September 29, 2006
Look, people often joke about my business name, Never Enough Coffee Creations, but even I have limits when it comes to consuming coffee (well, depending on the project deadline). But 29 espressos in one day? I'd be a quivering mass of jittery vomit. Here's a guy who's decided that he needs to visit every Starbucks store on the planet: The Sage of Starbucks.
The primary rule is I have to drink at least one four-ounce sample of caffeinated coffee from each store. The store has to have actually opened for business; I can't get there the day before, when they have friends-and-family day and they're giving drinks away—in many ways that's kind of arbitrary. It has to be a company-owned store, not a licensed store. I have to drink the coffee, but there is no time limit on when I have to drink the coffee. But the longer I go without drinking it, the greater the risk that I might lose it. There are two stores I need to go back to in Washington State because I didn't finish the coffee—I lost it. I took it out of the store, I had it in a cup, and in the middle of the night I forgot I hadn't drank it all and I used the cup to relieve myself.
The day you hit 29 stores, what were the side effects?
Well, pretty early on I started developing a headache, I started feeling jittery. Later, because of all the liquid I drank, I started feeling bloated. Just looking at the little cup of coffee made me nauseated.
How many total ounces did you drink that day?
One hundred and four ounces and three shots of espresso. It hurt. And I lost an hour when my jeans ripped in the crotch while I was leaping up to a stone ledge to take a photo—so I had to stop at a mall to buy a pair of jeans. Toward the end of the day there were times when I felt like I was going to hurl, and I really didn't want to because I don't have a rule in place for what happens if I vomit. Would I have to go back to the store and drink the coffee? I probably would. So I definitely wanted to avoid vomiting.
September 28, 2006
To My Republican-Supporting Friends and Family Members
Due to a bill that passed in the Senate today, I want you to understand just what you've been supporting since electing George W. Bush as President. I suspect that you've bought into the drumbeat, forced into your consciousness, that Democrats are terrorist sympathizers and are interested only in "cutting and running." But let's look at what today's legislation has produced.
The United States now legitimizes torture. Despite evidence that tortured individuals will do or say anything in order to make the torture stop, the government believes that it can be like a great big Jack Bauer and beat the evil out of anyone it wants to. Today's legislation gives them the power to do it. Legally.
"But," you may be saying, "that's not going to affect me, so why should I care? It's all happening on the other side of the world."
However, it's likely going to happen to someone you know who's serving the United States over there. Our government has just given a free card to any terrorist group that kidnaps American soldiers that says, "Torture our men and women, because we'll do the same to you." It's bad enough that our government, as admitted by the President, has been rendering people to secret prisons for the past year (or more). Now it's legal.
So, instead let me bring these actions home. The powers granted by the House and Senate this week give the President of the United States singular tyrannical power. Let's suppose, next year or in ten years, that someone calls the government - the NSA, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, whomever - and says that your spouse or your child participated in terrorist activities. It doesn't matter to what extent those activities entail, or even if it's true; the call is made.
The government, acting on behalf of the President, can arrest your spouse or your child and detain them. Detention could mean being sent to the facilities at Guantanamo Bay. And then, because of the laws passed today, you may never see your spouse or your child again. He or she would have no right to, or method to, refute the charges; he or she would not even need to be told what those charges were. While in indefinite detention, your spouse or your child could be legally subjected to torture. Not that you'd ever know about it.
Of course, this could happen to you, too. It's all up to the President, currently the man who's done more to damage this country that Bin Laden or Al Queda could have ever hoped.
I'm pissed and demoralized and wonder how the simple question of "Is torture okay?" turned into a yes.
September 26, 2006
Forget false "compromise": block torture altogether
Glenn Greenwald, writing at Salon, notes why all the talk of a Republican compromise over the detainee interrogation bill that Bush wants passed is bunk ("The president's power to imprison people forever"). The fact that the government is actively trying to legalize torture is amazing to me, and proves that the country is off the rails.
Bilal Hussein is an Associated Press photographer and Iraqi citizen who has been imprisoned by the U.S. military in Iraq for more than five months, with no charges of any kind. Prior to that, he was repeatedly accused by right-wing blogs of being in cahoots with Iraqi insurgents based on the content of his photojournalism -- accusations often based on allegations that proved to be completely fabricated and fictitious. The U.S. military now claims that Hussein has been lending "support" to the Iraqi insurgents, whereas Hussein maintains that his only association with them is to report on their activities as a journalist. But Hussein has no ability to contest the accusations against him or prove his innocence because the military is simply detaining him indefinitely and refusing even to charge him.
