The whitest food.

I am spending my Labor Day doing various things around the house (surely not what the labor movement intended for its national holiday) — sweeping, straightening up crap, and, for the first time, making my own yogurt.

My mom found a brand-new yogurt maker for $2 in Roswell, either at a yard sale or at the Goodwill (can’t remember which one, although either is equally likely). She’s not a big yogurt fan, nor is anyone else in my family. Except for me.

I like yogurt a lot, whether it by itself or in sauces, drinks, dips or stirred into soups. Not only that, I like plain yogurt more than any other type of yogurt, due to the flavor of most store-bought flavored yogurt. The amount of artificial sweeteners in most yogurts is so strong to me that it overrides both the sourness of the yogurt base and the added fruit or other ingredients. Cherry yogurt, blackberry yogurt, coffee-flavored yogurt and nearly any other variety that I’ve tried all taste the same to me — horribly over-sweetened. Usually, I just buy plain yogurt, and then add honey, some jam or other things to taste. I also often drain yogurt to make it thicker, to turn it into something akin to Greek yogurt, only less expensive.

Yogurt has been getting steadily more and more expensive, though. I used to be able to buy a quart of plain yogurt at Trader Joe’s for $1.69. Now it’s a dollar more. Similar price increases have occurred at Whole Foods and the food coop, and other places where I buy my yogurt. For a while, I was buying it on sale and freezing it, but I have a pretty limited freezer capacity, especially given the fact that I freeze a lot of things: cooked beans, homemade stock, bread (a freezer is key to eating both inexpensively and well when you’re cooking for yourself). So, I might as well try to make my own.

yogurt 1

I started off with a quart (32 ounces) of skim milk. I used reconstituted nonfat dry milk, since this is what I had on hand. (Recipes often recommend doubling the amount of milk powder you use in order to get more flavorful yogurt; I used the usual proportions, since I didn’t have quite enough powder.) I made it yesterday, and then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, so that the flavors could meld.

The milk needs to boil for about a minute or so, and you should stir it while it’s cooking so that it doesn’t scald.

yogurt 2

Yogurt tools and helpmeets, from left to right: yogurt maker base, glass yogurt jars, whisk, cooking thermometer, cup of plain yogurt to use as a starter.

yogurt 3

I poured the hot milk out of the pain and into a large measuring bowl, so that pouring the milk into the glass yogurt jars would be easier. Then, I let it cool down to 110 degrees, which took about twenty minutes.

yogurt 4

I tempered the plain yogurt (I used about half a cup of it) in a separate bowl with a small amount of warm milk, so that it wouldn’t curdle, and then I mixed it until it was smooth. Then, I added the mixture to the large bowl of warm milk, and blended it thoroughly.

yogurt 5

I only had enough of the milk/yogurt mixture to fill six of the seven glass jars. This isn’t a problem — homemade yogurt only lasts a week or so, and six jars of yogurt is plenty for the week ahead.

yogurt 6

The jars go in the yogurt maker, and they have between eight and 10 hours to wait. The maker is just a warmer, which keeps the ingredients at a constant temperature — you could also use other methods. The yogurt is forming as I write this, so I don’t yet know what the results will be. I hope this is worth my while. I think I might make some chai syrup (similar to that in this recipe, only with more pepper and maple syrup instead of honey) to stir into it — I’ve had some chai yogurts before that were very good. I also want to try and recreate a ginger yogurt that I bought once in Whole Foods in Denver and have never seen again — it was ginger with blueberries, but the ginger taste predominated. So, so good.

I was recognized the other day in the SUB, because of my shoes. That was the first time I’ve been recognized that way — usually, people know my bike from my photos of it, and ask me if I’m the person who owns it. Speaking of bikes, I wrote something for Duke City Fix on the new bike-parking facilities in Nob Hill.

Now that my camera is working again, and I’m settling back into the school thing for my last fully-funded year of graduate school, I hope to get more into writing. All of my writing has suffered over the last year. Crap for school, emails to friends, and other verbiage has been sporadic and shoddy, and I’m trying to train myself to write regularly once again. After all, I do have a dissertation (and dissertation prospectus, and a paper for this conference) to churn out sooner rather than later, and having some sort of discipline (something I’ve never been good at outside of a school or employment context) seems key. My friends would also appreciate more email from me.

Some links of interest:

This week’s issue of the New Yorker contains an article about Colorado politics and Bill Ritter, the current, non-charismatic governor that is non-awful; in fact, it actually gets some things right that are often overlooked. Most political reportage on my home state makes me groan, but this one didn’t (despite the use of the cowboy cliche in the illustration; I guarantee you that 95% of Coloradans have never worn a cowboy hat in their lives) — it does a decent job pointing out that the dominance of state politics by the Republican religious right is a recent phenomenon, and something that has been declining over the last five years or so. I’ve read a lot of things over the last few years that tend to assume that Republican control of the state is The Thing That Has Always Been, rather than a product of the late 1980s/early 1990s. Democrats have always done well on the local and state levels — the governor’s office, for example, has been occupied by a Democrat for 44 of the last 60 years. This article is one of the few that I’ve seen that recognizes that — it’s a decent read, although I’m not sure what I think of the author’s conclusion.

