Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let There Be Images.

If a television is on in the room, I am useless. I can do nothing apart from stare at the pretty pictures, whatever they may be. It's like what happens if you have an indoor cat and open the window.

In that light, I have noticed that my past few articles have been short, and notably lacking in pretty pictures.

I was also asked today, "What kind of place is Tacoma to live? Is there anything to do?"

Here, then, is 7th avenue in Tacoma. Whose idea was it just to pour asphalt over all of those cobbles? And, really, someone who knows about urban engineering, what does it take to rip up that layer of blacktop and restore the paving stones? Would it be ridiculously, prohibitively expensive?

In other news, and this is HUGE :


Go check it out. Right now. I'll wait.

Here is the works at Valhalla Coffee, which shares space with, and is fully visible from within, the Mandolin Cafe (second picture) S 12th st in the 6th av neighborhood of T-town, making it the only active roastery and coffee shop in town that I know of. Also a great place to check out some low-key shows, drink a glass of wine, or eat a slice of pie. The Mandolin is one of the places in Tacoma that I will truly miss -- there's not much like it out there. Every "cool" hangout in every TV drama is set in a place just like this. The picture of the cafe itself is a crummy iPhone pic in crummy light, but it's halloween, which is why the band is dressed as a bunch of Civil War casualties...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This Is Not Health Food.

What kind of doublethink is going on here?

McDonald's has hired a group of mothers (who else?) as nutritional spokesperson for the company, reports the Washington Post. I mean, they suggest, how can you go wrong with McD's French Fries? They're a good source of fiber.

That's like the energy drink companies who change the word "calories" to "energy contained." Okay, technically, you are correct, potatoes have got fiber, and fries contain potatoes.

And then they are deep fried, in what was up until very recently a big pile of trans fats. McDonalds now declares that they have, at long last and in the fast of increasing scrutiny and regulation by regional and national governments, eliminated most of the trans fat content from their oils. (So has Krispy Kreme, of course. Donuts are health food too!)

Also amusing to me was the description of the burger bun bakeries at the bottom of the article. These bakeries use rigorous food safety standards, say the mothers, and, when eating a McD's burger, Michele Crosby remarked "I definitely thought of all the safety standards, production innovations and pride that went into making it [the bun.]"

Do you know what I think of when I look at their baked goods? To say nothing of the Enriched Flour, and the list of debatably-useful vitamins thrown in after the germ, bran, and other useful parts of the grain are discarded, and of course, water, the bun contains:

high fructose corn syrup, yeast, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, soybean oil, canola oil, salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, soy flour, ammonium sulfate, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium chloride, baking soda, sorbic acid, deactivated dry yeast, dough conditioners (may contain one or more the following: distilled monoglycerides, DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium peroxide, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, enzymes, guar gum), calcium propionate & sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin. (emphases all added. And WTF is DATEM?)

That's what I'm thinking about.

Just so you know.

But, after all, HFCS is all natural sugar, right? RIGHT? ISN'T IT?

What you don't know CAN hurt you. After all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coffee Mastery:

I never did earn my Black Apron, so I'm not a real Coffee Master, but I put my powers to use this morning.

Office Coffee here gets a lot of complaints about being "mud," or "grease," but really that's just because it's Peet's Major Dickason blend, which works well enough for me. Sure, it's a little boring, and gets a little repetitive, and, yes, it comes in pre-ground packets, but still, it's pretty solid coffee for office stuff.

But, today, people were concerned that there would be none of it. Today, we ran out of filters. It's a standard light-commercial machine, and accepts the standard flat “basket” type of paper filters.

Everyone was getting confused and excited and searching the same places 43 times for new filters. There's got to be some around here somewhere!

Now granted they were under-caffeinated, but all looked at me with both trepidation and amazement as I put a folded-to-fit paper towel in the basket.  Yes, that works fine, it is just a little more annoying and makes the coffee a tiny nudge less strong.
Seriously, folks.  You can do it.

Yes, the guys who had French Presses at their desks, instead of using the drip brewer, were okay. They mocked the drip drinkers for needing filters at all, and they're right, but I don't want to spend the time in the office clean out the suckers, to say nothing of pre-grinding, measuring, and bringing in my own beans!

