Knee-jerk Jerk

22 12 2014

A few days ago I went to collect number one child from the airport. She was returning for the Christmas holidays from university out East. I bumped into an old colleague from a previous company, and he was keen to make sure I was going to attend a get-together the next night to celebrate the arrival in town of a mutual friend who now lived with his wife in Toronto. We arranged to meet at his new place in Gastown first to have a couple of warm-up drinks before heading off for dinner. I fully expected to arrive a bit later than the arranged 6pm kick-off, but as it happened I managed to finish off my tasks at the office and was actually slightly early as I set off from the SkyTrain station to try and locate his place in Gastown.

For those of you not familiar with Vancouver, Gastown is named after “Gassy Jack” who arguably founded what became today’s Vancouver. It’s a bit of a tourist trap with its steam-powered clock (which was shrouded when I was there) and purveyors of made-in-China baubles and trinkets. It’s also home to many amazing eateries and watering holes, and borders on the less salubrious “Downtown Eastside” or DTES. This is a less touristy place which is “home” to the homeless and many of Vancouver’s less fortunate residents. Inevitably there’s a little “leakage” and it’s not uncommon to be accosted by several homeless people whilst walking in Gastown. The vast majority are polite and will wish you a good day whether or not they receive anything from an encounter. A few, as in any large town, are a little brusque, but it is a rare exception in my experience.

That said, it is patently true that most such people have issues related to substance abuse, though some are merely struggling to get back on their feet and could benefit from a decent meal and a permanent place to stay. A typical request might be “could you spare me the price of a cup of coffee/burger” or potentially the price of a Transit ticket. In my more naive days I have been known to give a ticket-less would-be transit rider the price of a ticket and watch them march directly away from the SkyTrain station. I know of several people who have offered hot food to people pan-handling “for the price of a meal” and literally had it thrown at them… presumably because it does not provide the high that they really seek.

It was with this somewhat jaundiced background that I stiffened myself as I headed through Gastown. Shuffling towards me was a shabby looking guy. As predicted, he asked me if I would buy him a coffee. I gave my knee-jerk response of “sorry mate, I don’t have any change” (which is conveniently usually true – being primarily a credit card user), I was wished a pleasant evening which is often the case in Vancouver, and I marched on without a break in my stride. It was probably 25 metres further on that my mind replayed the brief interchange. I had not – as assumed – been asked for the price of a cup of coffee, but an actual cup of coffee. My lack of willingness to support self-harm through illicit drugs, and my in-built prejudice towards “the typical homeless guy from the DTES” had blinded me to the simplest of human requests for help – a warm drink on what promised to be a rather chilly evening. Suddenly feeling sick to my stomach at the blasé manner in which I’d brushed off this gentleman, I quite literally spun on my heel. The exchange had taken place directly outside a Starbucks café (which I’d not even noticed in my determined march to my evening of conviviality). The man was nowhere to be seen, and I do not exaggerate when I felt a little shiver of cold and something of the “visitation of Christmases Past” vibe.

My reflex response to the usual request for cash had proved my self-righteous self-deceit for what it was. Pure hypocrisy. The man had asked me quite plainly for a physical cup of coffee. Something that I tell myself I would be willing to offer, but not cash, which could be used to buy less savoury substances. My judgemental expectation that he would ask for money had deafened me to a simple human request for a warm drink. Something that my comfortable existence had withheld so trivially.

I am not at peace with myself at present.

Down in the fungals of Java

11 10 2012

So this evening when I put the car away in the garage, I remembered to check on my mushroom projects, safely hidden in there where Mrs Elephant won’t find them and freak out about fungus in her house.

Oyster mushrooms in straw? Nothing obvious happening. 😦

Wine caps in wood chips? Ditto. 😦

OK… not to worry… they’re not actually scheduled to be obviously spreading their mycelium for around 4 weeks, and it’s been less than one.


I’m a bloke! Impatience is my middle name. Well, it would be if my parents weren’t too stingy to have given me one.

Oh well, hardly any point looking at the coffee grinds then… whoa! What’s THIS?!

