Sunday, December 21, 2008

Boy Scout Syndrome.

Mug: Chinese made gift coffee cup. Gold trim along the rim, with a Cub Scouts emblem. Nice and thick. Good feel to the hand and mouth, especially for this type of mug.

Colombian from What's Brewing. Slightly bitter, although my lingering "systemic viral respiratory event" may be impacting my taste buds.

Note: I was a Cub Scout. I loved it. My mother was our Den Mother one year (a year she didn't have to work). I was a Boy Scout, too, but I didn't enjoy it as much, and after an assistant Scout master invited some of the other boys into his tent to watch "his snake dance", I decided Scouting wasn't for me.

But I left with the Scout Principals firmly rooted in my being. Through all my wanderings (button-down hippie, artist, state employee, graphic designer/art director, small business owner, bureaucrat), I have always returned unconsciously to the Scout Oath and Scout Law. As somebody, somewhere said, "the Law is written on our hearts."

Only in the Land of Bureaucrats has that consistently gotten me in trouble.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Legal Grounds

Mug: Chinese generic. Very glossy clearcoat.

The Colombian, the usual. But the taste is off today, and that I believe is a fault with my system due to sleeping under an open window.

Note: This is a mug from the CycleDallas gift shop. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When in roam, do as the roamin'.

A Starbuck's stainless steel travel mug and a Starbuck's paper Tall cup with sleeve.

Coffee: Pike's Place Blend. Pretty mediocre.

Notes: Spent the weekend in Kyle. To avoid waking everyone, I drove into town to get my morning coffee at the Starbuck's (and coffee for Mrs. Summer). Crappy cellphone picture courtesy of my Palm Treo 680.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Body bag.

Mug: Not. Plastic bag.

Coffee: The usual suspects. 100% Colombian Supremo beans, medium roast.

Note: While getting coffee recently from Central Market, I had an idea. The new bean dispensers they have are more difficult to control than the old "scoop in a bin" way. I couldn't tell how much coffee was going into the bag (vertical drop hopper style), and so I've been overfilling the normal coffee bag.

The coffee is in the "bulk" area, with the spices and teas and candies. They have zip-lock plastic bags of various sizes for these. Why not use the zip-lock bags for coffee, instead of the opaque paper "coffee" bags? They'd have the bonus of sealing better than the fold-over paper bags, and the beans would stay fresher longer, holding their flavor, and the brewed coffee would have better "body".

So I did.

P.S. They weigh less than the paper bags, too, so they save a penny or two.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Old Faithful.

Mug: Waechtersbach "mud colored" mug. Purchased at the Container Store in 1977, made in Western-Germany.

Colombian Supremo. Locally roasted, ground a few minutes ago.

There are "standards" for a reason. These are some good ones.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A reformulation of coffee?

Mug: OXO double-walled stainless steel mug. Rubber handle with a nice thumb notch on the top. Smooth, "no-taste" steel. Happy lips (no metal taste, no metal burn). Cooler mornings allow for warmer mugs.

Coffee: Colombian Supremo "pea" beans from What's Brewing in San Antonio (via Central Market in Dallas). Some concern here that the coffee's not quite as good as before. The beans have gotten smaller (not as good a "pick"?), and slightly more acidic. Autumnal allergies may play a part in flavor shortcomings.

Notes: Today is Reformation Sunday in my church. Oh that they would.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lighter than air?

Mug: An Indonesia-made mug with a delightful woodcut of lighter-than-air-craft: blimps, hot-air balloons, and dirigibles.

Coffee: Columbia Supremo... brewed strong enough to walk on its own.

Note: One of a series from 222 Fifth. Eleven ounces (making it a mug and not a cup), with a tall cylindrical body and a very pleasing handle. The usually dainty tear-drop shape has been made more masculine by its extra width. A nice touch, a good mug.

The bottom of the mug has some good info on lighter than air ships, including the little known fact that the top of the Empire State Building was designed as a dirigible/airship terminal.

