Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Being Able to Say: "That Was Awesome!"

I tend to come out the Gates of Summer roaring like a lion ready for fresh meat: new ideas, new people, new projects, new experiences. Two weeks into the semester the weight of the promised towers above me, curling and foaming like a bright green wave against the setting sun. "I do this every year." I tell myself as I crunch acorns under foot on the way home from class. "What happened to having time to read Dostoevsky and The Paris Review? What happened to daily yoga practice and PRing an October half marathon? What happened to blogging?" I glance up at our third floor apartment, windows glowing orange with the warm light within. These questions linger as I trudge up the stairs and turn my key in the lock.

Inside, the inimitably dressed Archie Goodwin banters with the wise and bulky Nero Wolfe who is downing a German pint as my wife bustles in the kitchen. "Ah," I think to myself, making sense of the inattentively gathered scents on the way of the stairs "we are indeed having fig and olive roast chicken for dinner!" I wander through the living room, backpack a-sway (I always forget I have it until that moment), and wrap up my Love in an embrace, soaking in her hue, smell, warmth, and flavor. "Hello my Love! How was your day?" "My day?" the question catches me off guard in a sense because I have to pull it out of my experiential flow, "it was good!" I go on to recount chronologically the events of the day, recalling agenda items as I wander from place to place with my voice. "Let me grab a pint and brain dump for a moment, Love."

Swinging off my backpack, I slide onto a chair at the kitchen table and pull out my moleskine. I'm a huge lists person. Lists remove things from my head and make them concrete and recallable for me on a page. I categorize under four areas: school, student orgs, work, and life. School always comes first on my list. I don't know why really, maybe it's because it's such an expensive area of my life. Maybe because I spend the most time there, but certainly not because I value it most out of all those categories. I pore over a page entitled "10/4-8: Agenda:"
Homework: check. "It's all reading, and I love reading. Besides, I'll have time for Thursday and Friday on Thursday morning. Oh yeah, that patent posting for Cyberlaw needs to happen. Damn business school class."
Note research and writing: "I won't ever really be done but it's progressing, I'll work on it more this evening. Thank God I get to choose the topic. Can't imagine having to spend this kind of time on something I didn't love. Hopefully I don't make it too philosophical for my editors. It'll be an amazing paper. Ooh, I need to talk to Kohler about the Dialectic of Community."
Student Organizations: "Public Interest Law and the coordinating Mock Trial are both taking more time than anticipated. Well, maybe not PIL. Treasurer is pretty basic and routine. It's all the meetings. They are killer. Mock Trial has been amazing, but rewriting the problem was a workload I didn't plan on. Ah well, it's good to be meeting with people and working on practical things."
Fizzy Media: "Man, I love web development and learning PHP/CSS/HTML5 but I wish it was my full time job. I could do this for a living. Well, I am actually. I just hate doing it part time. It's the only reason school is getting old: I hate working part time. All these apps and opportunities! It's a whole new language and I'm on the cutting edge. Can't wait to blend it with law."
Life: ...

Looking up, I realize fifteen minutes have wandered by and dinner is nearly ready. "I heard from the adoption lady today!" Annie says, her words full of light. "She said the birth mother from two weeks ago has thought about our book and would like to meet with us." Instantly my world is back in the here-and-now, heady-organic, ripeness overflowing of human life, married life. In the swift transition I recall Fr. Peter's homily from Sunday, "Do everything you do so at the end of it you'll be able to say, 'That was Awesome!'" If you do everything with that sort of energy, that sort of drive, that sort of overwhelming joy, nothing is too hard, nothing is too mundane, nothing can keep you from pumping your dreams full of adrenaline and flying them to the stars.

When you are done with your day, peering out of the cloud-wrack of this world, your body bearing man's smirch and sharing man's smell, steam rising from the murk and moil of vasty agenda, can you still say, "that was Awesome!"

Why not?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Awake, and Live.

