Areopress, coffee, etc…

So I thought it might be interesting to post about some things which are adding to my life here.

First post is coffee. I’m quite the coffee fan, over here. Compared so some people, not so much, but for Carlisle, quite high up the coffee freak ladder.

Unless there is a hidden coffee community I’m not finding somehow.

I don’t have a massive budget for going to flashy cafes or expensive bistros or whatever all the time, so what I’m more interested in is good tasting home coffee.

Here’s my current collection of coffee related clobber.

First a fun story, and then I’ll go into more detail about everything else, so if you’re not interested in coffee, then you can skip the end. 🙂

So when I moved into this house with Euan, there was a french press / cafetiere in the cupboard, so I thought “Oh good – I don’t need to buy anything for making coffee, I can use that”. So the first morning I boiled the kettle, let it cool for a while I put some ground coffee in the cafetiere, and then poured the water in.

I thought it was a pyrex pot, but alas, I was wrong. There was a tremendous ‘crack!’ sound, and coffee started to leak from the bottom. Oh no! What to do, lah?

So since it was only leaking very very slowly, I thought, well, I won’t waste the coffee, I’ll let it brew, plunge it very carefully, then pour the coffee out – if any glass did shatter, the plunger/filter will clean it out, and then I can see how bad the damage is.

So duely I followed the above plan, until the pouring bit. I lifted up the pot, only to find that in fact the crack had been ALL the way around the base! So when I lifted it up, the base stayed on the work surface, and the rest of the pot came up in my hand.

The coffee, alas, followed the laws of physics (I know, I can hardly blaim it…) and went everywhere.

No coffee for me that morning.

So I bought a new french press to replace the one I’d exploded, but by that time, I’d already found

A Krups espresso/filter machine.

in Charlie? (the used clothes / stuff team cupboard, when you leave, you can leave anything you don’t want to take with you for others to have).

So I was quite surprised to find this in Charlie – until I looked it up online.

It has terrible reviews.

Here’s my take – it’s kinda fun to play with, but I’m not convinced by the ‘crema’ that the espresso part produces. It feels kinda fake to me, almost like the machine is somehow ‘frothing’ it to make it seem more real or something. The coffee doesn’t taste too horrible, just … meh. Not really rich and interesting. Maybe un-set up temperature and pressure stuff? I dunno. I’m no expert on any of this! The milk steaming wand is very cheap and plasticy, as well as seeming near impossible to actually steam milk in proper microfoam also seems to taint the milk with a kind of rubbery aftertaste. Maybe it’s just me though…

The coffee grinder I bought in singapore a few years ago, and it’s been getting lots of use over the last 2 and a half years or so. A very worth while investment – grinding the coffee beans freshly makes the biggest difference to taste of anything that I’ve found.

The Moka pot is also lots of fun – it’s quite a lot more work than the areopress to make coffee and clean again afterwards, but also makes very good coffee, with quite a different flavour to –

the weird syringe thingy on the right of the picture.

It’s called an Areopress – it’s a relatively new way of making coffee, very ‘low tech’ in some ways. It makes coffee in a kind of hybrid way between french press / cafetiere and a filter machine (with hints of espresso method dashed in for extra flavour). You mix the ground coffee with hot water, and let it get totally imersed, like a french press, and then use the synringe bit to push the drinkable coffee through a paper filter. It’s incredibly easy to clean, makes very nice coffee very simply and quickly.

I’m totally a fan of the areopress now. It’s so portable and rugged too, I’ll easily be able to take it to conferences and other events.

So that’s my first coffee post this week. We’ll see if I can remember to post further…

Drydock ’08

The sweat drips from my nose, and splashes, sizzling, onto the soldering iron.

It’s roasting hot, and the cables are all around me, as squashed into a small space behind the audio rack I put the finishing touches to the new audio lines I just ran across from the desk opposite.

It’s dry-dock again.My third, now, and this time, I’m just not enjoying it.

I have quite a lot on my plate at the moment, what with trying to sort out many technical issues in the A/V equipment, and also get as much as possible done to allow us to expand and use what we have better throughout this coming year.

Also, the other members of the A/V team are busy with other projects, and I’m helping out a bit again with the deck ladder-repair and making crew.


That’s the sound that the lights make when blackouts happen.

We just had another powercut.

Vrum bzzzzzt! Klunk! Klunk! Klunkklunkklunkduhduhduhduh!

That’s the sound that the fanrooms make when the power comes back on again.

The power just came back on again, by the way.

So, anyway. Right.

Yeah, there’s another fairly huge but unofficial project on which has pretty much sucked all the free time out of one of my team for the last 10 months – even from well before he joined AV – and also has been increasingly impinging upon the time of the rest of us.

They created an(other) unrealistic deadline to finish it before the end of this drydock, and I knew he would push all his time and energy into it.

So I pretty much gave him his work time to get this thing finished.

Which is good, I guess.

