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Bread is not my usual subject in The Fairbanks Pedestrian.  However, I’m entering the below recipe in the Tanana Valley State Fair, who claims that my recipe will become property of the Fair.  The recipe is posted here first under a Creative Commons License (see below).  All-purpose flour has been replaced with bread flour.

Note: All grains are measured by weight, not volume.  5 oz. flour = approx. 1 c.

Mix together: • 20 oz. sourdough starter, consisting of equal weights bread flour and water • 16 oz. bread flour • 5 oz. water.

Cover loosely and let sit in a warm place 24 hours.

In a saucepan, combine: 25 oz. whole milk • 10 oz. water • 10 oz. raisins (chopped first or pureed in the liquid) • 4 oz. unsalted butter.  Heat slowly and simmer, stirring frequently, until butter is melted.

Stir in: • 3 oz. whole-grain cornmeal • 3 oz. flaxseed meal • 3 oz. ground sunflower seeds (roasted, salted) • ⅔ oz. (1 Tbsp.) table salt.

Turn heat to lowest setting, cook for 30 minutes with lid on, remove from heat, and allow to cool, covered, at least an hour.

In a large mixing bowl, combine: • “Porridge” from above • 12 oz. (approx. 1 c.) honey • 26 oz. whole-wheat flour • 3 oz. amaranth flour • 3 oz. oat flour • 3 oz. buckwheat flour.

Cover tightly with plastic and let sit 12-24 hours in a cool place.

Final dough
Knead together: • Soaker from above • Preferment from above • 5-10 oz. flour, bread flour and whole-wheat mixed in equal parts by weight.  Start with 5 oz. to dust work surface, between pre-doughs, and on top of layers.

Put dough in a large mixing bowl or stock pot oiled with olive oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and let sit 8-10 hours, until dough doubles in size.

Shaping and baking
Mist work surface and four bread pans (approx. 9” x 5”) with spray oil.  Divide dough into four equal portions.  For each piece, fold corners in to form a rectangle and flatten into a rectangle about 9” x 13”.  Fold the dough in thirds, letter-style, tapering the ends slightly; fold the ends toward the seam; and lay loaf seam-side-down in pan.  Let rise in a warm place 1-2 hours.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325°F.

Brush loaves with milk, sprinkle with rolled oats, and slash lengthwise along the center.

Bake at 325°F for 45-50 minutes, rotating each loaf 180° after 30 minutes.

Let cool on racks at least 1 hour before slicing.

I am grateful to Peter Reinhart, whose book Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads informed this recipe, and to Ruth Allman, whose Alaska Sourdough spawned and informed my early sourdough baking.

Creative Commons License
Powerhouse Breakfast Bread (Recipe) by Paul Adasiak is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/122702030.

Brush loaves with milk, sprinkle with rolled oats, and slash lengthwise along the center.


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Au revoir, Samson

I had the good fortune a couple of Fridays  ago (Dec. 12) to shop at Samson Hardware on what was certainly its last day in its current location, and what may be its last day ever.  I witnessed the end of 104 years of Fairbanks history.

Samson's on December 12, 2008

Samson's on December 12, 2008

My visit there was entirely accidental: I needed something super-powerful to de-clog my drains, and Samson’s had some in stock.  But what a happy accident!  When I walked in just before five o’clock, someone was taking a group photo of the employees.  The staff were bantering happily with each other and with the customers, and groups of customers were chatting among themselves.  Food and drink were out on one of the counters, free for the taking.  Everybody seemed relaxed and festive.

As most of you (in Fairbanks) know, the building Samson’s occupies is slated for demolition.  It is being displaced by the “Illinois Street Project“, a decades-old plan to extend Illinois street through the property, build a bridge across the Chena River, and connect with Barnette Street, turning the route from College Road (at the north end of Illinois) to Airport Road into a pretty strait shot.

A reader e-mailed me to ask what I thought of the Samson’s closure and demolition.  The short answer is: I don’t know.  I have mixed feelings.

Let me start with this: my visit to Samson’s was not actually accidental.  Yes, it was an accident of timing that the drains clogged when they did.  But Samson’s was my neighborhood hardware store.  After hopping off the bus on the way home, I was able to walk there in about three minutes (discounting my long wait for a break in traffic to cross Illinois).  The walk home took just over ten minutes — and, as I’ve probably said before, ten minutes is as far as the average person is willing to walk before deciding to drive or not to go at all.  Since I moved downtown five years ago, Samson’s was always, always, always my first choice for hardware.

