Monday, May 30, 2011

A Different Type of Brew

Today is Memorial Day which is a great day to kick back and relax with a nice cold beer. However, today's post is about a brew of a different type. I drink a good bit of coffee. I enjoy both the regular stuff and the coffee-based drinks that were invented in the cafés of Europe and made famous here in America by Starbucks and the like. My particular guilty coffee pleasure is the café mocha, but I have tried many of the other crazy drinks flavored with caramel, white chocolate, peppermint, and even pumpkin. I also enjoy hanging out in the local coffee shop and taking advantage of their free wireless Internet connection.

Last year, my mother gave me a Keurig coffee machine (a.k.a. K-cup machine) as a Christmas present. My sister and her husband have had a K-cup machine for awhile. They enjoy it, so they gave my mother and stepfather one as a present a couple of years ago. My mother and stepfather have found their machine to be convenient. I also learned to appreciate the machines during my visits to my sister's and mother's houses, so I was glad to receive a machine myself for Christmas. My machine is a Keurig Elite Brewer. Despite being "Elite", it is one of the simpler brewers that the company offers.

As much as I am not an expert on the different types of beer, I am even more of a neophyte in regards to the different varieties of coffee. I am working on my knowledge of beer, and the K-cup machine will help in regards to my coffee education. There are quite a few different brands of coffee available in K-cups with the list continuing to expand. Of course, each brand offers multiple different varieties. It seems that everybody has their particular favorite variety. My stepfather likes the Green Mountain Nantucket Blend. He and my mother also had most of a box of Caribou Daybreak Morning Blend K-cups. Since neither of them care for that brew, they gave the rest of the box to me along with my brewer. I liked both the Nantucket and Daybreak brews. My sister and brother-in-law prefer Newman's Special Blend Extra Bold which they buy in bulk from their local Costco.

The K-cup brewer came with a sampler pack of K-cups. I do not remember all of the varieties included in the sampler pack, but it included decaffeinated coffee, Half Caff, and even some tea. After finishing off the sampler pack and the leftover box of Caribou Daybreak, I bought a box of Green Mountain Breakfast Blend K-cups at the grocery store. I later decided to buy a few K-cup boxes from Green Mountain's webpage (Keurig is subsidiary of Green Mountain Coffee). My first purchase included Caribou Colombia, Diedrich Coffee Sumatra, Timothy's Coffee Kona Blend, and Millstone Breakfast Blend. I just noticed that Millstone and Diedrich Coffee products are no longer offered on Green Mountain's site. Also, the Sumatra is not offered on Diedrich Coffee's webpage, and the Timothy's Kona is no longer being produced.

I recently ordered a second round of K-cups from Green Mountain. This order included Timothy's Coffee Breakfast Blend, Tully's Coffee Breakfast Blend, Donut House, and a flavored variety pack from Gloria Jean's Coffees. The variety pack included French Vanilla Supreme, Swiss Chocolate Almond, Butter Toffee, and Mudslide flavors. Surprisingly, my favorite of the four is the vanilla with the chocolate almond being a strong second. I think vanilla is a great flavor complement (as opposed to compliment) to coffee. I do not care for the butter toffee which has a really buttery taste. I do not find that buttery taste goes well with coffee. For me, it is just not a pleasant combination. I also do not find the mudslide flavor to have a very good taste.

I have a friend who puts cinnamon in her coffee which I have also found to be interesting. Perhaps with my next order, I should try Donut House Cinnamon Roll or Timothy's Coffee Cinnamon Pastry.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: Myra Breckinridge

Myra BreckinridgeMyra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have read many of Gore Vidal's historical fiction novels including Creation, Julian, and most of his Narratives of Empire series. I am aware of his sexual orientation, and while many of his historical fiction novels include sexual, particularly homosexual, themes and undertones, it is usually not an overt focus. I do not find the subject distasteful. In fact, I find that the sexual undertones add an additional layer of complexity to his novels.

However, I have avoided Vidal's books where the topic is more blatantly sexual such as The City and the Pillar: A Novel, one of his first novels. The previews that I read about Myra Breckinridge indicated that the theme was somewhat sexual in nature without being homosexual. I suppose that is sort of the case. The story has a few big twists. I did not find the biggest twist particularly surprising, but I am not sure it was suppose to be surprising. I found the book to be quite bizarre which I think was intended. There is one chapter that is very distributing and particularly painful to read. Even with the predictable twist and the painful section, I found the book to be interesting and even mildly entertaining.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011


When I am at a bar or restaurant or otherwise out and about, I find myself sending text messages to my email account. Usually, these texts are about an interesting new beer that I am drinking and that needs to be added to my Beer List. I have also sent myself messages with books or authors that I think might be interesting or a perhaps a movie that somebody recommended to me. I have also sent myself and friends texts with lines that I said or overheard somebody else say that I thought was humorous or otherwise interesting ("I've got a WMD in my BVDs"). I have also sent myself texts with ideas for post on this site. My new phone makes sending texts much easier, so a couple of times I have send myself most of the wording for a post. I typed a good portion of this post from last week on my phone.

