Eww: the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bar

Food and Drink, Health

strawberry shortcake

Although I enjoy the cattiness of a scathing New Yorker film review, I myself take no pleasure in calling out bad products on my blog. I generally skip yucky beers or boring sitcoms, choosing to write about things I want to share with others. (My review of cycling rain jackets is a rare exception.) Chalk it up to temperament, I guess.

In this case I’m compelled to warn others away from this quote-unquote “ice cream” bar.

Either the quality of this product has eroded over the past 38 years, or my taste sure has changed since I was eight years old. (It’s probably not an either/or scenario!) Walking home from our neighborhood beer bar last night, I had the munchies and bought one of these babies in a corner store. “Cake-coated vanilla ice cream, with a strawberry flavored center.” That’s how Good Humor describes it on their site. That, and a prolix list of mostly chemical ingredients. The nutrition app Fooducate describes it differently:

“D+ much worse than average.”

good humor Strawberry shortcake D+

That’s about right.

At eight years old, however, I was addicted to them. The Strawberry Shortcake bar led me down the path to my first real scolding from my parents. That summer my family had just joined a country club, whose swimming pool snack bar inexplicably allowed second graders to sign the tab for hot dogs, sodas, and ice cream on a stick.

For four weeks, before my parents would get the first monthly snack bar bill, I ate five or six of them a day. Often, more. The snack bar was like a narcotics sting operation, with a detective undercover behind the counter in an apron and hair net, enticing addicts to come and get it. Technically that would be entrapment–inducing my brother and me into downing hundreds of dollars’ worth of sugary things we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

The mid-1970s was a hard time for the fifty-year-old Good Humor brand, what with upstart competitors like Mister Softee and the health food craze that spawned frozen yogurt. Could country club snack bars have been a ploy to boost Good Humor sales? The company certainly could no longer ride the coattails of their genius, mid-century, sleeper PR campaigns. Ever heard the urban legend of the hero Good Humor man who rushed a pregnant woman to the hospital in his jingly ice cream truck? I sure had.

At the end of the month when the jig was up, my parents gave me a strong talking to, disappointed I didn’t have better sense. But could I be blamed? Was it not an insane setup:  that hundreds of dollars’ worth of ice cream could be purchased and consumed in a single month by an eight-year-old and his little brother?

[image credit:  Nestle (drumstick.com)]

To Soak or Not to Soak?

Food and Drink

Kidney_beans - photo by Sanjay Acharya

My biggest cooking frustration? Waking in the morning to assemble ingredients for the slow cooker, only to find I’ve forgotten to soak the beans overnight.

No problem, Plan B is always the “quick soak,” i.e., boiling the beans for five minutes then covering and leaving to soak for an hour. That is, if you have an hour to spare before leaving for work.

Turns out, there’s no reason to soak beans, at all. Or at least that’s what food editor Russ Parsons contends in a recent LA Times piece. In it Parsons surveys the history of the soaking question, talks with food writers on both sides of the aisle, attempts to put the question to bed with science, and crows that he’s been anti-soak for decades. The article even looks at the question of beans and flatulence!

“That’s wrong,” says my wife, when she asks me about the bag of unsoaked beans among the rest of my ingredients. She recites the main reasons an overnight soak is necessary: cook time, tenderness vs. mushiness, flavor, and, yes, reduced flatulence. I’m not surprised by her recalcitrance in the face of legume reform. Every bit of advice I’ve ever seen, heard, or read sides with my wife.

Yet, here’s Parsons from the LA Times article.

Letting dried beans sit overnight in a bowl of cold water does nothing to improve their flavor or their texture. In fact, it does quite the opposite. . . . Finally, soaking does absolutely nothing to reduce the gas producing properties of beans.

We shall see. I’m dumping the bag of unsoaked pinto beans into my Crockpot, now . . .

Bean Soup with Tamarind and Ginger (7-qt. slow cooker)

1 lbs. dried  pinto beans

0.5 lbs. ham hocks

2 lbs. chicken drums

5-inch piece fresh ginger sliced

1 can tomato, diced 24-oz.

3 med onion, cut in 1/8th’s

6 dried red chile peppers

5 tablespoons tamarind soup base

7 cups stock + 2 cups water

12 cloves garlic, sliced

1 bunch kale or collards

Directions for SEVEN QUART Slow Cooker:

Wash and sort beans.

Place all ingredients (except for greens) into slow cooker.

Switch slow cooker to high until simmering.

