I stared at him open-mouth for a moment then asked, “What make you think I don’t drink coffee during the work week?”
“I’ve never heard you say you’re going on a coffee break.”
So I had to explain to him that in the software industry (at least the places I’ve worked) people don’t take official coffee breaks. You get to the office, you hang up your jacket and so forth, boot up your workstation, grab your coffee mug and head to the kitchen. You then bring your full coffee cup back to your desk and sip it while you work. And you go back to the kitchen and refill your coffee cup whenever the heck you want to, and bring it back to your desk.
Yeah, sometimes you wind up hanging in the kitchen chatting with co-workers. And some folks prefer to have a specific time they leave their desks for a break, but most of us take a lot of mini-breaks throughout the day. And, of course, folks whose jobs involve answering the phone (tech support, customer service, sales) don’t have the flexibility to get up and go refill coffee whenever. But for the rest of us, particularly since most of us aren’t hourly and wind up putting in more than 40 hours a week anyway, don’t really worry about rigid break times.
I do block off lunch time. I used to not do that, and work while eating at my desk like a lot of my co-workers. But some years ago I had a boss who really believed that one of your responsibilities is to take care of yourself so you can do a good job. I still eat at my desk, but my work computer is logged out, and I spend the time writing on my iPad or catching up on the news.
At the time we had this conversation, I was drinking on a typical workday at least six mugs of coffee a day.
The other reason he thought I didn’t drink coffee during the week is that I seldom made pots of coffee at home during the week. I’m a cheapskate, son of cheapskate, grandson of penny-pinchers, et cetera. Of course I’m not going to make extra coffee for myself if I can get it free at work! Which proves that I’m nowhere near the caffeine fiend that I sometimes talk like, because I can muddle through the morning get ready for work routine without several cups of coffee.
Note, however, that I didn’t say without caffeine. See, on a typical Monday morning, for instance, there is coffee in the pot left over from Sunday. And yes, I will stick a mug of that in the microwave and heat it up on Mondays. And other days, well, before I had the fancy electric teakettle thing, I would fill a mug with water, drop a teabag in it, and stick it in the microwave. Just a little caffeine to start the day, right?
On a typical work day, then, I have a mug of some caffeinated beverage early in the morning, then a couple of mugs of office coffee once I get to the office, and then four or so cups of tea in the afternoon. I betray my cheapskate heritage on that, because the office tea selection is often pretty boring, so I have a few of my favorites (double bergamot earl grey, aged earl grey, jasmine green, lavender earl grey, blackberry oolong, green & black earl grey… that sort of thing) in a drawer at the office.
So, yes, I need my caffeine. It gets me through the day. And some of it is in the form of coffee. And I sometimes make disparaging remarks about people who don’t indulge. And I know that I shouldn’t. Some folks have medical reasons to avoid caffeine. Some people have religious objections. And some people just don’t like coffee or tea. I am boggled at the last, but try to remind myself that lots of people are completely baffled at just how much I hate the taste of raisins.
So I try to live in peace with the decaffeinated freaks around me, even the ones who actually like the satanic fruit in muffins or cookies or whatever new kind of food someone has decided to ruin with raisins. And I hope that they will be equally accepting of what a weird caffeinated freak I am. Because on the whole, all people are strange. If there’s someone who doesn’t appear to be weird in some way, that just means you don’t know them well enough.
It’s December, and that means I’m trying to write yet another original Christmas Ghost Story to read at our annual holiday get together. But as is often the case, I have too many plots and can’t quite settle on which one to write.
Which is where you can help!
If you haven’t already, go to Which Christmas Ghost should I write? and take the poll. Seeing which things interests people does help. I may not wind up finishing the story more people vote for this time around, but just seeing people voting gives me at least a bit more motivation.
Anyway, I saw some blog posts a couple of weeks ago claiming that this year’s Starbucks holiday cup was, once again, an assault on traditional american values because it didn’t say Christmas on it. The blog posts were in reference to a green cup that Starbucks unveiled a week or so before election day. They called it a Unity cup, and the featured artwork was many different people drawn with one continuous line, to symbolize how everyone is connected, humanity is one big family, et cetera. And the usual War on Christmas nuts started making angry posts about it.There are a couple of problems with this outrage. First, the cups weren’t the Starbucks holiday cups: No, Those Green Cups Aren’t The Starbucks Holiday Cup. Second, in what way can any Christian be legitimately offended by a message of community and connectedness of all mankind? Especially at Christmas?
