The other day I was trading tales with the former BBotE Ambassador of NYC, @EditrixW, and after sharing my new favorite Beatles cover song from Mongolia we drifted by COMPLETELY REASONABLE CONNECTIONS to the reason why my Lovely Assistant and I haven’t played Scrabble in quite some time. You see, we used to play it in a way I like to call Klingon Scrabble; you aren’t playing for the actual points but rather for honor. You can claim honor with such things as, but by no means limited to:
- Longest word
- Most words made at the same time
- Dirtiest word
- Bingos are still impressive
- Most swear words
- Most ridiculous acronym which you can explain
- Really, you managed to play “HITLER” on the board more than once?
- AND “STALIN”?!?!
And because both my Lovely Assistant and I hold science degrees, a PhD in her case, some latitude has been made to allow scientific terms because they also hold honor and are generally pretty hard to play. Also many scientific terms are proper nouns, so we had to kinda give up on that rule too but took it on a case by case basis. A complete list of the words played by each player should be written down for use to create a story, which is also a source of honor. Now that you’ve got the setup, let me now tell the tale of the last game of Scrabble we played which more or less went as follows.
SCENE: a late Sunday afternoon sitting at the dinner table, playing Scrabble.
Lovely Assistant: [plays the word “EXAM”, claims a triple word score]
Me: [looks hard at the letters on my rack, has a staggering realization, starts giggling]
LA: (very suspiciously) What?
Me: I got a bingo! [lays down the rest of my tiles after the M in “EXAM”]
LA: [making a Face™] “EXAMONGOLIA” is not a word.
Me: Sure it is! It’s 1018 Mongolias.
LA: There is only one Mongolia and it is a proper noun.
Me: In the infinite multiverse, there is a similarly infinite number of Mongolias.
LA: No. You can’t just add unit prefixes to things. Mongolia isn’t a unit.
Me: It is too. Mongolia is the unit of hordeosity.
LA: [makes the Face™ again] Hordeosity isn’t a word either.
Me: When you have a group of people, you have to look at them to assess their likelihood/capability of going on a rampage. This is how horde-y they are. Their hordeosity.
LA: [looks at me quietly with the Face™ that says she is working really hard to remember precisely WHY she loves me]
Me: Obviously, the Mongolia is one of those ridiculous basic units that’s hard to use like the Farad, Tesla, and Becquerel.
LA: Nope. We’re done here.
To end this story, she would like me to remind all of you that examongolia is totally not word. I, in turn, encourage you to contact the International Bureau of Weights and Measures to get this new fundamental unit recognized.
As mentioned in the previous post, I fled the mainland for a week to escape Super Bowl madness in the SF Bay Area to the lovely Big Island of Hawaii. As my Lovely Assistant had never been to that island before, we split our time between Hilo and Kailua so she could experience both sides. Given my druthers, I will happily spend any and all time possible in Hilo. It reminds me of Santa Cruz, CA before the 1989 Loma Prieta quake forced the urban renewal that stomped the a lot of the kindness out of the town too. To be fair, I haven’t crunched a syringe underfoot in well over a decade in downtown Santa Cruz but then my desire to go wander around downtown for fun is gone too.
As I read back over this, that’s probably not be the tourism recommendation the Hilo Chamber of Commerce is looking for. It’s a quiet and beautiful town that hasn’t been destroyed by a tsunami in well over 50 years, so high fives. No really, they changed their urban planning in the 1960s to create a flood plain for typical tsunamis (yes, Hawaii gets enough to have “typical” ones) to exhaust themselves in a serene park. To be fair, that park used to be a fishing village separate from Hilo proper, but after the second time you get wiped out within a generation you start reconsidering your real estate development options.
Years ago, I mentioned that I did work as an undergrad that involved pulverizing a lot of volcanic rocks. To be more specific, I was doing isotope geochemistry on volcanic rocks trying to answer an important geological question: Does what goes down come back up? TL;DR answer is yes, but it’s complicated. if you’d like to know more you’re welcome to read this paper, which became someone else’s PhD outlined by my undergrad thesis, that resulted from me playing with a lot powerful acids and reducing rocks to tiny samples that I then vaporized on a mass spectrometer. Trust me, this is actually relevant to coffee.
That fundamental question was tested by looking for something that had a very distinct isotopic mix, subducting under another plate, with a resulting volcanic arc. If you take the Pacific Ocean, away you can see the chain of dead volcanoes extending across the plate from the vicinity of Midway all the way to Izu-Bonin volcanic arc. These are big mountains, the kind that are large enough to deform the oceanic crust around them, which makes big troughs on either side that collect sediments, which are mostly landslides from the seamounts and chert from dead abyssal plankton. The Western Seamounts basalt, when mixed with the chert, makes a quite particular isotopic profile that, funny enough, isotopically looks an awful lot like the volcanic island directly above the where they subduct, AKA the island of Guam. As you move north or south from Guam, that isotopic signal fades away.
