Monday, September 28, 2020

Coffee Creek Quality

 
One-minute excerpt of S5E1 of Schitt's Creek, a fair-use clip for educational purposes. May be blocked in some locations; may not be used on monetized sites.

"Coffee Movie!" or "Library Movie!" are expressions we use in the Hayes-Boh household to express our joy when encountering our favorite subjects in a film or a television show. A fantasy sabbatical project of mine, for example, would be to string together all of the coffee references in M*A*S*H; my favorite librarian even has a television tag for entries in her famous "Library" Books blog.

Our pandemic television roster now includes Schitt's Creek, a series to which we are late arrivals. The low-brow veneer covers some rather clever humor in a series that is essentially an inversion of The Beverly Hillbillies. Some scenes are set in a café, but the one that caught our attention takes place in the lobby of the very modest motel that is more central to the series. 

John first mentions coffee as nothing more than a caffeine vehicle -- fuel for a tired person. Stevie tries to discourage him, suggesting that even his low expectations of quality will not be met. 

Coffee quality matters, even when expectations are low. Coffee passes through 50 or more steps from seed to cup, and choices at each step affect quality. Sometimes I can tell that nearly every step went awry.

On June 26 of this year, I was pleased to be part of a wide-ranging discussion of coffee quality with two worker-owners of one of my favorite coffee companies: Equal Exchange. This was a public presentation via Zoom, for citizen-consumers all over the United States. If you have not already seen it, I invite you to watch the archive video, as we talk about the positive correlation between the relationships with farmers and the final quality in the cup. 

I provide links and put the discussion in context with two separate blog posts -- Fair Trade on my Aw, Professor blog and Micro Quality on this one. 


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Virtual Café

I try to learn something new about coffee every day. Friends who grow coffee or are otherwise involved in the coffee industry often help to make this happen -- as do those who have studied coffee with me. Sometimes they recommend a new café or ask me a question to which I do not know the answer. Most recently it was a coffee alum sharing this video and asking "what is this contraption?"
I had never seen one of these, but told her that it is similar to a vacuum press. These are more popular in Japan than in the U.S., though I do have one. It is shown in somewhat improper use in the 1961 "This Is Coffee" video that I show in my classes. But this is clearly more complicated -- on my second viewing I realized that it is, among other things, a steampunk variant on the usual model.


To learn more, I decided to find the café online. For a while, my endeavors were quite confusing. Eventually, I learned that the cafè is an extension of an elaborate persona developed by the barista shown above. The Dungeons & Dragons reference is not immediately clear, but to those whose misspent youth included countless hours gathered around graph paper "dungeons" and rolling dice, the elaborate nature of this faux café does seem a reasonable outgrowth of the game. 

I don't think we I can replicate this coffee, though I'm sure one of my industry friends will tell me if I can. Meanwhile, the virtual tavern is a delightful place to visit for wit and insight on many topics. 

Lagniappe

As I was closing some of the many open tabs in my browser, I noticed that my search for "vacuum press" has also revealed the name of this contraption. It is a balance syphon coffee maker and it is available from a certain global retailer. I will see if it is available elsewhere before I decide whether to add one to my fleet of coffee makers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Not So Long Ago

 

The image above has been circulating online this year. If someone can tell me the original source, I would love to add a citation. I could spend the rest of this week commenting on it, because it relates to so much of what is wrong in the United States today. I will, in fact, no doubt be editing this post. 

But for now I am using it to refer to one of the many ways in which the "get over it" response to racial injustice is wrong: the practice of redlining. I have heard the term for many years, but learned only recently that maps were published with actual red lines on them. The importance of this practice is included in a PowerPoint file posted by Shane Wiegand for the Landmark Society.

More specifically, a digital atlas of such maps has been published as Mapping Inequality by the University of Richmond. This is a very important resource that details the practice and allows users to see how specific urban neighborhoods were characterized for the purpose of lending authorities during the 1930s. It is impossible to suppose that such stark definitions of desirable and undesirable neighborhoods could be without consequence today.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

#FightEvilReadBooks

On the eve of autumn -- just as the air crispened and my favorite librarian updated our living-room altar for the season -- I chanced upon this image of the 2020 edition of the #FightEvilReadBooks t-shirt. Yes, it apparently is a series, one of many nifty items for bibliophiles offered by Out of Print.

The design serves as an important reminder -- and in these benighted times we need these often -- that the best antidote to ignorance and bias is simply to read well and read broadly. National hero Rep. John Lewis (taken from us this summer, a week before the loss of my own mother) put it well when receiving the National Book Award: Just Read (please listen to his words, even if you are already convinced).

Reading is also the most reliable pathway to good writing, as I detail on my Writing Tips page.

For more specific advice on reading in an ecosystem designed to thwart genuine learning, I recommend the lessons from top journalists that I describe in my 2017 Emotional Skepticism post.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Fire Resistance

Forests have evolved with fire. Humans entered forested landscapes very late in those complicated relationships, with results that have ranged from problematic to catastrophic. In California, for example, more land burned this week in early September than in all of last year. 

Fires have been. getting more dangerous, expensive, and common. This story gives the best quick overview of how this situation has come about, why it cannot be solved easily, and which human factors can be addressed. 

Five minutes is not enough time to thoroughly explain all of this, but sharp NPR reporters found the right experts to introduce the problem and some remedies.

To learn more, please explore some of the other forest fire posts on this blog or take my Land Protection class (GEOG 332) in Fall 2021 to learn more. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Acknowledging Lands

I have lived in many parts of Turtle Island:

  • Pauquunaukit (Wampanoag)
  • Carrizo/Comecrudo & Coahuiltecan
  • Hohokam, O'odham, Sobaipuri, Tohono O'odham (Papago)
  • Adena, Hopewell, Miami, Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), Wazhazhe Manzhan (Osage)
  • Piscataway
  • Kaw (Kansa), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Očeti Sakówin (Sioux), Wazhazhe Manzhan (Osage)
  • Manahoac
  • Nacotchtank (Anacostan), Piscataway

These are the original inhabitants of all of the places I have resided in the United States, known by their current names (in reverse order of my time residing in each):

  • Bridgewater and Fairhaven, Massachusetts
  • Pharr, Texas
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Oxford, Ohio
  • Catonsville and Annapolis, Maryland
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Nokesville, Chantilly, and Herndon, Virginia
  • Washington, District.of Columbia
I highlighted in blue the names that were familiar to me at the time I lived in some of the places. As a non-indigenous resident of Massachusetts, Ohio, and Arizona, I have been aware of some but not all of the indigenous people of those places. In Arizona, I had occasional indirect contact with Tohono O'odham people during ceremonies, including one to which the public was invited on their reservation land and another that was an ecumenical service at my church there. In Massachusetts, I have had the privilege of much more direct contact and friendship with Wampanoag neighbors and colleagues. 
Sachem Rock in what is now West Bridgewater, Massachusetts

In Ohio, the university I attended and the lake where I did my master's thesis were named for the Miami people, but the people themselves had long ago been forcibly removed to Florida (not to the part where the relatively new city by that name is located) and then to reservations elsewhere. To its shame, the university used a slur for its team names, and alumni who will not accept the new Redhawks name can still find the old logo in online stores. 

I notice two things about the geography of the indigenous land uses. First, 

I found the names of indigenous people associated with each of my homes by sending the common names by text to 907-312-5085. More information, caveats, and a Facebook Messenger option are posted on the Land Acknowledgement page established by Code for Anchorage (Dena'ina Elnena).

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