October 25, 2003

Make Mine Black, Please.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:50 pm

Decades ago I began to drink black coffee. As I recall, giving up the milk and sugar in my coffee was just one of many little alterations I have made in a lifelong struggle to save a few calories here and there (which caloric credits, unfortunately, have often ended up being squandered on pizza and beer, but that’s another story).

At first, the black brew tasted a bit harsh, but in short order I realized that one can actually taste the coffee when one drinks it unadulterated with dairy products and sweeteners. So, switching to black coffee resulted in one of those rare bonuses in life where something non-fattening actually tasted better than the fattening variety. However, as it turns out, that was not the biggest benefit of learning to drink black coffee – not by a long shot.

The real benefit of drinking black coffee is that it seriously simplifies one’s life.

I buy my morning drive-to-work coffee in a local 7-11. Here’s the morning scene. The serve-yourself coffee is located on a counter (more like a stainless steel topped table) in a corner of the store. On either end of the table are multiple coffee pots. The cups and lids are arranged according to size in the center of the table. There are also many varieties of coffee adulterants on the table, along with stirrers.

I often walk into the place to find the table circled by a crowd of folks who are busy preparing the beverage they call coffee, but which, in reality, is coffee flavored milk and sugar. No one speaks. Arms grope all over the table to select the dairy product of choice to pour into the coffee. There are a variety of dairy products available, including skim milk, one percent milk, two percent milk, whole milk and half and half. There are also various non-dairy coffee adulterants as well, ranging from plain to the strangely flavored kinds.

Once the dairy (or non-dairy) adulterant is selected and dumped into the coffee, then comes the sweetener selection and more groping all over the table for the sweetener of choice. Some people want sugar, while others want the sweetener in the pink packet. Still others reach for the sweetener in the blue packet.

Once the sweetener is selected, next comes the “packet shake.” I’m sure you’ve seen it (or do it yourselves). The sweetener user feels obliged to shake the packet or packets (I have seen people shake five packets at a time) to ensure that the sweetener of choice is at the bottom of the packet (as if the laws of gravity hadn’t somehow already taken care of that).

The next step in the process is the packet tearing (some can tear multiple packets at one time), followed by the sweetener dump (some can dump multiple packets at a time). The sweetener dump is followed by the search for the place to put the tops of the torn packets and the now-empty packets themselves. For the non-regulars, there are puzzled looks while they wait for a regular packet shaker customer to put the empty packets in the trash so that they can follow suit.

Next comes the stirring. This requires still more cross-table groping to grab a plastic stirrer. The stirring is made more time-consuming because the stirrer is only a thin plastic stick.

They are still not done, as now comes the sipping and adjusting or “calibrating” to use a more technical term.

Sip….hmmm…Not sweet enough…Repeat packet shaking, packet tearing, sweetener dumping and trash searching. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmm…Too hot…Add more dairy (or non-dairy) adulterant. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmm…Too weak…Add more coffee. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmm…Too strong…Add more dairy (or non-dairy) adulterant. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmm…The cup not full enough for the price…Add a little more of everything. (Always a favorite of mine). Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmm…The cup is too full…Drink more. It’s like getting a couple sips for free. (Another favorite of mine).

Once the stirrer is tossed into the trash, the morning coffee drinker is ready to put the lid on the paper cup and proceed to the register.

Not me.

I walk up to the table of modern-day alchemists, pour the coffee in the cup, snap on a lid, and, “See ya.”

The same holds true at the office. When I want a cup of coffee, I just go and pour myself a cup. I needn’t worry whether there is milk in the refrigerator, whether it might belong to someone else, whether it might be sour, or whether there is a ready supply of sugar or other sweeteners on hand. Pour and go. Snap City.

Black coffee. Try it. You’ll like it. And, your life will be a whole lot simpler. I bullshit you not.

Ketel One and Blogging.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 12:26 am

I’ve decided that Ketel One vodka and blogging do not work well together. If I continue to tickle these keys, I could righteously be cited for BWI (figure it out), so I will spare you all until tomorrow.

Straight White Guy.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 12:17 am

He’s moved to his new home. Am I really the last guy left on BlogSpot?

I hope that someone at Movable Type leaves a light on for me.

October 23, 2003

Every Party has a Pooper.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 4:25 pm

All these oldsters were trying to do was to have a little party. They were doing just fine until some louse came and broke it up.


Thanks to my friend Brian, the Air Force Vet.

October 22, 2003

Carnival Time.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:44 pm

The Carnival of the Vanities is up over at Eric Berlin’s site. He re-activated his site to host this week’s Carnival. Maybe lots of traffic will convince him to open up shop again after the Carnival. The Carnival is a great place to discover good sites and for good sites to be discovered. Take a look.

The Ultimate Self-Defense Weapon.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:31 pm

How many times do you with you had a large bottle of this handy?

Thanks to my friend Barbara for the link.

A Crystal-Clear Surprise From Canada.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:23 pm

My experience with drinking beverages made in Canada has been limited to an occasional six-pack of Molson Ale. However, I just cracked open a bottle of this, taken directly from the freezer. I drank it neat from a frozen shooter glass. Verrrrry Smoooooth. You can find details here. This is one that Venomous Kate might consider trying.