Switch to low.

Cut greens into 2-in. strips and add 10 – 20 min. before serving.

Commuter Bikes and the Trek Soho Deluxe

Health

trek soho deluxe

My friend Tony asked if I’d have a look at this bike.  Tony lives in DC and commutes by bike, escorting his wonderful daughter to school every morning, all by DC bike share.  He’s become a bike-share-system savant — the hackles on his neck rise the closer he gets to the thirty-minute bike-share quota.  But his daughter is graduating to middle school this year, where there isn’t a convenient bike-share station to switch bikes.

So Tony needs to buy a new bike.  His commuting needs neatly mark out the boundaries of the no-maintenance bicycle market — namely, internal gear hubs (IGH) and carbon belt-drives.  So it’s no surprise he’s put his finger on the Trek Soho Deluxe.

In researching this bike, I’ve done my usual eval, all the while not realizing the model has been discontinued.  So I’ve also done a quick and dirty search for “city bike,” “belt drive,” and “disc brakes.”  That’s turned up a decent list of some drool-worthy machines for 2014-15.

My evaluation of the discontinued Soho Deluxe is still relevant, though.  Not only are the components of bikes in this narrow market segment very similar.  There are probably a number of Soho Deluxe’s still in showrooms in every major city, and at closeout prices, to boot.  So I’ll just include that here, while adding the list of current-model bikes at the end.

MISC. NOTES Re. the TREK SOHO DELUXE

1) If you find a “new” model, it’ll likely be a great deal, with “closeout” pricing.  (The model was discontinued for 2014.)  But what year is the specimen you’ve found, 2012 or 2013?

Consider the following:

a) Normally a year or two sitting in a showroom makes no difference.  But with internal gearing, lubrication can leak out or settle in ways detrimental to the parts.  So if you find a 2012 Soho Deluxe, ask if the bike shop will re-lube the hub upon purchase.  Sheldon Brown discusses lubrication issues, here:  http://sheldonbrown.com/nexus-mech.html

b) Internal gearing has come a long way in recent years, and the different iterations of the Nexus 8-spd. hub are no exception.  I don’t have the specifics on whether or not the 2013 is significantly better than the 2012.  Might be something to research further.

c) Similarly, the newer Gates belt drives are reported to be much better than older versions.  I’m not sure what the timeline is, so that’s something to look into, as well.

2) No quick release rear wheel.

a) Much more difficult to change a flat on the fly.  Here’s a somewhat daunting tutorial.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCREx_q55mw

b) I’d recommend upgrading to a flat-resistant tire, at least on the rear.  (May as well do both.)  Ask dealer for if you can trade out the tires for some credit towards the purchase.  Kevlar is good (though more expensive).   I haven’t had a flat on Kevlar tires in 4 years, riding 300 days/year.

3) Test drive it:  how’s the lowest gear on your local terrain?

a) Find a decently steep hill.  My wife rides internal gearing, the Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub, and here on the modest yet significant hills of Madison, Wisconsin, her lowest gear is perfectly doable.

b) Note:  one mustn’t shift internal gearing under load.  That’s something the LBS might forget to tell you.  This is certainly not a deal-breaker.  It just takes some dexterity to let up the force when shifting.  Definitely don’t want to stand up pedaling when shifting an IGH.  Some user reviews claim the NuVinci N360 hub is the exception to this rule.  (See the Novara Gotham, below.)

4) Misc. questions:  Rack mounts, front and rear?

One reviewer called the Soho Deluxe a “thief magnet” because it has a “flashy appearance.”  I think it’s the opposite.  It’s got a low-key, even stealthy, paint job.  Plus, theoretically, it may be even less likely to be stolen, for the fact of the belt-drive.  Rational bike thieves avoid specialty bikes because pawn shops may balk at buying such easily identifiable items.

