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or, Two Good Reasons for Owning Your Own Dairy Cow

My mommy is visiting today, so part of today’s adventure included making things that Mommy knows how to make, and I only knew in a vague sort of ‘yeah, yeah’ fashion: yogurt, and paneer. I should have taken pictures of the process, but I was more interested in not screwing up, so I didn’t.

Start with milk. It doesn’t really matter how much, or what kind of milk, really, but ultra-high temperature pasteurized milk will require more effort. Fat content matters not a whit, unless you have a preference to avoid something that resembles blue sidewalk chalk more than real food. Remember, though, that I subscribe to the Paula Deen School of Cooking (“Everything’s bettah with buttah!”), and thus I used six quarts of whole milk.

In the beginning, there was milk, and a surface, and heat, and God said: This better not stick! Gimme a spoon. -The Gospel of Cheese, according to Mrs. Tony’s Mommy

We’ll start with the cheese. You’ll need milk, a heavy-bottomed pot, a cheesecloth, a colander, some lemon juice, a couple of dinner plates, and a heavy bag of beans.

Pour a gallon of milk into your heavy-bottomed pot. Don’t use a flimsy pot, unless you like your cheese to be close, personal friends with atomic element number six. Bring the milk to something close to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring at least periodically. I’m pretty anal retentive when I’m learning how to make something for the first time, so I stood over it and stirred pretty constantly. Make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom for very long; if you do, don’t scrape it up, ’cause it’s nasty and crunchy and black. The objective is to get the milk to about 185° Fahrenheit, to kill off the nasties that conspire to make you sick, but it’s easier to bring the milk to a boil. Once the milk has foamed, and is beginning to be active in the middle, you’re at the right place.

Line your colander with your cheesecloth, and rest it in your sink; you’ll be happier for this than to try and strain into a bowl, which only creates more mess. Mix about half a cup of lemon juice with a bit more than a cup of hot water, and gradually pour it into your now-close-to-boiling milk. Stir constantly, and watch the magic as the milk curdles. Once you’ve given it two or three minutes to itself, it’ll be pretty well separated, so empty it into your lined colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water, both to remove the lemon juice, and because it’s convenient to retain the skin on your hands.

Bundle up the cheesecloth and twist it up in a ball around the cheese, and squeeze out the remainder of the water and whey. Once it’s as wrung out as you can manage with you hands, plop it on a plate and open the cloth up. Then, fold the cloth loosely around the ball, and plop the other plate on top, followed by the beans. I’ve currently got about ten pounds of daal and chana sitting on top of my improvised cheese press. I tried using one of my cast iron pans, but it didn’t really want to stay put, hence the beans.

Once the cheese is imitating Queen feat. David Bowie, it’s time to get started on the yogurt. For the yogurt, you’ll need milk, a smaller heavy-bottomed pot, some containers and a culture. In this case, the culture is probably going to be a few tablespoons from your previous batch of yogurt. Dannon ‘All Natural’ or something of similar ilk will be perfectly fine as a culture as well, but anything pasteurized is going to make you wait around for a Zap Gun for Hire.

Pour two quarts of whole milk into a smaller, but no less heavy-bottomed than the one you used for cheese. You’ll need enough headroom left for your spoon, and a healthy dollop of the culture. Heat this milk to about 185° Fahrenheit, stirring frequently to as to prevent sticking and burning (see the same bit about cheese), and then turn the heat off and let it cool down to between 90° and 110°. This will take a while, so go do your laundry. Then walk your dog. Then wash your cat. Then read War & Peace. Come back to it, and it might be ready to work with. I started writing this post after I had set a timer to let the milk cool, and it only just cooled off enough to contemplate adding the culture to it about the time I finished the first draft.

You’ll need a convenient place that’s warm enough to allow your culture to propagate, so if you don’t have a place in your house that consistently above 75 degrees, you can probably use your oven. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, that’s just fine as-is; otherwise, preheat it to the lowest setting it has, and then turn it off. Mix the culture into your pot full of warm milk, and then distribute into whatever containers you have to contain your yogurt; I used five regular-mouth 1-cup mason jars and 1 wide-mouth 1-quart mason jar, which didn’t get quite filled. Put a lid on your containers (the plastic screwtops for mason jars are wonderful things), and then stash them in your oven which should be hanging out around 110 once you open it to put your yogurt in. Leave the yogurt to incubate until it is sufficiently set, and as strongly flavored as you like, then tuck it in your refrigerator. Remember as you’re eating your delicious new yogurt to keep some aside as a culture for your next batch; you can use as little as a teaspoon for a gallon of milk, but it will take a long time to set, so about a tablespoon of yogurt per quart is about right.