I mean, he’s not dead, which if we’d pushed hard at the AV jobs as well, I think he would be.

He just wouldn’t have slept at all.

We barely did anyway.

I was up until 3 one night working on an animation for the project.


Many of the AV tasks I had (I wrote down 58 jobs I’d have liked to either do, or investigate the feasibility of) have not been done, and most of them I didn’t even get a chance to investigate how possible they were.

So.. somewhat frustrating.

The first version is done now, which is good.


Still plenty of logistics and miscommunication issues to sort out.


What else…

I’ve been making sure I keep time for myself, not burning out, and part of that includes focussing more on painting and artwork.. we’ve begun “creative communities” on board – basically an internal art/photography/creative writing club, with picking a theme per month.

The theme last month was “Freedom”.

This month it’s “Love”.

Here’s a painting of mine – “Searching for Love”

I helped out a bit with the ladderwork again this drydock.

Pretty much the same as last year.. this time we stretched the rope slightly more thoroughly.. Check out before and after stretching:

Quite impressive.

I feel somewhat drawn out and stretched myself.

I don’t think I’ll snap.. but hopefully I’ll be all the more resilient to whatever life throws at me in the future because of it.

And my current work in progress.

From Carlisle…

Wind tore across the darkened misty moors of the Lake District, pounding along the side of the tent like a tidal wave breaking upon the highcliffed shoreline of a forgotten arctic land. Outside of the tent, tiny rabbits huddled together in their burrows shivering due to the icy drafts, while inside and close by rain-drenched men struggled through the mud to complete their epic task.

Less then 3 hours previously 6000 people had been standing while the melodious hymn of Amazing Grace washed around them, many, even 200 of them touched to the heart made their way forward to pray and be prayed for, to receive the greatest gift in the history of the world.

3 hours later, the knowledge of this gift was the warmth that glowed inside the men labouring to bring their flight cases, amplifiers and speakers into a truck and depart from the now empty canvas cathedral.

Finally the dismissal was given, and as the last few items were loaded in the the crew slowly dispersed. The 4 OMNIvision men removed their mud covered shoes, and climbed into their small car, and drove out through the dark unlit pathway to the main road, and off into the night.

Soaking wet, muddy and weary in mind and body, their spirits were none the less high as they left the town and none of them were expecting the sudden sliding skid towards the roundabout and the ominous crunch into the other car which told them the journey home would be longer than they had anticipated.

The driver — a Scot — immediately turned their car towards the side of the road and drove up onto the curve to inspect the damage. They climbed from the vehicle shocked but glad that none had been injured. The other car was significantly dented, but the driver was unhurt. After the routine exchange of sarcasm, licence and telephone numbers and insurance policy contact details, the other driver perked up and laughed. Quoth he “At least it wasn’t my car, it’s a company one, I’d have been really pissed off if it were mine!”, whereupon he grinned, hopped in to his, or rather his company’s car and drove away.

The four traveling companions were not so fortunate in their predicament. The bumper was only attached by one nut and dragging along the ground. Inside, the plastic wheel frame was twisted into the wheel, and the headlights were no longer attached and pointing in various directions. With still more than 100 miles of motorway to cover before reaching their destination, it was decided that to attempt to complete it in that mangled condition would be folly.

A phone call for help from the Automobile Association was made, and they settled back to wait for the assistance to arrive.

It was not long until it arrived, and their disfigured ride was lifted on to the tow. The driver, a friendly Newcastle man was quick and efficient, and as he climbed into the cab a few minutes later, he turned and said “No hado sinye fine sell bacun ahl droye temsix unwil mitwethe rileh tuhye hom. Shubetheh intwenni mints.”

Our Scottish companion seemingly spoke this language and so replied, sitting in the passenger seat next to the driver, they passed the time chatting about the evening.

The two Germans turned to the fourth member of their party, a native of the land, although one who had spent most of his life abroad, and asked for interpretation. His eyes were as confused and uncomprehending as theirs, and much merriment was made by the continentals for his lack of understanding.

After about half an hour, they reached a certain motorway service station and they stopped there and moved the car across to a longer distance relay truck, and after buying coffee, bade farewell to the first driver, and climbed into the new cab and made acquaintance of the second.

The next 2 and a half hours passed fairly quickly, and they arrived at Carlisle before dawn had touched the skies with her pink streaked palette. The derelict car was left inside the shed, and the four weary travelers collected their belongings and went their separate ways.

I myself am one of these bold companions, and survived this ordeal with the a moral which I will now pass on to you: If you must drive around at midnight on wet and slippy roads in cars which have seen better days after yourself having worked for about 15 hours hauling heavy cases all over the place and are tired as anything, then drive slowly. Especially when approaching roundabouts.

In case you hadn’t guessed, the above is from when I was in Carlisle, I wrote it as an email, but was informed that it needed to be posted as a blog article. So. Now it is.

Here’s some food.
And some coffee.
I like coffee.

