Glorious Black Gold…

November 17, 2009

You know what I’m talking about don’t you?

It’s easily one of the most addictive (legal) substances around, and it’s in so many foods/drinks these days many of us are unintentional addicts.

Coffee.

Glorious black gold that, depending on the quality, usually decides if we have a great day, or a shitty day (for me, anyway).

To say I love coffee is one of the understatements of the century. But Im not one of those people who have 12-15 cups of instant a day… To me, that’s an addiction. My coffee love is more a passion, than an addiction (although the two do overlap at times). I dont drink the strongest coffee, or the most coffee. I do my best to drink the best coffee, in all its wonderful forms. Theres the traditional (more cafe styles with espresso machines) of short blacks, long blacks, flat whites, lattes, macchiatos, affogatos. We have plunger coffee, dripolator coffee, percolated coffee, cold-drip coffee (which I only discovered yesterday, more on that later), Vietnamese coffee (which Ive never tasted, but is definitely on my list), and turkish coffee. And no doubt there are many, many more from the different regions of the world.

I have spent a lot of money on my addiction passion, and its my belief that one’s tools are extremely important in the world of coffee. My coffee grinder, a Sunbeam EM0480 (Cafe Series), was given to me as a gift from my intended wife, which remains – to this day – one of the most thoughtful (and awesome!) gifts I have ever received. My coffee machine, a small, functional Gaggia Classic set me back a cool $520 (on special!) from Myer, as well as a Gaggia Brand Frothing Jug (a comparatively cheap $15-$20).

I did a lot of research before I bought my coffee machine. I finally settled on the Classic, as it seemed to come out on top. There were some temperature concerns, but given the correct preparation beforehand this can be averted. And I must say, when all the ingredients and methods align (sometimes with the rarity of the aligning of the various planets) the Gaggia Classic pulls a fantastic coffee. I must say, one of the most annoying things with the Classic is if you get just one thing a little bit off, the rest of the coffee falls apart and the taste is greatly degraded. But you know what they say, practice makes perfect.

Lastly, the pièce de résistance, my Greg Pullman Coffee Tamper, cost me an earth shattering $160. Expensive to say the least, especially for something that can be bought for about 8 bucks from any random kitchen shop. It’s hard to explain to someone ‘normal’, about my passion, and exactly how much money I’m willing to spend in the pursuit of this elusive passion, but I remember the first time I picked up a Greg Pullman tamper. I think I had whats called (and I could be coining the term here), a coffee-gasm. Yep, thats right, I went there.

The balance, weight and sheer quality of this diminutive piece of coffee hardware in my hand felt perfect. Absolutely perfect. I ordered it on the spot, and had to wait a few days for it to come in. The price (I must admit) made me wince, but when I got home to try it out I didnt regret it for a second.

So there we have it… all the right tools to make the perfect (espresso form) coffee. Of course, something people dont realise, is how much skill it truly take to make a decent coffee. There are so many factors to take into account; grind, dose, tamp, extraction and temperature (when steaming/frothing milk), which when are done correctly will make quite simply the most fantastic coffee possible. Even a shitty quality bean will taste half-decent if all the factors are taken into account and performed correctly.

It has taken me a long, long time to get to the skill level I’m at now. And even then I realise I still have a long way to go. I have wasted so, so much coffee in the pursuit of all of these facets of coffee (grind, dose, tamp & extraction). But I have to say it’s truly worth it. That first sip of my coffee in the morning truly does bring the light into my day. To make matters worse, I dont have a thermometer for the milk, so I need to guess the correct temperature when Im steaming my milk. Im at the point where I know its done when you touch the jug and its hot to the point where it burns, but doesnt scald (trust me, there is a difference 😛 ).

