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Another Extrordinary Sunday

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on June 25, 2017

beethovenespresso

My favorite Sunday morning activity is “Chatter” at Las Puertas in Albuquerque, formerly known as Church of Beethoven. The music is always different, but along the lines of chamber, symphonic, and other orchestral works; they are sometimes from centuries past or they could be more recent. It is always fascinating and enjoyable. And, being able to enjoy freshly espressed coffee is an integral part of the fascination.

My mind sometimes drifts along during the concert, and today was no exception. After hearing the poet in mid-concert, and during the two minutes of silence before the next musical performance, I was thinking about writing, probably a poem, but at least writing down a (time wise) back and forth monologue, hitting memories that bounce around in my head, a place where time is fluid. Such was briefly my plan for when I would arrive home.

Howsoever, as much as I had enjoyed the music from the first performance, which was a beautiful sextet by Richard Straus (Opus 85), played with passion and virtuosity, I was astounded by the second half of the program: string sextet No. 1 in B-flat major (Opus 18) by Johannes Brahms. Notwithstanding that there were no horns聽馃榾, only six stringed instruments, I was blown away.

Our local trio of musicians (David Felberg on violin, Shanti Randall on viola, & James Holland on cello) were paired up with three members of the Sybarite-5 group out of New York: Sarah Whitney, a tall, dark, passionate violinist, Angela Pickett, tightly focused on viola, and Laura Metcalf, colorfully dressed, exhibiting high intensity on cello. I noticed, or seemed to, that the women showed more emotion while playing. Whitney, although tightly focused on her music, seemed ready to cry at times, as though a sad memory kept threatening to burst though, but sometimes a smile would appear. Pickett was less expressive, but she did smile at the end of each piece. Metcalf was so intense it was entirely palpable from where I sat; I did not see as much emotion on her face as Whitney, but she was clearly enjoying herself, and satisfied with what she was playing.

Sybarite women

The men, well, the men were just as focused, expert, and intense, but I never saw a sign of any emotion cross their faces. An odd thing to notice. It was curious, but not important to the concert. I briefly wondered if female musicians are able to multitask memories, emotions and intense playing of music, more so than male musicians who are focused on getting ‘er done right?

At any rate, the Chatter/Sybarite Mash-up was intense and electrifying.聽 I was nearly jerked around in my seat by the changes in intensity. The music would swell and fade, and change and pop, and reverberate in my head while the musicians gave us their all. The symbiosis of these six expertly played instruments was intensely pleasurable. I’ve heard amazing things at Chatter Sunday before, but this, this just blew me away. Nor was I alone: applause is usually reserved for the end of a particular piece, no matter the stops between movements, but the four parts of the Brahms string sextet each received applause from those who could not hold back until the end. When the concert was concluded, people jumped to their feet with thunderous applause. It was not the usual sort of slow rising by a few, then more, then all; everyone jumped to their feet as the last note fell away.

I like many types of music, as long as it is played with passion. The Chatter musicians and members of Sybarite did not disappoint. They played their hearts out, and gave all of us there assembled an uplifting start to what would have to be a great day.

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Easter: another Sunday, & Dialogue Beer

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 16, 2017

It was a good day to get out of bed. I was going to a great concert of chamber music. Big crowd for this one. I stood in line for 15-20 minutes to get my Americano (two shots of espresso with hot water added). Barely into it when the concert started. Great and unusual, modern/contemporary music by Magnus Gustaf Adolf Lindberg, a Finnish composer. As usual there was a break for poetry (this time by Ebony Isis Booth – who has a depth that sneaks up on you), and then we were treated to Brahms. No, this was not a lullaby; this was Johannes Brahms’ Trio in A minor, Op. 114 for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano, written on his 58th birthday. It had a fascinating power and, at the same time, loveliness to it. The musicians who play these Sunday morning concerts are highly skilled. It is such a treat to hear such music – often highly complex – performed so skillfully.

Now while the coffee is superb – the baristas rock! – there were fresh-baked goodies, like the biscotti, and also, as it was Easter: dark chocolate, jelly beans and M&Ms. But nearly everyone in the place went across the street afterwards to sample the beers at the new brewery there.聽dialogue Really good stuff. For a $5 donation to the concert series, we got to sample five beers, of our choice. It was hard to narrow my choices down to only five, but I enjoyed them. There was a food truck parked by the curb, and some great choices there. I settled on some ramen deviled eggs, mostly because I was like: “RAMEN deviled eggs? What?” Delicious. The uncooked ramen noodles added a crunchiness to the eggs I never knew I was missing.

