Lest Ye Become Arrogant In Your Knowledge

In my continuing efforts to make sure that world becomes a More Awesome place, always remain aware that you don’t know everything. When someone says, “Pffft, no…[sotto voce] dumbass” to one of your proclamations, remain humble and take a moment to consider if everything you’ve ever known is wrong.

My favorite exemplar of this is the Tale of the Pickle Bush.

Once upon a time, friends from a previous tale went down to Safeway to go grocery shopping. There was a general declaration that there was a need for condiments, so the intrepid band went to that aisle. Now, it is important to note I wasn’t actually there, so this is the best recreation of the conversation I’ve been able to piece together from the parties that were present. Liberties have most definitely been taken.

Stef: I’ve always wandered how they grow pickles.

(the rest of the assembled party chuckles a bit)

Stef: What?

Joe: Seriously? You don’t know how they’re made?

Stef: What do you mean *made*?

Joe: They’re cucumbers that have been soaked in brine water for a while.

Matt: Pickling is a process. You can pickle anything, even Joe.

Stef: Nuh-uh.

Joe: Shut up, Matt. How did you think pickles were made, Stef?

Stef: I, you know, kinda thought they (voice becomes hesitant as certainty in the world fades) grew on…a…pickle bush.

(Matt & Joe explode in laughter)

Stef: You *CANNOT* tell Phil about this.


I think I got a phone call before they even left the parking lot.

Now this is not just a amusing story of what happens when children grow up with a sheltered upbringing in Utah, well separated from any agriculture or food production, but rather of someone getting a chance to spin on a dime and understand the world like they never had before. Cherish those moments.

The example from my life is the word “torward” (NOTE: not “toward”). I couldn’t tell you when I learned the word or who taught it to me but I can tell you when I learned important lessons about linguistics due to being wrong, wrong, WRONG. You see, up until this moment in my life in my freshman year of college no one had ever corrected me on my spelling and I’d been in advanced placement composition, grammar, and rhetoric classes all my life. What amazing professor showed me the error of my ways? What helpful friend took me aside to say “Pssst, Dumbass! There’s no “R” in toward.”

No one did. I learned my lesson from Microsoft Word 5 and their first iteration of grammar checker.

Word didn’t tell me that I was spelling “toward” wrong using  “torward”, rather the error it was giving me said that I was archaic. At first I was sort of pleased by this as one of the highest compliments I’d been paid as a writer at age 18 was, “You write like a 18th century essayist. I love it, but you’re going to utterly fail in college with people who like The Format.” The idea that I was unconsciously using words that hadn’t been in common parlance since before Samuel Johnson really appealed to me. Then the panic caught up with me and, oh god, what else am saying/writing that makes me look like a throwback from the 1700s.

In the end, it helped kindle a deep appreciation of the evolution of language itself and the beauty of the our many, many Englishes. “Torward” may have disappeared from the King’s English with Johnson, but it happily lived on in the English of the West Country. It also lived on in Appalachia and the American South where so many people from the West Country immigrated, along with their fun and perfectly valid constructions such as “ain’t”, “y’all”, and “at the *NOUN*” indirect verbs, which is how I presume I picked it up.

Image Courtesy of Archie McPhee http://www.mcphee.com/shop/products/Yodelling-Pickle.html

Yodeling Pickle, courtesy of Archie McPhee. I still can’t believe I lost out on two of these in the departmental White Elephant gift exchange

Learning you are fundamentally wrong can cause some truly awesome learning. Don’t just try to learn something new everyday, see if you can prove something you were certain of wrong. For all I know, Stef may be a mad pickling machine now with her new found knowledge.

Ineffable Goat of SCIENCE #1

The special new labels, with art courtesy of Molly Crabapple, have been picked up and will now trickle into the BBotE stream as my whim or special events dictate. Here is the first one on a bottle of 1000ml Kona. You want it, come ‘n’ get it.

Ineffable Goat of Science #1

BBotE with Ineffable Goat of Science #1 - Art by Molly Crabapple, Ultrascience Coffee & Hand by Me.