So, it’s currently a voyage on the way to Sydney, we just finished our first port in Australia, Brisbane, hanging out in AV, blogging and emailing and listening to Flanders and Swann.

More up to date blog posts to follow, of course.


OK. So, due to popular demand, this service will resume shortly.

It’s now then.

I’m back on Doulos, I took the train down to Manchester, from where I flew to Dubai, from Dubai to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Sydney, from Sydney to Auckland, and from Auckland to Wellington where I joined up with Doulos again.

That was an epic adventure, in itself. There was a bombthreat in Dubai, with some English nutcase got himself drunk, and just as we landed got into a fight with a steward, and declared he had a “device” that he would use to blow up the plane. Of course, the crew had to take it seriously, and so we were sitting out on the tarmac for about an hour or so surrounded by police and firetrucks and SWAT teams and so on, before they managed to sort him out and let us off the plane.

Oh well, another day in the life of the brummie-not-yet-at-sea. Well, the trouble then came when about half of us from that flight were now late for our connecting flights, and so had to stay 24 hours in Dubai airport for the next plane.

If you’re going to get stuck in an airport for 24 hours, it might as well be Dubai. I know it quite well, of course, and they did very nicely give me a hotel room overnight, and 3 meal vouchers. It was a bit complex trying to figure out sensible times to eat them, as I needed to leave the next morning at 6am, and was about to fly to Australia, so was trying to get my bodyclock as sorted as I could. So anyway, I slept the whole day, worked the night, and ate my mealtickets-worth at random times when I was awake.

So, right. I eventually got to Wellington, where some of my great friends were there with a ginormous paper origami crane bird thingy they’d made, attached onto a crown of old toilet-roll-cardboard, with dangly bits and all which I had to wear. It was so good to see them again. (In case you wondered). I’ll see if I can find a photo of the amazing crown. It wasn’t really my style, as such, but one does try to fit in, after all.

so. That was like a month ago now, and I’m settling in quite well. AV has been undergoing a few changes, some good, some… well, I have a differing opinion about them to the people who instigated them.

We’re now in Brisbane, Australia. It’s cool. I like it here. It’s good to be back on the ship again. Many people are about to leave, and there are 60 odd new people… But, new in that they joined 6 months ago, just as I left, so they’re already “old hands”, yet I don’t know them!

Anyway. It’s traditional for me to start new paragraphs with “Anyway” for no apparent reason. Here I am, I’ve started writing again, and so new posts will be forthcoming, fear not. I have a few more stories from Carlisle which I’ll be posting soon, but I figured it’s best to get the blog going again up to date, before launching into the past.

Oh! Right, yeah. I moved cabin, so I’m now in a smaller but very nice 2-man cabin, with this funny Brazilian guy. I managed to bring my coffee-maker with me from the UK, and it looks a bit strange of course, so he was wondering what it was. I explained and he nodded and said “oh, that’s nice.”. Then, a few days later, when I started making coffee (using the steamer to steam some ex-vanilla-icecream that had melted, to make vanilla-lattes), he just sat and stared, and said “Dude!” occasionally. He is now, in his own words, very happy to have me as a cabinmate, and has forsworn local cafes in lieu of his own cabin. I still like the local cafes. I still have so much to learn.

So, that’s the basic overview of the last 2 months or so, I’ll fill in the details as and when I get time. Thanks for listening! (Or reading, or whatever)

There and back again

Before I begin today’s tale, there are a few things I must first explain. The first is that the UK has these things called “Bank Holiday Mondays”, which basically means most people with office-type jobs don’t work on random mondays throughout the year. Nobody whom I’ve asked seems to know what these Bank Holiday Mondays are in aid of, nevertheless, they seem quite keen on them, generally as they happen to be some of the people who don’t work on these aforementioned Bank Holiday Mondays.

The second thing I’d like to mention is that I’m kind of used to the Doulos work week, which means that also, most people don’t work on Mondays, however, we do work every other day, including Saturday and Sunday.

So being here in Carlisle, where the team has 2 days off per week (Saturday and Sunday) is quite a rare and interesting experience. Then these Bank Holiday Mondays on top of that, wow! It’s surprising they get any work done at all! We had one of these Mondays about 2 weeks ago.

The third thing, is that you should now promptly remove all of the above from your current thoughts, but allow it to drift uninhibited and unwatched into the depths of your subconcious general knowledge. This will put you in a better frame of mind for listening to the rest of the tale, but also put you in roughly the same state as I was 4 days ago.

I got up as usual, showered, dressed, and made myself a rather tasty cappuccino with my breakfast. I headed early to the Shed to start getting some audio files ready for posting later on this week. So I got to the shed about 10 past 7, my housemate was still asleep when I left, and while I was walking to the Shed, I thought
“Once I’ve got these files going, I’ll try walking to the Office (which is on the opposite end of town) for 9am devotions” (that we have together with the Office staff 3 times a week).