Tonight, we played Lunar Rails and Fluxx

Players: Tony, Angel, and Sephi.

  • Tony won Lunar Rails with 255, followed by Angel (198).
  • Much chaos ensued with Fluxx, and fun was had by all.

Today, we attended the Boardgaming CoP at Booz Allen and played Glory to Rome, Scotland Yard, the Alien Pie Fight prototype, and Innovation.

Players: Tony, Joan, Thierry, Jeff, Trey, Jennifer, Christian, Phil and Don.

  • Christian survived Alien Pie Fight against Jeff, Jennifer, Tony, Trey and Thierry (in order of knockout).
  • Tony marshaled a game of Innovation.
  • Christian lost Scotland Yard to Jeff, Jennifer, Tony, Don, and Phil.
  • Jeff won Glory to Rome with 50, followed by Tony (43).

Tonight, we played Innovation and Race for the Galaxy.

Players: Tony, Angel and Jason.

Tony won Innovation with 5, followed by Jason (2), and Angel (0).
Tony won Race for the Galaxy with 37, followed by Angel (35), and Jason (32).
Tony won Race for the Galaxy with 61, followed by Angel (43), and Jason (28).

Today, we attended the Boardgaming CoP at Booz Allen, and played Innovation.

Players: Tony, Joan, Russ and Lance.

  • Tony won Innovation with 4 achievements, followed by Lance (3), Russ (1), and Joan (0).
  • Joan won Innovation with 10 points, followed by Tony (3), and Lance (0).

Tonight, we played Carcassonne.

Players: Tony and Angel.

  • Tony won Carcassonne with 135, follwed by Angel (122).

or, Fun and Games with the Black Flag Telephone Company and Faster-Than-Dialup Connections

So, I finally got sick of relying on mobile broadband which limits me to 5GB of data per month before I get throttled to slower-than-dialup speeds. Unfortunately, I still can’t get Verizon FiOS here – the COA Board only just approved the installation, so we won’t have access to fiber optic technology for another five or six months. Suck-tastic, I know, but what can I do?

I called up Verizon- err. Well, actually, I browsed up Verizon, and ordered a DSL line. It’s on a month-to-month plan, because I have no desire to try and terminate a one or two year contract and pay the early termination fees, only to turn around and throw even more money at Verizon for a FiOS line when it becomes available. Of course, they want to try and sell me a technician to install it, and seven million different software packages, and when I finally wade through the order forms and click submit, Verizon says, “Okay! Your new service will be available in two weeks!” Fine, whatever.

The self-install kit I ordered, complete with the (no extra charge) DSL modem, showed up two days later. I proceed to sort through the kit, wonder why they shipped me an ADSL filter wall plate when I didn’t ask for one, and then set up the modem. I didn’t need one of their fancy-schmancy (read, ‘routes-for-shit’) all-in-one modem/router combo kit, since I’ve already got a router I find adequate for the current job. Of course, the router has already given me headaches trying to figure out why it won’t display things correctly when I have it set to use the subnet, when it works just fine on 1.0 (the default) and 0.0 (the current setting), but again, whatever.

The day of my service activation rolls around. I make sure the connections are all tight. I make sure everything’s connected in the right place. I turn on the modem. I see blinky lights.

The DSL light doesn’t stop blinking. This is a Bad Sign.

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t the DSL light supposed to stop blinking when it acquires and address? Yeah, it’s not just me. It’s not getting a connection.

I called up Verizon tech support and get walked through the automated system that runs a few tests, makes sure I’ve got everything in the right place, etc, etc, ad nauseam. I finally got a real person on the line, and they tell me, “I need to run a line test before I can schedule you for an appointment with a technician.” …didn’t I just get a line test run, by your automated system? Meh, sure, fine, run it, it’s just going to fail in five minutes anyway. I got an appointment for a tech to come out the next Friday, between 13:00 and 17:00.

