Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Second day in Port Alberni

 Despite having had very little sleep in the week before, and despite getting quite chilled at dinner on the first day in Port Alberni, and despite staying up late watching a movie ("Blonde": I really wouldn't bother), I woke up at 3:45 AM.  Couldn't get back to sleep.  So I did a couple of hours of work, and then headed off to do some walking.  I walked up to the big box store area in Port Alberni, and even did a bit of shopping at the Walmart, buying some produce from the discounted section.

K had obtained the keys for possession of the unit, and brought them over to L's place, and the three of us headed for the unit.  I drove my car, already packed with stuff that I had brought from Delta, and we unloaded the contents into the unit.  Immediately K and L started organizing things and making the place look much better than it would have if it was just me dumping the boxes into the middle of the room.  L even found a solution to a problem with the bathrooms, which is that neither one has any bathroom cabinet space, or even drawers to store materials like toothpaste and medications.  She had some plastic sectional drawers which turned out to be an almost perfect fit for building shelving units under the sinks.  We made another run back to her place to pick up those units, and also to pick up the extra stuff that I had left at her place over two visits.

After a bit more organizing, on K and L's part, and some lunch, provided by L, we felt that the place definitely had some possibilities.  The view is absolutely gorgeous.


We then split up to do a bit of work individually. I did some shopping, getting a more solid idea of availability and prices of what I'm going to be living on in Port Alberni.  I had to be cognizant of the fact that my diet has definitely changed and that a lot of things that I was looking for before, I'm not looking for anymore.  But I also purchased supplies enough to feed myself, in a minimalist kitchen, over the next few days.  Anything else that I purchased is in the non-perishable category and can be used at any time in the future.

I met three of my neighbors.  Later in the day we had a really good visit with the neighbor on one side, who has not lived in this area, or indeed in BC, although she has relatives in the area, and is somewhat familiar with the area from visiting.  She seems a very nice person.

Then we grabbed some fast food and had a dinner, while Kay was still foraging for extra supplies and equipment for me.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

First day in Port Alberni (sort of ...)

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

Yes, I know that that is the mantra of some kind of self-improvement cult, and I know that, to the rest of society, it's mostly a joke.  For me, though, it's fairly true right now.  As Peter said to me, when he first responded to the fact that Gloria had died, "now you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself."  I'm not particularly grateful for the opportunity, and would just as soon have given it a miss.  But, it is a fact, and I've got to live with it.

I tend to find it more amusing to say that Gloria died, and then the girls moved me out of my house and home.  The reality is a more complicated set of circumstances, involving a renoviction that we knew was coming anyways, Gloria's death, the girls suggestion of moving, which actually happened before Gloria died, and was intended to be a move to a safer place for when Gloria came out of the hospital (and would have been a great idea had it not been for the fact that Gloria never did come out of hospital), my baby brother's concern about my financial situation without support of a pension, the fact that Port Alberni does not understand pre-sales and therefore a place here was within my price range, a purchase of a house on the toilet, and now here I am.  Although I'm still not moved.  I'm still not settled.  BC Hydro and Telus have not deigned to verify, or as they insist on putting it, "qualify," the address, even though I've given them both the original address I was given while negotiations were going on, and the new address, which the city apparently decided on when they issued the occupancy permit.  Until I get some commitment on the utilities, I can't talk to the movers, even though I have got a number of estimates from them.  So, in a sense, I'm not really here yet.

But I'm here for the official "closing," which the lawyers, via email, verified has in fact happened yesterday, and the "possession" (which sounds vaguely demonic), which is going to happen when somebody turns over the keys to me at 9:00 or 10:00 this morning.  At that point I will go over to the place and move the car full of junk that I brought with me (comprising things which, in my hectic and not terribly reliable current mindset, I considered essential to survival in the new place for a few days, as well as a number of items which I considered to fragile, to bulky, or too complicated to leave to the movers).  I suppose that this is the human equivalent of "marking your turf."