Of course, as usual during these concerts, my mind tends to wander a bit. I was thinking that some people compose music note by note, based on what they think is creative, and some of that so-called modern music can be mentally interesting, but it lacks beauty beyond the purely mathematical. To me, all music must exhibit passion, or the performer must make it so. Then is it music. Well, at least it is the kind of music I want to listen to. I have no restrictions on the types of music I like. But music must have passion. It can be orchestral, chamber music, or solo instruments. I enjoy classic rock (Stones, Black Sabbath, Airplane, Creedence), a little pop, some country (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson) that is not formulaic and repetitive, and electronic music done well (Morton Subotnick, Philip Glass). I also like the energy of passionate salsa, flamenco, and tango. The Beatles and Bob Dylan gave me much to think about, and the songs could often mesmerize. I like blues, and jazz, etc.

But hell, my day was but half over. I went home and tried to get my New Mexico taxes done, but I couldn’t log in; the state’s website wouldn’t recognize my password, and I couldn’t get a new one because my email has changed and it only sent my request to change my password to my old address which I can no longer log into. So much for that. Maybe tomorrow I can get some help with that. Of course, I also have to finish my federal taxes. I filed it already, but I gave them the wrong routing number for the new savings account I had set up last year to use to pay my taxes. According to their website, I may have to wait seven or more days after filing in order to correct that little error.

Sigh. I just love paying late fees, don’t you?

Well, later I got to go hang out with my movie companion. I rent Netflix discs and we watch them on her nice TV about once a week. Tonight we watched: The End of the Tour, about “Rolling Stone” reporter David Lipsky and author David Foster Wallace. I thought it might be boring, but it was not! Lipsky accompanied Wallace on a five-day promotional tour. Wallace wrote a 1,079-page novel, Infinite Jest,聽Infinite Jest Wallace and while it didn’t contain anything earth-shakingly profound, he had a huge impact on the people who read it, like Lipsky. It is a highly acclaimed, but famously difficult book of fiction, which really just shows people what it is to be human. I like fiction. I may read it. Life is very real sometimes, too real at times, and much more enjoyable as fiction anyway, as I see it.

Bought some more of those great-tasting faux Oreos from Walgreens on my way home. Ate a third of them, which required two full glasses of milk. Did you know milk clears your palate so every bite tastes like the first bite? It has something to do with binding oils and fats on your tongue to cleanse your palatte between bites. There is also a fascinating and delicious interplay between all the chemicals in milk and cookies: emulsifiers, casein, methylbutanol, and tryptophan and other amino acids. Turns out that to get the sleep-inducing effects of tryptophan, you need a dose of carbohydrates. Not sleepy? Have some milk and carbs. Milk聽聽cookies

Well, that was my day.

Posted in coffee, fiction, Holidays, Life, My Life, poetry, rambling | Leave a Comment »

Another Enchanting Sunday Morning

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 9, 2017

So, I’m just drinking coffee this Sunday morning. I had wanted to listen to a live chamber music concert, (WA Mozart String Trio Fragment K. 562e, Divertimento for String Trio in E-flat K. 563) but it’s sold out. Got up at 6am after trying unsuccessfully to stay asleep. Had my usual half-caf Americano (one scoop decaf, one scoop regular, expressed with enough water for a large cup). Watched a John Cusack movie (Grosse Pointe Blank). Enjoyed it. Love watching a good actor work. Grosse Pointe Blank

Made another Americano, this time with two scoops of Death Wish coffee. It’s good stuff. Their marketing is that it is the strongest coffee in the world. First Americano I made from it yielded a night of richly detailed vivid dreams. Death Wish CoffeeI am more awake now. Maybe I’ll go run or work out. I’ve been getting physical therapy for the last few months for recurring back pain. Recurring? that’s an understatement. Every fucking morning. Well, it seems like every morning; sometimes I get a day off. But, when the pain is there, sleep is over; I have to get up and move around. Coffee helps.

Mild degenerative arthritis, according to an x-ray. Cause? Getting old. Fanfuckingtastic. Sometimes I don’t believe there’s anything mild about it.

Of course, driving 266 miles (roundtrip) yesterday to be in a movie didn’t help. I did have a lot of fun in the movie. I play an old sheriff in a strange horror movie.

SeeSaw 2a Not hard work, but the days can be long.

I like acting; it’s a real kick. I may or may not get paid for this role, but I’m learning every time I do this. I’ve gotten to where I can remember my lines much more easily, but it’s easy to get distracted by thinking too much about what I have to do. Yesterday, I got praise for putting my hand on my gun as I opened a door where there might be danger. I was fully in the moment, and grabbed my gun out of instinct. So, there might be a future in this stuff for me. Of course, in a later scene where I only had to pace, swear three times, write a note, and rush out of my office, I was concentrating so much on adding a few mutterings under my breath that I forgot to swear. Did it over OK, but I sure hate to fuck up like that. I’ve got one more scene left to do. Then I can concentrate on the other two projects I’m committed to. One of them, a movie based on a successful play, assuming we start filming, will pay, for certain. The other production, also horror, has shot a first episode for a TV pilot, but is still looking to get picked up, funded, etc. I don’t know if I’ll get to do the role I’ve been rehearsing, but one never knows in this business.