So once my audio files were happily working, I set out from the Shed at about 8:15 and started walking at a reasonable pace towards the office. I kind of hoped to see the bus at the bus stop as I went past, and maybe see my housemate on it.

No sign of the bus.

“Hm,” I thought, checking my watch.

“8:23.. that bus must be a bit later than I thought.”

I picked up the pace a bit, thinking, “I wonder if I can get to the office before the bus and my housemate do!” and briskly hopped down the steps to the underpass, and headed through the park.

One cool thing about Carlisle is the rabbits. There are wild rabbits all over the place! I’m sure the local farmers hate them and so on, but I quite enjoy seeing them all over the place as I walk about early in the morning, and while along the footpath I saw a rabbit jumping out of my way.

I continued up the main road, noticing a large car boot sale in the yard of the Catholic church, St. Augustine’s.

(USAian translation: a “car boot sale” is a kind of a communal garage sale not in a garage, where people bring stuff in the trunk of their car (which they call a boot) to some church or other parking lot and hopefully make a bit of money for the church or whoever as well).

I’d still not seen the bus, so thought “It’s 8.45, I’m sure it can’t be behind me, and should have overtaken me by now, if it was, which means it must have been ahead of me when I passed the bus stop, so I must be quite a way behind schedule if I’m going to get there by 9..”

So I again increased my perambulatory velocity, and strode purposefully past the church, and up the hill towards the industrial estate.

The road was longer than I thought, and so soon it was 8.50 and I still wasn’t at the office, so I again sped up and was charging along the road at as fast a walk as I could happily manage, wishing I hadn’t worn my safety boots that day. I felt sure blisters were developing on my heels.

Eventually I got to the estate, and negotiated the roads between the shops and warehouses, noting the fact that it was now 9.05. Oh well, I’d be a bit late, but not too bad. I got to the office, and paused at the door.

There were no cars in the car park. That’s a bit odd.. And no-one arriving late.. that’s even odder. I was about to go in anyway, when I remembered that I don’t remember the alarm code, and if in fact no-one was in the building, I’d have no way to switch it off, and the police would show up and drag me away and lock me up for years and years, and I’d never see my beloved ship again.

The thought didn’t appeal to me too much, so I rang the mobile of one of the others on the team, to ask what was going on.

“Hallo” said he.

“Hallo” said I.

“Where is everyone?” I queried, “I’m at the office, and no-one is here.”

“Ah,” came the response, and with it enlightenment, “It’s Bank Holiday Monday.”

“What?!” disbelievingly quoth Yours Truly, “Another one?!”

Whereupon he laughed and verified that yes, it was another Bank Holiday Monday.

I sighed, squared my shoulders, and slowly began to make my way back towards the opposite end of the town, and the Shed again.

As I left the estate, I began to laugh, realising that I had indeed managed to reach the office before my housemate, but that it had done me no good at all, and all I had gained was the knowledge that the bus is indeed faster than walking, and perhaps a few more blisters on my feet.

What I really wanted was somewhere to sit down, drink coffee and rest my poor feet for a while. Pubs in the UK don’t seem to open before 11am, so I couldn’t even stop for a beer anywhere, which would have been equally welcome.

As I got to the church, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps they might have coffee and cakes there. So I popped into the yard, and went in search of coffee. They did have some, but nowhere to sit, and no cakes, only what a sign called “a biscuit” which rather put me off, so I wandered though the cars, and managed to find a few things I’d been looking for: a couple of small espresso cups, a mug tree for the kitchen, (40p the lot) a few more books (20p each), a cork pin board for my office (50p), a maglite and multi-tool (3 quid the pair), and a small filter machine for 2 pounds which I could take to the conferences.

Bundles of cheap second-hand clutter in bags, I continued to hobble on my merry – if slightly painful – way.

A few streets on I was accosted cheerfully, if rather extremely frailly, by an old lady who wanted to know if it was a Sunday, or in fact a Bank Holiday Monday, as they all seem the same to her. Apparently I either must deceptively look knowledgeable about such things, or I’m just perhaps the only person in this country who seems to pay any attention to other people around them. It’s really weird. No-one ever wants to make eye-contact.

Anyway. I explained about having been bitten by the situation myself, and we chatted for a while. She told me (twice) that she was from the highlands of Scotland, that I shouldn’t ask her why she was living in England, and that the reason she was living in England was because her husband had told her (when they were much younger) “We’re going to live in Carlisle”, so they did.

A brief aside: I promised my friend Kris from Doulos that I’d mention her in a blog post, and so I’ll just mention that the little old lady I met was about 50 years older than you, Kris, and about half as tall.

Anyway. A very sweet lady, and quite funny and friendly too. She told me I mustn’t go to work, but should go home.

