Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mathematic Research Papers

First of all, I know its lame as hell that I've let over two weeks slide by since my last post. Believe me, I of all people have noticed. Tis a tragedy, but meh, it happens.

Today I sit here making an effort to write.  College assignments are needing to be done, but I've decided to blog. My coffee today is a hazelnut latte from Lincoln Espresso.

I've recently been undergoing a bit of a creative drought. As the young people say, "it blows chunks". I feel that some of this is due to other stressors that have built up gradually. Kinda like mineral deposits that make up the water ring in a toilet bowl. It makes me feel crappy, ironically enough. One of the big things that I continuously have been putting off is this mother of a research paper that we've been working on all semester long. I know that it isn't the right attitude to have about school work, but I absolutely detest everything about it. The laborious research, quoting said research, and the tedious organization to make a coherent argument that I could give a damn about. Evidently it is a valuable skill to be able to write cohesive research papers and work through problem-solution arguments and blah blah bullshit. So what I've been doing is sitting on the edge of a pool and pushing the paper's head back under the water, hoping it'll drown eventually. But alas, its resilience prevails and here I am, bitching about it on my blog.

Its a sad, pathetic, hopeless feeling to have something laid out so perfectly in front of you with step by step directions on how to accomplish the task, and still you manage to ffffff-mess it up. I must have missed a memo somewhere about how to do things and process like a normal person. That's what life feels like at times. However, it remains true that I am not the only human being on this planet who does or has felt this. Anyways, in the course of thinking these things, I pondered my day and feelings and time spent with my on-campus counselor who does her best to figure out what I'm saying. While thinking these things, I decided to write. Here's the free-form abstractish madness that came out:

"I sit on the edge of my bed as my sluggish brain closes its sleep function and attempts to make me arise. I get on my feet and trip over junk that my foggy vision neglected to warn me about. I don’t have the energy to swear about it. The person that stares back at me in the bathroom mirror looks like hell; A confused, unshaven, squinty-eyed face tries to remember who it belongs to. I manage to piss on the floor before aiming the rest into the toilet bowl. I sigh. Another day has begun and my caged brain is becoming keenly aware. There is an extremely fine line between entering the shower or relapsing back into bed, the latter of which feels much easier. The hot water turns chilly too soon and I walk my unfit toweled frame to the closet. Decisions, decisions. I feel my eyes close as I stand in place, focus lost. After regaining coherence, I dress myself very slowly. My back pack’s contents are scattered in a similar fashion to my morning mind. I collect the books and pencils, shoving them into my bag. Good enough. Too lazy for socks, I slip on flimsy flip-flops and trudge out the door through dewy grass to my car.
I planned to nap, considering my attendance was the main thing that mattered. The discussion grabs my attention, however, and I find myself paying attention. Then all at once, I’m asleep with my neck in a very uncomfortable position against the wall next to me. Class ends and I stumble out of the room to my next engagement.
I’m in my counselor’s office and she’s is advising me. I know she means well, but I don’t understand the logistics of it all. Everything is ideal. I respond to questions with answers I know I should say because I can’t seem to explain the real truth of anything I feel. I stare at the hazelnut latte in my left hand while my other fingers thump the arm of the chair making random beats. I hear speech coming from the chair diagonally left of me but I realize that I am not listening. I’m truly not in the room at the moment. She thinks I am, but I’m unconsciously dabbling in the future and sulking in the past. I nod, trying to acknowledge and affirm the words of the professional. Everything is ideal. I see the reasons behind the logical structure she offers me; I just don’t see how to apply or relate to it. The advice and plans make sense as ideas, but I imagine them falling apart upon entering the real world. My life. Everything is a theory. I blink rapidly, taking on the reality of it all. She didn’t have solutions for me. Just guesses. Just hopes. I feel constricted by something. A poison or a noose. Some lethal unidentifiable threat. A malignant tumor. Doctors must run tests on patients to find the problem. She had thoughts. But a suggestion doesn’t cure sickness. And an answer is different than an antidote."

