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Sunday, 01 January 2012


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I was introduced to home brew by a scientist friend who put the beans in a Campbell soup can and used a heat gun ( like a high powered hair dryer) to roast them while agitating the beans. Then he ground them and brewed me a cup. It was delicious.

You should try the silent mode on your phone, it lets you see if someone has tried to contact you whenever you want to. It really helps concentration and doesn't disappoint your friends as much :)

"It turns out that coffee is very 'darkroomy.'"

Extremely, actually: See http://caffenol.blogspot.com/:

Water 8 oz
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda 2 tsp (level)
Folger's Coffee Crystals 4 tsp (slightly rounded, NOT decaf)

From www.digitaltruth.com:

"Mixing instructions: Mix soda until completely dissolved and solution is clear. Add coffee, mix until all grittiness is gone and solution is uniform, let stand 5-10 minutes until microbubbles clear. Use within 30 minutes.

"Dilution: Use undiluted

"Starting point development time: 30 mins

"Notes: Gives imagewise stain and general (fog) stain."

I have not tried it, but apparently many have for development of black and white film.

Hi Mike
I too like to concentrate when I am working. I have never understood how people who should know better, like economists for example, could have ever promoted multitasking as being efficient. It appears to contradict Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage, which, simply put, states that if I am good at A and you are good at B, then I should stick to doing A and outsource B to you, and similarly you should leave it to me to do A. I used to work for a large scientific research organisation. When I started there I did scientific research. By the time I left I had to also be a typist, travel clerk, fundraiser, publicist, etc, etc. The time left for doing what I thought I had been hired to do steadily diminished and the interruptions to my real work steadily increased. It might have saved the organisation money but only at the expense of its core activity. I only have a rudimentary knowledge of economics so perhaps there is someone with greater understanding among your readers who could enlighten me as to where the efficiency gain was?

Mike, wait till you try the Leica M6 of coffee roasters :)

"Angry Birds" - the new "Tetris". Pure Evil.

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who BELIVE that they can multitask, and those who KNOW that they cannot.

Quest 3 -- it looks like a Heath Robinson device. Um, you realise it is only coffee, right?

We must be quantum mechanically linked. I have in my hand Organic Sumatra Gayo from a Permata Co-Op, roasted by a local small batch roastery (http://www.shenandoahjoe.com/roastery.html)

I tried to order the grinder you linked to in this article a few weeks ago, but it was out of stock. I don't think I had seen you reference it previously. I'm making do with a hand cranked burr grinder, but was hoping to get an electric so it would be easier to make different grinds for different methods. I mostly French press, but I would like to produce other grinds for Chemex.

I've been watching a fair bit of the new Dr. Who shows. In one episode he says "Never ignore a coincidence. Unless you're busy, in which case always ignore a coincidence."

I'm going to make myself busy now, with photography, or coffee-making, or tossing a boomerang.

Happy New Year!

Its interesting how words can change meaning for us, because they mean something else to others. Back in '93 when I was just a coffee drinker, I knew nothing of bean origin, or grinding technique, let alone home micro-roasting! I was in Indonesia for a few weeks, training/installing a desktop pre-press system (drum scanner, drum imagsetter and IRIS inkjet), and stayed as a guest of my customer. I wanted to buy some good black tea for my father, so they took me to a small shop. I was handed a bag of what looked like bark, twigs, and roots. After a bit of back and forth, they realized I didn't want medicine, or "tea" I wanted "chai" an enjoyable beverage! So off to a different shop with chai and coffee. I got some great black tea/chai for my dad, and was asked if I wanted to get anything else. "Yeah! I'd like some java", some lobe in my brain happy that I had tied slang for coffee, and being in Indonesia together. My host and the vendor looked at each other then at me, "why do you want Java? that poor people coffee, taste bad!" Thus my education on beans began, they sent me home with wonderful sumatra beans which started me on the path to grinding my own and learning what good coffee could be!