I couldn't settle, yesterday.  For the past week I have been waking up early, and been unable to get back to sleep.  So, I am short on sleep, which renders my already unreliable mental state even more questionable.  L suggested that I take a nap in the afternoon, after my trip over, but I never have been able to do naps during the day, and I certainly was not able to relax.  So, I went to for a walk.  I actually got a fair amount done.  I talked to the bank and, after a couple of false starts, remembered that I needed a safe deposit box with them.  I got down to the Salvation Army, having previously made contact with them and obtained a volunteer application form which I had filled out and brought back with me to turn into them.  I verified my address with the library, this fully activating my library card (an interesting process which involves going over all of the purchase documents which I had brought with me, in order to verify that I had a Port Alberni address, and which, in the end, involved the tax form, as the only document that had both my name and the address on it).  I found yet another church on my walk, and then headed off on the route which I suspect might become my regular shopping pathway.  While I was still on the road, Number One Daughter sent a message suggesting an early dinner with the two of them and my great-grandson, so we arranged to meet at the store that I was heading for, which she needed to get to anyway, and had dinner down at the Quay, which, in my various explorations of Port Alberni so far, I hadn't got to.  So now I have.  Interestingly, although it had been a fairly warm day, here, at the Quay it was very windy and cold, and I got severely chilled during dinner.  L and I watched a movie until much later than I normally stay up.  However, even with the cumulative sleep deprivation, the chill, and the late night, while I did get to sleep fairly quickly, I still woke up at quater to four, and could not get back to sleep.

So I got out my laptops, and started to get them set up for working while I'm here.  I put in a couple of hours of work, left the Windows machine updating and charging, and headed out for a walk.  I had checked the temperature, and felt that, with one of my oversized shirts, that I can pull my hands up inside, I should have been warm enough.  What I didn't count on was the fact that it seems to be overcast this morning, and even somewhat foggy and misty.  Before I had got to the end of the block, I realized that I was going to need something else.  So I went back and got a hoodie.  Unfortunately, the only hoodie that I brought with me is jet black.  And I not only had to put it on, pull my hands somewhat back into the sleeves to cover my hands and keep them warm, and zip the thing up, but I actually had to put the hood up, in order to keep warm enough.  I usually don't do that, and I was quite aware of the fact that I was dressed in very dark clothing while I was walking around Port Alberni at 6:00 in the morning.  When I got to the McDonald's I stopped, not to get coffee, but in order to walk around outside, using their wi-fi, while I'm dictating this.  Now I think I'll head up to the Walmart, and see what time it opens here.  And then on with the day.

Normally I might do the dictation at the casino.  However, here, the casino doesn't stay open 24 hours a day, and doesn't open up until 11:00.

I checked the hours of operation at the McDonald's.  I got in there slightly after 6:00 AM, so I figured that a 6:00 might be their opening time.  However, they open both their dining room/lobby and their drive-thru at 5:00 AM, so that's one in the eye for Tsawwassen.  Now I'm off to map wifi hotspots around Johnson and the main, big box store, shopping district.  This is not actually downtown Port Alberni.  Downtown Port Alberni, leftover from the days when it really was Port Alberni as opposed to Alberni, is about four miles away.

Mapping wifi, in the big box shopping area along Johnson/Highway 4, reveals some interesting discoveries.  The Pacific Chevrolet dealership provides a nice strong signal, which is available all around the building, which makes it easier to walk around the building doing dictation and getting some exercise in at the same time.  The dealership also must have Internet access with Shaw, because there is a Shaw Open hotspot at the same location.  It is always important to know where Shaw Open hotspots correspond to other free wifi hotspots, because signing on to Shaw Open, as a guest, requires a separate Internet connection in order to be successful.

The CIBC broadcasts a strong signal, but only on one side of the building.  Interestingly, even though I don't know where it is, the Bank of Montreal must have a location nearby, because it has a decent signal, even when I can't see where the business is.  The A&W has a very strong signal, and it extends over a considerable area, which is handy.  In fact, you can stand on the other side of the Staples, and see the A&W hotspot, better than you can see the Staples free/guest wifi.  (Which doesn't say much for Staples provision of guest Internet access.) No frills does have PC guest access, but only when you get quite close to the building.  (The no frills store doesn't post its hours on its doors, so it's hard to know when it's open.)

Walmart's Wi-Fi is available, but is as patchy as it always is.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Next step in buying my new place ...

My postings will be a bit random over the next few days, as I'm away from my normal computer and all my "stuff" ...

I couldn't sleep, so I did some repacking of the car, and took a shower, and still got to the Tsawwassen terminal well before the 5:15 ship sailed.  They wanted an extra $27 to put me on the 5:15, so I went back to Tsawwassen to the McDonald's, only to find that the McDonald's in Tsawwassen doesn't even open their drive-thru until 5:00 AM, or their lobby until 6:00 AM.  So I drove around the outside of Tsawwassen Mills, and the outlying buildings, to get some sense of what the place was like.  Of course, I don't have any idea of what the main mall is like, but at least I have an idea of how to get in, and out, and the businesses that are available just outside of the mall itself.

