14 December 2009

new coke

An article from Wired UK titled "Meet Bruce Mau. He wants to redesign the world." has been making the rounds on the innertubes lately. I like & admire Bruce Mau. He has insightful opinions about brands & branding, & I'm impressed Coca Cola looked to him for his point of view. But a couple sentences early in the article made me stop reading, suddenly & utterly bored.

"Mau observed later that [a commenter at a business conference] was ... representative of what Coke and every other company is up against these days: a public that is more aware of, and concerned about, what firms are doing - and one that also has more ability to question and challenge business than ever before. Companies such as Coke are realising that they must adapt and adjust their behaviour to survive this new level of scrutiny."

I often think of brands as people. Are they doing something interesting? Something new? Are they standing tall for what they believe in, sticking to their guns, fighting the good fight? Or any fight. And are they ... you know. Nice? Would I want to talk to this person at a party?

Coca Cola makes sugar water. (Delicious, delicious sugar water, mmmm.) Not new, not that interesting. Okay, so maybe their tastes & values are different than mine. But Mau is suggesting they seek out what people want from them, then change the whole timbre of the brand. He's advising a huge multinational corporation to become boring, sycophantic, & kind of ... sad. I don't want to talk to that person at a party.

It's not that I don't think Coca Cola should be held accountable — I do. And it's good that people are looking closer at the companies to whom they give their money — I'm a fan of voting with money. It's the "adapting & adjusting their behavio(u)r to this new level of scrutiny." No. Be awesome, for its own sake. Or don't be awesome. But always be something. Even you, Coca Cola.

— · — · — · — · — · — · —

Okay, okay, I finished the article. Okay. Curiosity got the better of me, & I was willing to be outraged. (Outrage can be good!) And I re-discovered that Bruce Mau is fucking rad. But I also have very little faith that all the ways in which Coca Cola is attempting to re-organize the company — to "make more sustainable, make more of what we love, using less of what we need" — has anything to do with Coca Cola suddenly becoming awesome thought-leaders & everything to do with Coca Cola wanting everyone to love them, just please won't we only love them, & doing whatever it takes to that end whether they believe in what they're doing or not. And, like I said, that's sad. And the mark of insecurity & fear. And disappointing.

02 December 2009

bikes in cities

I first started biking when I moved to Portland, OR, where I was a student looking to save some dimes. I wanted to pay for transportation exactly once. No fares, no gas, no insurance, no licensing. I bought a bike, & I rode it every day, & I took it in for repairs two times. Once, I broke a spoke. And once, I got a flat.

I didn't know how to repair a flat.

Then, I moved to Los Angeles, & I didn't ride for about six months. But I missed it. If I worked on the weekends, I rode in, to "treat" myself. Then, I started to "treat" myself every day because I could see no reason not to. I learned how to repair a flat, how to adjust my brakes, saddle height, derailleurs, &c., because I had to. My bike started to fall apart all of a sudden, it seemed, because I was riding it much more, & because I had enjoyed startlingly good luck in Portland. I amassed a small bag of tools, which I kept with me at all times.

bike thneed

My fourth (or maybe fifth) group ride in Los Angeles.
Later still, I discovered Midnight Ridazz. It took me about four months after I started riding every day to learn that thousands of other riders were doing the same all throughout the city, the Valley, Orange County, the Westside, the Eastside. Bikes were everywhere, but they had been invisible, even to me. In retrospect, this is almost inconceivable. Riders in Los Angeles are the most tight-knit group of people I've ever come across, anywhere, & the most welcoming. (I was jumped into a bike gang on my third ride, by SP00K.) How did I miss this? Now, I'm (unofficially) a member of three bike gangs. There is no rivalry; we all go to each others' birthday parties.

happy birthday, ridge way
Ridge Way Bike House turns 2.
I don't think bikers in Portland are as galvanized. I figure it's because bikers are as common as the roses that grow untended there. Like their roses, it's just as beautiful a thing, but it's not so very special. In Los Angeles, riding a bike is a strange thing to do. When seeing someone else riding on the road, I look to see if I know them, & often enough I do. If I don't know them, I nod. A tacit acknowledgment that we both know what's up. It's a unifying activity here, whereas in cities where it's more common, it doesn't mean as much.

Another thing: In Los Angeles, riders don't seem to care much about what you ride. I mean, they care — they appreciate a good whip. But I ride with fixed gear riders, geared riders, mountain bikers, BMX tricksters, chopper bike riders, tall bikers, road racers, polo bikers, velodrome rats, & even people who ride recumbents.

Just kidding. Not recumbents.

seatless tall bike!
I rode this bike once. ONCE.

Every day is a custom bike show. Every night is a ride, usually several. Alleycats every weekend. Name a holiday — Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, your birthday, your dad's birthday, Arbor Day. There's a ride that day. Ahh, enthusiasm. It's fucking scintillating.


The Ride with No Name
The Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time
C.R.A.N.K. MOB (The Wonder Year)
Westside Mosey
Midnight Ridazz (official) rides
Wolfpack Hustle
Cub Camp
All those rides that wound up on the beach in the middle of the night, & then there was swimming, & Trouble

Go ride.