I mean, in Luke 2:14 after the angel tells the shepherds that the savior has been born, a multitude of the heavenly host appears in the sky beside the first angel and sings, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Right?
Well, that’s one of the problems. The King James Version, which was the English language translation of the Bible preferred by most protestants for a couple hundred years (and was the one I first read cover-to-cover, the one read and quoted from the pulpit at all the churches I attended, and the one from which I memorized the Christmas story as told in Luke chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 1 as a child), states the angels’ song the way I quote it. God’s message is good will toward all mankind in that translation.
But evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have spurned the King James Version and a couple of similar translations, in part because they weren’t homophobic enough. Seriously, in 1946 the Revised Standard Version added the words homosexual or homosexuality to several passages. The fact that it was unclear in the original languages what some of those were passages talking about, and in other cases were references to particular types of prostitution (and a weird legalistic argument some people were apparently making that if they hired a male prostitute pretending to be a woman they weren’t really cheating on their wife) was completely glossed over with these changes. (You can read a lot more about it here: Homophobia and the Politics of Biblical Translation.)
The god of the King James Version was pretty judgmental, but not judgmental and condemning enough, apparently. And the new translations many of the evangelicals and fundamentalists favor render that verse a bit differently: “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Clearly implying that God does not offer universal love and forgiveness to everyone.
Make no mistake, the King James Version’s translation has all sorts problems. And the original texts from which the modern Bible is derived have other problematic issues. There are so many passages that praise slavery, for instance. There’s the bit in the old testament where men are instructed, if they suspect their wife might have been unfaithful, to take said wife to the temple for an involuntary abortion. There are also twenty-five separate and unequivocal passages stating that left-handed people are abominations and will not get into heaven. These are just some of the reasons that I no longer consider myself a member of the religion in which I was raised.
But I still keep, rather foolishly, expecting that more people who call themselves Christian will actually conduct themselves according to the actual teachings of the man who said: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Do good to those that hate you. He didn’t say to make laws that punish those who disagree with you. He didn’t say to deny marriage licenses to those who believe differently than you. He didn’t say deport those who worship differently than you. He didn’t say to build walls to keep out people who look and speak differently than you. He didn’t say to tell all those people you are persecuting that you love them even while you’re doing all these hurtful and hateful things to them.
He said to do good to everyone, including those who hurt you. That’s how you love your neighbor. But it’s apparently a lot easier to change the words of their sacred book than it is to change their own hearts.
A red coffee cup with snowflakes on it, or Christmas ornaments, or snow covered evergreen trees, or a fanciful reindeer do not constitute a “War on Christmas.” It’s manufactured outrage, not an actual war. But people who call themselves Christian and support the persecution and demonization of people based on race, sexual orientation, immigration status, or religion? That is an actual war on the teachings of Christ.
Other times I would work for a while, then get up to retrieve a book from another room, or run to the bathroom, or something similar, and I’d find the first mug, sitting in an odd location, half full and gone completely cold. Some days I’d wind up with three or more mugs scattered around the house.
I was only able to reduce the occurrence of that problem by adopting the practice of using only my favorite mug for coffee. If I couldn’t find the coffee near me where I expected it, I’d keep searching until I found that mug.
Of course, it isn’t always coffee. I currently have a second favorite mug, and I use it for tea. If I decide to make tea, I go find my Queen of Everything mug, pick out a tea bag from my rather frightening collection, turn of the electric kettle portion of my coffee maker, and then make a cup.
Sometimes I get in the mood for tea and forget that I still have a half a cup of coffee sitting around somewhere. I usually find it a bit later, and half the time I don’t even realize it until I pick up the mug, take a sip expecting tea, and I get room temperature coffee instead. Never mind that my favorite coffee mug is mug bigger, is a different shape, and a completely different color from the tea mug. When I’m in the middle of something, I don’t notice any of that.
But that isn’t the end of it. Some afternoons or evenings, I’ll have a craving for some soda. So I’ll grab a can of La Croix, or a bottle of Dry Soda, or some other low- or no-sugar sparkling drink, open it, and drink half of it before I realize that I already have a half-finished mug of tea or coffee… and sometimes half a mug of each.