How right you are about 'quality time' and 'multitasking'. Re cell-phones, I think society is slowly becoming a collection of zombies, as more and more everyone out there seems to be constantly yakking on a cell-phone or totally absorbed by its PDA functions, oblivious to the world around them. :)

I have a cell phone but it's on a no-contract deal, and I keep it turned off. I only have it in case the car dies and I need to call CAA (AAA equiv).

Funny thing about cell/smart phones. The thing that people like about them, that they can be accessible all the time, is precisely the thing that I don't like about them.

I think it's all because of movies and TV. People in movies and TV are forever calling each other on cells, so now everyone believes that if they have one, they will lead exciting movie lives too.

"It appears to contradict Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage, which, simply put, states that if I am good at A and you are good at B, then I should stick to doing A and outsource B to you, and similarly you should leave it to me to do A."

I know what you mean. I used to work on a magazine staff run by a guy who used to be an Army captain. His idea of the staff was that everybody should be able to do any task, interchangeably. It led to some strange circumstances. Once I "drew" a series of articles about electronics as an editing assignment--the trouble was I knew absolutely nothing about electronics and and he (the editor) had actually written several books about the exact subject the articles were about. I probably took four times as long to edit the articles as he would have. Maybe six times, I don't know. I did a good job (as far as I know!) but it was very inefficient.

Needless to say, my philosophy has always been the exact opposite of his...you deply all your resources as efficiently as possible, especially if (but not only if) those resources are limited (they almost always are on a magazine staff).


"Mike, wait till you try the Leica M6 of coffee roasters :)"

That would be this one.


sweetmarias.com is a great place for green beans. been very happy customer for years. got to the point where i take my own coffee with me wen travelling. so much bad coffee in the world, glad to see you have found the light!

"..distracted, fragmented, and unfocused."

You have that right. Take it from an aging adult who has had ADD all his life and had to develop work around strategies to function at all. Multitasking is doing a lot of things badly instead of one thing well.

Oh, one more thing. I have found writing not at all easy and even a seemingly simple missive like the one above takes me at least 10 min. to write. That is one of the reasons I enjoy TOP, your writing skill. And, at least once per week one of your entries will send me scrambling for the dictionary.

"coffee and OCD go together like bread and butter"

Ain't that the truth! The only thing that has kept me from galloping down the coffee fetishist's path is that while I absolutely love the taste of coffee (and everything related to making and drinking it), caffeine is definitely not my friend. It makes me feel really great for an hour or so and then really terrible. I may be one of the only doctors on the planet who got through that decade of endless call nights during training without downing megadoses of coffee. I must restrict myself to the equivalent of one cup per day, and for only one cup I decided that the time and expense of custom roasting, meticulous grinding, and carefully calibrated "extraction" would be too far up the OCD curve--even for me.

Because of this, great tasting decaf coffee has been the holy grail for me. Many aficionados would consider the phrase "great tasting decaf coffee" the ultimate oxymoron. However, I am blessed with the presence of Zingerman's Coffee here in my home town where my friend Allen Leibowitz is kind enough to expertly roast an amazing decaf Sumatran dark roast in small lots that I happily "extract" with my Aeropress. I am a happy man....

" Does anyone really imagine so little effort goes into writing well?" C'mon, that was never implied. I find that you dismiss the suggestion without really thinking about the possibilties it offers a little insulting. (Well not really insulted, but internet comment insulted anyhow :)) You're a professional blogger man! A smartphone in many aspects is a professional blogging tool. That you won't even consider it is, well I think, a little short sighted. Try it. At least it would be some more post material. Find out where it works and doesn't. Plenty of times when it's not the right answer, but many times when it is. Wonderful for moderating comments btw.

The blogging tools I would have felt are far more important for you than the photo apps for someone who is unlikely to only have a phone on them as an imaging tool. You of all people are always going to have some kind of camera on you, so the photo apps, which make up the majority of the suggestions are in my opinion the ones that are fairly useless to you.

