Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My First Mug, A Coffee Experience

This was my first coffee mug.

I purchased it through the annual pledge drive for my brother's community radio station. Previous year's swag had been long sleeve t-shirts or sweatshirts. I had just started regularly drinking coffee when i acquired it, driven there for several reasons. One, i discovered i had come around on the taste after quite a few years of rapidly expanding my consumption of strong, dark beer. Two, i found out that, like beer, there are significant quality differences in the type of coffee available to drink. I thought everything was garbage Folgers or something similar - I was terribly naive. Three...well the third reason is that I wasn't sleeping enough, I was often awfully tired, and I got over my belief that i was somehow "superior" to people who needed coffee to function in the morning. I was happy to find a reason to turn to caffeine in the morning.

This was a curious mug. It features a cow that has just been branded with the KBUT call letters, and there are steam lines rising from the hide. They don't appear to be steam lines, it just makes the cow look stinky. It was a strange size, not small enough to be a one cup mug you drink in your kitchen and offer coffee in to your visitors, and not the larger size of a travel mug carrying several servings and keeping the heat. I realized when I would visit Knockbox Cafe, using my cowmug for their bottomless coffee, that i was not getting as much coffee as the other patrons. I apologized to my cowmug, and I stopped taking it along to Knockbox despite the staff there being fans of the curious cowmug.

I visited my brother's apartment in colorado, and i took my mug with me. At the Golden, CO coffeeshop that he visits they asked why i was drinking out of his mug. I would ski in Breckenridge with my father, and our cowmugs would rinse & dry in the kitchen sink next to each other. Taking my mug on a visit to my younger brother for its homecoming further up into the mountains, he poured his french press brew into our matching vessels. United by name, united by blood, united by mugs.

The mug is ceramic, with a rubber lid that doesn't seem like it will safely seal the coffee from spilling. It seals well. The ceramic material alarms TSA agents at the airport, and multiple times my backpack has been chosen for inspection due to the presence of my cowmug. They chuckle at the illustration and send me on my non-threatening, now-delayed, way.

My dad, who has an excel spreadsheet detailing every drive and putt and hole and round of golf he has played for the last 10 years, always said, "drink it black, because it will save you an immeasurable amount of time in preparation over the course of your life." Or something like that.

In the year since purchasing my mug with a charitable donation I became a lover of coffee. I quickly grew away from the overpowering strength offered in the Einstein Brother's neighborhood blends. The scent of a Dunkin Donuts coffee may be pleasant in the air, it's not something I seek out. I try to support my local businesses, and chicago-based coffee companies have gained a solid foothold of my budget. My fine neighbors at Star Lounge offer something different and delicious nearly every morning, and has generally become my first stop on weekday mornings.

When my younger brother visited once years ago, i borrowed (permanently) an instant coffeemaker from a coworker for the week. I was not yet a java colleague but wanted to be accommodating. That coffeemaker was "lost" during my last move, pre-conversion. At a recent company holiday raffle, i spent all of my entry tickets on the coffeemaker, still not owning one after finally committing to the bean. I lost. The next day I bought a french press. That evening I made my first cup at home, and I enjoyed it in the curiously stinky KBUT cowmug.

I enjoyed my weekend cups brewed at home for the next several weeks before making another holy pilgrimage to the Rockies this past weekend. The brothers, dad and I watched the Superbowl together with nonstop eating and a verticle tasting of Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine. We did not share coffee, and to my knowledge our four cowmugs have never joined in a toast.
They never will.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Friday, November 26, 2010

Sunday Mornin', Fryin' Chicken

We jump right into the 4th Annual Thanksgiving Road Trip Mix Contest.
Rules: My brother and I submit 16 tracks to my older brother to be randomly mixed onto two CDs, and we listen to these 32 songs on the annual family car ride from Indianpolis to Columbus, OH. Our mother ranks every song on a scale of 0-5 (5 being highest). Until the end of the challenge Mom & Dad don't know who chose each song. Highest Average Wins
2 wildcard rules this year:
* 1 Song is scored inversely (mom doesn't know ahead of time). So G and I will submit songs that follow the general theme of songs we choose, but suspecting Mom will score them low. Must be in the spirit of the competition, like I couldn't submit a DMX song.
* 1 Song is a throwaway song - Mom will score it, but it doesn't get added to the final scores. Just a way for us to pick something random and put it on the mix.

Mom's comments in italics
K or G indicates who submitted the song

1. "If She Doesn't Smile" - Fantastic Something - 5 - K
I liked that song! Anything else? I liked that song!
Definitely the first time track one scored a 5. We thought mom was going to be generous this year.

2. "The Birds Were Singing With All Their Might" - Love Is All - 3 - K's Inverse Song, scored as a 2
Just when I thought there were not going to be any words, words came. I didn't particularly like the voice of the singer.