The Next American City blog asks why people who are often opposed to anything that smacks of urbanism — dense populations, being able to walk places, prioritizing spending on mass transit and bicycle facilities — spend their vacations in places that are interesting, walkable and built on a much more accessible scale than modern American suburbs.

I Love Typography has been running an occasional “History of Type” series this year — a few months ago (you can tell I’ve been collecting links for a while) the series covered Didone-style typefaces. Characterized by a contrast between thick and thin strokes, including razor-thin serifs that contrast with, these typefaces (often of French origin, designed around the time of the French Revolution and its aftermath) are among my favorite serif faces. They’re often thought of as “high-end” or “luxury” typefaces — as the article points out, Didone faces such as Bodoni are often used and over-used in fashion magazines — because of the difficulty of using them. Those delicate serifs have require quality paper, good ink, and a high amount of typesetting skill to print correctly. My favorite modern Didone-style typeface is H&FJ Didot, Jonathan Hoefler’s revival of the work of Firmin Didot, which is graceful, useful and stunning.

Green means ready.

hello battery charger

My camera-battery charger finally arrived, the other day, in a not-very-well-protected white envelope from Hong Kong that had bird stamps strewn over the front. It works, even though I put the battery in incorrectly the first time I used it, so that’s $7 well spent. I should really buy another one to take with me on trips, so this doesn’t happen again. I haven’t been able to use my camera in about three weeks.

What I did on my summer vacation.

kick off!

(Photo of one of the windows at Capitol Hill Books in Denver.)

So, it’s been a while. I’m back in ABQ after two months in various parts of Colorado, and when I arrived, I had lots of welcome-home presents. My phone (along with my cheap-Luddite dialup internet service) wasn’t working; my air conditioner refused to adequately condition my living environment; the water pressure in my shower had dwindled to the point where showers felt less like a refreshing torrent and more like having someone pee on you; and I seem to have misplaced my camera-battery charger somewhere. [1] On the positive side, I can sleep in my own bed again, and have access to more than two pairs of shoes. So it all works out in the end.

My vacation from ABQ was fun, productive, and, at times, frustrating. I spent a few weeks in Grand Junction in June, seeing my family, hanging out with Hank the Dog, and drinking a lot of beer:

snow-chilled beer

There was still snow in the higher elevations in June, due to the cool spring up there, so I was able to do some snowshoeing. My dad and I helped a family friend open up his cabin for the summer, and we had to ski/snowshoe for a few miles to get there. It was enjoyably strange, requiring some sartorial schizophrenia: my feet were clad in thick socks and Sorels, to keep the snowshoes on, but on top, I was wearing a thin short, and after some exertion, a tank top: it was that warm on top of the mesa.

Other outings: my dad and I traveled to Utah so that he could put together a road log for an upcoming geological field trip. He drove, and I wrote things down, noting every side road, arroyo, underpass, giant boulder, and other roadside attractions down I-70 and up into Sego Canyon, home of several cultures’ worth of petroglyphs and the ruins of the mining/railroad town of Sego, Utah:

rock carvings

upper windows

(The above photo is of the company store/bank that was once the economic center of Sego.)

I haven’t been in Utah in a while, other than briefly passing through, but I noticed that some places, familiar to me from childhood trips, really haven’t changed much. One of these would be the rest area/visitor’s center on I-70 a few miles west of the Colorado/Utah border:

14 minutes out of your life

I swear that this sign (and, presumably the scenic film it advertises), with its faux-Bauhaus-y typography, has been in the same place since the 1980s. Green River, Utah, also seems much the same. People still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Tamarisk restaurant overlooking the river, the West Winds truck stop (a place friends and I drove to occasionally in high school, late at night to eat pancakes and to be able to report that we’d been in a different state, for thrills) is still open 24 hours, and the town still essentially looks like opportunity passed it by.

An old ambulance just blocks from the remnants of downtown:


“Root” hastily added to the word “beer” advertising a now burned-out pizza restaurant. The letters denoting “Frank’s Pizza,” if you look closely enough, seem to be made with black electrical tape:

beer...root beer

However, if you do find yourself in Green River, you should stop and eat at Ray’s Tavern, a bar and burger place on the west end of town. It looks unpromising from the outside, but the food (mainly steaks, burgers, and hot homemade fries) is great and there’s a decent selection of Utah beers. Going by the decor inside, it seems the only people that ever eat there are river rafters and geologists. You should stop in, too.

