Friday, December 31, 2004

Cup 8: Gah!

cup 7
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: the livingroom, Orono, ME
When: December 30th, 2004, 9 am
Present: just me
Coffee: Maine Roaster's Coffee French Roast
Mood: anxious

I knew that getting cats would change my life in ways I never expected. This is the third day the beautiful sisters Dot and Dash have been living with us. They got fixed just before they moved in, and their bellies are all shaved and wounded. We have to give them pain medication three times a day, so the first thing I did the morning was to give the kitties their pills. Second thing I did today was pet the kitties, and before I knew it, I was out of bed for a whole hour without having a cup of coffee! I'm used to having my own selfish interests as the primary motivating factors in my life, but these little creatures are changing that. And then I went and checked my email without even making coffee yet. A big mistake. One of my students had emailed me to let me know the Portfolio server was down. Big stress there. I'd really intended for the server to be used by a few dozen people, but the response to doing portfolios electronically was much greater than I'd planned. Now I'm hosting around 500 people on what was supposed to have been just a test to find out what we'd need to do to make it work. Now the server is down, the building is locked up, and there's nothing I can do and I have no idea how many people are going to be inconvenienced by this, or if it is something simple or something major. The coffee was just a fact this morning. I was drinking it, but not tasting it. It could have been a lovely morning. The Twilight Zone marathon is on the SciFi channel and it would have been wonderful to ease into the day with a good cup of coffee and an episode of the best TV show ever broadcast. Instead I am stuck with frustration and a sense of impending doom. Gah.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Cups 6 & 7: To Do List

cups 6 & 7
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: My office, Orono, ME
When: December 30th, 2004, 9 am
Present: just me
Coffee: Maine Roaster's Coffee French Roast
Mood: overwhelmed

This is a sure sign of things returning to normal after the holiday chaos. Today I was actually able to do my usual routine of waking up, making a cup of coffee and then sitting in front of the computer, answering emails, checking websites. This is the way I like to spend the first hour of my day, getting my thoughts in order, getting awake, getting charged. I am amazed at how fast this break has flown by. I had planned on getting so much done, and the only thing I actually accomplished was to gain a few more pounds! Things I need to do: finish 3 incomplete classes so I can officially be done with my Master's and start working on my PhD, build my "real" website to help drum up work as an educational consultant; go to the bank to see about a loan to buy a house; clean my office, build the printed tutorials for my claymation classes, write a proposal for the online version of the Intro to Digital Art and Internet Art classes I teach, go to Sam's club and buy big bags of frozen veggies.... and on and on...

The first cup I didn't even notice drinking. I was so focused on my writing. There was just a moment of suprise when I went to take a drink and found nothing in the cup. The second I enjoyed with a bowl of my mom's most excellent home made granola. She makes the best granola in the world. Unfortunately, she only does it once a year as a Christmas present for me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Cup 5: Impending Cats

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: My livingroom, Orono, ME
When: December 29th, 2004, 8 am
Present: just me
Coffee: Maine Roaster's Coffee French Roast
Mood: anxious

Great cup of coffee this morning. That's the fun of the French press. Coffee makers brew consistantly, so if you use the same amount and kind of coffee, and you filter the water, you'll get the same cup every day. But the French press adds the variable of time to the mix, so some days you'll get coffee that is pretty good, while others you get coffee that just makes you pause and say, "Wow, that's a great cup of coffee!" This morning was a great cup of coffee day. I savored it while watching the first episode of Wolf's Rain that the TiVo recorded last night. I am procrastinating today. It is one of those days where I've got so much to do that I wind up doing none of it. Jessie comes home today, and her mom and brother are coming along with her to visit, so I have to get the apartment cleaned up before she gets here. I've been taking advantage of her absence to be a complete slob, so that is going to take some doing. Plus I have to cat-proof the place since she's bringing two cats with her. It'll be great to have the cats around but I am feeling quite anxious about it, since I haven't informed the landlady that cats are moving in, yet. The fact that the landlady is also my mom further complicates matters...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Cup 4: Coffee Cream

cup 4
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: My livingroom, Orono, ME
When: December 28th, 2004, 5:30PM
Present: just me
Coffee: Maine Roaster's Coffee French Roast
Mood: content

Just a relaxed afternoon, now that everyone is gone and I am alone for the first time in days. Savoring the quiet. Catching up on the TV shows the TiVo caught for me while I was away. Realizing it has been days since I had a really good cup of coffee, so I ground some beans, boiled up some fresh, filtered water and brewed a cup in the French press. Many connoisseurs argue against French presses for coffee, believing that the grounds suffer by soaking in hot water, as opposed to brewing it properly in a flow-through coffee maker. I agree that a good coffee maker can produce a more consistently satisfying cup of coffee, but I love the complete control I have over the coffee in the French press. Anything less than three cups in most any coffee maker is problematic, but in a French press I can decide exactly how much coffee I want to make, and how long I want it to steep for.

The cream was special this time. From my recent trip to Canada, I brought back a liter of "Coffee Cream." I was so excited to see this in the dairy section! Cream designated specifically for coffee! It contains 18% milkfat. Not sure what this means, since the percentage of milkfat isn't labeled on most dairy cartons in the US, save for "2%". They also had "Cereal Cream," and that sounded really yummy. Coffee Cream doesn't seem much different from half & half, but I still like the idea.

In all, an excellent cup of coffee on a nice, relaxed afternoon.