"But to the spirit which has stripped off for a moment its own idle temporal standards the grass is an everlasting forest, with dragons for denizens; the stones of the road are as incredible mountains piled one upon the other; the dandelions are like gigantic bonfires illuminating the lands around; and the heath-bells on their stalks are like planets hung in heaven each higher than the other. Between one stake of a paling and another there are new and terrible landscapes; here a desert, with nothing but one misshapen rock; here a miraculous forest, of which all the trees flower above the head with the hues of sunset; here, again, a sea full of monsters that Dante would not have dared to dream. These are the visions of him who, like the child in the fairy tales, is not afraid to become small. Meanwhile, the sage whose faith is in magnitude and ambition is, like a giant, becoming larger and larger, which only means that the stars are becoming smaller and smaller. World after world falls from him into insignificance; the whole passionate and intricate life of common things becomes as lost to him as is the life of the infusoria to a man without a microscope. He rises always through desolate eternities. He may find new systems, and forget them; he may discover fresh universes, and learn to despise them. But the towering and tropical vision of things as they really are—the gigantic daisies, the heaven-consuming dandelions, the great Odyssey of strange-coloured oceans and strange-shaped trees, of dust like the wreck of temples, and thistledown like the ruin of stars--all this colossal vision shall perish with the last of the humble." - GKC

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Cupping at Terrior Coffee

Hello Friends,

That post on El Vergel two weeks ago was picked up and retweeted by the company that produces that gem, among many other excellent single-origin coffees, Terroir Coffee. We tweeted back and forth a few times with the result that last Wednesday, I made the trek out to Acton, MA to cup this season's Kenyans with the owner, George Howell, the quality control ninja Jenny, two of the roasters Jacko and Doug, and a lovely couple from Quebec.

I managed to get lost in finding the nondescript headquarters building, but the smell of roasting coffee through my open window soon had me on the right track. As I walked in, George was just beginning a tour of their beautiful facilities with the Quebecers (one of whom was wearing Toms, as I was, and the other wearing Birkenstocks (I so need to visit Quebec: Toms, Birkenstocks, and a love of coffee? YES)). The facilities were immaculate and everyone was working in happy harmony as we wandered about learning about different storage methods, the idiosyncrasies of different countries and the wealth of information that only a legend in Third-Wave coffee can deliver. George has been in the coffee business for thirty-five years and really pioneered, in many ways, the high-end coffees that are available today. He brought this love and wisdom from the West Coast (*cough* where all things good and beautiful originate) to the East Coast and remains an influential player in the global high-quality, artisanal coffee arena.

I was able to meet the roaster responsible for one of the best coffee experiences I've had, Doug Sparks, who roasted the El Vergel I raved about. See, I have this thing for high-altitude Guatemalans and it takes considerable skill to bring out the lofty, bright notes in those coffees. There is a huge element of science but an even larger element of understanding the bean itself, it's potential, it's nature... only the best roasters can make such wonders sing. One such is Doug Sparks.

After the tour we gathered in the cupping room where ten different Kenyans were laid out by Jenny, who also had roasted them. The cupping process is one of carefully woven art and science. For each coffee offering there are six old-fashioned-sized glasses of grounds arranged around a table so all the cuppers can access them easily. There are several stages, all of which have their own ranking system for the purposes of Cup of Excellence rankings or buyer's analysis:

Aroma: first the grounds are sniffed as they sit in the cup, then the cupper shakes the cup to release the pent-up vapors in the dry grounds, keeping his/her nose close to the cup at all times. The third aroma-focused period is, after the water has been poured into the grounds and the crust noted, the cupper takes her/his spoon and breaks the crust, stirring 2-3 times. Again, the cupper should keep his/her nose as close to the surface as she/he can.

Using a spoon, the cupper will take a taste of each of the coffees, from all six cups, aspirating strongly for each one, so he/she can experience the full effect of the coffee on the senses. At this stage, the cupper is looking for several things:

Taste: as the coffee cools, different flavor profiles will emerge and decrease. A coffee that tastes decent in the beginning can become a favorite, while an initial favorite can decrease in the passage of time and drop in temperature. Not unlike a novel, no one can really tell if a cup of coffee is really good until it is finished. Rolling each sip over the tongue, allowing it to interact with each tastebud, this stage composes most of the cupping experience.

