A Drink Is Just a Drink

A friend's coffee maker was found non-functional this morning.  That means different things to each of us.  For me, it's time to go to the backup.  We have Keurig as primary but keep a Cuisinart in the closet...just in case.  We also have Starbucks Via on hand...just in case.  And a French press, with ground coffee in the freezer...just in case...and teas, in case I get really desperate.

Fortunately, there are also three coffee shops within a twelve minute walk, six if I jog it.  There's also a Wendy's, who serves coffee, and a Minute Mart who offers a coffee facsimile, if the situation is dire. 

Yes, coffee and I share a mature relationship.  Although friends at one point thought that I'd been born suckling coffee, I didn't take it up until I was in my twenties and in the military.  As I ~ shudder ~ AGED, I found a little caffeine on the midnight shifts helped stay awake and breathing.  I wasn't particular.  Sanka instant was available.  Nuke some water, shovel a few spoons in, stir.  Good enough.  Or the day shift had left some in the 30 cup coffee urn.  Heat it up, I'll drink it, or there was some cold stuff remaining in a carafe. 

In essence, I was a coffee scavenger, going brew to brew, consuming whatever was available.  A pivot point came.  Pivot points are always educational moments when your attitude or direction changes.  You eat steak for years then one day enjoy a well prepared prime cut.  Suddenly your taste buds sit up, startled, inquiring, what's this?  A legacy organic tomato comes onto your plate after years of hothouse tomatoes.  Romaine replaces iceberg.  Craft beers replace American lagers and Pinot Noirs replace Boonesfarm and Mad Dog 20-20.

Like an educated mind, an educated palate creates that pivot point.  You become more thoughtful and aware of the nuances.  What once passed as acceptable becomes scorned. 

Tasting a good cup of coffee opened me up to what was really out there.  I bought a coffee maker and a grinder for my home.  I added an espresso machine.  Did it all at home, sampling beans and roasts, storing them, trying them, refining my preferences.  Making and drinking coffee became a ritual.  Like wines, beers, cheeses and fruits, I found certain roasts go better with different foods, and could be dependent upon the time of day. 

I was hooked. 

It became known as so at my offices.  I always had a cup close by and passed judgement on what was brewed.  My coffee drinking at work grew legendary.  I liked arriving early so I could make it 'right'.  When we moved into new locations, co-workers suggested that lines be connected to the break room so I could have an IV drip from the coffee pot to my arm. 

Yet, priorities pass on to other matters.  Rituals consume time and I needed time for other requirements.  Coffee makers and roasters were also becoming more refined and sophisticated.  I moved from maker to maker until...along came the Keurig. 

At first, I dismissed the Keurig with contempt.  Coffee premeasured in a cup?  Bah, what good could it be?  Friends and relatives swore by them.  My wife wanted one.  She thought it would be convenient.  The words cut me;  had I fallen so low in my coffee consumption that convenience was my greatest measure? 

But...convenience is nice.

We bought the Keurig and tried different roasts and providers via the K-cups.  I had a K-cup whereby I could make my own and did so.  Meanwhile, I found Newman's extra bold French roast. 

Not bad.

Along came some northwest French bold.

Ah, there we go.  Now we were cooking.  The Keurig and I became friends.

It's worked out well with the Keurig.  I have my small collection of preferred roasts for different times.  My wife, who prefers coffee flavored water, has her K-cups, and we can offer guests a variety at will.  There is still a ritual but it's much easier, easily incorporated with other morning rituals of powering up the computers, feeding the cats, opening the back door to confirm the world is still there and sipping a glass of hot water (yes, it's another morning ritual).  The rituals are routines, freeing me to slip into my meditations and drift toward the daily writing and the works in progress and the tall masts of new ideas rising up over my imagination's horizons. 

The ritual is a pivot point embraced each day.  As it passes, the day really begins.

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The Facts Most Astounding


"If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched."


Henry David Thoreau




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The Writing Day July 24 2014

Writing, writing, writing.  Love writing.  Don't even mind the paperwork.  I'm a green writer, writing, editing, revising on my computer. 

Up to 46,000 words on the current novel in progress, Returnee.  It's straightforward science fiction.  I hadn't planned to write it, having started two others, Road Lessons with Savanna and Insertion Point.  Road Lessons is a cozy, the second in a series.  Insertion Point is science fiction.  I was writing the two of them and then had this idea, and Returnee just took off.  Love it.