3. "Up From Below" - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - 3 - G
It grew on me after awhile

4. "Devil Knows You're Dead" - Delta Spirit - 4 - K
It sounded like Willie Nelson. Was it? Do you agree it sounds like Willie Nelson?

5. "I Need A Dollar" - Aloe Blacc - 3.5 - K
Did he say dollar? I'm not sure why he needed my dollar.

6. "Unstoppable" - Foxy Shazam - 2.5 - K
That was a very good pasodoble song. It started out angry, but it grew on me.

7. "Firecracker" - Frazey Ford - 2 - G
Not my favorite. I liked the music better than the singer's voice.

8. "A Long Way From Home" - My Cousin, The Emperor - 3 - G
We have more country songs this year. I like the beat, it would've been a good jive song.

9. "Ain't Waitin'" - Justin Townes Earle - 3 - K
Another country song. I liked that one, it was short. I was surprised it was that short. It had a good beat.

10. "You Make Me Blue" - The Living Sisters - 4.5 - K
I liked that song, and I think Grant picked it.

11. "Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster The People - 3 - G's Throwaway Song
That grew on me. At first I didn't like the weirdo voice, but I liked the music and beat even though I didn't understand the words.

12. "Love Is A Dirty Word" - Jason Collett - 2.5 - G
I don't know what to say. I thought it started out good, then I didn't like the singer, then it got better. It was average.

13. "Fruitcake" - The Superions - 3.5 - K's Throwaway Song
By the end I was singing along and I knew the words! Extra 0.5 for the comedic value.
Dad: Good song, Kyle.

14. "For The Price Of A Cup Of Tea" - Belle & Sebastian - 3 - G
Good beat, good music.

15. "She Needs Me" - Fyfe Dangerfield - 3.5 - K
Again, good beat, good music.

16. "Something, Somewhere, Sometime" - Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore - 3 - G
It ended abruptly and surprised me. I liked the music and words.

Disc 2

17. "Take Off Your Sunglasses" - Ezra Furman and the Harpoons - 3 - G
I liked the music and words. I don't like it when guys try to sing high and can't really do it. ::followed by a demonstration of this:: I did know the words by the end of the song, though.

18. "Take Care" - Beach House - 2.5 - K
Too repetitive, too slow, two-and-a-half.

19. "If Loneliness Was Art" - Allo Darlin' - 3.5 - K
I liked the chorus especially well. Three...no! 3.5

20. "The Ills" - Mayer Hawthorne - 4 - G
That sounded like a motown song!

21. "Last Leaf" - OK GO - 3 - K
I liked the music, but I didn't like where he sang "if it takes FUR-ever", I didn't like that.

22. "Breakin' The Chains Of Love" - Fitz & The Tantrums - 4 - G
Good beat, words, rhythm, excellent musicality!

23. "Ma Che Freddo Fa" - Nada - 3 - K
This was hard to sing along with because I couldn't understand the words. I really liked the music though. Who sang that?
K: some Italian woman who is probably dead. (Wikipedia says NO, Nada was born in 1953 and is very much still alive.

24. "The Underdog" - Spoon - 5 - G
That was Billy Joel-esque!

25. "Wasted Hours" - Arcade Fire - 3 - K
I don't like it too much when the tempo changes in the middle of the song. You know when he's going "do-do-do-do" and then it's slower talking.

26. "Give It Back" - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - 4.5 - G
Motown-ish, good beat, rhythm, excellent musicality.

27. "Release me From Love" - Consequences - 4.5 - K
I enjoyed this song, the words and the music.

28. "Shadowcasting" - Ra Ra Riot - 4 - G
This had easy to understand words, and good music/beat.

29. "No, My Heart Will Go On" - Gigi - 4 - G
yes, a 4!

30. "Glitter" - No Age - 2 - G's Inverse Song, scored as a 3
The screechy noises I didn't like. The music also overwhelmed the words.

31. "Searchlight" - Aloha - 3 - K
Ho-hum. The beat reminded me of something else, but I can't think of what it was.

32. "Shine On" - The Airwaves - 2.5 - G
There was no time for a comment on this, as Adam in the backseat was busy alerting us that after the last 2 scores we ended up with a tie. A TIE?!

Somehow we had never considered that this might happen. Rather than set tiebreaker rules after the fact we just agreed on the tie. Maybe if we had a way to hook our ipods up to the car stereo we could've had a sudden-death song-off. We'll consider that for next year.

Final comments from Mom:
"Fruitcake" was the most memorable song. It was definitely more "country-ish" this year. There were no dirges,, and overall she thought we did a better job this year.

Once again, Grant does not have to create a trophy because technically he hasn't lost yet. Also, there were no instances where both of us chose the same song this year, which was a bit surprising.

