Belief, sex and all that

November 20th, 2017

These comments are probably badly worded and reflect only my own experiences and beliefs. Note that I was “raised wrong” (for my time, apparently, given some of the excuses going on these days): my parents  brought me up to believe that women were people first, women second, and I’ve never been able to see women as belongings or objects. Most of my best bosses have been women; most of my best friends have been women; the smartest and best person in this household is a woman [who kept her own name, but then I never suggested otherwise]; most of my most valuable colleagues at work were women; most of the jackasses I’ve encountered have been men.

Lying and belief

I am inclined to take most people at face value until I learn otherwise.

I am especially inclined to believe most people when what they’re saying can hurt them and has no likelihood of helping them.

I am acutely aware that women have a harder time being listened to, being paid attention to (not always the same thing), and being believed than men do.

So, all things considered, I am inclined to believe most women who speak up about bad things that happened to them, even after many years and especially when they’re standing up to somebody more powerful.

[Admittedly, if someone asserting low-level sexual assault turns out to be a frequent “just playing around” sexual assaulter herself or himself, that reduces credibility a whole lot: that speaks to “until I learn otherwise.”]

Oh, and there’s this: while I suspect there may be a few women somewhere who have never been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted, that number seems likely to be shockingly small: I don’t have handy examples to point out.

So, yeah, for all those reasons and more–specifically including the believability of the women I’ve worked with and for, dated, or married–I’m inclined to believe the accusers.

I’ve heard enough about casting couches to assume they’re real; I’ve overheard enough bragging to assume there’s a lot of “seduction” going on that’s not the courtship of equals; in the past, I’ve even been known to shut down one or two “I’d do that…” discussions–although, to my eternal shame, not every time and perhaps not loudly enough. I know that too many men are dogs and proud of it.

Me?

As for sexual assault: I’m essentially certain that I never have. Certainly not kissing, hugging or anything more intimate, and I’m pretty certain not any unwanted touching.

Not the way I was raised. Not my understanding of how people should behave with other people.

Then there’s sexual harassment, and here, at 72 years of age and with a badly imperfect memory, all I can say is: I hope not, and I’d like to think not, and certainly not in the last few decades, but never? I can’t say. (If I ever did, it would never have been more than an unwanted compliment or asking someone out twice before taking “No” for an answer, and I can’t be sure neither of those or some equivalent never happened.) If I did, my belated apologies.

As for the “not all men…” idea, I’m not going to go for that particular line of bullshit, and I am aware of the societal dynamic. In effect, it might as well be all men. [How would I feel about men just not running for political office for, say, 50 years? Sounds good to me, and I haven’t voted for a male Senate candidate in quite a few years…]

I’m no saint, and I’ve certainly been an asshole now and then. I suspect that grown-up men are just fine, but I always wonder when I’ll actually grow up and how many men ever do…

Why this post?

I’ve tended to avoid some hot issues because I don’t have much to say. This may be one of them, but I think it’s worth saying something anyway.

 

Priorities: Why C&I may not appear in December

November 19th, 2017

See, here’s the thing…

My wife had surgery for degenerative arthritis on her left thumb joint about 10 days ago–much-needed surgery that involves replacing a bone with an extra tendon (did you know you have extra tendons in your arms?).

For a few weeks, that means her left hand’s essentially useless; for some time after that, it may be less useful. So, after she’s taken care of me for just shy of 40 years, I’m stepping up. (We’ve always done our own laundry, shared the household laundry, and done our own weekday meals & cleanup–but while most of my meals are quick & easy, hers are more healthful and involve more peeling and cutting and trimming and cleanup. Now, I’m doing as much of the prep work as requires two hands and all of the dishes, and providing help elsewhere when two hands are needed.)

I’m not complaining. If anything, it’s rewarding to know my work is directly benefiting one person I know & love rather than hoping it’s of some use to friends and strangers. But it does take up two or three hours a day, sometimes less, sometimes more.

Which reduces available writing time and energy to very little if any.