COMMUTER-BIKE ALTERNATIVES for 2014-15

The market for low-maintenance commuter bikes (belt drive, internal gearing) seems to be shrinking in the middle ($1000 – $1400), while growing at the lower end ($600-900) and higher end ($1500 – $2500).  Back in 2012-13 there were many more models in the middle price range.  I had to really hunt for these:

Raleigh Misceo 4.0 2013

Great closeout deals

— Alfine hub (an upgrade over the Nexus hub of the Soho Deluxe)

$1100 closeout

http://www.rei.com/product/848626/raleigh-misceo-trail-i11-bike-2013

Raleigh City Sport DLX

$1100

http://www.bicycling.com/gearfinderProductDetail?gfid=78254

Breezer Beltway 8

$1500

http://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/bikes-and-gear-features/best-urban-bike-breezer-beltway-infinity

Novara Gotham

$1400

http://www.rei.com/product/857590/novara-gotham-bike-2014

— NuVinci N360 hub

Scott SUB 10

$1300

http://www.rei.com/product/865741/scott-sub-speed-10-bike-2014

Focus Planet 2.0

$1400 (not widely avail. in US)

http://www.paragonsports.com/shop/en/Paragon/focus-bicycles-usa–inc-belt-drive

Beer Roundup #9: Three Double IPA’s

Food and Drink

Hop Juice

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

A Note on the Style:  Double IPA, Imperial IPA

Imperial IPA, a.k.a. Double IPA.  A friend of mine recently asked about the terminology.  Rather than referring to an increase of ingredients or the number of fermentation stages, “double IPA” is a nickname for “imperial IPA” (from the acronym “IIPA”).

Hop Juice, Left Coast Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.14 / 5
12 oz. bottle (4-pk), 9.7% abv, 82 IBU.

From a bottle into a tulip, it pours a hazy amber, with very little head, but prodigious lacing.

Remarkably reserved, semisweet aroma. A pleasing herbal and earthy hop aroma. Some barely perceptible Wonder bread in the background, though one must strain to detect the mere whiff of grain.

In the mouth it’s an interesting sub-piney bitterness.  No, wait, I’ve got it:  it’s cold sake!  Very bitter on the backend.  Balance comes from a neutral (not sweet) maltiness. No, scratch that.  As it warms, there’s a serious candy sugar sweetness. Deep hop flavors dominate, spurred on by a sharp alcohol twang.

Medium-bodied, almost chewy. Well-carbonated, with a slippery alcohol warmth.

A very good double IPA, though not as malty as I like them. It supplies a nice sweetness, but it’s missing something. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Nevertheless, I think I’ll be buying one more 4-pack (though none for the cellar).

Palate Wrecker, Left Coast Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.18/5
12-oz. bottle (4-pk), 9.5% abv, 100+ IBU.

Wow, what a great smelling beer.  Its claim to fame is its aggressive hop bitterness.  But the sweet aroma is my favorite feature of this brew.

It’s an awfully handsome, clear golden pour into a tulip, with a big cottony head that sticks around.

The aroma really distinguishes this brew. Sweet, juicy fruits galore: red grapefruit, pineapple, and finally sweet tangerine. Perhaps a honey/floral tea character.

In the mouth, the early sweetness is all fruit juice. Yum.  The hops come on as a salty, white grapefruit bitterness. There’s almost no malt sweetness; the sweetness is fruit, only. Not candied fruit, just ripe, juicy, sweet citrus. Once it’s down the gullet, the aftertaste turns sharply bitter, as if smearing the the throat with white grapefruit rind. That hurts this beer.

Great medium-bodied richness. The high carbonation is a welcome cleanser.

Heelch O’Hops, Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Rating:  3.95 / 5
12 oz. bottle (4-pk), 8.7% abv, 100 IBU

This brew was featured in a Draft Magazine article that had everyone talking, “Three Imperial IPA’s That Rival Heady, Pliny.”  The title truncates the full names of the two beers roundly considered among the best double IPA’s, “Heady Topper” and “Pliny the Elder.”  Those two are also among the most difficult to find beers in the US.,  which is why people are always looking for close substitutes.

Heelch O’Hops ought not to have been included in that article.  (The other two beers featured:  Doozy by Mother’s Brewing and Hopothermia by Alaskan Brewing.)  Heelch O’Hops is certainly not bad.  It’s just not anywhere near the vicinity of elite class brews.

It pours a finger of white head atop a thin, clear, yellow liquid. The foam leaves lacing stuck hard.

A disappointingly subdued, peppery aroma of shy hops. No detectable malt presence in the nose.

The flavor is also disappointing in the mouth. Where’s the malt, the sweet, or the bread that I want in a IIPA? The hop character gives grapefruit pith, rather than sweet orange or tropical fruit. An astringent pine on the back end forces one to take this brew seriously.  It’s that bitter.   Finishes bitter-dry.

Thin body, with moderate to high carbonation.

A quality brew, to be sure, but disappointing that it’s merely an IPA on steroids:  it’s got none of the malt balance or bigger body or sweet fruit of the double IPA’s I love, such as Hopslam, Chillwave, Hi Res, or Double Crooked Tree. Especially disappointing at $12.00 / 4-pack.

