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Saturday, September 17, 2005

the nano is amazing, and more yoga

the answer to steve jobs' question is clear: do guys want a year of sound, or a tiny, shiny thing? as steve predicted, the tiny shiny thing. he's a genius, after all.

i shouldn't limit this to guys tho'. the appeal is universal.

after fate tore mr. right's beloved white sonic universe from him, he was heartbroken for a day. then he bought a nano.

to see a nano is to desire it. it simply is the most awesome device ever; everyone who gazes at it, holds it, listens to it is immediately entranced.

it is a tiny gleaming jewel. i have eyeshadow cases that are larger than the nano; the bits of chocolate they leave on your pillow in upscale hotels are thicker than the nano.

no wonder lustful hordes of new yorkers are roaming the city practically taking stores apart brick by brick to get their hands on 'em. the backorders are from 5 to 15 days.

while everyone else was pounding on the doors at tekserve and j&r, mr. right cleverly went to the long-disdained big box store and picked one up -- they still had 30 in stock.

anyway, on the yoga front, long-time readers will recall my recent rant about christians and yoga (and here). the ny times picks up this theme today (use bugmenot).

the article is pretty ok. i'm surprised that the supposed hindu scholar doesn't seem to be more familiar with patanjali's yoga sutras. please note pada 1, sutras 21-22: "success in yoga comes to those who are energetic" and "success varies according to the means adopted -- mild, medium, or intense."

you can achieve success in yoga thru concerted effort, patanjalis says, and you'll get out of it what you put into it. now let's go to pada 1, sutra 23: "perfection is also attained by devotion to the lord (ishvara pranidhanad in sanskrit)."

"also" he says. you can succeed in yoga thru 1- effort or 2- devotion; this is the basis for the common division of yoga into "hatha" (the yoga of effort or force, the asana practice of doing poses) and "bhakti" (the yoga of devotion).

notice patanjali doesn't say "god" or "shiva" or whatever. patanjali was a grammarian, and he chose this phrase with care, ishvara pranidhanad.

the first part of that term, "ish," has basic meaning in sanskrit of "seeking something." it is said by geshe m. roach to come thru the indo-european root "ais," which we see in english as "ask." the second part, "vara," means to choose, select, or being the good; it's indo-european root is "werh," which moves into greek as part of the famous phrase "eureka."

so we can view the term ishvara as having the meaning "seeking or being the good." in this way, you can see how the term comes later to have a feeling of a "master," (someone who is good at something is a master) which then mutates into that english translation of lord, as in "lord and master."

you will note that the buddhist deity "avalokiteshvara" also has this "ishvara" thing going on in his name. ("avaloke" means to have compassion for all, or to look at all with love; thus the common translation of this deity's name as "the noble lord of compassion.")

let's take a look at the next word in the phrase, pranidhanad. the first part of this is "pra," meaning to come forward, and comes to serve, as geshe says, as the basis of the english proud.

the next part is "ni," meaning to go down, as in the english "nether." after that comes the "dha," meaning to set down, to set in place, and which becomes the basis of the english "deed."

geshe notes how this "dha" mutates into the greek to become "the-," the basis of "thesis," which is a formal piece of writing set down. the dha indicates works or actions that have been "set down," or put in place.

so let's put pranidhanad together: first you come forward, go down, and then set in place. thus you can see how it later acquires a sense of "prayer," which is something you come forward and bow down to offer as a definite, set act of words.

so the sense of the whole phrase ishvara pranidhanad is a master to whom you go to offer a prayer or petition, someone from whom you seek guidance, a teacher. obviously, depending on who you are and your culture, this could be any esteemed person, saint, or deity.

i mean, it could be albert einstein, vishnu, or jesus. the teacher you choose is up to you, the object of your effort and meditation is up to you; pada 1, sutra 39 says the yoga student can achieve yoga "by meditating on anything that particularly appeals."

this could be chocolate, you know.

so those who argue that you can't do yoga without a secret devotion to this or that, or that yoga can't be "removed" from a certain culture, are just not reading their patanjali with care. if i may be frank. . .

posted by fortune | 1:51 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, September 16, 2005

why does this sound so eerily familiar?