When I get a chance I'll post links to download the entire mixes.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Kyle shouts at the sky, angrily shaking his fist, as if the months of the year were manifested in the heavens and feelings of disdain could be directed at them, “November!”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Where I suffer for your entertainment. A coworker, with whom I occassionally engage in debate regarding the output of various pop-music starlets (a favorite is the "Rihanna vs Britney" argument), challenged me to listen to the new Katy Perry album, "Teenage Dream". Here goes, track by track.

1. "Teenage Dream" - the first, and title, track on this album full of lackluster vocal prowess and halfed-assery in the studio. When Katy makes an attempt at singing I can handle this, the song is fine until you get to the :51 second mark, where Katy and her handlers decide she'll just forcefully belt out one- and two-syllable words in between what should be a much better beat. This song doesn't do much for me...until she decides to actually sing again. The "i'mma get your heart racing in my skintight jeans..." umptempo bit is by far the best part of the song, and only appears twice, covering probably 20 seconds of the nearly four minute running time on this one. There's a monster-pop hit in here somewhere, and it's missed. Surprised they let this one get radio-play so quickly while California Gurls was exhibiting staying power.

2. "Last Friday Night" - The autotune vocal effects on this song are complete garbage (they appear during what the CD booklet refers to as the Pre-Chorus)...but once the real chorus starts, again, it's possible to find a catchy track in here. The opposite of the previous song, Katy's singing bits are the awful sections on this one and her more casual speaking sections carry the song. 2/3 of the way through you get a beat buildup and the crowd chant-along, begging for a producer/remixer to invest more time on this track than Dr. Luke and Max Martin appear to have spent. One of them slipped on the banana-peel effect button a few times too many in post-production and just gave up.

3. "California Gurls" - should've been a Snoop song feat Katy Perry instead of the other way 'round. Give the Dogfather another verse or two and drop Katy's wailing.

4. "Firework" - When, exactly, is the Firework expected to go off in this song? Get some real instruments in the studio, build a guitar riff, and drop the hollow synth noises. We get what sounds like a sample of the Coldplay string section instead of the bombast we're expecting based on the buildup. Once the "power" part hits, it lasts for maybe 10 seconds, and lacks the punch you'd get from a superior artist like Kelly Clarkson. Producers! Turn the volume up.

5. "Peacock" - This is a rubbish attempt at a Fergie song, which is ill-advised to begin with. Also, Katy namechecks Mystery, yet gives the cold shoulder to Matador and J-Dogg? Really hate the Venga Boy beat here.

6. "Circle The Drain" - another song shouting out for real musicians to play real instruments in a real studio. Katy echoes Billy Joel's "ack-ack-ack-ack" and sings her own terrible echoing. For a song about abandoning someone due to their drug abuse it sure makes me want to abuse drugs. Hilarious attempted drum solo as the song comes down from it's high.

7. "The One That Got Away" - Honestly, this is the best song on the album, and it begs for someone with real vocal chords to belt it out. Rewrite the first verse, get a killer guitar riff (again, see: Kelly Clarkson), give it to one of the talented kids graduating from American Idol, and you've got an actual hit. In Katy's hands, it's middle-album slow down filler. Hearing her attempt to sing the "whoa-oa-oa-oa"s live without a backing track would be torture.

8. "E.T." - No one should ever cram all of the T's and R's of the word "Extraterrestrial" into a chorus. I suggest replacing it with "Gastrointestinal"

9. "Who Am I Living For?" - Where Katy sings over terrible synths and beats, pretends to be Rihanna in parts, and in other parts just tries to sing words as loud as she can. Zzzzzz. I think this might be a 'message' song. The message is "get this crappy album released quickly while people still remember how great 'Hot N Cold' was!"

10. "Pearl" - I don't think I can do this anymore.

11. "Hummingbird Heartbeat" - Ugh. This one is about the birds and the bees. I'm done here.

12. "Not Like The Movies" - I'm sure it isn't. i didn't bother listening to it.

Never Again, this was a terrible idea. How much did the producers on this album get paid?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A rash of absent-mindedness

Yesterday evening I freaked out a little bit -- I opened up my wallet and noticed my debit card wasn't there. Having recently lost my iPhone this was cause for alarm. I quickly checked my pockets to see if I had misplaced it. Seconds later my $40 withdrawal came out and I remembered I was standing at the ATM...my card was in the machine.

Living "off the grid", sotospeak, after losing one's iPhone has the potential to be liberating. There's only one phone call I am compelled to make weekly, and my parents seem to be surviving so far without hearing my voice the last 2 sundays. I think I'll keep this up for the forseeable future, as my iPhone connectivity addiction was probably becoming bothersome to others.

Maybe in my pretend old age I'm discovering that some things do deserve moderation.