They let me into the terminal parking lot just after 5:15.  I, of course, used the rather lengthy waiting time that I had, by mapping BC Ferries wifi strength around the parking lot.  I use the term mapping loosely, since I could not find any rhyme or reason to how the signal was available in different areas.  It does seem to be radiating from most of the buildings on the site, with the singular exceptions of the control tower, and the two buildings with wash rooms in them.  The Tsawwassen Quay building, rather interestingly, has a much stronger signal on the north side of the building than on the south side of the building.  The south side of the building is, of course, where most of the cars would park.

Yet another oddity is that the consistently strongest signal seems to be under The pedestrian walkways for access to the various births.  Walking along this walkway, or below it, or just beside it, provides a relatively consistent, and reliable signal.

Off to "close," and later "take possession," of my new home ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Compensating job-seekers

I came across an article that suggested that job seekers should be compensated for time spent in, and preparing for, job interviews.  I sympathize with the idea, although I see several problems.

I have always been somewhat annoyed that the time, work, and expenses associated with job seeking, are not compensated in any way.  You can write off the costs of moving, on your taxes, if you have to move to take up a new job.  But you cannot write off the costs of printing, photocopying, postage, envelopes, and other costs associated with looking for a job.  (You can tell that I have been at this a long time, since envelopes, postage, and photocopying aren't usual in today's job searches.  You're much more likely to just post your resume on LinkeDin, and get busy posting stuff on social media so that you get noticed.)

I have, probably, more experience than most in terms of job seeking.  My career history is not one of those where you start with one company, right out of high school (or sometimes even before you finish high school), and then spend the next forty or fifty years with the same company.  No, my career history is not so much chequered, as plaid.  I have never had a long-term job (other than a bunch of the volunteer work that I've done).  I'm not sure that I have ever had a job longer than two years at a stretch.  (Well, OK, I worked at the same hospital for four years, but that was when I was putting myself through uni.  Even at that I was flipping from situation to situation.  And, yes, I did seminars for the same outfit for over a decade, but that was on a kind of contract basis, in competition with a number of others.)  No, I have had to apply for lots of jobs, and, for the past thirty years, an awful lot of my work has been on a contract basis.

So, I have searched for, written resumes and letters to, and interviewed for, a very, very large number of jobs.  Even while I have been a contractor and consultant, I have been submitting applications for regular full-time work.  An awful lot of my friends think that I'm really lucky to have been a consultant and a contractor, and want my advice on how to get into the field.  I keep on telling them, you don't want to do this.  I never wanted to do this.  I'm basically a nine to five mentality person.  I don't like not having a regular paycheque.  I don't like all the sales work, marketing and promoting yourself, that goes into being a consultant, or a contractor.  (Which does relate to this issue of being paid for looking for work.)

Yes, I know, full well, that looking for a job is an awful lot of work.  Looking for a job is just as much work as actually having a job.  In fact, I would say that looking for a job is even harder work than actually having a job.  There is no one to tell you when to stop.  There is no one to tell you when your day is over.  There is no one to say that it's time to take a break, or have lunch, or that you have done enough for the day.  So, an awful lot of the time, you just work until you are exhausted.  And then you work in an exhausted state, which is very ineffective and probably doesn't do you any good in terms of actually finding a job, and certainly just exhausts you so that you are low on resources, and unready, when a real opportunity does come along.  Yes, looking for a job is a lot of work, and very hard work indeed.

There are, of course, other factors involved.  There are the expenses related to job searching, that I mentioned earlier.  There is the fact that you are always looking for opportunities contacts, possibilities, and openings.  You are always pushing yourself, promoting yourself, selling yourself, marketing yourself, and always looking for opportunities for yourself.  It is a very selfish and self-centered style of activity.  It has to be, in order to work.  But it's not attractive.  Other people don't like it.  You always run the risk of offending people.  And you really can't tell in advance what is going to offend people.  I don't like doing it, but I have been forced to do it, many times over many years.  I have been pushed to do it, I have been told to do it, lots of people who are telling me how I should run my business are constantly agitating for me to do more of it.  But it's not an attractive activity or personality trait, and I really don't like doing it, and wish it wasn't always seen as so very necessary.

