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.


remember that libraries are a thing

A couple of months ago I started reading again. It started as I relocated some of my books from storage onto a vacated shelf in my entertainment room. Sitting there one evening, I just decided: I should read that book again--I've always enjoyed it, even though I've read it maybe fifteen times. You probably wouldn't like it as much given that you didn't read it way back when I first did and thereby develop an emotional attachment, but if you're so inclined, Kiteman of Karanga.

When asked what I wanted for Christmas by my parents, the only thing I asked for was books of a particular series (Pendergast, Lincoln & Child), so they were kind enough to send me the first seven books in the series, and supply me with Amazon gift cards enough that I could buy most of the rest as well. So I've been slowly reading through these, taking about two weeks per book on average so that I can prolong the magic.

Earlier this week something came up and reminded me of another book I wanted to read that has now been out a few years, Ready Player One. I thought about just ordering it, but I recalled that there's the building called a library that lets you take books out for free. I jumped on the site for my local library and sure enough they had 131 copies in the system across the various branches, and around 30 copies were available. Noting that only one of the available locations was reasonably close to my daily routes, I set myself a reminder to stop by the branch and grab it.

Just before leaving work yesterday, I confirmed the book was still at the branch and then off I went. Upon getting there I found my way to the fiction area, then to the Cs for Cline... scanned once, twice, and thrice... no luck. I pulled up the site on my trusty phone, checked it again and it still showed as being there... what madness is this? Apparently I clicked something else without realizing it and the page updated to a new display that showed the book's location: shelving cart. Eyes darted around before spying carts flowing out of a room near the front entry and a desk staffed by a nice fellow. I walked up to him and explained what I was looking for, and a few moments later he produced it and I walked out of this magical place, book in hand.

I've been told that I can even have library books delivered directly to my desk at work... if I have a bit more patience. Maybe I'll use that for the harder-to-find titles.


see things with different eyes

Hi. It's me again. I've been away a little longer than I anticipated, but that is relatively unimportant as my reader-scope is myself and very rarely my wife. Part of me would like to report that a lot has changed since I stopped writing, and that everything is all roses and stars and lollipops or whatever, but things are more or less the same, despite the world having changed.

During the middle of the last month, we took our usual January vacation away from the cold. This particular trip was a cruise aboard the Carnival Pride into the Caribbean. The trip on the whole was a good respite from everything at home, but there were some challenges that always seem to present themselves when traveling. We did see some cool things at a couple of our ports of call, and I was able to read three whole books all while enjoying time away from "real life."

Toward the end of the journey, the literal face of our country changed as a new president was installed in Washington, DC. Surprisingly, it was not something that was easy to watch aboard ship, and while a lot of people would bemoan the inevitable change happening that day, on the actual day-of, no one around seemed to notice, care, or largely mention it. In the end, I was able to find the inaugural ceremonies played in our stateroom on the tiny and somewhat fuzzy television there. It was an unexciting series of events, but remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which being how "normal" the process is in our country.

In the days since the new president took office, there have been a number of things that have shocked, hurt, and just confused many Americans. I knew that coming into this presidency that there were two very distinct possibilities with how things would go. The first being my hope, is that the charade and posing would drop as the gravity of the role settled in, and that would lead this man to be a respectful, compassionate, driven leader that made efforts to unite the country after the last few years of unrest, and who would serve his term separate from the persona seen in the campaigns and for years prior. The alternative is that the man would not assume the yoke of the office, but would rather attempt to saddle it with his own personality, fears, desires, and ideas thus creating chaos, anxiety, separation, and even fear.

I'm not an exceptionally political person. I follow things enough to have an idea of what's going on, but I don't enjoy enrapt conversations related to the particulars of the governance as some of my peers do. I generally have a positive outlook, attempt to see the positive in situations and people (except when it comes to a half glass of beverage--that is decidedly emptied!). But right now, I don't have the capacity to see the good and the positive in these things that have happened. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm frightened myself, but I am for our country.

It was perhaps a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I were enjoying dinner. We usually keep a game on our dining table that is a collection of (sometimes) conversation-sparking questions, not unlike the "would you rather game" that many of us likely played as kids. On this particular night in recollection, a card came up that still sits in my mind: what obligation do you believe you have to your country. Obligation. That's a heavy idea in this context, implying that we are obliged regardless of context, compelled without reason, and duty bound morally to adherence. As on that night, I still don't know if I can identify obligation in this framing.

But it is some interesting food for thought.



I'm gonna step away from this for a bit. Might be three days, might be thirty. But I'll be back.


enjoy a slow Sunday

Today has been pretty much like any Sunday. Wake up, have coffee and breakfast, go to church and chat a bit, then come home for lunch and an afternoon of scattered activities. For me, the afternoon held most reading, but a little bit of gaming as it's somewhat social in as much as two disembodied people on an 8-bit screen can be. Later, we had dinner and then watched some sports (finally a win!) before winding down the night with a bit more reading and talking. All in all, pretty normal and completely okay.

I used to be what I would have called in years past a voracious reader earlier in my life. As I've grown older I have found other ways to fill my time, but few as fulfilling or entertaining. A number of years ago I started reading books by a pair of authors, I think at the time only numbering four or five collaborative works. These days, however, the duo has produced maybe two dozen works, and I'm winding my way through those pages now.

Although I've read several of the books in this particular timeline before, I decided to go ahead and re-read them as surely I'd forgotten some details in the intervening years. As I've turned each page, I've been surprised at how fluid the writing of this pair is, how it like a single mind writing each page and it makes me wonder what their workflow is actually like. It wasn't until I was reading the third volume of the series that I came across a section that felt decidedly different as I read it. By the time I reached the end of that passage, I wasn't sure what was going on despite knowing much of the story that lay ahead (in very cloudy detail). And a couple of chapters later it happened again and I settled on the realization that this wasn't one of the authors creating the difference, but a construct of the character being portrayed.

As I sat in my office reading, I felt relaxed even despite the sound of zombies floating out of my computer's speakers. In fact, the repeated groaning of the beasts actually wove themselves into an almost pleasant backdrop along side the flowing water. I'll have to remember today in three more weeks, the next time I'll have a similarly-planned Sunday, and maybe repeat it.