So…I have an essay with the source documents tagged for sections and the first 11 or 12 (out of 87, but that number always comes down during the process) handled. Including zero in the last four days. With additional doctor’s appointments and, oh yes, hosting Thanksgiving for the family (but at a restaurant), I don’t see the situation improving soon.

I haven’t made a final decision, but if my higher-priority stuff and the fun/reading I need to have continue to crowd out the essay, I’ll choose a point in December, massage the index for issues 1-10, publish the annual volume (the thickest ever, but that’s because it’s the first 6″ x 9″) and continue working on the essay for a January issue.

Of course, come January, a renewed project will take up much of my attention–GOAJ3 2012-2017, for those familiar with this. So C&I may continue to be even more erratic than usual (a comment that could apply to its editor/publisher/writer as well!). Not abandoned, not yet, but occasional.

50 Classic Movie Warriors, Disc 3

November 2nd, 2017

Hercules Against the Moon Men (orig. Maciste e la regina di Samar or Maciste and Queen Samar), 1964, color. Giacomo Gentilomo (dir.), Sergio Ciani (“Alan Steel”), Jany Clair, Anna Maria Polani, Nando Tamberlani. 1:30 [1:27].

The city-kingdom of Samar is ruled by an evil (if beautiful) queen and under the domination of creatures in the Mountain of Death, who require a sacrifice of many of Samar’s young men and women on each full moon—a process that requires a remarkably large army and would seem to undermine the survival of Samar. (Most of the creatures are slow-moving stiff giants made of stonelike slabs, but there’s a top man who’s clearly a human with a funny mask and Princess Selene, a beautiful woman who must be brought back to life and power by the blood of the queen’s sister so that Jupiter can align with Mars and…well, never mind, it’s even more confusing than the Age of Aquarius.)

A senior adviser says enough is enough and asks for Hercules’ help (against the wishes of the queen, who attempts to kill him on the way into town). Lots of stuff happens from then on, culminating in a pointless and lengthy sandstorm, Hercules once again winning through unlimited strength, and a happy ending of sorts.

The so-called plot is incoherent, and the revolt never seems to take any shape. What this is, is mostly HercPorn: lots of closeups of well-oiled arms, legs and chest of this person who can lift and move anything. A mediocre print, crudely panned-and-scanned from what must be a widescreen original. I double-speeded through some of it, which helped (true double-speed, sl all the dialog and the really poor music.) Mostly for fans of Alan Steel’s acting ability muscles. Maybe the dialogue made more sense in Italian (or Greek?). Notably, this is really a Maciste movie, not a Hercules flick. (The French title, Maciste Against the Men of Stone, makes considerably more sense—although the plot’s still, well…) Generously, $0.75.

The Giants of Thessaly (I giganti della Tessaglia), color, 1960. Riccardo Freda (dir.), Roland Carey, Ziva Rodann, Alberto Farnese. 1:38 (1:28)

Title or no title, this is Jason and the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece. As such, it involves gods, an island full of beautiful witches and talking sheep and stones, despair at sea, treachery at home, lots of beefcake (and beautiful women modestly dressed), and a lot of plot—and yet I found myself double-timing through a lengthy dance number and Jason’s seemingly interminable climb to retrieve the fleece. There’s only one giant (Cyclops) and he’s one-eyed and nowhere near Thessaly. It’s amazing how, after wandering aimlessly and seemingly lost for months, the Argo manages to return to Thessaly so rapidly and directly once the Golden Fleece is in hand, but… This was filmed three years before Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts, for what that’s worth.

It’s wide-screen (16×9), but you’ll have to zoom to get that and the resolution isn’t all that great. Still, good color, and it’s all reasonably well done. Not a classic, but worth $1.25.

Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens (orig. Simbad contro i sette saraceni, color, 1964. Emimmo Salvi (dir. & story), Gordon Mitchell, Bruno Piergentili, Bella Cortez, Carla Calo, Franco Doria. 1:34 [1:20].