So, yes, I sympathize with the position that job seekers should be compensated in some way, for the activities that they have to undertake when searching for a job.  But, there are some problems.

The work involved in finding a job, when you are looking for one, varies tremendously.  And it is a huge gamble.  Lots of people will give you lots of advice about how to go about finding a job.  All of these people are wrong.  Yes, I said all.  I remember going to a resume specialist at one point in my career.  At the time I had at least four resumes that I was sending out to various jobs, and I took two of them, which I considered to be the best, for him to look at.  He thought they were good.  He told me that both of them were about 98% correct.  I asked him how I am could improve them to 100%.  He said you can't.  He said certain things that you do to improve the attractiveness of a resume in one area, will make the resume less attractive in other ways.  And he was right.  That is why everybody who gives you advice about looking for a job is wrong.

Because you are dealing with people.  People are inconsistent.  People are irrational.  People are emotional.  Not always and in all ways, but very often, and in ways that you cannot foresee.  Over the years I have come to learn the look on the interviewer's face that says that the interview is over.  The time may not be up, and the interviewer may continue on with additional questions, depending on the process that they are using for interviewing (and over the years I have been through an awful lot of different processes in an awful lot of different interviews), but the interview is over, because the interviewer has decided that you aren't getting the job.  I know that it is something that I have said.  Sometimes I even know that it's a single word that I have said.  You can see the look in the face.  You can see the change in the eyes, the change in the posture, a slight stiffness in the conversation from then on.  As noted, sometimes I know it's a single word, and I'll even know which word.  I don't know why that particular word has triggered a negative reaction in the interviewer, but I know that it has, and I know that that reaction is enough that the interview is over: I don't get the job.  As noted, people are irrational.  And, because these reactions are not necessarily rational, there is no way to predict them in advance.  There is no way to guard against them.

But that is only one aspect of the gamble that is a major part of job seeking.  It isn't even the most important one.  Probably the most important one is that, much of the time, there really isn't much difference between you and the other candidates.  At one point in my career I was going to an awful lot of job interviews.  And, when the dreaded phone call came, informing me that I didn't get the job, the person conducting the interviews generally told me that, if it was any comfort, I was the second favorite candidate.  It wasn't much comfort.  After all, the important fact was that I didn't get the job.  And I think that the comment, that I was the second favorite candidate, was not merely a pro forma exercise.  The way the person delivered it was always quite sincere, and delivered with some feelings that this person was attempting to provide some level of encouragement and comfort for me in my continued job searching.  I knew that I was an attractive candidate.  I had a lot of experience, a lot of background, and a lot of knowledge.  They had just decided to go with someone else.

And the thing is, even when you're not the number two candidate, they're probably isn't an awful lot of difference between candidates one and five.  If you can even rank them that specifically.  I know that, in a number of cases when I have been on the other side of the table, actually doing the hiring, that there have been certain standout situations where one candidate was head and shoulders above the rest.  But, as I say, these are standard situations.  (In one that was particularly outstanding in my memory, the person to whom we wanted to offer the position, by the time we had done the necessary paperwork to offer her the position, already had a job with somebody else.)  But in most cases, after going through the resumes, short listing for telephone interviews, and then further shortlisting for actual in-person interviews, by the time you've got to that point, you know that you could hire any of these people.  It may be that something comes up in the interview to eliminate the candidate, but most of the time the options are crowded pretty close together.  So which one you choose, is a difficult choice.  Once you've made the choice, confirmation bias steps in, and you tend to find increasing reasons why you made the right choice, and that this person is the right person for the job.  But that's after the fact.  In totally objective terms, probably all of these people are very equivalent in terms of qualifications, and the possibilities that they will succeed in the job.  So which one you choose is a bit of a crapshoot.  So, when you're on the other side, looking for a job, whether you get chosen is a bit of a crapshoot.

And, if you are in the game long enough, looking for work, you get to realize this.  It's difficult to keep going, when you know that your chance of being hired for any given job is only partly based on your ability to do the job.  It's an awful lot based on random chance, and whether the interviewer had enough cream in his or her coffee that morning.