Naturally, 17:00 on Friday rolled around and the tech hadn’t shown up; when 18:30 rolled around and they still hadn’t shown, I called Verizon dispatch to reschedule and get answers about why the tech didn’t show. Naturally, dispatch gave me the run-around, tried to convince me I was calling the wrong department, and then finally walked me, again, through another line test and then scheduled another appointment. And, oh, by the way, did we mention that if you live in an apartment building, we need the code to get in? And we’ll need access to your building’s phone box? Well, no, no one bothered to tell me this the first time; I’ll need to call the building manager and make arrangements to get access to the electrical room. And, no, you can’t have my building’s entry codes – you should have the utility provider codes already, and if you don’t, that’s not my problem, take it up with our management. I finally got the appointment scheduled for this morning, 08:00 to 12:00.

This time, fortunately, the tech showed up. I got a call from Verizon dispatch at about ten after eight, reminding me that someone over the age of 18 needed to be on the premises, and that the tech would be arriving within 30 minutes. It only took about 15, but then, the Verizon building is about a mile from here and I’m pretty sure I was the first appointment today.

The tech came in, took a look at the modem, took a look at the line, took a look at the jack, and then said, “Something’s not right. Lemme fix that for you.” He promptly plugged the line into a tone generator, and asked me to take him down to the electrical room. We got in, he looked at the Verizon box for all of about sixty seconds, waved his sounder over the jacks, plugged one in, and told me, “Well, it looks like whoever came to do the dry-loop installation forgot to plug your unit back into the box. Let’s go back upstairs to test this out.”

I blinked for a few moments, then shook my head and we came back upstairs. This whole mess was because whatever fruitcup had come to install the dry-loop connection had forgotten to plug me back in? Schmuck.

Got back up to the condo, plugged the modem in, got everything configured, and now here I am, posting from the new DSL.

When FiOS comes, please, lets not have this same problem, yeah?

Tonight, we played VIA vs. KGB, Saboteur, Fairy Tale, and Glory to Rome.

Players: Tony, Boots, Byron, Principia, Blaise and Nostasia.

  • Byron won CIA vs. KGB against Tony.
  • Byron won Saboteur with 8, followed by Blaise and Boots (5), and Tony (4).
  • Byron won Fairy Tale with 33, followed by Blaise and Tony (28).
  • Blaise won Fairy Tale with 59, followed by Byron (36), and Tony (32).
  • Byron won Glory to Rome against Tony, Blaise, Nostasia, and Principia.

Tonight, we played Innovation and Race for the Galaxy.

Players: Tony, CT7 and Dr. ZRFQ.

Today, we attended the Boardgaming CoP at Booz Allen and played Kung Fu Fighting, Down in Flames, Zombie Dice and Munchkin.

Players: Tony, Katie, Melanie, Felix, Bryan, Rich, Hannah, Jeff and Sharon.

  • Katie pulled out from behind at 1 chi to win Kung Fu Fighting against Tony, Melanie, Rich, Felix and Bryan.
  • The Axis, consisting of Bryan, Melanie and Tony, won Down in Flames by two points because the Allies (Rich, Katie and Felix) had damaged aircraft flying at the end. Game summary:
    • Bryan got shot down in round two by Felix, then a damaged Rich, tailed by Tony, managed to take advantage and shot Tony’s Zero down.
    • Melanie shot down Katie in round three, then Tony shot down Rich’s damaged leader, which was replaced by his damaged wingman.
    • Bryan was shot down by Felix completely, right at the end of round five.
    • Melanie’s wingman shot Rich’s remaining Wildcat down at the top of round six, knocking him out, then went to pick on Felix, maneuvering to take advantage, but failing to shoot him down.
    • Katie reversed her disadvantage against Tony, but couldn’t shoot, then Tony took his advantage back but missed his shot.
  • Rich won Zombie Dice with 13, followed by Felix (9), Melanie (7), Bryan (3), and Katie and Tony (0).
  • Tony won Munchkin by playing the Divine Intervention card, which edged him ahead of Katie and Bryan (10), Sharon (9), Hannah (8), Melanie (7), and Jeff (5).