I would say this flick has continuity problems, but that assumes continuity. Some scenes seem out of order; others just betray really cheap production—e.g., “midnight” scenes that are in broad daylight and a solar eclipse that only occurs over the palace grounds, not a few hundred feet away. When Simbad or Ali Baba or whoever is rescued (momentarily) by princess/harem member Fatima, he pushes her away and, about 30 seconds later, they proclaim their eternal love for one another. The best acting may be from the little person (Doria)who scurries around in secret passages—and the worst may be the deranged harem guard.

The plot has to do with Omar, a brutal lord who wants control of eight territories and to sit on the Golden Throne, but to do that requires winning a death match with one representative from each of the other seven tribes—the Seven Saracens, I guess. Ali Baba has a knack for being captured, and much of the plot doesn’t really work. No relationship to either the Sinbad or the Ali Baba of literature, of course. But never mind…

A reasonably decent eight-way battle (accepting that these people only use swords to hack at each other: although some of them wear what seem to be modern pants, shirts and boots or shoes, nobody’s ever heard of swordsmanship). A little unusual in that the American actor is the villain (although several actors used Americanized names for the film). Apparently only released in the U.S. as an 80-minute movie for TV, and not really even up to American-International’s standards. Very generously, $0.75.

The Giant of Marathon (orig. La battaglia di Maratona), color, 1959. Jacques Tourneur (dir.), Steve Reeves, Mylène Demongeot, Sergio Fantoni, Daniele Vargas, Gianni Loti. 1:30 [1:24]

Phillipides, medalist at the Olympics, new commander of the Sacred Guard and farmer at heart, saves the day for Athens against Persia, thanks to a sudden pact with Sparta and despite the treasonous acts of Athenian aristocrat Teocrito. Steve Reeves! Lots of action and scenery! Wide-screen (you’ll have to zoom), and a good enough print that it’s quite watchable. Good continuity, very good photography, excellent battle scenes, decent acting.

The sleeve description makes it seem as though it’s all about the battles, but about half the movie is about instant love lost, regained, lost again and…well, of course there’s a happy ending. By the standards of these flicks, $1.50.

 

Cites & Insights 17.10 (November 2017) available

November 1st, 2017

The most colorful issue of Cites & Insights to date, November 2017, is now available for downloading at https://citesandinsights.info/civ17i10.pdf

This 36-page (6×9″) issue includes two essays:

Intersections: Gray Portraits  pp. 1-26

A brief portrait of each of the 29 publishers and “publishers” with 100 or more journals and “journals” in Gray OA 2014-2017. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether 12 of the “largest” 14 (and 13 of the 29) are different “publishers” or one “publisher” with many aliases.

Social Networks: Remember Facebook?  pp. 27-36

A roundup of Facebook-related items from four to seven years ago, which may or may not be of any interest now.

GOAJ2: October 2017 update

October 31st, 2017

Here’s how things are going for GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016 and The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2016 and related stuff (all linked to from the project home page), through October 31, 2017 [noting that most of the last day of each month is missing because of how statistics are done):

  • The dataset: 233 views, 49 downloads.
  • GOAJ2: 1,105 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks), plus 276 copies of chapters 1-7 (C&I 17.4)
  • Countries: 359 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks)
  • Subject supplement (C&I 17.5): 884 copies

Along with 266 new PDF downloads of GOAJ2 and 39 new downloads of Countries, September also saw 266 downloads of Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015 and 134 downloads of the earlier Countries version.

Looking at the rest of gold OA (beyond DOAJ), Gray OA 2012-2016 has now been downloaded 1,836 times, while Gray OA 2014-2017: A Partial Followup, released in October, has 292 downloads.

 

Getting it wrong–to your own disadvantage

October 16th, 2017

I wouldn’t bother to note a bonehead arithmetic error in an ad–even if it’s a full-page ad in Fortune–because there are so many of them. But this one was odd, because the error works to the disadvantage of the advertiser.

The ad is for Charles Schwab’s Total Stock Market Index Fund; I saw it in the August 1, 2017 Fortune (as usual, I’m about to months behind on magazines), but it’s probably appeared elsewhere.

The ad compares Schwab’s Total Stock Market Index Fund, 0.03% cost with $5,000 investment (or any investment), with Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund, 0.15% cost with $5,000 investment.