I sure would like to get a few projects wrapped, with my name on them, before I end up having another heart attack, or sliding the motorcycle under a truck. One never knows in life.

I could stand to get rid of this pain, so I could enjoy waking up. The therapists have given me some exercises and I bought a small portable electrode device that gives me an electrical massage, so I can get through the pain, but I would be damned happy if the pain would just stop. I gave up running after three half-marathons because of the pain. It was good for my heart, but the training was mostly good for giving me pain, and it was not making me stronger.

Well, anyway, I am grateful that I survived being hit by a car as a pedestrian, twice as a bicyclist, twice as a motorcyclist, and twice while driving a car. Survived a heart attack by being in the right place at the right time. Survived pneumonia, a ruptured appendix and sepsis as a child too. I’m a survivor. Whoopee. That’s nice. What I’m still hoping for is to accomplish something great in my life. It’s not to be remembered, because, hell, I’ll be dead, so I’ll never know about that. It’s more like I want something I can point to in my life, and say, “Yeah, I did that, and it was really something.”

Posted in coffee, In front of the camera, My Life, rambling | Leave a Comment »

Reading Pi帽贸n, Valentine’s Day

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 14, 2017

Damn! I wish I could find my fucking reading glasses. But it’s a nice day, and I head out to buy a battery for this pinche little clock/timer I use. The little silver oxide battery is going for $5.99, which seems a little steep for just one, so I buy the three-pack for $10.99. What the hell. Save a few bucks when I need another one. And I buy a package of Walgreens’ faux-Oreos while I’m there.聽cookies No high fructose corn syrup in these, they taste exactly like the real thing, and at $2.29, they’re a great deal. For some reason a pack of real Nabisco Oreos with the cheap-ass chemical hybrid syrup from taxpayer-subsidized corn cost twice as much.

But then things get real good, because there’s a pi帽贸n coffeeshop a few blocks away. Now, this section of 4th Street features nothing but shops and restaurants. There’s a KFC and a McDonald’s, of course, but also Bob’s Burgers,聽 Powdrells BBQ, Tacos Mex Y Mariscos, Burritos Y Gorditias, a Church’s Chicken, and a Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, among others. There are money-lenders, the Laundromat, and a car wash, donuts and ice cream.聽 It’s a busy street, so it’s not the greatest place to hang out, but I brought a book with me, and I love pi帽贸n coffee. Pi帽贸n coffee is always smooth. pinon-coffee The cafe uses dark-roasted beans.聽 My large caf茅 americano has four shots of espresso, which will make me hyperactive later on. I buy a bear claw too, and sit in a stuffed chair in a sunbeam. The bearclaw is gooey, and so messy that it’s hard to eat it and drink coffee one-handed, while trying to turns pages and hold a book one-handed, so I ignore the really hot coffee for a bit and finish off the bear claw first. Then I have to wash my hands. Finally, I get all settled with the book in one hand, and my coffee can be set on a little table next to me when I need my other hand to turn a page.

The book is excellent! Luis Alberto Urrea is not only one damn fine observer of people, but he can write about it with fine attention to detail, and also be funny. Well, some of it seems funny to me anyway, because it sounds like barrios in California, the South Side of Chicago, and here in Albuquerque have a lot in common, and I’ve heard a lot of it before in my forty years in the southwest. The book is a real treat, but I do wish I had my glasses, because reading without ’em is usually tiring, and it sometimes gives me a headache. Can’t get new ones until I see the optometrist in a week. But the book is so good that I don’t mind, and the sunlight makes it easier to read.

It’s not a real busy coffeeshop, having only opened recently. One old guy, like me, sits reading when I come in. A couple comes in after I sit down, while I’m still strugging with the bear claw. The woman is young, smiling and very attractive. When I try to ogle her, she looks back, but blankly, twice. Her companion, with his back to me, is a young man with extremely short buzz-cut hair. A young woman comes in with a guide dog, orders coffee and something to eat, and sits down six feet from me. She speaks low to the dog from time to time. She is dressed in very plain clothes in muted colors and without any kind of style. Her hair is cropped short and she looks more like a young man.

I read three stories in Urrea’s The Water Museum, and prepare to go.聽water-museum My coffee is not quite finished, so I sit quietly for a few minutes without reading. The man reading a book has left. Another single woman comes in and hits the restroom. The young woman with the guide dog prepares to leave, taking her trash to the receptacle across the room first, which seems to confuse the dog when she returns to her chair for her coat. She chides him, humorously, for sitting as she turns to leave, and I chuckle with her. Moments later, after the woman in the restroom leaves it and walks to the counter, I finish my coffee and head out.