29 November 2009


Twitter's been offering lists. (This is not really news — it's been going on for some time.) Opens up a whole new world of people, their opinions, & what they're eating for breakfast without having to follow every damned one & jam up your feed with Cocoa Puffs. It's cool.

Cooler still, I'm listed some times. HOLLA.

Not to scale.

It's interesting to see the order in which I was added to lists. (Top down, newest to oldest, on that list page I lunk to above the chart.) Seems it was my coffee people who decided to sort their people first. Then bikers, then Angelenos, then people who enjoy enjoyment. Generally.

I figure coffee people tend to have varied interests — many of them do outstanding, silly things when they aren't changing the face & the heart of the coffee industry one cup at a time. Bikers, on the other hand, often spend an awful lot of time with other bikers, irrespective of what they do for a living. As such: My coffee pals sorted early because the list feature was more useful to them, & those coffee-people lists are at the bottom of the page. Though I am bike-listed most, bikers are late listers, & so those lists are at the top of the page. Do you see what I'm saying here?

No? Let me be more clear. If the ride posting says the ride leaves at 8, maybe think about getting to the start point by 8. Jesus christ.


coffee stops: san francisco (& environs) edition

In order of attendance, based on location:

66 Mint Street at Jessie.

270 7th Street at Folsom.
*** Closed. On the Friday after Thanksgiving. What the.***

375 Valencia at 15th.

1026 Valencia Street at 21st.

5237 Stevens Creek Blvd
Santa Clara, CA.

Not shown: Barefoot Coffee. We did not walk there.

I am certain there are scads of good shops in the East Bay. But time dictated I limit my tour. Since San Francisco is only 7mi x 7mi, & since there were four known shops I wanted to visit, ... well. Bingo, bango. I would love, also, at some point to wrangle an invitation to tour Sweet Maria's in West Oakland. Let It Be Known.


29 September 2009

coffee stops

When not witnessing what has got to be the most beautiful wedding ceremony in the history of wedding ceremonies, during which the groom stood watching his future bride wait for Saint-Saens' "The Swan" to begin so she could walk down the aisle & he subtly urged her with nothing but excitement & love to hurry up so he could marry the hell out of her already ("Come on, come on, come on ... "), I was drinking a lot of coffee.

I hit Manhattan at 5pm Friday, was indisposed all of Saturday (with, you know, that gorgeous, simple, elegant, touching wedding), I was back in New York at close to noon, & I left for my flight at 6:30. That's roughly nine hours devoted to coffee (& the getting-to of it).

Friday, I covered Manhattan. Sunday was Brooklyn. I had a macchiato at each place & sometimes one other drink. Behold: Where I went, & one notable thing about each place.

GIMME! COFFEE, 228 Mott Street (at Prince & Spring). Crazy friendly staff who picked up on my questions about their beans & took the conversation further still into coffee geekdom's dark, delicious heart.

NINTH STREET ESPRESSO, 700 East 9th Street (at Loisaida). Young whippersnapper standing in front of a chalkboard sign with seven drinks listed. Seven! That's it! I didn't see because I wasn't looking, but I don't remember a station for customers to add cream & sugar to their coffee*.

* What if there were a shop with no cream or sugar, at all? WHAT IF. Wait, I like cream in my Toddy. Damn.

STUMPTOWN AT THE ACE HOTEL, 20 West 29th Street (at Broadway). Stylish, professional, friendly. But not too friendly. At other shops, I felt at ease asking questions about the components of their blends, what kind of machines they were brewing on, &c. But at this place, there was a high-end service air that, while very nice indeed, kept me at a distance. Part of this may have been a function of the physical layout of the place — I'm not particularly tall. The counter, it was tall. Or the baristas are tall, or are raised up on a platform, or something. They were ... higher than me.

- - - - - - - - -

SOUTHSIDE COFFEE, 652 6th Avenue (at 17th Street). I was served by Intelligentsia's newly-named East Coast Educator, Ramin Narimani! He seemed genuinely excited to meet an Intelligentsia person, & we talked shop for a good long time. I hope he swings through Los Angeles, as he's a helluva chap.

GIMME! COFFEE, 495 Lorimer Street (at Powers). Chock fulla customers who stood at the espresso bar & talked (about coffee, mostly). The barista was in the middle of giving coffee recommendations in Los Angeles when I walked up to the bar!

CAFE GRUMPY, 193 Meserole (at Diamond). HUGE space with two rooms — small tables out front & larger tables in a more brightly-lit room out back. They've recently started roasting their own beans, though I don't know if that's what I was drinking — I knew the barista, as it happens, & we spent most of the time talking about people, not beans. Notable for me, but not for you ... I'm sorry.

More beholding:
· New York is no longer the land of dishwater coffee I remember. That was a rough time, the late nineties/early naughts. (It was during this Rough Time that my brother gave me a French Press. Thank you, Brian!)
· I half-expected baristas in New York to be standoffish & wary of my pointed questions, but across the board, they were friendly & informed & happy to talk about their beans, machines, brew methods, &c. Yay.
· It seems there are more specialty coffee shops in Brooklyn than in Manhattan. This makes sense to me; Manhattan is a busy hub, with people rushing to and from all boroughs & even home. (Yes, some people with more money than sense live in Manhattan. I KNOW.) But people live in Brooklyn. It's where they spend their downtime, their weekends. They take time, because they have time, & they are willing to wait a couple minutes for coffee that tastes good. Brooklyn is also where a lot of creative arty types live, & arty types are, by definition, aesthetes, & one aspect of aestheticism is the sense of taste. POW.

