31 May 2009

Your mother should know

I MADE SOY YOGURT FROM SCRATCH.  and it worked.  I took dried soybeans and turned them into yogurt.  I feel so accomplished.  

By far the best set of directions I found comes from the i eat food blog.  Instead of using an incubator or leaving it in the oven, though, I read "110 degrees" and thought, "Perfect!" then left in in a cooking pot outside on the back porch for some hours.  The world is my incubator.

There were a few mishaps.  Soymilk likes to sneak up and overboil like mad when you're not looking.  Virtually my entire 2 L pot of soymilk disappeared over a 5 min period when I stepped out of the kitchen...I was puzzled that it could evaporate so quickly...but I later found the soymilk lake in the grease trap beneath the burners.  Good thing I made too much soybean mush to begin with, so it was easy to make another batch of soymilk, but I watched it like a hawk the second time around.

I'm really happy.  It's one of those open-up-the-black-box moments where I take something mysterious (yogurt) and figure out how it works.  Like opening up an old TV set. 

23 May 2009


In the Kalahari Desert, hunters still run antelopes to death.  It's called "persistence hunting" and it works because they run in the middle of the day.  Humans can sweat and cool down as they run, but the antelope needs to stop and pant.  So they run after it, keep it on the move until it collapses.  You must watch this video, it's incredible, probably the best youtube clip I've ever seen.   I cried the first time I watched it, no kidding.

How the devil did they film that?  (More info about persistance hunting here.)

Likewise, in sub-zero temperatures it's possible to run a half-marathon barefoot and shirtless. 

Yes, I've been thinking quite a lot about temperature.  I'm experimenting with adjusting to the heat here, it would just be so awesome to not be bothered by heat, since it promises to be a large part of life here. However, I could freeze ice cubes on my desk at work, because of the overly abundant AC, so becoming accustomed to the cold is still useful.

It can feel pretty awesome to exercise at high temps.  Once upon a time, I tried out Bikram yoga, which is basically yoga in a super hot room, and I was suprised at how awesome I felt after sweating profusely and grunting in difficult stretches for an hour.  I would walk out and feel like a million bucks.  Yay, endorphins.  

In Abu Dhabi, I've recreated that feeling a couple of times after exercising in the heat.  Sometimes it's as though the heat gives me extra energy - I feel like I can run farther, and it certainly makes stretching easier.  Thank goodness my ancestors ran antelope to death.  

However, if I'm stressed out, I just can't deal with extreme temperatures.  I get grumpy fast and switch on the AC or retreat indoors.  If I'm happy (and hydrated) heat's not usually a big deal.

Even still, I have a hard time imagining back breaking labor in the sun all day, like the migrant construction workers here do.  

Apparently it's common to see temps of 50 C (122 F) in the middle of the summer here.

Took a short trip to Oman recently.  It definitely got up to at least 48 C (118 F).  I was surprised to find that it was still possible to walk around outside and people weren't bursting into flames or gasping for breath (Honestly, it never occurred to me that humans could function at those temperatures...a 105 F fever is dangerous, right?) All the water that came out of faucets was pretty warm.  Makes sense, just hadn't ever thought of it in Boston where tap water is freezing cold in winter.  Upon investigating the much higher than predicted temperatures in Oman, I found this interesting article that suggests the Omani government isn't quite truthful about their published temperatures.

It's really quite impressive what a human body is capable of.  I think most of us never have the chance to see this potential because we have grocery stores now instead of antelope, and they stay put.  And it's not just those hardcore African bushmen who can do it - at least one white guy has kept up on runs too, Louis Liebenberg, an anthropologist.  (Okay, on his first run he nearly died of dehydration, but even for this untrained runner, the antelope died first.) ...which makes me think that all humans have the hidden potential to run an antelope to death.  Take Dean Karnazes, for example, who started as Joe Schmoe, but then metamorphosed into ultra super athlete man.  Among other things, he's run 50 marathons in 50 days and then decided to run from New York to San Francisco. 


The best thing to ever happen in Abu Dhabi was the WOMAD festival.  I keep thinking about it and wishing it were happening every weekend.  Free entrance, three glorious nights of music from around the world, dancing away the night on the cool sandy beach.  My personal favorites to watch were the Dhol Foundation (for their awesometastic beats and their ability to work a crowd) and Sa Dingding (for her theatricality.)  

Robert Plant was there, too.  At the end, he sang a song in Arabic and the crowd went wild.