Under the military commission legislation blessed by our Guardians of Liberty in the Senate -- such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- the U.S. military could move Hussein to Guantánamo tomorrow and keep him there for the rest of his life, and he would have absolutely no recourse of any kind. It does not need to bring him before a military commission (the military only has to do that if it wants to execute someone) and as long as it doesn't, he is blocked from seeking an order from a U.S. federal court to release him on the ground that he is completely innocent. As part of his permanent imprisonment, the military could even subject him to torture and he would have no legal recourse whatsoever to contest his detention or his treatment. As Johns Hopkins professor Hilary Bok points out, even the use of the most extreme torture techniques that are criminalized will be immune from any real challenge, since only the government (rather than detainees) will be able to enforce such prohibitions.
September 13, 2006
Good Espresso in New York City
A colleague of mine recently bemoaned the lack of good coffee in New York City. She said it was surprising that in a city full of amazing food, the coffee was mediocre at best. When Starbucks is your best option, you know something's wrong.
(Personally, I have a small affection for Starbucks in New York: the only time I've been to the city was several years ago to help work at a Web design conference. I flew in the night before, so I didn't get to see much of the city. The hotel was right at Times Square, but because it was a conference, most of one's time is spent indoors. However, on the first morning, I offered to fetch coffees for my fellow workers at the closest Starbucks. I clearly remember stepping out of the hotel and into a mass of people, packed like Disneyland on the fourth of July, headed in all directions. It was truly amazing for this Idaho-raised boy.)
Good espresso can be had in New York, however, and the New York Times has written up some of the places to find it: Espresso's New Wave Hits Town. I particularly like this passage:
At cafes that are part of what some call the artisanal coffee movement the drinks reflect an obsession with each detail of the journey from farm to cup and an almost cultish pride in the results.
Those results are apparent as soon as you pick up the cup. The crema that crowns these espressos is a ruddy, alluring come-on that persists as you decide whether it’s closer to the color of terra cotta or burnt sienna. It’s not the pale froth that quickly dissipates on lesser espressos. And it’s evidence that the sugars and oils in the coffee have been properly emulsified through careful brewing.
September 09, 2006
Small Coffeehouses Thrive in Seattle (P.I.)
The Seattle P.I. has an article by Allison Lin that looks at some smaller coffee chains in Seattle and how Starbucks' success has affected them: "Small coffeehouses thrive in Seattle."
As other towns worry that Starbucks Corp. will run their local favorites out of business and rob their streets of quirky charm, the owners of several of Seattle's most beloved independent coffee houses say they have found success by going the opposite route of their big competitor - making a selling point of being small.
September 06, 2006
I've been doing a fair bit of article writing lately (with five assignments I'm working on currently, and at least two articles that are written but haven't been published yet), so I want to point out a few pieces that might interest you.
- My latest Practical Mac column was the 9th most read article at the Seattle Times last week. "Best computer for school? MacBook," as you can probably guess, makes the argument for which computer to take back to school. (For another back-to-school article, check out Dan Pourhadi's "Mac to School 2006: The $2000 Challenge" in this week's TidBITS.)
- Other recent Practical Mac columns written by me include "Navigating without a mouse," which talks about some of my favorite keyboard shortcuts, and "Keep your Mac cool this summer," which looks at ways to beat laptop heat.
- This month's issue of HOW magazine (the 10/2006 edition) includes a long article aimed at designers on how to back up your data. The impetus for this one came from editing Joe Kissell's Take Control of Mac OS X Backups, an invaluable ebook. (Unfortunately, the article is not online.)
My friend Karen pointed out, after reading the article, that I should have included the application SuperDuper! in favor of Carbon Copy Cloner because "it took CCC forever to support Tiger and still doesn't do Intel machines. Plus, SuperDuper! has one of the best UIs around." Thanks, Karen!
September 05, 2006
Coffee Week at Verité Coffee
My good friend Ags pointed me to what must be, based on name alone, a wonderful thing: Coffee Week at Verité Coffee. As in, free coffee. Buy a $20 drink card before September 15 and get a free drink, or buy a mug or tumbler and get a free fill-up. Verité is located in Ballard (next to the Majestic Bay theater), Madrona, and in West Seattle. They use Caffe Umbria beans, which are especially good.