I got it for 99¢ from (on sale from $9.99). The rest of the series were not on sale, but this just happened to show up when I was buying some other mugs as a housewarming gift. The 99¢ price allowed me to qualify for Free Shipping. So, the mug didn't cost 99¢, Amazon paid me $6.95 to take it.

Further Note: The "lighter than air" concept is of interest to me right now due to the 4000 lbs of leafy tree that responded to gravity's call by landing on our house, delivering the den a crushing blow, and rending the roof asunder. And the rains came.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

It's too damn hot.

Mug: Not. Bodum of Denmark's hand-blown, double walled, insulted glass tumbler.

Coffee: Not. 2 ounces of Gordon's gin, 6 ounces of Canada Dry tonic water, two lime quarters, and ice.

Note: The official temperature today was 107° at DFW Airport, 105°at Love Field (more relevant to me). The Heat Index was 107-109°. Hell on Earth. A gin & tonic is one of the only known remedies.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Coffee by the Book.

Coffee: Super H.E.B. Colombian Supremo (whole bean).

Mug: Bistro-style mug from Crate & Barrel or Target (I forget which, but I think C&B).

Note: Another morning on the porch on Atlantis Street in Kyle, Texas. The book is my combination Book of Common Prayer/New Revised Standard Bible. I use it to pray the Morning Office everyday. It belonged to my dad, and he gave it to me (because the print was too small) on Father's Day in 1994. In 1998, I had it recovered in goat skin by Henry Nuss Book Binders in Deep Ellum. Henry Nuss dates back to the late 19th century and the Swiss-French-German La Reunion Utopian colony survivors who moved to east Dallas after the colony's collapse (giving Swiss Avenue it's name, and opening a brewery that is long gone, Rudolph's meat market that remains, and countless other professions and trade shops that gave early Dallas a character that still lingers).

Like my dad, Henry Nuss' is now gone. But neither is forgotten.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

All things are new again.

Coffee: French Roast from the Super H.E.B. in Kyle.

Mug: Starbucks' city commemorative mug for Austin.

Note: Sitting on the front porch of my daughter Anna's new (and first) house in Kyle (on the farmland side on I-35). She and David closed on the house Friday the 13th, moved in over the weekend, and then she delivered her second son on Monday. They've been very busy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Coffee Service.

Coffee: Fair Trade, certified organic Colombian Supremo from Brazil's Marquez de Paiva (marketers) via Colombia's Colcafe (growers/gatherers). It's a medium-dark (fuller city) roast, with plumper beans than what I have been purchasing. I can not comment on the flavor, as I am still not possessed of functioning taste and olfactory senses.

Mug: Made in the U.S.A. china coffee cup from the Veterans Administration, manufactured by TEPCO in California (Technical Porcelain and China Ware Company). One of the most crudely made cups I have, it is reminiscent of the ceramic objects I created in my short-lived study of ceramics in college. This cup probably dates from the 1930s or 1940s. It's thick and heavy and does it's job.

Note: Today is Memorial Day, a day we remember those who died in the wars America has fought, and originally established to remember those who died during the American Civil War, regardless of which side they fought on. Veteran's Day is to remember those who didn't die, and came about after The Great War... World War I, and was originally known as Armistice Day, as it was celebrated on November 11th (the armistice that ended WWI was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pass the popcorn.

Mug: Crate & Barrel bistro mug. This mug holds about 11 ounces of coffee. It's made in China (what isn't), but it has a very pleasing design. It feels good in the hand, although the handle is actually too large. The reinforced lip band provides a good feel to the mouth. The color is a bright red, clearly meant to imitate Waechtersbach's red glaze. Quite handsome.

Coffee: Unknown. An oily, dark roast from the H.E.B. in Kyle, possibly French Roast, and ground fresh just prior to brewing. I've got good kids. Flavor reminiscent of burned popcorn. Not the fault of the good kids.

Note: I am seated on the deck at Catherine and Riley's house in Kyle, overlooking the water retention basin/wildlife conservation area behind their house. I am in Kyle for a baby shower for my daughter Anna and her husband David (soon to be of Kyle as well).

