Daily Writing Tip 26 of 100, The Importance Of Percolation

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – The Importance Of Percolation

Source – Beyond the Words by Bonni Goldberg

However you do it, the point of percolation is to let the little cells of the idea gather, divide, and multiply in order to sustain life and energy outside of your thoughts, to coalesce into something that isn’t crushed by written words or blown away by your busy mind.

I am old enough to remember clearly, from the time I was a child to about the time I was in college, that everybody drank coffee (unless it was instant) that was made in percolators. In my mind, mornings are punctuated by the strange hiss and gurgle of hot boiling liquid coursing through the inner mysteries of the percolator to throw itself against that clear bubble on top. The contained brown fountain of hot caffeinated liquid, slowly becoming darker as it circulated again and again. It was a combination of mystery and totem – familiar and unknowable.

Of course, today, in the modern world, we know that a percolator is the worst way in the world to make coffee. You are basically boiling and reboiling the distillate – guaranteeing it will be bitter to the point of being undrinkable without generous dollops of sugar and cream. Of course, in those days, coffee was represented by factory roasted and preground Robusta beans from someplace called Maxwell House – so it didn’t even matter how it was prepared, really.

Yeah, now we know better and we argue over the freetrade country of origin, the coarseness of the grind – the advantages of drip, French Press, cold process, or whatever newest gadget has hit the shelves.

I wonder if anyone still uses a percolator?

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

What I learned this week, January 9, 2015


Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

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My Xootr folding bicycle, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

My Xootr folding bicycle, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

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Admit it… You’re Rich

Why is the 1 percent suffering from this peculiar mass delusion? Well, actually, it’s not that hard to understand. Because if you’re reading this article, chances are that you are in the top 1 percent of global income. And chances are also that you really don’t feel like a tycoon.

The cutoff for the global 1 percent starts quite a bit lower than the parochial American version preferred by pundits. I’m on it. So is David Sirota. And if your personal income is higher than $32,500, so are you. The global elite to which you and I belong enjoys fantastic wealth compared to the rest of the world: We have more food, clothes, comfortable housing, electronic gadgets, health care, travel and leisure than almost every other living person, not to mention virtually every human being who has ever lived. We are also mostly privileged to live in societies that offer quite a lot in the way of public amenities, from well-policed streets and clean water, to museums and libraries, to public officials who do their jobs without requiring a hefty bribe. And I haven’t even mentioned the social safety nets our governments provide.

So why don’t we feel like Scrooge McDuck, rolling around in all of our glorious riches? Why do we feel kinda, y’know, middle class?

Because we don’t compare our personal experiences to a Tanzanian subsistence farmer who labors in the hot sun for 12 hours before repairing to his one-room abode for a meal of cornmeal porridge and cabbage. We compare ourselves to other Americans, many of whom, darn them, seem to have much more money than we do.


Es café macerado en ron, posee todas las propiedades organolépticas del ron, pero tiene grado de alcohol

Es café macerado en ron, posee todas las propiedades organolépticas del ron, pero tiene grado de alcohol

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Now this is a blast from the dim, dizzy, foggy past.


B-Cycle Bike Share stand, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

B-Cycle Bike Share stand, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

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Bullsnake

I wanted to get in a (relative… for me) long bike ride today. I took my commuter bike and loaded it up with my Kindle, my camera, notebooks and pens, plus some extra water. My idea was to ride a bit, rest and read and then ride some more. I put together a route that wound through Garland, back across town to the Pearl Cup coffeehouse, then back home.

Nick is home and he rode with me east into Garland, then as we cut our way back he turned off and took the Owens Trail home. I was feeling a little off and decided I was getting overheated. It’s the first day over 90 – which soon won’t be very hot, but I haven’t acclimated to it yet – plus it’s very humid. So I hung out in a shade structure next to the athletic fields – drank some water and read a short story. Within a few minutes I felt a lot better.

I enjoyed talking sports with some guys that showed up with a truck full of coolers and grills that were setting up for an all-African soccer tournament later in the day. I took off, dropped down into the Spring Creek Natural Area and then under the highway to the Canyon Creek neighborhood.

The Pearl Cup has finally put a sign up and built a bike rack in front. Their mocha coffee had some nice latte art and plenty of caffeine and sugar. It was cool inside and I settled in with my Kindle to rest a bit.

A couple nights ago I finished a novel that I had found recommended in an article about the best books of this centuryThe True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey. It was a very well written, interesting book… and I’m glad I read it, but it didn’t speak to me in any personal way. Now that it is finished, I’m working on a huge collection of Joyce Carol Oates stories I carry on my Kindle – eleven new ones and more than two dozen classic stories from a forty year period. It’s called High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories 1966-2006.

Her writing resonates with me. As I read her harrowing, dark short fiction, my mind fills with ideas that I will have to write out. I fill pages in my Moleskine with short story ideas. Her writing shares with me the desire to explore the too-thin membrane between our illusion-filled world and the horrific void beyond.

So I drank my coffee drink and a dozen glasses of iced water, read some stories, and wrote some pages. Then I took off, riding back to the thick creekbottom woods of the Spring Creek Natural Area, did a lap of the loop trail, and plopped down on a favorite bench to crank through another story.

It happened to be a well-known story that I was familiar with – had read a couple times before. It was “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” (read it here for yourself). I hesitate to call it one of my favorite short stories… though I have to call it that – because there is no other word that fits. It is simply too disturbing to embrace fully. But it is a work of genius.

Though nothing explicitly bad happens in the tale – there is no doubt that the world has ended for poor Connie. So much in the story is ambiguous and subtly horrific. I was reading slowly, carefully, and paying complete attention to the words splashed across the Eink display. In the corner of my eye I saw a jogger going by… then he stopped and I heard a loud “Oh!”