As previously noted, I have been through an awful lot of different interview processes in my time.  I have been through the fads and fashions that have swept the human resources industry over the decades.  I have been through hostile interviews.  I have been through group interviews.  I have been through active interviews.  I have been through sequential interviews, with multiple parties, that took an entire day, and sometimes even multiple days.  Recently I applied for a job in my primary field.  It promised rather extraordinarily high pay, and, in the job description, indicated that the grunt work of this particular field was being farmed out to other parties.  As they say with regard to online frauds, when something seems to good to be true, it probably is.  As I submitted my application, and then started to receive responses from the company, it became clear that this was a recent type of, well I hesitate to call it interview technique, because it's much closer to a outright fraud.  This is a process whereby the company gets you, as a candidate, to produce a fair amount of work, and sometimes even go to a fair amount of expense to yourself, in order to submit something to the company which they will then consider, to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for the job.  I very much doubt that they actually hire anyone for these particular jobs.  They are just taking the work that is produced, which is submitted to them for their consideration, at no cost to them, and using the fruits of that work in their business.  Therefore, what they are really doing, is getting people, who are looking for work, to do their work for them, for free.

So, there are various situations that you, as a job seeker, may encounter in your job search, and some of them are a lot more work than others.  Some of them are positively nasty.  So, how much work you have to put in, and how much you have to put up with, in order to apply for a given job, can very tremendously.  Therefore, any idea of compensation for job seekers is going to be immediately flawed.  Is there going to be a flat fee paid for whichever job you apply for?  The flat fee is definitely going to overfeed pay for a half hour job interview.  But it's going to underpay for a huge interview process that takes an entire week.  Are you going to pay by the hour?  If you are interviewing with an affable and enjoyable manager that's going to be free money.  If you are being dumped in front of somebody who has just discovered the hostile interview technique, well, nobody can pay enough per hour for that type of abuse.

And then there is all of the additional work that goes into looking for a job.  There is searching job boards, job listings, job centers, buying newspapers, finding out which social media platforms actually result in real job interviews, as opposed to being mere advertising platforms for sex workers.  Then there's finding out which social media platforms are most appropriate for your particular field of endeavor.

Then there's the actual reading, and parsing, of the job ads.  Figuring out from the phrases used, the description of the work, the percentage of actual information to filler buzz phrases, and, if at all possible, the salary listing, to find out whether this job is actually one that a you can do be they are likely to be actually hiring for, and determine whether you have a chance of obtaining said job.

Then there is the research that you are supposed to do into the company.  Trying to penetrate, and parse through, the layers of marketing that they put up on their website, in order to find out what they actually do, and how they actually work, and what type of culture is involved in the company.  You not only go to their official website, but you go to various sites that post reviews of companies, or businesses, and see what people feel about that business.  You try to weed out the promotional material that the company itself has had posted on these review sites under the pretense of being an unbiased review from a customer.  You find out from friends, and friends of friends, anyone who has worked for this particular company, and how they feel about it.  You find out from friends whether they know of any jobs that are going.  (And then, after some time, you find out which friends actually have useful information in regard to jobs, and which friends just like to present themselves as having lots and lots of contacts and knowing everything about everybody.)

And, of course, all of these things about paying compensation to job seekers, who are looking for job full-time jobs, are grossly unfair to those of us who are working as consultants and contractors.  Because absolutely nobody is going to pay us, in any way shape or form, for all of the excessive work that we have to do and looking for contracts, and consulting gigs.  Indeed, it is difficult to get companies to pay for the necessary administrative work, that you as a consultant, have to perform, in order to actually do the consulting or contracting work.  I have had all kinds of contracts, I submitted itemized bills, and I have often had the client either query the amount of time put into administration, or ask me to modify or rename the time put into administration, or redirect it to other areas of the itemized bill, or, sometimes, flatly refused to pay for any of the administrative time.  It's every bit as annoying as all the work that you have to put into doing job searching, and it gets recompensed just as little.

Poutine for Putin

Canada is being asked to supply more weapons to Ukraine.  I think we should do something.  I think we should send poutine.  To the Russians.

Hear me out.  For one thing, an awful lot of people (mostly Americans), consider poutine to be a biological weapon.  They have a point.  If you come from a culture, and an ethnic and genetic background, that is not used to tolerating an extremely high level of cholesterol in your diet, poutine could definitely be a killer.  I understand that, someplace in the United States, there is a restaurant that styles itself as the heart attack cafe, and they specialize in big burgers slathered with cheese.  These people are wimps.  Potatoes, deep fried in lard, covered with cheese curds, and then the whole covered with gravy (which, you will recall, is primarily fat which has been made somewhat soluble in water, with the addition of flour and salt), now that's a cholesterol laden meal.  Serve that to somebody who is used to growing up on a diet of cucumbers and beets, and you're pretty much guaranteed to generate a lot of heart attacks.