That's it! See y'all at Station 2.

28 September 2009

very high opera

I flew to New Jersey for my good friends Catherine & Aaron's wedding this weekend. I flew in to New York early, stopped off at a couple recommended coffee places, stayed at a VERY stylie hotel in the very unlikely Upper East Side, took a train to New Jersey, watched a truly beautiful ceremony followed by a wonderful reception (when an architect & a graphic designer get married, no detail is spared attention), hit up several more coffee shops back in New York the next day (more on the coffee stops later), then flew back on a not-quite-red-eye last night.

The flight was supposed to leave at 8:25pm but was delayed, leaving just shy of 11.

The seat I was supposed to take was occupied by one half of a couple not seated together. So I offered to switch. Then I noticed, too late — my new seat had me next to a young mother with a squalling one-year-old baby girl in her arms.

Sequence of thoughts:
· Gonna be a long flight.
· I've slept through a bachelor party raging outside my bedroom door ... I can do this.
· Whoah — this kid has some lungs. Operatic, if it were a toneless, discordant, expression-of-basest-needs kind of opera.
· Why can't this mother calm her child? Oh, right ... because you can't explain to a one-year-old that the change in air pressure is what's causing the weird feeling in her inner ear, which is INSIDE OF HER HEAD, & that the floor churning like that is totally expected & normal & actually kind of funny when you look at all the people lurching down the aisles on the way to the bathroom. The little girl hasn't figured out language yet. It's also probably the first time this has happened to her.
· Why did the mother even BRING such a young child, then? Oh, RIGHT. Because not everyone has local relatives (as I did growing up) or the means to hire someone (as my parents didn't) to watch squalling one-year-olds for weekends. And because it takes a while to teach kids to understand language & to speak it — years, in fact. So if she doesn't have anyone to watch her kid, then she can't go. Confining a new mom to her home FOR YEARS is a surefire way to make said mom one batshit crazy-face emmer effer, which is, like, bad for society. Making mothers crazy makes children crazy, & everyone was a child once.
· Teaching people to be okay with crying babies makes us better people. Babies cry. Everybody, let's toughen up.

If anyone else on that flight was going through the same thought sequence, they didn't get to these last couple points. There were a lot of passive-aggressive stage whispers, disapproving tut-tuts, & throwing of daggers from eyes. (I was guilty of the eye-daggers at first, I admit.) OK, yeah, it was annoying, but who has ever been a squalling one-year-old? Every damned one of us. You were probably a freaking terror every once in a while. It's not a matter of not being able to control your kid (at age one ... hah!); it's not a matter of whether the mom should be allowed out (like I said ... for several years? Cruel & unusual). Kids. They freak out. It's what they do.

So I turned to the mom & asked her how she was doing. And meant it. It led to a bona fide conversation — What were you doing in New York? First time visiting? Where'd y'all go? — you know. Normal conversations you might have with a human being. (Which I almost never do on planes. The potential for your aisle-mate to turn out to be a life coach is too great.) Turns out we both are fans of the same cinema house, & she's hoping to get an advanced degree in film once her little moppet's a little less little.

I hope she does. I think having interests other than every little thing your baby does is healthy & good. And I think it's hard to manage, once you have that squalling one-year-old. It kills me to see people (often but not always women) viewed as this totally other animal once they have children. Mothers & fathers are still people. This one happened to be smart, & funny, & sweet, & very upset that her daughter was causing so much grief to the other passengers. But the dagger eyes & the whispering wasn't helping. Kids pick up on stuff. This one-year-old was sensing her mother's distress, which only amplified her own. Relating to the mother as a human being (instead of instantly categorizing her as "bad mother", or even "good mother" — we don't really have the right to make value judgments on so little information) ... it was clearly a relief, which — surprise, surprise — calmed Skyla down. Empathy. A little bit goes a long way.

Skyla, by the way, is a Hindi name. (Her mom was born in India.) It means "Child of the Heavens." Indeed. Teaching people all kinds of stuff, way up at 30,000 feet. Good work, kid.

01 August 2009

coffee, bikes, art

I often moodle around with the idea of integrating the things I care about into something more cohesive. I don't compartmentalize well — I tend to do the hell out of one thing, often to the exclusion of others. (Recently, I've been doing the hell out of coffee but trying to keep my fingers in the pool of design, writing, & of course bikes.)

I also wonder if integrating the things I care about into one superthing is just a lazy way of changing the definition of a situation into not-a-problem rather than solving the problem.

And then I wonder if that's bad.

My sister, who is amazing, moved to Cambodia (!) when she was 25 (!!!) & started a non-profit micro-loan organization primarily for disabled people, who are severely discriminated against in Cambodia. (I could write a book about that.) The grass-roots non-profit, internationally funded & locally staffed, had a café as its public-facing element. You could help out by eating a cookie, or you could sit with that cookie & learn more, see where your own skills fit in to their current projects, or you could donate a few riel. She integrated cooking (specifically baking), human rights, Cambodia, & her incredible ability to talk to anyone about anything, into something truly groundbreaking. She changed the way people thought about charity, not to mention helped countless people get back on their feet with their own good ideas & their own two hands. Or one hand, depending on their disability.

