June

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here; sorry if anyone missed me. I’ve still been writing, just not here.

I’ve written on my Saturday Walks page (link), which I tend to use as a non-work, social-ish, ranting blog.

And I’ve written a holiday blog (link) during the time we were in France recently.

I’ve also managed to make an addition to my Blogger blog (link), which is mainly about the books I’ve read – not all of them, but many/most.

I also have a ‘House for Sale‘ blog at: http://sharehill.wordpress.com/one day I will get around to putting the address in big city newspapers. Surely I can’t do worse than the estate agents!

I do have things to say, but I’m still arranging them in my mind – mainly situational awareness stuff and 3G. In the meantime, thank goodness, I’ve got busy again. I’m just coming to the end of a period of marking for City and Guilds – made more intense by coming towards the end of my holiday in France. But – phew, I’ve not let anyone down yet …

I’m also currently working with friends/colleagues on a couple of urgent jobs and trying to get my head around another ‘really urgent‘ job! I also have jobs booked in June and early July for other friends and colleagues, so things are good again, for a while.

So thank you for your patience. 🙂

Advertisements

Good Coffee

picture shows coffee service and a slice of cakeAt the risk of annoying my American friends and relatives – I think that in Vienna, I found my Coffee Homeland!

I’ve talked about coffee before [https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/coffee/], when I actually said: I .. realised a long time ago that .. I just don’t like instant coffee (‘instant coffee’ is an oxymoron). I do however enjoy drinking coffee – proper coffee made with fresh ground beans and very hot, not boiling, water. I love the taste of coffee, I adore the smell of coffee. I am (despite being a tea drinker) a coffee addict.

As a result of my personal taste, I find it hard to get the hot drink preparation operatives (I hazard to say the word Barista, as they are patently not so qualified) employed by national chains to understand that I want less water in my Americano – or that I need just a little hot water adding to my double espresso. And I just want a little hot milk adding (preferably on the side): I don’t want it making with milk and I don’t want foam. As Ellen said in my earlier post “you can tell when someone cares enough to spend a little bit of time to get it right.” In Vienna, my requests were adhered to, easily and without note until one day a waitress said “ah yes sir, you want a large brauner” (she actually said this in German and I understood every word – how cool is that?).

So, I then asked for a ‘large brauner‘ everywhere we went. The taste was superb too. It wasn’t just strong, but it was flavourful and not burned – i.e. left on the grounds for the correct amount of time and not stewed. It was the same at breakfast time when large pots were placed on the table. Unlike most hotels and conferences in the UK, the coffee actually tasted nice, stay hot and was carefully prepared.

Another pleasant custom in Vienna, is that they always serve your coffee with a glass of cold water. It’s never questioned – they just bring it. This is a pleasant custom aimed, I suppose, at helping to rehydrate you after the ‘caffeine hit’.

As those Twitter followers who accessed the Julius Meinl web page I posted recently will know – there is a huge variety of coffee tastes avaialble in Vienna. Anything from the sublime [small or large brauner] to the ridiculous [Kaisermelange]. As much as I like coffee, I’m not sure I would want that!

http://www.meinlcoffee.com/coffee-culture/coffee-recipes/traditional-viennese-recipes

I did buy a big bag of Julius Meinl ‘brauner’ beans at the airport and it’s a pot of coffee made from those that has prompted this post. MMmmmm coffee.

Coffee

Last week I was involved in a MoLeNET ‘boot camp’. The premise was simple: we all get together and thrash out pedagogical issues which are to be included as part of a resource/activity creation tool, which is being developed on behalf of the MoLeNET community.

We spent two days sat around our laptops in a smallish room at the excellent Novotel in Leeds. Although this post isn’t about the food, it would be a crime to mention the hotel and not mention the food. As always the lunchtime buffet was a delight, with a huge variety of seafood, cold meats and salads to start with and the usual carvery type fayre for mains – but served up in an interesting way. The first day we also had bacon sandwiches (with croissant, ham, preserves and fruit), which was a delightful surprise. Thank you Novotel.

Anyway – they also brew a passable (not great, but passable) coffee. And there’s the rub: we were all free to get tea and coffee whenever we liked. Each morning we had a selection of biscuits to soak up the drink and on both afternoons we were presented with a selection of cakes and buns. So the tables in our small rooms gradually filled up with the usual long meeting detritus.

So let this story be a warning to everyone – cakes crumbs and coffee do not go well with laptops.

