The Return of Knickers?

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At the risk of alarming Kelly, who threatened to divorce me over my attempt to “thoughtfluence” the monocle back into common use, I think it’s time to bring back knickers. But first let me clear up some linguistic confusion: some of our English speaking readers will know this garment as knickerbockers (knickers are women’s underwear in Britain). I’m talking about pants that stop around the knee and that are worn by both men and women.

Before my annoying plantar fasciitis injury, I used to don knickers twice a week to go fencing. They are comfortable, allowing for easy movement, and more dignified and modest than shorts.

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Modern fencing knickers are white. The Victorian, black version of the fencing uniform was more stylish:

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A tangent here: please, dear fencing officials, do not attempt to “modernize” the uniform:

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Remember, the classic uniform is still sexy. Note slightly NSFW examples: 1 and 2.

Baseball, football and golf all adopted knickers for the same reasons they work in fencing: comfort, warmth, lower leg flexibility and dignity.

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The garment also played an important roll in liberating women from burdensome hoop skirts and corsets. Above is mountain guide Alice Manfield. And, of course, we can’t forget, late 19th/early 20th century women’s cycling apparel:

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These days, outside of the fencing strip, the only place you’ll see knickers in an un-ironic context is when you find yourself hunting shooting in Britain:

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UPDATE: Alas, Root Simple reader Peter informs me that this picture is fiction. Current shooting attire, Peter informs me, is “rubber boots, jeans and one of those nice Barbour waxed cotton jackets. The Queen does not wear jeans, but a tweed skirt. This uniform is accompanied by a battered, mud-splattered Land Rover and a pair of ruinously expensive, handmade shotguns. Anyone who dressed like the men in the picture would be found guilty of that most English of sins, Trying Too Hard, and sniggered at.”

At least there’s (pre-ironic?) Oktoberfest in Bavaria:

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Image: HaTe on Wikipedia.

Yes, I know, you’re too distracted by the Tyrolean hats to notice the knickers.

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Bike in Tweed, Stockholm 2013. Image: Wikipedia.

In a somewhat more ironic context, knickers have appeared at “tweed rides” in various cities around the world. Still, it’s hard to pull this off outside of an organized ride without seeming like you just stepped out of a steam punk convention.

Alas, our fashion overlords have banished knickers to the historical recreation ghetto. But maybe there’s hope. Since writing this silly post Google is now suggesting I visit this modern knicker purveyor. Nice, but could we skip the polyester?

As Marshall McLuhan used to say, “If you don’t like that idea, I’ve got others.” Not ready for knickers? How about my idea for a hipster Alpine wear shop? Get ready for the Kickstarter . . .

Coffee Grounds in the Garden

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According to a handy fact sheet from Washington State University, Coffee grounds will buzz your garden. Coffee grounds build humus, boost nitrogen, phosphorus and zinc, bind pesticides and toxins, prevent bacterial and fungal infections and feed earthworms. Authored by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, Extension Urban Horticulturist and Associate Professor, this peer-reviewed pamphlet also provides a set of suggestions for using coffee grounds in the garden:

  • Coffee grounds should be composted before used as a soil amendment but can be used fresh as a mulch.
  • Fresh grounds are phytotoxic, so keep them away from direct contact with roots.
  • Coffee grounds will not necessarily make your soil more acidic.
  • Don’t use coffee grounds where you are starting seeds.
  • Despite rumors, coffee grounds do not repel pests.
  • Let coffee grounds cool before adding to compost bin so you don’t kill beneficial microbes. And don’t let coffee grounds amount to more than 20% of your compost pile.
  • Don’t add coffee grounds to vermicomposting bins.

If you’re using coffee grounds as a mulch Chalker-Scott has two suggestions:

  • Apply a thin layer (no more than half an inch) of coffee grounds. Cover with a thicker layer (four inches) of coarse organic mulch like wood chips (Chalker-Scott 2015). This will protect the coffee grounds from compaction.
  • Don’t apply thick layers of coffee grounds as a standalone mulch. Because they are finely textured and easily compacted, coffee grounds can interfere with moisture and air movement in soils.

Weekend Links: We’ve Gone Crazy!

082 Get Outdoors with Jeff Potter

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My guest this week is journalist and outdoor enthusiast Jeff Potter who runs outyourbackdoor.com. We talk about cross country skiing, riding bikes paddling boats and even eating road kill. You can find Jeff’s non-lycracentric cross country ski how-to videos in his Out Your Backdoor Youtube channel. During the podcast we also ponder the question, “If you could have only one bike what kind of bike would it be?” We get into canoe vs. kayak, how to roll a kayak and the joys of cyclocross.

Make sure to check out all the cool things Jeff has for sale on his website as well as his wife Martha Bishop’s website lazygal.biz.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Two apps for choosing bike routes: one good, one bad

img_0873-1.jpgOne of the single most important lessons I’ve learned about riding a bike in a big city in the U.S. is that you’ve got to choose your route carefully. Pick quiet streets and you can avoid speeding, angry motorists. Even in a car-centric city like Los Angeles, if you do your homework, you can find residential alternatives to major arterials that will make you think you’re in Amsterdam. Well, almost.

Before going somewhere unfamiliar, I used to pour over bike maps to figure out where the bike lanes and paths were. Now, there are apps for that.

The Good: Google Maps
In 2010, a bike option was added to Google Maps. While not perfect, it works surprisingly well. Combined with a little familiarity with what streets are good and bad to ride on, I now find that I rarely look at the city’s bike maps anymore.

Here’s an example: one weekend this month, Kelly needed the car and I had to across town, from the La Brea Expo line station to the new Westchester Community Oven.

The route Google Maps suggested was excellent:

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It routed me on to the La Ballona creek bike path and from there to a reasonably calm street and then to a bike and pedestrian path that I didn’t know existed. The path gets you up a steep hill quickly and avoids a not so fun to bike on major boulevard. Now, it just so happens that I know a drainage ditch that’s better than the path Google Maps suggested, but that’s splitting hairs:

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Google maps also talks to you, so you can keep your attention on the road. I’ve compared it to a number of routes that I routinely ride and Google Maps’ suggestions are just as good, sometimes better. One feature that I wish it had was a way to combine transit and bike routes together rather than separately.

The bad: Go LA
Xerox and the city of LA just came out with an app called Go LA that, in addition to driving and public transit options, also suggests bike routes.

Unfortunately, like so many other initiatives in Los Angeles, the bike portion of Go LA is just an afterthought. If you like your bike rides to be like a meat world version of Frogger, you’ll love what Go LA suggests. I compared a number of trips that I commonly take on my bike in both Go LA and Google Maps. Google suggested routes were much better. Go LA seems to just suggest the shortest routes, which are most often really unpleasant streets to bike on. Here’s the same route as above, but in Go LA:

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It’s obvious that Go LA doesn’t have any data for bike paths, lanes or routes. The route it suggested would be high-stress and, possibly, dangerous.

Perhaps they have plans to improve the bike portion of this app in the future, but they have a lot of catching up to do with Google. And I was excited, at first, to see that Go LA suggests combined bike/public transit options. But, again, until they improve the bike routing portion of this app, it’s basically useless. A press release from Xerox alluded to improvements that will let you track fitness, but why do that when there are so many other apps that already track calories and effort? Giving cyclists the tools they need to find peaceful routes for useful trips will be much more valuable in the long run.

In my search for apps I came across a number of cities around the world that have dedicated bike apps. If you’ve tried any of those, please leave a comment. If the city you live in doesn’t have a good app, give Google Maps a try.