But she didn't study baking, she worked at a bakery in college. She didn't study international relations, she took a vacation & fell in love with the region. What she did study was philosophy ... which included a lot of reading & writing about ethics & law, which is important for human rights & advocacy work. And she might be the most empathetic person I've ever met. She didn't really have a plan, not when she first visited Cambodia. But she was prepared when an opportunity presented itself, & she was willing to take a risk. Or nine.

Katie O'Shea c. January 2003, Casablanca Bar (Sihanoukville, Cambodia) — the last time I integrated all my interests, which were: Cambodia, talking to people, books, alcohol, art, comics, & being annoyed by a guy named Hunter (who took this photograph).
Now, I don't see myself changing the world by starting a micro-loan organization in a third-world country anytime soon, but I can take some cues from her, from how she used her many talents & skills for something cohesive & ground-breaking. By doing what I love, all of the time, & well, & being prepared, & then entertaining crazy notions at least as long as it takes to see whether they're viable. Then moving forward with them, or throwing them away.

I may be writing fewer e-mails soon. I may write here more, to update people on what I am & am not doing all in one go. Or I may drop off the face of the earth for a short while as I figure all this out. Even that's not sorted. I've got some work to do. But I've got no plans. Not yet.

22 July 2009

pace & media

I've noticed that, now that my profession keeps me on my feet, & now that so many elements of what I do are extremely time-sensitive, to the second, I take much greater advantage of mobile communication. Much of this is because I'm not in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day anymore. (Unless I so choose, such as today, when I easily spent four hours on a computer before work and easily again four hours afterward — but there was a seven-hour gap in between!) And much of it's to do with the media itself changing, offering me faster, broader, richer* ways to communicate with people, near & far.

* Sort of.

But mobile communication being shorter & more cumbersome than other kinds I've been using for twenty years, I wind up being a lot more terse. I play with words less because I have less time & space to play, & the physical action of writing itself is not as fluid. I had hoped I would fill up this space here with all that extra play-time, as though I had some kind of writing quota. Six weeks in, & this is turning out not to be the case. But I'm experimenting (see previous post) with some things flickr lets me do, such as e-mail a photo from the road that'll post straight to here. While I figure most likely it will just make me more terse more often, it may also get me comfortable enough writing on the phone to open the floodgates a little bit there** as well as here (I'm on the PowerBook G4). That, or I'll never use it at all, & I'll merely commit to sitting myself in front of the G4 screen for greater periods of time***, preferably with the internet button switched to "off."

** Not while on bar. Don't be silly.

*** A benefit to devoting time & energy to writing vs. writing on the road is a better articulated, more considered piece of writing at the end. There's only so much nuance of meaning you can jam into 140 characters. I could also just chuck blogging altogether & write more short stories, which you're probably in if you're reading this. I'm kidding! I write fiction, jeez.

Good night,

testing, one two, one two three, one, one two three, testing


Check-check, one two. One two three.


::Written on the road::

13 July 2009

bike job


• Break chain, release rear derailleur, remove brakes, pedals, shifters, crankset, cogs (keep in tub @BRW).
• Strip bike of paint: "Circa 1850" Heavy Body paint & varnish remover (spray & gel).
• Clear-coat or otherwise seal frame with lube/grease to keep rust out.
• Re-install fork/headset/crankset/handlebars.
• Re-install brakes.
• Assemble wheelset, including tubes & tires. (Does it come with lockring/cog?) (No.)
• Remove extra chain links.
• Roll.


20090604, BRW:
Remove all parts (brakes, wheels, handlebars, crankset, sprockets, chainrings).
Strip paint on fork, begin stripping paint on frame.
Break chain, remove chain & rear derailleur

20090617, BRW
Keep stripping paint. (Halfway done.)
Buy lockring & cog.

20090625, BRW:
Keep stripping paint. (DONE!)

20090711, BRW:
Polish, finish up final paint strip.
Re-thread bottom bracket.
Clean & re-pack bottom bracket, headset.
Replace spindle.

Remove smaller chainring.
· 46/15t may be too gnarly a gear ratio. Kwan (BRW) suggests using smaller chainring & machining down larger chaining, turning it into a chainguard.
Install lockring & cog.
Install crankset.

200907__, BRW:
Patch busted tube.
Install brakes.
Swap out pedal straps, dark brown leather for black nylon.

2009____, Ongoing
Research saddles, bartape, toestraps (dark brown leather).

08 July 2009

nevermind about acceptance

I want what I want, & I'm going to work towards what I want until I get it. And what I want is the paint off. If I have to sand- or ball-blast the frame to make that happen, then that is what I will do.

That is all. Everything else shall remain as I wrote it. Um. With edits.


26 June 2009

puch it up!

I've been slowly working on a "new" bike, in the background, when I'm not at the shop. It's made by Puch, an Austrian manufacturing company that once made cars, bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles. (I also heard they made lawn mowers & chainsaws, but that has not been verified.) Now, they just make bikes. Estimates by those who purport to know put this bike as manufactured in the early '80s.

