Thursday, November 28, 2013

If You Put It On Sale, They Will Come

Our nation's soul is on the bonfire tonight, and the marshmallows are a blue light special. 

I am back on my soap box again tonight.

The grocery stores in town seemed to be closed, and all that are open are just the big boxes...

Of course, you knew that already.

In past years, I managed to avoid a lot of this mania since I stopped working retail. Then again, even only two or three years ago stores were closed Thanksgiving day. So, if you ran our of something like dish soap, you were out of luck unless you paid through the nose at one of the convenience stores still open. If somewhere was open, you thanked the clerk for being open while giving them a sympathetic "this sucks" shrug.

Tonight, however, we ran our of dish soap, and had a dinner to clean up after. Since the most available place open was WalMart, we decided to brave it.

I was fully expecting the borderline chaos, the mania. After all, I had seen my fair share of Black Fridays from behind the counter working mall retail.

Tonight though, knowing that today is Thanksgiving, a holiday intended to count our blessings, spend time with our families, and celebrate our harvests, we have this.

We live in suburbia, and near a fairly suburban WalMart. Granted, our community has a bank robber still on the lamb who robbed a bank that had been knocked over before in the past six months, but we we are a generally safe community.

I have never had the worries of dying from a botched drive by living in Plainfield, Indiana as I did when growing up in North Miami, Florida.

I was pretty accepting of the situation this evening when I found parking. Sure, it was a bit like a busy Saturday, I could deal.

Then, we saw the line of empty Plainfield police cars lined up in front of the store. My jaw almost dropped. there was a good eight cars parked in front of the store, front ends pointed towards the parking lot. A bit of frost was beginning to gather on the windshields and hoods. I blinked, remembering the horror stories from other locations on Black Friday in past years. I am not surprised by a show of police force, but at a store? On private property? On Thanksgiving?

I uttered, "Who the fuck is paying for all these cops?"

Going in, amongst the madness, we counted at least ten milling about. They were not just there to hang out, I assume.

Again, "Who the fuck is paying for all these cops to guard WalMart?"

And why?

Let us be honest with ourselves. Is this worth it? Is this level of consumerism worth betraying the agreed upon meaning of a national holiday. This is not necessarily like Christmas or Easter which isn't celebrated by everyone.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, about being thankful for things the things we agree upon as American.

So here we are. We have perverted it.

We got our soap, walked around to take a peak at what they did have in stock. Of the things I would genuinely want, I didn't see a sale that was worth the pandemonium, and I knew there wouldn't be. I have worked for my share of companies, and I know this scam.

Black Friday and now this creep into Thanksgiving has become the biggest conn, and its taking the very things that unite us as a country away.

I am prone to hyberbole, but I do mean this. We're stripping it all away in the name of having more and more crap. And I like my share of crap. I piss my money away on my share of crap.

Where does it end?

The clerk who rang us up seemed like he stopped giving a crap about the whole thing sometime after they opened, hours before we showed up for dish soap. He said it was the greediest thing he had ever seen.

Welcome to middle America in the 21st Century.

The Greediest Thing We Have Ever Seen.

I have never wanted to pack up my own shit so much, find another country, give up my citizenship and go.

One day, my home in Florida will be covered by water, possibly in my lifetime. One day, parts of America will be gone because of what this greed wrought.

I am proud of what my grandparents and ancestors achieved as a nation. I am ashamed by what we are becoming.

If you are looking for a cheap ass toy on Thanksgiving, you are part of the problem. If you are refusing to pay your employees enough to survive without leaning on the crutch of the taxpayers, you are part of the problem. If you are offering deals to make a buck to sacrifice a piece of our country's greatness...

You are the problem.

Meanwhile, the town cops are guarding WalMart while someone who stole people's hard earned cash and threatened people with a gun is still out there... somewhere.

I'll leave this here with A Perfect Circle's cover of "Imagine." I nearly hate the song now for the blandness in most version. APC took the saccharine and turned it into a dirge for what could have been.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coffee and Espresso

It seems it is getting difficulty to switch back and forth between espresso and the press. Somehow, drip and pressed coffee are turning out to be too watey, too thin on the tongue. I am not entirely sure how it happened. It might also be simply because the coffees I am using in the Press just is not as good as what I could roast on my own or get from Nespresso.

This is turning into a little problem where it is just too easy to pop a capsule in the machine and make a coffee. Convenience and Quality certainly are selling points every morning.

Expensive selling points.

Like any good addict, I am wondering when I should purchase my next shipment from Nespresso. Which is fine, because I really enjoy their Cosi blend when I first get up in the morning with the hints of cacao in the coffee. It is a nice way to start the day.

Speaking of flavoring, I went out on my coffee hunt yesterday to see if I could find something new an interesting. I found damn near nothing but flavored coffees all ground up. It was one of the most annoying trips in a while.

I understand we are near the Holidays and its getting colder. I also understand this makes a lot of people who do not normally drink coffee turn to it for their fix. But, what they really want is a cup of hot chocolate flavored with a million other things.

Go drink that. Leave the coffee to the serious coffee drinkers.

It know its a bit elitist, and borderline hypocritical of me to say all that given some of my recent reviews. However, it was simply annoying when I was looking for a solid, baseline coffee. I am ranting about the flavorings, but really I think that I couldn't find more whole bean was more of a pain in the ass.

No matter when I went, I could find some good coffees reasonably priced, but I could not find it whole bean.

After some digging, and a bit of settling, I did find something, Mauna Loa Sunrise Breakfast Blend. Like many of the coffees from this brand, its adequate. Its not phenomenal, it doesn't blow me away, but it works.

I've done a hand drip with it, and made a French Press. Its bold, but not too bold. Its nice and dark. It'll work for many mornings, and seemingly low on bitterness.