Meanwhile, I continue to endure frustration with the publishing process.  Which course should be followed.  Well, I want to take the traditional route through an agent and publishing house with a books on shelves in airports and book stores, books that I can wave at friends and put on my shelf.  I'm romantic that way.  Or maybe it's naive.  Know how many new writers are out there, seeking to be published?  I don't know but I think it's a zettabyte full.  The traditional publishing paradigm isn't user friendly.  Write a synopsis.  Make it one, two, five or twenty pages.  Include a few sample pages, perhaps five, ten, the first chapter or the first three or the first five.  Submit to an agent, hope to hear from them, if you don't, which you likely won't, repeat, repeat, repeat.  Years can be involved.  Meanwhile, my soul feels like its being sucked away.

I've looked at shortcuts.  Maybe, I mused, I should go to a pitch conference.  Stand before a panel of editors, publishers and agents and make a spiel for why my baby book should be given a chance to be published.  Perhaps I should go for epublishing or self publishing or print on demand or something else, some other hybrid of what and how the book can find a market place.  Each has its drawbacks.  Besides, like a bride, I have my heart set on something else.

So, I'll continue writing, just because it's fun.  I enjoy conceiving of these ideas, giving birth to the story presenting it, finding and exploring the characters and their situations, envisioning the details involved in the mounting problems and the resolutions, whether it's a serial killer, a nutjob computer genius, or a human coming to earth for the first time.  I may not be getting paid for it but it's substantially more satisfying than my paying job.  

Time to write like crazy, again.   

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The Water and the Net

Must admit that I was a bit frustrated, and ended up channeling some of my wife's frustrations.

My wife's frustrations are about water and water rights.  She and I watched as cities, counties and states sold their watering rights to others, like Coca Cola, for a bit of money now.  "Why, look at all the water we have," they laughed.  "And those fools are going to pay us.  We'll use all that money to build schools and improve our roads, subside civic improvements.  Woo hoo, we're rich!"

Fast forward a few years and those same places are running out of water.  Doesn't matter how much money they have;  they can't get water.  Sure, they still have a lake full of it, a cistern, a stream, but they don't have the rights to it.  They sold those rights so companies can use their water to profit. 

Here in Ashland, our water comes from mountain snow packs.  People like to ski on mountain snow packs.  Companies like to build places to use for resorts to house those people in luxury and offer them food, drink and entertainment, like shows at night, when they're not skiing.  So a local association wanted to expand their ski resort.  "It won't affect the water supply at all," they assured everyone.  "And having a resort will bring in more tourists, create new jobs and add money to the local economy." 

My wife and I were like, are you nuts?  You're going to risk your water source for a few extra dollars?  "Sure," almost everyone replied.  "It won't hurt anything."

Fast forward just two years from when that measure was narrowly defeated.  The resort didn't open last year.  No snow.  Enduring extended drought conditions, we're close to water rationing.  And people still see no reason not to expand the ski resort. 

She's frustrated that they can't perceive the gaps in their logic.  It reminds us of our warnings about the dot com burst, the housing bubble burst, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  We had good reasons for worrying about these things and we were ignored until disaster stared people in the face.  Then they asked, "Who knew?"

Well, we knew, damn it.  And you didn't listen. So we get frustrated.

This is where my frustration comes in.  A friend sees no problem with going forward with ending Net Neutrality.  "It'll work out," he says.  "We should let them charge for faster service.  Why should a medical record and a movie being downloaded have equal footing?"  My response is that under the proposed systems, it would have nothing to do with whether it's a movie or a medical record.  It depends upon who is willing to pay more for greater speed.  In that sense, to me, it has a direct corollary with wealth inequality. 

He didn't see that at all.  To him, it would all be about establishing priorities based on content.  Movies and amusement would have lower priorities.  No;  that's not what's being proposed, I told him.  It's a simple, pay what the market will bear principle. 

To me, an open Internet is critical to a well functioning democracy, equality and a free market place.  In my mind, which can be a scary place and where I have been demonstrated to be wrong many, many times, there is one Internet and if you start charging people more for faster downloads, you're going to squeeze people out because they won't be able to afford it.  Pshaw, he said, in effect.  It'll work out.

Yes, I've heard those words or similar before. 

The war in Iraq will be a cake walk.  It'll pay for itself. 

There is no housing bubble.  The market will self correct.

There is plenty of water.  We will never miss it. 

Such confidence that "it'll all work itself out" seems weak and misguided to me.  Nature works itself out.  The rest of us sweat it out.  And when we don't, we pay the consequences. 

It frustrated me, talking to him, just as it frustrated me when I protested the planned invasions, warned people that a housing bubble was on the horizon, and winced as they said, a ski resort will not affect our water supply.  They're expressing blind confidence that I just don't seem to have.

Now let's talk about GMO crops.....

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