I love almost all forms of coffee. Frans parents have their coffee turkish style, and as a finisher to a meal it goes down wonderfully! I grew up around my dads percolated coffee, and still look forward to the short blacks that come out of those beautiful coffee pots (seriously, they are beautiful). When Im at work, I tend to use a plunger which gives it a completely different flavour to any other coffee, and tends to be very very smooth (almost somewhat weak), that also serves well as an after-dinner coffee. I recently got into the Nespresso machines, and their niche-style coffees. My favourites are the Indriya and Ristretto coffees, and if you have access to a machine I highly recommend them both. At my old job, I was heavily into dripolator coffee, which has a similar taste/strength to the plunger coffee. Its quite nice. Ive even tried the Robert Timms Coffee Bags, which work just like a tea bag. These can be a bit unpredictable, but the gold columbia and italian espresso versions seem to be the better tasting of the lot.

However, the one coffee which I tend to have trouble with is Instant Coffee. The ones usually provided at functions/workplaces around australia taste like death in a cup, and Ive resolved that if I ever am lucky enough to run my own business, high quality coffee will be one of my minimum requirements. Nescafe is quite simply yucky (a very scientific term, I know).

So with this in mind, Ive recently decided to start a little personal project of my own, and that is to find the best tasting instant coffee. Nescafe gold is passable, but still doesnt capture the essence of true coffee. So my mission to find the best instant coffee starts this weekend, when I do my fortnightly grocery shopping.

Stay tuned as I risk my tongue and coffee pallet on what will be a no doubt entertaining journey.


Anticipation

October 3, 2009

 

I think one of the scariest feelings is anticipation. It creeps up on you and smacks you in the face when you least expect it. I am deep in the beginning planning stages of my novel, and quite happy with how things are progressing.

Happy to the point where I feel anticipation. And Im barely in the planning stage. The plot resonates with something inside my head thats going ‘hey this actually isnt too bad’, and even Im anticipating this to be somewhat good.

Perhaps Im getting overconfident, but hopefully not. Its not my usual cocky brand of self confidence… its an almost scary feeling of what this could turn into later down the track. Already alternate plots (which I plan on integrating into the main storyline) are springing up in my head, as well as prequel and sequels to this trilogy…

This is the shortest blog post Ive done so far (I think), as this is more a status update of how things are going and feeling right now… And it scares the living crap out of me.

Til next time!


The Beginning

September 28, 2009

Like I’ve said previously, when it rains it pours and recently my mind has been a flash-flood of ideas and plans. Everything from straight out art, to a computer game, and now a novel. It feels like I dont know where to start, what to pick or even how to go about any of it.

As it turns out, Im going with a trilogy (I dont exactly start small, which could bite me in the ass later on, but hey, I dont have anything to lose, so why not?).

I think everyone, at some point in their lives, is inspired to write a book, or books in my case. Im not sure what triggers off the overwhelming urge to put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard), but lately story lines are a-whirl in my head. Every time I get an idea or plan in my head, its off to my iPod Touch I go, using the in-built (and really useful) Notes application to take down my ideas.

Im very lucky, because Mum has been a writer for a long, long time now. So I was able to borrow several resources from her (and will be borrowing a few more next time I see her) to get an idea of where I need to start. Im reading the book ‘Becoming A Writer’, by Laurel Dumbrell. Some of the advice is quite useful, and Im already doing a bit of it without thinking… She recommends starting a ‘personal journal’ (ha, I originally wrote ‘personal journey’ there… also quite appropriate), and I suppose Ive already done this by starting a blog/s (hm, that reminds me I need to do a technical post at some point over at Pending Tech). In fact, Im using this entry as a warm up before I start.

Her other recommendation so far, and one I feel is rammed a bit down the poor reader’s (ie. me) throat: join a writing group. I actually disagree with this, not because it wouldnt be useful to get other people’s input or inspiration, but for the simple reason not everyone in the history of the written language has had a ‘writers group’. In addition to that, I simply dont feel the urge to join any such group, partly because Im paranoid of plagiarism, partly because Im intending this to be a hobby. No pressure, no hassle, just the pure pleasure of writing for the sake of writing. Thats not to say I wouldnt love to be published and make a few extra bucks on the side (Id be lying if I said I wouldnt love that), but thats not the reason Im doing this. Im doing it because it feels right, and it feels like this compulsive urge, and because I would love to share what I write with the world one day (when it’s finished).