This will certainly do the trick. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pale Blue Dot

I have been fortunate to have this stuck in my head off and on all week. I really do not have much else to say about it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Five Poems

Here's a selection of five poems. The first one is my own Autumn Concerto, I wrote during an afternoon drive during the Fall. I intended on a theme, but it quickly fell apart as I kept looking for poems to read.

So enjoy!

Also, I just do these for fun and for vocal exercise. Please listen to them in that spirit.

Pour Over Coffee - The DIY Edition.

I finally pitched my old drip coffee maker. Now, it was just a cheap Mr. Coffee, and I did set it next to the dumpster rather than simply tossing it. It should still work even it needs a good cleaning. I felt I just needed to make a bit of room in the kitchen, and the big thing was just taking up a space on top of the refrigerator.

Actually, I thought I got rid of it months ago, but oh well. It was sitting there, hidden behind paper towels, colanders, and other assorted crap ... the sort of crap that accumulates on top of a refrigerator.

However, I kept the coffee carafe, and gave it a good cleaning with white vinegar and soap. It is squat and cylindrical. The glass is thin, and I hold no hopes for how long it will hold the heat from the water.

Then, using the funnel from the Aeropress and one of the Hario filters I used up more of the Michael's coffee. Even though it is not the most visually appealing pot, it at least has the measures of cups on the side.

When I use the flavored coffees, I find filtering them helps out immensely. The process with the French Press holds the grinds and the oils. As much as it preserves the flavors, the flavored oils wind up overpowering the cup, so much that I find the bottom of the pot undrinkable.

Using the Pour Over method, I still retain the flavors, but I have a much smoother cup. In time, if this secondary pour over method works out, I would like to retire the Chemex to a special shelf, only to be brought down for special occasions. It is a pretty pot, as are the Bialetti's, but using it can be nerve-wracking. I am much too attached to it to accidentally break it, then have to replace it.

Therefore, repurposing an old coffee pot seems like the best thing to do.

On a side note, we've been in and out of being sick here at the roasters, and I just have not had the voice to do proper recordings.

I will do a few more soon, I promise!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cold Press Coffee

I finally gave it a shot in the French Press. Last evening, I picked up a coffee from Meijer from the dispensing bins. 

I want to preface this by saying that I really like cherries, and I do not know what I was thinking until I brought the coffee home. I picked up a Michigan Cherry Coffee. It is artificially flavored with Michigan Cherries oils. 

Again, in hindsight, I am really not sure what I was expecting. It was a nice, strong, cherry smell that fills the nose. In a regular French Press, the coffee seems to be too oily to be properly enjoyed. I have the same issues with other flavored coffees too. The coffee itself is well roasted, and all Arabica. Its is a nice, light roast.

I made up a second pot with cold water, and set it in the fridge for 12 hours. When we got up this morning, I pushed down on the plunger, and poured it out over ice with a bit of milk. My fiance still needed sugar.

It was exceptionally smooth, refreshing, with a nice boost of caffeine. It maintained the cherry flavor with the overall coffee-ness in the background. I cannot say this particular coffee knocked my socks off, and I probably will not be buying it again. But I will be making a few more cold presses with it. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Pixie - the iPhone of Espresso Makers.

It came today! 

This is the machine I received for participating in the Nespresso event a few months ago. It was work related and completely unrelated to this blog.

But since it is all about coffee, I do not mind talking a bit about it. After all, there was not anything big or proprietary revealed. Hell, I think we basically heard the party line from Nespresso for what they would like people selling their products to tell the customers. 

Generally, I do not go in for the capsule base systems. However, I am really getting too lazy to pull my own shots of espresso. I kind of like something brain dead simple. Also, once I unboxed this little gem, my fiance was pretty pleased herself. After having a couple shots, I wound up ordering a fair amount of coffee off their website.

She likes it simple, and if I got around to picking up a regular espresso machine, she would never use it. She is a latte and cappuccino kind of gal, really. This is basically perfect for her. 

This is not to say I am putting up the Presses and the Chemex. Nespresso is expensive, and really not for everyday coffee drinking. I have a feeling it will be more for weekend enjoyment.

In the sampler pack we received one of the vanilla flavored coffees. I made it up for her into a sweetened latte. The flavors really came out with the milk, and now I get how to best use flavored espressos. 

I've got a few more pictures of the unboxing I will post up. On the whole, the Pixie has proven to be a good little machine. It does just what I need it to do at this stage in the game. 

I am considering one of the reusable, third party made capsule for using my own coffee grounds. It really is tempting, however it voids the warranty. 

Seeing how Nespresso is like the Apple of the coffee world, I find it ironic I am a little worried about voiding the warranty. This is especially amusing because as soon as I buy new computer hardware, I break the warranty within hours of purchase by installing Linux. 

Hell, if it had been possible back in the mp3 player heyday, and I bought a full-fledged iPod, I would have put Rockbox on it in defiance. 

Unfortunately, the third party options for capsules seems a bit thin. There isn't a well made option like the My K-Cup. Nespresso capsules are fiddly and small. I think I would rather just have a decent espresso maker for using my own brew. 

I will just try to enjoy the kick ass coffee. I just won't be buying a Mac anytime soon.

In the meantime, listen to the real Pixies. "Where is My Mind?"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Springsteen, Glen Hansard and Eddie Vedder

I struggle with Bruce Springsteen a lot. By all accounts, I should be a fan of his work, but for some reason I just cannot get into him or the E Street Band. It might be an age thing. It might be Generational.

I don't get it, until I hear him covered.

Over on Antiquiet, they've got a preview track from an EP tribute Glen Hansard (from the Frames) and Eddie Vedder recorded.

Click on over to their site, because I couldn't really get it to embed. Its worth it.

"Drive All Night"