The bike was a gift from Tony Sem, back when the eponymous Nishiki was stolen off the front of a bus. Grateful as I am, and love it as I do, the bike is pretty hard to describe as anything but a beater. A cerulean-blue paint job, chipped, revealed a lighter, aqua-blue underneath. The seat stays had broken at some point & been welded back together. Mysteriously, every element of the frame (top tube, bottom tube, seat tube, rear stays, even the fork) had scotch tape on it, somewhere. As though scotch tape would do ... something.

What the.

Now, I like bikes. I like fixing them up to my specs, & I like the challenge of turning something modest into something interesting. So I was looking into ways to make this bike something other than a beater. Then I ran into Ephraim at LA Brakeless while I was shopping for parts. He & I chatted about wheelsets & cogs, what gear ratio I hoped to run, & the not-particularly-to-my-liking paint job. He mentioned stripping & powdercoating it. Stripping a bike of paint is either cheap (if you sand- or ball-blast it) or very cheap (if you use harsh chemicals & fervor). Something about taking off the paint myself appealed to me. I don't know. I can be stubborn & foolish. Ask anyone I've ever dated, ever, and they will tell you this is true.

Three rounds of scrubbing the thing with incredibly harsh chemicals later, and the frame is finally, mostly, clean of the blues. Interesting: It's a gun-metal-grey steel frame under all that. The lugged frame was brazed together using a brass-colored metal that fades & streaks nicely into the gun-metal. And then there's the issue of the paint. I will never get absolutely all that paint off. Currently, it's flecked with the cerulean blue, a detail I'm not really all that sad about. While the idea of not painting the bike a different color had come up once I discovered the lovely gun-metal-grey beneath, I've since decided to clear-coat it as is, flecks & all. [NB: Fuck the paint. I had an idea for this bike, & it didn't involve flecks of cerulean blue, I'll tell you what. I gave up too easily on that one.] Unexpectedly, it's going to be a pretty nice-looking bike, indeed. Pictures to come after my next trip to BikeRoWave, assuming I remember to take them.

Serendipity. Acceptance. Hard work & mirth. Something. I just get the feeling I'm going to like the hell outta this bike, especially after I kit it up with the components I want: Brooks honey saddle with matching bartape & toe straps, or Brooks dark brown saddle with matching toe straps & shellacked brown cloth bartape.

That's it, pals. See you on the road.


25 June 2009

whoah hey hello

Hi! Last time I saw you here ... well, a lot has happened.

We had the Preview Party, which was surreal. A line around the block for the opening of a coffee bar. Actually. Then, the building had some inspections to pass, which was ... time-consuming & hard for everyone, probably least of all for us trainees (& most of all for, say, Mass Architecture, the technical specialists Nick & Paul & Jim, the construction crews, & of course Tim & Kyle & Doug). Nicely & I got caught out by Doug Zell having "happy hour" beers after an early-morning training session (ending at 3pm) ... which was embarrassing. It's just a very early hour to be so happy.


And then the real excitement began.

Not like how this is exciting — totally different. This is bad-exciting. What I'm talking about is good-exciting.
Previous to this madness, we had trained for 9 weeks. We learned about a very many aspects of the industry: History, perception (taste & smell & touch, if mouthfeel could be described as touch), language, agriculture, agronomy, botany, chemistry, physics. Why we make latté art & what it signifies. Our (written) final exam was 16 pages long, & it was completely independent of our practical exam, which (ideally) lasts 18 minutes & (not ideally) lasts less than that.

But the funny thing about training is, it doesn't matter how long you train. There's nothing like the real thing, much as dress rehearsal has some bearing on performance but it's just ... not ... performance, or how working on a draft is very different from putting Rotring to mylar. Same steps. Different*. Added to the general rehearsal-is-not-performance analogy is the fact that we're doing things differently, even from other Intelligentsia coffee bars. The process. The flow of traffic, for lack of a better word. The whole experience from the customer's point of view. Introducing the all of it, sometimes to people merely curious about an open gate, sometimes to people outright suspicious, all the while not breaking the flow in making coffee (& with a quickness) is hard to rehearse. It's an interesting challenge, & one we get better at every day.

It's also one we hope we won't have to improve upon too much; as we gain the trust of the true Venice natives, as we demonstrate this unusual new flow does indeed make a lot of sense, as we talk & brew & pour & talk & brew & talk some more & brew & pour, people will get it, in time. I know it. And much as I love talking to people (& lemme tell you, I really love talking to people), this future time I see in my head is an exciting time to think about.


* Our man Tyler referred to training as the Prologue & the actual opening of the shop as Chapter One. It's apt. More on Chapter 1 later, though. You look tired.

31 May 2009

one week, three blisters

Friday, at the Intelligentsia Venice "Preview Party," my hand slips off a gaewan lid, & I pour 202ºF water onto my hand. An enormous blister forms on my left index finger immediately. (Iron Goddess of Mercy, not so much.)

Cut to the following Thursday when the wheelset arrives for the bike I'm building, & I chuck some innertubes and tires on those rims with a quickness. On my thumbs, soft & pink from lack of wrenching, I got two more blisters.

Bikes & tea, folks. Dangerous stuff.

1: Gaewan mishap.
2, 3: Tire install boo-boos.

