PaulAvila.com

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Category: writing

Annoyance and happiness

Going through space on this wet rotating rock I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking to many people from different countries and cultures. I’ve worked with religious and non-religious people, haters, lovers, and people that I wouldn’t want to ever see again. I’m sure this is normal and I am not alone. The shared humanity that we experience should accommodate everyone regardless of their origin or views. Thousands of years of war and conflict shows us that we do indeed have differing views but we’re all together on earth sharing the resources and trying to find something good to eat. Scanning the digital landscape of privacy and data getting tossed around by marketers I’m pretty sure we’ve crossed the void into a new era of hyper-targeted advertising that’s swayed generations of people into smaller, tighter tribes that are having a negative effect on society. People are clutching their ideas so tightly they’re missing the other side’s opinions, and often missing the facts. The next year will be a revolutionary turn in the USA’s history. The youth are rising up and change is coming. Hang on tight!

The End of 2016

Many people are wishing for the end of 2016. Personally the calendar doesn’t fit my view of this. I see the calendar as a tracker of days, not the reason for days. Each year that passes is just a series of earth rotations. I’ll be tossing a few back tomorrow night with some good friends as tradition dictates. Enjoy!

Coffee = Life

Coffee. The elegant mahogany liquid that starts the day off right for millions of people has been used for it’s inherent qualities for centuries. Personally, I’ve been drinking coffee for over 30 years. I used to be a creamer but then in the early 1990’s I saw the light and ditched the sugary cow squirt for straight black. I’m not sure what made me change but I’m glad I did. Perhaps it was a friend showing me that you could light powdered creamer on fire? Who knows. Now, over 20 years later and I think I’ve mastered the art of brewing coffee. How can this be? You may be asking yourself what in the hell this writer is doing at this very moment. Over 30 years of coffee drinking and just now you figured out how to brew it right? Short answer is yes, I have just figured it out. But let’s take a look at why this has taken so long.

Like many people I used to hit the local 7-11 for my morning fix and then head off to work. Standard procedure. Then as I got a bit older I made the wise decision to use a coffee maker. My roommate had this old brown beast that heated water, dumped it on the grounds, and spit out something we called coffee. While it worked well I was completely clueless to what was out there in the world. A trip to Seattle woke me up slightly to better coffee. Actually the trip woke me up to coffee attitude in Seattle. A person we met up there took us to the shop he worked at and made us some late night concoctions. I tried it, couldn’t really tell what was going on within the cup but that may have had more to do with the beers earlier in the evening. Moving on to the late 1990’s I stepped up and got my own french press coffee maker with my girlfriend (now wife). It seemed like the cool thing to have in a tiny apartment. We used it for a while and didn’t know we had been using it wrong. The basic instructions were woefully inadequate. I’m not sure what happened to it but it probably got turned over as a thrift store donation. The few minutes it took to make the coffee with the french press was too long for me then so we opted for an electric model complete with a timer. Damn! This was awesome. I could set it up in the evening and wake up to hot coffee ready to go. I want to say this was a Mr. Coffee brand unit. Eventually it got way too crusty so it had a one-way date with the dumpster. Cleaning those machines never seemed to work very well. The interior of the water tank would start to get fuzzy, or something like stalactites would form. Not having any of that!

Since that experience we tried a couple other electric makers that had varying degrees of success, but inevitably that would be overrun with the fuzz again or the electrical components would fail and I would have the entire machine field stripped in the garage trying to figure out what was wrong. Of course somewhere along the way I was introduced to Starbucks. I can’t recall when this first happened but when it did I was hooked. Pondering deeply I really don’t know why I liked it so much. It wasn’t the caffeine, I mean that can be scored anywhere. Maybe it was the big bold aroma and deep flavor of a Pike Place? Or was it that it cost more so it had to be better? Well, as luck would have it, I was perusing the local thrift store last year and I found a lightly used french press for $5.00. Carefully bringing it home like a bowling ball I cleaned it up thoroughly and admired the simplicity and serious lack of moving parts. The plunger slides through a domed lid and that’s it. No wires, no timer, just a glass carafe, a screen, a rod, and a lid. Reunited, in a sense…

french press coffee makerWe immediately put the french press into action and we’ve enjoyed the seemingly simple process of heating water, pouring it into the carafe over the ground coffee, waiting a few minutes, then pouring the coffee. Now, you would think that this would be such an easy thing to do but in all actuality it’s not ever going to give you the best coffee possible unless you do it right. How can this be? Science! Coffee has to be brewed in a specific way to get the best cup possible. Just this morning I tried this method that is detailed at CraftCoffee.com. I can say honestly say, without any hesitation, that brewing coffee in a french press in this way works so well I may never buy another cup of overpriced bitterness ever again. Well, unless I’m travelling, or in need of a fix. I digress, moving on.

