Caffeine Use Results

Coffee, drip (61%)
Coffee, espresso (27%)
Coffee, French press (44%)
Coffee, other (lattes, frappachinos, iced, etc.) (55%)
Hot Tea, plain (72%)
Hot Tea, doctored (with sugar, honey, cream, etc.) (44%)
Iced Tea, plain (44%)
Iced Tea, doctored (with sugar, lemon, bourbon, etc.) (33%)
Yerba Mate (11%)
Soda, regular (55%)
Soda, diet (33%)
Chocolate (72%)
Other (mints, soap, breath spray, intravenous drip, etc.) (22%)

This poll demonstrates that despite the academic bent of my readers, the Flock is still a "Blue Collar Joe" kind of group. At least in terms of caffeine. The average Flocker takes his tea hot and straight up and makes his coffee with little paper filters. Given the number of computer nerds, gamers, and other self-confessed geeks in our ranks I'm amazed at the small response for the more esoteric caffeine application methods. Perhaps a trip to this page of Think Geek's catalog would be a good place to start your holiday shopping!

I also feel the need to talk up my new favorite caffeine application method - yerba mate. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT tea. At least not in the traditional sense, nor in the Red Zinger herbal hippy sort of way, either. It is made from the leaves and stems of a South American holly (Ilex paraguariensis), and it contains a fair amount of caffeine, ranging between 0.7% and 1.7% of its dry weight.

The neat thing about it is that re-brewing of the same leaves doesn't make it bitter. In fact, the proper way to do it involves pouring hot (not boiling) water over the leaves repeatedly until the flavor is gone. It is common for several friends to share the same gourd, pouring more hot water on the leaves for each person. You can add sugar, honey, citrus peel, maple syrup, or even whiskey to the gourd - but it's quite yummy plain. There are few clinical studies of mate, but apparently, this re-brewing process is very effective at extracting the xanthines from the leaves, so the actual dose from it is quite potent. Interestingly, the three xanthines present in mate have been shown to have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle tissue, yet a stimulating effect on myocardial (heart) tissue. It hasn't made my heart race, but my response to caffeine is somewhat dulled by my history of overuse and my gargantuan bulk.

The paraphernalia for this beverage is quite lovely as well. The gourds (called mate, in the indigenous language spoken in the Andes, which means "cup") range from plain and utilitarian to elaborate silver-chased affairs with engraved bombillas (that's the straw you sip it with) to match. Very pretty, and quite satisfying to the hand, too. Drinking it reminds me quite a bit of smoking a pipe, and some people claim that without sugar it tastes a bit like tobacco.

Ok, enough gushing. I'm going to go have a gourd now. Enjoy your Black Friday!

Oh, one last thing - new poll just went up.

Sunday Sermon, Thanksgiving 2009 Edition

Everything was delicious this year. The tofurkey, the braised kale, the southwestern corn casserole - all turned out perfectly. The leftovers are in the fridge, the dishes are done, and everyone else has gone to bed. I'm sitting on the couch, seriously considering ordering the TimeLife "Sweet Soul of the '70s" collection. The pitch made by Cuba Gooding Sr. and his lovely young cohost is so compelling. They're showing clips from Soul Train, and I am becoming seriously nostalgic. It was hard being a little white boy tenor in the South in the '70s. There was a period when I really wanted to be Marvin Gaye.

Perhaps I should go to bed soon...

It's been a lovely day. After a slow morning (which began at noon for me), we enjoyed a quiet little feast. I was thankful for the food, for the company, and for everything else. I hope all of you enjoyed your day, and gave thanks in whatever way you deemed appropriate.

Drug Poll Results

The question: What is your drug of choice?

The results:
Caffeine (50%)
Nicotine (0%)
Alcohol (10%)
Marijuana (0%)
Cocaine (0%)
Heroin (0%)
Methamphetamine (0%)
LSD (0%)
Fallout 3 (32%)
I don't do drugs - my body is a temple. (I'm also boring.) (7%)

Ok, the caffeine is no surprise. The recycling bins at Flockhall are constantly overflowing with diet Coke cans and Mountain Dew bottles.

The lack of dedicated smokers is no shock either. Cold weather, a smoke-free lease, and a house full of pet birds pretty much guarantees that people we hang out with don't smoke. In fact, I had to leave the house a few weeks ago to find a place to smoke a cigar.

The Fallout 3 responses were higher than I expected. I can think of three or four regular readers who would choose Fallout over life itself, but I wonder who the others were...

I commend the handful of drunks who responded. If you can't be honest on an internet survey, where can you be honest, right?

The biggest surprise to me was the lack of marijuana responses. I am absofuckinglutely certain that there are potheads among the Flock... were you all too stoned to vote?

It was suggested to me that I didn't include a couple perennial favorites - there were no responses for X/MDMA, or ketamine, or poppers, or any number of others. Sorry if your fix was missed...

Since so many chose caffeine, our next poll is on how you get your jolt (see sidebar).

Why is it Right?