Beer Roundup #7: Three Midwest English Barleywines

Food and Drink, Health

Whole Hog BW

To Buy or Not to Buy?
1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best 

A Note on the Style:  English Barleywine

I prefer the malty “English” style barleywine over the hoppy “American” style.  All barleywines have a stiff malt backbone and generous sweetness, but the hop-forward American-style is often so bitter as to be indistinguishable from a high-alcohol double IPA.  Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are double IPA’s; I love me a double IPA when it’s got intense sweetness to offset the high IBU, like Bell’s Hopslam, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, or Founders Devil Dancer.

Despite my preference for the maltier English barleywine, it’s curious that I’ve found way more good American barley wines than English ones.  

How to explain this?  Is the English style BW less common in the US?  Not really.  Nearly every brewery that produces American barleywines also produces English ones.  The more likely explanation:  brewing a good English barleywine is more of a challenge because it doesn’t have the pronounced hops to balance the jacked-up sweetness.  Hence, many are sickeningly sweet, like Anchor Old Foghorn or Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot.

But all three specimens below are really good.

Stevens Point Barley Wine Style Ale (Whole Hog Series), Stevens Point Brewery

Rating:  4.44 / 5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  10.2% abv, 73 IBU.

From a very reasonably priced 4-pack ($7), the first sip has me totally psyched.

It’s not a great looking pour into a tulip glass, with barely a half-finger of white head atop the opaque, red-tinged, brown murk. Sticky lacing, with legs.

Very little in the aroma, probably just too cold. But bready, mildly floral, and of course malty in the nose, plus a grape-like, mildly acid wine character. Even after it warms, the nose remains reserved.

But in the mouth, now this is a provocative surprise. Stevens Point Brewery, for those of you not from Wisconsin, is an old-time adjunct-lager outfit, one of the oldest breweries in the US. My Midwest beer friends rarely say anything nice about SPB, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from this brew. But this is right up my alley. It’s a complex sweetness, like that of my two favorite English BW’s,  JW Lees Harvest Ale and Midnight Sun Arctic Devil. The grainy biscuit flavor is what backstops the sugar-sweetness, not any bitterness. Some will call this cloying. I love it. The sweetness rounds out with an estery, mossy oak. The butter/caramel is of the burnt variety. There’s milk and coconut, too.

The mild to moderate carbonation is a welcome cleanser and leavener of the oily-sticky feel.

I’ve gone back to Riley’s Wines and snatched up the last two 4-packs. One goes in the cellar, the other down my gullet!

Schell’s Barley Wine (Stag Series), August Schell Brewing

Rating:  4.46/5

On tap,  9.5% abv, 80 IBU.

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, thinking of Schell as merely an adjunct-lager outfit. What an awesome surprise.

On tap at Mason Lounge (Madison).  In a snifter, a handsome pour, a clear coppery amber with a finger of white head and good retention and lacing.

The aroma is a bit reserved.  There’s a diacytel caramel, dried fruit, piney hops, and a bit of sharp ethanol.

Flavor in the mouth offers sweet caramel, stone fruit, a bit of citrus, and a floral hop bitterness on the back end.  Finishes sweet, with a hint of grassy hops.  Alcohol is hardly there.

Upland Winter Warmer, Upland Brewing

Rating:  4.05 / 5

On tap,  8.5% abv, 47 IBU.

Pours a hazy, ruddy copper, topped by a fluffy, two-finger head.

A seriously complex aroma, the sweet swirls with the hops.  The hops come as white grapefruit and a bit of must.  The lovely roasted caramel struggles to dominate and ultimately does.

In the mouth the malt/hop tension from the aroma comes down solidly on the side of the malt.  Simple syrup on the front end, sweet butter and bread in the middle, plus fig and cinnamon-raisin ice cream on the back of the tongue. Goes down with just a rumor of bitter hops.  

Feels like a much bigger beer than it is, chewy, even.

Not nearly as good as the other two in this review, but it gets points for availability, as it’s pretty common to find on tap in Midwest bars in the colder months.

Layering For Cold Weather: Technical Clothing Systems

Health

layers vert

Body moisture:  it’s your worst enemy when dressing for winter cold. You can be wind-proofed and layered to excess. But if your layers aren’t venting that moisture, the minute your body stops radiating heat, the moisture trapped in your clothing will chill you like a Perdue chicken.