I have a cold. Coffee tastes like burned popcorn. Satan is real.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sipping in tongues

Mug: Waechtersbach cup and saucer set, made in Germany. A new find, from St. Vincent de Paul's Thrift Shop, it is obviously more of a tea-cup than a coffee mug, but I couldn't resist the manufacturer nor the vibrant red color. 8 ounces is enough coffee to at least START the day.

Coffee: The Colombian Supremo of easy habit.

Note: Red is the color of Pentecost.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Me no Alamo! Me no Goliad!

Coffee: 100% Columbian Supremo beans roasted in San Antonio to a Full City roast and ground fresh this morning.

Mug: The last in the series of four Texas History Movies Sesquicentennial mugs. Chinese promo-mug of a non-offensive design. Two-finger handle design.

Note: The Battle of San Jacinto was one of history's (and especially American history's) most decisive battles. The entire political shape of the North American continent was changed in less than an hour by this conflict between roughly 2,000 armed men.
The battle started one hundred and seventy two years ago this hour, as a small ensemble better suited for a tavern than a battlefield began to play the Irish melody, "Will Ye Come To The Bower". The opening volley of the Texian army's "Twin Sisters" cannons were fired soon after, and the fight was on. It was a battle with mythic elements that are true nonetheless:

Extreme bravery and courage (Texian general Sam Houston was shot off his horse while leading the attack, one of only 30 Texians hit by enemy fire),

Brutality (as Mexican soldier's begged for their lives by pleading "Me no Alamo! Me no Goliad", they were ruthlessly slaughtered by men who were drunk with vengeance... over 600 Mexican soldiers died in the battle, many of who were executed as they tried to surrender while standing in the waters of Buffalo Bayou),

Cowardice (General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna put on a private's tunic and hid in the weeds until captured), and...

Chivalry (Houston received the captured the General and spared his life from those who would have shown Santa Anna the same mercy he showed to Col. Fannin and his men at La Bahia... execution).

These are the things of myth, but being mythical does not always mean it is untrue.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Yes and no.

Mug: Another anonymously-made "gift" mug, this one from KERA 90.1 FM. A really pleasant drinking device: good handle, decent heft, nice tactile experience, with an attractive decoration.

Coffee: 100% Columbian Supremo beans roasted in San Antonio, ground this morning in Dallas at Ft. Tipperary.

Comments: The mug promotes the "exclusiveness" of KERA/NPR radio listeners/subscribers. I take exception to that sense of exclusivity, superiority, and elitism that such claims imply. To be somehow "better" than our fellow man is a stain that runs deep in the human soul. From that breeds lawlessness ("the laws don't apply to me"), greed and avarice ("you're not worthy of that possession, so I'm taking it"), immorality of all sorts ("I'm not hurting anyone by my actions"), and eventually, self worship ("I am my own God").

In this life, we are common. Common is good: Common law, Common Prayer, Communion. Weighed against any other human life, mine has no extra (or less) weight in God's scales. I am not special. I do not have any special privileges, whether or not I expect them. I am no better and no worse than anyone else, regardless of how "good" or "bad" they may be. I am not "one of a kind". I am "of a kind".

Except, except... in God's eyes. He made me to be the same as everyone else, but unique. He did not make me "special" in any way. However, He uniquely made me. I am the same as everyone, but I am individual. He knew He made ME. He knew He made YOU. Uniquely, we are formed in His image.

So I am the same as you. Uniquely the same.

Postscript: That's my wife in the photo, enjoying a Spaten at Scholz Garten in Austin following the birth of our first grandchild (Hosea Downing). She truly is "one of a kind".

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Be careful what you wish for.

Coffee: Columbian Supremo full city.

Mug: Novelty mug made in China for a College Station-based Texas novelty gift company.

Note: As I write this pre-dawn post, 172 years ago this hour, the Alamo fell.