We’d almost finished our two-day meeting and I was returning from the bathroom to begin packing up, when a cup of coffee was accidently knocked over my (I still think of it as new) MacBook Pro. I think I went into an instant ‘oh it’s only a keyboard’ form of stasis. It had never seemed a big thing before, keyboards on college machines had always been the cheapest of the cheap and any lasting damage from spills could only be caused to the PC itself, often hidden right away under the desk or sat at the back of the desk – a fair way from potential damage. But the Mac (or any laptop) is much more vulnerable than that – potentially £1,200 of vulnerability.

Luckily, the MoLeNET Mentors are such a stellar team that they instantly sprang into action. Instructions were being shouted from all over the room: the main one being ‘remove the battery’. I’d already pulled the power cable and the machine was by now being held upside down so the ‘remove the battery’ instruction was probably a laptop saver, as I would not have thought to do that. Paper towels and serviettes were coming from all over the place as colleagues rushed to help and the mess was eventually cleaned up. Apart from one person’s ashen face, my otherworldly stasis and an upside down MacBook Pro with an overwhelming smell of coffee, things soon settled down to the normal goodbyes and see-you-laters.

I was advised not to use the machine again for a minimum of three days to let it dry out completely, before being allowed to cross the fingers of one hand whilst turning it on with the other. All the advice was coming from people I trust; long-term Mac users, so my stasis would continue into Sunday – only 48 hours, but my fingers WERE already very tightly crossed.

When I finally turned on the MacBook Pro, it worked. I opened as many windows as I thought fair and breathed a slow sigh of relief when nothing ‘blew’.

Then, later, I noticed that the keys were sticky. We’d wondered whether the coffee had had sugar in it, but not knowing whose it was made that impossible to know – I’d hoped not, as the sugar would have made it nigh on impossible to fix without some kind of surgery. But all of the keys eventually came unstuck and now, 24 hours later, they seem to be working fine.

I’d looked on the Internet for sticky keys advice and two helpful addresses were sent to me by Simon Finch on Twitter: http://bit.ly/6SATq8 and http://bit.ly/4qiBmw. Apparently you can carefully lift off the keys (which I didn’t do) – James Clay suggested cleaning them with baby wipes; Mick Mullane said cotton buds and distilled water. In the end I loosened the sticky keys by tapping them and then blowing compressed air across the keypad. I’m sure that this practice is frowned upon as it may move debris into more corruptible areas of the machine – but it worked for me.

LATEST NEWS – somehow, the video-out slot has become faulty. I’m not sure yet whether the coffee is responsible but at the moment, the only way of connecting to an external source is to keep pushing the plug right in – sadly there’s no way of keeping pressure on.

So three things to say as I wrap up this post:

· There are many sites out there aimed at helping you in times of technological stress:

· Thank you to all those of you who volunteer to help people in need – Simon, James, Mick – thank you.

and

Don’t leave coffee (or tea, or biscuits, or food/drink of any kind – and while we’re on it – all pets, young especially – but older are not immune to walking all over the keyboard) anywhere near your laptop!

Coffee

I like coffee. The fact that national chains can’t provide me with the ‘taste’ I like really infuriates me.

I learned a long time ago that I was not a coffee drinker. Coffee is not the beverage I think of when I hear ‘hot drink’. I realised many years ago that I am a tea drinker. I also realised a long time ago that this is because I just don’t like instant coffee (‘instant coffee’ is an oxymoron). I do however enjoy drinking coffee – proper coffee made with fresh ground beans and very hot, not boiling, water. I love the taste of coffee, I adore the smell of coffee. I am (despite being a tea drinker) a coffee addict.

Why then, can I not get a nice cup of coffee in this country? I am regularly tempted by the smells emanating from Starbucks, Ratazza, Nero and Costa but just as regularly disappointed by the purchase. What is it about “a small Americano please, but with only half the water” they don’t understand? When asked if I want milk (actually Starbucks is better for this because they allow me to choose the amount), they invariably fill the cup – which defeats the object. I want flavour not watery milk. I often don’t complain because doing so would slow down the queue (the ‘baristas’ are robots really and have few if any crowd pleasing skills) and they would soon pick me out as ‘the arsehole’.

All I want is a hot strong coffee. I want flavour not volume. I have found one garden centre just outside Huddersfield that serves a wonderful coffee but it’s my secret. If you want to know where it is drop me a line. Until then I’m keeping this gem to myself. Now I’m going out into the snow and may well take my walking partner to this very garden centre instead of walking. MMmmm Coffee!