October 21, 2003

A Matter of “Life” and Death.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:06 pm

I am not terribly proud to say that, until today, I have avoided learning too much about the Terri Schiavo case. It just seemed too depressing to deal with, and I admit that in cases where someone is in a “persistent vegetative state,” I side with those who question the wisdom of keeping such a person alive, for no other reason than the person’s heart is still beating.

I view death, under such circumstances, as the ultimate issue of privacy. I recall the case, many years ago, of the woman who was trapped in her lifeless body with Lou Gehrig’s disease, making it plain that she no longer wanted to live. I believed that in her case her wish to die should have been honored (as I believe it finally was).

However, this case is quite different, in that there appears to be nothing resembling clear and convincing evidence of this poor woman’s wishes. There is even some reasonable basis to question her husband’s motives in wanting to let her starve to death (or end her misery, depending on whom you believe).

I visited Zombyboy’s site, as I regularly do, and he analyzed the issue in his usual thoughtful way. Most importantly, he directed his readers to view the videos of Ms. Schiavo (there are links to the videos on his site) before drawing any final conclusions. I echo his thoughts.

I viewed the videos, which continue to haunt me. Ms. Schiavo can be seen responding to her doctor’s request to “open [her] eyes wide.” In the video, she clearly hears the doctor’s voice and, over the next minute, struggles to comply with his request. Finally, after sustained effort, she opened her eyes wide.

In another video, Ms. Schiavo listens to honky tonk piano music being played for her and responds by laughing, and in yet another, she sees her mother and smiles.

That did it for me. Ms. Schiavo is clearly not in a vegetative state. She responds to stimuli in a matter that cannot be called reflexive. On some level, she is aware of her surroundings.

It may well be that Ms. Schiavo is trapped in a useless body, and is unable to communicate her wish to die. However, it may well be that she is trapped in a useless body and is unable to communicate her wish to live. It is difficult to imagine a more horrifying scenario.

Absent clear and convincing, pre-existing evidence of what she would want done under such circumstances, (and apparently there is no such evidence), one is left with a horrible dilemma. Given the awful options, and after viewing the video, and being mindful that the consequences of an error in judgment either way may be tragic, I would have to opt for not taking measures that would ensure Ms. Schiavo’s death.

It is the absence of prior evidence of Ms Schiavo’s wishes and her inability to presently communicate her wishes, despite her awareness of her surroundings (at least at some level), that distinguishes this from a “right to die” case.

If Ms. Schiavo could somehow clearly signal her desire to live or not to live (by eye movements or otherwise), I would fully support honoring her wishes. However, as long as there is doubt about what those wishes are, I cannot support taking measures that would surely end her life.

October 20, 2003

Anthrax – Old News? Not Here.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:26 pm

I had thought that the only real thing left of the October 2001 anthrax attacks is a still-open case to locate the person or persons responsible. The attacks resulted in five deaths and three times as many cases of non-fatal anthrax poisoning, not to mention the virtual crippling of commerce, as businesses regularly emptied their facilities in response to suspected attacks.

I guess I wasn’t paying attention.

It turns out that the Hamilton, New Jersey Post Office has been closed and sealed since October 2001 when it was determined that at least four anthrax laced letters (addressed to the New York Post, Tom Brokaw, Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy) passed through the facility.

Only now have federal and state authorities approved the final step in the cleanup of the 228,000 square foot building. The two-month process involves pumping chlorine dioxide into the building. It is thought that this procedure (the same one that was used to decontaminate Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., and the Brentwood postal facility) will eliminate any remaining anthrax spores.

Because the process is corrosive, the building will have to be refurbished, and virtually everything in the building will have to be replaced. This will add an additional eight months to the project. It is expected that the facility will be safe and functional again in about a year.

Just another reminder of just how vulnerable we are.

October 19, 2003


Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:11 pm

If you don’t recognize the name “Dion,” maybe this post is not for you. However, I find it difficult to believe that, even those who don’t instantly recognize the name (not the “Dion” preceded by the name “Celine”) have somehow managed to get through life without ever having heard “Runaround Sue,” The Wanderer,” “Where or When” or “Ruby Baby.” Well, Dion did those tunes and a zillion more.

I recently received Dion’s latest CD, called “Dion, New Masters.” As the CD Notes explain, not long ago Dion walked into a Miami recording studio along with the members of his road band, and “some of the best doo-wop harmony singers in the business” and proceeded to record new versions of some of his classic hits, along with some cover tunes and two new originals.

I have already listened to it at least a half dozen times.

Dion (real name, “Dion DiMucci”) began singing at age five and has been at it ever since. Some of the classics on the CD include:

Ruby Baby
Lovers Who Wander
A Teenager in Love
I Wonder Why (Perhaps Dion at his best)
Where or When
Drip Drop
Donna the Prima Donna
Runaround Sue
The Wanderer

They guy is amazing. By my arithmetic, he is on the wrong side of sixty, but his voice is as clear and true as that of a twenty-year old. He hits all the notes with laser-like accuracy, and his phrasing is hard to beat.

The new versions are true to the originals, but often with just a bit of added flair, born of maturity and a lifetime of singing.

I would be surprised if anyone could listen to these tunes and not end up tapping their feet. For me, the songs produced more than foot tapping. They brought back and jazzed up old memories, and they gave me goose bumps.

Goose bumps are the ultimate barometer of musical excellence for me.

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