I think about my glasses. I thought they were in the house somewhere, but I’ve turned the place over several times and I can’t find ’em. I was on a movie set near Santa Fe, on Zia Pueblo land, a few weeks ago, and may have had them with me. I vaguely remember that, since I intended to read, I could have taken them with me and stashed them in my green fleece jacket with Applied Biosystems embroided into it. They are a biotech firm I used to order supplies from before I retired. I’ve had it for many years. I remember hanging it on a tree limb at one point, as we rushed to set, and left it behind when we wrapped after dark. No one in the crew had found it when I went back later. The set had moved, and they clean up really carefully, but I suspect my reading glasses were in that jacket, and it’s still hanging in that tree somewhere in the hills south of Santa Fe among the stunted pi帽贸n trees.聽 pinon-pine-trees

(FOLLOW UP: I finally finished Urrea’s book in the evening, and it is mind-blowing. The stories bounce around from barrio to rez to border towns and midwestern towns, and the people come in all races and types, and the love and hatred and ennui and dialogue and descriptions and emotions and sharp shots of drama just knock the breath out of your chest. And then I read the title story, about the water museum, and yeah, it’s a museum, because large parts of the country have had drought so long that children don’t know what rain is or what it sounds like, and fear humidity. And, although it hasn’t happened yet, you know, you just know, it will happen just as he described it. And I’d recommend this book to everone.)

(MORE FOLLOW UP: I found my glasses in my house, sitting on top of a carved wooden statue of a wolf-like lounge singer that sits in a corner near my bathroom; until I saw them, I’d forgotten that I’d put them there, or why. The green fleece thing is long gone by now, battered by rain, snow, hail, and broiling sun, and probably fallen on the ground and used by packrats for nesting material).

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Imperfect as I am

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 21, 2016

I am a very imperfect man, with many flaws. That said, I’m going to tell you some things about the concert I went to this morning. There is a classical concert 50 Sundays mornings of the year here. I do not go every Sunday. For one thing, it costs $15, and since there are espresso baristas who provide great free coffee, tipping is a nice thing to do. There are people who bring fresh home-baked sweets as well, and there is another tip jar there, so it’s easy to spend $17, and I’m not going to do that every Sunday. Besides, sometimes the music is choral, or operatic, and I’m not going to those. I like my classical music, old or modern, to be instrumental only. Perhaps that’s a flaw, but I do not care to change it.

Bach concert

This was Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, to be exact. Born 1685, died 1750. It was a sold out concert accommodating 150 ticket purchasers, and the volunteers who make it possible. The first part of the program was performed by a fantastic cellist who was solo cellist of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway, among other positions in the U.S. She played Suite No. 4 for solo cello in E-flat major. It is a complicated piece, and a very busy one, with seven parts. I remember thinking how thickly populated with notes it was. The notes seemed mostly brisk and sharp without long duration. Since I am not a musician, I cannot speak technically about the music, but it rocked! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in coffee, eremiticism, Life, madness, misanthropy, My Life, opinion, Random Thoughts, relationships, Writing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The way of life or system of being a hermit

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 10, 2016

Another Sunday morning, although, truth be told, it’s just another day. I wandered over to the Flying star cafe for some good coffee – 2 shots of espresso diluted with a bit of hot water – and some breakfast, because I get tired of the stuff I make.

It’s nice to get out of the house too, but I can’t say I like the crowds on a Sunday. Way too many people all at once, and many talk as if what they have to say is really important, loud and clear words cutting through all the other mindless chatter. And I brought a book with me that I use to shut ’em all out, but it’s hard to do. They come in at times, standing next to me, looking for a place to sit, and we all know how busy the place is on a Sunday, but they look anyway, thinking there’ll be room just for them. Important assholes.

I never understand why half of ’em don’t go up or down the road to where there are dozens of food or coffee joints. It’s probably too busy for ’em there, too many people, too many cars. But they come here, here where’s just a bookstore and a cafe, and they pack the parking lot full to bursting, and the latecomers drive around and around looking for that spot that must be waiting just for them somewhere. And the tables are mostly full, and although they know it, they come with groups of five or six and expect to find room. And they ask me if I’m using one of the extra chairs at my table, and I pull my eyes away from my book and say no. And I go back to reading, and sure enough, another group has come in, and another one of them asks me for another chair.

And I just want to tell them to go somewhere else. When they arrive before I do, and they stand lined up from the order counter, and the line snakes around past the door and heads north, I just turn around and go back home. It’s just not worth it to stand quietly in line while people talk loudly about nothing, and have no idea what they want to eat when they finally make it to the counter. And most of ’em come from the rich houses a little north of here, and they have big dining rooms and kitchens, and lots of chairs, but they want to squeeze in here where they pretend their words matter. And their big expensive houses are empty except when they come home at night and sleep in them.

