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Saturday, September 30, 2006

yoga & more on pages 2

hooray! my namarupa finally came yesterday!

all yoga students should subscribe to namarupa, eddie stern's fantastic magazine that takes yoga practice seriously. that doesn't mean it's without a sense of humor, however.

but unlike other yoga magazines, there aren't any puffy bits on yoga for cats or ads for high-fashion pants. this is all good.

and the pictures are fantastic; once eddie gets himself some more money, he'll be able to print these as beautifully as they deserve -- many of them are beyond mere national geographic quality, and are firmly artistic, beautiful, historical, ethnographic.

for example, there's a "simple" picture of a schoolgirl wrapped in a shawl with blue ribbons in her hair. this is an amazing piece of portraiture, which could be in the moma.

naturally being myself, i am really enjoying the eccentric r. svoboda's drily entertaining piece on fate vs. free will in yoga. i mean, my name's fortune, after all.

eddie himself also has an interesting article on krishnamacharya, who is basically the root teacher for the most popular types of yoga taught in the west today. this should get a lot of people talking, i think.

one of the core questions that eddie asks -- i wish he had spent the rest of the article addressing this single point alone even -- "what happens when yoga does not come to us, but when we go to yoga?"

let me also continue a bit ot with a further review of iwork's pages 2. to test this application's compatibility with pc word, i imported my corporate letterhead, edited it, added footnotes, comments, fancy formatted tables, and bar charts.

then i sent it back to open in it word, where it looked and worked great. so i made some more edits to the .doc, to simulate collaborating on a text just like you would do on a real work project, and sent it back to pages.

still worked great. the only thing pages lost was the little line above the footnotes. not bad.

so then i took a serious, heavy-hitting word file from a major research firm, a professionally made word .doc with an automatic table of contents, bookmarks, field codes, comments, everything.

the table of contents came in fine in pages, altho' some of the styles didn't quite translate. that could use some improvement, since it's a drag to have to recreate those 3 or 4 styles that didn't come in right and re-apply them.

also, the word feature that allows you to click on a table of contents page number and hop to the page seems broken in pages 2.0.1 now. the workaround for this is to export your file to .pdf using the page converter feature.

of course, i could automagically update the existing table of contents with pages. when i clicked on the imported table of contents, pages knew it was one piece of special text: it correctly highlighted it with a blue box, but the update now button on the floating options palette stayed grayed out.

however, if i used the right-click context menu, that showed the update option, which worked perfectly. so this is a little quirk.

the biggest problem i'm experiencing in pages is that there doesn't seem to be a way to make an index! bookmarks, references, all that exists, but no indices.

of course, word indices don't work so great, so maybe i place too much emphasis on this feature. . .i dunno. i hope apple adds this feature in a release soon.

i'm still very happy with pages 2.0.1 so far. the update to 2.0.2 was just released last week, and while the fixes in this update seem quite minor, i personally like to keep all my software up-to-date.

so i'm downloading that now. . .

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posted by fortune | 9:41 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Friday, September 29, 2006

brewing the folgers lively colombian in the chemex

yes dear readers, i did it. i brewed the folgers new "lively colombian" from yesterday in the chemex at the so-called "oren proportion," 2 oz. coffee (it comes pre-ground, gak!) to 26 oz. water.

and the pot is also now soaking in josh d's clearly coffee to recover from it. let's be honest here: this coffee is better than i thought it would be -- marginally.

it's not undrinkable junk (the stuff in the red plastic supermarket jar), and it is better than the stuff many new yorkers buy from the quilted metal carts on streetcorners (which is also undrinkable junk).

in fact, it's a step backward for folgers. what do i mean?

folgers, as some coffee lovers might recall, began its life as a well-respected regional brand in california. it was primarily associated with central and south american coffees; thus there's a certain brightness or crispness one expects from any folgers product.

but over time, its corporate parent, an evil member of the big three + tchibo multi-national roasting conglomerates, penny-pinched the quality of this product to death. and over time, its market share has declined -- most coffee market surveys show that supermarket commercial brands are nearly dormant, and the growth in coffee is all in the higher-quality specialty sector.

which makes sense, because who wants to drink bad coffee? and so this new "lively colombian" folgers product appears to be an attempt for folgers to move back to reclaim its old, old heritage of quality.

to provide the tricycle, as was suggested to me yesterday.

