Blogwise Blog on Blogging Bloggily

In response to a recent [Frame] thread on the pros and cons of a website vs. a blog for the framebuilding set...

- You need both, ideally. They can serve two different purposes and two different sets of clients.

- As has been discussed, there's a chasm of difference between writing a blog and writing a blog *for money* (or as part of a larger business plan/marketing strategy).
Doing it without involving money is great. I write this having failed at a meager attempt to turn blogging about framebuilding into a money-making proposition. It's more enjoyable this way, and anyway, about 30 people a week keep coming back for more.

- What one is doing by having an 'internet presence' is building a name for oneself, not selling bike frames. The Flickr, the blog, participation on the [Frame] list--none of it needs to be (directly) about making a buck. It's about building a brand for oneself, which is in turn part of making a buck. See, I'm building my brand right now, just by typing this, and I'm not even trying to sell anybody anything (yet).

In business school terms:
- A strong brand creates a competitive advantage that is wholly inimitable. No one but Jon Q. Builder can produce a "Jon Q. Builder" frame, because the value of the frame is tied to the reputation of the maker.
- Even, say, Wal-Mart* doesn't have such a good competitive advantage, because, with enough money and resources, anyone could copy Wal-Mart's business plan.  In contrast, a "Jon Q." is inherently more valuable than a non-"Jon Q.", even if the latter is cheaper or has a shorter lead time.
- The brand and the presence are assets with real dollar values (although calculating the exact values is a different story). If Jon Q.'s web presence is competitive, then it will be a stable asset.

- The world of professional art is full of people who understand how to gracefully cultivate a brand. Besides that, it's loads of white wine.

- Richard Sachs is the prime example of a 'presence'. Go see how often he posts to his Flickr. Jonny Cycles also comes to mind, ever since he got that fancy digital-camera-direct-Flickr-uploader thingy.

- There is a staggering quantity of framebuilding-related web content being produced. It's impossible to keep up with. There's easily a couple hundred blogs and Flickr streams. I'd bet that number has at least doubled in the 2.5 years I've been on this list. Don't get scared, though. Just figure out what you can offer that nobody else can.

All this is part of why the post about Chris Zanotti has been removed.

Errant Thoughts from 3 am

- This sentence is false.

- The Bike Fabricators club will be soon be getting more than $4000 funding for tooling and a brazing rig.

- Rhett Butler is my homeboy.

- A few projects have been brewing in the machine shop. I'll get down there with a camera sometime soon and do a big dump of photos.

On Grinder Safety

Here was the most interesting part of my day (so far):

I work as a 'Student Shop Foreman' in the machine shop of an engineering school.
A guy came in today who's been in pretty regularly in the few weeks I've been working here. He cut up some stainless sheet on the vertical band saw. No big deal.
Then he wanted to use the grinder to remove the burrs.
The only utility grinder we have is monstrous, like 12" wheels.
Sure, I say, just be careful 'cuz that thing can take your hand off.
So I walk away. And before he's even really gotten started, the plate gets snagged and wedges between the grinder support and the grinding wheel. Turned out the gap was set too big. Coulda happened to anybody.
All of us who had been chatting gathered around to watch the grinder spin down, partly out of curiosity, partly out of concern that the situation not get any more interesting.
And then he shows me his hand, which is bleeding from the thumb, cut pretty deep, but thankfully it was the burr that got him, not the grinding wheel.
First aid kit. Alochol wipes, sanitizing spray, gauze, bandages, anitbiotic ointment. Sink. Wash for a few minutes.
He's telling me about how he hates blood and needles and going to the doctor. He's pale in the face. Got him sitting down. He wants the trash can next to him. Turns down water but I send for some anyways.
At this point I'm running worst-case scenarios through my head while I keep pressure on his thumb. It's not a life-threatening cut, but if he passes out, things get more complicated. He could go into shock, and I don't remember exactly how to deal with shock (a blanket over them and call for an ambo maybe).
He ralphs into the trash for a couple minutes, while I change the gauze and maintain pressure. Then he picks his head up, color in his face now, he's back amongst the living, 100% fine.
That's one way to learn how to use a grinder.

Be careful, folks. Mind the grinder gap.

Bread (not bikes)

Even less bike-related material ahead--I do more cooking than framebuilding these days.

I started experimenting with sourdoughs a few weeks ago. It's fun...there's freakin' bacteria growing in my fridge. Only this time it's intentional.

This recipe is the closest I've gotten to a Platonicly perfect sourdough:
• most importantly, no serious time commitments and not a lot of work
• great texture, big holes, good crust, not too hard
• pretty sour tasting (could be sourer--stay tuned)

No-Knead Whole Wheat Sourdough

with ingredients from Breadtopia
and baking technique from Cook's Illustrated

1.5 tsp salt
1 C whole wheat flour
2.5 C bread flour (or maybe 2.75 C)
1.5 C water (ideally purified or at least de-chlorinated, but I don't bother)
2 Tbsp active sourdough starter (stir first to remove bubbles; should be firm, not runny)
~1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten

- Dissolve starter in water. Combine with remaining ingredients in a large non-plastic bowl. No need to mix very thoroughly, just be sure all the flour gets mixed in.
- Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate about 2 days.
- Remove from fridge. Let rise at room temperature about 18 hours.
- Turn out onto oiled surface. Oil fingers. Stretch dough out wide. Fold into thirds like an envelope, then in half to form a ball. Tuck edges under bottom.
- Place a sheet of oiled parchment paper in a 10" skillet. Place dough, folds down, on parchment. Cover loosely with plastic. Let rise 1-1.5 hrs.
- Place 5 qt dutch oven in oven and preheat to 500°F for 35-40 mins before baking.
- Discard plastic wrap. Make one slit in top of dough.
- Remove dutch oven carefully. Pick up the parchment by the edges and drop dough into dutch oven.
- Bake at 500°F for 30 mins, lid on, then at 450°F for 15 mins, lid off.
- Remove to cooling rack. Let cool before slicing...waiting is the hardest part.

These baking times gave me a burnt crust on the bottom. YMMV.

Mix in some milled flax seed to make it even healthier.

High water content of this dough (like all no-kneads) means it absorbs flour like crazy--oil works better at keeping things unstuck.

I am constantly experimenting with different ratios of rye flour, whole wheat flour, and bread flour. Nothing conclusive yet.

I got my starter by sending a SASE to these nice folks. I recently started feeding my starters rye flour--it was on sale and I heard somewhere that sourdough likes rye flour.