It's not the effort or the medium that makes the writing, it's the quality. (Kind of like whether the gear you're shooting with makes a better picture eh?). Like shooting with an 8x10 plate vs a phone, the images and image taking will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Yes, you don't want to be typing screeds on a phone (although a little different with an ipad) but there are times and places where it is perfect for a short post and an up to the minute picture. There are many occasions when it is the right answer.

In these circumstances, I suppose suggesting twitter for iphone would get me banned? :) I know what you're going to say, "people tweeting what they had for breakfast...blah blah", but again you'd be wrong. Another semi essential tool for the professional blogger. Certainly more useful to you than hipsamatic etc.There are numerous posts which would be ideal for twitter, especially things like the B&H last minute announcements etc. All part of enhancing the experience for the reader which, after all effects your bottom line. Don't make a choice to be insulted, think about it.
(I don't come from this without knowledge. I have blogged heavily for years, with 2000 posts and have moderated 80 000 comments.)

On the other hand, yes, Angry Birds. I wish I had never heard the name. Same with Minecraft.

A $200 coffee grinder? Who is this posting from Mike's account?

I asked the owner of a local coffee shop here in Tacoma why he doesn't include grinders in the home coffee equipment he sells (he carries fancy pour-over as well as French press). His response was that a good grinder starts at $3000. I get by just fine with my Krups burr grinder, grinding two scoops for my morning Aerobie made Americano coffee. I figure the advantages of having Valhalla grind the beans for me is offset by the further off-gassing that would occur before use. My coffee requirements are modest. I just want a good cuppa, and do not possess (or desire to develop) a sophisticated palate for coffee.

And BTW, Mike, re: cheapskatiness, I reuse my Aerobie filter for a full pound of beans.


I'm loving the vicarious thrill of the coffee exploration. I have two possibly helpful pieces of information to pass on. One is that I had the Aeropress and really enjoyed the coffee it made. Unfortunately, using the thing made my right shoulder hurt. I eventually had to give up on it. If you get one, go easy on it.

Speaking of giving up, I drank much coffee daily for more than 30 years. For various reasons, I quit drinking it completely this year over a two week period. I'm not advocating quitting, but if you ever think that you want to, you'll likely find it surprisingly easy.

Here´s an interesting episode of google-talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpRhV25v33U
The topic is quality of coffee. These guys know their stuff.

Mike: A refractometer is the densitometer of coffee.

Happy coffeeing. Keep me up to date.

PS, While I believe it's true that more clarity = less body, I'm not entirely sure the syphon is at one end of the spectrum, nor the french press at the other. Syphons can actually get flavor profiles all over the map, depending on the technique used. French presses, while they default toward more body and less clarity be pushed a bit the other way (though not as far as syphons).

And yes, Areobie & Aeropress were invented by the same mad genius.

And as for the Scott Rao books, they are to coffee as Strunk & White is to writing. Slender, but packed with information, and you can spend an entire lifetime absorbing the lessons.

(in my best first thing in the morning Johnny Cash voice)

I hear the kettle boiling'
It's whistling' 'on the stove,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,
I'm stuck in De-Caf Prison,
And time keeps draggin' on,
But that water keeps a-boiling',
in that kettle on the stove.

When I hear that whistle blowin',
I know it's 'bout time to pour.
Far from De-Caf Prison ,
That's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my Blues away.

I had a real chuckle about your 'angry birds' comment! I picked up a friends ipad the otherday with AB on it and before I knew it the day was gone and the sun had set! What a waste of a day! But those pesky pigs just have to die. I guess 'angry birds' it will be then untill the long awaited Nikon release date then.....

multitasking -- I had to master juggling a number of overlapping tasks while learning to fly an airplane on instruments. I got so good at it that I tried doing the same things while driving. I was looking up the right exit on the Hertz map while driving along I-5 at 60 in LA at night and let my scan get a little too long, looked up, saw a stuck car and its driver doing the deer in headlights bit in front of me, swerved, missed, pulled over, resumed breathing... never again!