several people, including my husband, urged me to undergo the exercise of treating this coffee like any of the others i try. so i did.

pre-grinding stales coffee. stale coffee has markedly reduced (or no) fragrance or aromas; it also fails to bloom when brewing, and performs poorly because aging coffee needs to be ground more and more finely to hope for any good brewing performance.

but here i was, stuck with a factory coarse grind. despite the oren proportion -- which puts a good amount of coffee in the filter -- the water just ran right through this staling stuff.

that 26 oz. brewed in 3 min. 7 secs., which is too short for a good pot, and many seconds below the minimum 4 minutes the lingle brewing handbook offers as a guideline.

not so good. but let's do it by the scaa flavor wheel, as i do for all coffees, and talking my way through the 4 parts of the bouquet, as best one can.

i believe this coffee to be something full-city-ish, altho' it's ground, so how to really tell?

the package had a clearly marked expiration date of 7/2007. since these dates are usually set a year ahead, i expect that this package was roasted and ground last july, making the coffee at least 60 days old.

please remember i believe that even whole bean coffee is, like milk, not worth drinking at 14 days old; pre-ground by the next day. so. . .i can't say anything about freshness. this product ain't fresh.

the fragrance of the dry grounds, once i pried open the package (with difficulty! pulling that mylar bag apart is hard on the high-gloss manicure!), was vaguely, lightly floral. my husband smelled it and said, "well, it doesn't smell as bad as chock. . ."

there was no particular aroma when the water hit the grounds, just a neutral roast-coffee smell. no nose to speak of -- another sign of age and pre-grinding.

but i was surprised to see the grounds rally a tiny bit, as if they were trying to bloom when i poured the water over them. maybe they bloomed a little.

yeah, i'll give it the benefit of the doubt on this point: there was some noticeable foaming. while the coffee dripped, there was a slight aroma of vanilla.

this slight floral and vanilla quality was the clue that this coffee could possibly be colombian beyond mary p's juan valdez certifying logo.

when sipped, the aftertaste was dry and slightly puckery. i think this coffee is intended for the milk and sugar crowd.

the aftertaste was rather cardboard-y, or maybe cardboard-dipped-in-roasted-coffee; but this is because the coffee was stale.

when the coffee was hot, with milk and sugar, it was drinkable. hot and black, the crispness was apparent.

but as the coffee cooled, it quickly became all bad. it just wasn't possible to finish it, black. it turned a little wine-y in a bad way and a little astringent; the brightness deteriorated into an unpleasant sensation (perhaps from the underextraction caused by the too-quick brewing?).

it had a medium body, true. it is balanced, but in a boring way -- this is no beautiful batdorf los lirios, no way.

to describe it, i have to borrow terms from the commercial cupping world of the exchange. remember, at the exchange they cup for defects; in specialty we cup for nuance.

there just ain't any nuance here to cup for. i acknowledge that this is what the exchange cuppers call "sound coffee."

it's not all yucky-defecto; it's mostly neutral, and if drunk quickly while hot as a "new york regular," it's better than coffee-cart coffee. if i were to fill out my cupping worksheet and give it number, i guess it would cup a 70.

i'm struggling, dear readers here, because i don't like this coffee, but at the same time i do realize that for a broad market segment, it might an improvement. that this could be in any way a step forward is, to my mind, an indictment of the state of commercial coffee today.

"but what about those people who would feel overwhelmed and alienated by walking into a specialty roaster/retailer? those people who would be taken aback and freak out at the number of options?" someone will ask me. "isn't this a better coffee for them?"

after thinking about this, my response to this is: since when are americans afraid of choices or overwhelmed by them? aren't american consumers famous for demanding choice, even the most ridiculous or lazy ones?

i mostly shop the perimeter of the supermarket, but when i have to venture into the aisles, i see a plethora of choices.

there must be 30 kinds of peanut butter, including varieties that already have the jelly swirled in! and it also comes in a tube now, so small kids can just squeeze it out for themselves.

but no american consumer feels overwhelmed by all these peanut butter choices. so i'm not sure we americans are actually overwhelmed by the origin menu you'd find at any good local nabe roaster/retailer.

i think it's a carnard. in sum, i applaud folgers for offering a line with somewhat improved quality.

but i wish instead of this line, they had tossed everything into a product of even superior quality to this or millstone!