Despite the previous post, sometimes the IMs around here are quite serious...

"Ethics are not based in a fear of regret, or guilt, or fear of retribution, but rather in compassion. Realizing that we are all essentially the same, and we all want essentially the same things - that is the basis of ethical behavior. It took me forever to get this, but basically everyone just wants to be treated well. We are truly ethical when we can understand the hurt of others. The lesson is that we all deserve decent treatment."

I wrote all that during a chat, and I wish I could own it. How often do we do the right things for the wrong reasons? I don't cheat on tests, but is it because I know it's unfair to the other students, or is it because I fear expulsion? I avoid meat, but is it to reduce the suffering of animals or because I fear heart disease?

In the long run the results are the same. It is a question of orthodoxy vs. orthopraxy - does it matter if the motivation is right, so long as the ethical thing gets done?

In a utilitarian sense, getting the ethical thing done regardless of the motivation is better than not getting it done at all, but without the compass of compassion we lose our way. We may fall into legalism, living by the hollow letter of the law, losing sight of the guiding principles.

There is an old Zen story about this...

"When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice."

I think we tie up the cat too often.

Just Like Old Times

In a time-honored tradition, I engaged a member of the Flock in a sleep-deprived IM conversation this morning...

Cerus: Get a morning shift?
Reverend: 3-7
Cerus: ahh
Reverend: Watching "Legend of Neil." It's making me dumb.
Cerus: But it's a good way to catch teh dumb
Reverend: oh, Felicia Day as the fairy… I'd hit it.
Cerus: No one would think less of you for it
Well, maybe someone. But they'd be wrong, and stupid.
Reverend: Even if she is the size of a smurf…
Cerus: True, but as porn has taught us, being a smurf or smurf-like doesn't prevent a porn From emerging.
Editor's Note: Google "Smurf Porn." It's in Spanish, even. The Papa Smurf scene is scarring, and Gargomel is just fucking wrong.
Reverend: eh.
Cerus: so, that may extend to other areas (shudder)
Reverend: I don't hink your date should fade or smear on you. Just saying.
Cerus: fair enough.
Man, it's going to be a shitty day.
Reverend: Why?
Cerus: I woke up two hours ago and I have this general feeling of dread I can't shake today
Reverend: Return to bed. Hide. That's my advice. It's the American way.
Cerus: meh, I've been back to bed. Sleep isn't coming. I might be stressing about my thesis or something.
Reverend: You think?
Cerus: More so about the other students asking me every 10 seconds if I have every single detail planned out and ready to go.
Reverend: Tell them you do. That's what I do. I love the look on their faces.
Cerus: Ha.
Reverend: I'm got a bastard.
…why is there a "got" in there?
I have no idea.
I should sleep at some point.
I haven't slept since 9:00 yesterday morning.
Cerus: ahh, well that should be easy for you
Reverend: Going on 21 hours now.
Getting kind of silly.
Cerus: I can hit about 38 hours before my body completely tells me to fuck off, it's getting sleep.
The six hours before that include a lot of auditory and visual hallucinations
Reverend: I used to do that... but I saw the Care Bears go feral once. It's not fun anymore.
Cerus: fair enough
Reverend: I also ate cookie dough ingredients once.
Not the dough - just the ingredients, one at a time.
Cerus: nice
Reverend: The egg was tough to get down. A little gaggy.
Cerus: I imagine. The shells hurt.
Reverned: Right. I had to floss.

The Violence of Our Times

I have been neglecting my internet life. My Google Reader has over 1000 items in it. Most are blogs and webcomics that I used to follow religiously. I haven't been posting, or tweeting, or commenting, or anything on the internet of late; hell, I'm even behind on my pr0n. Serious slacking has been taking place, in all maters not directly related to school.

Today, however, I'm feeling like I have time for other things again. I feel like I have time to write - that I must write. It's good to emerge into the light again. I attribute this rejuvenation to two things. First, I went to see "The Men Who Stare at Goats" which I heartily recommend to anyone who can relax and enjoy the humor of it without getting all worked up over the tax dollars spent in the pursuit of psychic powers. Secondly, I came across a quotation the other day from Merton. That's Thomas, the Trappist monk, not Robert, the sociologist.

"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times."

I do that. Sociology is not a field for worriers, as we are steeped in the evidence of man's failure to live with himself in any numbers. The puzzle of how to adjust our ancient brains - designed to respond to the hazards of living in small groups on the savanna, armed with pointed sticks - to the paved and air conditioned world we have built to house our millions keeps some of us up at night. I'm one of those.

But Merton is right - it is a violence that I do to myself. I'm not likely to solve that puzzle by forcing myself into an intellectual fugue. I am much more likely to write something worthwhile, either on this blog or sociologically, when I am relaxed. Which leads me to our poll for this week - drugs! Please give your honest response (which is completely anonymous and untraceable) to the poll at right. If your favorite drug isn't listed, please feel free to mention it in the comments (which aren't anonymous at all...).