I didn’t however, and instead went back to the Shed – after meeting briefly a beggar in the underpass who was being ignored by the rest of the general population walking past him in that peculiarly oblivious British way – and spent the rest of the day finishing those sound files. By the end of the day my brain was almost toast after having stared at audio waveforms for almost the whole day, and half of the week before.

At least I got some exercise, I suppose.

Of Boys, Toys, JWs, Anoraks, and St. Augustine (or, The Coffee Maker, Part 2)

I always knew a few people who loved trains. I even knew one or two people who built model rail-ways at home, usually in some deserted far off loft or study.

I’ve suddenly discovered, much to my surprise, that this is not one or two isolated individuals, but in fact apparently a large percentage of the male population of this part of the UK.

I never expected to learn that.

They call themselves Anoraks, and about a third of the people I’m working with belong to this group.

OK, So trains can look quite cool, and I am working with the media and computers team of the company, so it’s no surprise, I suppose, that you find a higher pecentage of people here with high IQ / arcane / obscure hobbies…

But it’s not just little nerdy geeks with glasses wandering around with notebooks and flasks of tea getting all excited about 7.25″ gauge K1 engines and 1937 liveries, it’s a lot of guys, of every background, upbringing, shape, size, character and personality.

We had finished setting up for one of those J.John conferences, and were hanging out round the back waiting for it to be time to start, when this anglican vicar looking bloke wandered up, and they all ended up chatting about trains.

And all the rest of the guys too: those few who don’t have a thing about machines that roll around the place on parallel tracks get excited by all kinds of other things.

There’s a bloke here who gets very excited about trucks, vans, busses, and other large automobiles.

When I say “excited”, I mean in the kind of “eyes light up, bounces up and down and starts talking animatedly and waving his arms around” kind of way.

And he’s not a tiny geek. He’s an (roughly) 8 foot tall construction yard manager from London.

I watched two guys across the room at a pizza evening last week. They were discussing the intricacies of the AT command set, and the fun to be had trying to fix router systems by logging in backwards through a modem to solve networking problems.

Let’s turnout to a diverging track for a few moments, and I’ll see if I can work us back to this rail at the next set of points.

I went out yesterday an bought a whole load of books at charity shops. I finally got a copy of St. Augustine’s confessions.

“Even now I cannot fully understand why the Greek language, which I learned as a child, was so distasteful to me… “

I found this sentence funny, in itself, but lets keep reading for a while, and a few pages later get to this:

“For I understood not a single word and I was constantly subjected to violent threats and cruel punishments to make me learn.

“As a baby, of course, I knew no Latin either, but I learned it without fear and fret, simply by keeping my ears open while my nurses fondled me and everyone laughed and played happily with me.

“I learned it without being forced by threats of punishment, because it was my own wish to be able to give expression to my thoughts. I could never have done this if I had not learnt a few words, not from schoolmasters, but from people who spoke to me and listened when I delivered to their ears whatever thoughts I had conceived. This clearly shows that we learn better in a free spirit of curiosity than under fear and compulsion.”

Here we go! A rallying cry for Home Educators world wide, written over 1600 years ago in 397 AD!

OK.. so it’s a bit longwinded, and in Latin it’s not really the kind of thing you’d stick on a banner and wave at demonstrations.

Unless you’re at very well educated classical demonstrations, or something.

“… in those days ‘one and one are two, two and two are four’ was a loathsome jingle, while the wooden horse and its crew of soldiers, the burning of Troy and even the ghost of Creusa made a most enchanting dream, futile though it was.”

And Augustine is worried by all this. He calls it sin, and says how sad and fruitless it was.

Yet, I can’t help but think it’s not quite so black and white as he does, nor in fact sinful to be enamored by stories and battles and glory, and not by Arithmetic.

If Arithmetic is your thing, hey, go for it. I’ll ask you for help with my accounts. And a certain amount of maths is useful for everyone, sure.

Now let’s take another track again, and yes, we are headed back to the first line.

Yesterday, before I went out book-shopping, two JW’s came and banged on my door and told me they were here to encourage me to read my bible. I had literally just closed my bible to come and answer the door.. So of course I invited them in for tea or coffee or something. Not that I ever got around to making it.

Anyway. They spouted scriptures at me for about half an hour, gave me a couple of “Watchtower” magazines, and then headed off home to make tea for some of their friends they were expecting.

A few things struck me. Firstly, they seemed to put all their faith in their organization. Well, no surprise, I mean, they’re followers of Watchtower. The magazine basically defines who they are.

They asked questions about what I do, and tried to distance me from the rest of the church and the people I work with. Yes, I don’t agree with everything absolutely that the rest of the people I work with believe, but so what? We are different, and although I am not a complete relativist and believe there is no truth, I do believe that our view of the truth will be different from everyone elses. God made me to reflect his light in a way that *no one* else can. We’re all small panes of glass in the magnificent stained glass window that God is building, each one of us reflects and refracts the light differently, each one of us is a different shape.

Take a look at this awesome stained glass window at coventry cathedral.