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posted by fortune | 7:54 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Thursday, September 28, 2006

la negrita in the chemex

so i woke up this morning and leapt outta bed to brew up norman v's unclebeanz la negrita blend coffee from last night in the chemex. this coffee was roasted yesterday afternoon at 4pm, norman said, so when i brewed it it was about 15 hours old!

that's freshness. all good.

the roast level seem to me to be full city, because i saw just 1 pinprick of oil on a few beans. but with coffee this fresh, the oil might not have finished coming out yet! so i'll have to check it out tomorrow.

the dry fragrance of this coffee is strongly floral, and i think norman's site describes it 100% accurately -- it's nutty, caramelly and has a slight dry dutch cocoa aftertaste. the coffee taste is nippy, slightly bright.

it's really good coffee for someone who's still a part-time roaster, and i'm impressed. but then i liked his colombian blend too, as readers may recall.

in general, i think norman's roasting for a latin-style taste in his coffee. so if you're a lover of the cafe cubano or latin-type coffees (and who isn't?), you should definitely check norman out.

very few latin coffees are specialty-quality, and this, along with ultra-freshness, is what norman's bringing to your table. you rock, norman!

i also received -- brace yourselves, i did -- some of folgers new premium gourmet line. can you believe it? but their p.r. firm sent it to me. . .they are a brave, bold bunch, aren't they?

so i'm here looking at the "vanilla biscotti" flavor bag with the swirly typeface. ohmigod.

they also sent me their "lively colombian" (which is part of the juan valdez logo quality certification program, so i know from long-time bccy pal, scaa board member, and juan valdez exec mary p. that it is actually 100% colombian and should be free of primary defects -- that is, the green coffee before roasting shouldn't have been fermented, moldy, or wormy, which is a relief i guess) and their "morning cafe" flavor, with a lighter roast than the colombian.

if i wanted to be kind to this coffee, i suppose i could view it as a tricycle. the goal is to help move the vast number of innocent, unsuspecting american coffee lovers from the big red plastic jar they habitually pick up at the supermarket on towards the cup of excellence. that is, from coffees that cup below 70 to coffees that cup 90.

so maybe for some people the journey looks like this: from walking with the big red plastic thang, to this new "premium gourmet" tricycle, then getting training wheels with millstone, and then they graduate to the 10-speed at their local nabe independent roaster/retailer when they just can't get the freshness they are learning to seek at the supermarket.

i might actually brew the colombian. for giggles. do you think i should, my fellow coffee lovers?

when i opened the "vanilla biscotti" i thought i was gonna fall over -- that is one aggressively over-flavored coffee, readers. imagine being trapped in a coffin with 3 gallons of sticky, over-sweet, cheap imitation vanilla fragrance poured over you before they set the ants upon you. . .

i object to flavored coffees in principle, altho' i know they make up as much as 20% of the market. but even considering that flavors have a niche (hi, hy!), they gotta dial this one back; it's just obnoxious.

i felt like my nose had been mugged. and i say this as someone who wears serge lutens. (not when cupping, of course!)

there's no way i'm putting that stuff in any of my grinders -- i'd never get it out. no matter how much of josh d's grindz i put thru it. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:09 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

thanks to mary, josh & pages!

first a quick thanks to mary petitt of juan valdez, who so sweetly closed her coffee shop just for the nyc coffee meetup tonite! yay -- it was a private coffee party.

josh from urnex gave a great general talk on the importance of cleaning your home coffee equipment, and scaa-consumer-member-turned-pro norman v. of unclebeanz donated fresh roasted coffee as a door prize.

mary served her heirloom maragogipe coffee variety -- a first for many of our meetup members -- while josh handed out free cleancaf to all! so thank you mary and josh!

i have other interesting news, which i'll discuss later.

on to the mini-review of apple's iwork pages word processor. when i got my lovely macbook pro, i wanted to have a completely microsoft-free machine.

why? because microsoft products are vulnerable, end of story.

and while most word nasties don't affect macs now, i just don't want to open that door. i don't want to be vulnerable when someone finally finds the one exploit that works in the mac and pc versions of word, you know?

thus pages 2.0.1. it's gotten some pretty good reviews, and is said to be very compatible with word docs. since i'm not writing any books in it, just mostly letters, outlines and a few business memos, i thought it would be up to the task.