I don't have anything else immediately to talk about other than to mention the fact that a lot of my friends are starting blogs now that I've had one for months. I feel quite hipster. Although, as Alex told me "If a person considers themselves a hipster, they're probably just an asshole". To which I replied "I don't really fit that 'hipster mold'". Ironic right? That is all, pumpkins.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Barista Jesus

It was the year 850 ad when a herder named Kaldi noticed his goats acting differently after consuming a certain kind of berry. He observed this and soon tried the berries for himself, discovering that he too, felt a heightened sense of being. Eventually nearby monks heard about this experience and used the berries to stay awake while praying for extended periods of time. As time went on, the berries were crushed and added to water creating a cold, caffeinated beverage. These findings were spread across the region as monasteries shared the knowledge and yada yada yada, here I am drinking coffee at the Mill.

This tale is the most prevalent of several stories about how coffee was discovered. Regardless of its true origin, the word "coffee" came into English usage around 1598 from the Dutch word "koffie". It was borrowed from the Turkish word "kahve". This word came from the Arabic "qahwa", a derivative of "qahhwat al-bun" which means "wine of the bean". Any of those pronunciations is better than my New Jersey cousin who says "quawffee" in his east coast accent.  I know, you're getting a history lesson from Mr. Marshall, but I figured a little research wouldn't hurt. So far the only thing that research has hurt has been my grade... but we won't talk about that right now.

I was thinking about coffee a couple months ago, probably while sipping on some and feeling very intellectual. I wondered to myself... "Why in the hell do people even like this? It can be extremely bitter and the smell is nothing like the way it tastes. And yet... it is so fantastic... *sip*. Soooo fantastic".

Most of my friends like coffee and drink it on a regular basis. We sometimes gather on Friday nights or Sabbath afternoons at StarBucks. We discuss anything from deep insights to just potty talk. Then there are the friends that can't stomach the taste or even the smell of coffee. They get water or a smoothie at StarBucks. We coffee drinkers face-palm and shake our heads, but accept them anyways. The drinks we get vary from person to person. Some of us get lattes while others get frappuccinos. Some are sweeter than others. "Foo-foo drinks" are what my mom calls mochas and such. She and my dad drink their coffee black, as many people do. I've begun to drink mine that way at times as well. Its healthier to leave out the cream and sugar and it makes me feel refined.

I couldn't help but think how strange it is that we like the bitterness of coffee. Wouldn't it make sense to only desire sweet and good things? Just like we usually don't go out and buy a trashy car if we can afford a better-running one. Or choose a house that's falling apart when something else is an option. I suppose people do buy jeans with holes in them on purpose... but I digress.

I can be a listener. I talk a lot too, but I've spent a good deal of time hearing people talk. Usually they ask to talk to me about life and things they're going through. Over the years, I've "counseled" a few regulars who just need to let things out. Most issues concern relationships or questions about God. Regardless of the specific problems, they seem to continue struggling with the same things over and over again. It was during one of these heart to heart times that I really noticed how one of my friends had grown. The troublesome topics of the past had fallen away and new matters were at hand. I thought about the development a person can undergo just by surviving a life crisis, large or small. The way a person evolves, learns, and adapts contains beauty. Internal, spiritual beauty. Like calligraphy in the story book of someone's life.

This is what I was searching for in the coffee quest. The bitterness complemented by cream and sugar. The biting edge softened by a cinnamon roll. The anguish fading into sweet relief. This contrast is what makes life beautiful. Of course, people aren't thinking these exact thoughts with ever sip of joe, but its the analogy I came up with. Before sin, everything was glorious without even trying. But now, a changed life, a broken addiction, a mended relationship are the elements of a delicious drink. This world can be like a triple shot of espresso some days, but that doesn't mean there isn't any sweetener on its way.

Realizing these things in others makes us better people. Someone may have been a mega-bitch in the past, but now they've changed positively. Give 'em a clean slate. Forgive. "Err on the side of love", as my high school religion teacher would say. Allow people that chance to add cream to their coffee where once there was a harsh taste.

Finally, give yourself some credit. You've probably come a long ways from the person you once were. I know that I'm still growing. Parts of me are bitter and yucky with coffee grounds floating around. But I like to think that other parts of me that have mellowed out and changed for the better. Maybe you're still an ass. There is hope for you too. Barista Jesus never made a bad drink. I believe that in due time and surrender, you and I can be mixed into something truly remarkable. A caffeinated (or decaf) story that has just the right amount of coffee and sweet flavoring. The perfect blend of struggle, surrender, and success.

Let's talk coffee. Post feedback to the blog^^^ and tell me your favorite coffee drink in the comments.

Also, here are the links I used to learn about coffee's history: