#CoffeeTalk

Some thoughts on coffee…

Coffee.  So much is in a word.  The way it punctuates the day. The way it can act as both an invitation to social interaction, and a buffer against it. Its fascinating and varied history. How it has become one of the most ubiquitous, conspicuous consumption items of choice for middle class Americans.  Its ability to give people a sense of personal identity (Triple non-fat dry cappuccino anyone?!)

We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup…You don’t even really need a place. But you feel like you’re doing something. That is what coffee is. And that is one of the geniuses of the new coffee culture. – Jerry Seinfeld

I write this while sitting among the caffeinated masses in a popular local spot.  Everyone here who’s not chatting loudly about their drunken escapades from the previous night is immersed in their laptops and earbuds with looks of concentration (such that I also probably have right now) that would give the impression that one is writing the next great American novel, or at the very least curing cancer.  When in reality, we’re all just working on crafting the perfect Instagram caption and/or trying to devise a witty hashtag.

#Coffeeshopshaveawayofimbuingimportancetoeventhemostuninportantofactions.

Office civilization could not be feasible without the hard take-offs and landings effected by coffee and alcohol.” – Alain de Botton

My day is punctuated by when I am having, have had, or will have coffee. It is my time stamp, and one of the key indicators that time is indeed moving along. Take my most typical day for example: Coffee upon waking up (7am). Coffee when I get to work (9am).  Pre-lunch coffee (11am), Post-lunch coffee (2pm). Occasional bank lobby coffee (5pm), post dinner coffee (8pm). It’s how I know whether I’m coming or going.

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” – Dave Barry

The Viennese coffee culture has existed for centuries, but until Starbucks made headway in the American suburbs, the idea of “going for coffee” was a primarily urban, city dweller activity. Before Starbucks became ubiquitous, coffee for most people meant a black, watery substance that served as a vehicle for a morning pick-me-up.  Taste, quality, and variety were certainly not a concern.  Now, soccer moms and yuppies alike partake in double espresso macchiatos and dry cappuccinos.  However, the elevation to the mainstream that Starbucks has allowed for in American coffee culture has only created a backlash of sorts among the original, pre-populist, coffee aficionados.  Thus the rise of the “non corporate” coffee culture. It is antithesis of and reaction to the demystification of coffee perpetrated on the populace by a green and white Siren.

“Just the other day, I was in my neighborhood Starbucks, waiting for the post office to open. I was enjoying a chocolatey cafe mocha when it occurred to me that to drink a mocha is to gulp down the entire history of the New World. From the Spanish exportation of Aztec cacao, and the Dutch invention of the chemical process for making cocoa, on down to the capitalist empire of Hershey, PA, and the lifestyle marketing of Seattle’s Starbucks, the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.” – Sarah Vowell

Have you ever noticed that every TV talk show has coffee cups present? It doesn’t matter what time of day it is. I’ve always wondered whether it’s actually coffee that is in there, or something else.  But then again, what’s the point of using a coffee mug if you’re just going to put water or juice in it?  Why not just a plain glass? Perhaps the coffee mug elicits more candid responses from talk show guests…getting back to that whole idea of coffee-as-social-lubricant, thing.

“Do you know how helpless you feel if you have a full cup of coffee in your hand and you start to sneeze? ” – Jean Kerr

Why does my bank want me to have coffee?  I see the free coffee stand to my right and think, “I know it’s 5pm and I’m heading home, but then again, this may take a while…The struggle is real.

Perhaps the bank coffee is a primer, a subliminal message of sorts, that coffee and banking go hand in hand.  It would make sense, since every bank commercial seems to feature coffee as an essential part of the “at home banking” process: a cozy atmosphere (perfectly fitting), comfortable clothes, laptop – all of the accoutrement one needs. The actors in the commercials are poised for banking success. Achievement with a capital “A” is imminent. Coffee, no doubt, has played a key role in this. The subtlety is not lost on me. And yet, I still pour myself a quick cup, adding to my already caffeine addled brain, and fill out my deposit slips.

The Importance of Sundays

“The secular pleasure of Sunday morning isn’t simply one of relaxation and freedom; it’s also linked to a feeling (which might not always be very explicit) that one has the opportunity to reengage with the wider horizons of one’s life.”

The above quote from The Book of Life site is a poignant reminder of why Sundays often have a feeling of secular sacredness, and why doing anything other than what we wish to choose on that day, more than any other day, feels like such a violation of that which is and should be wholly ours. Continue reading “The Importance of Sundays”

Thoughts in a park.