That said, it was not always the best choice.  Too often, Samson’s didn’t have what I was looking for — and I don’t consider myself someone with extravagant needs.  Perhaps it’s that I was often looking for things with some aesthetic component, while Samson’s was not a hardware store that focused much on the aesthetic.  As one friend described it, stepping into Samson’s was like stepping into the past: besides carrying builder’s hardware, it sold trapping gear, wood stoves, and washboards.  Its housewares seemed dedicated to those living off the grid: no toaster ovens or Kitchen Aid mixers, but plenty of cast iron cookware and lamp oil.  It sometimes lacked things like key blanks for my imported car model or curtain rods to match the ones already in my house.  For these, I often had to trudge on to the Ace Hardware / OK Lumber shop — or hop a bus to AIH or one of the national box-store hardware chains.

It’s ironic that the best hardware stores for those of more urban sensibility are now located on Fairbanks’s periphery, while (until recently) the best place to supply yourself for backwoods living was in the center of town.

The building itself, frankly, was no great shakes.  It appeared to have been built entirely of cinder blocks, whose shape was echoed in the architecture of the building itself: rectangular and boring.  It seems like an earlier era’s version of today’s big-box store.  This makes me a little un-persuaded by the “historical preservation” argument against demolition.  It’s true that the store has been in that location for almost all the history of Fairbanks — but does the building really represent the architecture of 1904 (or some other period when it was renovated)?  My own feeling is that the Samson’s building is neither beautiful (being a cinder block rectangle) nor useful (representing no particular period’s architecture) — so there’s little reason to want to preserve it.

I think that many of us from western states are inclined to think of a hundred years as a long time — thus, any building managing to stand that long must be historical and worthy of preservation.  Let’s keep in mind the absolute blink of an eye that a hundred years is in the life of a town.  When we start talking about demolishing our history, let’s recall that we’ve only barely begun to write that history.  A hundred years is not so much that we’ll have a hard time surpassing our architecture and civic design to date.

Still, I don’t care in principle for the demolition of buildings — especially ones housing useful enterprises — for the sake of new streets.  While part of me is excited for the Illinois Street extension and the Barnette Street bridge, and the (anticipated) new ease with which people will be able to come downtown, it disheartens me that this is seen as the way to do it.

I know that the Vision Fairbanks plan provides for increased housing density downtown, and mixing people’s living with their shopping is one way (my favorite) for a commercial area to prosper.  But I would also like to see a major investment by the local, state, and federal governments in public transit — may I dream about light rail? — so that parking downtown would be unnecessary and undesirable in order to spend time there.  I would rather see our old buildings renovated and beautified than see them torn down so that motorized traffic can pass more swiftly.  And I would rather see our city center so full of useful, interesting, and beautiful places that the ease of speeding through in a car was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

The clerk who sold me the drain de-clogger told me that they had hopes to re-build on the land just behind their current location — which will be untouched by the Illinois Street Project.  I share that hope.  Samson’s is a Fairbanks institution, and a useful one.  Having more useful businesses will only make downtown Fairbanks an easier, more exciting place to live.

Other resources:

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A few of my readers do not use a feed aggregator, but prefer to be notified by e-mail of new posts. I’ve also had a few requests for some kind of e-mail notification for new comments. So, voila! If you’ll look at the top box at right (“Subscribe by E-mail”), you’ll notice two links now: “Subscribe to Posts” and “Subscribe to Comments”. To my knowledge, each of these will send you an e-mail no more than once a day, so e-mail subscription won’t keep you apprised in real time. But, if you’d like to stay up on what others are saying on this blog, you now have another option.

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Some loved ones have recently described my “About the author” page as “terse,” “cold,” and “snooty.”

My intention was just to keep a bit of distance between my personal life and the themes of The Fairbanks Pedestrian. I would generally like not to bring personal details out for show, except where they illustrate my points and touch on the topics of community-building and pedestrian living in Fairbanks.

However, in the interest of showing that I am not a stuffed shirt, a robot, or an alien replicant from beyond the moon, I offer this new author blurb. Enjoy.

