Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coffee Coffee Coffee!

This post is about....

Coffee Coffee Coffee Coffee Coffee Coffee Coffee Coffee!
Oh! Before we go anywhere, video is near the bottom!

So during my recent sabbatical, I discovered an undeniable love for coffee. One of my favorite types of coffee for some time was the Vietnamese drip coffee - some have told to me is a French style drip espresso of old? *shrugs* either way... it's awesome.

What I've discovered is that if utilized correctly, this low tech, high concept stainless steel tool, costing a humble $5.00USD (or less) delivers some of the best tasting coffee I've ever had.

Now, while I'm not coffee expert, I can only draw from my engineering background that by the grinds (in a sense) stewing while dripping, you get an effect similar to French press. During the brewing process, an obvious layer of oils are drawn to the top of the extraction as the coffee begins to drip towards the receptacle (most commonly a whiskey glass).

The result? Well, in my humble opinion, I find that much of the "bitterness" that you don't want from coffee is most elegantly removed. The "bad type" of acidity that tends to some how accentuate the bitterness-related and certainly unwanted flavors are also gone. What is, however, preserved is a wonderfully deep and full bodied coffee; a true representation of both bouquet and spirit, from beans to drink. Additionally, many of the notes, flutters, accents, and details of the coffee are very much present. I've tried this with Ethiopian, Kenyan, and French roasts - so far, I actually like the Ethiopian the best despite this type of coffee style is being traditionally made with French roast. But, meh... I've never been that much on tradition, per se.

If you want to get technical, you can transfer the extraction to a serving mug to eliminate any grinds that may have snuck by, give it some hot water to boost the temperature in a bit of an Americano handle... then it's up to you if you should wish for cream and sugar.

Enough talk... it's VIDEO TIME!

Taste, as many things of the aesthetic world are, is truly judged in the experience of the beholder. If you love coffee, I highly encourage you to give this a try. Master the technique, and, the experience promises to be truly amazing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Son's Emergency "Room" Experience

First, I want to thank all of you who generously gave out your love, prayers, support, thoughts, and positive vibes last week when my 8-month-old baby boy, Nathan -- was rushed off to the "emergency room" (officially known as the Emergency Department) at Children's Hospital last Monday.

It was terrifying.

With much gratitude, Nathan is now well. His lungs are clear, he barely has a cough, he's crawling all over the place, and proceeding to pull to stand (and tumbling, once he tries to copy his 13-month-old cousin who has been walking since 10 months).

I posted a little while back that being vulnerable may hold the key to finding strength. As an exercise to this principle, I'd like share this nightmare experience which culminated to us going to the "ER." Also, as an encouragement, if not empowerment, to new parents alike: I hope you find this post as affirmation that no one knows your baby better than you. If your parental instincts raise a red flag, trust it -- you're probably right.

My Son's Emergency "Room" Experience
Two Thursdays ago, my beautiful and most attentive wife - and - mother to our son, noticed that Nathan was developing the slightest hint of a wet cough. For the moment, it didn't seem to be of any concern. However, as the cough developed into cold symptoms, Nathan started breathing faster and being less and less active. Eventually, things got bad enough that I called into the nursing/physician hotline just to get an objective viewpoint.

Sure enough, the worry I developed as a dad was confirmed by best practice guidelines. Nathan's respiratory rate was holding at the high 50's and low 60's. Every once in a while, it'd spike up to the high 60's. He was working hard & became quite apathetic -- really, he didn't want to do anything. This was unlike him since he just started to crawl and pull to stand. His normal self is quite explorative; he typically loves to play with anything he can get his hands on or himself into.

Sunday night, we finally took him into urgent care where a breathing treatment and steroids were administered. It seemed to help. His oxygen saturation improved, and, for the night, it would prove his breathing was better. Monday, we followed up with our pediatrician and everything checked out fine. Unfortunately, one of the signs we were told meant time to go to the hospital presented itself again; respiratory rate greater than 60 breaths per minute.

Around 8PM on Monday, Nathan started holding his breath in a way we never saw before. It was terrifying. Honestly, I didn't know where to begin. Listening to his lungs again got me all in a panic as all those nasty sounds came back, previously banished at urgent care the night before. Ultimately, he calmed down but still was working so very hard to breathe. As parents, we couldn't take it anymore and knew we wouldn't sleep a wink if someone didn't check him out. To the emergency department we went.

Nathan was diagnosed with RSV / Bronchiolitis. His treatment was some pretty crazy suctioning by the respiratory therapist. The respiratory therapist was able to get out around, if not a bit more than, 100 cc's of gunk plus saline, both from the sinuses and from the bronchi. Really, the poor baby just couldn't get the mucus out himself -- it clogged everything so badly that it effected his breathing in quite a scary way.