And under the 0.15% says “Nearly 80% more expensive than Schwab.”

Which is a true statement, but a boneheaded one. 400% is “nearly 80%” with a whole lot left to spare.

The Schwab fund is 80% less expensive than the Vanguard–but percentages are not commutative: 80% more and 80% less are not at all the same thing. If A is 80% less than B is 400% more than A.

I’m not sure where the “nearly” comes from in any case, unless those cost percentages are rounded.

I suspect the error didn’t come from Schwab itself, but from a copywriter or editor who thought “80% more expensive” under Vanguard was more impressive than “80% less expensive” under Schwab.

In either case, it’s wrong. And boneheaded. (Not an attack on Schwab, given that we use them.)

Cites & Insights October 2017 available: Gray OA 2014-2017

October 15th, 2017

Gray OA 2014-2017: A Partial Followup, the October 2017 Cites & Insights (17.9), is now available for downloading at https://citesandinsights.info/civ17i9.pdf

The single-essay issue is 42 pages long (38 numbered pages).

It updates article-count and status-code information (but not APC/fee information) for gray OA journals not in DOAJ, adding full-year 2016 article counts and January-June 2017 counts, doubled for ease of comparisons. Journals in Gray OA 2012-2016 that have been added to DOAJ have been removed from the new report.

Audio/music (an OFP)

October 2nd, 2017

The first OFP has a brief comment on OFPs.

This could also be titled “Hearing/listening,” but I’ll stick with the first title. It’s about a surprising set of recent personal discoveries, and although I’m not flacking for FLAC, it could look that way.

Background

In the old days–let’s say before 1978–I had a big record collection and put together a sound system that was better than I could really afford. I also took extremely good care of the records and the stylus.

(How big? Around 1,300 LPs, most of them baroque or 20th century classical, along with a few hundred folk, country, rock, etc. Specialized in JS Bach–I was buying all the Das Alte Werke cantatas with conductor’s scores included, for example–and Stravinsky: I owned every Stravinsky-or-Craft-conducts-Stravinsky piece except The Flood, which was apparently in print for a day or two. Also lots of 20th century American composers and Russians.)

The final system had at its heart ESS Translinear speaker systems ca. 1973, magnificent tower speakers that were discontinued when ESS introduced the Heil Air Motion Transformer tweeter. I don’t remember the final receiver, but it was a good one.

I never much cared for background music, but at the time I played a lot of “foreground music.” (Can you actually use Bach cantatas or Stravinsky as background?) Then what mattered to me started to change, as did how I spent my time..;

We’ll skip over changes that eventually resulted in getting rid of the too-large stereo system, the too-bulky and too-delicate LPs (and I wasn’t listening to classical that much any more), and switching to CDs–and, eventually, a really good Denon CD/receiver/music system.

Mixtapes, CD-Rs, MP3 and “You Can’t Hear the Difference Anyway.”

For the times when semi-background music was desirable–driving, weekend dinners–I’d prepared a couple dozen cassette mixtapes from the 200-odd non-classical LPs. At some point, I wanted to do the same thing but using CD-Rs instead of increasingly obsolescent cassettes.

Creating a mix CD-R from cuts on 22 different CDs would be really difficult, if even possible.

Fortunately, at some point, PC storage capacity became large enough that it was plausible to rip the growing collection of CDs to MP3 files, at some resolution, then create mix CD-Rs from those files. After some listening, I concluded that even my not-so-great hearing was good enough to distinguish between 196K MP3 and 320K, the maximum MP3 rate–and that I wasn’t sure I heard the difference between 320K MP3 and the original CDs, at least for non-classical music other than solo piano. Or at least that the difference wasn’t important for music played in the background or in a car.

Was I deluding myself? Possibly. On the other hand, it was a worthwhile delusion: the mix CDs worked, and I didn’t have disk space enough for .WAV rips (probably around 100 gigabytes for our 200-odd-CD collection).