So yes, some times there are bits of glass which look like they might be part of the window, but in fact are from a totally different light source, and instead of pointing you towards sunlight and freedom, they actually have you shooting for a big ugly wall lamp.

Not all roads do lead to the truth, but the truth is bigger and more beautiful than any one person can fully comprehend.

The JWs didn’t seem to get this, and seemed to want me to join their organisation.

Great! Just what I want to join! A group of people calling themselves Christians who are even more strictly extra-rule-keeping, pharisaical, exclusionist and cultic and anti-everyone-else than the ones I currently hang out with! Whoohoo!

I mean, heck, even if they didn’t totally abuse and twist scripture more than the whole Purpose Driven thing does, and even if they didn’t have a completely messed up un-biblical view of Jesus, the trinity, the church, the bible, and virtually everything else, I think that’s about the last thing I need.

So now, how are we going to get back to the Anoraks, and what was the purpose of quoting Augustine? And why on earth could this possibly be anything to do with coffee makers? Well.

My housemate has been laughing at me because of the coffeemaker. And he hasn’t even read my blog post about it all. He’s laughing, because of the explosions of milk and so on.

I learned very quickly:

“Don’t open the steam valve while holding the nozzle above the top of the milk, unless you like getting milk and steam all over the kitchen”.

Useful thing to learn.

Anyway. He kind of teases me about it being a toy and a mad hobby of mine, and if I like getting clouds of steam all over me, and having milk all over the place to clean up, then he’s fine with that.

I’m glad he’s fine with that.

And the coffee actually is coming out quite well, these days. I’ll post some photos, soon. I’m not really spilling anything anywhere, or exploding anything any more.

The point though, for this post, is how it is kind of a hobby, I suppose. Yes, a good cup of coffee is *really* nice, but also it’s more than that. I really want to learn, and am enjoying the learning/developping thing more than the actual coffee, I think.

And I guess it’s the same with the train-people and the truck enthusiasts.

I don’t think it’s wrong to get all excited and enthusiastic about “stuff”. I think God made us that way. A lot of evangelicals seem to be almost gnostic, and have a kind of misplaced ascetic idea that “if it’s fun, or you enjoy it, then it’s wrong“, kind of like Augustine seems to be leaning towards.

Sure, if it distracts you or pulls you away from more important things, or becomes an idol, or god, then there’s a problem. And I think it almost did become an idol to me. Even before I bought the silly machine. Now how sad is that?!

But God made us to enjoy delving into deep things, seeking out answers, becoming experts and specialists. We’re not all the same, and God’s creative genius made the universe so enormous that there’s plenty of room for all of us to explore and become brighter and brighter, and keep on refracting more of His glory.

It’s about time for me to go home and make some lunch, and have another go at making some really tasty coffee…

Of Coffee Makers and Consciences (part 1?)

One of the things I love about the “Peanuts” cartoons are the tiny little things that I love. If that makes sense. For instance, this one thing I love about the Peanuts cartoon, is Snoopy’s book that he writes occasionally “Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?” as part of the whole debate thing with Lucy. I love those books.


Has it ever occurred to you that you might be mad?

It’s been of late the rather disagreeable experience of mine to have occurring to me with disturbingly increasing regularity the possibility that I myself might be in a somewhat insanitous state.

I challenge anyone to diagram that sentence, and send me the picture…

Insanitous sounds rather unhygienic, but it’s not. I just mean “mad”, in a slightly more complex way of speaking.

To take simpler mode of address, I’ll quote Freddie Mercury:

“It’s finally happened, I’m slightly mad.”

Anyway, the current evidence I have towards this conclusion is The Strange Affair Of The Coffee Maker In The Daytime.

I feel remarkably Adrian Plassish as I type this, in a “this is dead serious to me, but I get the feeling people will laugh at me about it, because it’s so stupid…” sort of way. Like his paper-clip story.

Settle back, gentle reader, and prepare thyself for an epic journey into the mind of one convinced that he is no longer all quite there.

It all began like this…

This house is great. I’m really enjoying living here. right now, I’m sprawled across one of the *three* sofas in the living room, with my laptop, and a pot of Earl Grey tea.

Seriously, how can life get more chilled out than this?

What could there possibly be to complain about?

Well, there’s no internet at home. Is this a bad thing? Well, kind of. But also, it does stop me spending inordinate amounts of time online, which I did over the whole furlough, to my shame. 3 months to rest and do anything, and most of the time I spent online. Silly. So, it’s probably a good thing that I’m not online here, and can just write emails that I need to write, and then send them from the Shed. And spend the rest of my time at home cooking, reading, playing clarinet, and exercising. Oh, and sleeping, of course.

Secondly. And far more seriously. There is no coffee maker here.

I say it again, for emphasis.

There. Is. NO. Coffee. Maker. Here!!!

Shocking! But true!