Along this vein, I have decided to take the plunge and start a Twitter account. You can see the Twitter gadget that is linked to my account in the right-hand column. In keeping with my super interesting personality, my first tweet was simply "<null>." Similar to the legion of imaginary reader of this site, I do not expect my Twitter account to have very many, if any, followers. I also do not plan on following the Twitter feeds of anybody else. Like this site, my Twitter account is solely for my own purposes. Follow at your own risk (or boredom). You have been duly warned.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human IntelligenceThe Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being 30-some odd years behind the times, I recently finished reading The Dragons of Eden which was written by the famous author and scientist, Carl Sagan, and was originally published in 1977. As the full title attests, the topic is the evolutionary development of the human brain. As is to be expected, the technological references in the book are hopelessly dated, and I can safely assume that the scientific information is dated as well. I would have been very interested in a new edition with updated information, but unfortunately, Sagan died in 1996. Perhaps I will find a newer book on the topic of human intelligence.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten

This is one of those posts where I came up with the title before writing anything. The title seems to be a little morbid to me now. It reminds me of those stickers that you see nowadays in the rear windows of cars that say "in memory of" so-and-so. I find those window stickers to be annoying, but not as annoying as the decals of family members in stick figure form. Except that I do not find the stick figure stickers to be annoying when they are on minivans. I find the ones on minivans to be sad because they are on minivans which are just sad in general.

This post is kind of like those "in memory" window stickers. However, this is not in memory of a person but of a website that has left us to move on to that old bit-recycler in the sky. I found out the other day that El taken down her personal blog site. For this site, it means that all of the links to her site are now broken. It seems that most of those links were for posts about various bits of conversations between her and me that she thought were moderately entertaining at the time. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I am able to resurrect one of those conversations below. (FYI, "Me" is El, and "Jim" is me.)

Me: It’s <not sure what we were talking about prior> typical that we feel that way, I am usually a glass half full type and you’re a glass half empty type. Maybe that’s why we get along so well, the balance. Although I wouldn’t define us exactly like that…

Jim: Yes, I’m an engineer– the glass was spec’ed twice as big as it needs to be.

Me: And I’m me… if you hold the glass up to a sunbeam it’s full of rainbows!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Chinese Joke American Style

I thought I would submit a quick post before I head out of town for the weekend for Mother's Day. This week I had lunch with a bunch of guys including a couple of men from China. The discussion turned to how the country of China is incredibly large. There are many different types of terrains and climates. The Chinese people also vary between the different areas of the country with each group having its own distinct culture. Cuisines vary across the country, and instead of a single Chinese language, Chinese is actually several dialects which are not necessary mutually intelligible.

One of the two Chinese men told us a joke to illustrate the differences among Chinese people. I think it is a great joke, but since repeating a joke about Chinese people seems a bit inappropriate, I figure I could modify the joke to apply it to American people. To decode my Americanize version back to the original Chinese version, simply change the American from Washington to a politician from northern China, perhaps around the national capital of Beijing. The New Yorker would instead be from eastern China such as from Shanghai. The Cajun from Louisiana would be from southern China perhaps from Hong Kong. The western area of China does not factor into the joke. Western China is most rural and is not as densely populated as the other areas. Anyway, here is my version of the joke.

Three guys are driving down the road. The first man is a politician from Washington, DC, the second is a businessman from New York City, and the third is a Cajun from Louisiana. As they're driving along, a strange flying object crashes into a field next to the road. They stop to check out the accident, and they discover a dead alien which had been flung from the wreckage. They look at each other and try to decide what to do with their amazing find. The politician from DC wants to put the body in a museum and invite everybody to come and see what the three of them found. The businessman from New York thinks the alien would be worth millions. He suggests they sell the body and split the profits. The Cajun says "I wonder how it tastes. Let's eat it!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Like Bruce Willis

This little anecdote can be filed under old habits. I went to the store today. Because I needed to pick up some toilet paper, I headed down the aisle for paper products. I passed the plastic bags of various sizes and rolls of aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Out of the corner of my eye, I see cupcake wrappers. For those of my imaginary readers who may not know, my ex-girlfriend, El, bakes gourmet cupcakes in her spare time. (I see that she has now expanded her empire to facebook and twitter.) As I passed by those shelves, I had the fleeting thought that El is probably running low on cupcake wrappers, so I should pick some up for her. It was a eerie déjà vu-like feeling.