Moronic Musings

and other junk as it occurs to me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Time For A Cuppa

I've been blogging for several months now, and it’s just occurred to me that I haven’t really written about a subject very near and dear to my heart.  Something so important that it makes reasoning, let alone writing, possible for me.  In fact, this substance is critical to many of the people I know getting much of their activities done on a daily basis.  I’m not talking about food, water or oxygen, but something only slightly less imperative to life on this planet.  Yes, I’m talking about the nectar of the gods, that marvelous life-giving substance, coffee.

No matter who you are, whether you like coffee or not, you have to admit that this is one seriously potent beverage.  From my childhood until now, I have awakened to the smell of coffee brewing more days than not.  One great thing about automatic coffee makers: if your alarm clock breaks, you still have the timer on your Mr. Coffee to fall back on.  What wakes you up more effectively than that most delicious of aromas?  That is an incredible smell, is it not?  I bet I’m not the only one here who opens a new can of coffee by breaking the seal and then immediately sniffing the first whiff of those fresh beans.  If you’re around when I do it, I’ll share.  It’s better than passing a joint, in my opinion.  Not that I’ve passed a lot of those.  Sometimes I will walk into the kitchen just to open the can and take a hit off the coffee can.  Does that mean I have a problem?  If it does, I don’t care.

The history and origins of coffee are pretty interesting.  This miracle bean was thought to have been discovered when a young goatherd in Yemen or Ethiopia noticed his goats eating the berries of a plant, then “dancing,” or gamboling playfully.  When he tried a few berries for himself, he felt an amazing surge of energy.   Of course, word quickly spread.  I mean, think about a world without coffee (if you can), and then imagine its discovery in that world.  Wanna bet how fast this stuff became popular?  Anyway, the earliest reports of coffee being drunk are from Sufi monasteries in Yemen anywhere from the sixth to the mid-fifteenth century.  Personally, I’m willing to bet that there’s a lost manuscript out there somewhere that mentions Noah having a cuppa while waiting on the animals to board the ark, but that’s just conjecture.  There are dozens of varieties of coffee bean, and the plants are cultivated in over 70 countries.  If you’d like to see Mike Rowe give a nice overview of how Kona coffee is grown, harvested and roasted, look here.

Some of my best memories are of being at my grandparents’ house and drinking coffee made for me by my grandma.  She’d load it down with milk and sugar when I was very young, but by the time I was 10 or 11, I had started requesting it black.  When I drink coffee, I want to taste coffee, by golly.  But that’s not my point.  All my life, coffee has been a building block for relationships.  I’m willing to wager that when you’re first getting to know new friends, potential loves, or business prospects, you do it over coffee.  Can you think of a substance that makes for such intimacy without robbing your memories of the good times had?  Yeah, alcohol can’t do that.

Would you believe that a little over 50% of the US population drinks coffee daily, and the average consumption is about 3 cups?  A statistic I found on one page said that daily, about 2 billion cups of coffee are drunk daily around the world.  The average price of a 12 oz. brewed cup of coffee in a shop is around $1.40, but the cost of a cup that you brew yourself is about a nickel.  Oh, here’s something else to think about: The term used in the southwestern Ethiopia region for the coffee berry and plant is bunn.  If the word “bunn” looks familiar, take a peek at this.  By the way, here’s an interesting tidbit that I came across while researching: the world’s most famous insurance company, Lloyd’s of London, started off as a coffee house.

Here are some more interesting factoids:
  • James Mason invented the coffee percolator on December 26, 1865.
  • On May 11, 1926, "Maxwell House Good to the last drop" was trademark registered.
  • In 1822, the first espresso machine was made in France.
  • In 1933, Dr. Ernest Illy invented the first automatic espresso machine.
  • The modern-day espresso machine was created by Italian Achilles Gaggia in 1946.
  • The first pump driven espresso machine was produced in 1960 by the Faema company.
Find this and other neat coffee trivia here.

So go on.  Grab a nice, hot cup of joe.  You never know, it might make your day!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ADD 575

My friend Steve just published a post on his blog featuring poetry he'd written.  It was pretty good stuff too; you can see it here.  He got me to thinking that I hadn't posted any of my own poetry, but then I followed that thought process to its logical conclusion: my poetry was pretty sad.  So I decided to try something different: I decided to combine my appreciation for haiku and my ADD pathology and write six haikus, off-the-cuff.  So here they are, still a steamy 98.6 degrees, fresh out of my brain.  Hopefully, you won't think they came from somewhere else.  I call them "ADD 575."  I hope you enjoy them.  Pardon the font; I thought it contributed nicely to give the reader the jumbled feeling we ADD-ers often have.