i don't really use spreadsheets very often, and i don't usually need complex tables. so pages seemed like it would work for me. how to test that supposed word compatibility?

ah! i thought and thought and came up with a plan. my company's business letterhead comes as a fancy word template document (.dot) -- this is an elaborately set-up layout with graphics, heavily positioned text, unusual fonts, locked areas, headers, footers, a european page size -- the whole 9 yards.

so i tried opening it in pages, saving it as a pages template, and working with it. i was pretty sure in fact it wouldn't work and would look a mess.

but! i sent the template to myself, dragged it onto the pages icon and lo and behold! pages popped open, saved the thing as a template in its own format, perfectly perserved everything unique about the layout, read all the fonts. . .and the document is just like in word.

completely editable, all the locked areas respected as master page parts, it's a 100% conversion as far as i can tell from quickly typing a memo in it. amazing!

i'm deeply impressed. of course the thing to do is now to make a file, save it as a word format (.doc) and then see how it opens in pc word. . .i'll give that a try tomorrow. . .

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posted by fortune | 10:08 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

uk readers: support macmillan!

long-time readers know that every year i encourage support of the wonderful u.k. coffee event known as the macmillan coffee morning, which raises money to fight cancer. i wish we in the u.s.a. had such a national java-related charity event.

the coffee morning's this friday, so please don't forget to catch a cup at a participating coffee retailer. they also have a rather corny game, but hey at least they're trying.

i myself will be spending the evening at the nyc coffee meetup. it's not too late for you new yorkers to r.s.v.p. and attend!

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posted by fortune | 8:20 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

poached pears + pesto

busy busy day.

so after the great csa corn dust-up -- the organic corn being delicious to more than us csa members, as all the ears proved to be providing pleasant homes for many earworms, gross. . which caused some of us who believe you can have organic produce and quality food as well to mention that fact. . .

which caused the rest of the csa membership to tell us to shut the eff up and drink the kool-aid. . .

which caused me to remember why seemingly charming, forward-thinking, liberal groups like this never last long, why i have to stop joining them, and why truly wide-scale organic food production is probably not feasible, since so many of its proponents refuse to treat it like a serious business or hold it to any quality standards other than political perfection. . .(i see this in coffee too!)

anyway. i dared show my face at the csa today and found myself faced with piles of seckel pears and basil. no problem.

pesto's a no-work, no-brainer; just whizz everything up in the everlasting cuisinart. the seckel pears, likewise -- 2 cups of wine and a handful of spices all find their way into the kuhn-rikon pressure cooker and 8 minutes later, my autumn mainstay.

i had to get all this done this evening because tomorrow night's the scaa coffee meetup, where josh from urnex will be coming to long-time bccy pal mary p's juan valdez to chat about proper care of home coffee equipment. r.s.v.p. if you're interested. . .

back to anyway. after the pears were done, i found i didn't like the sauce as much as usual. it needed some tweaking.

usually you can just pop all the ingredients together and the instrinsic goodness will result in a wonderful syrupy cinnamon-n-spice sauce with (my favorite words) zero effort. but these seckels weren't quite working out.

and that's when the sugar-free routin 1883 vanilla syrup came in handy. a shot of that into the pan and heaven returned. . .

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posted by fortune | 7:33 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

completely ot: chanel + smashbox

stop the presses: i've decided that the best fall foundation solution for those of us over 30 has to be chanel's double perfection creme powder foundation over smashbox's photo finish clear foundation primer.

and yes i like the smashbox better than chanel's own primer.

this combination gave me 12 hours of perfect wear(!) on an autumn day when the temperature was 75 degrees. altho' the humidity was only moderate, i will confess.

but no skirt in her right mind's wearing serious foundation on an ultra-humid day. i'm wearing the chanel in "cendre" or "shell." put on about a dime-size portion of the smashbox over your regular moisturizer and let it sit for just about 20 seconds.

then place a couple of dots of the chanel on your hand and go for it. i used it straight with my fingers under the eyes instead of a concealer, with a brush for around the nose, and with a sponge to blend at the jaw.

altho' this foundation does dry to a slight powdery finish, it's not matte -- it has a satin finish that never turns oily and doesn't call out for blotting.

highly, highly recommended. if you want a matching powder to touch-up (not that i needed it) check out the compact version of this makeup, which i'm using in vanilla.

also worth the splurge: the chanel sheer brilliance in sunkissed.

now if only someone would make that perfect fall red in a long-last formula that survives a proper espresso. the delicious coffee oils in a great crema just take off all the supposed "all-day" lipstick formulae i've tried. . .

since you do, alas, need to reapply your lipstick after coffee, let me remind you that that lipstick is just an accessory to your macbook pro. so you can skip carrying a purse mirror and just use this tiger widget instead!

