The Suicide Robots

When I created the world
with its shattered arcs
and moss-clad concrete corners
broken cobbles in the street
and urine in dark alcoves
with acute sightlines
I built robots that were so smart
that they marked every flaw
discerned clefted marble
and the feldspars weathering out
of granite walls.
They were not waterproof and went
into the river in droves
the electrolytes there a better fate than
the overwhelmingly broken world.

I sat up from my desk and scratched my head
tore that sheet out of the pad
in a fluid fold of telephone wires and
flying buttresses

In the new world the robots look at
the white of the chess board
at the grass growing up
through cracked pavements

Bread Post #1

I’ve been baking naturally leavened breads for about 8 years.  I started baking bread when I was ill for a few months and wanted to spend my down time learning a new thing or two.  My sister was a baker at a well-respected bakery in Portland ( that arguably singlehandedly introduced artisan breads to that city soon after bringing them to Seattle.  Before I started, bread baking was a mystery to me.  It seemed fraught with variables and a fickle reliance on living organisms.  But hard things attract me, so I set out to learn how to bake when I had the time.

My first efforts were yeasted breads. Allowed to rise and be baked outside of the confines of loaf pans. These turned out good, but I know that artisan bread was based on a sour dough, so I set out making starters.  For some reason I ignored the internet and stuck with trying to propagate yeast cultures from Flieschmann’s packets.  These all died, but I would get a couple of loaves out of the starter before it became inactive.

After a couple months of this, during which I moved to Calgary, I kind of gave up.  I put my last culture in the freezer thinking it a waste to throw it away and to hold onto it for god-knows-what.  One day, absent-mindedly, I pulled the frozen mixture out of the freezer and left it on top of the fridge.  I forgot about it for a few days but one day I was working in the kitchen and I heard a “pop!” sound coming from the fridge.  I pulled down the mix and looked inside and there were bubbles in it and the smell had changed.  At the same time, I’d received the book Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the L\LaBrea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoiseur wherein I read about starter maintenance and upkeep.

Since then I’ve baked maybe 80% of the bread I’ve eaten and now bake for my roommates so am supporting 3.  Nancy Silverton’s book remains a resource.  I bake practical breads with the odd gift bread for complexity.  Mostly whole wheat, sometimes an unbleached white. Always with simple ingredients — water, flour, starter, salt. My fave is rosemary olive oil, so this gets a lot of play. Here’s the latest — a 50-50 whole wheat/white loaf. Delicious.

Bike Commuting

I live in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Almost every day I ride my bike 16 km each way to get to work at UBC.  It rains here.  It snows in the winter sometimes but mostly it’s rain.  Temperatures are cool, and only rarely cold.  Vancouver is a transit-rich city.  The bus system will get you anywhere in reasonably good time with reasonably few freaks and good chances for a seat.  I could ride the bus to UBC in about 30 minutes.  The bike ride takes 50.  Vancouver isn’t too bad to drive in either.  There aren’t many freeways but the arteries run alright and my hours are odd enough that I can dodge most of the heavy traffic.  I can drive to UBC in 20-30 mins. Riding a bike is dangerous.  many of my friends have been hit, luckily I’ve only had minor skirmishes. So why do it? Why bike when there are other options?  I can’t claim sustainability, greenness, CO2, blah blah blah.  Some mornings when I am ready to head out the door and there is rain hitting the window, driven sideways by what will be a headwind, I want nothing to do with my bike. Why bother?

My self-imposed questions on riding are always answered, but never before I’m out the door.  The answer always comes about half way there or halfway home, sometimes sooner sometimes later.  The answers usually come when my legs and torso are warm, air is flowing into my lungs and some of that headwind has eased from passing behind a building or crossing from one street to another.  They come when the centripetal force of swerving through a roundabout reminds me of a bottom turn.  They come when i ride home at night and get a view of the city from 8th Ave just as the hill’s gravity takes over and I coast for a couple of kilometers.  Sometimes the answer comes way late.  It arrives when I arrive home and step out of the rain, out of my wet cycling clothes, and into a sweatshirt and pants, and into a beer.

I don’t need answers to all of my questions, but I do need questions to answer.  Bicycling each day, and facing the uncertainty of my personal comfort brings a first question about each morning, which isn’t too bad a way to start.