And then there are the evenings I decide to make myself a cocktail, or have a glass of wine. Yes, some times I have had the embarrassing moment when I reach for my beverage, and realize that within reach of me there is a half-full cocktail glass, a half can of soda, a half bottle of iced tea, a half mug of coffee, and a half mug of tea. Not often, but some nights…
“The Java Jive” (Ink Spots, 1940):
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
It has long amused me that coffee pots still measure the amount of coffee in the carafe by a measuring cup. One cup of liquid equals half a pint, which means 1/16th of a gallon. But at no time when I have own a coffee maker, have I ever drank coffee from a drinking cup that holds just one measuring cup’s worth of coffee. Most people drink from a coffee mug that holds nearly two measuring cup’s worth of coffee in a single serving.My current favorite home mug is bigger still. It’s the purple one in this picture. The little teacup in the middle is the kind of cup that the coffee pot manufacturers seem to think that people still use for drinking coffee. The mug on the left is one of my old favorites. At one time it was my office mug. I brought it home because a co-worker was weirded out that a man liked to drink coffee from a mug that said “The Queen of Everything.” Never mind that I was an openly gay man, it still freaked at least one person out. So it was a mug I often drank coffee or tea from at home for years after that. Until I found the large purple one. My current coffee maker includes a carafe which claims to hold 12 cups of liquid. And it certainly looks like a huge amount of coffee when I first make a pot in the morning. Twelve measuring cups is three quarts, and three quarts of coffee seems like a lot. Right?
You would expect that anyone who would drink 12 cups of coffee in a single day would be vibrating, I suppose. Maybe even vibrate so fast that I open a portal to an alternate universe and pass right through. All that caffeine in one person is bound to make one at least a bit manic. I remember a historian once mentioning that one of the prominent figures of the Enlightenment recorded in his journals (in which among other things he kept careful account of his household expenditures) of some weeks drinking 40 cups of tea a day. The historian said, “No wonder all those guys wrote so much and discovered so much. You try drinking 40 cups of tea and see whether you’re up all night having all sorts of exiting ideas bouncing around your head!”However, when I pour coffee out of the carafe to fill my favorite mug, note that the coffee level has dropped down to just below the 9 mark. So my favorite coffee cup holds three cups of coffee. Which means that if I drink the whole pot, while one could say that I drank 12 measuring cups of coffee, it’s only actually four refills of my coffee mug. So, do I drink 12 or 4 cups in a single day?
Well, there’s at least one more complication I haven’t told you. Periodically over the course of the day, whenever I notice that the carafe is less than half full, I pour about three cups of water (using an aluminum pitcher I keep nearby for reasons) into the reservoir and kick-off a new percolation cycle, letting the machine top off the pot. I confess that when I do this, I don’t grind fresh coffee beans, I just let the new hot water go through the grounds that I put in in the morning. This probably makes me a freak or a loon in the opinions of some hard-care coffee fanatics. I usually only do this twice in a day.
So, that would indicate that I actually drink about 18 measuring cup’s worth of coffee a day, right?
Well… the truth is, I usually stop in the early evening, and there is usually still coffee in the pot at least up to the 4 cup line when I do. So let’s call it 14 measuring cups again. That’s enough to completely fill my bit mug four times, and nearly a fifth afterward.
I’ve left out one more wrinkle that applies to work-from-home days. When I first get up on a work-from-home day, I do my meds and some of the other morning routines quickly, including making coffee, so I can drive my husband in to his place of work. As a treat for myself, I grab a small can of coffee drink, either a Starbucks Double-shot Lite, or there’s another brand that has a Salted Caramel flavored coffee drink in a small aluminum can. Both types claim to have the equivalent of two shots of espresso in the drink.
I pour one of these cans into a travel mug, which fills it a bit over half full, then top it off with coffee from the pot. That’s my “latte” for the drive in. I usually drink about half of it in the trip. When I get back home, I pour the remainder into my big purple mug, and top it off with hot coffee. The Starbucks’ can holds 6.5 ounces. The other brand’s can holds 7 ounces. Let’s just call it one more cup. Except it’s supposed to be two shots of espresso, so should we call it two cups?
Just how much coffee do I actually drink?
P.S. Please don’t chime it to say that coffee isn’t good for your health. The studies that most people think showed that were all conducted over 50 years ago, and newer studies show no correlation between coffee drinking and any of the health effects people attribute to them. None. Deeper analysis of the raw data from the earlier studies has revealed that the researchers completely failed to notice that there was an extremely strong correlation between being a heavy coffee drinker and being a heavy smoker. There was also a very strong statistical tendency for men to drink more coffee per day than women. And oddly enough, all the health issues that people now blame on coffee because of these badly quoted studies are also illnesses that one is more likely to have if one is either male or a smoker.
When the data from the old studies is re-analyzed to compare only smokers to smokers, non-smokers to non-smokers, men to men, and women to women, all statistical correlation between the amount of coffee someone drinks and any negative health effects vanished.