I prefer a french roast whole bean coffee, but pre-ground works well too. Heating the water is easy enough. Starting with a fresh fill into a well worn kettle that works as designed the H2O get’s up to speed in less than 5 minutes. I’ve always used the same measured amount of ground coffee, or whole beans, in the french press carafe in an attempt at consistency of flavor. The magic happens when you take your time and follow the steps in the brew guide instead of just drowning the grounds in hot water. In less than 5 minutes of actual working time resulting creation is what I can only describe as the best cup of coffee I’ve ever made. Velvety smoothness with a deep rich flavor profile, dull edge bitterness, simply amazing. A lingering big bold aroma hung in the air around my cup and invited me back for more. I’m genuinely stunned. I had no idea that this simple contraption could create such delectable coffee when it was used in the manner in which it was engineered. Throughout the day I was pouring small amounts into my cup just to try it again. Was it still as good as it was this morning? Yes! The feeling of gratification was repeated over and over until the coffee was gone later in the afternoon.

I see the french press keeping it’s place in our kitchen for years to come. This familiar morning ritual is going to be a routine I look forward to even more so now that I’ve learned the way. Truly this was an epiphany in my kitchen life. I urge you get a french press or use yours in the right way . You will not be disappointed and maybe you’ll be just a little reluctant to buy a corporate coffee after you’ve learned this ancient skill.

Moleskine – Get One If You Don’t Have One

There’s no beating around the bush. Moleskines are cool and you suck if you don’t have one. Sorry, just kidding. Perhaps you’re asking yourself just what in the hell is a “mole skine” anyway? Once you’re up to speed on the pronunciation of moleskine you should be ready to purchase one at your local bookstore. Why would you possibly need one? Many reasons. Read on philistine!

Taking down notes is a common usage for many moleskines. I use mine for jotting down ideas before I forget them which I am apt to do in the blink of an eye. You probably have 3 to 4 ideas per day that will make you millions of dollars, but without a solid note the idea is gone, worthless, floating away into the dark recesses of your overloaded brain matter. Well, thankfully, the moleskine can save your ideas and get them one step closer to reality.

The first one I received was a gift in 2007. It’s a leather-bound super heavy notebook, not from Moleskine the brand, but from a large chain bookstore. I used it for many years and filled it will all sorts of stuff. The pages were unlined so I could draw a sketch of a bike, scribble a note, fill the page with postit notes (redundancy at it’s finest), or use it for passwords.  Up next was a hard-bound journal with bright white unlined pages. I use this one for black ink drawings, but not too often. During Ink-tober 2016 I’ll attack it again for 31 days. In 2013 I bought a Moleskine brand notebook. Instantly I could feel the inspiration. I got it home, opened it up, and stared at the blank pages, flipping them over, and over, and over. Then I tossed it aside. It sat unused. And it sat there, and didn’t move. It mocked me openly. “Why aren’t you filling my pages with all the wonderful things that go through your mind?” I was puzzled. Buying a moleskine doesn’t instantly bring on a rush of creativity, it merely provides a physical outlet to create an empirical notation that stands on it’s own. moleskine_090616Starting on January 1, 2014 I started filling the pages. The first entries were silly ideas, then I created task lists, followed by a new bike project. One page was used to track how much gas I was using in my car. Then, once I was awakened by the Budhha, I used the moleskine as a daily journal for over two months. I laid down some internal thoughts each morning in an attempt to bring meaning to the mornings. It worked. I felt relieved and I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment. The first few journal days were meager, a few sentences. After a few weeks the pencil wouldn’t stop. Writing for a solid 30 minutes time would seem to fly by. Soon my morning routine was changed and I had to drive the kids to school. I stopped the daily journal attack and set that moleskine aside.

My wife was looking for a daily notebook recently at the local big chain bookstore and as I am wont to do I headed straight for the moleskine rack to check out the latest offerings. One thing I should note is this; Moleksines are not cheap flimsy notebooks. They are made well, and the price reflects the quality. Expect to pay a bit more but know that it’s well worth it. In the photo above, on the right-hand side, are two of my latest. I use one for daily life notes, the other below it I use for work. I’ve retired my yellow legal pad. Good riddance. The red covered notebook is made of stiff cardboard that is a great doodle pad in itself. I added a paperclip and one postit note that irritates the shit out me when I see it. Why do I use a postit for a tab? I must be possessed by a ghost of my past that used those annoying little glue-goblins for too many important things. Just now I peeled the postit from it’s page  and tossed it into the recycler. No more postits!!!

What makes the moleskine the perfect notebook? I think it’s the inherent style that has historically been shaped into the bound paper you see today. From the beginnings in the 20th century, when notable thinkers and writers used these bound notebooks for drawing and writing, all the way to today, where the Moleskine brand has become an icon in less than 20 years. The blank pages are yours to use. Fill them with anything you wish.

With that I think it’s time a for a doodle, and time for you to go shopping.

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