as father of three (small) children, I couldn't agree more on the "time" issue. The notion of "quality" time always struck me as stupid; it's what you do with your time that makes it count.
Same for multitasking: I happen to work in an industry (software) where interruptions seem the norm, and it's a rare day where you can work on one thing, undisturbed, all day (that's why I'm in the office today, instead of spending ... ahem ... time with my wife and kids).

now that you mention that coffee is very "darkroomy" , that coffee roaster looks a lot like my old circa 1966 Kodak Rapid Color Processor model 11
coffee roaster look alike

I'll bet it smells better though

Re iPhone, I took my M9 to my Niece's wedding before Christmas, intending to take some pictures for my daughter, who's in Japan. I took half a dozen pictures with the M9, before locking it away in the boot/trunk of my car, in favour of an iPod Touch. Technically, the images were poor, but because the venue had wifi, pictures and video clips were sent and received in Japan, within seconds. Using Faceview, my daughter was then able to offer the bride and groom her best wishes, face to face. Now, I love my M9 but something here has changed, a new need created, and who would have thought it. I read your iPhone 4S has a far better camera than the Touch. Beware, Mike!

Bravo. Well ranted.

I have two writers in my family and have learnt to recognise a skilled "wordsmith".
That is why TOP is my first online read of the day.
But relating to the second half of your open mike, and I think I alluded to the skills of a coffee roaster in one of my previous posts. I stand by my comment made then that it is easier to make a fine wine from a difficult vintage, than it is to blend and roast coffee.
I watch my local roaster in awe. The process that makes the perfect blend one week is tweeked to allow for a slight maturing of the green beans the next week and so it goes. His knowledge of regions and their year to year variations in quality related to the weather is encyclopaedic and how he can take a double handful of a new delivery, smell it (To me they always smells like wet hessian!) and can immediately know which other beans to blend it with to produce his desired flavour profile is quite amazing.
From my point of view, as much as I would like to roast my own, buying small amounts of supremely elegant single origin beans, I find it well nigh impossible to better James's efforts, despite the fact he is restricted to the compromise that he is producing his blends commercially at the rate of two tonnes of roasted beans per week.

Hmm... I am forming an iPhone densitometer app in my mind - a little strip of filter paper, the end dipped in coffee solution - pointing the phone's camera directly at a lightbulb - slipping the saturated filter paper onto the lens when you hear the beep, while keeping the camera's aim steady.

First having calibrated for the particular filter paper and lightsource spectrum of course, by means of a range of standard brownish fluids known to be available nearly worldwide... say, Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

In a beverage-assessment emergency, you can then even tear a strip off your shirt, order a sugary drink, and rapidly calibrate and deploy your makeshift filter before giving your own (and your companion's) postprandial coffee the nod; even, perhaps, before it has altogether cooled. Note: a white and unpatterned shirt gives the best results - also, works better as a filter.

Such dedication will surely attract admiring glances even in the swankiest of venues!

I'm very sure that's true...a master roaster can do better than I can. But I'm having fun, and my coffee is fresh.

Most of my success is in the beans...which represent a huge amount of work by everyone from the farmer to the dryer to the importer. And one thing I forgot to mention: another essential thing is to read all about the bean you're roasting before you try it. There's lots of wisdom out there about what each kind of bean "wants" and even how best to roast it on the Behmor....


Mike - we all know that the number of meetings, calls and emails you get through in a day are the true measure of real productivity. Well, at least according to most of the companies I have ever worked for.

My estimation is that ten to fifteen is about the largest workable team size for complex projects. More than that and the level of communication needed to keep people pointing the same way rapidly increases until it becomes the dominant activity.

There is no such thing as a "man month" or even a "woman month" for that matter. Ref:


However in most companies, communication is also the job that lets one avoid doing real work while being seen to be the busiest and most visible contributor, hence is also the most rewarded. It's called "management".

Perhaps middle management have more in common with teenagers than we thought?