"it exists within a system largely dictated by the power of the multinational roasters."

long-time readers have endured nearly 6 solid years of l'il blonde me harping on this very point. . .thank goodness the guardian has finally figured it out.

but actually it's a great article and i wanna comment on several parts of it.

"by the time it reaches a consumer's cup, a spoonful of coffee may include beans from up to 20 different countries -- and it is this crucial fact that provides the roasters with such enormous muscle. the precise makeup of each blend can be determined by sophisticated financial software, enabling roasters to hop constantly from supplier to supplier in a dance that ensures they will always get the lowest price."

this practice is often called "blend management" in the trade. and its consquences are horrid for coffee farmers and consumers alike. not only does it serve to depress prices for farmers, it rips off average coffee lovers -- as the multinational roasters -- the big four of sara lee, kraft, nestle, p&g, plus tchibo who are responsible for the supermarket cans and jars -- slip in as much trash, junk "coffee-by-products" as they can at the very edge of taste.

you think you're buying the coffee blend you want, with the quality and "brand value" you think you can trust -- but no! the "big four" are constantly dragging you toward the bottom, bit by bit, hoping you won't notice the steady deterioration in quality.

oh, but we coffee drinkers do notice! we do care! and we are unhappy about it!

this is why single-origin, estate coffee, specialty-grade, with g.p.s. markings that tie it absolutely to a real origin, a place of certified quality, even a washing station, is crucial. this is one reason why the scaa has spent so much time developing its g.p.s. system.

"The director of the government's Coffee Inspection Division is a meticulous personality, in charge of a team of experts that Ethiopia believes will improve the competitiveness of its coffee. 'Quality: that is what we can do'. . ."

bingo. as always, to quote stevie colten, greenie and former scaa prez: "quality begets price begets quality."

what should consumers do to escape the traps the "big four" sets for them? realize that our fate is tied to that of the farmer and the independent specialty roaster/retailer.

we are a family in specialty coffee!

buy fresh, high-quality whole beans, particularly those from single origins. even if you buy an espresso blend, try to ensure that all the coffees in it are of the best quality.

support your local nabe's independent roaster/retailer. they are on our side.

grind and brew your coffee at home whenever you can -- this is the easiest, most economical way to deliver all the pleasure of fine coffee to yourself, your family, the independent roaster, and the farmer.

posted by fortune | 8:57 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, September 15, 2005

a health care crisis, and the coffee crisis

"starbucks will spend more on health insurance for its employees this year than on raw materials needed to brew its coffee, chairman howard schultz said. . ."

howard means his cri de coeur as a policy statement, which it is, but to my mind it's more about the so-called "coffee crisis" than the "health care crisis." after all the american public already expressed their feelings on this issue in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

sorry howard, a lot of people wish it had come out a different way. but it didn't.

it's shocking that beautiful specialty coffee should be in the state it's in. but again, that won't change until we help farmers improve quality, educate coffee lovers about the issue, and oh, by the way, de-commodify coffee.

burn the c! no, i'm kidding. but willem boot has shown the way with his spectacularly successful ethiopian internet auction last july.

of which i've written here, as long-time readers may recall. . .

posted by fortune | 11:51 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 1 comments

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

mad dog inversion workshop

wow! i wish i could go to this: long-time om-style teacher alma largey will be teaching a yoga retreat in west reading, ct at the godstow center during columbus day weekened. the exact dates are oct 7-9.

she'll be focusing on adjustments, backbending and inversions. for info write

devoted readers know alma's one of my fave nyc teachers. highly recommended!

and don't forget that the nyc coffee meetup happens this evening at joe! r.s.v.p. now, please!

posted by fortune | 9:42 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

scorn tchibo now!

