Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mistakes in my last post: Please don't wait till Mother's Day!

Subsequent to my last post, NCTCOG sent me an email with an updated PDF file to replace the original one that they sent me, remarking that the PSA contained erroneous links. Steve A was the first reader to point it out to me and without further ado, here is the new PDF-converted-to-JPEG file.



Peace :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Please don't wait till Mother's Day!

As many of you already do, please always treat Mother Earth well! Take good care of her, so that future generations can cherish what we have.

Here is PSA from NCTCOG (North Central Texas Council of Governments)!

Peace :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Anyone can get tired!

Sometimes, even non-cyclists can be too tired. We tried stopping Rambo from going into the bedroom this morning and this is what came of it. He showed us that he was too tired and he needed to sleep on the bed!

Hope your week is going by smoothly!

Peace :)

Dallas Earth Day!

Dallas celebrates Earth Day on Friday and Saturday, 4/22-23, in the Arts District. Volunteer opportunities are available.

Click here for more details!

I plan to ride to the event on Saturday.

Hope to see you there!

Peace :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Frankenfoods in Your "Natural" Foods Store: Whole Foods or Whole Hypocrisy?

Frankenfoods in Your "Natural" Foods Store: Whole Foods or Whole Hypocrisy?

"The reality is that no grocery store in the United States, no matter what size or type of business, can claim they are GE-free. While we have been and will continue to be staunch supporters of non-GE foods, we are not going to mislead our customers with an inaccurate claim... We have advocated for mandatory labeling of GE foods since 1992..."

--- Whole Foods Market Internal Company Memo 1/30/2011

"Whole Foods claim they support mandatory labeling of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Well, where are the labels on the vast array of non-organic foods in their stores that contain genetically engineered soybeans, corn, canola, cottonseed oil, or sugar beets? Where are the labels on their so-called "natural" meat, eggs, or dairy products, reared on GMO grains and animal drugs?"

--- Protester in front of a San Francisco Whole Foods Market, April 11, 2011


After two decades of biotech bullying by Monsanto and Food Inc., a grassroots movement of organic consumers and farmers is rising up across the United States. Inspired by the success of their European counterparts in driving genetically engineered crops and foods off the market, not through an EU ban, but through mandatory labeling, several thousand protesters took to the streets on March 26, 2011 in 30 different cities, under the banner of "Rally for the Right to Know," and "Millions Against Monsanto."

At the same time, anti-GMO activists have stepped up the pace of grassroots lobbying, successfully pressuring state legislators in at least 14 states to introduce bills calling for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Reflecting widespread public concern over the health and environmental hazards of GMOs, recent polls by National Public Radio and MSNBC have found that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling. Mandatory labeling of GMOs, of course, is bitterly opposed by Monsanto and the supermarket lobby, who understand, as a Monsanto executive admitted, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

Angered by the Obama administration's recent controversial approvals of GMO alfalfa, salmon, sugar beets, and corn, and the compromise or surrender of organic industry leaders, including Whole Foods, in agreeing to accept the "co-existence," of GMO and organic crops and foods, organic consumers across the U.S. have decided to take matters into their own hands.

Spearheaded by the industry watchdog group, the Organic Consumers Association, and powerful alternative health consumer networks such as NaturalNews.com and Mercola.com, millions of health and environmental-minded consumers are starting to demand that the $60 billion "natural" products industry take GMO products off their shelves, or at least clearly label them, so that consumers can seek certified organic and other GMO-free alternatives.

In an interview at the Green Festival in San Francisco on April 9, Alexis Baden-Mayer, OCA Campaign Director, explained the strategy behind the Millions Against Monsanto Truth-in-Labeling Campaign.

"Over 90% of Americans want GE-tainted foods labeled. Why? So that we can avoid buying these foods. This is a major reason why millions of us are buying certified organic products, which preclude the use of GE ingredients, as well as toxic chemicals and animal drugs. Since the politicians in Washington apparently prefer to listen to Monsanto rather than their constituents, we need to put our efforts where we currently have the most power, in our local communities, especially at the retail grocery store level, where 50 million of us are regularly buying certified organic and so-called 'natural' foods.

"What most green consumers don't understand yet, is that most of the so-called "natural" processed foods and animal products (which make up 2/3 of the sales of Whole Foods Market) that we are still buying are GMO-contaminated. Either they contain GMO ingredients like soy, corn, canola, cottonseed oil or sugar beet sweetener, or else the animals have been force-fed fed a steady diet of GMO grains and drugs.

"We need to clean up our act and walk our talk in the green and natural products sector. We need to tell natural food giants like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's that you can't claim to support GMO labeling, and then proceed to sell billions of dollars of unlabeled GMO food in your stores, greenwashed as 'natural.' We're protesting this week in front of Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's to make our views on GMOs absolutely clear. Like our banners say: 'GMOs: Don't buy them! Don't sell them! Don't grow them!' Once we drive GMOs out of our organic and natural food stores, or at least force retailers to label them, we will then be able to turn our attention to conventional supermarkets and do the same thing."