It's been a week now, and, thanks be... our baby is back to his normal self. Lung sounds are normal, breath rate is healthy, appetite is back, and he's playful, explorative, and wishing he could walk already. Taking him to the "ER" was the best decision we could have made; it gave us the peace we needed and the treatment Nathan needed. A big shout-out goes to the very skilled & compassionate clinicians at Children's who took care of both Nathan and his worried parents. And, another very warm and grateful thanks to all of you... family and friends, supporting us when we needed it most.

Life is quite the journey. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Happy Nathan.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Avoiding The 50/50 FailZone

Relationships. When did things get so complicated?

I don't know about you, but I still remember how I got "married" a couple times in my precious years before 1st grade (try this now-a-days, and you'll be in some of the biggest trouble any 5 year old could ever ask for in a public school).  Anyone else remember these good 'ol days? *Raises hand*

When you look back on human history, we find that relationships were rarely a chosen path for so very many cultures throughout humanity. We find that relationships were arranged, preset, and ordained. There was no choosing in the person(s) we were to end up with. However, there was the choice to make the best of it once we were set in said relationship(s).

In a relative recent turn of human events, romantic relationships between humans wrote a new chapter - DATING.

While I won't profess to be the all-time-expert in relationships, dating, marriage, etc. - I will go far enough to say that I feel a combination of a psychology degree, life experiences, and a wildly happy marriage of nearly 4 years and growing stronger each day, is a solid enough resumé to at least make some "IMHO" commentary on the matter. Agreed? Okay. Here it goes!

The 50/50 FailZone
The dating scene has created a most intriguing element for romantic relationships; it has provided a testing ground. Where prior in human history, you were all in and someone else decided the circumstances for you. Currently, the dating testing ground is extremely fluid. We date each other to test for things like fairness, equality, commitment, "the spark", trust, etc.

As we date longer and longer, we find things become unbalanced. The emotional, intellectual, physical, and sometimes spiritual expressions of the dating scene are not always given equal attention. Most of the time, things are quite lopsided where by the physical and emotional are overexpressed and the intellectual and spiritual are quite often neglected. This unbalanced effort in these four major elements of romantic connections are most intriguingly expressed in the "commitment" and "equality" testing grounds. Everything has to be fair, right? And so, much of the human culture has developed the attitude in seeing fairness in relationships as being 50/50 in most major respects.
"THAT, is why you fail." - Master Yoda.

The problem with being 50/50 is that we, as humans, are imperfect. There is always going to be a mistake. There is always a sense of negativity, resentment, guilt, revenge, apathy, etc. And, as we have all experienced, every relationship has a "rough patch" (hate this term, btw)... a conflict... a problem that surfaces. It is during these times, 50/50 becomes more like 40/40 or even less. Well then the relationship is really only running at 80%. What is worse, as negativity penetrates a relationship, old feelings come up each time, don't they? Things quickly turn into a tit-for-tat mentality. You thought 80% was bad... remember that one breakup because things were more like 40/0?

I feel that where our mentality truly fails us is our perception of fairness within the context of romantic relationships. We all have off-days. We all have moments of weakness. This is where you want your partner to have your back. The only way this happens is if you and your beloved are "all in." I think the best investment model for a successful relationship is the 100/100 deal.

With being 100/100, it is no longer about fairness; it is about the success of the relationship. Example: In my marriage, when I'm having a bad day, I know my wife has my back because she'll step up no matter how much I'm dropping the ball. I may forget something, I may do another thing incorrectly, and I might even hurt her feelings through some unintended mean words I say. However, two things always happen after those moments of weakness. My wife will still have my back, and, I'll have hers.

But, wait! That wasn't fair!!!! Didn't I make up for things? Well, of course I did - well - tried. When we make mistakes, we can't exactly take things back. It already happened at a point and space in time. Again, aiming for 100/100 isn't about fairness. It is about the success of the relationship. My wife also knows that should she have bad days, I have her taken care of and will be at my best 100% of the time. Say we both have bad days, we're at 70%/70%... our relationship is still charged up at 140% of the day... MUCH better than the 50/50 situation.

I suppose the best way to describe the 50/50 FailZone in relationships goes beyond fairness, justice, equality, or even commitment. This zone of failure exists because the in the 50/50 model, you have two individuals trying to exist within acceptable vicinity. In the 100/100 model, you have a team who rejects the individualism that can cause separation. You have a singular team who will stop it nothing to succeed; to find themselves in a place of happiness, fulfillment, and pleasurable joy.

That is the power where you have a relationship that is "all in." That is the power when all players involved are at 100% effort no matter what the other player is doing.