28 May 2009

two rules

The Intelligentsia Venice party was Friday. There were some times leading up to it when we looked around at each other & thought "Wow ... There's no fucking way we're going to pull this off."

Then, we pulled it off.

The lesson: Trust Leonard E. Bernstein.

No, just kidding. The real lesson is something I learned in Wieden+Kennedy 12, in which there were exactly two rules:

1. Keep your work tight. I mean, like, really really tight. Keep your eye on the prize, & care a lot about what you do, & have lofty goals, & take great pains to achieve them. Maybe be an iconoclast. Something to think about.

2. But don't be a jerk about it.

· Everybody's human, fighting great battles, trying their best but with their own understanding of what "best" is, which might not be yours.
· You're human, too, and you might fuck up, so you might consider getting over yourself. Everyone else already has.
· Collaborating is cool. Sometimes. We collaborated while studying & practicing drink construction, while hammering out the details of workflow, while figuring out where the heck to put all our stock. WHERE.
· After you collaborate & think hard, together, then go back in there & work harder & suck it up & don't start trouble. Now is the time to be open to some hierarchy & authority in the service of accomplishing common goals.

Anyway, I write now not really to tell people what to do, even though I kind of just did. (I find that stuff helpful, but it's certainly not the only way to go about things.) Mostly, I write to take an opportunity to swear more than is strictly necessary (hey Mom). And I write to compile some information about the shop, to lay out what we've all been aiming towards during this insanely insane process. And why I'm such a fan of where I work and its people. And to relay my excitement about continuing to work hard and be nice to people in the shop, both co-workers and customers alike. So:

Intelligentsia's own write-up about the endeavor, from the Intelligentsia website.
The Intelli.LA blog about all things Intelligentsia in Los Angeles.
A write-up of how the shop will function, from the Los Angeles Times.
An interesting story about one of the espresso machines, from the New York Times.

A little about Direct Trade. (Clicking on "CRITERIA," "TRAVEL," & "FAQ" just below the image yields more information.)
How we get our coffee. (There's "BUYING," "CUPPING," & "ROASTING & PRODUCTION" sections, too.)
And this is pretty cool:

Here are some images of what our training was like, from wonderfully talented photographer & art nerd Phillippé Kim. WK12 people, if you're out there: Phill is our Young Guy with the Fresh Perspective. Unrelated: He speaks English, Korean, & Portuguese. Fluently.

An article on the opening party itself, during which I brewed a lot of tea, from the LA Weekly.

Some people (yo, Dad) have expressed concern about why I would cancel a bike trip to Austin, put the brakes on half-formed plans to move to San Francisco, & withdraw 24 (!) applications to advertising agencies in favor of a whole new industry. I hope this helps explain some of that. Kind of like how I left my boyfriend (sorry Steve), quit architecture, & moved to Portland for WK12: I had been given the opportunity to change the way things are done, for the better. To some things, you just don't say no.


04 May 2009

harvey hetland: one year later

About a year ago, Harvey Hetland, a well-loved mathematics professor, died in a hit-and-run accident in the middle of the goddamned day, up on La Tuna Canyon Road. He was one of the LA Wheelmen, a kickass group of cyclists who could teach me a thing or nineteen about hill climbing.

Some riders put together a ghost bike — a memorial for a rider downed. There are varying degrees of political stridency behind putting up a ghost bike; in our case, we only felt compelled to mark the passing of someone wonderful. My involvement in the project was the design and painting of the sign (I made a stencil & then hand-painted) & getting the flowers together (they're an assortment of plastic flowers from a 99¢ shop, spray-painted white, grey, & purple, then tied to the front wheel).

[NB: Out of deference for the other participants' privacy, I have not included their names here. But their involvement was the procurement of the bike itself, the painting of the frame, wheels, and components pure white, delivering it to the location, and devising an effective way to secure it at the location.]

Here's a photograph of the bike the day it was installed:

My friend Greg Thomas went up & took these beautiful photographs. He sent them around today, on the one-year anniversary of Harvey Hetland's memorial ride with the LA Wheelmen (Harvey's riding group).

It has aged well. And Harvey, you are missed.



I'm not a huge fan of citing cute, pithy sayings say with an eye towards ratcheting up mojo, but this has been running through my head all week:

"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time." — Leonard Effing Bernstein.

Sounds like a greeting card. Dear Lenny: Dude.

For the next couple weeks, us Intelligentsia trainees will be finishing up our certification exams, perfecting our craft on the Synessos, learning how to use the insanely elegant POS system (which includes a leather case that is TOTALLY OLD-TIMEY/NEW-TIMEY and I love it), getting new skinny jeans & black Vans, and anything & everything else needed to get ourselves and the space ready for the opening.

We have a plan. The plan is ticking along nicely. I'm pretty sure everyone would agree that another couple days wouldn't go to waste.

However, and I don't know if you caught this earlier, but Leonard Effing Bernstein said we'd achieve greatness. And I believe him. He was pretty smart.


19 April 2009

speaking of the world barista championship ...

The World Barista Championship was this weekend, in Atlanta, GA. The Championship is a crazy, wonderful event — coffee lovers, baristas, importers, roasters, espresso machine manufacturers, and anyone else interested in the business come together to see the best from each country compete.