Cup 3: Christmas Miracle

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Mom's Kitchen
When: December 28th, 2004, 8am
Present: Ethel LeClair, Caritha Curti, Matt Curti, Sofia Curti
Coffee: Folgers
Mood: happy

The Christmas miracle this year was that Mom bought a new can of Folgers! Folgers, of course, ranks somewhere below Dunkin' Donuts but slightly above boiled cigarette buts in terms of taste. The inherent badness of Folgers is made worse at my mom's house because she insists on getting giant 5lb cans of the stuff because it is a really good buy at Sam's Club, even though she only drinks the stuff when company comes over. She prefers instant coffee. The giant cans of Folgers stick around for years and years in the freezer. Fortunately, Mom has a decent coffee maker and knows the right amount of coffee to use, and she always has half and half on hand, so the coffee at Mom's isn't the horrible ordeal it might be.

It was a happy cup of coffee this morning. I made it back in time last night to spend some time with my family, although the weather forced me back to the Brakeleys the first time I left. I got up early since the Curtis were headed home early in the morning, and I wanted to have the chance to visit with them. Breakfast was coffee and macaroni and cheese. Nanny makes the best macaroni and cheese, according to Little Matt, my nephew, and he wanted to get his share before he left, even if it meant eating it for breakfast. I joined him for a bowl, and we played Bagha Cha, the national board game of Nepal, while we ate. This was followed by some multiplayer Super Mario DS, but then Little had to go shower and get ready to go.

Cups 1 and 2: Brakeley Residence

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Brakeley Residence, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
When: December 27th, 2004, 7am
Present: Chuck Brakely, Diane Brakely, Jessica Brakeley
Coffee: Maine Roasters Coffee, French Roast
Mood: anxious

The coffee is halfway decent today, though it isn't as strong as it should be. For the past few days I've been drinking Dunkin' Donuts coffee (the homebrew kind, not from the store) that has been sitting in the freezer for longer than anyone can remember. Somewhere people got the idea that things in the freezer never go bad, but I'd say even whole bean coffee that has been in the freezer for more than a couple of months should be thrown away. Dunkin' Donuts coffee is bad as it is, but to leave it sitting around for so long... still, it was all we had til XMas day, when Jessie's mom gave me a BIG bag of Maine Roaster's Coffee. Maine Roaster's is easily the best in the state. Just look at the oily blackness of the beans compared to the chalky brown of most coffee beans. Hold them between your fingers and rub them. They are slick and smooth. Breathe in. The whole beans still in the bag smell richer than Dunkin Donuts coffee, even when it is brewing.

I brewed the coffee in the Brakeley's Mr. Coffee coffee maker. It is an abominable thing. Like most cheap coffee makers it is plagued with terrible heating elements that don't get the water hot enough to fully extract the coffee from the bean, but heat up while the coffee is in the pot enough to scorch it, leaving you with burned, weak coffee. I guess I can't blame the Brakeley's for their lack of good coffee and crappy coffee maker. They don't touch the stuff themselves, but have things on hand as a courtesey to guests who might want a cup. After a number of pots brewed in their coffee maker, I'd finally gotten the hang of it, and could brew a modest cup of coffee.

The coffee was halfway decent this morning, though there being no creamer on hand, I was had to make do with eggnog. Not really to my liking, but it works in a pinch. Really, it didn't matter that morning. My sister and her family were at my mom's house in Orono, and I was 2.5 hours away in Cape Elizabeth. I needed to get back. I'd intended to leave the night before, but it was cold and windy and a storm was in the forecast. Next morning the snow was still coming down, and I was looking at a 4-plus hour drive back, if I was lucky. The roads would be horrible, and the wind was still gusting. Still, my nephew was waiting for me to come play multiplayer Nintendo DS games, and he'd be dissappointed if I didn't make it back.

The second cup wasn't necessary. It was just a way to procrastinate. Jessie hung out and pretended to be awake while I drank it. It was way too early for her to be awake, but she still managed to drag herself out of bed for goodbye hugs and kisses.

100 Cups of Coffee

My plan is to chronicle the next 100 cups of coffee or so that I drink. I've been trying to think of an art project to do using a blog as the medium. I think there are elements of time and space that blogging lends itself to that I want to explore. I really wanted to do something with moblogging, but don't have the prerequisite photo cell phone. This experiment may not be all that interesting, but hopefully, in doing it, I'll make discoveries that will help me build something cooler in the future.

Why coffee? I'd been looking for some kind of theme that can be a unifying element to string together separate times, different locations, alternate events. I realized that one constant in my life is coffee. It is a constant because I am addicted to it. I can't start the day without my cup of coffee. Until I have that first cup, I am lethargic, unfocused, confused. If I am awake for more than a little while without drinking I get irritable and hostile. Before too long I develop a splitting headache. During times of stress I've been known to drink coffee all day, downing two or more full pots during the course of the day. When no coffee is available I've been known to drink the dregs from coffee cups that have been sitting around for days. This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't always have cream in my coffee. The acidity of coffee can keep the cream from curdling for a while, but it still gets nasty after a while. It has to be coffee, too. Soda and caffiene pills don't work.

Still, I have no plans to stop drinking coffee. I am an addict, yes, but I love the stuff. I I love the way it smells, the way it tastes. It is a part of my life. Before I get out of bed I'm looking forward to that first cup of coffee. The first thing I do in the morning after I get out of bed is to but the water on to boil for the French coffee press. So much better when I can make it myself, just the way I like it. Some days coffee is my destination. I'll take a walk uptown to buy a cup of coffee even when I have it at home. Starting out on a long journey, I'll buy a cup of coffee for the coffee holder so I can sip while I drive.

So this is the story of coffee and me. Admittedly, it isn't all that interesting, but maybe after the 50th cup of coffee or so, I'll find a way to make it fascinating. Let's find out!