New Art For BBotE

When I began making BBotE and Steins of Sceince, I had no idea that the best thing that was going to happen was the collection of awesome people I was going to accumulate. A dedication to More Awesome is not just physical goods but trying to generally improve my life and the lives of people around me. BBotE & Steins, while generally nifty, started with the goals to improve my health and the enjoyment of particular beverages. It just so happens that many other folks agree that they’re awesome too.

One of the bits that’s happened that I’ve truly appreciated is getting to meet and talk to artists that I might not ever otherwise meet. I’m not going to argue what an artist is here, but let’s just say that I have always marveled at people who can draw and paint. My own skills extend about as far as graphing and diagrams for physics problems and squiggly maps for D&D. It isn’t pretty, trust me.

Last year, a bearded English madman who shall remain anonymous asked if I could send BBotE to several of his favorite people in America just to see what wonders emerged from them under it’s influence. One of them was the artist Molly Crabapple, who is also the perpetrator of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School upon the world. Last month, likely in a fit of caffeine high and well mixed holiday spirits, Molly asked me if I’d mind if she drew a new bit of art for the BBotE label.

The smile that refused to remove itself from my face as I read the email said the answer was very much yes.

And so, I should receive the first of the new labels this week. I’ll be slapping them on bottles somewhat at random and for special occasions. For example, if I’d had them last year I most definitely would have slapped them on the bottles that went out for this Kickstarter project.

So, you never know, when you open your box it might contain the Ineffable Mustachio’d Goat of SCIENCE! staring back at you. Behold!

The Ineffable Goat of SCIENCE!

The Ineffable Goat of SCIENCE! – By Molly Crabapple

In other news, a trial case is on it’s way to Canberra. If all goes well, BBotE pimpery service for BBotE will soon be established. Or, to quote Test Subject British Nick who lives in Sydney, “HOORAY! A reason to actually go to Canberra.” Depending on things and stuff, might have a little something for Singapore soon as well.

I’m Not Ashamed To Admit This

But I emitted a squeal of schoolgirlish delight upon getting the phone call from UPS letting me know that more Guatemala Mundo Nuvo had arrived from Caffe Vita. So my previous declaration that I had to bid farewell to my favorite Central American roast was premature. It’s back, for a little while at least. Also, the Pimp of Chicago will be receiving his resupply this Friday which will include Colombia, Rwanda, and Death Wish for you folks in the heartland.

Since prematurely heralding the end of my Guatemalans, I have been receiving single farm Colombian offerings for my evaluation from everywhere. I’ll let you all know how those pan out as I see a great deal of coffee consumption in the near future. Which leads me to a question I get from time to time that I feel is worth answering: “I don’t see a lot of negative reviews of coffees you’ve tested here. Is there anything you’ve worked with you don’t like?”

Answer: Lots, but generally if I don’t like it, I won’t make more of it and thus won’t offer it to you. That’s just hospitality, man.

Actually, I do offer one BBotE that I’m not very fond of, Death Wish, and I do that for two reasons:

  1. You people asked for it and, hey, who am I to argue with the The People?
  2. I fully recognize that my flavor preferences are not the same as everyone else’s, particularly with regard to Death Wish. Some folks really, really love the taste. Go figure.

This is one reason that I keep going back to try things I don’t like again and again, in all spheres of my life. I’ll be the first to admit that some of my tastes have changed over the years, others have not, but it’s important to check. For example, since Antarctica I make a point to eat a green salad at any opportunity; Herr Direktor from 10 years ago would be horrified by this. In terms of BBotE, it took five attempts over the span of a year before I finally decided I liked the Malabar and had the process for it down.

So, for another example of “needs more testing”, over the holidays I did some tinkering with a Guatemalan Huehuetenago because I can’t leave the coffees of Guatemala alone. The results were…odd. Strong front flavor like a chocolate orange and a loooooong roasted nut finish. The middle was strangely hollow for flavor and, as one astute Test Subject described it, “ashy”. For a light roast, it definitely hit some char flavors like a deep dark roast. With vodka addition, it was heavenly, but the straight and cold left me going hrmph.

And, just because I can and had it on hand, mixing 50/50 with Malabar BBotE filled in that hollow middle nicely. More testing is necessary.

Anyway, welcome to 2012, everybody. Eat, drink, and make merry for tomorrow is another day to do it all again but different!