Mouth-feel: as apposed to taste, mouth-feel speaks to the way the coffee coats the inside of your mouth, the feeling that it leaves after it is swallowed (or spat out in the case of cupping), and the "weight" of the coffee's body.

The coffees were numbered and we quickly discovered that three coffees rose to the fore. Numbers 9 and 10 won out, and for different reasons. Nine had this beautifully keen acidity that sang high notes as it went out, but Ten had the completely coated mouth-feel of an epic Kenyan. A few of the other coffees were notably old, giving them a stale taste that grew as they cooled. Some tasted fine to begin with and slowly aged, others were okay, but not remarkable in any particular way.

As we finished up, George explained that he would roast the coffees again, do another blind cupping of all ten, and based on the results of both, he would place his orders. A complex and lengthy process, but one that results in the best coffee, from the best and most careful farmers.

After the cupping I headed home, three bags of coffee in hand, a better understanding of the current state of Kenyan coffees, and a place and faces to attach to the Terroir I often find in my hand.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Coding and Development

When I was a kid in high school, I taught myself how to design websites using free editors and online tutorials. Eleven years, no classes, and four paying web design jobs later, I'm still cobbling together sites based on the little coding that I know. This summer though, I've decided to develop this enduring interest into something I can call my own.
Yesterday I bought six domains and unlimited web hosting for three purposes:

  1. Two friends and I are starting a web development company to pursue our common interest. We already have several clients: a couple not-for-profits, an individual or two, and two student group websites. We hope to be incorporated by the end of the summer and look forward to the future!
  2. A coffee blog. I love coffee, and between my love of coffee, writing, and web design, we figured we could make something awesome happen.
  3. Personal and family blogs. We're a story-telling family, what can I say?
With these things in mind, I'm spending solid time every day really learning what I'm doing from a design and usability point of view. My coding skills are decent and a good groundwork from which to build everything else. So here is to Lynda.com, Dreamweaver, Wordpress, and a few kind friends who are willing to help me grow!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Woke up in the morning feeling like... a cup of Terrior Kiamabara. I find that I have to alternate between continents to really parse out the nuances of a cup. Well, maybe I don't HAVE to, but it certainly makes it easier and more interesting. At any given time I usually have three different coffees in the house, sometimes as many as seven, but that is usually during finals. and therefore more than understandable. i think.

Anyway, the Kiamabara is a Kenyan from the Nyeri region, in the central highlands. Kenya is known for its high quality wet processing and generally superb coffee. It's a solid Arabica Bourbon of the SL 28 and SL 34 cultivars, beautiful to behold and intoxicating ground. During a particularly rough week last semester, I ground this beauty up and had it in a small glass jar next to my work station and in class so I could keep the aroma around... just lovely.

The usual Hario cone (I use it often, but also particularly for high altitude coffees because the high, bright fruit and flower notes don't benefit from coffee filings ala French press or gold filter Melitta) brought out the rich blackberries and currants. The fruit lacing mellowed as the cup cooled, but still remained as strong as blueberries to the last drop. Honestly, the only other cup I've had that had more fruit than this one (and it was an absurd amount of fruit... like fruit punch w/caffeine and blackness) was Great Barrington's Ethiopian Nekisse. Remarkable, but also a solid representative of Kenya, wet processing, and the Nyeri region.

I sipped the majority of it in a travel mug while waiting for the 86 bus in Harvard Square and reading The Four-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. It was all the better for the setting :)

Rethinking Time and Actions

Probably stemming from my English-major mother of ten, I love reading books that help you focus your time and energies in better ways. Here's a few that I've really enjoyed, two very recently:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Sure, its old and the title sounds like you're desperate and/or a hypnotist, but this books has so many wonderful little ideas for maintain a better outlook on interpersonal interactions. So many of the little things in conversations, in meeting someone for the first time, in correcting someone gently get lost in our "must please everyone all the time or else my ratings will go down" world. There is so much value to be had in the space between Bitch and Pushover but we forget about it all the time. This book gives comprehensive advice for becoming a better friend and communicator, not through being fake, but through noticing the little things.
How can you lose with these as your roadmap:
1) become genuinely interested in other people,
2) smile,
3) remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language,
4) be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves,
5) talk in terms of the other person's interests,
6) make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
I still keep these in my head and work on them... they just make me a better person.