It ain’t the coffee that you need to be worrying about.
But I saw an article last week which was trying to make the argument that because the whole thing was caused by a self-proclaimed YouTube Evangelist who is actually a con-man, that it was wrong for any of us to make fun of it or otherwise call it out.
Bull.Make no mistake: Joshua Feuerstein, the guy who made the YouTube rant (which got more than 12 million views on YouTube; I haven’t bothered to try to track down how many shares the version he shared to Facebook got) makes money from his rants, such as his laughable attempt to take down evolution (that got 2 million views) and so forth. He’s the same idiot that illegally recorded the phone call where he tried to get a bakery to make a cake and write a hateful anti-gay message on it (you may recall the baker offered to make him a bible cake, one she makes many times, but leave it blank and sell him the tool to write his own message on it; even offered to give him cake decorating lessons). He’s in the business of ginning up outrage and getting people to donate money to him so he can continue to fight the good fight. But here’s the thing: con-men like Feuerstein don’t just prey on the idiots who gave him $20,000 to purchase a special web spycam so he could expose the anti-Christian plots of… well, I don’t think he ever said. He also apparently never bought any such camera. They also cause real harm.
At least half of the animus and most of the money raised to pass Proposition 8 in California several years ago repealing marriage equality was raised by con-men like him. Most of the money raised to mount their legal defense of Prop 8 was raised by con-men like him. Most of the money and most of the votes needed to repeal Houston’s anti-discrimination law recently was fired up by con-men like him.The entire campaign in Washington state several years back to try to prevent domestic partnerships was orchestrated by two such con-men. One of them raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign mostly from local donors, and then his financial filings revealed that throughout the campaign he paid directly to himself between $5,000-$20,000 every week in consulting fees for “website maintenance.” That’s in addition to paying himself a salary out of the money as the head of the campaign. The other guy, who is peddling his lies in Washington state only because Oregon’s department of revenue determined many years ago that his so-called ministry not only didn’t meet the legal definition of a church, but didn’t meet the definition of a non-profit charity, and had placed tax-liens on him for collection of back taxes. He raised tons of money, too, with all of his emails about the evil gay agenda. The problem was that the links included in those emails for donations were to his new church (we have more liberal laws for registering such things than Oregon does, and Oregon isn’t actually restrictive on that). But the church isn’t allowed to advocate for or against ballot measures.
He’s also the guy who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to try to keep the public records of who signed the Referendum petitions private, claiming that he received death threats. That prompted even ultra-conservative Justice Scalia to side with the pro-liberty forces in the case and say “participating in democracy requires a bit of civic courage.”
Both of them returned and squandered a bunch of money trying to repeal marriage equality in the state in 2012 when the legislature passed that.
The con-men themselves, whether they are internet douche bags like Feuerstein, or international hate-mongers like “Porno Pete” LaBarbera or Scott Lively or rabid anti-gay creep Brian Brown, may be in it more for the notoriety and the money, but they cause real harm. Lively, for instance, his being sued in U.S. court for crimes against humanity because of his activities resulting in the passage of “kill the gays” bills in Uganda and similar places. All of them contribute to the atmosphere of fear and hate that causes so-call Christian parents to kick their children out on the street for being (or being suspected of being) gay. They contribute to the bullying that drives 1500 children to commit suicide out of fear of being rejected by their rightwing families for being queer, gender-nonconforming, or trans. And yes, they even contribute to the mania that causes governors to try to ban refugees who are actually the victims of the terrorists that governors claim that they can only keep out by banning refugees.
They aren’t merely con-men or grifters. They’re hate-mongers and life-destroyers, too.I must confess that I have several reasons this particular issue annoys me. I’ve written before about love of holiday coffee blends and that it was a silly tradition shared with my late partner, Ray. So I have a bit of an obsession with Christmas-themed coffee, whether it be Starbucks’ Christmas blend, Peet’s Holiday Blend, Tulley’s Holiday Joy Blend, Caffe Ladro’s Fireside Blend, et cetera.
They are all meant to celebrate Christmas, not make war on it! Rich, warm, soothing coffee is about love, not war!
I love my Christmas blends, and every year I collect a bunch. I really do go the entire month making myself Christmas Blend and Holiday Blend and Holiday Joy Blend, and so forth. It’s part of my Christmas celebration. And yes, I’m a queer guy who is a taoist married to a pagan, but every year we put up a big Christmas tree in our living room. We cover our house in Christmas lights. We send Christmas cards. We say “Merry Christmas!” to people. We are not waging a war on Christmas or Christianity.