In related news, can anyone tell me, or link me, to some good information about what, chemically, causes coffee to become crummy as it cools, and why microwaving it tastes terrible? Does it have to do with releasing CO2? I know that freshly-roasted coffee beans do contain plenty of that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hunger Strike Take Two:

Yours Truly is fasting today. Breakfast routine is a big part of my day, but I consumed and burned through a large quantity of pastries and the like at the end of last week, displacing my usual oatmeal, and the stomach is a stupid, stupid thing. Don't want to start any bad habits!

It's strange to be sitting at my desk with only a cup of coffee.

Expect me to drink a world-beating amount of green tea.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I've been working a handful of shifts back at Starbucks on the weekends since October -- just like 1 day a week. This is pretty cool. Basically I get to go play around with lattes for a few hours, move really really fast, and go home. For this, I get lots of free coffee, a 30% discount at SBUX, some slightly canned socialization that I wouldn't get in a cubicle, and a "paycheck" -- erm, that is, extra beer money.

There's male barista, let's call him Juan, there who thinks he's gods' gift to women, and goes overboard in hitting on essentially anyone with two X chromosomes that walks in teh cafe. He's pretty good about talking about how awesome he is: he grew up speaking 3 languages, he's studying 2 more (though practically this means he can order a beer in Italian), he is a judo master, he used to drive a super hot car (but crashed it,), he is joining the Marines (but only if they will cave in to his very reasonable signing bonus demands), that kind of thing.

Last Saturday, Juan was working beside me on the espresso bar (and dragging azz, too), and one of the female Baristas, N, heads home for the day. As she's waiting for a drink, she stops to mock me with her brand new Economist mag. We both subscribe, but hers gets there a day earlier than mine, from some quirk of the post. "Here, you can look at the cover!" she teases.

"What's that? The ... economist?" Juan declares. "Why don't you take your pretentious magazine and go home?"

"Hey Juan," I reply, have you got a pot?

He looks beside him, confused. There's no espresso bar implement called a pot, but maybe I mean something else. "Um, what?"

N, of course, is right on it. "Perhaps a kettle?" she asks, excessively, sarcastic-sweetly.

He still doesn't get it,and I tell N, "it has to be a black one, though."

Juan, of course, senses what's up, and says "All right, I know you guys are making fun of me somehow..."


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's time. Vote.

If you are done with the national election, or not an American citizen, you can vote for some other stuff, too -- like Worlds' Sexiest Vegetarian.

After all, "vegetarisch eten is goed voor de dieren en voor het klimaat. En goed voor jezelf."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hunger Strike along the Interurban Trail

My ride to work is only about seventy minutes, but, even so, I get inordinately hungry over the ride.

When I got to work today, I powered down my usual bowl of oatmeal, and then got to pick over remants of the weekend's potluck -- I brought more banana bread, and then ate some fruit cobbler, but passed on the scary-looking carrot cake, which hadn't been refrigerated. When I leave work, I will be seriously hungry for dinner by the time I get home.

What gives? Training generally makes me un-hungry, and I have to struggle to eat enough granola bars and fig newtons to stay fueled up for a four-hour ride.

It took me a little while to realize I wasn't having an olfactory hallucination of tasty baked goods near my office. In fact, in industrial Kent, WA, just a few buildings over, is a big bakery. It's called somebody's fresh baked goods, and they have their own 60's looking semitrailers with cheesy logos loading up the loaves, every morning. While the heavily processed fare they cook probably isn't something I want to eat, it still smells pretty good when they are baking it by the ton.

Another mile down the Interuban trail is another loading depot of some kind, and while I don't know who owns it, the place perenially smells of muffins. Next is the massive factory for Oh Boy, O'Berto! meat products. In the summer, I actually got a little disgusted by the pervasive smell of hot dogs, and, of course, I am morally opposed to any proper noun that includes a punctuation mark. All right, you can have apostrophes and ampersands if you like, but no periods, exclamation marks, colons, or question marks.

Then there's the bridge across the Green River, which inexplicably smells like soup. Maybe minestrone? I have no idea where it's from, but I certainly hope it is not the river.

Depending upon which way I go home, I often also find myself riding past the salty air of the Tim's Potato chip factory. I'm not a big potato chip fan, but these are actually pretty decent. The factory and headquarters is probably the most exciting thing in Algona, Washington, narrowly beating out the stop sign and the well-produced website.

While not food related, if you're ever in Port Orchard, WA, check out Olympic Bike and Skate. If you get the owner talking about bike racing, make sure you've brought some snacks. You'll be there awhile.

Here's what it looks like inside. Impressive.