"But this means we've got to build a mass movement of Millions Against Monsanto. By World Food Day, October 16, we plan to mobilize a powerful and unprecedented coalition that can pressure, and if necessary boycott, industry leaders such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's..."


Across the U.S. and the world, people are fed up. Moving beyond ineffectual compromise and co-existence with a greenwashed business-as-usual and politics-as-usual, more and more of us are drawing lines in the sand. Nuclear power, genetic engineering, dirty coal and other out-of-control technologies have revealed themselves for what they really are: deadly threats to our survival. Monsanto has deservedly become one of the most hated corporations on earth. It's time to drive their evil products out of the marketplace, starting with the green or natural products sector, utilizing the most powerful tools at our disposal, public education, agitation, and Truth-in-Labeling. Get up. Stand up for your rights. Join the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign. http://www.MillionsAgainstMonsanto.org

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Multipurpose Reflective Ankle Band!

Parking a loaded loaded touring bike on uneven surfaces can be a challenge. For instance, you may be at a fast-food joint where there is not a good place to park the loaded bike,  a location which you can monitor from where you plan to sit and eat...

If the surface is very uneven, you may have to simply lean your bike on a pole or on the wall. However, if the ground is uneven, your bike might roll and fall. On my way back from Lake Lavon, last weekend, I was at a fast-food joint, where I actually had to lean my bike on a lamp post, because there was no other spot to park the bike, safely.
In order to stop the bike from rolling, I simply applied the brakes and secured them using my reflective (velcro) ankle bands. It worked like a charm!

My click-stand, which I often use on the Thorn Nomad MKII, uses an elastic band to prevent the bike from rolling. I did not have an elastic band handy but the reflective ankle bands fit the bill, this time.

Hope you're having a great week!

Peace :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bike Tour to Lake Lavon

My buddy Michael and I left on Saturday morning from Frisco, Texas, to head to Lake Lavon in Wylie, Texas. I rode to Hidden Cove Park in Frisco, Texas, last weekend and decided that the parts of the route was not the best suited for bicycling. So, instead of riding my bike to the starting point, this time around, I had my lovely wife drop me off at the starting point.

We carried our gear on our bikes and tent camped overnight at Left Fork Park on Lake Lavon. We rode back to home today.

Below is our route:

Day 1 route

Day 2 route


Michael's trusty Fuji Touring Bike was very well equipped but not overloaded. You have to see some of the enhancements he has made to the bike, in person, to appreciate it fully.
My Co-Motion Americano loaded with front bags and sleeping bag and tent in the rear. I could have avoided the sleeping bag, but I wasn't sure if it would get chilly around 3 AM in the morning. I was glad I brought it along, it did get a bit chilly early in the AM.
From our rendezvous point, we headed southeast towards our destination, through various parts of Frisco, Texas. If y'all wondered where internet comes from, now you know :)
In Frisco, along a quite boulevard, we saw many statues. I took photos of many of them. I have shared some that I thought were worth sharing.
I suppose this is a snake or some sort of a worm? Interesting, no matter what!
This one reminded me of an Aligator Gar. This was a rather large statue.
We headed out of Frisco towards Plano on not so busy roads and some busy roads. We shared the lane whenever it was prudent to do so.
Our route included some of the paved trails in DFW. Here is Michael trying to make a "tandem" out of our two bikes on the Bluebonnet Trail.
Co-existence of high tension power lines and people! I am sure there are many controversies surrounding these power lines, but I could not but enjoy the bluebonnets, while I was there.
Children were out playing on the trail and it was a perfect day for photographing children surrounded by bluebonnets.
Michael walked down the memory lane when he showed me the house where he grew up. Nothing like having a good touring buddy, I tell ya :)

Rest stop at the Target store in Plano. We opted to take turns instead of locking up the bikes.
An Alamo look-alike Plano, Texas. I am told that this one is a car dealership now. Go figure!
We stopped for lunch in Plano at a world-famous Chinese restaurant.
The food was inexpensive and tasty. They had vegetarian and meat dishes. We were starving and what seemed like a lot of food, initially, turned out to be really not too much for a pair of hungry cyclists.

We saw some interesting yard ornaments in this front yard in Wylie, Texas. If you zoom-in, you will see some of them.
Finally, we made it to East Fork Park. Yay!
It was interesting to drive our loaded bicycles through the Park gate. The hosts were not expecting us to arrive by bicycles.