No, the only people doing that, are the folks like Feuerstein. Con-men who are trying to turn a buck by spewing hate and stirring up fake outrage in the name of Jesus. He warned us that such evil people would come forward and claim to be acting in his name. And he told us on the day of judgment what he would tell them:
“I know you not from where you are; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.”
I wish we didn’t have to wait…
I like to think that I’m not superstitious. I’m a science geek who majored in mathematics and has studied (both formally and on my own) physics, astronomy, relativity, logic, rhetorical theory, chemistry, biology, and a wide variety of related topics. Mr. Spock has long been one of my favorite characters in fiction. My real-life heroes have included famous skeptics such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Stephen Jay Gould, Billy Nye, and James Randi.
But every now and then things happen that make me believe. Lately, it’s been the coffee pot at work.
It was nearly identical in shape to a set of sage green and brown mugs that matched grandma’s everyday plates. That particular shape of stackable coffee mug was very popular when I was a kid. My other grandparents had a set that was very similar in a dark blue—though the bottom, narrow section of the mug was a little taller. And my parents had a set that was a darker, brownish-yellow than grandpa’s, was a gradient of the dark yellow at the top of the mug, becoming dark chocolate brown by the bottom. I remember seeing similar mugs at the homes of many friends.But, as I said, Grandpa’s mug was different. It was only for Grandpa to use. No one got yelled at if you used Grandpa’s mug by mistake, it was just someone would say, “You can’t use Grandpa’s cup!” or something. Grandpa would laugh if someone else used it. He’d say something like, “Just tell me you didn’t put it in the dishwasher! Never wash my coffee cup, only rinse it!”
Then the first alarm goes off. Read More…
This escalated over time, as one or the other of us would find other companies offering some kind of holiday or christmas blend of beans while we were shopping. Some years we would wind up with a half dozen or more bags of different holiday blends…
My late husband and I had been dating not quite three months, when one night he said he was going to make some coffee, then he turned and gave me the goofiest grin, “I got Jingle Java!”
It was early in my coffee evolution. I’d been raised in households that depended on cans of Folgers ground coffee, with jars of Taster’s Choice instant as a backup for those times when you didn’t want to percolate an entire pot. I had been introduced to Starbucks just a couple years earlier, since my place of employment was only a couple of blocks from the location of the original Starbucks store, and had quickly become addicted.
The Jingle Java blend he had picked up was a store brand of whole bean coffee, and it wasn’t bad. So the next time I saw Ray, I brought a bag of Starbuck’s holiday blend as a present. Unfortunately, it turned out Ray thought all but the very lightest Starbuck’s coffees were too darkly roasted, and didn’t much care for the holiday blend.
By the next Christmas season we were living together, and I wound up buying a small amount of Starbuck’s holiday blend for me, and a large bag of Jingle Java for Ray. Since I’d done that, Ray found another coffee company’s holiday blend for us to try (I don’t remember if it was SBC, Tulley’s, Peet’s, or someone else). I’ve never liked the notion of flavored coffee beans, so we stuck to the blends.
So a tradition started in which every December we’d get several different holiday blends of coffee and rotate through them throughout the month (and usually well into January). Which I kept doing after Ray died. Michael hates coffee, so it’s just me drinking it, now. Which means I’m often not finishing them up until mid-February.
Except this year, I’ve been having a hard time finding many varieties. Over the last couple of years, the variety of whole been coffees available in grocery stores has significantly decreased. I don’t know if it’s because after two decades the grind-your-own coffee craze is finally dying out, so only us hard cases are doing it, or if the economy just has people buying as cheaply as they can, or what. At most of the grocery stores I’ve been to, the only thing I’ve found is Peet’s Holiday Blend, already ground. Coffee starts oxidizing as soon as you grind it, which changes the taste, so I don’t like pre-ground coffee.
And the store brand Jingle Java we used to buy—nowhere in sight.
There are flavored coffees, but those usually just taste like someone poured nail polish remover into my cup. At least to me.
At one upscale market (that’s within walking distance of my house), I happened to find a display of one of the brands of coffee that I never see anywhere else, and they had a Holiday Blend, so I have two this year. I like both, there’s no reason that I need more than two to choose from–I don’t need any, obviously. But it’s something I liked doing. A silly tradition. An excuse to think about Ray and the many fun and silly things we’d do together every Christmas season.
I love new things. I just wish the universe would give me veto power over some changes, you know?