What is A.D.D.?
Like listening to ten songs
All at the same time.
They say I have a
deficit of attention;
They should say surfeit.
I read paragraphs.
And then I read them again.
Life with A.D.D.
Unrequited love
Never had anything on
an underfed mind.
my substances of choice were
flesh and emotion.
I used to wonder
if I could have been something.
I now know… I am.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Through The Looking Glass

I was musing the other day as I drove (I do both a lot) and had an odd, yet fond memory.  When I was a kid, one of the things that I thought was really cool about my grandparents' house was the medicine cabinet.  It was a perfectly ordinary medicine cabinet, but when you opened it just the right amount, the mirror on it would reflect the large mirror against the wall and the result would be an optical illusion that appeared to be a tunnel stretching away into infinity.  Pretty much everyone who has a bathroom mirror and medicine cabinet has seen this phenomenon; it's nothing new.  But when you're a little kid and a huge part of your life is spent in your imagination, a sight like that can be magical.

As an adult, I often find myself allowing my mind to wander (big surprise there) about things like the mirror trick and, having the mind that I have, I wonder about the various reactions that different types of people might have when confronted with such an illusion as the one I've described in the mirrors:

Let's call the first type "The Engineer."  When these people see the tunnel extending into the distance, they instantly start wondering how it's caused.  They reason that the appearance of depth is an illusion and they might play around with the mirror, watching it expand and contract, imagining how the effect might be used in different settings.  Some years later, you may see some new type of laser technology based on light signals being bounced off of a couple of hyperbolic lenses that allows us to watch pay-per-view from Alpha Centauri cable TV.  All because an engineer somewhere remembered a crazy reflection.

I'll refer to the next type of person who might witness this curious visual treat as "The Face."  This individual is so taken by his own appearance that he barely notices the tunnel effect other than to be thrilled that his face has been multiplied infinitely.  This type can be seen on Facebook pics making the "pouty" lips, and also in music videos such as this (I apologize in advance for the lousy music, but I'm trying to make a point).  This sort of person often uses "me" and "I" statements, and is known to blatantly use internet abbreviations when they are not called for, even in speech.

The third type we'll discuss is my personal favorite, mainly because I'm included in this group.  Hey, it's my blog, so why not?  This type is known as "The Dreamer."  Upon seeing the miraculous mirror tunnel, The Dreamer has been known to lapse into a trance-like state and starts imagining things like what worlds lie at the end of the tunnel and how one might get there. I can't tell you how many trips I stole to the bathroom as a little kid to watch that amazing portal come to life in the mirror.  The Dreamer might wonder if maybe each person looking back along the path of mirrors is in a different dimension, and whether they're in a safer or more dangerous setting.  That person might crawl into his bed at night after just having taken another peek into the inter-dimensional doorway and drift off to dreamland on wings of marvelous machines that have somehow slipped through the looking glass.  People in this category tend to end up artsy types, and have been known to write ego-bloating blogs, but they're mostly harmless.

The fourth and final type to be discussed is "The Guest."  When they open the mirror-door, they don't see anything.  This is because they're rifling through your prescriptions and being nosy.  I've read that something like 40% of people who visit your bathroom snoop in your medicine cabinet.  Imagine that!  It's never occurred to me to peek at my friends and neighbors' pills and snake oils, but apparently more than a third of the people reading this do.

I guess the point of this somewhat rambling blog is that we all have something of wonder left in us, no matter how old or how much we have seen in life that might try to steal that wonder.  I must say this: our wonder, no matter how deeply buried, can be regained.  It might take something as complicated as a trip to the Grand Canyon or as simple as a trip to the medicine cabinet.  Search for it, never stop trying to find it.

By the way, if I've ever been in your necessary room, you can bet that the only thing I was looking through in there was an interdimensional portal.  Your prescriptions are your own business.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Walking In The Blitzkrieg

"Democracy is finished in England. It may be here." –Former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. in the Boston Sunday Globe, November 10, 1940.