After checking-in, we went straight to our campsite, setup our tents and started preparing dinner. I had taken my Trangia Alcohol stove and the Clickstand kit with me. On the other hand, Michael had created his own alcohol stove. Here is an adaptation of a alcohol stove that Michael has made out of a Heineken beer can, a copper-rich (1966) penny and parts of a bicycle spoke. It worked like a charm!
I took some precooked Indian food with me. These precooked items are not terribly unhealthy, based on the nutrition information provided on the package. The best part is that they taste pretty good and they are close to a $1 per pack.
Dinner is served! I had not anticipated eating both packs of food, but I was quite hungry. I had to supplement this meal with an apple and about 25 raw almonds.
After dinner, we walked down to the beach, which was just a few yards away from our campsite.
The water had receded quite a bit as you can tell from the picture below.
For some reason, I liked this piece of driftwood in the water. Reminded me of a rhino for some reason.
We saw many pieces of rocks, like the one pictured below, with some funky looking holes in them. We could not figure out what caused these holes. Any ideas?
Design in the rocks found on the beach! I found the design interesting and it reminded me of jigsaw puzzles.
View from Campsite - 1
View from Campsite - 2
View from Campsite - 3
View from Campsite - 4
Upon returning from the beach, we went to check out a couple of Geocaches. The first one was easy to find, but the second one was off the park property and we didn't feel like venturing out.
Look closer and you might actually find something in the picture below!
Not a good photo, perhaps, but we found tons of Bullfrogs at this park!
Upon completion of our Geocahing adventure, Michael went looking for snakes on the beach. Michael is a snake aficionado and he found this Diamondback Water snake (non-venomous) on the beach. It was not a very big snake, but it was quite mischievous. It bit my friend several times and made him bleed, but Michael did not seem to mind.
Eventually, Michael and the snake decided to part ways!
After all this excitement, we sat around and talked about a wide range of topics from Bicyling to World Peace and eventually went to bed around midnight. I only slept okay during the night and was up at 0730. After the morning ablutions, we both prepared our respective breakfasts. I had my usual camping breakfast of oatmeal with raw almonds & apple and a cup of coffee.
After breakfast, we packed up and headed back towards Garland, Texas. Interesting Jeep we saw on our way back!
Garland, Texas, has some very nice looking subdivisions, including Firewheel, pictured below.
Ah, that Shaggy dog posing for a soft drink :)
Michael and I said parted ways at Garland, where I hopped on DART's Blue Line, transferred to the Green Line at Pearl Street, which took me to Farmers Branch. I rode back to Irving from Farmers Branch. Interesting bike hangars on DART. What do you think? I didn't think much of it to be perfectly honest.
Goodbye, DART!

Today's ride was challenging, although it was much shorter than yesterday's, because of the wind gusts. I think the wind was blowing at a steady 20-30 MPH from the South West, the exact direction of our return route from Lake Lavon.

Areas to improve:
  1. Pack less for S24O: I have gotten better at this, having done 2 S24O's before this one, but I still have a ways to go, in some areas. For example, I want to carry less fuel next time. I carried an entire Trangia bottle full this time as well. I might try taking a pair of pajamas next time instead of carrying my sleeping bag, if I am camping in warmer weather.
  2. Take a Chill-pill/Sleep-aid: It is okay to take your sleep-aid at night during a S24O. At least in my case, I am wary of new places and don't quite fall asleep, even if I am dead-tired. A non-habit-forming sleep-aid, might be quite alright. I slept roughly 4.5 hours last night and I was groggy all day today and not getting enough sleep takes the fun out riding.
  3. Improvise Charging Electronics: I want to check out some of the devices for charging USB devices from the power generated by the dynamo hub. This might actually be a better idea than carrying two cell phones or extra batteries, especially given such a device might charge the GPS and the camera battery. If you know have any good pointers in this regard, I would greatly appreciate it if you could please share it with me.
  4. Buy a Water Purification System/Filter: Sometimes I do wonder about the quality of the water coming out the taps at campsites. I would like to research portable water filters and water purification systems a bit more. Any pointers?
  5. Spend more time composing: I hurried through taking photographs on this trip (my own personal choice) as I wanted to get to the campsite before dark. Chris and I had to setup our tents in the dark during our trek to Lake Mineral Wells last summer and I did not want a repeat of the same experience this time around. But, I do want so spend more time photographing the scenery next time around. I might even consider taking a SLR with me.
Things I did well:

  1. Eat well and drink plenty: During my LCI certification back in February, I was required to make two presentations, one of which was on Nutrition and Hydration for a cyclist. I remember the contents of  my presentation almost verbatim to this day, but the key takeaway for me was that it is important to drink plenty of water* and eat healthy meals during a long distance ride. I think I did very well in this area during this S24O.
  2. Sleep is critical: I slept well on Friday night and so  Saturday's ride was reasonably easy for me. I think I did a good job getting the essential shut-eye Friday night.
  3. Choose a reliable riding partner:  My riding partners for the last two S24O's have been nothing short of fantastic. Thanks to Chris and Michael. Need I say more?
All said and done, it was a wonderful weekend trip, as wonderful as this flower!
I hope you had a great weekend as well!

