move slowly

Growing up, I was a fast walker. My grandfather had installed in me the idea that being on time meant being there before I was expected, and for whatever reason, I really took that to heart. When I got into middle school I was all but running through the halls to make the most efficient use of the six minutes between classes to exchange books from the locker and sometimes traverse the whole of the building in the process. Once I got into high school, things were no different except we had seven minutes, and there I was taught to not just walk, but march. If my grandfather's insistence hadn't been enough, those six years of school would have done it to me anyway.

Throughout most of my adult life this has also been the case for me. I've been one of the first people to work (and many times among the last as well). I get to church early. I get to appointments early. Pretty much, if someone is expecting me to be somewhere, I wasn't going to have them waiting on me if that was at all possible. Perhaps as an extension of this mindset, this often meant that if someone was expecting something of me, they would get it and likely a bit more. But it's not over-achieving if it is only meeting my own goal.


not follow directions

A number of weeks ago, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary. Unlike many years, we didn't have a trip or something similar planned mostly because if fell between two weddings that we were attending so we were a bit short on time out of our respective offices without pressing our lucks.

The longer we've been married, the more that we've stopped giving specific occasion gifts, tending rather to get things for one another when the feeling struck or whatever. Generally we stick to this with exception to birthdays. In part it helps us celebrate one another, but it also removes some of the pressure around the holidays as we often find ourselves without any extended family on the "day of" more than we'd really like.

Keeping with this gifting tradition, my wife did procure a collection of things for me, even shipping them to her office so I wouldn't see tracking information and have foreknowledge of the gift. And while I'm sure she'll read this eventually, I had a pretty solid idea of what she'd gotten me as soon as she told me that she ordered something.

This particular gift was a collection from Bittermilk, a company that specializes in creating concoctions for adult beverages, lacking only the spirituous bits (or maybe bubbly water). Once, while walking through The Fresh Market I'd stumbled upon these mixes and debated for what felt like forty seconds about which of their bases to purchases. It was agonizing, that decision. (Full disclosure: that was sarcasm... I'm not the kind that sweats the small stuff like that.)

On that occasion, I procured their No. 1 mix (by name, perhaps even by popularity, but I've no way to know that), and I found it to be quite pleasing, albeit sweeter than I prefer in my adult concoctions. However, the bottle said to mix a particular ratio, and I stuck to it with my only variation being the slip of the hand perhaps adding an extra dash or so.

When the whole collection came in, I read each, evaluated the required ingredients and began the journey of matching things on my shelves to the back of the bottle. All was going well as I sampled the five mixes I hadn't tried over the course of several weeks until I made a mistake. One night recently I was working on a No. 5 and I didn't refresh myself on the instructions before pouring.

Bittermilk No. 5
As it happens, this Charred Grapefruit Tonic with Bulls Bay Sea Salt is supposed to be 1 part white rum or vodka (always vodka for me) + 1 part soda water + 1 part Bittermilk. Hower, what found its way into my glass was a couple of ice cubes, 1 part rye + 1 part Bittermilk. I stirred it around, walked over to the living room, and took a sip.

Being rather reserved with my feelings and expressions, I won't go so far as to say that I was shocked, but I was at least surprised. Clearly it wasn't what I was expecting, but even more so it was shockingly good. (Enough so that I had another, slightly larger one later on.) As I was writing this, I reviewed their site to determine if this was a recommended recipe and I am both glad and sad to reports that it is not. This is my very own mistake.

And a tasty one, indeed.


stay out of the picture

You might imagine, at the frequency of my postings, that staying out of the picture isn't really a problem for me. Largely, you'd be right. I'm fairly good at flying under the radar, managing to do things without people noticing or taking note of me. I'm the kind of person that can stand the middle of a room filled with hundreds of people and not say a word, and hardly be noticed, but not like a wallflower on the periphery.

I'm sure this is the product of years of being ignored or shunned, maybe even partly due to those years as a kid where I was the target of bullies or kids that just needed to feel "big" around others. I don't regret those times, or the fact that I am this way. Most of the time, at least.

But I mean this post quite literally, actually.


work with the system

A couple of weeks ago, my phone did something different and unexpected: it started charging phantom devices! Sure, this might be know if there were actually another device attached and it was intentional, but just sitting on my desk at work I'd get a notification that the device had started to supply power to the attached device.

Being a good techie, I did my due diligence and verified that there was nothing in the port, no application running that would attempt this, and even did the obligatory reboot. If I charged the phone, the message would go away for a while, but it would come back shortly after unplugging. At this point, I made use of the internal support tools from Google and started chatting with a support representative within a few moments. After asking a few questions, having me reboot the phone again, and doing some research, the agent concluded that we would need to do a factory reset.

Unexcited, but hey... I've done worse. Twenty minutes later I've reset my phone, logged back into it, and begun letting the whole ecosystem work at restoring my applications and settings. And, as luck would have it, the message is gone. Admittedly, I was a little surprised by this as I thought certain it was a hardware issue at this point. But I'd take a win when I could get one.

Two weeks later, to the day, it started again. This time, I started the chat from my phone and referenced the previous experience (without providing any information directly to the support agent) and they were able to look up my previous experience and correlate it to the current situation. This time, the questions were a bit more pointed (has the phone gotten wet or been dropped, is there anything in the charging port, etc.), but the agent quickly decided that this was likely a hardware problem, and that they'd want to replace the device.