2. The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
A dear friend and mentor once told me that life can be divided into four boxes: the urgent important, the urgent unimportant, the not urgent important, and the not urgent unimportant. Tim has this down to a science. His mantra is DEAL. That is,
Definition: define what is important, what your goals are, and how what you're doing helps you in achieving those goals.
Elimination: get rid of everything that doesn't help in the achievement of those goals, including wasted time in the unimportant.
Automation: put everything that doesn't require intelligence on autopilot or delegate/outsource the details that you can. (I think he takes this one a bit far, but the lesson is still there)
Liberation: frees you to do the things you want to do.

I'm not done with the book, so I'll have to give you an update when I do, but so far it has blown my mind with its super de-stressing approach to "time-management." Tim makes the point that it is not so much that we have too many things to do, but that we let distractions, poor thinking, and indiscriminate action take up all our time. Little things like checking your email only twice a day, essentially screening calls, and forcing people to interact with you in a succinct and precise manner can make all the difference.

3. Guerrilla Networking by Jay Levinson and Monroe Mann
The first two books were, while practically oriented, more focused on the theory behind the practice. Guerrilla Networking has a mere twenty-five pages of "theory" and the rest of the book is solid, practical examples of how to implement and focus your efforts in their re-thought model. Having been to many "traditional" networking events, both in undergrad and grad school, I must say that their approach makes all kinds of sense.
Levinson and Mann note that the people you want to meet are already meet-able. What you need to work on is making yourself stand out to those you want to meet. Often people constrict themselves to a traditional mode of application and interview, hoping that they will be able to distinguish themselves via their single sheet of paper and twenty minutes. Guerrilla Networking throws this approach on its head. You make the meeting times and places, you contact the people you want to work for, you make yourself the one that they want to me. It's an interesting concept and one with a lot of value.
What this approach does is change you from the passive to the active mode. It fosters your creativity and instills energy in the process. It makes you more of an independent contractor, rather than a cog in the system.

All three of these books are well worth the read. Foster creativity, free yourself from the routines that just develop rather than the ones you choose, and remember that everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time, even those giants you want to work for.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

El Vergel

Terroir Coffee has done it again in their Guatemala offering: El Vergel sweeps the senses.

I picked up this coffee at Crema in Harvard Square, just a few days off the roaster and brewed a cup via the Hario cone method (cloth filter/H2O just below boiling) the next morning.
The first sip was like chocolate and nuts, but somehow just their pure flavors because none of the weight was there. Certainly El Vergel is full bodied, but in the same way that a Belgian quadrupel is full bodied: light, high, keen, razor-sharp. A sort of sweet acidity, boarding on the piquant lifted the dark chocolate, hazelnuts, and almonds to a sort of ethereal level.

As the coffee cooled, the nutty chocolate flavor moved out of the candy-like realm to a bright berry/citrus, only further accented by the Hario cone brew method. Pure delight. Angel food cake.

Highly recommend this one, from the Patsun region of Guatemala. Bourbon varietal (does this varietal know no bounds? it just keeps on delivering) grown at the impossible height of 6100' as @GeorgeHowell tells me. I am looking forward to learning more about the farm where this beauty hails as home.


Writing and Habit

Hello Friends, (aka, those brave souls who may still have me on their Google Reader)

Here's a bit of a catch up.