Then, it was off to Denver for what promised to be weeks of research. I did my academic duty while I was there, getting to the library when it opened, spending all day in the archives (or the government documents section) working, and then closing the place down. A battle between intellectual enrichment and monotony. I took numerous pictures of documents (the picture below is a representative sample) and typed up notes on box after box of city documents (interoffice memos, scrawled notes that don’t make any sense, fun stuff). I’m still processing this data in the back of my brain (while I’m doing more important things like shopping for things on the Internet or zoning out while riding the bus).

One thing I noticed, though, that I put out there for other grad students doing urban history, is that mayoral archives rock. If there’s something going on in a city, be it a concept plan for a new neighborhood development, a community festival, a fire hydrant bursting down the street, dogs barking in someone else’s backyard, or a city councilman that comes to an important event without a tie on (remember, I’m looking at 1950s and 1960s documents here, and you’d be surprised at how upset this made some people), someone inevitably will complain to the mayor about it, often using the long, rambling, illegible letter as the method of communication. This is what makes mayoral archives interesting and valuable, since they contain a lot of crap that other city archive collections lack. (One of the mayoral archives I’m looking at, for example, contains five boxes of crank letters to the mayor, which I totally want to look at sometime.) On the other hand, it makes you wonder why anyone would actually want to become mayor, since they and their staff spend so much time replying to such things. (”Dear Mrs. Jones: I share your concern about the values of today’s youth…”)


My search for a decent sublet, chronicled in earlier entries, was unsuccessful, so I did end up staying in a hotel. However, I think this was ultimately preferable, since at the end of the day, I could return to a place where I didn’t have to talk to anyone, where the air conditioning was bracing, and the cable channels numerous. I forgot how frickin’ chatty Denverites are. I rode the light rail every morning while I was in Denver, from my hotel to downtown, and most days, I had random conversations with other riders, about the book I was reading or why is it hot or those are nice shoes or look at the traffic out there. The same at restaurants (”You must really like roasted chicken. Let me tell you about some memorable roasted chickens I’ve eaten lately”), or just walking down the street (”Hey, I like the ‘I Hate Helvetica’ button on your bag — what’s that all about?”). Then you get the the library, where the super-helpful librarians who are excited about your project are all wanting to show you things. Honestly, this is great stuff, and I generally enjoy such interactions — I’ve never lived in another place where people wanted to chat so much — but at the end of the day, I was ready to go to my suburban hotel room where no one wanted to talk to me.

(On some days, though, the highlights involved finding random things left on the seats on the light rail, like this inexplicable Cheney souvenir:)

"that your cheney?"

I decided to go back to Grand Junction over the weekend of the Fourth, since the library would be closed. I planned to return to Denver a few days later, but then I fell while on a hike, spraining my ankle, tearing a ligament in my foot, a ligament that took a chunk of bone with it when it succumed. This was fun — limping back to the car, sitting in the ER, getting fitted for a boot (which actually did nothing to help the situation, since it lacked compression straps in the area of my injury — I stopped wearing it after a few days), going to the orthopedist’s office, dealing with the insurance. It wasn’t that serious an injury in the long run — I’m walking around fine now, only four weeks later, with no plain — but it did stymie my research and plans for other fun (such as seeing one of my favorite bands play their first-ever show in the Mountain Time Zone [2] or biking the entire length of the Platte River Greenway, for research as well as for pleasure). Instead, I spent a lot of time with TV and pills, entertaining myself with numerous marathons of every show on Bravo as well as plying Hank the Dog with treats (in this case, part of a granola bar, which he inexplicably loves):

treat standoff

When I did get a chance to return to Denver later last month, I was even more busy. I did a lot of harried research, paid for a lot of expensive archive copies, and was generally too stressed by being behind on work that I didn’t even take the time to drink beer or go shopping. The horrors. I took the long way on the drive back to ABQ, stopping back in GJ to pick up my stuff (but inadvertantly leaving a lot of stuff behind), then driving back through Telluride, Cortez, and Durango. On the drive back to ABQ, my car reached the 200,000-mile mark, somewhere between Dolores and Mancos, Colorado:

finally broken in

(I am only responsible for the last 25K of those miles, though. But now the car feels truly broken in — it, like other aging early-1990s Toyota 4-Runners still on the road, can be festooned with stickers from ski areas and beer companies, were I the sort of person who would do so.)

Now I’m back in ABQ, just in time to leave again — I head to Portland, where it is fifteen degrees cooler, this weekend for a few days of…something.

[1] And, as you can probably guess, the outlay for a new battery charger is similar to that of an entirely new camera.

[2] For a lot of the bands I like, any show they played in the MTZ would be their first show here, unfortunately. Such is life in America’s Forgotten Time Zone.