Enjoyable to read as ever!
The third no-no in addititon to "multi-tasking" and "quality time": "always available by phone 24/7". The younger ones of my colleagues (<30) never understood why I can not be reached by cell phone. Thats reserved for emegencies (family etc) and always somewhere in the backpack where I dont hear it at once. Likewise, I never understood how it has to be necessary to look at the phone every 5 min in case a sms or email arrived.

On the subject of home-roasting, I do this since nine years and use a good heat gun, a long wooden spoon and a heavy iron pot. 350 Gramm of unroasted turn into 290 Gramm of roasted coffee in the turn of 25 min. of careful stirring and application of hot air. First the coffee, then roasting it, then the grinder and the espresso machine, thats the ranking of the important factors that make a good coffee.

No arguments about the need to focus when writing. Writing is thinking in script. Thinking, like other dangerous activities --driving, disarming UXBs -- requires our full attention. But the concept of multi-tasking -- doing several things at the same (exact) time -- should be distinguished from a close variant, which might be called "interleaving."
Take cooking. When my wife cooks, I clean up. When I cook, I clean up. (!) When she cooks, she uses a different pot, pan, bowl, spoon, spatula, etc. for every successive task. She has quite a few spare minutes while awaiting the water to boil, the bread to rise, the greens to wilt, etc. She doesn't "multi-task" by allowing cleaning effort to distract her from creative effort. When I cook, I listen to music and wash my implements during the spare moments. My goal, not always possible, is to have the kitchen as clean when I serve as when I started. And it's not just because I always clean up. I don't like to see the moments I am in the kitchen "wasted." (I try to do the same when she is cooking, but she'd prefer I not I get in her way.) Am I multi-tasking? With the music, yes. I am not giving it my consistent full attention. It is a form of Musak. But with the cleaning up, I am simply using some of those many odd moments in the day that are often burned up thoughtlessly. That helps to make more time to really focus on something else later.
By the way, I might have to reconsider drinking my morning tea as I read your daily column. I focus on your writing more than my tea. I am giving a fine tea, carefully brewed (Upton's irish Breakfast Blend, with milk and sugar) short shrift. I think I'll interleave the two.

What people use to drink, in the US of A, before coffee?!
In the early eighties, for example, it was quite uncommon to see someone at any time of the day with a coffee in hand, anywhere. Except NYC, perhaps, between 7 and 9 AM when people would grab a bagel and coffee on their way to work, and obviously the cops in their cars having donuts and coffee (mostly on screen , I suspect). Nowadays coffee is omnipresent, complete with the snobbism, americanized Italian words having replaced tall, milk, waiter, and so on..., and points of sale anywhere, even in shacks in rural America, sometimes shacks on wheels, and an industry churning out everything from press to paper cups.

I know you said you aren't THAT obsessive but you can pick up a perfectly good refractometer from ebay for ~ $30...

Couldn't agree with you more on "quality time", and glad to see someone saying it. Stomach aches, closet monsters, and schoolyard bullies do not conform to a schedule. "Quality time" is a polite phrase for child neglect. (The same applies, obviously with less significance, to taking care of pets.)

As for multitasking, the keys to successful multitasking are two. (1) Take on so many tasks, and plow through them so rapidly, that you never have time to notice the chaos you're leaving in your wake. (2) Be powerful or manipulative enough so that somebody else will straighten out the chaos for you. A good way to do this is to make sure that your mistakes will have disastrous consequences for some innocent victim. A soft-hearted person will step in to save your victim, thus also indirectly saving you. Don't forget to criticize the soft-hearted person for being a bleeding heart who doesn't know how to multitask. That's how to multitask successfully.

I predict that it won't be very long before you receive a telemarketing call on your iPhone. Yes, I know that the telemarketers aren't supposed to call cell phones. Yes, I know that you didn't give the number to anyone but your son. They find you anyway, random dialing by computers or the number you got may be 'recycled' from a land line. I receive very few calls on my cell phone but most are a computer voice informing me of "Opportunities". When I first got the phone most were collection agents looking for the prior holder of the number. learn how to set a special ring for calls from your son and ignore the rest.