Intelligentsia had 2009 National Champion Mike Phillips competing, who has a really compelling story. The four-sentence version of Doug Zell's post is this: Mike wasn't supposed to compete in the Nationals, as he hadn't placed in the top three in the Regionals. But he's a tireless and dedicated man, and he wanted to compete anyway. Which he did, which is kind of against policy, but people don't seem to mind that kind of thing so much after you go ahead and win the whole damned competition. Everyone was surprised, and also not surprised at all, and most of all really very proud.

The first round was on Saturday. Finalists were selected based upon the entrants' performance pulling shots of espresso, making cappuccino, and then presenting a signature drink of their own devising. The drink itself is only one part of the presentation. The competitor must also describe his or her development of the drink as well as what the panel of judges can expect to taste. You really have to know your stuff, to justify it and talk about it and back everything up with history and agronomy and taste, and then you really REALLY have to be able to reliably reproduce it in strange conditions (such as, say, a conference hall several thousand miles from where the drink was developed in the first place). It's not easy, and anyone who competes at all must be a master of their craft. I'm talking, like, 33º Scottish Rite type mastery. There is not a heck of a lot of luck involved.

And the results are in, as of this afternoon:

1st Place: Gwilym Davies, United Kingdom
2nd Place: Sammy Piccolo, Canada
3rd Place: Michael Phillips, USA!
4th Place: Colin Harmon, Ireland
5th Place: Lee Jong Hoon, Korea
6th Place: Attila Molnar, Hungary

Congratulations to everyone who competed, most of all to Gwilym Davies for my own personal "Most Sharply Dressed" award, though Lee Jong Hoon gave him a run for his money. What a tie!

i promise

Intelligentsia Boot Camp is going well. We're ticking right along, taking our certification exams, dialing in, timing, brewing, tasting, steaming, swirling, pouring, and Making It Happen. But it's been a very hard couple weeks.

A lot of personal, bike, and financial bullshit has cluttered my focus. This is a mistake. There's too much on the line. Kyle Glanville, our fearless leader, has given all of us a huge chance at something really very amazing: To work for one of the best companies out there. To learn how to give this carefully-selected, hard-won, perfectly-roasted coffee the attention and care it deserves. And to take it to the final, integral level that turns an already great thing into a really, really-really effing wonderful thing. It's our job to ensure that all the hard work to get that bean to such great heights before it even reaches us is reciprocated with an equal level of care and mastery. We gotta stick the landing.

Nicely (yes, his name is Nicely) once said, "I made a promise to you all before I ever met you." I'm following up his promise with one of my own. I'm putting all that other stuff on hold for a bit — which is difficult; y'all KNOW I love bikes, not to mention dudes & money — and focusing on coaxing all the wonderful, complex, elusive flavors from the bean. I promise this to the farmers, to the roasters, to Kyle, to Tim, to Nicely, to Chris & M'lissa, to the rest of the trainees. To Doug Zell, Emily Mange, Geoff Watts. To Mike Phillips, everyone who competed in the US and World Barista Championships, and a bunch of other people I've never met. And to all of you, when we open up shop. Be sure to say hi.


09 April 2009


1.) Don't ever say you're excited to do your own design and writing work, ever, because fate will probably give you an opportunity, and it might not be so nice.
2.) Don't allow me to talk about any bikes I may own on this site, ever again. Because every time I do, I go ahead and lose it. Well. In this case it was a theft.
3.) Lock up your bike on the bus rack. Even just PRETEND to lock it, if you can't actually lock to the rack. Lock the wheel to the frame or something in order to keep crimes of opportunity to a minimum.
4.) Don't ride the bus with your bike, if you're me.
5.) But really, it's hard to know which is the real reason for the theft — writing about it or riding the bus. Riding, writing. Perhaps we shall never know.
6.) Read this flier. Post it elsewhere. Help me find my baby. I miss him so much.

Thanks, folks.


21 March 2009

making stuff, including but not limited to coffee

A few days ago, I alluded to setting up the conditions properly for me to make stuff. One thing I'll be making is coffee. I mean, more than I already do (a half press a day, no more). I'll be making it at Intelligentsia, at their soon-to-be-opened Venice shop.

My introduction to Intelligentsia was with my friend Beth, from Chicago but visiting from Brooklyn, who insisted we drive 15 miles out of our way for it. I didn't understand. She picked up four pounds of beans alongside her brewed coffee (for friends). When I finished my cup, I picked up two pounds (f0r me, me mememmeme ME). Sean Bonner put it well when he said "[...] Intelligentsia will change your entire perspective on what coffee should taste like." Yep. Here's why:

" ... We adhere to the philosophy that the compassionate treatment of people and the environment inevitably yields higher quality. So whether you are enjoying a cup in our store, in your favorite café or restaurant, or in the peaceful confines of your home, we are certain that you will taste the difference that care makes." — Doug Zell, Emily Mange, and Geoff Watts (from the Intelligentsia website)

That's, like, one-thousandth of the Intelligentsia story. But it's the pith. So when I heard they were hiring, back in November, I applied with a quickness. I was too late for that round, but they had some delays. When things got moving again, they still had my resume. YOW.