Now, Scott the mushroom man had warned us that growing Oyster Mushrooms on coffee grinds was a bit hit and miss, and not guaranteed to work. He also explained that they were the most likely to get “infected” by other fungi or molds. He’d explained about potentially having to spoon off any blue/green mold than might get established, so it wouldn’t out-compete the Oyster mushrooms. Or slime, or generally anything that shouldn’t be there. My heart fell. This looked like a very serious bout of white furry mold, like you get on old jam left at the back of a cupboard.

Sighing, I took it out into the garden, ready to spoon great gobbets of it into the compost heap. But then I noticed it looked quite pretty really. Uniform and clean and not at all grubby (as OBVIOUSLY the bad stuff would look, right?! 🙂 )

OK – no, I really noticed that one of the original millet grains we’d used to inoculate the grinds with had somehow been trapped in the lip of the plastic bucket… and had exactly the same white fluff. THIS must be the mycelium! It was working!!

So – 5 days in, and I’m reasonably sure I have at least ONE of the mushroom projects under way.

Mushroom omelette anyone?

[OK, Edit: Buzzkill sheriji (who has much experience with moldy coffee filters, it seems 😉 ) tells me it really is just mold. Bugger!]

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters & Lucky’s Doughnuts Opening At Main & 13th : Scout Magazine

6 05 2012

Another great piece from Scout magazine for Vancouverites. They pose the reasonable question: “Does Main St. need another coffee shop?” Read on for their opinion, but I might posit that if you are perhaps peeved at the casual custom that takes up the bandwidth (seating and WiFi) in your favourite other café in the area, then at the VERY least this addition to the offerings will relieve some of the strain…

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters & Lucky’s Doughnuts Opening At Main & 13th : Scout Magazine.

DINER: 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters & Lucky’s Doughnuts Opening At Main & 13th : Scout Magazine

And for those perhaps not from Canada, the 49th parallel is the line that by and large splits Canada from the non-tea drinkers to the South. (I still shudder at the thought of all that tea being wasted in Boston in 1773!)

There are a few kinks in the line, such as when BC moved its provincial capital to Victoria in the South of Vancouver Island to make sure that Canada got the whole island, and not just the top bit (look how well that went for Ireland or Cyprus, just as an example…)

However, the flip side is a local peninsula (Tsawassen – try saying that after a couple of beers. Actually – at all!) with about 2 square kilometres below the line. This tiny plot is technically Washington State and goes by the name of Point Roberts. The rest of it is BC. There are a few folk living on the end, and so when they get jiggy, there are inevitably a few kids. Enough to build an elementary school even. Too costly to have a secondary school though. So guess what! The poor teenagers have to make the daily trip via school bus across two international borders each way and travel all the way to Blaine in “proper WA state”. The more logical alternative of sending them to one of the several Canadian high schools they pass on the way, or even – dare I say it, making Point Roberts Canadian – seem to have been passed over. It’s handy for getting a US mailbox or cheaper petrol though. Just sayin’…

Check it out on Google maps here.

Caffeine makes mugs of hard workers, but doesn’t have an effect on slackers – Vancouver Sun

30 03 2012

Thanks to MM for reminding me of this article I read in the Vancouver Sun yesterday.

Vancouver Sun: Coffee

Caffeine makes mugs of hard workers, but doesn’t have an effect on slackers.

Canon 100mm Thermos Lens Mug –

27 03 2012


What will they think of next? No – PLEASE don’t answer that…

Canon 100mm Thermos Lens Mug –

Gunbarrel Coffee anyone?

17 02 2012

Not sure I know what it is… but I think I want one next time I’m in Big White!!

Flickr: Gunbarrel Coffee

Flickr: Gunbarrel Coffee

Flickr: Gunbarrel Coffee

Flickr: Gunbarrel Coffee

Whole hot article here: FIELD TRIP #591: Lighting Double-Barrelled Drinks On Fire In The Snow Up At Big White

You too can look like Ryan Guldemond

23 01 2012

Recall my Beyond Awesome posting of 30th December 2011? Where I felt all smug for figuring out that Ryan Guldemond was wearing a T-shirt listing the J.J. Bean coffee-shop branches around Vancouver? Well, today I discovered that they’re available to Joe Public and elephants quiet and noisy alike from said coffee-selling establishments. Not cheap at $25 (including taxes), and it remains to be seen if they help your singing or guitar playing, but no more expensive than Mother Mother’s own T-shirts.