It's only a matter of time before you discover the various coffee-related iPhone apps--even an app or two for roasters. Those will tie things together rather neatly.

Enjoy the Behmor. Joe provides spectacular support. I still using one of his first run of 1600s. Mine's slightly hacked with the addition of digital thermometer probes and I've the thermister that controls the profiles with a potentiometer so that I can control the heat manually. I guess that puts more closer to the "white sauce" end of the scale.

Next up for Mike: Joining a green bean co-op. It never ends.

Mike - The last time you wrote about coffee and the beginnings of your foray into it, I (for some reason) was struck by, and commented only on the one little comment you made about the beautiful WP camera and LF photography. Why I did that, I cannot fathom. Guess it hit a nerve as it's a boat I've been in myself - coffee is another one. Espresso more precisely...Why not do a little reading over here? http://coffeegeek.com/

I know I'm being a little presumptuous here, but once you've tasted a true, proper espresso, you have experienced the epitome of coffee in it's most sublime brewed form.

Good espresso isn't something you will have encountered at Starbucks, at Dunkin' Donuts, or at any other establishment (save one or two little mom 'n pops in Seattle) in the US, no matter what anyone has the wherewithal to "claim" about their espresso. True espresso is a lost art in the United States, but is still quite commonplace in France and Italy.

You're already half way there: you have the roaster and the grinder (True Espresso can really only be extracted from beans roasted fresh between about 3 days to about 10 days before they begin to lose their 'vitality' and ability to produce the ambrosia-like and elusive "crema". That is the first 'variable'. The other variables are things like grind, tamp, temperature and exact time to pull the shot. You'll discover the meaning of those last three once you have your proper, pump type espresso machine. I have a vintage Rancilio Silvia for sale if you're interested, but it has not been "PID'd".

I'm just so tickled to see that you have caught the coffee bug in all it's glory and splendor! And I can so relate to what you mean about the "darkroomy" aspect of coffee!

Just wait until the day you finally taste a perfect (or near perfect, perfection is unattainable) shot of espresso. You'll forever be a convert. That's my guess anyway, there are so many similarities to your path and the paths that I and so many others have been down that I feel safe making that prediction.

Best to you Mike and Happy New Year!

Knowing your taste in music, I suggest you listen to "Quality Time" as sung by John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey, the only recorded version I know. Although depending on my faulty memory, I think the Pizzzarelli's wrote it, it certainly has a great Dave Frishberg feeling.

Focus is not just for cameras.

Happy New Year Mike! while I was reading this post and the comments with much enjoyment, I couldn't shake the nagging question on my mind....does Ctein drink instant?

Now here's a guy who knows the difference between price and value.

At some point, an outraged coffee expert will tell you that using a $300 roaster to feed a $200 grinder, then pushing the result through a $26 plastic toy like the Aerobie Aeropress is lunacy.

Do not listen.

It is not like putting a cheap skylight filter on a ten-thousand dollar lens.

The absolute genius of the Aeropress is found in its simplicity.

Alan Adler, the engineer who invented it, has a clarity of vision and dedication to quality seldom found in the design of low-cost products.

In the unlikely event that anything about the Aeropress becomes less than satisfactory, contact him directly.

He is dedicated to tracking down and correcting any form of product failure.

Living in the country of the "Espresso" I find this post and related comments all very interesting!

I followed your links to both the grinder and the roaster and found them both to be out of stock. I'm wondering how much of that is related to you, and if the webmasters at both sites aren't scratching their heads wondering on why so many links from TOP. And the only voltage regulator in my house has my enlarger plugged into it. So there you have it....

"Angry Birds bad" You mean you don't like it or you are addicted already? Angry Birds Rio is better than the original.