"german coffee retailing group tchibo holding ag is planning to enter the u.s. market. . ."

i'd like to be able to say, over my dead body, but alas, they have the capital and marketing sway. we lovers of fine specialty coffees can only fight a rearguard action here.

tchibo is basically of the "big four" mindset -- those multi-nationals like sara lee, p&g, kraft, nestle -- who are responsible for the questionable substances found in the supermarket cans and jars.

but they also have kind of a mermaid-type role in europe too. starbucks has started selling music; tchibo sells cell phone plans.

and just look at their drinks!all super-sized whipped cream and sprinkles. horrifying.

and their signature products include instant, or soluble coffee. yuck-o.

thus my advice to lovers of real, fresh, single-origin specialty coffee: scorn tchibo now!

posted by fortune | 11:03 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, September 12, 2005

needless division

"a battle for coffee drinkers' consciences is about to begin with the launch of a rival to the fairtrade label."

why is this subject always presented like this? i've never understood the tension between the advocates of fairtrade and environmental coffees like rainforest alliance or bird friendly.

sometimes you will hear fairtrade people say with disdain "those environmental people care only about trees and not about the farmers." you see some of this attitude towards the end of the above article.

and likewise you will sometimes hear environmental coffee people retort "when the environment is ruined, unfit for agriculture, the farmers surely starve and are forced to migrate." but i think this divide is much smaller now than in the past.

everyone understands that the goal -- quality specialty coffee production and an end to the so-called "coffee crisis" -- requires both a healthy ecosystem and healthy, educated farm families. that is, both of these goals must be considered in tandem!

that's why i personally long for a unified certification system. i want to know my coffee is high-quality, bird-friendly, tree-friendly, organic, even bio-dynamic, all that.

those factors will of themselves give farmers a better price. as former scaa prez, greenie, and pro coffee cupper steve colten is famous for saying, "quality begets price begets quality."

it's an upward spiral, yes?

posted by fortune | 10:00 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, September 11, 2005

the wild blue yonder or the nyt really hates anthony weiner

no, i'm not talking about a harrar here; i'm discussing the place where the new york times editors appear to live -- it's not on earth. or new york.

it's really unusual for us to get political here at bccy since politics is boring, while coffee is interesting. but as i've said, i'm looking around before the primary on tuesday.

yesterday, the nyt ran an article about democrats running in the primary -- they had a
big article that took up a nice chunk of page B1, the front of the metro section, and continued to B6
with large pix of fields, the times' man ferrer, and miller. the candidate the paper despises, weiner, got a tiny little ugly photo buried at the bottom B6 and a few inches separate from the main story.

funny that, considering weiner's sudden surge from 4th place to tie with ferrer for 1st is the big news in this race so far. today, there's another article on the race on the front page.

and in this article the times' patrick healey takes extra pains to jab at weiner, snidely sniping that he "is gambling on the counterintuitive idea that new york democrats will respond to an offer of tax cuts." as if centrist democrats -- who understand that the middle-class and small business in nyc are in fact massively over-taxed, under-served, and headed for the endangered species list -- are something "real" new york democrats (meaning, those losers the blue-yonder-livin' times endorses) should mock.

of course what the times has against weiner is that he might take the election from their tax-lovin' talking statue, ferrer. oh, and that weiner's platform is a tad clintonian.

i don't care how you feel about clinton himself, but gosh, i rather miss peace and prosperity. we could use some of that in nyc right now, to be frank. especially the prosperity part.

anyway, enough. since the new york times takes such special care to diss anthony weiner, i think he's my man.

today i'm still drinking jessica's yrg on ice, which becomes more wine-y by the day, and listening to joshua redman.

long-time readers may be surprised that i don't have too much to say about 9-11 today. but in fact, i think it's only decent to continue to focus on the victims of katrina, who still desperately need our help right now. . . .for us new yorkers who didn't lose loved ones to revel in 9-11 today is a perhaps a little unfeeling, if you will forgive me for saying so.

of course we mustn't forget the dead, but the quick are suffering before us!

posted by fortune | 12:07 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 1 comments

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