Going to Work

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.

Toni Morrison
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Michael Ventura – Letters at 3am

Pacifica Radio has archived many, but not all of Michael Ventura’s “Letters at 3am” columns at: https://www.pacificaradioarchives.org/keyword-search?search_api_views_fulltext=Michael%20Ventura.

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8&Roast: Sunflower espresso blend

8&Roast is a local (Nashville) coffee roaster. They have a number of seasonal and year-round blends and single origin varietals. Sunflower is year round, but the blend changes. The current blend is 50% pulped natural from Brazil, 25% washed from Guatemala, and 25% natural Ethiopia. From their customer contact, “This changes seasonally, but we always have a natural from Brazil or Ethiopia (or both) in this blend. In the near future, we’ll move to a 50% natural Brazil, 25% washed Guatemala, and 25% washed Costa Rica that is really fruity and sweet and will bring the same vibe to the espresso.”

To my taste this is a dark medium in the Italian style with a hint of the crushed ivy smell. It’s not as strong as most other Italian espressos, but stronger than Lavazza.

Natural (dried with the coffee cherry on it) coffee does not agree with me. Usually it’s my GI tract that complains. This made both my wife and I have terrible brain fog. I will give this away or throw it away.

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Review: “Monstrous Regiment” by Terry Pratchett

“Monstrous Regiment” is a Discworld novel. The protagonist, Polly, is the bar maid in her family’s inn. In her country, only men can inherit. With her brother off to war, the family inn will pass to a distant relative if her aging father dies. To find her brother, she cuts her hair short, dons her brother’s clothes, and goes off to join the military. A vampire, a troll, and an Igor soon join the recruiting party along with three young lads. These are the last able bodied men in the country. They are joining a losing war against most of their neighboring countries. Official announcements don’t say that. They along with their recruiters and the training teams are being sent to the front. The provisions man has a hook for one hand and two wooden legs. The uniforms and weapons are old, worn, and frequently blood stained.

Many of Terry’s themes are here. Headology (zig when everyone else zags) is all through this story. The mentor-talented mentee relationship (think Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching) is here. Plot twists are here aplenty, all inventive, none gratuitous, or deux ex machina. There is an odd god or two.

The other three lads are indistinguishable at first. As their back stories emerge, they become distinct individuals with talents to move the plot forward.

The story behind the story is women confronting mens’ stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination against women. Terry’s wife is co-listed on the copyright. She kept him aware. There appear to be others.

In 1990, Terry and Neil Gaiman co-wrote “Good Omens”. It is not obvious to me which sections were written by who. Hidden identity was not a theme in Terry’s writing at the time. It was and is a frequent theme in Neil’s stories, including characters who don’t know that they are not who they think they are. “Monstrous Regiment” was written in 2002. Hidden identities is all through this book, though no identity hidden from the characters themselves.

There are a few characters from other Discworld novels. Trolls, vampires, and Igors are frequent characters, just not these individuals. Samuel Vimes from the Night Guards plays a key role. Death makes a cameo appearance. William de Worde, reporter for the Anhk-Moorpork Times, appears here and in several Discworld novels and so does his photographer, another vampire.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Monstrous Regiment” a second time. I stayed up past midnight several times to read it.

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Too Freshly Ground

Two weeks ago I bought a bag of Starbucks Espresso Roast. The Best By date was over 6 months in the future. It tasted lousy. I set it aside and bought another with Best By date 5 months in the future (November 2023). It was fabulous. Somewhere I read a blog post about roasting coffee and to let it rest for two weeks before using. That previous bag that was so awful has now been resting for two weeks. I made a latte with it today and it was much better, about average for Starbucks Espresso Roast.

I am also going back to Starbucks and buy a bag or two of the November Best By batch.

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Vanilla extract in coffee

Most coffee shops have vanilla syrup. They are often full of preservatives and artificial flavors. At home we use vanilla extract instead. We’ve found it best to put it in the milk before steaming. This evaporates most of the alcohol which tastes harsh if there is very much.

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Lavazza: Espresso Italiano

This is nice coffee, but mild. It is sweet like the Mean Mug beans but not as strong and not as distinct tasting notes. This is the first beans I’ve encountered that is visibly a blend, not all beans are roasted the same darkness. The Mean Mug is only three kinds of beans. This probably has more. The bag describes it as “Aromatic and Velvety” and Intensity 5/10. I am unclear whether that is how dark a roast or some other measure. The bag indicates it is “ideal for” Mr. Coffee style coffee makers, what appears to be a Neapolitan coffee maker, French Press, and espresso machines.

My wife and I both prefer stronger coffee than this. I can’t add more coffee in espresso drinks unless I go to a double shot and a single shot. Too much work. With brewed coffee and cold brew, I can easily add more coffee, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. This isn’t bad coffee. I won’t be throwing it away. Just not our favorite. Like Mean Mug, it may be best as cold brew.

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Mean Mug: Espresso

Mean Mug is four coffeehouses and a coffee roaster in Chattanooga TN. Publix in Nashville carries the espresso beans on an end cap of Tennessee products. My bag listed Brazil, Guatemala, and Tanzania beans. The cupping notes I remember are: cacao nibs and lemon-lime. We can smell and taste the lemon-lime. Almost all coffee tasting notes mention chocolate in some form. Their Website lists different countries and cupping notes for the current bags. They have a half dozen coffee beans for drip coffee on their Website. Espresso is the only beans I have seen in Nashville.

This is a medium roast Italian style espresso blend. It is the sweetest and has the most depth of flavor of any beans yet. There is no bitterness. My wife normally adds 1/4 tsp of light brown sugar to her espresso drinks. She doesn’t add any sugar to these. However, it is also the mildest (least bold, meaning least dissolved coffee solids). My solution is to cut the milk to a cortado (equal amounts of espresso and milk). For drip and cold brew, I increase the amount of beans and also cut the milk. It makes good drip and cold brew as well as espresso.

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“Age of Uncurable Disease” published

Texas Poetry Assignment has published my poem in the category of Texas Age.

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“A Week of Shootings” published

Topical Poetry has published my poem about a week’s worth of shootings of people who made innocent, but fatal mistakes. This past week has been worse. Several mass shootings of people whose mistake seems to be only being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Bongo: Mystic Dark

Bongo Java is a local (Nashville TN) coffee roaster. I first encountered it at the Green Hills Whole Foods as brewed coffee. I pumped out a half cup and it ran out. The other coffee was Allegro’s Café La Dueña. Mixed, they were very good. So next time I was ready to try something new, I bought a bag at my local Kroger. They have a separate section devoted to local roasters. (I’ve tried Café La Dueña before and don’t care for it.)

As espresso, Mystic Dark is similar to Illy Classico, Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso, and Stumptown Hair Bender. They all are medium roasts, taste milder than Starbucks’ Espresso and Italian Roast (dark and darker roasts), and have a vegetal undertone (like green bell peppers or occasionally celery). I am beginning to think I should cut the amount of (non-diary) milk. I find that I prefer this over Starbucks Espresso Roast in the afternoon. Mornings vary with the mood I’m in (or the “phase of the moons of Saturn“).

As brewed coffee, it is similar but even milder. I will try adding more coffee, less milk, and/or grinding it finer.

It works well either way. So far all of the coffees mentioned above are this way.

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