Peace :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dutch Survey!

I found this interesting survey on Adventure Cycling Association's Newsletter. It is not a short survey, but no good instrument usually is, especially if the intent is to measure multiple dimensions.

DUTCH SURVEY
We were recently contacted by Dutch graduate student Jolijn Koopmans, who is conducting an international survey dubbed "The Environmental Sustainability of Cycle Tourists." According to Adventure Cycling's special projects director Ginny Sullivan, who has taken the survey and blogged about it, it is "a very comprehensive questionnaire that covers various aspects of bike travel and tourism from an environmental perspective." Ginny urges interested folks who have about ten minutes to spare to take the survey by April 13.

Click here to take the survey!


Peace :)

Happy Friday!

Go on, ride your bike and be beautiful!
Happy Friday!

For some reason, I am reminded of this poem by Wordsworth!

The Daffodils

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 5
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay: 10
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:—
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed, and gazed, but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Peace :)

Lyrics courtesy of http://www.bartleby.com

Onion & Ginger Thuvaiyal!

Thuvaiyal is a South Indian chutney, the preparation of which is very similar to a chutney. The difference between a chutney and a Thuvaiyal may be in that Thuvaiyal usually uses sauteed ingredients and chutneys are prepared with raw ingredients which are not sauteed. Thuvaiyal tastes great with rice or flatbreads. I have also used them as sandwich spreads in the past. My belated mother was a great cook. I learned to cook by watching her cook. This recipe has its roots in my mother's recipe.

Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup of Yellow Split Peas (Channa Dal)
  2. Two pieces of ginger root, say the size of your thumb?
  3. 1 Large onion, diced
  4. 2 curry leaves
  5. 1 cup of shredded coconut (fresh or fresh-frozen or dry)
  6. 6 Red Chilies
  7. A dash of Asafoetida powder
  8. 1 Tbsp of Coconut oil
  9. 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  10. 1/2 Tsp Tamarind paste
Preparation:
  1. In a heave-bottomed pan, heat up the oil. Add the asafoetida, Channa Dal, Red chilies.
  2. Turn down the heat to low and add the diced onions. Stir frequently and remove from pan once the onions start to caramelize. By now, the Channa Dal should be roughly light brownish in color.
  3. Let this mixture cool a bit. 
  4. Blend the mixture, coconut, ginger and the curry leaves in a blender or food processor, coarsely. Making it into a fine paste is okay, but coarse is preferable. The coarse mixture hits a different set of high notes in your palette when you eat it and it is so much more fun!
  5. Add a pinch of salt. Garnish with cilantro.
Here is how my prep looked!

Bon Appetit' :)

Tomato & Pineapple Rasam!

Rasam is a South Indian soup, which is served with rice, in traditional South Indian meals. Way back in time, several hundred years ago, when I was in college, we had a cook at the mess hall who would prepare Rasam with Pineapple chunks in it. I used to love his food. 

Anyways, to cut the long story short, I wanted to prepare Pineapple Rasam.I like my soups rather thick and not too runny. So, I had to improvise. Here is how I did it.

Ingredients:
  1. 2 cups of cooked Dal (Yellow Lentils)
  2. 4 Large tomatoes, diced
  3. 6 curry leaves, whole or shredded
  4. 1 cup of fresh or canned Pineapple chunks
  5. 1 Tsp Mustard seeds
  6. 1 Tsp cumin seeds
  7. 2 Tbsp Ghee
  8. A dash of Asafoetida powder
  9. 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro 
  10. 2 Tbsp of Rasam Powder (I buy this from the local Indian Grocer, MTR makes a good Rasam Powder). I also know how to make Rasam Powder from scratch, but using the ready-made Rasam Powder fits the bill when pressed for time.
Preparation:
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat up the Ghee. Add the asafoetida, mustard seeds, let splutter.
  2. Turn down the heat to low and add the Tomatoes, cumin seeds, curry leaves.
  3. Next, add the cooked Dal, 1.5-2 cups of water and cook for a few minutes on high. You want the tomatoes cooked, but not mushy!
  4. Add the Pineapple pieces and cook for a few more minutes on low.
  5. Add a pinch of salt. Garnish with cilantro.
  6. Mix thoroughly!
 Here is how my prep looked!
Did I mention that I am a big Pineapple lover? I could live on Pineapples if only it provided all the nutrition one needs!

Rasam prepared the way I have described will be sweet and sorta sour at the same time. You may add more water to it, if you like your Rasam not so thick.

Bon Appetit' :)