My first winter riding around Madison, I used to either underdress and regret having ever left the house, or I’d over dress, get damp with perspiration, and experience bone-chilling, near-hypothermic misery. Now, after three winters in Madison, I’ve got my layering systems down to a science. I’ve kept notes in increments of 1° or 2°F, from 40°  down to -1° F, both for cycling and walking.  (See below.)

I’ve also filled out my wardrobe of base layers, mid-layers, and technical garments. I prefer Patagonia’s synthetic products. They insulate and vent moisture as well as anything out there.  As a bonus, many of their products are made from recycled plastic bottles.

Just a few things to emphasize before presenting my layering systems.

I pay little attention to my legs. While I do wear a wool insulating layer under my jeans or cords, I leave my legs exposed enough to prevent them from perspiring.  Why?  Because I don’t own any high quality pants that are BOTH windproof AND breathable. Wearing lesser quality windproof pants, my legs get sweaty and damp–the last thing I want when it’s cold. Pants made from Gore-Tex Pro are very expensive. I do own a Gore-Tex Pro jacket ($600), as venting the body core and arms is much more important than the legs. Plus, I bike 95% of my trips around town (no car!), and on my bike my legs pretty much take care of themselves in the warmth department.

However, crotch warmth needs to be accounted for. (Duh!) In conditions of bitter cold (5° F, or lower), I’ll stuff a pair of glove liners down my crotch, and we’re good!

The head is easy. Above 20° F, I wear my aero-helmet with a headband and cycling glasses. Below 20° F, I stay warm in a snowboard helmet. I switch to ski goggles below 12° F  or when it’s windy. The key to snow-helmet comfort is a venting system, one which can be opened or closed on-the-fly. The head generates serious BTUs of heat, so when the air is in the upper-teens, or when pedaling hard, opening the vents keeps one from overheating.

One last thing to note. I avoid windproof insulation under my hardshell. Windproof fleece, such as Patagonia R4 or soft shells with a Gore-Tex layer, work really well as outerwear; they’re my go-to outer layers in milder weather (>30° F). But when worn as an insulating layer, they don’t breathe well.  The consequence:  trapped moisture close to the body.

Below, I’ve condensed my notes (layers for cycling), in increments of approximately 5°. The notes specify weather conditions, time of day, and the success/failure of the layers listed. What’s not specified is the type of cycling: running errands around town, i.e., bicycle trips of 15 to 25 minutes.

Message me or leave a comment if you want the full version (or if you’d like my notes for walking/hiking, instead).

Abbreviations

“Cap” = Capilene (Patagonia)
“Cap 3 crew” = long sleeve crew-neck
“Alpine Jacket” = Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket
“Gore Softshell” = Gore Bike Windproof Softshell
“Hi-loft” = either Patagonia R3 jacket or North Face Radium jacket

35-deg, 11pm, 8mph wind
— perfectly layered, home from High Noon Saloon
Cap1 stretch SS
Cap1 stretch LS
wool LS crew
Cap4 Full Zip
Gore Bike softshell
Capilene scarf, took this off 1/2-way home
wool leggings + jeans
glacier gloves w/ med. liners
Keen hiking boots, Smartwool socks

29 – 30 deg, 12 pm, 9 mph wind
— a bit over-dressed to Co-op; the backpack added warmth
Note: started out the ride with good warmth built up
lighter wool leggings + cords
Capilene 2 LS (this should’ve been a Cap 1, and the Cap 4 could’ve
Cap 4 1/4-zip been Cap 3)
Alpine jacket (possibly could’ve been softshell)
med-weight balaclava (allowed you to leave jacket 1/2-zipped)
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks
aero helmet + headband, glasses
backpack

30 – 26 deg, 7 – 8 pm, 13 mph wind
— ears/jaws got cold on way home, to Co-op
Note: started out the ride with good warmth built up
lighter wool leggings + cords
Two-layer insulation
Capilene 1 SS (torso was perfect)
Cap 4 1/4-zip
Gore softshell
(would’ve been nice to have mid-weight balaclava for ride home at 26 deg)
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks
aero helmet + light-weight headband, glasses
backpack

25 deg, 5pm, 5 mph wind, 96% hum.
— just right to State Street, then to Co-op
— was a bit chilly when you had your Cap 4 part-way unzipped
lighter wool leggings + cords
cotton TCap 4 full-zip
Alpine Jacket
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks
aero helmet, headband
glasses
backpack