I chose a trilogy because a) I like a challenge, and b) because I feel stand-alone novels dont always go deep enough into the story, nor explore the characters in enough detail. I recently re-read an old favourite of mine, the Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Excellent book (excellent series, for that matter), and I have read it more times than I can count (I started reading science fiction/fantasy from a very young age), but I got to the end of it feeling quite unsatisfied with it… It just felt empty, and hollow (from my point of view). I am a huge fan of the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan. This series is 11 books so far, with the 12th being release posthumously (sadly, Robert Jordan died before he could finish the 12th and final book in the series, and Brandon Sanderson will be finishing the final book, split into three volumes), and the amount of detail and depth to this series is breathtaking beyond belief. And since most of the books I read this days are series 3 books or greater, going back to a single novel is a bit strange. Im hoping using a trilogy will enable me to properly explore the world of my characters, and develop them to a point where they jump off the page.

Mum suggested I write a synopsis for my book, but I dont think Im even at that stage yet. Im going to sit down and plan a general overview of what I want my book to be about (science fiction), connecting plots and characters. Im thinking a mind-map will help to put this down in a very clear and relatively concise way, not to mention names for characters… I like the name Saul. A random bit of inspiration triggered off the thought and it seems to stick. So Saul it is.

The next few months will be planning and research and planning and research. Im quite excited by everything (the reality of writing a book hasnt really set in yet), so at the moment Im full of dreamy-eyed optimism (I found it quite ironic I wrote that entry and a week later Im dreaming about writing a book!). This is only the beginning, so its going to be an interesting ride.

I think I’d better hold on…


Financial Fun

September 22, 2009

Last week my final expense associated with moving house was taken out, and today I paid off that same bill (as is the best option these days, my bills are direct debited from my credit card). The past couple of months have been a financial nightmare… Moving house is by far one of the most ridiculously expensive things you can do, and the biggest and by far most annoying expense of this terrible saga: Bond.

Whichever idiot decided it would be ok to ask someone to front up what is essentially 6 weeks rent (after all fees/charges etc) in order to get a place needs a good, hard slap to the back of the head. Honestly, if something goes wrong with the house, Id rather pay it on the spot, on demand than forking god knows how many weeks worth of spare money to something I likely wont see in full (because we all know how much real estate agents love parting with bond) ever again.

Thats not to say Im a bad tenant either… Im (mostly) a damn good tenant and pleasant to boot. I think I just get aggravated in general with the real estate market, renting or buying.

Now getting onto the other expenses associated with this sort of thing

  1. Removalists
  2. Initial food shopping run
  3. So-called ‘Application fees’ incurred when transferring the address of your utility accounts
  4. Cleaning costs (because lets face it, noones perfect).

All of these add up quickly to a distressing amount of money. Ive learnt one thing from this whole situation: Im not moving for a long, long time.

Seriously, its not worth the trouble or money.

Except of course if I buy a house…

*Sigh*


Hobby != Profession

September 20, 2009

I would hate to be a writer…

See, I love writing… whether it be the odd poem (not in a long time, but it has happened), my latest blog entry or a vague storyline for something (game or otherwise). But boy do I struggle to get there… I have nothing but admiration for those that choose to make writing in any shape or form their careers.

Over the past few days I have been trying to think of something vaguely interesting to write, however that ugly beast known as ‘Writers Block’ chose to rear its ugly head. Thankfully I dont have my entries due by a deadline (god forbid), and I tend to write when I actually feel like writing. This writers block got me thinking… How many times do you look at something and think ‘Wow I would love to do that as my career!’ ?