And I grow more impatient with humanity. And I lean to eremiticism. Sometimes I am lonely, but more and more I’m just alone, because I just can’t stand to hear humanity babbling, especially when the babbling rises to a dull roar. I grew up with six siblings, and you’d think I’d be more accustomed to background noise. When I first left home, I missed the sound of other people in the house, low conversations, or toys being fought over, or crying or toilet flushing. I used to think I’d prefer that to living alone, because as much as I enjoy solitude, the loniliess creeps up on me and it aches. And the aching makes me aware of just how alone I really am, despite my reluctant acceptance of being a recluse, because, well, maybe I’m not a true hermit.

聽聽聽聽 I could be a聽cenobite, but I’m not religious, and I no longer want to be part of any community, I think. And yet, something drives me across the street to eat at the cafe. I am a hermit in a crowd, but the crowd bugs me. At the same time, I have been trying out for parts in movies, and I must, of necessity, be around other people, interact with them, and act. I’m good at acting. I think most of us are, because we act differently around each group of people we get around. I feel as though that’s how I’ve gotten through life, acting here, acting there. I smile when I’m not happy. I talk because people expect it, but usually I’d rather not. Conversation, to me, is private, shared one at a time with someone I trust and like to be around, but there are so few of those.

Blogging is almost ideal. I get to talk without listening, something most of humanity seems to prefer. We talk at each other, and listen for the pause that allows us to speak again. It’s all a big pause here. I can type and type and type, and maybe someone will read it, and maybe no one will, and that’s OK. But something drives me to write and put these words out where someone might read them, and I don’t know why.

And, just like a semicolon in a sentence, like the one tattooed on my arm, I know there’s more to come. I haven’t finished what I have to say just yet.

semicolon

And, I suppose that’s a good thing! After all, a few months ago, a man drove his car here and parked by the cafe and blew his brains out all over the inside of his car. I guess he had nothing more to say. Was he lonely, or just sad? Was he terribly troubled? Was he in pain from loss? Was he dying of some incurable or painful disease? I’ll never know. It saddened me, me, a recluse. Why should I care? if I don’t care about humanity? Perhaps I can only care in small doses. Humanity is just too big. There are too many. Too many.

Posted in coffee, eremiticism, Life, madness, misanthropy, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, rants | Leave a Comment »

Going To Mars, Wine, Wine

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 2, 2012

MARCH 2, 2012

聽 聽 聽 聽聽

As much as I’d like to go to Mars, and work in a habitat, it’s not likely; the earliest populated mission to Mars is in 2037.聽 However, I have applied to the Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars Analogue Mission and Food Study. Applications are now closed, and about 700 people applied; only eight will participate. It’s a 120-day Mars exploration analogue mission that will take place in early 2013 on the big island of Hawaii. I’m psyched! Actually, studies of the effects of living in an enclosed environment for long periods of time have already been done. Between 2007 and 2011, a crew of volunteers lived and worked in a mock-up spacecraft. The final stage of the Mars-500 experiment, which was intended to simulate a 520-day manned mission, was conducted by a crew consisting of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian and a Chinese citizen. The experiment helped plan the mission, identifying possible problems and solutions. The mock-up facility simulated the Earth-Mars shuttle spacecraft, the ascent-decent craft, and the martian surface. Volunteer crew used in the three stages included professionals with experience in fields such as engineering, medicine, biology, and spaceflight. There have been many other similar studies and more underway, in Antarctica, Europe, Russia, China and Australia.

520 days! Holy crap! That includes a round-trip flight time of between 400 to 450 days. What will we do in space that long? I’m trying to imagine what 120 days in isolation will be like, and that’s only in a contained environment on Hawaii. However, the habitat part of this mission doesn’t involve psychological effects or exploration. It’s all about the food!聽 People on long missions typically eat only prepackaged meals, or concentrates. No matter how tasty the food, a type of fatigue sets in, a food monotony, and astronauts not only lose interest in the food, but also eating meals altogether. Additionally, prepackaged meals contribute more weight to a mission already starved for mass. Every bit of mass taken on a spaceflight must be boosted into orbit, at tremendous cost with limited storage space. There are other problems: prepackaged meals have a shorter storage life than the individual ingredients. Moreover, all of the crew members have scientific and exploratory goals, and time spent in food preparation and cleanup is time lost to research.

I think this type is thinking is short-sighted. I know exploring Mars will be exciting. I know the prospect of living on another planet will be exciting. I also know that there is such a thing as job fatigue. One cannot spend all of one’s time on the mission. I don’t mean just that all work and no play makes the Mars explorer dull. I mean that everyone needs a break from their own work. I propose that each member of the crew take turns preparing meals and cleaning up, say one day a week for each person. Perhaps one day a week, assuming there is a six-member crew, be a non-cooking day. The crew could simply eat prepackaged meals on that day, and everyone gets a break.

I’m sure that the experience of preparing meals will benefit every member of the crew. There will be the benefit of eating freshly prepared foods. There had better be a small array of spices! Salt, pepper, red chile powder, garlic powder, onion flakes, maybe some packaged shallots, and other spices as crew members might suggest. Nothing helps break the monotony like different spices; and dried powders are very light. Will there be cooking oil, I wonder?聽 How about some sesame oil and chile oil too? Certainly some oil is a necessary part of our diet. Instant butter! Mmm.