Colonel Ruiz's Report of the Scene After the Fall of the Alamo

March 6, 1836

From Francisco Ruiz, "Report," trans. in Amelia Williams, "A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and the Personnel of Its Defenders," The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXXVII (July, 1933), 39-40. Another translation by J. H. Quintero was published in the Texas Almanac (Galveston, 1860), 80-81.

On the 6th of March 1836, at 3 a.m., General Santa Anna at the head of 4,000 men advanced against the Alamo. The infantry, artillery and cavalry had formed about 1000 varas from the walls of the same fortress. The Mexican army charged and were twice repulsed by the deadly fire of Travis's artillery, which resembled a constant thunder. At the third charge the Toluca battalion commenced to scale the walls and suffered severely. Out of 830 men only 130 of the battalion were left alive.

When the Mexican army entered the walls, I with the political chief, Don Ramon Musquiz and other members of the corporation, accompanied by the curate, Don Refugio de la Garza, who by Santa Anna's orders had assembled during the night at a temporary fortification on Protero Street, with the object of attending the wounded, etc. As soon as the storming commenced we crossed the bridge on Commerce Street, with this object in view and about 100 yards from the same a party of Mexican dragoons fired upon us and compelled us to fall back on the river to the place that we had occupied before. Half an hour had elapsed when Santa Anna sent one of his aides-de-camp with an order for us to come before him. He directed me to call on some of the neighbors to come with carts to carry the (Mexican) dead to the cemetary and to accompany him, as he desired to have Colonels Travis, Bowie, and Crockett shown to him.

On the north battery of the fortress convent, lay the lifeless body of Col. Travis on the gun carriage, shot only through the forehead. Toward the west and in a small fort opposite the city, we found the body of Colonel Crockett. Col. Bowie was found dead in his bed in one of the rooms on the south side.

Santa Anna, after all the Mexican bodies had been taken out, ordered wood to be brought to burn the bodies of the Texans. He sent a company of dragoons with me to bring wood and dry branches from the neighboring forests. About three o'clock in the afternoon of March 6, we laid the wood and dry branches upon which a pile of dead bodies was placed, more wood was piled on them, then another pile of bodies was brought, and in this manner they were all arranged in layers. Kindling wood was distributed through the pile and about 5 o'clock in the evening it was lighted.

The dead Mexicans of Santa Anna were taken to the graveyard, but not having sufficient room for them, I ordered some to be thrown into the river, which was done on the same day.

The gallantry of the few Texans who defended the Alamo was really wondered at by the Mexican army. Even the generals were astonished at their vigorous resistance, and how dearly victory was bought.

The generals under Santa Anna who participated in the storming of the Alamo, were Juan Amador, Castrillon, Ramirez y Sesma, and Andrade.

The men (Texans) burnt were one hundred and eighty-two. I was an eyewitness, for as alcalde of San Antonio, I was with some of the neighbors, collecting the dead bodies and placing them on the funeral pyre.

Francis Antonio Ruiz

Saturday, March 01, 2008

No coffee for old men, coffee with Chigurh.

Mug: Shenango China mug from New Castle, PA. Old style commercial china, with a vaguely "Indian" decoration. Surprisingly pleasant drinking experience, due to the thick walls of the cup and the good tactile feel of the glaze to the lips. The extra-thick handle (one-finger design) offsets the small size. However, I'm still no fan of the inverted cone cup design.

Coffee: Columbian Supremo, pre-ground before embarking on the trip. Brewed at a strength that the old men (and women) at my church have soundly rejected. They won't drink coffee that I have been associated with because it's always "too strong".

Note: This was consumed (and enjoyed) in Cabin No. 2 at Beavers Bend State Park outside of Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Native America: Where the buffalo roam.

Mug: A Chinese-made naval-style mug. Excellent qualities, if too small. From the original Cafe du Monde shop in New Orleans.

Coffee: Not. Buffalo Trace 90 proof straight Kentucky Bourbon. Excellent stuff.