There is a kettle, and a teapot, and plenty of instant coffee, of the “Fair Trade” and the “Nescafe” varieties – both of which are vile – but a brewed mug of the real stuff? Not a chance.

So, how can I solve this crisis, I wondered, then had the brainwave: I can buy a coffee maker.

In the UK they have this really weird store called Argos, where everything is in this funny HUGE catalogue that you can get, and then you write down the item order numbers, or SKU or something, give it to the clerk, and it gets brought in to you via conveyor belt, or so. No browsing around the store, just the catalogue.

Anyway, we happened to have an Argos Catalogue in the house, so I looked inside for coffee makers. Of course, there are plenty. About 20 types of filter machines, and about 30 types of espresso machines, in various shapes, sizes, colours, etc, etc, and every other type of coffee maker I can think of. And 2 things caught my eye.

Firstly, that there was a filter machine for 6 quid. Woah, now this looks like my kind of budget!

And secondly, an espresso machine for 17 quid. Hm. That’s about 100 pounds cheaper than I’ve ever seen before, and just about within my pricerange… so very tempting.

3-5 bar pressure, not amazing, but probably acceptable, milk steamer/frother too… so would be good for hot choc as well. Mmmm…..

And I’ve wanted to learn how to make espresso for ages.

So. Here it seems is a perfectly normal life situation. Nothing to stress about, nothing to worry about, just a simple domestic “which should I buy? Hm, the espresso machine, OK, lets’ buy it, done.”

10 minutes, all told, and not even really worth blogging about.

Except! This is no ordinary story! Not to be stumped by even the more mundane of situations, I find myself wrestling to gain even the fleetest of footings while hanging on to the horns of a stampeding dilemma!

I have been fretting about this! I have been wandering around the town wondering if I should buy the wretched thing or not. I’ve prayed about it, numerous times, and still have no reached any kind of satisfactory conclusion!

Should I buy it? Should I not buy it? The question is easy enough to state, and the pros and cons can easily be listed.

17 pounds is really not all that expensive, and I checked online the website, and found it had apparently gone to 11 pounds. So, even more reason for this to be a minor and inconsequential affair.

The thought occurred to me “If you had this machine, you wouldn’t need to buy expensive coffee at cafe’s After 9 cups you would have saved money!” See how insiduous advertising is? I don’t need all that coffee, and I might not have bought it anyway, thus I’ve not saved money at all, but in fact spent more! I’ll write about this more some other time.. 
Anyway, I frequently find myself wanting to drink a decent cup, and the only place available is expensive, and so if I did buy this machine, and if I had been buying one coffee a day there, then by the end of a week I would indeed have saved money. But, no.

I just haven’t been able to bring myself to go and buy it. Every time I set out towards the store, I’ve felt an almost compulsion to not buy it, and the weird sensation that I’m doing something wrong.

I was asking God, “Do you want me to buy it? Do you not want me to buy it?” and then asked “If you don’t want me to buy it, don’t let me.”, which is a dangerous sort of prayer, and then after work 2 days ago, while praying this, I went to the store, and low and behold it was shut.

Hm! Is this some kind of sign?! Or is it just that they close at 5pm, and it took me until 5.45 to get to the shop?! Is this divine guidence, or just a coincidence catalysed by lack of time management and me not remembering which road it was on?

Do I even believe in coincidence anyway?

As a good evangelical, I know I should not.

But I’m not a good evangelical. I know that God is in control of everything, but I also know that the world is so sufficiently complex that if we want to see correlations and coincidences, we will, without God going out of His way to make sure certain things coincide.

But, argues the pig headed annoying evangelical so-and-so who lives in my head: If I’m asking God something, couldn’t He also make it so that things don’t coincide, just so that I don’t see the coincidence that I asked about?

Yet that also totally stuffs God into a box, and is very unfair to Him.

Why on earth should God go out of His way to modify something running really quite well (ie, what time a certain store closes) on the earth just so that one of his slightly deranged sons gets an answer to some pointless question he asked in an absurd and arrogant way!? I mean, what if I asked for the moon to turn somersaults and the sun to go back one hour? Even if that did happen way back in the O.T…

I dunno. I mean, before, when God has got me to stop sinning in certain ways, I’ve really not wanted to stop, and so I’ve asked Him for help, but in ways that are really not helpful. The kind of thing being “If you don’t want me to lie to so and so about why I haven’t done what I promised, then please could I not see them today…”.

This kind of thing. I mean, yes, it’s asking God for help. And yes, it’s kind of admitting a problem. But is it really sane to expect God to tweak reality because of my selfishness? I mean, I know He loves me, and I know He can modify reality more easily than I can breath, but, well, isn’t it kind of forcing Him into a box? Trying to exert power over Him, and manipulate Him like a Genie?

And “trying to manipulate God like a Genie” is one of those things that definitely falls into the “Unwise bordering on Stupid, yet Amazingly Typical and very Human” category.