The heat lamp.

the evening's last treats

Posting is always sparse around here, but I am being pre-apologetic for it this time — because of the slowness of my internet connection here in GJ (28.8 bps!), just checking email is an adventure in waiting. In the meantime, enjoy these tasty treats for sale, photographed at the Hinkle Family Fun Center last Thursday. Mmmm. Pizza. Cheese sauce.


macchiato vista

Greetings from Grand Junction, where the weather is hot and windy, and where I’ve seen more people ride their bikes on the sidewalk against the direction of traffic than seems advisable. (Then again, given the difficulties in riding the whole mile from my dad’s house to Safeway last night, maybe these sidewalk riders are onto something.) The above photo is not from GJ, of course — it looks too appealing. The macchiato pictured above was purchased and consumed in Union Square in San Francisco about a week and a half ago. It wasn’t the greatest macchiato ever (espresso machines tend to bring out the acidic tendencies in whatever coffee bean is used, but this particular drink tasted more acidic than usual), but I drank it on vacation, and that alone gives it points that home-based drinks can’t earn.

My trip to SF was half good and half frustrating. The first few days I spent just wandering around like normal, taking pictures of interesting signs and parts of buildings and the other things I usually take pictures of. I walked through some neighborhoods I’ve spent a lot of time in, and then explored some ones that were newer to me (I have to say, if I lived in SF, I’d probably choose to live in the Inner Richmond, because of its numerous Asian restaurants and markets, the decent bookstore in the area, and the fact that the city’s ubiquitous hipsters seem less thick on the ground there than in other neighborhoods [I could be wrong about that, though]). The problem came when I was walking by the Japantown mall, fresh from shopping at Ichiban Kan, the Japanese dollar store, to catch the bus on Geary Street. I hit my shoe on the edge of some uneven pavement, and, for some reason, pain began shooting up my lower right leg, which continued until, well, it still continues (albeit in much milder form).

I broke that part of my right leg about seven years ago, when I fell off of a table after changing a light bulb. I broke my leg — both the tibia and the fibula, in a spectacular spiral break — in about five places, and had to have a long metal rob and a bunch of screws installed in it in order to set the bones. It took a while, as you might guess, for the leg to heal. I was in an air boot for nearly half a year and required either crutches or a cane for some time after that. It was my Demerol Vacation — a period of time in which I spent a lot of time not doing very much and thinking about what I was going to do in the future (this is the point in my life when I decided to both go back to school and travel more). As you can probably imagine, it had a significant impact on my health at the time, and it continues to do so — when I get really tired, I tend to limp a bit, and my right leg is usually weaker and gets more sore than the left one. It is also more susceptible to shocks and hairline fractures, and when I hit my foot against the pavement, it hurt very badly. I managed to get on the bus, though, get to Walgreens to buy a velcro leg brace to stabilize my leg, get some food, and get back to my hotel. The rest of my trip went okay — I was able to stand on my leg and walk around with the aid of the brace and plenty of ibuprofen, but it made going places and doing things much less enjoyable. I managed to go to the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market on Saturday (I wasn’t going to pass up my opportunity to eat Recchiuti chocolates or gaze on vegetables that don’t or won’t grow anywhere in the Mountain Time Zone, hobbled to nearby stores and places to eat, and successfully got to the airport without too much trouble. But, I’ll be honest, it was sort of a crappy thing to have happen on a solo vacation — although being in my hotel room with my leg propped up on pillows, with the cable TV on, wasn’t bad.

So I went to the student health center when I came back, although my leg felt much better when I got back to ABQ. Nothing conclusive resulted, though — I got an x-ray which revealed that I didn’t have any hairline fractures around the screws (which was the thing I was most afraid of), or anything wrong with the bones in my right leg at all. What I did find was that, on a slow afternoon in late May, a dramatic leg x-ray (the bones and rod are extremely noticeable) will cause the entire staff of nurses and doctor’s assistants to come in and look at the wondrous film. I had to tell the story of how I broke the thing originally a few times, while people asked me how I even walked on that thing (ignoring the fact that I successfully walked over to the doctor’s office, and have walked a few places since February 2001, when the original event occurred). The official prognosis was that it might be some sort of muscle sprain, and that I should take some pills.

It’s feeling better now, although it is still stiff and sore if I walk on it a lot. I haven’t been very good at staying off it — I had to drive 400 miles to GJ, and then there’s lots of family things to do here which require walking or standing and I’m just not that good at staying home. On Sunday, for example, which was my dad’s 60th birthday, we went down to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to see a four-ton rock that fell in a road and see some water spilling over a dam due to high spring runoff. This required some walking, as did the four-hour shopping trip (did you know there was even four hours’ worth of shopping in GJ?) that I did with my aunt yesterday. Eventually, my leg will be okay again, despite myself.

Here are some other photos from SF, taken during the mobile half:

triple numbered for safety

safe zone

mango diapers

the parts of meat