Mike, I will give you your own advice about the refractometer. Ignore what one would say and trust your taste buds. It's similar to liking a lens because of it's MTF chart; just look at your photos and if you like the look of them then you like the lens. Believe the evidence I think you said.

"The idea of doing it poking at a tiny glowing screen with one finger while I'm out driving or shopping is ridiculous."

Not that you would, but please do NOT do anything on your iPhone while driving! Every day I see someone driving poorly and almost every time they are either holding a phone up to their ear or looking in their lap. This country's politicians will never have the guts to ban cell phones while driving but the road would be much safer if they did.

My doctor told me that my pancreas would be grateful if I avoided coffee. Can any of the experts here point me to a pancreas-friendly mode?

I have moved from a coffee habit to an OCD tea-mode :-)

Isn't addiction wonderful (says the X100 addict)

Mike, if you really want to geek out coffee-wise, and make more use of your iPhone, I recall seeing a few months back a refractometer that connects to iPhones / iPods. I can't recall where, but I'm sure coffee-geek oriented websites will lead the way.


Only comparatively simple Macchu Picchu beans for me, but got to agree lots on the aeropress - I used mine this morning too. :)

I multitask all the time! I drink coffee and also eat a cookie while on the computer. No problem.

Multitasking? I have to say my wife (I think females generally) is much better than me. I'm among the ones who have to decide what to do: walking or chewing gum? This could be something I'lltry to improve in 2012 :-)

"Yemeni Mocha Harazi and Sumatra Mandheling Gayo Mountain Organic" How about we shorten that down to YMHSMGM. I certainly hope it is better than it sounds:')

And I agree: Angry Birds is very very bad!

Coffee is regaining ground from soft drinks, which made strong inroads on coffee and tea consumption starting in the 1960s. Unfortunately many "coffee" drinks are as sugary as soft drinks or even more so. On the good side, specialty coffee (Direct Trade, Fair Trade, green bean sales to home roasters, independent shops with trained baristas) is growing appreciably.

"Nowadays coffee is omnipresent, complete with the snobbism, americanized Italian words having replaced tall, milk, waiter, and so on...."

That's just Starbucks, not America. Marketing, just like in every other sphere of life.

I'm getting a bit tired of knee-jerk anti-American prejudice.


"Happy New Year Mike! while I was reading this post and the comments with much enjoyment, I couldn't shake the nagging question on my mind....does Ctein drink instant?"

Ctein drinks tea--that's what started all this, remember?

OT: The Art of Tea


"Does anyone really imagine so little effort goes into writing well?"

Yes, many do now, since the internet makes us all "experts" in a instant.

As a very skilled stitcher of panoramics and 360's I see this or something similar posted quite often on panoramic forums:

"I know it's easy, so why am I having so much trouble."

The more you don't know, or do, the easier it is :)

Happy New Year!


In the winter, I quite literally live three blocks from the Rose Bowl. With a whole batch of Wisconsin relatives, I naturally have house guests right now, with Wisconsin and Oregon playing today. Last Friday, I drove over to LAX (30-45 minutes, depending on traffic) to get them my relatives -- I'd told them I'd meet them at the American Airlines baggage carousel, and to call me if I missed them somehow. Well, I rushed out of the house and was two-thirds of the way to the airport when I realized I'd forgotten my cell phone. What to do if I missed them? I realized that I knew neither my relatively new house phone number, nor my girlfriend's number, because they were both stored in the phone. I knew my sister's home number, but not her cell number...and they were the people I was picking up. I thought about calling my brother at home, and having him call them, but he and his wife had just gotten new cell phones and i didn't know the numbers (again, stored in the cell phone.) Finally, I realized that if I missed them, I could find a pay phone at the airport, and call my own cell, about the only number that I knew, and my girlfriend should answer it. As soon as I got to the American baggage carousel, I found three pay phones on the wall...and there was a yellow warning sticker below: all phone calls out, on credit cards (I had to use a credit card because my cell phone goes to a Minnesota area code) *started* at $10, plus $2 a minute...