Us future baristas will go through a rigorous, weeks-long training period at their roasting facilities in Glassell Park. They will teach us all there is to konw about coffee such that we care the hell out of it (more than we already do) so that we care the hell out of preparing it. I'm excited about how much I'll learn and the great people with whom I'll work. And they're doing some REALLY interesting things with interior & industrial design for the joint. Did they start this venture just for me? I think so.

"What the Yirgacheffe, Kate. What about all those years in design & advertising? Are you throwing that all away?" Of course not. I'm used to working 50-, 60-, 70-hour weeks, first at Cook+Fox, then in WK12, then at 72andSunny. I never worked these hours on anyone's urging but my own. I just ... really ... like working a lot, and I tend to choose jobs that reward that. (I come by it honestly; my parents both work hard because they love what they do.) And, I'm one of those freakpots that sleeps 4 or 5 hours a night. I'm going to have a lot more time than I'm used to, and a lot of creative energy, just kinda lying around. I have about six projects lined up.

It sounds like it's going to be pretty great. I will be working very hard (and I know this — I'm not taking the job lightly) for a company I respect and admire. And I'll be making my own stuff, which will also be hard, especially as some of the ideas I have require learning new skills. But I thrive on that momentum. And I can't wait to start.

14 March 2009

new old bike

Also, take a look at this shit-hot Nishiki mixte fixed-gear bike I just got.

Just kidding. I've had it for five years. And I "fixed" it back in January. Swapped in faster wheels (700x23, fixed hub), put on a racing saddle (Brooks, Team Professional), stripped of all the extraneous things I don't need or want (derailleurs, fenders). One more thing to strip, which is the double-chainring crankset. I'm keeping both brakes, as it's a nice Dia Compe set of which I'm quite fond, and I don't want to break up the pair. This is not a trick bike, anyway; it's an old-timey/new-timey crosstown/distance/racing/funbike.

And I love it. My first bike is my perfect bike. And it feels new to me.

[I'll swap the photo for a chainside-out one as soon as ... well, as soon as I take a good one.]

two months

And nothing written here. I apologize to all my regular readers — both of you. I've been busy.

I revised the chart. I added usage.

Then I sent it around (with cover letters and resumes) to all the agencies I didn't apply to before.

Which was, like, every agency in town, turns out. (I applied for in-house positions and to individual projects before, with some overtures to agencies but not many.)

The next logical step for me after 72 was more agency work, but I avoided it. I applied to any job that wasn't advertising that used my skills. (It was interesting, the gigs I got, and I have some good stories.) And, I moodled around and made some things.

Probably the best compliment I ever got was when WK12 director Jelly Helm called me an impressive weirdo. I've got some smarts and talents, skills and ideas. If I have it, I spend a lot of time planning, making charts, writing stories, fleshing them out, drawing stuff, editing everything, then putting it all down. Then picking it back up. Some advice I got from this same creative director was follow what you do when no one's looking. Which is write/draw/think/plan/edit/put it down/pick it up.

So I'm doing that.

I have a plan for how to realistically do this. I won't talk about the specifics until things are nailed down, but let it be known that you will think I'm fucking nuts. I know this. And I might be. But I might also be happy. And that's important.

Meanwhile, enjoy the chart.


06 January 2009

... and picking stuff up

I mean, I'm not jettisoning EVERYTHING.

I've learned some important stuff that maybe I shouldn't jettison. Do you know how important it is to shake the printer toner? I do. What about using DEET? If you're in a third-world country, use DEET. (Or if you work in advertising.)

This, my response to a request for a brief cover letter. My resume followed, though I'm thinking of bulking this page up, making it more informative, and skipping the formal resume altogether.

05 January 2009

jettisoning everything

I'm tossing things I don't use (ever), don't want to use (philosophically), don't enjoy using (viscerally), or otherwise hate.

Well. Hate's a strong word.

• A bunch of clothes. Still not done with this. I have yet to tackle shoes, for example. Note: I'm not tossing any woolens. Also note: I'm a 4 or 6 dress, and I'm a 7 shoe. Come on by.

• Things in drawers. If it's been sitting in a drawer for two months or more, out it goes. There are some things-in-drawers I haven't used in the two years I've lived here. Do you like bobby pins? Wallpaper samples? Magazines about books? Call me up. Exceptions: Awards, gifts, books, my passport.

• Things that do only one thing. I favor things that can perform several functions. For example: I would keep a mortar & pestle but lose a spice grinder. Note: I'm not giving away a spice grinder. That was just an example. I would keep a bike (transportation, exercise, awesome) but lose a car. Note: Again, not getting rid of a car. I already did that.

• Things that make me sad because the people making them do horrible things -- to the environment, to its employees, to my sense of aesthetic justice. There's plenty sad out there already, poppets; I don't need more sad. So: less TV and more books. Less iTunes and more LPs. Less corporations and more individuals. There's some crossover (between corporations and LPs, for example). I navigate those on a case-by-case basis.

That simpler is better. That things can be simpler. And that one way to simplify is to cull. So.

I wrote this in November, saved a draft, then forgot all about it for two months. Its appearance now has nothing to do with the arrival of 2009. I gave up making New Year's Resolutions (& guilt) for Lent in 1999, three years after I'd given up Catholicism (though I liked the idea of Lent). I give things up and Resolve throughout the year these days. However, I've stopped using the word "Lent" or "Resolution." You know. On principle.

Hokay, that's it!