Which lead me to an odd thought: hey, Guam is in the Coffee Belt and has the right volcanic soil, I wonder if 100% Guamian coffee tastes close to Kona coffee? The mode of volcanism is different but the chemistry is similar. Or, at the very least, I could answer the question of what would coffee grown on the slopes of the submerged mountains I did my thesis on; Guam is as close as I can get. This, unfortunately, is an academic question as Guamian coffee appears to damn near impossible to get outside of Guam as pure varietal as there is very little under cultivation there anymore.
Speaking of Kona coffee, I drank a great deal of it. I also made a point to sample as much Ka’u, Puna, Hilo and Hamakua coffee as I could get my hands on just to compare the very different flavors from what is, more or less, very similar volcanic soils. In particular, I would like to give appreciation to the work of Hilo Shark’s Coffee, which you can hang out at for hours in downtown Hilo. Their coffee, chocolate, and vanilla is coming from their farm on the Hilo coast up the road a bit. When you order a hot chocolate and the whipped cream is sprinkled with nibs rather than dusted with cocoa powder, that’s a damn good sign. The small bar I bought is some of the best bittersweet dark chocolate I’ve had. While sitting savoring our coffee and cocoa, I remarked to my Lovely Assistant that if they had a tea plantation I might have a hard time getting her to leave. She immediately began searching and found one a few miles away from the Sharky Farm so, umm, if Hilo needs a PhD chemist who’s a also decent programmer I think you’ll have little difficulty convincing her to move there.
There was one unfortunate thing that happened while there which was a fresh outbreak of dengue fever. The Waipio Valley is beautiful but difficult to get to at the best of times, which also makes treatment for re-eradication of disease difficult. Unfortunately, sick visitors and workers regularly bring dengue back to Hawaii and it sets up residence to make a disease reservoir anew in Waipio. I was ambivalent about finding this sign: while I’m glad this sign exists for me to take a picture of for my collection of interesting safety signs, it’s telling that it happens enough that they have this sign ready to go. As a friend who is now responding to this outbreak said, “It could be worse. They didn’t just leave the sign up at the overlook and add an extra sign & lights of WHEN LIGHTS ARE FLASHING.”
But that doesn’t do justice to Waipio. Really, it is gorgeous there. I’ll leave you today with this picture from the overlook.
The production window closing on January 23rd, which was a long one due to CES 2016, has pretty much sold out and shipped. The next production window will be completely open on Saturday (some slots are already up) but its going to be a short window ending on February 2nd. “Why?” you might ask. Because my Lovely Assistant and I will be heading to the Big Island of Hawaii for a week to get the hell out of the SF Bay Area during the Super Bowl. I hope everyone enjoys the game and general festivities but, honestly, the getting around here is bad enough at the best of times. Adding a couple hundred thousand extra people means it’s time for me to be elsewhere.
As has been previously discussed here, I love me some volcanoes and doing isotope geochemistry on their rocks has informed some of my coffee palate. As my other convenient volcanoes require serious snow and winter gear at the moment, Hawaii is the name of the game. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve been there so I’m excited to see if my golden, transcendent memories of drinking all the coffee at the Kona Pacific Coffee Co-op hold true or it was all just a dream.
So, get you orders in now for the short pre-Hawaii tip production window. The window after that will go until February 27th. Sorry for the weird production windows to start 2016 but the holidays and travel have made things tricky.
As a slice of life from bartending at my friend’s hospitality suite for the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, by far the weirdest moment was helping another friend, Fr. Gabriel, say mass. You see, the EZPR Suite is the happiest place in Las Vegas during CES as it has a well stocked bar, run by me, and a collection of wonderful people to hang out with, which happens to include a Dominican priest. Travel was badly messed up for everyone coming into Vegas so Fr. Gabriel got in painfully late and missed getting to mass at the cathedral. Its helpful to think of priests and monks as dedicated computers that run a very particular program, mass.exe, and it must be executed at least once per day; doesn’t need to be done in a church proper, doesn’t need a lot of people, but the program must be run.
To this end, Fr. Gabriel has a Portable Altar which looks REMARKABLY SIMILAR to my 1960s portable bar from Executair. He was just going to use a closet in the suite, but I had the bright idea that there’s a bunch of wedding chapels in the hotel, usually unused, and maybe they’d be willing to let him use it as a quiet space. As happens a lot in my company, we got told “That’s a new one on me”, “I thought I’d heard everything”, and “No one’s ever asked that one before” a lot.
Please imagine, if you will, a fully decked out Dominican priest saying mass to himself, functioning as celebrant and congregation all in one, with an altar in miniature in the alcove of a casino chapel where they normally put the flowers and gifts. Please also imagine me, a long hair bearded ginger in shorts and Fallout t-shirt, elsewhere in the chapel trying to arrange refrigerator repair by phone at the same time. If there wasn’t a bunch of people gathered around the security monitors asking “What the fuck is going on here?” I’d be very surprised.