So, I finished 1L year:
  • It took vasty amounts of time, even more than that summer I worked 80 hours a week as a barista and coffee wholesaler and was a full time student at the same time, but it was totally worth it.
  • I learned to write in ways I didn't know were possible and loved the process, even though it knocked me down and repeatedly ran over me with a Hummer. Out of two sets of first drafts I set the bottom of the curve. Out of two sets of final drafts I set the top. Here's to learning and not grades right?
  • I made friends all over the place. Seriously, law school is like a concentration of diversity and awesomeness.
  • I'm stoked for the opportunities that law can open up. Going through the 2011 Summer Job Apps for firms in the Pacific Northwest has opened my eyes to the wide variety of amazing things a law degreed person can do. Stay tuned for updates.
That whole writing experience of 1L year (by far harder than finals) taught me that I love writing and will never give it up. What I'm good at though is letting things slide and be forgotten.
  • Like yoga.
  • Like pilates.
  • Like my running schedule.
  • Like taking my vitamins and drinking enough water.
  • Like reading instead of bouncing from link to link online.
  • Like really learning CSS and HTML5.
  • Like writing daily. fiction. articles. dreams. ideas. posts.
  • Like maintaining a conscious breath instead of letting the whims of the urgent unimportant rule.
  • Like meeting with friends.
  • Like responding to my pen pals.
habitus overtake me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Every Morning

Do you want to know how I wake up every morning?

What dreams I remember are wild, wooly adventures in a hyper-reality where I can fly, teleport, communicate with multiple people at the same time and understand things as they are in themselves. That accounts for the first two minutes, approximately of the song above.

Having been all sorts of fantastic things, met hoards of fabulous people, and wandered all over the mossy dream world (always mossy, must be the Seattle child in me) around 1:30 I hear the call of the waking world, the world where dreams can become reality, not just for me, but for every one I meet, every one I love, every rich, unique person in their nearly infinite complexity. It's sobering really, but certainly, deeply exciting.

About 2:30 I began to shift to awakeness. The sun is dawning on a world entirely new, a world that didn't have to be there for me to wake to. The earth spins, letting the sun dance up the sky, lighting up the rushing waves as they too hurry to greet us.

Breathe in my friends, Aure Entuluva! Day has come again! Become one with and yet a member of the Great Dance, the Dance we've been a part of from the beginning, not merely because of who we are, but because of the gifts we've been given.

Dance through your day with your brothers, sisters, friends.

Live. Love. Dream.

Day has come again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Usual Day

I wake at 6am nearly every day. When I'm caught up on sleep I'm an awesome morning person and get mountains of work/exercise/life done in the wee dark hours when the newspaper persons beat the streets. When I'm not caught up on sleep I kinda sit in the dark and think about being awake. Usually I'll be alive enough to brew a pot of tea/cup of coffee and make some oatmeal. Class starts at either 8:30am (MW) or 10am (TRF) and it takes between 20 and 60 minutes to get to school via school shuttles. While I have a car I hate it (well not it, just the idea of it and using it. it's a pretty cute beastie all told and has seen us all over the USA: Yosemite, Glacier, Chicago, Death Valley, NY...) and never use it unless what we're getting is too heavy or impossible to get to via public transportation... or cycle.

Anyway, I wander off to school glorying in the noises of the city or in the pulsing, throbbing life-that-is-trance in my Skullcandy. Coffee in hand. I've realized that the coffee is very important. I don't need the caffeine; I've tested that theory and have proved that I'm good and awake without it. I need it because it tastes sooo good. It's like my insta-break mid-conversation, drift-off catcher in class, and connection to living things that grow and aren't cement/frozen/gray. I imagine the hills where the coffee is from, the certainly-poor-but-not-really-worse-off-because-they-live-in-green-hills coffee farmers, the journey of the bean, the roastmaster who realizes the potential lying within the bean, and my careful selection and preparation of the end product. Ah. Richness. Bliss. Coffee.

It's good to ride public transportation because you get to talk with other people and make friends... you know, be a social being. Much better than flipping off the honker you just cut off, Dirty Harry raging in your head (You think you're lucky? Well do ya, punk?"). It's fun to take an open mug and ride the wave too. Reminds me of the ocean. I need that.

Anyway, arriving at school the grind of the day begins. The only way I get anything done is by catching it with a net as it passes through my consciousness and writing it down, physically, pen & paper style. No list, nothing gets done, primarily because I believe there is nothing to do. If it wasn't on my list/calendar it doesn't exist. (This is kind of true in a very real sense too. but I won't bore you with that.) So I look at my schedule, the various bitty notes along the side, the homework assignments, the meetings, the classes, the errands: and I jump on the treadmill.

Honestly, I love it. Ideas, applications, intellectual challenge, the vast conversation of understanding going on between me, the professor, my texts, my classmates, and history never ceases to amaze me. I've felt the world change, seen the visual overlay shift just from understanding. Learn, learn, learn all you can. Never stop. Don't learn for your job, for your career, for the letters after your name, because you can't think of anything else to do... learn because it shapes your world, who you are, and what you become in supremely profound ways. Down to the reality you experience.

Around 3:30 (MTW) or 12:30 (RF) classes and meetings are usually done and it's time for homework. Loads of it. It never ends. If I don't have any then I need another list.

Sometimes I'll head the library, other times I'll head home. Both are great places to study but have varying levels of distraction. I think wifeys and good friends are inherently distracting. But that is a good thing.

Three things I've noticed that would really make me feel better about life in general (which is hard to do because life is pretty freaking amazing):

1) Sleep such that I can run/yoga/exercise in the am. I can do it. I have done it. It would be good for me and everyone around me would cease hearing me bitch, therefore it would be good for them.

2) During that late afternoon/evening study time I should head to a cafe once a week, to spice things up, see different places, and read in transit. Mmm need to remember that. Reading in transit is important.

3) Make solid space in the evening for relaxing w/my Love. Often just leaving it "open" makes it seem disposable and therefore overlooked... homework runs into the evening, we'll veg when we don't really need to and could be doing something more interactive... hm. That one warrants more thought.

How do your days run? What ideas do you have that could enrich the flow?


Monday, January 25, 2010


I've a really good feeling about this year:

1) marriage is awesome, continually challenging us (me in particular... the Wife seems to get it all before I do) to reach new heights of self-appropriation, friendship, and self-giving. A sort of microcosm of the universe in that sense. We had several solid opportunities over break to think/talk about how we hope this year to turn out and fit into the overall goals of our lives... and it's exciting! Yay for love!

2) i'm slowly acclimatizing to school, realizing that it is indeed something that I want to do and care passionately about. I think I'll always be a philosopher at heart and always bring theory into practice, but it's nice to practice too. So many of the underpinnings of our societal ills are legal... anyway, that is for another post.

3) one of my favorite persons in the world moved in with us, which makes every day a party! So good to have a mini-community right in our place... community just becomes more and more important w/every passing week.

4) as some of you who read the Wife's blog may have heard, we're planning on adopting and pursuing that glorious possibility.

So, here's to the new year and it's infinite possibility! Since bucket lists are fun to read, here's a few (some carry overs as well) things that I hope to accomplish this year:

  • A blog post a week for three reasons: non-academic writing... so I don't lose it all; non-academic thought... so I don't lose that either; and developing the awesome online community I've slowing been realizing the potential of.
  • Half Marathon sub 1:15. My last half was precisely 1:40, so it's ambitious, but I didn't train for that last half either, so I'm hopeful.
  • Depending on the one above: Full Marathon sub 3 hours. Qualifying for the Boston before I leave would be awesome.
  • A summer Century. I found cycling balanced out my running perfectly, and when I move back to the West Coast I don't want to be too out of shape for the mountains. Also, rumors of doing the Laramie Enduro this summer...
  • Keep a journal. I often feel I let things slip by in the stream of consciousness that would save me a lot of trouble/time/heartache were I to pay more attention to them. Journaling is a first step.
  • Read non-school books. Sort of along the same lines as blogging, I don't want to "drown in the sweet honey-head of Plato". See?
  • Running/Cycling are fabulous, but I need pilates/yoga to be a really integrated person. Making more of an effort in that arena. Hopefully before my ten-class card at Back Bay Yoga expires. Yes it is good for a year. ;)