Friday, November 30, 2007

Post-Op Day 2

So I survived the first day and night of life after knee surgery. Now begins day two in which I will have to somehow get myself back down the stairs, attend a follow-up appointment with the surgeon which I absolutely dread, come back up the stairs after he does nightmarishly excruciating things to me, and hole up at home for yet another day.

Kerry has improvised a much better setup for me today. I now have a cooler next to the bed in which I can stash my ice pad. It also is stocked with some yogurts, cream sodas, and Naked juices. I have powdered white donuts, potato chips, and puddings arrayed around me (as well as a huge tankard of water) and more easily microwavable foods in the kitchen if I feel like making them. Bless her soul--she is an angel.

Helo has also been a little angel since I have been home. He keeps me constant company on the bed, denying himself the pleasure of tromping around the house with this feather toys destroying things. He cuddles with me and makes sure I don't get lonely.

Aunt Judy is also an angel she brought me a Cafe Mocha yesterday from Starbucks, warmed me up some macaroni and cheese, and set me up with water and things to see me through until Kerry got home. Cara, as well, brought me the cooler and visited with me yesterday while Kerry was away at a meeting with her residents and attending.

I suppose that I shall now continue to read Otherland and watch episodes of Life on NBC online until 9:00--the dreaded hour in which Kerry is going to take me back to the surgeon. *cringes*

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Post-Op Day 1

Yesterday, I had a pinky-sized ossicle and five bone shards removed from my right knee, as well as a giant mound of extra bone mass that had built up on my tibial tuberosity. I had been thinking about having this surgery done for a long time, and decided that I could not wait any longer last Tuesday. I was trying to endure until past the holidays so that my absence wouldn't hit my manager and coworkers so hard, but I couldn't keep biting my lip through my shifts only to come home and (I'll admit it unashamedly) cry all night.

Needless to say, I don't feel much of an improvement yet. I feel exactly like someone ripped my leg open and carved on my knee with a chisel. My nerve blocker has worn off and I am relying on hydrocodone and ketorolac to see me through from here on out. What is bothering me more than my leg right now, though, is a constant stomach and lower back pain.

When your entire leg is in an immobilizer that weighs 5,000 pounds and has to be elevated, there is no way to get very comfortable. I have to lay on my back, which I am not used to, and my butt is so small that all the weight pushes down on my lower spine. I am continually experimenting with new pillow arrangements to alleviate the occasional fits of feverish pain, but so far I have failed in that regard. It certainly doesn't help that I seem to be getting the hiccups every few hours.

What bothers me more than my leg and stomach is my inability to move around. As I mentioned before, this immobilizer is huge and heavy. I have to worm my way around the house on crutches, so I can't carry anything aside from what can fit in my robe pockets. That amounts to my cellphone and maybe a book. If I want to get anything else where I want it, I just have to pitch it. Kerry left me her computer, a stack of DVDs, my book, and some water in an array around the bed, but I still have to get up to use the restroom (which is an interesting ordeal in and of itself) and to fetch the wrap-around ice pack that has to go around my immobilizer every two hours.

I managed to hobble my way into the kitchen this morning to warm up some pizza pasta. Eventually I'll work up the energy to brush my teeth. I may wait on that one until 9:00, because that is when I can take my medicines again and when I have to get my ice-pack again. *sigh* So much work...

So anyway, the door's unlocked if anyone wants to come visit me in the next four weeks...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Taste of the Week

I tend to enjoy things in spurts. I discover or rediscover a taste and run with it wholeheartedly until I become bored with it or discover something else. One week, I'll be all about breve. The next, I'll drink nothing but extra dry nonfat cappuccinos. Some weeks are tea weeks and others are coffee weeks.

Right now, the weather is getting cooler and rainier--gearing up for a typically fitful Arkansas winter. I am trying to endure work as best I can until I get a knee surgery done next Wednesday to remove a bone shard that is lodged in one of my tendons. I've been closing for the past few days and it has been getting dark before sis o'clock. It fits that right now I am all about espresso.

A) It keeps me going.

B) Good espresso shots just taste damn good. They don't need syrup, milk, or water to make them tolerable. When I am in the mood for something hot and stout, those other things just get in the way. I wish more people could appreciate espresso for what it is, but it is hard to unless you can get your hands on a machine and experiment with making shots to your own taste. I don't think espresso is a thing that can come in a generic form. If it did, Starbucks would probably sell a lot more shots. As it is, though, I don't even come close to liking most coffeehouses' espresso.

My favorite shots are pulled slow through course, unpacked grounds. It makes weak shots, but they are flavorful, never bitter, and very, very foamy. It is a good way to find out just what subtle flavors different kinds of beans have locked away above and beyond the caffeinated bitterness. I love the subtle differences...but I love the foam more. I am a foam maniac, and I love it when a shot has enough crema--or cap--that it can nearly pass for a con panna.

I am especially excited right now because procured six new types of beans to experiment with this evening. I'll have to test them all out and find out which ones taste better in Japanese teacups and which ones are more suited for retro espresso mugs.

Friday, November 23, 2007

My pretty ponies.

Today, I was sitting alone in my apartment. Kerry was gone shopping with her mother. I realized I really missed Kerry, so I thought I would dance around in my socks. By socks, I mean underwear. And by mine....I mean Kerry's. So anyway, it was great fun dancing around until I realized that the window was unfortunately....open. It was....cold. And even more unfortunately, I realized that the little Lutheran school across the street was having a special field day. And many cute little boys and girls were standing, staring at me across the fence in horror. So then I closed the window and brewed my Folgers coffee. I brewed Folgers coffee because Starbucks overroasts their beans! And as you know, Folgers is WAY overroasted, so what does that say about Starbucks?

So anyway, as I sat down with my Folgers coffee, I realized I had forgotten to take off Kerry's...uh, my socks. So I decided I would take a nice long bubble bath. With my Folgers coffee. And my laptop, so that I could watch as many episodes of Gilmore Girls that I could before Kerry came home and caught me. I keep them hidden under the bed. I think she thinks they are naughty magazines. But anyway, so I was going to watch Gilmore Girls in the bathtub when I realized that a laptop is electric.

Ouch.

So I decided against that idea, and I decided to watch Gilmore Girls on the big TV. I realized I was cold....because I was still in, uh, my socks...and I had closed the blinds, but not the window. So I grabbed my manly green bathrobe. And by manly, I mean Kerry's. And by green, I mean pink.

And then I realized if I grew my hair out a little bit longer (not much, I'm almost there!), I could fix my hair JUST LIKE Rory does. You know, on Gilmore Girls.

But unfortunately, Kerry just called. I think she might be on her way home. So before she gets here, I am going to eliminate all traces of my manly day off.

I guess by manly, I really mean effeminate.

But that's okay, because Honors taught me to be secure in my masculinity. Or, I should say, my non-genderness.

And lastly, I must admit that I learned a very valuable lesson today.

Never share my blogspot password with my lovable, adorable, intelligent, hysterically funny wife.

And never let her stay at home with her siblings, where they give her brilliant ideas.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Starbucks and Fair Trade

In response to the comments on comments and inquiries by my Going Organic post, I did some poking around into Starbucks's fair trade policies. I have often been skeptical about the company's bean purchasing strategies. It is true that very few of the mainline coffees actually carry the Fair Trade Certified stamp--only six percent according to Cinadiane. So how can Starbucks justify making such a huge deal out of their commitment to the fair trade ideal? I asked my manager.

Her response was that all of Starbucks's coffee beans meet fair trade certification requirements, although most of them are not certified by the Fair Trade Federation. The reason? Many of the small farming areas in which Starbucks purchases its coffee beans are too poor to afford the Federation's registration and licensing fees. I am not familiar with the Federation's policies towards its sellers, but Starbucks reports having spent an average of $1.20 per pound for its whole beans in 2005, which was 23% higher than the average purchasing price. Starbucks reports that this is due to its efforts to pay all farmers fair prices for their beans, not only certified ones. To be fair, Starbucks also claims that all of it's coffee beans are of premium quality. But would that make up such a difference?

Starbucks also sponsors many charitable donations to coffee-growing communities in the form of building schools, clinics, and other such institutions. I won't speculate on how much of this is for PR purposes, but it seems to me that the company does have a genuine interest in sustainable economy. If it is going to keep growing at its current rate, it has to ensure that its suppliers remain interested in supplying coffee beans for a long time to come. At least that is what I would like to think. :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our first real holiday as a married couple is here. As soon as Kerry's broccoli casserole is finished, we'll head to the food...er...house of my parents for a massive meal. We are contributing the aforementioned casserole and, of course, coffee. When I asked my parents what I should bring, they told me to bring a bag of fresh coffee beans and my French press so that we can combine our pressing power and press coffee for the hordes. Come to think about it, perhaps I should drop by my aunt's and steal hers, too.

But now it is time to rush around and get ready. So happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Going Organic?

It doesn't surprise me that Starbucks has begun introducing organic blends into their coffee selection. Organically grown coffees are much more expensive to produce and harder to roast into signature flavors, but coffee-lovers are demanding them anyway. I don't think Starbucks wants a repeat of the 1999 fair trade riots, so the company has been happy to oblige. What surprises me, though, is the direction in Starbucks has taken their organic blends...

Currently, there are only two organic coffees in the main line selection: Serena Organic and Shade Grown Mexico. There is a decaf Shade Grown Mexican coffee, but the decaffeinating methods make them not quite so organic anymore. Neither of these coffees offer anything spectacular as far as flavor--they just make an average but balanced brew. The reason is that these are both washed coffees. Most coffees are washed to create a uniform flavor. Washed means that the cherries are picked, the beans are extracted, and then they are fermented for a short time in massive tanks of water before being dried and roasted. The company has to go to more than a little expense to make the washing process organic. Ergot, the harvesting quality suffers to balance the budget. The end results are two consistent yet unspectacular brews that can be marketed on the mainline at a price comparable with other beans.

But hasn't the organic community demonstrated that they are willing to pay more for organic products? And more importantly, haven't organic consumers collectively expressed that they want their products to have locally unique, surprising, and perhaps even unpredictable qualities? This is one instance where Starbucks needs to forget about its quest for international sameness and heed its third guiding principle: embracing diversity.

Consider Arabian Mocha Sanani--Starbucks's most expensive mainline blend. It is a dry processed coffee, meaning that the cherries are allowed to dry around the beans before they are harvested. It is an expensive harvesting method because harvests per year are lessened by allowing for drying time. But the beans have a chance to absorb the flavors of the cherries, which absorb the flavors of the soil. No washing is required, so the beans can go directly to the roasting plant. The end product is what Starbucks considers its finest whole bean product. No two batches taste exactly the same--they just all taste good. The company can then charge fifty percent again what most other blends cost and people still buy the heck out of it.

I don't understand why Starbucks isn't using dry processing to create better organic blends. Arabian Mocha Sanani is only a hop and a skip away from being an organic coffee. Since there is no washing, all the company would have to do to make it 100% organic is stop using any chemical fertilizer and unnatural irrigation techniques. Yield would drop, but so would expenses. Perhaps it still would not balance out. I'm not studied enough in the fine details. But certainly there are enough organic consumers out there who would rather pay $18 for a pound of really good coffee than $10 for mediocre blends to make such a venture profitable for the company as well as satisfying for its clientèle.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Two Posts in a Day!

It has been a while since this has happened. Two years or so ago, I would not have thought twice about making two posts in one day. Given the pace of my recent activity, though, it seems unprecedented. I feel obligated, though, to inform everyone about my decision to add advertisements to my blog.

A recent email from a good mentor of mine got the gears turning. A properly monetized blog can generate a decent amount of revenue. Many people make a business out of it and make a decent living. Even recreationally, though, blogs can make their owners enough money to spend on the side. And with the price of gas and lattes going up, every little bit helps.

Monetizing personal blogs often earns the authors criticism. It may make the layout look a little less spartan. Some people may find it galling that the page they used to enjoy has sold itself out to make a profit. But most bloggers who have monetized their blogs successfully say that it never affected their traffic in the slightest. It is reasonable to expect people who invest so much creative energy in a project to expect a return.

Granted, I blog for the pleasure of blogging--as do most of my peers. Most of the blogs I read are not monetized. Whether that is for fear of selling out or lack of interest, I don't know. But I'm watching my site hits and page views continue to grow and seeing the potential to generate at least enough clicks to pay for a movie rental every now and then. So why not?

I haven't slapped an annoying flashing banner across the top of my page. Nor have I pushed the links to my loyal peer group's blogs down any further than they used to be. My priorities are still my content and my friends. So I hope nobody is too aggravated. We'll see how it goes. They may be gone in a month. Or if they turn out to be profitable, I may make more blogs. ;)

I do find it interesting to see what google deems appropriate advertising content for my site at any given time...

Fires! (in the fireplace)

Today, Kerry and I played with our very first fire in our apartment's fireplace. I have never had a fireplace before, and it has been a bit of a learning experience. I am used to starting campfires outside from forage--a skill I have refined to a T. That knowledge, though, seems largely irrelevant in a fireplace.

Outside, I can simply wad up a handful of twigs and stack teeny little twigs around it like a tepee. Then I can stack a little bit bigger twigs in another layer and so on and so fort until I have some actual sticks on the structure. Poke in a match and up it goes, a monster waiting to be fed real fire fuel.

There isn't that much room in the fireplace, though. I tried building a small fire underneath the grate and putting the logs on top, but I couldn't get it going to the point of igniting the logs (which are a bit wet, to my credit). I am going to have to refine my technique, because I absolutely refuse to buy igniter logs from Kroger. Nope.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Work Ethic

Many historians I know claim that our nation was built by the protestant work ethic. I know more goes into the early American work ethic than religious identification, but don't shoot me--it's the generic term. The only question I am interested in now is, "Where did it go?"

It seems like laziness in mediocrity is the modus operandi of the American (or at least the Arkansan) workforce. People will shirk duties when they know they can get away with it, spend an inordinate amount of time dawdling between their tasks, drop everything they are doing to shoot the breeze for a few, etc. A ten minute break gets stretched into a fifteen...sandwiched between bathroom breaks...followed by a minute to look over the next day's schedule...after which one may be inclined to lean on something and gripe for a bit...ad infinitum until it is time for lunch. Repeat. As a supervisor, I am finding all of this quite annoying.

But this isn't something that I have only noticed recently. As much as people slack off in the service industry, Honors students were far worse. They skipped classes because they didn't feel like getting out of bed at 10:00 am. They waited until the night before to start on assignments, begged for extensions, and then turned in incomplete products even after those extensions were granted. They took advantage of every opportunity not to read the materials they were getting paid to sit around and read. And finally, most of them didn't even try to meet the minimum requirements for their theses, knowing that the institution would give them all the slack they needed since it had fostered them for so long that it needed them to graduate.

An employee's welfare is dependent on that of the company's...which is dependent on the performance of the employees. The value of a student's education is dependent on the consistent prestige of the institution which awarded it...which is dependent on the high quality of the students' performance. The prosperity of American citizens is dependent on the health of the economy...which is dependent on the productivity and spending habits of the citizens. Why don't people see these connections? Or if they do, how many people do they think can slack off before there aren't enough high achievers to keep the collective network from total collapse? Good gods, this makes me worry sometimes.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Homebody

Kerry and I have a lovely apartment that we pay a not so lovely sum of money to keep up and running. So why, may I ask, should we spend extra time and money to find things to do that keep us out of it? I don't think there is any question, nor has there ever been, about my "going out" tendencies. I just don't. Everything I like to do with my free time I can do right here.

I am not anti-outing, but the outings I like the best are the outings to other people's homes...so I'm not sure that qualifies as going out. I like going to nice restaurants every now and then to enjoy food that isn't worth the time and money to make at home, and I'm not against an occasional movie, but to me home is a paradise. I work hard to keep it decently clean, well-stocked, and relatively orderly so that I can use it, not so that I can dress up fancy every weekend and go spend my money downtown.

I can see the appeal to spending the night on the town, but it makes me nervous. After parking under the bridge or in the Peabody's scary little parking deck, walking through sinister-looking crowds, and then packing myself into a corner in a sexually-charged club or bar, I am a nervous wreck...ready to get back home.

Some may accuse me of being boring or uninteresting. But what is that much less fun about reading at home as opposed to going to a coffeehouse? Swigging freezing cold Guiness out of the fridge instead of paying $4.50 for a lukewarm glass at Willie D's? Smoking it up on the back porch instead of going to the Hookah bar? Or enjoying movies at home with comfortable seating and unlimited Coke and popcorn instead of fighting the crowds of noisy high school students at the Rave?

Maybe I should move out into the middle of the mountains...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

That Nagging Feeling...

I have not been motivated enough as of late when it comes to posting. My apologies for that. A big factor in my lack of motivation is an insane work schedule. The manager at our lovely neighborhood Starbucks decided it was time to move on, as did more than a few of our best baristas. We have been running on a skeleton crew for the past two weeks with all of our partners holding exhausting schedules.

But there is more as well. I feel like somewhere along the line, this blog lost its focus. At first, I thought that I had become to wrapped up in trying to generate incoming traffic. But even after I stopped compulsively checking Google Analytics every day, my posting did not significantly improve. My next thought was that my dictionary format was stifling my creativity. That, as well, has had no effect.

It isn't the frequency of my posts that bothers me as much as their lack of valuable content. Space heaters...what's up with that? I used to take care to lace all of my content, no matter how inane, with at least some grain of worthwhile thought. But I have failed in that aim over time. Part of it may be the fact that I am finally out of the Honors College and am suffering the onset of that condition shared by so many other alumni--that condition that makes them avoid any kind of "Honorsy" conversation like the plague.

But at the same time, I really, really want to write stuff that is actually worth something. I have thought about posting a delayed version of my little pseudo-religious journal that I keep on my nightstand. I have thought about wiping this blog clean and starting fresh with the intent of making every post some kind of thought about making life better. I have thought about abandoning the blogosphere altogether and trying to finally write some publishable fiction.

So what exactly I will do is still up in the air, but now at least you are informed, dear reader. Kthxbye. :)