Notes: Consumed prior to retiring for the night at Beavers Bend State Park in Oklahoma: a.k.a. "Native America". It's Sadie Hawkin's Day, and my wife has brought me to this far-away place to be far away for our 22nd Anniversary (on March 2nd... a.k.a. Texas Interdependence Day).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Coffee Ceremony.

Mug: Hand-thrown ceramic bowl from Portugal. Two-tone glaze (inner bowl glaze made by swirling the liquid glaze around in it before firing). Notice the small handles for grasping the bowl to drink from. Can be adventurous to drink out of if too full (notice the half-fullness).

Coffee: No adventure. 100% Columbian Supremo beans from CM. Made just slightly weaker than usual (notice the transparency).

Note: The bowl (and a matching companion) was a gift from an old friend in a previous life. It was for several years part of the Communion Set we used at Christ in the Wilderness Eucharistic Fellowship at Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas. It served as either a lavabo bowl (for the priest to wash his hands in prior to the consecration of the elements), or as a ciborium (the vessel in which the communion bread was placed prior to consecration). It also saw use holding ashes for Ash Wednesday services at Thanks-Giving Square chapel.

It was used by several priests, four bishops, and one archbishop (George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, then head of the Anglican Communion and the Church of England).

It's also suitable for the morning coffee ceremony at the Summer House, a ceremony that forms part of the Daily Office.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Just say know.

Mug: Not a mug, but a beautiful hand-painted ceramic spoon cradle from Italy.

Ten pills I am taking at this time to fight off the signs of decline in this mortal coil. Allergy medicine, hypertension medicine (these two are prescription), ibuprofen, antihistamine, mucus dissolver (these three are temporary as I fight an upper respiratory viral infection), multi-vitamin, zinc tablet (for a happy, healthy prostate), joint improver (possible holistic quackery), and a baby aspirin (to ward off heart attacks).

This is a prime example of why the "Just say no to drugs" campaigns always fail. We are a drug addicted, pill-popping culture. Know the enemy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Staggers and the jags.

Mug: Not a mug. Six ounce "juice" glass with the ribbing on the inside of the glass.

Coffee: Not coffee. One ounce of George T Stagg unfiltered, uncut bourbon whiskey, with an ice cube.

Note: George T Stagg is a limited release 144 proof "wheated" whiskey from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Crash and burn.

Mug: The ubiquitous specialty advertising made-in-China mug. It's of an acceptable design. The gold foil logo on the navy blue glaze is very classy looking.

Contents: None.

Note: This mug came from Nashotah House Episcopal Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. I got it on one of my two summer sessions there. I have been using the mug as a toothbrush holder, but it took a fall this week and shattered. Good for nothing now, and much like the Episcopal Church, it too has been relegated to the waste bin.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Old White Cracker.

Mug: White ceramic variation of a classic diner/navy mug with decent characteristics: rugged, good body grip, good volume, a handle that's easy on arthritic fingers, and a nicely rounded lip. It is made in that country with the largest number of Christians of any nation on Earth... China.

Coffee: "Country Fixin's" brand "premium" blended coffee, as served in a restaurant with breakfast. Decent enough coffee, but too weak. Probably what the average American would consider "good coffee" (I'm sure they've done lots of market surveys to make sure of that), and most certainly what the demographic market for this restaurant chain would consider to be good.

Note: This was served with a heart-stopping "Country-style" breakfast at a Cracker Barrel Store on I-35 in Buda, Texas. The breakfast was good (two eggs, two biscuits, hash brown casserole, grits, and a hot-link). I liked it.

Dining (and yes, shopping) at the Cracker Barrel probably stands as proof that the Mrs. and I are now officially grandparents. We've got a three year old grandson, and a 15 month granddaughter, but somehow eating at the Cracker Barrel seemed to crystallize the concept that I am a grandfather: a curmudgeonly middle-aged white cracker nearing retirement age. I guess I'll soon join the Spit 'n Whittle Club down at the courthouse and spend all my time talking about how much better things used to be. Oh, wait, I'm already doing that (the talking part).