And the thing is, usually, if I start praying things in the form “If you want me to not do… then please do…” it’s usually ended up being something that I really shouldn’t do anyway, and a fairly good hint that I already know what the answer is, and what I should or shouldn’t do.

Imagine the little boy saying “God, if you don’t want me to steal the sweets from the sweetshop, then please would the shop owner be standing next to the box I want to steal from when I come into the shop”, knowing full well that the shop owner is always sitting behind her desk on the opposite side of the shop, and can’t even see that aisle.

Well, duh!

Yet that’s exactly how I behave to God, quite frequently. And then, even if the situation I have asked God about *does* happen to be a “no” thing, then I’ll repeat the experiment again, with more obscure clauses, or else repeat again and again until it’s not so. And this is *so* stupid. I mean, if I really want to sin that much, then I’m gonna find a way to do it, even if it means totally ignoring what God is shouting and jumping up and down with a big sign on a stick telling me about.

Yet, the issue at hand isn’t some kind of sin. This isn’t stuff which is even kind of borderline/dodgey, such as using “bad language” on stage at the theatre (one of the issues I fought long and hard with, and with God about, a few years back).

This is a flippin’ coffee maker!

I mean, for crying out loud!

OK, so I can imagine maybe God has some kind of plan, to teach me a lesson in something, or some life skill or something, and so this coffee maker was part of it, but I can also imagine Him putting his head into his hands and saying “Good grief. Just buy the stupid coffee maker already, Daniel. Look, I’m not going to send you an army of angels just to tell you to do your blinking laundry just because you feel doubts!”

And also, I can kind of imagine maybe that God doesn’t want me to buy the coffee maker. I’ve not been so great with my money, in how careful I am about it all, in remembering to give regularly, or in being generous, or whatever. And there is so much poverty in the world, and the current joke here in the office is about the “rich missionaries” with their iPods and iPhones and iBooks and living at Starbucks and being far too damn comfortable. Jesus never told us life would be comfortable, as His followers. He told us it would suck, majorly.

Yet He also said that workers deserve their wages, and that we shouldn’t worry about what we eat or drink, as if we look first to God’s kingdom, He would provide these things anyway.

And it’s not that I’m worrying about coffee. I’m not addicted, and can quite happily go for a week or two without tasting a sip of coffee without headaches and all that. I just like the stuff!

Yet I am worried. About getting too comfortable. About becoming a sleeping Christian, not really in the world, not really living radically, as a revolutionary of Christ in this world. About picking up the strings and rags of this earth, and becoming attached to them, and not scorning them for the true garments of heaven.

Yet Jesus also spent His time at parties, as J. John said in one of his sermons, if Jesus was a stuffed up christian bore at the parties, why was he invited to so many? He’d have been told to stay at home! We are supposed to live life to the full, to not skimp and be prudes and wusses and all that.

I guess it all boils down to this:

Is it better to wait and not do anything because it’s not what God called us to, or to do something we think is from God, even if it’s not?

If I have a course of action in mind, but no “calling” or direction to it from God, is it still a good/the right action to take, or should I only act on instructions?

Or, is this kind of nagging doubt really from God? Or just my messed up personality? Insecure INFP that I am, and everything.

Is it better to do things only we *know* are from God, or to do things that might be from Him, even if they’re not?

And can we know for sure, most of the time, anyway?


Life is so complicated.

And all this just for a coffeemaker.

The whole “having peace” about something just doesn’t seem to work for me. I don’t really “have peace” about things very often.

Is it better to do something we think might be God’s will, or to not do something we think might be against it?

Action and anti-action! And inaction and anti-inaction.

And this has been going on for about 4 or 5 days now.

Back to Peanuts, apparently I’m fairly similar personalitywise to Charlie Brown.

If ever we (Charlie Brown and I) seem kind of indecisive and wishy-washy, this is why. We’re going through this kind of trauma about every single thing in life. From whether to kick the football or not, whether to write the valentine or not, to whether to buy the coffee maker or not…

A part of me, now, says “Just do it, lah” like one of my Malaysia friends had. I mean, God is so much bigger than I am, and if I screw up, He’ll catch me and help me back on my feet again.

It’s just, well, He also gave me the ability to look at issues and find more deep consequences of them. Shouldn’t I use that?

And if I don’t try to figure things out, because I know it just ends up with inaction and all that crap above, then how do I know what to do? What can I trust?

Instincts? Dangerous. Others? Unwise. Myself? Stupid. A pair of dice? Ridiculous!

A big part of me says “Yeah, I’ll buy the coffee maker. No biggie.”

The other half shrieks and says “You don’t need it! And you MIGHT be going against what God has told you, because you are not sure, and so are acting in doubt, and according to the bible: that is sin! It’s not worth it, just for a coffee maker!”

Either it’s just a normal bit of being human, in which case I am weak and indecisive and a wimp, or else I’m slightly schizophrenic.

Either way, life promises to be – if nothing else – interesting.