We like a quiet household. When I wanted to listen more closely to music (or to use it while weeding), I purchased a 2GB Sansa Express (still available!)–probably in 2005 or 2006–and Sennheiser portable headphones, and prepared a ruthlessly small playlist of 200 or so songs. Later, probably around 2008 or 2009,I got a Sansa Fuze (yes, I like SanDisk products) with 8GB storage; I was able to save my 800 or so favorite cuts. For weekend dinners and driving, I’d prepared a fair number of mix CD-Rs.

[If you’re wondering: the Express–about the size and shape of a thick thumb drive–gave up the ghost in 2016. The Fuze is still going strong. But see below…]

Or Maybe You Can Hear the Difference?

Several things happened in 2015 and beyond, coming to a head this summer:

  • Some of the CD-Rs developed whooshing sounds in later tracks. When I went to rerecord them, I was stupidly still using the last CD-R blanks fro a 50-pack I probably opened six years ago, maybe more. So the new CD-Rs weren’t lasting all that well… (I’ve seen advice that blanks should be recorded within 2-3 years of opening a pack. I should have remembered the advice.)
  • My wife was noting that solo piano didn’t sound quite right on the CD-Rs, and when she had me play the original CDs, she was sure she was right–and I thought I could tell the difference as well. (My ears haven’t gotten any better–indeed, my high-frequency hearing is very much typical of men my age with that ski slope above 1500-2000Hz.. I’m in the process of getting hearing aids now, and probably should have done so years ago.)
  • A year ago, I upgraded from the $50 Sennheisers to Grado SR80e headphones, far more revealing and a great bargain. (I also use and highly recommend Howard Leight Sync hearing protectors/headphones when vacuuming or using a lawnmower or trimmer: they’re inexpensive, do a reasonable job of muffling the damaging power-tool sounds, and the headphones are surprisingly decent for what are basically hearing-protection devices.) I began to notice “edges” in songs that I hadn’t noticed before–and was pretty sure those edges weren’t in the originals.

Oh, along the way, the clever vertical-mounted CD drive in the Denon became useless (the drive-door solenoid stopped working, and would be absurdly expensive to fix), so I picked up a cheap Sony DVD player to use as a CD drive. What the heck, the CD-Rs were only expanded from 320K MP3s anyway…

Summer Solutions

I began to suspect that the only way to assure CD-quality sound on the mix CD-Rs was to store the music in a lossless format; some research suggested that lossless FLAC was my best bet. (Since Windows Media Player is no longer the easy way to rip, organize and burn, I’ve moved to MusicBee; it supports FLAC nicely, and verifies rips.) And my current notebook has enough disk space that I figured I could spare the 50GB to 100GB that might be needed (FLAC compresses when it can do so losslessly; it seems to average about 50% compression.)

I reripped everything–a surprisingly fast process carried out as a secondary task while doing other computer work. But it was clear I couldn’t keep using the Sansa Fuze for my main close-listening device: it didn’t have enough space. Wound up with 58GB of music and overhead, covering 2,770-odd tracks. Of those, I’d identified about 670 that were good candidates for dinner music.

Opening a new 50-pack of CD-Rs (actually not new, but unopened), I made new versions of a couple of the “Dinner CD-Rs,” and we were both satisfied that they did indeed sound as good as the original tracks–and yes, I could tell the difference. But my wife also noted, correctly, that with only a dozen or so dinner mixes, they could be predictable…

Separately, I concluded that a new personal music player with better audio specifications and more storage space was in order–and decided on a Cowon Plenue D (36GB and 50-hour battery life playing FLACs, with remarkably good audio specs), plus a 64GB SDHC card, since it made sense to just copy the whole music library to the player (or, actually, “drive G,” the SDHC card). Amazon had/has it at an excellent price: $188 (and $24 for the SDHC card).

The Cowon doesn’t have a separate line-level audio output, but the headphone output peaks at roughly CD-player output levels. I suspected that it could do as a server of sorts…

Yes, indeed. Bumping the volume up to 95 or so (as compared to 30-35 for the Grados) and connecting the Denon via a headphone-to-RCA adapter resulted in excellent sound, making the Cowon a very small, very inexpensive music server. Took me about 2-3 hours to build a favorites set of all 670-odd items that appear to be good dinner candidates. Plug in the Cowon, flip to Shuffle on the favorites list, and…

The first time we tried this, we were both happy: my wife was hearing songs that I seemed not to have included on mix CD-Rs and we both felt that the sound was at least as good* as the original CDs. I’ve stopped rerecording dinner CDs for now (but will still do some car CDs, since our 12-year-old new car doesn’t have an audio input jack).