One thing I’d recommend: high fat, great tasting food.聽 One does not get fat or malnourished by eating good foods. One gets fat or malnourished by eating too little or too much food. Period. These programs might be making the mistake of assuming all the food must be low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar. No, my friends, I don’t think so. If portion size is strictly controlled, one can have snacks and deserts and still maintain a healthy diet and weight. I’m sure the calorie-intake needs of each person can be measured, and such a group of dedicated explorers, knowing how limited their food supplies are, will adhere to strict guidelines for food consumption. There should be enough leeway to allow for the occasional party, with some special food and drink.

What will these intrepid explores drink by the way? Water is extremely heavy to ship into space. In an ideal situation, the Mars explorers will find ice or other trapped water on, or close to the surface. But we do not live by water alone. I’m sure there are some powdered drinks to break up the monotony. Coffee, PLEASE! But you know what makes digestion go better, and livens up the entire eating experience? Wine! How’s that for an idea?聽 I know a lot about wine, particularly food-pairing. I am a partner in the Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas, New Mexico. We pair our fruit wines with a wide variety of foods. Apricot wine goes extremely well with fatty fish and aged cheese, for example. Cranberry wine goes quite well with roast chicken, turkey and mild cheeses. I’m not just talking about a connoisseur’s point of view. I find that certain foods, like venison, soft and/or aged cheeses, for example, bring out intense fruit flavors in wine. The wine itself alters the palate so that the food itself is more flavorful. How about that, mission control? Can we have wine with our meals? We need it. Can wine be freeze-dried and retain its alcohol and flavor? I don’t know. Alcohol is usually the first thing to go when dehydrating liquids. The alcohol would sublimate from even frozen wine. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I’m telling you all right now: if you want those souls trapped in a hostile environment to always enjoy their meals, they will need wine. Put it in individual lightweight boxes, like those ubiquitous boxed fruit drinks. Put it in small bags. Put it in anything lightweight, but bring it!

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MARCH 3, 2012 – Walking to Mars (Mars reached the closest point to the Sun in its orbit)

On Wednesday, February 29, after I had sent my application off the night before, I went hiking into the Sandia Mountains. Short hike; just fours miles up and back the Domingo Baca trail. The entire time I kept thinking that I need to get in better shape. I still have to pass a Class 2 flight physical. Of the 700+ people who applied for this mission, 30 will be selected and notified to get the physical. I expect the physical will help prune that number down to the remaining eight. We still don’t know when we will hear anything. In the meantime, I need to keep walking. Today, March 3, I went on another 4-mile hike, but climbed 1200 feet in elevation in one hour! My hiking group hiked to the Eye of the Sandias. It was painted in the 1960s, refreshed in the 1990s and it looked as if it had been touched up within the last two years as well. The Eye looks out at Albuquerque, monitoring its growth, according to legend. It was a good hike. We started at about 7200 feet and climbed to 8400 feet to take a break at the Eye. I took some photos and we went on back down. I suspect I’m going to have to increase the number of hikes I go on, and get back to those 9 to 12 mile hikes I was going on two years ago. Time to get this old body back into shape, and I’d better hurry. I’d hate to be selected and fail the flight physical. Anyway, here are some pics from today. Some are looking out across Albuquerque to Mount Taylor, some 90 miles away. Other shots show my hiking companions, the Eye itself, and parts of the trail. One shot shows I-40 snaking eastward though Tijeras canyon, even as we were able to view Albuquerque and Mt. Taylor. It really is a good place for an eye.

As viewed from the Sandias, 90 miles away.

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MARCH 5, 2012 – News & Information

Finally, some information: “The selection panel is currently going through the applications to determine a short-list of candidates, who will then be asked to get an aviation medical exam (at our cost), and to provide references. We expect to be able to inform you whether or not you are on the short-list by the end of March.” Good to know.

In case some of you are wondering why the hell the Mars mission itself is important, there is this:

http://www.npr.org/2012/02/27/147351252/space-chronicles-why-exploring-space-still-matters

Exploring space, especially the planets around us, IS important to our future, not only for our nation, but for the survival of our planet.

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MARCH 7, 2012 – It’s聽a not-in-Kansas-anymore twister!

Half a mile high! Image from the high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. More info: http://bitly.com/zNeD5P

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MARCH 9, 2012 – posted on HI-SEAS:

“As we go through the applications, we are blown away by the caliber and the passion of the applicants. You all are amazing.”