Of course, initially, poutine does not look like a weapon.  It's delicious.  So this is one of those sneak attack weapons, that you can serve to an enemy, and they'll happily lap it up.  They won't know they've been poisoned until it's too late.

But there's more reason to serve poutine to the Russians.  There is the name.  Now president Vladimir Putin has his name spelled one way, and pronounced one way, in most of the English-speaking world.  (Of course, in Russia, his name is spelled differently, with different letters, since it's the Cyrillic alphabet.)  But I was amused to note that on a French report about Putin, that the French refer to him via a Latin alphabet spelling that is identical to poutine.  The thing is, there is a difference in the way that poutine is pronounced, in Canada, between the French speaking population, and the English speaking population.  The original joual word, which gave its name to poutine, is pronounced much closer to the way the English pronounce Vladimir Putin's name.  And, of course, the original joual word, which was used to name poutine, means mess.  I think it would be a very good idea to point this out at every possible opportunity.  Vladimir Putin, or as the French speaking people know him, Poutine, has created a poutine, a mess.  It is a poutine, a mess, of his own making.  It is only right that everyone, Poutine included, be reminded at every possible opportunity that he has created this mess, this poutine, and that he is the one responsible.  I think poutine is just the vehicle to do that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

McDonald's coffee creamer inconsistency

I have discovered a flaw in McDonald's quality control.

This is no idle discovery.  You don't get an opportunity like this; to critique McDonald's quality control; every day.  McDonald's is famous, or possibly infamous, for their quality control.  The burger that you get is almost always the same as the last burger that you got.  The same amount of ketchup.  The same amount of mustard.  The same amount of pickles.  The same cooking of the patty.  The same temperature when it is served.

McDonald's even went so far, when it opened a restaurant in Russia, as to build its own supply chain, creating farms, slaughterhouses, butchering facilities, and so forth, so that they could get the same consistent quality as they were used to getting everywhere else they had opened a restaurant.

(I do not, you understand, say that the quality is good: only that it is consistent.  The big Mac that you order will always be put together just as sloppily as the last Big Mac that you ordered.)

There are some minor variations in McDonald's around the world.  In Germany you can get beer with your burger.  In France you can get wine with your McFlurry.  In England, the soft ice cream is ... well, just order a cone in England.  Even if you don't like ice cream, order it.  You will be pleasantly surprised.  Pleasant surprises is not what McDonald's goes in for.  You might as well get one while you can.

In any case, not to belabour the point too much, McDonald's is consistent.  They serve the same thing, the same way, all the time.  Even the Big Mac has a weird consistency.  The Economist magazine has been using the Big Mac as an index to judge local currency, and whether it is over or undervalued on the world market, for many decades now.  It's an oddly accurate index.

But I have found a flaw.  This is no mere bagatelle.  It has taken me decades to find such a flaw.  So I have checked my data, and duplicated the experiment.

I would not have discovered it, even now, were it not for coffee.  As noted elsewhere, recently I have started to drink more and more coffee.  I am not exactly sure why.  Possibly it is the stress of being a grieving widower.  Possibly it is the stress of being a stranger, displaced from my marriage, my friend, my home, and even my job (since, for the last decade or so, I have essentially been Gloria's caregiver), and have turned for comfort to a warm and widely available beverage.  With a lot of sugar in it.

Since I don't actually like coffee, I have had to do a lot of research on the type of blend that different fast food places brew.  I have had to determine, for different sizes of cups, how much cream, and how much sugar, makes this vile stuff palatable.  Since McDonald's is so widely available, and has such a reputation for consistency, I have been drinking a lot of coffee at McDonald's.  I have determined, for a size small, and a size medium, and a size extra large, how much cream I have to order, and how much sugar, in order to be able to drink the stuff.  Generally speaking it is consistent.  McDonald's coffee is not the best blend available, although I do like it better than many others.  But, I have found specific sets of numbers that deliver me a drinkable cup of coffee.