"I'm very glad to be here. There is no place I'd rather be at this time than in England." – Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, upon landing at the BristolEngland, airport March, 1941.

In September of 1940, London, England was most definitely not a vacation destination.  The reason people from across the globe weren’t rushing to get there was a simple one.  Bombs, and lots of them.  The Third Reich had begun the Blitzkrieg, or “Blitz” as it’s more commonly known, and they kept on bombing until May of 1941.  As anyone who has paid attention in history class knows, the Blitz was devastating. Fully one third of the homes in London were demolished by the bombings, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 civilians were killed over the nine months of that terrible campaign (you can find the article some of that information came out of here).

So of all the things I tend to write about, why would I write about something as serious as the London Blitz?  Let’s revisit the first two quotes.  Notice anything about them?  If you don’t, please find a remedial reading class and get back to me.  Otherwise, let’s continue. A little reading will shed a bit of light on who Joseph P. Kennedy was. Yes, he was from those Kennedys.  In fact, he was the father of John F. Kennedy, the founder of the political legacy that to this day is still considered one of the most influential in American History.  But that legacy doesn’t seem to have had a very auspicious start, does it?  Joe Kennedy was first and foremost a businessman, and he tended to see the bottom line in pretty much everything he looked at.  When he saw the situation in Europe compounded by the bombing of London, he figured England had had it.  He didn’t keep this attitude to himself, either.  He wanted the U.S. to stay out of the war and made it clear to all around him.  He made it a point to leave the city when the shelling started, as well.  Not surprisingly, he was not a welcome guest in London for long.

John Gilbert Winant was a former Governor of New Hampshire who had also served under FDR on the Social Security Board and later as head of the International Labor Office (source).  So while he was no stranger to politics, he was pretty much an unknown in England.  Upon arriving in London, Winant immediately set about trying to repair and strengthen the U.S. connection to Great Britain (even going so far, according to reports, as carrying on an affair with Winston Churchill’s daughter.  How’s that for Anglo-American relations?).  Reports* state that Winant began to venture out into the city during the nightly bombings, offering assistance to anyone who needed it.  This man- who, before arriving in England, was a stranger and who began with the disadvantage of distrust left by his predecessor- this man left the comfort and safety of his enclave to lend a hand to whomever needed it.  As you can imagine, his esteem in the eyes of the British people grew.  This contributed to a gradual rebuilding of diplomatic trust which, in turn, led to the US being more favorably disposed toward coming to the aid of the British people.

I could go on and on about the war, about U.S./British relations, but what I want to focus on really doesn’t have to do with all of that.  I want to take a look at what set Winant apart from Kennedy.  Here were both men, in the same boat politically, and, ostensibly, with the same things to lose or gain.  Kennedy took the path that he assumed would gain him political power and favor with potential voters.  Winant, apparently, thought that people were more important than votes.  When the chips were down-and boy, were they ever- Winant took the high road of human compassion.  He still had political hopes and dreams, that much is clear from later actions- his eventual suicide was thought to be in part attributed to a political loss- but in that moment, at the time when he was most needed, he put the needs of others above his own agenda and simply did what was right.

Sir Winston Churchill is one of my personal heroes, both because of his brilliant mind and indomitable spirit.  We’ve all heard clips or seen motivational posters based on his “never, ever, ever give up” speech. Since learning about John Gilbert Winant, however, I can see and appreciate how "unknowns" can pave the way for great men to win the hearts of people.  Think about it: there was Churchill on the BBC, talking about the Lion Heart of the British people while an unassuming American walks around the city and lends even more courage to that very heart with his simple acts.

I would like to be that man who doesn't cry "game over," but who works behind the scenes doing what needs to be done just because it's right.  I like to think that I don’t necessarily want to be famous.  What I’d really like to know about myself is this: when the bombs start dropping, will I be able to think about how other people are doing?  Will I be able to keep my eye on the long-term goals that I’m here to promote?  I really, really hope so.  I also like to think that when all is said and done, God is going to shake hands with the great leaders of the world and say thanks.  Next, He's going to find all of the un-thanked unknowns who paved the way for the leaders and world-changers, and He's going to give them great big hugs.  Then he's going to hand them the keys to their palaces.

*FYI: This post was inspired by a story I heard on NPR about a new book by Lynne Olson called Citizens of London. I’m not usually a fan of nonfiction, but this one is definitely on my short list of must-reads!