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I’ve been “tagged” by my colleague “P” who has given me the charge of listing “The Ten Things Most People Don’t Know About Me”. I’m not so sure I’m interested in sharing — good God, to what avail? — but it gets me writing, which is a good practice. While I refuse to pass this duty on to three other bloggers (as is apparently required by this custom, as well as by the recipe for Amish Friendship Bread), I yield to “P’s” request and offer the following ten facts:

  1. I often consider running for public office some day — probably city council or borough assembly — so I have to be circumspect about what I reveal. Like just about anybody interesting, I have what’s euphemistically called “a past” — behaviors in my personal history that might disqualify me for sainthood. Not only that, but I have “a present” too, not to mention enough unpopular opinions that I often suspect nobody would offer me a job again if they knew what I was really like.
  2. I find the dishonesty required to get by in civil society to be a strain on my integrity. Constantly I feel forced to appear not to disagree with the most offensive, unfounded, and damaging of people’s sincere opinions, for the need to continue having friends and a community. To speak my mind would alienate them. Instead, I alienate myself.
  3. My family has recently pretty much abandoned Microsoft Windows in favor of SimplyMEPIS GNU/Linux. Although I’m not settled on which Linux distribution to use (we may switch to Kubuntu or Debian), my daughters will be raised in a Linux household.
  4. When entering library school, my chief hope was to free children from the tyranny and stultification of compulsory schooling. That hasn’t panned out yet.
  5. The most useful piece of technology I know of — and which is on my Christmas wish list — is the “TV-B-Gone“: a remote control whose sole function is to turn off televisions. Equally useful would be a remote that could send a mild electric shock through people’s earphones, earbuds, or cell phones. (Although merely disabling those devices would probably suffice.)
  6. In high school, I was known for throwing some pretty big “Star Trek” parties, where we’d eat pizza, Doritos, and Jolt Cola and watch “Trek” episodes and movies. When “Star Trek IV” was released, I got half our school to skip to go to the Anchorage premiere.
  7. I went to the University of Chicago as an undergrad. But not for long: I dropped out after less than a year, not ready to be the kind of student they needed. Should have gone to Oberlin. Or Evergreen. In any case, I should have waited to figure out what the hell I wanted out of college.
  8. I have not eaten in a fast-food factory outlet (“restaurant”) since reading “Fast Food Nation” in 2001. And I miss Big Macs sooooo baaaad.
  9. Every Christmas season since 1994, I have had friends over to help me make eggnog: we make our arms sore with beating, whipping, and mixing. It’s a family recipe whose sole ingredients are eggs, sugar, salt, milk, heavy cream, Canadian whisky, brandy, and rum, and whose estimated alcohol content is about 12%. The first, ceremonial batch — there are usually two to four batches per season — is always made with the help of friends and is always made without electric mixers. Why no electric mixers? you ask. Because then you wouldn’t need friends to help, would you?
  10. Writing the preceding nine things has been difficult. What can I say about myself that isn’t trivial, or sanctimonious, or ponderous, or just plain none of your beeswax? I have little desire to be “known” for my online persona; I’d be more gratified for people to be interested in my observations and arguments. Some day, I’ll get around to making them.

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My mark of shame

Prompted by my colleague “P”, whose blog’s reading level has been rated as “Genius”, I tested the reading level of my own blog. The results:

cash advance

Oh, how embarrassing. Clearly, my blog is “pedestrian” in more than one sense. Perhaps if I revised some posts to include more edumacated words…

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No. 30 (Summing up)

Following my colleagues’ blogs, I am astonished to find how little value some of them find in nearly ALL the Web 2.0 tools. Some people are eager to see tools as time-wasting toys, and will not have the imagination to see how a library might use them. C’est incredible!

For my money, what were the best tools? Well, blogging and RSS feeds seem essential to librarianship or any organizational information-sharing, as do wikis. YouTube and Flickr have tremendous potential to help us get seen. YouTube, Flickr, del.icio.us, and LibraryThing harness the tremendous power (where did that cliché come from?) of user tagging and are useful as resource-discovery tools for individuals in their personal lives and for library-types in public service positions.

There may be some items in the Learning 2.0 curriculum that I find of low utility (like Grokker) or wholly useless (like the MyUA portal) — but there’s nothing there that’s useless to all of librarianship. There’s something in it for everyone. It just depends on the learner’s imagination.

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