22 – 19 deg @ 3 – 5 pm, 13 mph wind
— to State St. (overheated on the way out!! Just right on way home.)
wool leggings + jeans
cotton SS
Smartwool top
North Face Hi-loft fleece
Alpine jacket
lobster gloves, windproof cyc. gloves
wool socks
Keen hiking boots
aero helmet w/ headband
Campy balaclava

17 – 20 deg, 7 – 8 pm, 14 mph wind
— to Co-op (maybe also to Trader Joe’s)
wool leggings + cords
Silk weight Cap SS
Cap2 crew [should’ve deleted this]
Cap4 Full Zip
Alpine hardshell
lobster gloves w/ liners (hands totally fine!)
snowboard helmet (Note: no headband — just tightened chin strap)
Keen hiking boots, Smartwool socks [toes a bit cold when riding hard]
(carried in bag: Capilene scarf, 2nd pr. glove liners, balaclava)

30 – 16 deg, 5 – 8 pm, 9 mph wind
— to Mason Lounge
Note:
lighter wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 SS
Cap 2 1/4-zip[carried Cap 4 full-zip for ride home]
Alpine jacket
med-weight balaclava
lobster gloves + best liners
Keen hiking boots, wool socks, light wool socks
snowboard helmet + glasses

14 deg, 6 pm, 9 mph wind
— to State St. then to Absolutely Art
— torso was too warm; removing the Cap 2 crew was good;
wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 stretch SS (this should’ve been LS, and no Cap 2 layer)
Cap 2 crew [took this off!!]
Cap 4 Full Zip
Alpine hardshell
ski gloves w/ windproof cyc. gloves + liners (hands good until very end)
snowboard helmet
Campy balaclava
Keen hiking boots, Smartwool socks + wool footies
— (feet good until way home from Jenifer St. Mkt.)
(carried in bag: Capilene scarf, 2nd pr. glove liners)

14 – 11 deg, 2 – 4 pm, 4 mph wind
— to Manona Terrace then to Jennifer St. Mkt.
— torso a bit too warm to Manona Terrace; legs/feet/hands perfect
— hands & feet freezing on way home from Jenifer St. Mkt.(probably b/c boots & gloves were a bit damp inside
— should’ve taken gloves off when browsing in stores)
wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 3 crew
Cap 4 Full Zip
Alpine hardshell
lobster gloves w/ windproof cyc. gloves (should’ve added liners later) snowboard helmet
Keen hiking boots, wool-blend socks (that’s all you had clean)
(carried in bag: Capilene scarf, 2nd pr. glove liners)

10 – 9 deg., 12-1p, 9 mph wind
— too warm!
lighter wool leggings + jeans
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 3 crew [had to remove this; should’ve been Cap 1 LS, could’ve rolled sleeves]
Cap 4 Full Zip
Alpine Jacket
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners & light liners
Keen insulated boots, wool socks
snowboard helmet
Anon goggles
backpack

6 deg., 3p, 7 mph wind
— just right!
— to Co-op
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 2 quarter-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacket
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners and windproof cyc. gloves
Keen insulated boots, wool socks
snowboard helmet
Anon goggles
backpack

5 deg., 7p, 5 mph wind
— over-warm (had excess body-warmth built up + backpack, espec. on way home when backpack was heavy)
— to Co-op
>>>Next time, whenever you’ve got excess body-warmth built up, downgrade the Hi-loft layer to Cap 4
wool leggings + cords
silkweight Cap SS [could’ve deleted this b/c of the backpack]
Cap 3 quarter-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face) [Or, this could’ve been Cap 4
Alpine Jacket
— unzipped 1/4
— body a little too warm b/c of the backpack
heavier balaclava (Gore)
ski gloves w/ best liners and light liners
— hands were fine
Keen hiking boots, wool socks, lightweight wool socks
— feet perfectly fine
snowboard helmet (no headband)
Anon goggles
backpack

15 – 4 deg., 5p – 11p, 5 mph wind
— just right
— to Square to get bus to Greg’s; ride home from Greg’s
two silkweight Cap SS
Cap 4 full-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacket
[most everything was comfortable, except my crotch!! Nearly frost bit. Should’ve stuffed lightweight glove liners down there.]
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners and windproof cyc. gloves
— hands were fine (surprisingly! You were riding pretty hard the whole way home)
Keen insulated boots, heaviest wool socks
— feet perfectly fine
snowboard helmet (no headband)
Anon goggles
backpack

