safety."  The streets are designed for cars, so they need specially trained folks out there to keep the pedestrians from getting killed if they should wander into a crosswalk at the wrong moment.  At some intersections, they use chains to keep the pedestrians contained.

Bikers are relegated to narrow lanes on a few streets, yet car culture has us programmed to be grateful even for those. Car remains King: bike lanes are obstacle courses of parked delivery trucks, idling limos, drivers parking or turning or u-turning, and myriad other hazards.
Still, commuting by bike and train is vastly less stressful than driving.  Views of the East River, from the seat of the bike, and of the Raritan Bay, from a seat on the train, vary daily, with changing light and weather conditions, and every day it does me good to pay attention.

18 September 2013

Human Desires

In an essay I'm re-reading for a course this semester, SuEllen Campbell asks, "When human desires ... conflict with other environmental values, how does the author-narrator choose?"

Human desires -- not human needs.  So many of us in the developed world have so much beyond what we need, yet the culture of capitalism creates constant desire for more.  And "more" has come into stark conflict with other environmental values: clean air, clean water, the survival of animal species.

So there's the key to moving forward as a human species trying to mitigate the damage we've done to the planet.  What do we need?  What do we want?  How much more damage will we do before we learn to make the distiction?


*"Asking Ecocritical Questions," in Teaching North American Environmental Literature, ed. Laird Christensen, et al. (New York: MLA, 2008), p. 219.

02 September 2013

A Week of Meals

Someone asked me recently about going vegan, and someone else asked about going gluten free, and in both cases, my answer was: take it slow.  Figure out what you're going to eat, learn a few new recipes or modify some you already like, as you transition into a new way of eating.

Here's what could be a week of vegan, gluten-free meals at our house.

Breakfast: Grits, fruit, coffee/tea
Lunch: leftover pea soup
Snack: handful of almonds and an apple
Supper: pasta with tomato sauce, chick peas, broccoli

Breakfast: baked beans, fruit, coffee/tea
Lunch: almond butter sandwich on gluten-free bread, apple
Snack: rice cakes
Supper: avocado rolls, pan-fried tofu, sauteed green beans

Breakfast: cold cereal (gluten-free) with walnuts, raisins, flax meal; coffee/tea
Lunch: leftover pasta, salad
Snack: banana
Supper: Red lentil soup, salad, gluten-free toast

Breakfast: gluten free toast with almond butter, fruit, coffee/tea
Lunch: soy cream cheese sandwich on gluten-free bread, peach
Snack: corn chips and salsa
Supper: black bean and corn salad, gluten-free sesame noodles

Breakfast: gluten-free hot cereal with walnuts, raisins, flax seeds, coffee/tea
Lunch: leftover lentil soup, salad
Snack: a slice of gluten-free, vegan banana bread
Supper: vegetable and tofu stir fry with thai coconut curry, brown rice, fruit

Breakfast: tofu scramble with onions, garlic, spices, coffee/tea
Lunch: leftover black bean and corn salad, apple
Snack: blue corn chips, hummus
Supper: Green split pea soup with kale, fruit

Breakfast: gluten-free vegan pancakes, fruit, coffee/tea
Lunch: almond butter and sliced banana sandwich, fruit
Snack:  almonds, apple
Supper: chana masala, brown rice, salad

The Mate and I don't have much time to cook during the week, so on the weekends, we usually spend at least one afternoon/evening in the kitchen together cooking up big batches of soups and stews and hummus and baked beans and curries.  Some go into the fridge for lunches right away, others go in pint mason jars into the freezer for the weeks when we're completely swamped, or the summer nights when it's too hot to cook.

Initially, changing to a new way of eating requires a lot of planning and thinking, which is why I recommend a slow transition, trying one or two new recipes a week and learning how to modify existing favorites.  But with time, it becomes automatic.

And for nights when we're swamped and haven't planned ahead, there's Chinese take-out, or a black bean soup made from canned beans and frozen vegetables with some Italian herb mix and a sauteed onion.