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A coworker of mine has goats, and she very generously brought in some milk for me last week. It sure felt like very precious cargo as I carried it home- what a treat! I probably would have cast some sidelong glances at someone who was lovingly cradling a jar of milk on the bus like I was. I mean, yeah, I looked like a weirdo.

Anyway, I decided to make yogurt. The idea of making yogurt and cheese is very appealing to me, but the thought of going to the grocery store and buying a half-gallon of milk and then making yogurt out of that has always seemed not that exciting. I don’t know. I just couldn’t get into it. So this was my chance!

To make yogurt, you heat your milk up to 120 degrees, add a couple tablespoons of already-made yogurt, and then keep the mixture at about 115-120 degrees for six to twelve hours.

In order to maintain the temperature, I put the jar full of hot milk in an insulated cooler with two jars full of water as hot as the tap gets. I did a little research online before launching this experiment about ways to do this, and the jars-of-hot-water-in-a-cooler method seemed like the simplest. So that’s what I decided to do, and I filled up the jars and tucked in the milk for the night and went to bed dreaming of delicious, creamy, homemade yogurt.

The next morning I scampered to the cooler and, wiping some excited spittle from my chin, cracked it open. And what did I find? A jar full of lukewarm milk! It was absolutely not yogurt, nor did it have a single yogurt-like characteristic. So, I refilled the jars with hot water and let it sit for the day, thinkin a little more time would do the trick. I got home from work really late that night and went to bed again, having by that point completely forgotten about the yogurt. The next morning, a solid 36 hours after starting the experiment, I finally gave up and put the milk back in the fridge.

I really, really didn’t want to just throw the milk away. I mean, it came from someone I know. So I turned it into a quiche (which was extra-delicious, by the way) and now I’m just really hoping I don’t get food poisoning. How’s that for an illustrious ending to the story?


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This week is Bike Commute week, an annual event that I decided to get a little more involved in this year. This has gotten me thinking a lot about bicycles and why I love them. In fact, I spent most of my ride home a week or two ago counting all the reasons I love bikes. 

Bicycles are such elegant little machines. When you’re on a bike, you just hum along so quickly and quietly, and the only energy you use is from your own body. It seems almost ridiculous to mention the environmental benefit of bike-riding, because that’s such an obvious reason to ride a bike. But hey! It’s serious stuff.

You can actually carry a lot of stuff on a bike.

Riding a bike is a good opportunity to examine the countryside- you see things you would never catch in your car. Last year I saw a family of bobcats while I was riding through Hatfield. Bobcats!

Bike-riding is so, so fun. Is there anything more delightful than spinning down the road on a warmish spring day, with the sun and the wind on your face? There’s no reason that only kids should get to enjoy that feeling. And even in the dead of winter, when it’s so cold that everything is completely still, there something special about moving quietly through the freezing air on your bike. And that’s something that doesn’t happen when you’re trudging along on foot or cranking the heat in your car.

Bikes are for everyone. You don’t need any special equipment (except a helmet), or spandex, or to be part of a club.

I guess the real reason I love my bike is that feeling when you see the light turn green ahead, and you decide (responsibly!) that you’re going for it, and you crank away (carefully!) and you make it, and you just sail through the intersection (while looking both ways!) and you just think, “YES!!”

So, back to the environmental piece for a minute. Michael Pollan wrote an article for the New York Times sunday magazine a few weeks ago called “Why Bother?” which, like a lot of his writing, was mostly about gardening and food. But in it, he writes about Wendell Berry’s concept of the “cheap energy mind,” which basically is the mindset that most Americans have that takes cheap fuel as a given when making decisions, which I’ve been thinking about in terms of transportation. Most people don’t think of their bikes, or their feet, as a primary means of transportation, because fuel has been so cheap for so long. Well, why can’t we be a little more deliberate in our decisions about how we get around? Why do our cars have to be the only way we can think of to transport ourselves? Why should bicycling be this segmented activity that we only participate in during designated leisure or exercise time? When did anything other than driving become something like a novelty to so many people, when bicycling is actually so practical? I hope that Bike Commute Week will connect the dots for some people here in the Valley, and get some more people out of their cars and (safely!) onto their bikes.

If you live here and feel all inspired and fired up about bikes now, take advantage of the events being offered this week all around the Valley. Find out more about MassBike and get involved. And, at the risk of quoting Queen, get on your bikes and ride!

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Normally my roommate does all the dorking out over new gadgets that one household can stand, but I just read about this device that’s being developed that’s basically a knee-mounted electrical generator. So, you strap this brace onto your knee, and it harnesses the energy that you expend through walking. Uh, neat!

Every time to go to the gym, I think about the fact that huge amounts of energy are being used to power the forward motion of the treadmills and to run the televisions and displays, and I think about the huge amounts of energy that those of us using the treadmills are expending, and I wonder why that isn’t a closed loop. Couldn’t I be powering the television that I’m watching?

How cool would it be if I could charge my cell phone with my knee while out for a run? Yes. I like this idea.

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Move to Massachusetts

The city council of Cambridge, MA just voted Denise Simmons in as mayor of that city. Simmons is the nation’s first openly lesbian black mayor. It’s always a little surprising that we’re still just getting to firsts like this one, but I have to admit to a slight flush of pride that those firsts keep happening in my beloved state. Our current governor is the country’s very first black elected governor (although he’s just a breeder). Yes, in the whole country, ever.

All right, folks, the evidence keeps piling up, and soon you won’t be able to ignore it any longer. Just come move to Massachusetts. It’s obviously so superior, and I am obviously so not smug about it.

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way to go, chavez!

Last week we learned of the release of two long-held hostages of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) or FARC. Clara Rojas and Consuela Gonzalez were released on Thursday, after being held in the jungle for 6 years. From where I sit in northeast Ohio, the story of the hostages’ capture, captivity, and release has the elements of a novel. Clara Rojas was abducted along with Columbian presidential candidate Indgrid Betancourt (who remains a hostage) while on the campaign trail. Rojas became pregnant during her captivity, was subject to a “kitchen knife Caesarean”, and then was forcibly separated from the infant eight months (!) after the birth . Who is the FARC? Not surprisingly, there seem to be competing views offered on the relevant Wikipedia entry, however I choose to glean information instead from a January 2008 Harpers item which excerpted the diary of Tanja Nijmeijer, a 29 year old Dutch woman who joined FARC in 2002 while on a trip.

“November 22, 2006

I’m really disappointed in my comrade Karel. He’s caught an STD from his girlfriend, who everyone knows fucks everyone. That fucking bitch is from the other side, I’m 99 percent certain. She’s probably been sent to destabilize the leadership of this unit. I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

For the rest, pick up a January Harpers or subscribe to access the online archives

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