Weeknights, I’m slowly working my way through the whole 2,770-song library with the Grados, in alphabetic order. It sounds great: quieter and more “liquid” than the MP3s, and I’m hearing stuff I forgot we had. The convincer: I would never listen to more than five or so songs an evening, tiring of it after that. Now, I listen to 10-15 or more, as time permits: a song might be tiring, but the sound never is. It should take about a year for the scan.

Weekends, the Cowon becomes a server for the smaller set of pieces, served up randomly. (If we hit a piece we agree shouldn’t be in the dinner list, it takes 5 seconds or so to remove it from the Favorites list but not the player. Skipping a piece, of course, takes no time to speak of. Adding more pieces to the Favorites list takes 2-4 seconds per piece…)

Conclusion: I believe the difference between high-resolution MP3 and lossless digital audio is audible, even on pop/folk/country/rock, even for half-deaf oldsters like me, or at least some of us, although largely at a nearly subliminal level. (With solo piano and orchestral pieces, it’s more audible.) Would I be able to tell the difference in a blind A/B test? Quite possibly not–I grumble about high-end reviewers a lot, but they’re correct in saying that blind A/B tests are artificial and can obscure as much as they reveal. My wife has excellent hearing, and she knows what she’s hearing: I’m 100% certain she’s right.

Oh, and a music server doesn’t have to be big or expensive…the Cowon measures about 2″ x 3″ x 0.5″ and certainly wasn’t expensive.

No, I’m not going back to vinyl; I still suspect elements of euphonic distortion in claims that vinyl actually offers better sound, although anybody who finds it more musical or more enjoyable is probably right, at least for them.

(More accurate and more musical aren’t necessarily the same thing. We could talk about Bose… Incidentally, for those who know Cowon, no, I’m not using Jet Effects or equalization, at least not for this pass or for dinner music, at least not yet.)


*”at least as good”: There are two semi-plausible scientifically-arguable reasons that the music from the Cowon could sound better than CDs from the Sony, even though the Cowon files were ripped from those CDs:

  1. Jitter and error correction, theoretically problems for mass-produced CDs and CD players, shouldn’t be issues for solid-state players with high-quality digital/analog converters.
  2. Signal-to-noise ratio: the Cowon has extremely good audio specifications; the Sony doesn’t even mention signal-to-noise ratio, but it’s a cheap player mostly intended to play DVDs. So, yes, the Cowon is probably quieter, although that shouldn’t be audible at dinner-music levels. Or should it?

What I know is that my wife immediately felt the music–all music–sounded better, “fuller,” and that the close-listening headphone sound is clearly better to me on most pieces, even if my high-frequency hearing is fairly crappy.

And so endeth this absurdly discursive OFP. I’m gonna listen to some music…

GOAJ2: September 2017 update

September 30th, 2017

Here’s how things are going for GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016 and The Countries of OAWorld 2011-2016 and related stuff (all linked to from the project home page), through September 30, 2017 [noting that most of the last day of each month is missing because of how statistics are done):

  • The dataset: 192 views, 39 downloads.
  • GOAJ2: 915 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks), plus 225 copies of chapters 1-7 (C&I 17.4)
  • Countries: 320 PDF ebooks (no paperbacks)
  • Subject supplement (C&I 17.5): 816 copies

Along with 224 new PDF downloads of GOAJ2 and 31 new downloads of Countries, September also saw 279 downloads of Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015 and 232 downloads of the earlier Countries version.

As comparisons for C&I issues: the July 2017 Cites & Insights, another Economics of Access essay, now has 816 downloads to date; the August 2017 issue, with no serious essays at all (old movie reviews and The Back. snarky little stuff), has 692 downloads; and the personal whines discussions making up September 2017, which has only been out since September 14, has 437 downloads (and, so far, no responses). The hottest issues of the year continue to be January (Gray OA 2012-2016) with 1,747 downloads to date and April (The Art of the Beall) with 1,724 downloads.

