Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Manual dexterity isn't exactly my forte. You're talking to a man whose hand/eye coordination has doomed him to loose every ping-pong game he will ever play with his (younger) brother, even in some inverted universe where everybody has little goatees. My patience is also notoriously short. Back when I gave a shit about basketball (for reasons that somehow escape me now), family legend has it that I broke a remote control throwing it at Shaquile O'Neal's head (this is actually more common than you'd think among Sacramento Kings fans).

All of these things suggest that I would make a terrible sewer. At least, that's what I assumed, until I tried my hand at patching up my favorite pair of jeans. Fortunately, it seems that somewhere beneath this clumsy exterior of a likely natural-selection victim lies the steady hands and iron patience of a Navy Seals sniper that happens to be a 75-year old woman.

Ok, so I can't sew like your grandma, but I did manage to patch up my jeans (notice the finely sculpted hindquarters above). And if I can do it, pretty much anybody can. For my little project, I took a bit of denim from the inside of my back-right pocket (tip to pickpockets: I always wear my wallet on my left-side), pinned it to the hole (which I had cut out more or less neatly from the hanging tear), and sewed. When I had made stitches all around the patch, I ran a couple of small stitches over my last stitch, and tied the two ends of my string together with several slip-knots. Now, instead of seeing my beautiful green boxers, people will just think that I'm wearing black ones!

Since my powers of description are a little lacking, I've included this link to let you see how a pro does it. Or at least someone whose hands aren't malformed clubs like mine (hey, we can't all be perfect).

Jean Patching Guide

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Edible Plants: Nasturtium

I've been finding edible plants all around my apartment here in Berkeley. Miner's lettuce, wild onion, and nasturtium are all rampant in the street planters and up in the hills; just take a bag with you when you're walking and you'll have a nice salad for dinner! Here are some links to give you an idea what to look for (plus my own "identification guide" up top):
-Miner's Lettuce (I like the story about the ant hills and the Indians; wonder if it works?)
-Wild Onion (The ones I've been finding have whiter flowers than these)

As with all edible plants, you're on your own with these. Experts (a cadre which I do not pretend to belong to) recommend you check three different guides before eating any wild plants. That said, I think these three plants are some of the easiest to find and identify; have fun storming the castle!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rage Against The Machine: Wheel Wars

In my history as a bicyclist, I've hit two cars. No, they didn't run into me, I decided to take bring the fight to the home front and ran smack dab into them.

Now, before you begin writing folk songs about how Alec fought the machine and lived to tell the tale, let me clarify that both of these cases were classic examples of me being a dumb ass. Both times I was going too fast with worn out breaks and fully immersed in my typical guinea pig-level consciousness. In both instances, I was lucky enough to cause no damage to myself or the other person's automobile, and didn't run into a seven foot former felon.

So bicyclists can be dicks, too. We can be "slow" (fifteen miles an hour seems fast enough to myself, but then again, I'm somewhat dubious on this whole "combustion engine" idea, so you have to compensate for the wingnut factor), we can take up the lane for no apparent reason, and sometimes we can just be plain stupid.

Deal with it.

Bicyclists can cause serious accidents, but they are by far the most vulnerable party on the road that abides by the same rules that motorists follow. We choose to spend our recreational time and commute in a manner that respects our bodies and contributes to a cleaner community. No matter what your opinion is on anthropocentric (human-caused) climate change, the negative impacts of smog and other pollutants that result from automobile use are undeniable. In addition, bicycles make for a safer driving experience. They cause less congestion, travel at a slower pace, and allow for greater awareness due to their open design; all of which helps prevent accidents.

Automobiles have a variety of uses. They are ideal for mid-range travel between cities not covered by adequate intercity mass transit, integral to the distribution of necessary goods to many semi-remote locals, and essential for quick emergency services. But automobilists have to recognize that they share the road with other users. My experiences in the city have shown that most drivers are very respectful to bicyclists and even go out of their way to accommodate them. However, to those of you that constitute the exception, grow up and try a bike. Maybe you'll find your road rage channeled into something more productive, like charging up the next hill or doing some jumps off curbs.