Luckily, my relatives showed up right on time. But, I think I'm going to put a bunch of phone numbers in my wallet, just in case. (The front door is open, because it's 82F here today, and I just heard a great roar from the stadium -- I have to turn on the TV to see who scored.)

re: Java
Making coffee is "darkroomy". Yep.
My morning cappuccino is crafted with 3 ounces of milk, carefully measured in a Kodak 4 oz graduate that served me in the darkroom for at least thirty years.

From an Amazon review of Rao's book:

"Supported by an extraction chart, Scott explains why agitation is important in getting higher extraction curve."

Let the coffee agitation technique wars begin ...

I'm an Aeropress fan too. Definitely developed by Alan Adler and his team. (Took a class from him long ago at Stanford, shortly after the Aerobie was introduced!) When I need to make more than a cup or two though, I use the Alton Brown/Food Network method ...


That is the fastest transformation to coffee nerd ever recorded.

I might need to try the Aeropress.

Happy New Year Mike and everyone...

My take on cell phones (I don’t have a "land line" any more but this would apply) is I own a phone for my use not everyone else. Many times the phone has been ringing and people have said "aren’t you going to answer that". I response is always the same. I have a phone for my convenience not theirs. That’s not to say I never answer the phone but if something is remotely more important than talking to someone, they can wait.


"Realistically, we can only process one thing at a time. We're effectively 'serial processors,'" says David Strayer, a psychologist who conducts research on attention at the University of Utah. "When we try and multitask, we're just switching from one activity to another."

Despite the fact that brain scans show we can only focus on one thing at a time, Strayer explained, people often have the illusion that they're balancing all their tasks equally, and performing well at all of them. "You become blind to your own impaired performance," he said.


I think I fell victim to the "hidden" sentience-verifier again. Maybe I should take the hint! Anyway:

Effortless Aeropress: if i place both hands on plunger, just the weight of my arms is close to the right pressure.

Yes, it's Aerobie http://aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm

I hear you (but only when I want to):

Over the last roughly 18 months, my cell phone has evolved from a primarily talking tool into a primarily messaging tool (and, ahem, briefly an 'Angry Birds' machine). The reasons are various, but an important one is that messaging is generally far less intrusive all around. I now let Google Voice answer most of my phone calls and transcribe and send me the callers' voicemails as SMS.

This saves time, as reading is much faster than listening or talking, my reading comprehension is better than my listening comprehension, and it's easier to carve out a minute to peruse and prioritize a bunch of notes than to take five to go through a bunch of voice mail.

One of the best (and worst) things about cell phones these days is that they are as obtrusive and intrusive as their owners make them. It makes little sense for people to complain about a tool whose presence and behavior they have almost complete control over.


Whilst I'm easly as able to get OCD about coffee as the next man - Indian Balmaadi Biodunamic, as an expresso at the moment - really I'm pleased to see someone have the courage to address 'Quality Time'. I've long advocated 'not such high quality time, but lots of it' for young children. They benefit from enjoying your company and vice versa and life isn't really full of the synthetic experiences that have come to exemplify 'Quality Time' as practised in the UK.


An interviewer once asked Grace Slick of the band Jefferson Airplan/Starship about group sex in the sixties etc. "I never went in for that she said, I was never good at multi-tasking".

tea: takes about 40 lb of water to develop the leaf; coffee, about 400lbs to develop the bean, I believe I heard -- I may have the numbers wrong, but the percentages are about right. Just a thought in an ever smaller world...

I love my Aerobie Aeropress. In my experience it makes coffee as good as $700 espresso machines, for a fraction of the cost.

Like a few others that have posted, I've given up caffeine as well. I used to have a multi-pot caffeine habit but gave it up about 8 years ago. However, I still enjoy the taste of decaf black coffee, and for that the Aeropress is my preferred method of making it. Getting off the caffeine treadmill has made it much easier for me to get through the day and I highly recommend giving it a try.

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