Over the course of the next few minutes I confirmed IMEI and was explained the return process. A few minutes later I'd officially ordered my replacement device, which would arrive in two business days (thanks for stretching out the agony, weekend).

Monday afternoon the replacement device arrived. I powered it on, removed the SIM from my old phone, and inserted it in the new one. Within a few moments I had connected the transfer cable to the old phone and my accounts and data were copying over, slick as a whistle. Of course, it took half an hour for the applications to download and install, and another hour to sign into the various apps that aren't using SmartLock yet.

But all in all, the process wasn't so bad, and just took a little patience. Sure, it might have been great to have a brick and mortar store to walk into to perform the exchange rather than waiting for FedEx to do their thing, but I really shouldn't complain as I didn't have to drive anywhere, and I could do the transition on my own time.


find balance

In an epic tug of war, team foes (Dark, Left, No, Bad, & Down) are locked in perpetual battle with team fiends (Light, Right, Yes, Good, & Up). Neither team has a true advantage in this fight as the question is unasked, so a tension hangs in the air thick as a Savannah afternoon's air.  In this fight between foes and fiends, there can be no middle ground, no half-victory.

Thankfully, that is not true of all of life. Coffee doesn't come only as I order it (black), but it can be adulterated to include all manner of things such as sweeteners, flavors, and even things that alter its appearance as in the case of cream (as my wife would order it). In fact, it seems that very few options I am met with in real require hard and fast answers, and for that I am thankful.

In the time that I've been working at my present job, it has been a challenge for my to find a balance on several levels. What time should I get up and go to work, and do I carpool with my wife or just leave when I'm ready? How should I devote my time: minor maintenance or major innovation? How should I react to the behaviors of coworkers that I find annoying or unprofessional? Should I pack my lunch or go out in hopes of being part of the team?

I go back and forth on that last one, perhaps more than any other. The folks I work with have generally been with the organization for many times longer than I have, and they have lives that intersect outside of the workplace (although I don't know if work-life bled to lived-life or if those circles already overlapped). But joining up with them means going out to eat, often in places that don't have great choices, and I honestly don't make the best food choices.

Every week or two, I try and specifically make plans to pack several consecutive days to strive for a bit of balance. When possible, I align these days to those when I know my compatriots will have other plans because of meetings, standing engagements, or such. but it doesn't always work out that way. Usually it means I head to the grocery store, grabbing some bread, meat, and cheese, and probably a little fruit. Frequently these things just get assembled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and stuffed in my backpack where they languish without refrigeration until my coworkers are at lunch.

This week I didn't make the trip to the grocery store, but I did have some left-over brioche that we had purchased to make French Toast over the weekend (planning to make it twice, but only executing once). Along with some peanut butter and jelly, I executed a beautiful PB&J at my desk. I even managed to find balance with my sandwich!

Two slices of brioche, left with strawberry, right with concord grape.

There are obviously many places I'm seeking balance in life: rest, exercise, socialization, entertainment, spending, family... the list really goes on for quite some time. But it is a process, one that doesn't seem to have an end in sight. I'll see over time if perhaps the balance becomes more natural, but I imagine that I'll find that enough things in this world vie for my time that I'll have to make choices, and they won't always be balanced ones.


grind coffee without electricity

In similar fashion to yesterday, this I just want to be sure to point out that while this is sort of a product review, it is really a post for my own remembrance, and that no one asked me to write this--heck they might not be happy if they had!

I purchased the ROK Coffee Grinder to go along with my ROK Espresso maker, and I am very pleased with the pairing. 

The grinder itself is a little larger than I anticipated when ordering it, but in retrospect I don't think it could provide the same experience if it were much smaller, and I'm quite happy. The solid metal construction is really a thing of beauty on my countertop, even when it's not in action. 

The grinder's output is consistent across the levels of coarseness, and I've made great espresso, pour-over and french press with surprisingly little fuss. It took a little getting used to the adjustment ring in its default configuration (stepless) and that was compounded by the fact that the ring rotates when the handle does, so I made a practice to rotating it to certain position before making adjustments. ROK also facilitated a stepped grind selection with a pair of removable washers. I have changed to the stepped selection as I feel that the stepless method allows for a slight drift of coarseness over the process of grinding.

The base of the ROK Coffee Grinder has a wonderfully tacky substance requiring only minimal downforce to hold the grinder in place during operation. The unbranded rear-edge of the base is about an inch and a half deeper than the front, something I surmise was done to add stability while rotating the long handle.

I did experience a large amount of static build-up the first couple of times I used the machine and it made both the process of getting the grounds and clean-up maddeningly difficult. I located a YouTube video from ROKEspressoMaker titled "dealing with static" and while I was dubious about the claim, adding a drop or three of water to the beans in the hopper actually substantially changed the experience for the better.

The included grounds cup is very nicely styled and useful, but I do wish it had a slightly narrower curvature to match the ROK portafiler's profile (because it's quite a bit larger, I have often spilled more of my grounds than I'd like while loading). When making more coarsely ground coffee, it works wonderfully.

The ROK Coffee Grinder is a great addition to my kitchen that is pleasingly functional, and undeniably attractive.

From left to right: ROK Manual coffee grinder, ROK Espresso Maker storage tin, ROK milk frother, scoop & tamper, ROK Espresso maker.


make my own espresso

This particular post is a review of a recently purchased coffee maker, the ROK Espresso maker. This is an item that I researched and purchased on my own, and is not something someone told me I should purchase or review. It is partly notes to myself, and partly because I felt like it had been too long since I wrote anything.