Until recently.  I went to the McDonald's at Scott and 70th.  I gave them the same order I have been giving everyone else.  When it came (abominably late, as everything at 72nd is), I went to pick up the cup, and felt that it was stone cold.  I pointed this out to the staff (when I could get a staff person's attention) and got a warmer cup of coffee.  Which didn't have enough cream and sugar in it.  So I ordered more cream and sugar, and doctored it to my taste.  I figured it was possibly a one-off.  (The McDonald's at Scott and 70th is that weird.)

(When I talked to a staff person about the coffee being cold, she blamed it on the amount of sugar.  I am a physicist.  I know about specific heat, and also the latent heat of solution.  There isn't enough, even with all that much sugar, to make that coffee stone cold.)

Today, at the Queensborough Walmart, with the embedded McDonald's in that store, I ordered a cup of coffee.  Using the same numbers for cream and sugar.  Again, I got handed a stone cold cup of coffee.  I complained, once again.

This time the staff person blamed the cream.  She said that, when you put that much cream into the cup it feels it almost to the rim.  I said that was ridiculous.  I said I've been using the same numbers for coffee, for that size of coffee, at a number of different McDonald's, and most of the time it was fine.  She pointed to where, on the cup, putting that much cream filled it up.  She was right.  That much cream only left enough for a couple of inches of coffee to be poured in.  No wonder it was stone cold.  So I pointed, on the cup, to the amount of cream that I wanted.  She said that that was two creams, according to the McDonald's dispenser.  So, I said fine, give me two cream.  I watched her while she did it.  She punched "2" into on the machine, and then punched dispense.  The machine poured and poured and poured.  I wondered if it was ever going to stop.  It finally did stop.  She brought over the cup.  She was absolutely correct.  There was almost exactly as much cream as I had told her I wanted.  So, she put in the sugar, and then the coffee, and stirred it up, and it was fine.  With only two cream.  According to their machine.

So, a great big fail to McDonald's.  On something that must be one of the most common orders.  Coffee with cream.  A small double double, at some McDonald's, must be very creamy indeed.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Coffee

Coffee is our society's default refreshment.  It is available in any restaurant.  It is available in any fast food place.  It is available at pretty much any convenience store.  Freshly brewed, hot, the only hot beverage that is readily available.  It is available in most homes.

Not mine.  I don't have any coffee.  I don't particularly like coffee.  I don't particularly dislike coffee, and there are some coffee flavored desserts that I rather enjoy.  But I don't like bitter drinks, and, even though perking coffee does smell delicious, I know that coffee never tastes as good as it smells.

I've had a weird history with coffee.  It is so widely available that you almost need to learn how to drink it (regardless of how you drink it), in order to be social in our society.  Sometimes when everyone else is drinking coffee there's simply isn't any other option.

Early on, I learned to drink coffee, on a regular basis, when I was going to theological school.  Because I was someone who had a lot of experience with shopping, and, in the house that I was renting with six guys, I was one of the ones who was doing the shopping on a weekly basis, I volunteered, at Regent, to do the shopping necessary to get the coffee supplies for the week.  Having volunteered to get the coffee supplies, I then volunteered to be the one to make the coffee every morning.  Two, two-hundred cup urns, which I filled in a bathroom bathtub (left over from the fact that Regent's facilities had previously been frat houses), and somewhat convenient to the common area where we had the coffee set up.  Because I was making the coffee, and because coffee was always available, I started to drink coffee: not every day, but much more regularly than I had.  I suppose this is an indication of how stressful I found my year at Regent.

In my early experience with coffee, I did not find that the caffeine was affecting me all that much.  In those dim and distant, carefree days of my youth, I could drink three cups of coffee, in the evening, and go to bed.  And sleep.  That is definitely not the case anymore.  Now, I have to make sure that I don't drink any coffee, or even Diet Coke, after about noon.  Otherwise I may not be able to sleep at night.

However, at that point, in my youth, it wasn't the caffeine, and staying up at night, that was the problem.  But I did find a problem.  I could, as noted, drink three or four cups of coffee and not have any particular effect.  But I found, that if I drank one cup of coffee, every day, for at least three days running, I started to have stomach pains.  So that was another reason not to drink coffee on a regular basis.