What sparked this entry was a conversation with my better half, a week or so ago. We were talking about cooking, and food in general (we both share a passion of cooking), and Fran said she would love to be able to make a career out of cooking, because she loves it so much. While I understand the sentiment, I pointed out the fact that when she cooks, she cooks for genuine pleasure and most certainly doesnt have 30+ people in a single kitchen yelling back and forth with the noise of 40+ dishes being cooked at a time…

I know that Im just as guilty of this, as my retirement dream is to own a cafe, due to my all-consuming, overpowering obsession with that glorious black gold known as coffee. I love making coffee, drinking coffee, and thinking about coffee. To the point where I stumbled across a coffee magazine, dedicated to that aromatic, diminuitive little bean, and its everything I ever dreamed of in a magazine about coffee. Im going to stop talking about coffee now, because my fingers are starting to run away with themselves, and if left unchecked I could talk about it for hours…

Ahem…

As I was saying, I have also fallen into this mindset, where I think that hobby = profession. While there are situations where this does happen (and usually these people are the most renowned in their respective fields), most of the time, we ‘common’ people dont truly understand the blood, sweat and even tears that go into running a respective business. I have no freaking clue how hard it is to run a cafe, but from what Ive seen I realise that its not what you would call a ‘calm’ profession.

I think the turning point for someone truly turning their passion or hobby into a real profession is the point where they truly realise what they are getting themselves into, and still want to do it. To know how badly they are going to get screwed around, precisely how many stomach ulcers they will recieve in the process of realising their dream, and most importantly: how much money they stand to lose (not to mention things of a personal nature; marriage, relationships and friendships). Money doesnt grow on trees, and the costs in setting up a business can sometimes set you back years before you start making an actual profit… But if your passion (read: obsession) is powerful enough, nothing can stop you.

So next time you see something on TV/in a magazine/at the movies, and have a knee-jerk reaction of ‘wow, Id love to do that as my career’, think to yourself…

How many stomach ulcers can you survive?

 

Note: If you are wondering what the != means in the title its a programming expression that means ‘does not equal’.


Persistence Ftw

September 15, 2009

Ahhh don’t ya love the Internet? The good thing about the net is you can simply start over if you find yourself unsatisfied with what you may have done. Which is what I’ve done…

Pending Tech – A Programmers Life is the title of my new blog related to everything tech and IT. Something about the last blog (Crazy Tech Head) just didn’t quite sit right with me… The background on how this new blog came into being is the first entry on Pending Tech, and I must admit I’m liking this blog much more this time round, it ‘gels’ you know?

This one I am making a commitment to. No more excuses and no more laziness. So if you are technically inclined join me over at Pending Tech for some (hopefully) informative articles battling the neverending issues and problems of a programmers life.

Have a good weekend everyone 🙂


Guided Misconceptions

September 8, 2009

I was stumbling around Facebook the other day when I came across a link from one of my friends. It was a clip telling a story about someone in America who had to attend a class run by his atheist professor. If you dont feel like watching the clip, the basic overview of the story is; the poor guy was scared of being made a to look like an idiot in front of the class as (for some ridiculous reason) this professor at the end of every year attempted to ridicule and demean his students faith of choice (however, in this instance we are talking mainstream western religion). Long story short, the guy stood up for his beliefs and the professor was made a fool of during his ‘Ill Prove God Doesnt Exist’ demonstration with his chalk not breaking as he expected.

The title of the clip is ‘This Should Keep Us All Thinking’. And it did keep me thinking, however not in the way that the author would have intended. I was so deep in thought at one point that I missed the Reid Highway exit on the Mitchell Freeway, haha. In the end, after talking about it with Fran I came to realise what was bothering me about the clip…

Everything.

Now Im not anti-christian, nor am I anti-atheist but the entire clip really bugged me… and Im talking about both sides, the atheist professor elements of the story as well as the christian (or more to the point the author of the clip) side to this tale.

Firstly, this professor. Why did he feel the need to demonstrate is obviously ‘superior’ (note: Inject as much sarcasm as humanly possible into that word) intellect by saying (paraphrase) ‘Wow, look God definitely doesnt exist if this chalk doesnt break when I drop it’. This is what I like to call ‘Stupid Atheism’.