1 – 4 deg., 1 – 2p, 13 mph wind
— just right to doctors appt.
Cap 1 SSCap 1 LS (a bit too warm; rolled up sleeves on way home and was perfect)
Cap 4 full-zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacketcrotch: glove liners!!
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ best liners and windproof cyc. gloves
— hands were fine!
Keen insulated boots, wool socks
— feet perfectly fine
snowboard helmet
Anon goggles
backpack

-1 deg., 7p, 12 mph wind
— to Old Fashioned
lighter wool leggings + cords
Cap 1 stretch SS
Cap 3 1/4 zip
Hi-loft Full Zip (North Face)
Alpine Jacket
heavier balaclava (Gore)
lobster gloves w/ two pr. liners
Keen insulated boots, heavy duty wool socks
snowboard helmet (no headband)
Anon goggles

Cheesecloth? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Cheesecloth (To Drain Yogurt)

Food and Drink, Health
Coffee Maker yogurt

Coffee maker: the better yogurt strainer

The Better Way to Drain Yogurt

In the past when a recipe has called for strained yogurt, my wife and I have always gone with the conventional method, rigging up some version of the mouse-trap variety involving cheesecloth and gravity.  Hanging the yogurt-filled cheesecloth from a banana hook and draining the liquid into a bowl seems to perform well.  But it sure is a pain to set up.  The most commonly recommended method, fitting the cheesecloth inside a colander, simply doesn’t drain well; the larger surface area disperses the force of gravity, and the yogurt drains at a snail’s pace.

It finally occurred to us to try a Melitta coffee maker.  It sets up in a New York minute.  It drains the yogurt faster.  And it streamlines the task on the back end, as well:  after the yogurt fully drains, just tip the strained yogurt out of the filter, and finally squeeze what yogurt has stuck to the paper — like squeezing cake frosting from a pastry bag.  With cheesecloth, you’re left with a gooey mess that requires a spatula to salvage what you can, leaving wasted yogurt smeared in the woven fabric.

The finished product (drained yogurt)

The finished product (drained yogurt)

How Madison Healed an Ailing Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship, Health

awesome pup(photo credit needed)

Madison has made me whole again.  A phoenix rising from the ashes?  Check.  And not a moment too soon.

I was recovering from a serious loss:  grieving the death of my first beloved small business to the cancer of the Great Recession. Obstructing the grieving process was the insane work schedule of my new small business, a nighthawk radiology service.  Nighthawk radiology is third-shift work, 7 PM to 7 AM, seven days on and seven days off.  Each night my two-man team would process (receive, read, and report on) the ER imaging of 130 patients per night from nine regional hospitals.  Then we’d sleep the day long, eat “breakfast” at 5 PM, and do it all over again.  Needless to say, the intensity and Sysiphian nature of my work week allowed for little reflection or meditation.

But at the end of workday seven, I would fly from Houston to Madison to spend my off-week with my wife, who had just gone back to school for graduate studies in public health at UW Madison.  I was greeted each week by the magical sight of Tenney Park (below; photo credit needed), which is essentially the gateway to Madison coming from the airport.

Tenney Park

We lived in UW married student housing, called Eagle Heights.  Each Monday morning I would have the cab stop short of the complex and let me off at the bottom of the hill for a nice stroll up the bike path (below).
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Eagle Heights was a throwback to mid-century institutional community design, with 1200 units housing over 3000 people essentially off in the woods.  It was separated from the main UW campus by a mile-and-a-half of the lake shore, which insulated us from the famously hard-partying undergrads.

It was a quiet hideaway, shaded in summer by 150-foot white pines and old oaks of ten-foot girth.  Summer mornings could get a bit rowdy, as hundreds of the children of grad students ran wild in this bubble of safety and open space.  Summers in Eagle Heights demonstrate the occupation of little kids to be the playtime mimicry of working adults.

eagle heights sandbox

The adults spent a lot of time in the dirt, as well:  Eagle Heights has the largest community garden in the United States (below).
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Our two-bedroom unit was “cozy.” We had brought our king size platform bed with us from Houston, and we were lucky to assemble it with the bedroom door open because, once the platform was screwed together, it blocked the door. Tiny, yes, but the 650 square-feet of space had been laid out so well that we had all we needed.