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

mark inman's taylormaid espresso 0 specs

as promised, i'm posting these for you as soon as i got 'em from mark inman. you may want to read the general description of mark's new taylormaid espresso here.

espresso 0 specs:

  • portafilter: using a 14 gram (double shot) basket, fill with 16 grams of fresh ground espresso
  • tamp: using about 40 pounds of pressure, compact a level surface of espresso
  • machine temp: sweet spot for this coffee is 198 degrees
  • run-time/volume: 1 oz of thick buttery espresso should pour out in 25 - 28 seconds

personally, as long-time readers know, i pull all my shots these days as triples, ever since our long-time bccy pals at espressoparts made me a custom triple portafilter. so i wonder what mark's specs would be for a triple ristretto of this puppy?

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posted by fortune | 8:19 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Monday, September 25, 2006

maybe i'm wrong

"as coffee culture gets bigger in india, a traditional tea drinking nation, domestic and international chains are lining up big expansion plans . . . in the next 3-5 years.

major players like barista, costa coffee, cafe coffee day and barnie's are already working overtime to expand their presence in the country and implement product portfolio overhauls. on the other hand, global player starbucks corporation is all set to make its india debut in 2007."

long-time readers know that as a person devoted to a pro-consumption solution to the coffee crisis, i've been saying we coffee lovers probably shouldn't expect to see india become a formerly-tea-drinking nation -- like japan and the u.k. -- for another 20 years. but maybe i'm wrong.

considering the rapid rate of expansion and investment by coffee companies, both commercial and specialty, howard seems to know something i don't yet. well, you all know what i say: one world under specialty coffee's passionate sway!

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posted by fortune | 7:58 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Sunday, September 24, 2006

luv my roul'pat

what's fabulous about the rustic apple tart from yesterday is that the recipe gives patisserie-quality results -- light, crisp, flaky, fresh, highlight on the apples themselves -- with just about zero work. zero work is a good thing.

the hardest part of the recipe is peeling the six apples, you know? but i understand that some people are hesitant to deal with pie crusts of any type. to this i have to say -- the food processor is your best friend.

long-time readers recall that i have an antique cuisinart circa 1980, which i bought at a garage sale in '88 from a woman who was getting divorced. she had used this wedding gift like, twice.

i paid US$25 for it (it holds up to 3-1/2 cups of flour), which was a lot at the time since i was a starving graduate student. and altho' small by today's standards, the puppy just doesn't die.

to compare, my kitchenaid pro stand mixer bought in 1999 has expired twice and been repaired twice. the cuisinart keeps on plugging.

used properly, the cuisinart makes great pie crust. just keep the butter frozen, process for literally no more than 10 seconds, and use ice-cold water.

don't expect the dough to ball up. if it does, it's too wet.

but when you reach in with your hands and press the dough together, it will bond. that's when you wrap it up and chill it for an hour.

this makes perfect crust every time. and it's braindead easy.

the other thing about pie crust that terrifies people is the rolling out. the dough often sticks, tears, fights back.

none of this is a problem -- to prevent sticking, skip the old-fashioned pastry cloth and upgrade to a large roul'pat.

for tears, just patch the tears with dough scraps from the long ends, and whenever the dough starts to fight back, let it rest for 5 minutes under a piece of plastic.

the final challenge for many appears to be moving the dough from the rolling surface to the pan. this is where the roul'pat comes in so handy.

i no longer wrap the dough around the pin to move it to the pan -- that risks tearing and even dropping the dough!

instead, i just put the pan over the dough on the roul'pat and flip the silicone mat. bingo.

as for clean-up, just rinse the roul'pat in the sink and let it air-dry flat. baking should be all about the eating, not the cleaning.

i don't advise putting the roul'pat in the oven. get a silpat for that, ok?

btw, i want to review the new edition of that great yoga magazine namarupa, but mine still hasn't come! i'm like the last person in the world to get my subscription, it seems like!

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posted by fortune | 10:48 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

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