Stupid Atheism is when an atheist uses supposed logic to prove God doesnt exist, in a situation where the laws of nature are obviously not going to work in the favour of the God Scenario (ie. the chalk staying intact). Ignoring the fact that chalk is brittle and thin and there are times where a simple flick can break chalk, the simple force of gravity forcing the chalk to hit the floor at a certain angle/level of force is going to make it break… To prove/disprove God based off this flawed argument is the very oppositeof what these atheists think they are trying to do… And it bugs me. Greatly.

Conversely, the christian side of this tale is just as open to debate as the atheist side. I hesitate to call it ‘Stupid Christianity’ because faith by its very nature is illogical, so technically christians are acting as expected (note: Im not implying they are acting stupid, but acting how their faith dictates they should, whereas atheists are supposed to be using logic in their arguments and faith/religion doesnt always follow logic). In any case, basing their argument (in this specific situation) off the fact that the professor happened to drop the chalk and it stays intact, is just as flawed as the professor feeling fully justified in saying God doesnt exist when the chalk doesnt stay intact. Statistically speaking at some point the chalk will stay intact, similar to how when you drop a plate on the floor sometimes it doesnt break. Thats just the way it goes…

These are what I call Guided Misconceptions; Manipulating people into accepting certain situations based off flawed arguments.

In addition to this, the tone in which this video is (to my ears) very smug, and self-satisfied. It feels like in sharing this video the author is patting himself/herself on the back thinking: See how right I am in sharing this video, everyone can a) see my faith and b) surely understand that because this video covers a coincidence its watertight proof of God!

Ive come to the conclusion that true faith is very much a personal thing and it needs to come from the person, rather than outside influences. To try and base it (or even be persuaded) off a clip off YouTube relating a supposed story from somewhere in America is highly flawed in the least. In a situation like that, when the faith is truly tested its probably going to fall down like a house of cards. If thats what the author intended with sharing this story, then Im not sure if they truly understand what faith is, how it comes about and what it represents to the person. Even worse, passing this video around with the general feel of ‘look how right I am’ further detracts from what the author is trying to accomplish. I understand that the video is trying to say that faith is rewarded, but what about a video that encourages research and true understanding about what religion and faith are and how they can help you in life (or alternatively deciding which faiths are simply not for you).

This isnt limited to the western faith either, I think that its best to research all avenues of faith and decide which is best for you. Recently the Eastern faiths and philosophies have started to appeal to me, so I think Ill start delving into the world of Taoism and Buddhism.

Im not sure what category I fall under when people say ‘what do you believe in?’. I tend to think people find their own path towards God, and each way is different. And it most certainly is not a case of who is right and who is wrong, nor someone saying ‘I am right, and you are wrong’. Understanding affects people in different ways, and I wish both hard-line christians and athiests would get this and just stop constantly trying to one-up the other.

I think my beliefs are cherry-picked from each of the faiths (Western and Eastern). There are some issues with Western faiths that I simply cant resolve (due to my somewhat scientific upbringing), and I dont know enough about the Eastern religions, hence my hesitance to say ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’.

I dont want people to get the wrong idea with this entry. I am nottrying to bash one faith or the other (although I do have issues with Christianity, but thats an entry for another day), I am simply highlighting the deficiencies of the arguments for/against God by atheists and christians and trying to encourage people to research and truly understandwhat it is they are doing (this goes for both people of faith and atheists) before shooting off their mouth (or in this digital age, their keyboard).

I love talking about religion, to the point where I could talk about it with random strangers for hours (and actually have on several occasions), so if you have a different opinion and want to talk about it, by all means leave a comment in the comments section and we’ll start up a discussion, I welcome all opinions and comments 🙂

Note: this is a discussion not a mud-slinging match, any derogatory comments to any faith will be censored mercilessly.

Night all 🙂