Later on, in my fifties, while I was doing the teaching internationally, there was generally coffee as refreshment, provided in the training rooms, in the venues where I was training.  I was standing up in front of a group for eight hours a day (eight *solid* hours a day) and I generally had some kind of drink on the go.  By preference it was Diet Coke, but sometimes I was drinking so much that I got tired of Diet Coke, or sometimes Diet Coke wasn't available, and so it would be coffee.  Sometimes I was drinking seven or eight cups of coffee, and glasses or cans of Diet Coke, per day.  I do remember a few times when, later in the afternoon, I would realize that my chest was practically vibrating.  This is probably due to the caffeine.

(It still didn't affect my sleep, as far as I could tell.  Mind you, in those teaching days, I was mostly running on adrenaline anyways, and I was getting by, very often, on two hours sleep a night, getting up at three in the morning and going to see whatever sites I could see on a walk away from the hotel, but that seemed to happen regardless of whether I was drinking coffee, Diet Coke, or any other caffeinated drink, or not.)

And now, following Gloria's death, and in a new place, where I am a stranger in a strange land, I am drinking coffee, once again.  I should mention Gloria's coffee.  When we first got married, Gloria was drinking a lot of coffee.  She would, of course, have coffee available at work.  But I was also (because Gloria never did mornings well), getting up when the alarm went off, going downstairs, making Gloria a cup of coffee, and bringing it back up to her bedside table, because she hadn't got up yet.  Then I would go back downstairs, and make a second cup of coffee, in between whatever I was doing downstairs in terms of preparing breakfast, and bring it upstairs to the bathroom, partly as an inducement to get Gloria up and out of bed and into the bathroom.  So, Gloria would have at least two cups of coffee, before we even had breakfast.  She drank a considerable amount of coffee.  At a certain point (and this was before she actually retired), her stomach problems increased to the point where she had identified coffee as one of the triggers, and so she stopped drinking coffee.  At that point, she was still drinking tea, but later on tea became too much of an irritant as well.  So that was the end of coffee and tea for Gloria.

As noted, I don't like coffee.  When it's the only option, I drink coffee with lots of cream, and I definitely prefer cream, not just milk, and with lots of sugar.  Actually, in terms of a creamer, or whitener, I actually prefer Coffee-Mate.  This of course demonstrates my plebeian tastes.  I find that Coffee Mate 1) doesn't cool the coffee as much, and 2) is able to ameliorate even rather bad coffee.

Of course, what I consider bad coffee, is what some people like about it.  I tend not to like dark roast coffee, as I find that it's the more bitter type of brew.  Some people absolutely adore dark roast coffee: the darker the better!  No, for me, the lighter the roast the better, in general terms.  (Although I did find, recently, when I tried it in desperation, that our local convenience store, selling only dark roast coffee, does produce something that is actually drinkable.)

I drink coffee with cream, and lots of sugar.  It's not perhaps as healthy as drinking coffee black.  I accept that.  It's probably healthier when I go and buy an enormous glass of Diet Coke (for which purpose I carry with me a ziplock bag with lemon wedges, to add at least a little bit of actual nutritional value to the fluid replenishment.  And, yes, I know that drinking coffee is not exactly a great way of doing fluid replenishment).  As I say, I drink coffee more for the social requirement than anything else, although I am finding that heavily creamed and sugared coffee can be a bit of a comfort food in certain situations, so, yes, I'm drinking coffee in reaction to stress as well.  I try and take account of the amount of sugar that I'm putting in coffee, and on days when I have had coffee I'm trying to count that in terms of the total calories that I'm consuming on my ridiculous diet.

I put a *lot* of sugar in coffee.  So much so, that, when I order coffee in fast food joints, the counter staff are all ways repeating the number back to me to confirm.  At the very least.  Sometimes the person at the till taking the order will shout the amount of sugar to the station where the coffee is being made to confirm that, yes, this is the correct amount of sugar to put in that cup of coffee.  Like I said, I don't like coffee.  I have never been able to drink black coffee.  Warm, coffee flavored milkshakes, well, that's okay, that's acceptable.  But black coffee?  Who drinks that stuff?  Well, everybody, it seems.

But not me.  As noted, when people at the order counter have always have trouble with the amount of sugar that I'm putting in the coffee.  Sometimes the confirmation of, "you want that much sugar?" goes on for several rounds.  At which point, I generally tell people that I'm a diabetic.  This usually closes the argument.  It's ridiculous, I know, and I am only technically a diabetic, and a diabetic would only want heavily sugared coffee only in some very specific circumstances.  But when I play the diabetic card, that generally ends the discussion.  The person generally looks very confused, but accepts it.