The Ultimate Go-Go Juice

Give me intravenous coffee as an alarm -- the perfect alarm clock.

As I opened up my various daily news sources, I had to chuckle when this headline and the associated image at alternet.org popped up. Intravenous coffee as an alarm clock has long been my idea of the perfect gift/gadget.

I love coffee. It’s taste. It’s smell. The various ways in which you can brew it. And, most of all, I love the varieties. I’m a bit of a snob in some ways in that my perfect cup of joe is a fresh dark roast finely ground just minutes before brewed. Most days, I’ll take whatever I can get as long as it is extremely strong and a rich dark roast.

As an undergraduate in Atlanta, I’d normally start the day with an entire pot of coffee. At the time, hazelnut was my preferred flavor (can’t stand it anymore). I had this huge 32-oz coffee mug that I’d carry with me throughout each day during classes. I’d run to the commissary in between classes to fill it up. At the peak of my consumption, the tally was shocking—something like more than 20 cups a day on average. As I said, shocking.

In graduate school both at The University of Alabama–Tuscaloosa and at The University of Connecticut in Storrs, we were fortunate to have brilliant coffee joints on or close to campus. In Tuscaloosa, the coffee shop across the strip from campus (and luckily a mere 5-minute walk from my flat) would roast their beans in-house. The smell was amazing, and the coffee matched that aroma. It was then that I realised just how yummy a fresh dark roast can be. My consumption went down, but the enjoyment of the coffee increased. My favourite cups of joe were those shared with my thesis advisor, mentor and friend, normally in the afternoon.

In Storrs at UConn, Java Joint became my daily dose source. This is where I learned what flavours I truly enjoyed. Tanzanian Peaberry. Sumatra. Ethiopian something or other. Brazilian Santos. Guatemalan Antigua. I think of them all the Sumatran and the Brazilian Santos were and still are my favourites.

Every day, I’d arrive at the little trailer which became a bigger trailer which eventually became a proper shop inside the bookstore with my more manageable thermos and have it filled with the most divine coffee. I’d usually stop in sometime later in the day in the afternoon before a seminar or office hours or a meeting with a committee member. Occasionally, the cup of joe would serve as a prop and pick me up during a peripatetic meeting with a close friend and intellectual giant with whom I was fortunate enough to work. I miss those days, and I desperately miss that coffee.

Bags of cafe de cuba from a fantastic coffee shop in Havana, Cuba.

These days, I’ll take whatever dark roast I can get. The latest great-tasting coffee to hit our kitchen is Cuban coffee. It’s subtle and lovely, and packs an outstanding kick. The Cubans in my life think anything other than a thimble’s worth of coffee is too much. I’m quite happy to enjoy two cups a day now.

That said, it’s time for that second cup.

Where does all the snow go?

This picnic table was completely buried by Februrary. This photo was taken in mid-January 2010.

For those who have followed my Facebook updates, you know that this past winter in Helsinki brought maddening and never-ending amounts of snow. We haven’t yet heard how much snow ultimately fell over the course of the entire winter for 2009-10. Suffice it to say, it was buttloads.

Upon our return from our holiday in mid-January, we were greeted with about 20-30 cm of snow. The snow kept coming. For much of the winter, we had more than 70 cm of snow covering the ground, with mountains of snow lining the roads and sidewalks and well…everything. It made the snowpocalypse that hit the Eastern US look like a few flurries. Through the end of March and into April, the snow continued to fall.

It’s taken the snow several weeks if not a full month for the snow to melt. It’s now the second full week of May and remnants can still be found here and there. The piles that grew to mountains as roadways and sidewalks were cleared are now almost gone. We have one remaining pile behind our building that at one point was nearly level with our windows on the third floor.

This got a friend of mine and I thinking: where did all that snow go?

As saturated as the ground is, there isn’t too much standing water around. The Cuban and I have seen some swamp-like areas in the forest around our flat. Yet, it’s amazing how the snow just seems to disappear.

Winter this past year was enchanting if not a little intimidating. However, spring is most welcome and just as beautiful.

A tribute to moms everywhere

One of the best kids and moms I know: Mackenzie & Jennifer

In the US on the second Sunday in May each year, we celebrate our moms.

For me, this means paying tribute to all of the women in my family who helped shape who I’ve become. Thanks to my mother, Mary Fuller; my great aunt, Lora B Thomas; my beloved aunt and fantastic friend, Tandy Harlan Fuller; and my grandmother, Katherine Louise Baring Fuller.

Even now, I’m not sure that I’ll be a biological or adoptive to mother to my own children. It’s such an amazing act of selflessness and I’m continually in awe of all women who are mothers. In an era when it is a given that women will work and take care of children, those who do combine professional success with a stable and healthy family life deserve even further awe.

I grew up in a single-parent household at a time when it was exceedingly rare and perhaps unacceptable. How she managed it, I’ll probably never understand. The rest of the women in my family helped, of course. But, what a task.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. And, thank you, ladies, particularly to those who helped raise me.

Random nonsense

Welcome to my latest distraction.

The state of the world frightens me, and random acts of kindness and silliness thrill me. Rather than simply using my Facebook page to post links and Twitter to repost pithy comments and links to articles, I wanted to find a space that would allow me a bit more space for reflection and pontification. Thus, this space.

The night I met The Cuban, friends from all over really discussed the disconnect between where we were then standing and where we were all from. In what would become a regular occurrence, The Cuban stated, ‘I’m just a tropical fish out of water’. Indeed.

Please post comments if the mood strikes you, and feel free to link to this space. All I ask is that all those who enter this space do so knowing that respect for differences of opinion are paramount. Disagreement is a part of life; disrespect and intolerance are not welcome here, however.

Enjoy. And, thanks for reading!