Hypothesis:

The opportunities for observation that present themselves to us during our various moments of idleness throughout the day (waiting in traffic, in line at the grocery store, for the water to boil), are often squandered by immediately turning to our devices for the latest digital updates.  We are a culture averse to idleness and simply observing the world us.  As soon as the world stops requiring anything of us, we immediately move from the real to the digital.  By doing this, we fail to see the world as it is.  Waiting in an idle state is the perfect opportunity for this. Continue reading “Thoughts in a park.”

What I learned from leaving Facebook.

I have not been on Facebook now since December 2015. I wrote about the reasons why I was leaving it in an earlier post. I would say there are both upsides and downsides to not having Facebook. However, the good far outweighs the bad.

Here are some general observations since leaving the site: Continue reading “What I learned from leaving Facebook.”

Allowing Boredom in Our Lives

Boredom has a long cultural history and an adaptive function in human life — it serves a vital creative purpose and protects us by helping us tolerate open-endedness; in childhood, it becomes the wellspring of imaginative play. And yet we live in a culture that seems obsessed with eradicating boredom, as if it were Ebola or global poverty, and replacing it with a peculiar modern form of active idleness oozing from our glowing screens.

The above quote by Maria Popova comes from a post she wrote about Kierkegaard’s writings on boredom, and gets at the crux of the matter for what seems to be one ailment of the modern condition of western civilization.

She coins a term called “active idleness” that is quite fitting to the situation. We are more disconnected from nature than ever before, and ironically, more disconnected from ourselves and one another. We stare at screens all day with the hope of connecting. Meanwhile, there are those all around us, in the flesh, that we choose not to connect with given the opportunity.   Continue reading “Allowing Boredom in Our Lives”

Making Sense of Memories

We are our memory,
we are that chimerical museum of shifting shapes,
that pile of broken mirrors.

(verse from Jorge Luis Borges’s 1969 poem “Cambridge”)

It’s interesting how as time goes on, memories tend to coalesce around a specific narrative. Events come and go, and yet one’s mind eventually settles around an internally agreed truth of what “is” and “isn’t”. Continue reading “Making Sense of Memories”

30 Days of Writing Complete. What now?!

It’s been a number of days now since I’ve written anything. Having completed the 30 for 30 Challenge, I’ve taken a physical (but hardly mental) break from writing to clear my head and see where I want to take things next.

In the meantime, I have been reading and listening a lot to Jeff Goins.  Jeff is an entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping other people find their writing voice, and teaching what it takes to build a platform and audience. I discovered Jeff’s work in the midst of my writing challenge, and probably would have approached things differently had I encountered his advice first.

Here is some of what I’ve learned, and what i hope to apply to this blog going forward. Continue reading “30 Days of Writing Complete. What now?!”

Themes for Longform Writers

 

Does anyone have experience using any of these themes? I am particularly interested in their functionality and how conducive they are for long form writing. Decisions, decisions!!

WordPress.com News

Many of the themes in our Theme Showcase are great for writing and reading longer articles and stories, from our classic default themes — including Twenty Fourteen and Twenty Twelve — to popular personal blogging themes like Ryu and Manifest

Last week, we shared ten of our favorite longreads across WordPress, and we hope you’ve taken some time to sit back and savor these longer pieces. Below, we’ve gathered some themes that work well with longform writing and offer a clean, enjoyable experience for your readers.

Syntax

On Otium, Yale PhD student Sarah Constantin writes about mathematics, cognitive science, philosophy, and more. Aside from a colorful graphic header image, Sarah keeps her blog simple. You can click on the button on the left to open the menu and access her About page, but the site is minimal, which keeps the focus on her prose.

On Syntax, you’ll…

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Day 30 – What I learned from 30 days of writing

(This is the FINAL post in the 30 for 30 Challenge.)

The end has come. This marks my 30th blog post in thirty days.  I took up the challenge just after the Christmas holiday as a way to try and see if I could create a new habit for writing. Instead of a New Year’s resolution, I had new habit forming activities in mind – things that would take me a month to ingrain, and the whole year to follow through.  There are some things I’ve learned from the experience, not only about myself, but about writing and creativity as well. Continue reading “Day 30 – What I learned from 30 days of writing”

Day 29 – Snow Day!

(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge).

For all of my friends in the mid-Atlantic states today, take care and take cover.

The last time we had snow like this in the region was February 2010, given the hyperbolic name of Snowmagedon by the media. I was living in Washington, D.C., at the time, and remember the endless snow, blowing winds, and brave (stupid?) drivers navigating the blanket of white where roads used to be. The city was pretty much shut down for a week which gave me a LOT of time at home to myself. No distractions from friends to go out and spend money. Just me at home, the white stuff coming down outside, as if by machines that someone forgot to turn off.

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Snow days 2010

Continue reading “Day 29 – Snow Day!”