That tiny apartment, with its single entrance and instantly surveyable floorspace, both swaddled me in warmth and encouraged me to spend time outdoors (which I took to include all the quality beer bars in the area). For us coming from a 3000 ft.² house in Houston, Eagle Heights living forced us to pare back. It was a cleansing consolidation, sorting and culling the piles of material possessions one collects over the years. I was astonished to find myself able to let go, even of items from my childhood that had an irrational hold on me, like this model ship which found a very good home in the bedroom of one of our favorite neighbors (below).
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I feel the emblematic patterns of Middle Life–moving out of state, changing careers, gaining weight, losing hair. Yet I feel it’s in Middle Life that one can make certain choices one couldn’t have made years ago. I feel I’ve traded an old sailing vessel that wasn’t doing me any good for a new one. (Have I mentioned I’ve joined the sailing club?)

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Joining the UW Hoofers sailing club  is something I never would’ve done before.  My pre-Madison worldview was that of consumer first.  And what do good consumers do when they want to go sailing?  They buy a boat of their own.  That probably explains why I’d never chosen to sail:  the concept of owning a boat, and a trailer with which to tow it, and rented storage, all presented a barrier to my entering the world of sailing.  The UW Hoofers Sailing Club leverages the resources of the community to provide the boats and infrastructure and volunteer efforts for maintenance.  For a modest $295/year, I can sail any of the 100+ boats (from dinghies to sloops, on up to six different keel boats), windsurfers, and even snow kites in winter.  Perhaps best of all is unlimited instruction at no extra cost, which is how I learned to sail.

terrace

Speaking of winter, I ride my bike year-round.

ebike snow

In fact, when my wife and I moved to Madison, we sold our cars and left them behind in Texas.  Madison is compact enough, we can go nearly everywhere we want on our bikes.  When we do need to go farther, the Metro bus system is superb, with seemingly more lines than one could ever need.  Also nice, there’s no bus stigma.  To see the bus carrying individuals of many different income levels is to see a city that confronts its traffic problem as adults:  rather than ever-widening streets at the expense of all else, the city actually restricts traffic in various ways, chiefly by restricting parking.  Instead of encouraging more cars into the city center, the city provides great public transit and some of North America’s most admired cycling and pedestrian byways.  The true economic elite in this town still of course drive luxury cars to work every morning.  But if they work in the city center, they park at a premium.  Everyone else enjoys free (with any current student ID) or cheap and highly efficient trips by bus, bike, or on foot.  I recently took the heavily used route #70 nine miles to the west side during rush hour, which took twenty-five minutes.  That same trip on a woefully under-funded bus system in Houston used to take me a punishing 45 minutes each way to and from the college campus where I taught.

Rather than prioritize the individual in his or her own car, Madison coaxes individuals out onto the streets, preserving great public spaces for more people to enjoy.  The site of its lively sidewalk culture and busy bicycle commuter paths could be mistaken for one of the nation’s great cityscapes, like Portland or Seattle or Berkeley.  Madison is a small, compact place.  Competing interests collide.  Hard choices must be made.  It’s clear the city is making many of them well.

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There is also Community Car, a car sharing club that rivals the amazing value of the Sailing Club.

CommunityCar logoFor a one time $35 sign up fee, we joined the club and can reserve any of the Priuses, pickup trucks, Honda Fits and Civics, five of them kept in various spots within a mile of our apartment.  The cars are fully insured and fully fueled at no extra cost, save for the hourly fee, which is only $7.50/hour or the $3.75/hour Night Owl rate after 11 PM.  Mileage only costs extra beyond 150 miles in a day.  My wife and I rent Community Car to the tune of $20/month on average. The service hits that sweet spot that’s  triangulated between the bus, the bike, and walking.  The car isn’t the symbol of American individualist freedom for nothing; it can be a real advantage to have a car for certain scenarios.  But not owning a car–not shouldering the financial costs (depreciation, fuel, interest on financing, insurance, sales tax, maintenance, repair; Consumer Reports estimates such costs for a Mini Cooper to be $5,800/year!) or the costs in lost time (dealing with maintenance or breakdowns or flats or dead batteries, researching the purchase, researching the maintenance/repair providers)–now, that’s a freedom in and of itself.  The catchphrase in the Community Car logo is “Own less.  Live more.”  I get that now.

This post is getting way too long.  Besides, by now one can see what I’m getting at about Madison.  Madison has shown us a paradox:  the riches of living modestly but deeply and without fear, in a place that values community.  In this town I feel awake again.  Again?  Or is it really for the first time, ever?