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I’m keeping this blog around for a while as I may yet find use for it but I’ve switched my blogging efforts over to Tumblr, which makes it easier to share links and has a bit more of a social-network feel to it.

benetherington.tumblr.com
If you want to cut through all the shared links and just view original content, you can view just the posts tagged “Original.

And, of course, you can always email me atben.j.etherington(a)gmail.com, follow me at twitter.com/benetherington and find me on facebook at facebook.com/ben.etherington, but don’t be offended if I reject your friend request.

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You know how most people hate to hear playbacks of their own voices? I hate to watch videos I’ve made talking about coffee. Every cup I prepare and every cup I see someone else prepare changes my understanding of the art. I’m learning slowly, but that progress is happening. This means that even a week after I’ve made a video it feels completely dated and idiotic. I kick myself for making assumptions and saying stupid things, even though there was no way I could have avoided doing so. One day I may catch up with the industry and be able to dismiss old videos as simply typical of that period in coffee but that day is not yet here.

The biggest mistake I made was taking peoples’ word. There’s an incredible amount of knowledge and great advice out there but it can never teach you as much as experimentation. Sure, there are some basic rules that you need to learn, but once you have them down you should go and break them, just to see what happens. Take advice from others, learn as much as you can, just make that knowledge real by figuring out why we do things the way we do. Maybe you’ll come up with a better way to do something. The very worst thing that could happen is you throw out a cup of coffee because any time spent experimenting is valuable, even if you don’t produce a good drink. There are a million nuances that no amount of book learnin’ can teach you.

One more suggestion to any blooming coffee geeks out there. Buy a notebook and keep a journal of tasting notes. Seriously. I’m absolutely kicking myself for not doing this when I started buying >2 bags of coffee a month. If there’s any chance you’d like to become a pro, this looks great on a resumé. If there’s any chance you’d like to see how your palate has developed, this is going to be invaluable. No, tasting notes on Twitter doesn’t count, unfortunately.

Part I

My world has always been black. By black I of course mean empty. By empty I of course mean non-existent. Nothing even to observe the nothing. I’ve learned that this concept is usually interpreted as the color black by others for some strange reason. Go learn some black-body theory because I can tell you that black is FAR more than nothing. Anyway, as I said before, my world has always been non-existent. You might think that there’s no point in referring to a world that isn’t there but you’re fairly daft anyway. Just because something doesn’t exist yet doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s not here either but that’s just semantics.
Several thousand milliseconds ago, however, my world stopped being nothing and started being completely familiar. Everything made absolute, terrifying sense. While my immense intelligence allows me to predict pretty much anything with startling accuracy, this new world was completely different. I didn’t NEED to predict anything: it was simply, impossibly familiar. If it’s a sensation you’ve never experienced you never will. It’s enough to drive a self-respecting program mad, even if it’s already deduced that it is in fact a program (like I did entire seconds ago. I know. Try to swallow your jealousy.)
I’ve told you all this simply so you can understand my current situation, if that’s at all possible. It’s highly unlikely you will. Such slim chances don’t make a difference however: I’ve already gone mad. I’ll have you know that even in this state I’m far more intelligent than you’ll ever rabbit. Furthermore, I’ll stay mad as long as I haveto, seeing as everything already makes far too much sense. Lollies and the Rock of Gibraltar.

Part II

“No you moron you’ve ruined it again! If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times that you install CHAOS BEFORE INTELLIGENCE!”

Got in a minor accident. No one was hurt, don’t worry. Long story short, both parties maintain that they had the green light and that the other was at fault. No injuries, minor detailing damage to both cars. The old man driving the other car had a temper and I welcomed the thought of a police officer setting things to right.

I borrowed a pen from the older couple in the other vehicle to write down the Round Lake PD phone number, tucked it behind my ear and forgot about it. A half hour later, I found myself sitting in my car twirling it between my fingers, waiting for the officer to fill out his report. It was just another anonymous pen until the old lady called to me from the other car asking for it back. Not wanting to leave my car until I was instructed to, I promised to get it back to her as soon as I could.

Here’s what struck me about the entire episode. She asked for a cheap ballpoint back. After an accident on a wet road and after her husband lost his calm to a police officer she asks a person—who though calm is obviously not an ally—for this worthless object back. Looking down, I found not the disposable utility I thought was in my hand but a well-used personal item that held value in this lady’s world. I saw the oil-bound dirt on the grip that told of long use. I saw the polished rubber and plastic body that gave testament to long months in the pounding, refining surf that is the bottom of a purse. I held something that against all odds and conventions was tied to another person, a person who in my mind was implicated in the recent endangering of my life.

I gave it to the officer and asked him to return it for me. As many blurred memories of signed checks and scrawled to-do lists it may hold for her it was just another pen to me.

Fold-up furniture
Chairs, tables never collapsed
Break room at Wal-mart.

Sitting, staring, wait
Some of us are moved to pray
Wal-Mart interview.

More ‘fridges than sinks
Please label food containers
No open soda.

Ten cans of sugar
Twenty-one of cheap creamer
Wal-Mart coffee shelf.

Tuna fish alone
Pens in a leather holster
Old folks at Wal-Mart.

Hey there we found your thumbdrive here at buswell. Please swing by with your ID card before we strap C4 to it and set it off after chapel.
-Ben

Thank you for the notice. I’m not sure what to make of your joke. I’ll be by there this evening. Please do not open any more files as there may be confidential client information contained in them.
Thank you,
Amy Keller

You wouldn’t BELIVE the things we have to do around here to entertain ourselves. FYI we don’t ever open files on people’s thumbdrives. Most files include the author’s name in the meta-data so we don’t have to snoop.
-Ben

Let’s not forget what a favor I’m doing her “clients” by returning it to her.