Let them drink coffee! (Or tea… but they didn’t sell it by the pot, at the corner of Bute. Philistines.)

Still waiting for the iPhone 5?

2 01 2012

I bought Mrs. Elephant an iPad a few months ago. She loves it. Sure it’s got WiFi, smooth lines, a limited edition red cover and her name laser etched on the back, but so what? I could be all that too, if I really wanted to. I just don’t like red leather. And I’ve seen James Bond in Goldfinger. I don’t fancy anything being lasered anywhere near me, thank-you very much! So now she’s a big fan of all things with a half eaten apple on them. Yesterday she declared a desire for an iPhone, quote “if only it made coffee as well”.

Ah, well, that reminded me of a great product I learned about on a Pragmatic Marketing course a couple of years ago (which I fully recommend if you’re a Product Manager, BTW). What you need is the Pomegranate Phone. This thing is awesome! For a start it’s made in Canada, so it’s bound to be, well… polite.

Pomegranate phone

Pomegranate phone

But this thing brings phone, email, full internet browser, camera, video, MP3 player, GPS navigation… just for starters.

Add to that a video projector, a global voice translator (think “babelfish“), shaver, harmonica… and – you guessed it – a coffee brewer. Sure, it’s filter rather than espresso, but there is a selection of coffees to choose from.

Pomegranate Coffee Brewer

Pomegranate Coffee Brewer

Impressed? You should be! And if you’d like to visit Nova Scotia this summer, all the better!  🙂

Beyond Awesome!

30 12 2011

After a couple of months of waiting, I finally got to see Mother Mother play live today at the Commodore in Vancouver. A smaller venue than I’d imagined, but a great atmosphere.
Excellent setlist including all their well known tracks and one off the up-coming new album.
A few photos from my middle offspring who also attended…

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If you were wondering about the list on lead singer Ryan Guldemond’s T-shirt, they’re the locations of Vancouver’s J.J. Bean coffee-shops. Good places to get free WiFi if you’re close to the end of your monthly limit.

The encore finished with the great “Arms Tonite

I felt a lot younger leaving than I did entering… you knew I would!

Soya like coffee, do you?

27 12 2011

A couple of years ago, my wife asked me if I’d like an espresso machine for Christmas. As a great consumer of all things caffeinated (i after e despite lack of c) , I’ve always loved the idea of an espresso machine, but in a brief spasm of sensibility said that I knew I’d hardly ever use it, and as they cost more than a Canon zoom lens (as a purely random comparison), I felt the money could be better spent elsewhere. This didn’t seem to be the right answer, and I eventually succumbed, in the cause of domestic harmony.

I even have a T-shirt with the caffeine molecule… I delight in responding to the question “what is it?” with “my addictive drug of choice”.

Caffeine T-shirt

Caffeine T-shirt

So anyway, “my” new machine is quite a feat of engineering. It’s a Saeco. I discovered (I love discovering new things) while researching this blog entry that they’re now owned by Philips. I particularly like Philips DVD players because they’re decent players and are capable of being region-free without any dismantling or downloading dodgy patches. Important if you like watching foreign films. Just sayin’…

Saeco Odea Go

Saeco Odea Go

Anyway, while it turns out to indeed be true that I rarely use the machine, being (i) fundamentally a lazy bugger, and (ii) impatient, it turns out to get lots of usage at the hands of my much less lazy or impatient wife. Funny how these things work out. On high days and holidays though, I actually get to use “my” present… primarily to make my wife a coffee. Today was such a day, and the request was for a latte made with chocolate soya milk. I blame the fact we moved to the Pacific Northwest that I even knew what that meant. Back in the old country, coffee was either black or white. That was the only selection to be made. If you wanted to get fancy, you might offer sugar. (Royalty reportedly had brown sugar). Starbucks famously could not turn a profit in the UK for several years… the culture would not support their pricing for “poncy drinks”. Things change…

So anyway, I was quite impressed with the way it turned out, and thought I’d share a photo of the results!

Bottoms up! (A favourite position).