Of course! 馃檪

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MARCH 12, 2012 – The Case For Space

Please read this article: The Case For Space

聽In it, the author makes a logical, but also very compelling pitch for the United States to go to Mars sooner, not later, and to revamp its space program now. A hazy “commitment” to Mars sometime in the late 2030s is not going to keep us on track. President Obama said that the Apollo program 鈥減roduced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gases; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers. And more broadly, the enormous investment of that era — in science and technology, in education and research funding — produced a great outpouring of curiosity and creativity, the benefits of which have been incalculable.鈥 Of course, according to author聽Neil deGrasse Tyson, there is much more to that list of revolutionary spinoff technologies, including digital imaging, implantable pacemakers, collision-avoidance systems on aircraft, precision LASIK eye surgery, and global positioning satellites. Even in troubled economic times, the author states, the United States is a sufficiently wealthy nation to embrace an investment in its own future in a way that would drive the economy, the country鈥檚 collective ambitions, and, above all, the dreams of coming generations; in 1969 the United States went to the moon while fighting two wars — one cold, one hot — during the most turbulent decade in American history since the Civil War.

Imagine the excitement when NASA, bolstered by a fully funded long-term plan, starts to select the first astronauts to walk on Mars. Right now, those science-savvy future explorers are in middle school. As they become celebrities whom others seek to emulate, the United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.

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MARCH 28, 2012

No news yet; just this post from HI-SEAS:

“We expect to have an update for applicants next week. Thank you for your patience as we give your applications the attention they deserve.”

I’m patient, but next week seems so far away now. 馃檪

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APRIL 7, 2012 NEWS!

Received this today:

Thank you for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and
Simulation. As you may know, we received almost 700 applications for
this mission, for only six crew positions. Because of this huge
response, we have had to add one more stage to the process (as
originally described in the call for participation). At this point, you
are one of the candidates for a potential
education/journalism/outreach/art/social-media position on the crew.
However, we will have to narrow the total pool down further before
moving on to interviews, references and medicals. We expect to be able
to notify the ~30 crew semi-finalists by mid-April.

This must be what waiting for a launch window is like: “end of March”, “next week”, and now “mid-April”. I’m pretty damn excited! I feel like a kid waiting for a holiday.

APRIL 20, 2012 Final News

My last message from HI-SEAS:

“Dear HI-SEAS Applicant,
Thank you again for your interest in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog
and Simulation. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected
for the interview stage of the application process. We had a very large
number of highly qualified applicants, and it was extremely difficult to
narrow the pool down.
We expect to be able to run further HI-SEAS missions, so even if you
will not participate as a crewmember this time, we will keep you on file
for future opportunities. If you would like us to delete your
application from our files, let us know.
Thanks again for your application, and for your commitment to human
space exploration.”

Oh, well, and my hopes were so high. This was the first thing I’ve been excited about in years.

Posted in coffee, current events, health, Mars, opinion, space, spices, Travel, wine | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Motorcycles and Old Trucks Are Like Cream and Sugar

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 10, 2008

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Roadblock

I ride my bike to work every day, or, I should say, I used to ride it every day until it wouldn’t start anymore. I jumped it from a car battery – wouldn’t turn over. I checked fuses, charged the battery, checked the fuel line, and the spark plugs. Everything seems good, but it won’t start; it just grinds and wears the battery down, even the jumper battery. I replaced the starter solenoid – no luck. I jumped the solenoid across the terminals and the bike still just grinds, over and over, but real fast. Now it seems the starter button is dead too. I finally give up. I decide to take it to the best repairman in town. I have to schedule an appointment, and they squeeze me in as a favor, since I want to ride in the Ride for Kids that benefits pediatric brain tumor research and treatment and provides scholarships for the kids too. My step daughter went with me last year, and after all she went through with her brain tumor, I really look forward to her company.

I called to verify my appointment, but before I did, I had to make sure I’d have a truck to use. My friend Mark always has his good old Dodge, and after helping him build his house, he always lets me borrow it anytime I need it. He’s like that anyway. He’d lend anyone anything, even money, although his newest wife ameliorates that a bit, I think. I called him, and left a message on his cell phone, and I wasn’t expecting a quick reply, as he’s often busy or traveling. Amazingly, he called back in 20 minutes or so, from his plane. He had just turned his phone back on and got my message. Good timing. He was off to speak somewhere. I told him what I needed, and he apologized for being out of town, and that the truck was not available – it was at the airport. I was prepared to go get it, pay for it, and put it back before he returned, but he said, “But! There is another option!” (He often speaks in exclamation points, and loudly, as he is hard of hearing these days.) He said he had just bought another old truck, a ’59 Ford. It was in the field behind his house. “It’s a little tricky,” he said. I might have to spray the carburetor in order to get it to start. He had a can of spray on the seat, and the key was in the ignition. 1959 ford