I looked up.
“Don’t you see it?”
“What?”
“There, right there.”
I looked carefully where he was pointing, on the concrete trail right in front of where he was standing. There it was, a snake. A big snake.

I stood up and we looked at it carefully (from a safe distance).

“I think it’s a bullsnake,” I said.

“Here, I’ll Wikipedia it,” the jogger said, pulling out his iPhone. “It looks like the right pattern.”

I have seen bullsnakes before. In seventh grade we had one in biology class. I have no real fear of snakes that I have seen (as opposed to snakes I haven’t seen, which scare me) so I would rush my work and play with the snake. One day I wasn’t paying close enough attention and the thing managed to slip through my collar at the back of my neck, slithering under my shirt and winding around my chest. A friend of mind jumped behind me and managed to grab the tip of its tail – then pull the thing out.

Another day, I moved my hand into its aquarium cage too fast and the bull snake reared back and struck at me. It was harmless, but it scared me – I was a lot more careful after that.

Today, the jogger and I watched the snake crawl through the clearing and across the trail. If I moved too close it would rear like it was going to strike and I’d jump back. It was slender but at least six feet long – reaching pretty much across the concrete trail. The jogger finally decided to move on.

I sat down and started reading again, keeping one eye on the snake as it slowly moved toward the thick woods. A family came across the bridge and saw the snake. The father, riding an expensive, fully suspended mountain bike stopped, and then went after his small son – who was on a little bike with training wheels and went straight for the snake. He had no fear.

The mother followed along behind, walking a small dog. She veered way off the path, walking the dog through the thick knee-high scrub and weeds to stay far away from the snake. So she was afraid of the snake she saw, and then exposed herself to the snakes (that are undoubtedly there) that she couldn’t see.

Finally the snake reached the woods and disappeared in an instant. I finished the story – somehow the presence of the snake added to the darkness and terrible foreboding of the story. The snakes are there, whether you know it or not – sometimes they come out… and remind you of what is waiting, hidden, behind the membrane of illusion.

I think this is a bullsnake.

I think this is a bullsnake.

Bullsnake

Bullsnake

Bike to Coffee

I am working on trying to minimize my reliance on the automobile here in the most car-centric of cities and have wanted an independent (aka not Starbucks) Coffee shop that is a good bike ride from my house for a long time. My wish finally came true. There is an excellent place down on Henderson, The Pearl Cup, that I have frequented and enjoyed… but it is a long and difficult drive from my house (and no train station nearby).

Almost a year ago they announced they were building a new location in Richardson. I began plotting a bicycle route to the place. It’s on the other side of a giant highway from where I live, in a more upscale neighborhood, but I was able to find a route with a good highway crossing (underneath) and that had most of the way on trails or dedicated bike lanes, with the only remaining roads low traffic.

It’s a hair under seven miles – about the perfect distance. Not too far, but fourteen miles round trip is a good workout.

This weekend was a beautiful warm day, so I was able to make to ride out. It’s a really nice route across Richardson, with some varied scenery along the way.

Bike trail along the creek near my house.

Bike trail along the creek near my house.

The first bit is down the Huffhines branch of Duck Creek on the last few yards of the Glenville trail. One of the reasons we bought our house was that they had planned and funded the trail in the creek behind us. We never thought it would take six years to get the thing finally built… but now it is.

Duck Creek Linear Park

Duck Creek Linear Park

Then the route crosses the neighborhood on the Duck Creek Linear Park.

Owens Bike Trail under the power lines.

Owens Bike Trail under the power lines.

And then north under the powerlines on the Owens Trail. A lot of bike routes in the Metroplex are through powerline right of way. It’s not very scenic, but gets the job done.

Spring Creek Natural Area.

Spring Creek Natural Area.

The nicest park of the ride is through the thick creekbottom woods of the Spring Creek Nature Area.

Under the Highway

Under the Highway

Then under Highway 75 along a creek bridge. The city is working on bicycle/pedestrian crossings of the highway, with success in the northern part of the city.

Along Highway 75

Along Highway 75

Up the highway on the east side, then down busy Renner road. A lot of fast cyclists use the road, but I’m slow and lazy and poke along the trail.

Bike Lanes on Custer Road

Bike Lanes on Custer Road

The last little bit is down a dedicated bike lane on Custer. These dedicated lanes have been popular and are cropping up all over the city. The only problem is that there is often parking in these lanes which forces the bikes through the “door zone” – so riders have to go slow and careful, looking into each parked car as you go by.

The Pearl Cup's Outdoor Patio and Shady's Burger Joint.

The Pearl Cup’s Outdoor Patio and Shady’s Burger Joint.

And finally, the coffee shop. A great place for some Java and maybe a book or some writing. Next door they opened up a burger place, Shady’s. Candy met me there for lunch. They had a nice selection of craft beers – Dogfish Head, Devil’s Backbone, and a couple others – but no local beers. We talked to the owner and suggested he get some Deep Ellum or Lakewood on tap.

So it was a nice lunch, and a nice ride – one I hope to be making a few more times.

What I learned this week,March 01, 2013

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I love internet radio and I love local things. Internet radio from and about Denton, Texas.

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A friend of mine from college goes on an arctic expedition:

expedition 1: igloo

2013 cypress park expedition 2

In Wichita, Kansas

journal entry for today: 3 deg C., no wind; first igloo 0.02 km from base camp; extension cord will not reach. plan to hunt for walrus on the ice tomorrow, though few are seen here at 37deg N. latitude.


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