 

Coffee (an OFP)

September 26th, 2017

This is the first in a possible series of OFPs, truly random posts related to life changes in later years. I won’t offer the expansion of the initialism just yet, but “get offa my lawn” might enter in…

The Early Days

My credentials as a Proper Northern California Coffee Drinker are pretty solid. I started buying coffee beans at Peet’s original Vine Street store (Berkeley) shortly after it opened in 1966–it wasn’t that far away from my Northside residence. One grinder, one Melitta porcelain cone, filters, and shazam: “pour over coffee.”

(I also drank a lot of coffee at Caffe Espresso just across from the north edge of the UC campus; I believe the place is gone. My introduction to Ronald Reagan’s regard for free speech and assembly came when I was on my way down to have some coffee and faced lots of people coming my way, then realized why: cops with batons held firmly between hands were shoving us along as martial law was declared. But that’s another story…)

I don’t believe I ever cared for Starbuck’s, which seemed like a Peet’s wannabe. I probably purchased Peet’s beans for 20 years or more… I even had my own blend (not on Peet’s menu; I purchased half-pound bags of different beans to make it).

The Middle Years

When we got married, we had two coffee grinders and two Melitta cones and carafes. And purchased our beans at Peet’s.

Later, though, I learned to like Kona coffee–except Peet’s (and knew that Peet’s denigrated Kona as being too weak). Finally figured out that I really wasn’t wild about what seemed like over-roasted coffee. Started buying beans elsewhere. Kona got to be too expensive and pure Kona too hard to find, and moved on to a range of coffees.

Much more recently–a few years ago–I moved from beans to ground coffee; not that I couldn’t detect a difference, but that the difference didn’t matter to me. (My wife mostly gave up coffee because it started giving her problems.) I usually purchased one of a group of good-quality ground coffees, either Costa Rica or Colombia or Tanzania Peaberry or possibly a Kauai coffee, always medium-roast, the way I liked it.

When I say “coffee” I mean black coffee, for what that’s worth.

Recently

For years, I had one cup of coffee with breakfast, and that was it–except when dining out or on a cruise.

More recently, I wanted a second cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up. But for that, I didn’t feel like the whole pour-over route. I tried some instant coffees and found them acceptable as an alternative hot caffeinated beverage, not really coffee but OK.

And then…

Trader Joe’s 100% Colombian Instant Coffee. The only instant I’ve seen that’s from a single country rather than the usual “wherever we can get beans the cheapest” laundry list on instant-coffee labels. The label also claims that it tastes amazingly close to freshly brewed coffee. It’s not wildly expensive ($3.99 for a 3.5-oz. jar).

As an afternoon coffee it was great–much, much better than any instant I’d had before. It was, well, coffee.

Then one morning I didn’t feel like doing the pour-over ritual and instead made a cup of TJ’s. And liked it a lot–not as a coffee substitute but as coffee. I went back and forth between ground & this, and have now pretty much settled on the TJ. (I suspect I would be able to tell the difference between it and pour-over Colombian, if I could somehow make both to the same strength, but I doubt that I would care. I might try it some day: there’s 50+ filters sitting in the cupboard…)

Oh, when my wife does have half a cup of coffee, she likes the TJ’s instant just fine.

The bottle suggests a heaping teaspoon for a reasonably strong cup. I suspect if you’re a dark-roast devotee, that’s probably right. I use a scant teaspoon–actually about two-thirds in an 8oz. mug–which makes a good medium-body cup.

Conclusions?

If you love the coffee you drink, I wouldn’t suggest changing it for a minute.

But for some of you, this might be an interesting alternative. (I’ve noticed that some TJ cashiers make a point of saying how good the 100% Colombian Instant is, and they rarely talk up products.)

Or maybe I’m just getting old and my taste buds are shot. I can live with that.

Keurig? Not gonna happen…not in this household.

The next OFP, if and when it happens, will be very different–about audio and some surprises.