So, OK. I come home, eat, and head over to his place. I leave my car inside his yard, and head for the field. It has been raining. The field is muddy. I traipse though the mud. I close the tailgate, noting that the bed is outlined in leftover manure, so I know what he uses it for. It doesn’t start right off. I spray into the air intake, several short bursts, as it says on the can. I try again – it fires right up! It is a very old looking, beat-up truck. However, it has all its windows, and they aren’t even cracked, which is damn good, because I can’t get stopped for anything, as the truck isn’t registered yet. The seat is high. It is narrower than the original, and welded in place in the center of the floor, so I can’t move it up, and it’s a little short on the ends. It reminds me a lot of the ’51 Dodge-post-office-parcel-post truck I used to drive. This one has four speeds instead of three, but in the darkness I can’t tell. The lights come on, but go off if I turn the knob too far. I don’t have instrument lights, which is why I can’t tell right off how many gears the truck has. I think it has four gears, but I can’t find fourth. I put in the gear where first was in my ’51, and head out, shifting into what I think are second and third. At the first stop the engine revs really high. I hit the gas and it dies. I spray the intake again, and it restarts. Off I go down the road. Playing with the light switch, I notice that I can get the instrument lights on, but it’s a delicate balance between having all lights, having only headlights, or having only instrument lights.

At every stop the engine races like the timing must be way the hell up, or the carburetor wildly adjusted to keep it running. It takes a while to understand what’s going on. I finally get a rhythm going for stopping: push the clutch in, and tap the gas before braking. I make it home in one piece, without the engine dying again.

In the morning I move the truck around (after spraying the air intake) and lay a board from a small grassy hillock onto the bed. The bike is heavy, and simply pushing it up a ramp isn’t going to be easy. I notice that I have put the truck in second gear, where I thought first was. It is the simple H pattern, but my tired brain and bad memory forgot all about that. I think it starts alright in second because it revs so fast. I push the bike up onto the grass and run towards the truck, but a neighbor stops to help and we push it on fairly easily. I’m wired on coffee, because I thought it would be a major effort by myself. I tie the bike down, noticing, in the light of day, all the colors. One door is a turquoise green, a fender is pink. The roof of the cab is painted white with black, zebra-like stripes. The rest of the truck is a faded pale blue, where it isn’t rusted through. The moistened manure smells really fine. I’m surprised my neighbors didn’t torch it the minute they saw it in the parking lot.

The truck fires right up this time and runs much the same, except after a few miles there is a popping noise from the accelerator, and it is suddenly unstuck, and I don’t have to hit it anymore to get it unstuck. Linkage? Anyway, it runs fine, but I try not to stop with the bike in the back. When I see the sign for the motorcycle shop, it is beautiful. I have never been so happy to arrive there. it takes three of us to get the bike down, and I abandon it there. Carl, the best bike mechanic in the world, chats a bit. I tell him how I am hoping to take my step daughter on the Ride in ten days, and how happy I am that she is healthy again. Carl tells me about his wife Teresa, who had three surgeries on her ovaries, and how one operation left her bleeding internally, but she is much better now. His mother has also been operated on, and had her hips replaced. It is early in the shop. No one else has come in yet, and he is relaxed and calm. Later, people will be lined up, and the phone will not stop ringing all day. It rings now once, and he picks it up, but it is a fax coming in. I tell him how busy I am these days, with little time to work on the bike, and he tells me how busy his life is. He is in his church choir, and also plays drums for the church’s band, so he is often practicing. My step-daughter is in a similar sort of church herself. I am not religious, thank god.

A couple men show up outside the door, so I head out. I notice the CD on the truck seat. It is my Honda Magna 1993-1997 manual. I run it back inside to give to Carl, but he has already gone back into the shop. The men are explaining what they need to Carl’s substitute helper. I don’t know her, but with Teresa out, someone has to be up front to order parts and help customers. I hear her tell them that the earliest possible day she can fit them in is a month and ten days away! I am a very, very lucky man.

What kind of life would I have without motorcycles and old trucks?聽 It would be like drinking black coffee all the time just for the caffeine, without enjoying the drink.

Coffee in a white cup served on a saucer with stirring spoon.

That’s a cup of coffee.

Posted in coffee, family, humor, Life, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, Writing | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Coffee, tea, coke or Nana?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on February 19, 2008

I LIKE TO DRINK

coffee.jpg

coffee聽 (Costa Rican)

Good to the last drop

black tea (Lipton)

Made from tiny little tea leaves
needs sugar black-tea.jpg
raw (Hawaiian)

And I like cow juice too

2%, (Creamland)

hormone freemilk.jpg

whiskey-pour.jpg Now, whiskey,

whiskey is OK,

(Jameson’s 1780)

Triple distilled

Twice as smooth

but

nothing

nothing beats a Coca Cola

make it real

I like the way coke.jpg
it dissolves my teeth
removes stains
or cleans the toilet bowl
Now, That鈥檚 good stuff.

漏 O’Maolchathaigh 2013


Now for something really cool, listen to and watch Nana Mouskouri sing a blues classic: Black Coffee (YouTube) 聽 mouskouri
Oh, yeah.

Posted in coffee, poem, poetry, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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