Cold Process – wow.

Take fresh beans, grind them coarse (for plunger) add coffee to plunger and a dash of cold water. Stir in into a paste then fill with cold water. Stir, then leave it sit for 12 hours.

Filter the cold coffee – the smell while you do this will drive you nuts – coffee caramet smell (if you used freash coffee)

The liquor that this gives you can be kept for up to 5 days and I just made an iced coffee with it – really really smooth.

You can buy cold process gear but the plunger worked fine.

A worthy experiment and one worth doing when you know an iced coffee will be nice the next day.

You can also use this in hot coffee – mix with milk and heat – will try that tomorrow.

I think tomorrow being sunday I may actually get back to a bit more story about my journey. It is also my son’s birthday party so that takes precedence and it is coffee bean poll day on coffee snobs so I’ll be ordering a new batch of green beans.

Coffee again!

Ok – I’ve had my fun with evolution (yes we can still keep going with the comment chain if you want) it would not have been an authentic ‘Atheist Encounter’ If I didn’t play the evolution card would it?

But evolution just isn’t the core of who I am – I loved that part of biology, but I was always more interested in the things alive around me now than what came before – although that stuff does help with context.

How do people figure out that some things are good to eat?

The coffee cherry, while nice and colourful is hardly the stuff a great feed is made of – and the green beans are not much better – bitter, hard – little nutrition. But roast them! ohhhhhhhh baby. Ok – still no nutrition but who cares!

Olives – again really nasty little buggers and they take some considerable processing before you can eat them but they are amazing when its done right. My theory is the ‘olives fell in the sea’ theory. The greeks still bruise them and place them in baskets in the sea to steep for a week or two as a method of processing.

There must be a bunch of other foods like this that require a committment in time and energy to get edible but figuring it all out in the first place was quite some job.

Civet cats eat coffee cherries and then crap out coffee seeds – ‘Kopi Luwak’ and very expensive coffee it is too!

Today I am experimenting with cold process coffee. This is a method of making coffee that takes up to 12 hours but results in a low acid full body coffee that can be kept as a base for hot or iced coffee for up to 5 days.

I’ll let you know tonight how it goes and post up my method. The key to all great coffee though is fresh beans and roasting your own coffee is the best way to be sure they are fresh. Home roasting is growing in popularity in Australia because people are learning more about coffee and are approaching it with a great deal more respect than in the past. This is a general trend in food – organic produce is another example of this.

I think its a great trend – we should pay attention to what we eat, where it comes from, and how it was produced. That is part of our respect for each other and for our environment – I’d also suggest that for a Christian this should be a core part of acting on beliefs because it would be good stewardship of resources.

From an athiest’s perspective it is also good stewardship – but within a slightly altered context.

Just too weird

Apparently I’m a dinosaur.

And I want an explanation!

Grendel and Beowulf

I’m going to put my neck out here and make a call – these guys are nut cases. Who in their right mind would attempt to interpret an Anglo Saxon saga as literal truth with dinosaurs as the monsters in support of creationist theology?

But wait! I found another lot:

Beowulf and the Monsters

Beowulf liked adventure more than ruling the land. A band of warriors adventured with Beowulf. In those days warriors often vowed loyalty to their lord, or leader, and a group trusted and respected each other and risked their lives for each other. They shared the plunder they gained through victories. Beowulf with his band of warriors fought and killed monster animals.

One kind of monster was called “wormkind,” large serpent creatures that lived in hidden lairs sometimes near a swampy lake. At high tide the lakes could be connected with the sea, so monsters could traverse from one environment to the other if they liked. The wormkind that lived deep in the sea were called sea dragons. A species of sea dragon was the wave-thrasher (ythgewinnes in Old English) that swam along the surface.1 Vikings carved these onto the prows of their ships to try to ward off real dragons. As if land and sea monsters weren’t enough, villagers also were threatened with huge flying reptiles. Books today have dinosaur names for these various monsters. The flying kinds are called pterosaurs. Most dinosaurs are extinct now or almost so, but now and then some sightings show that a few survivors remain in the world.”

That bit only slightly less unsubtle, and disturbed me because it was on a home school part of ‘Crosswalk‘.

I don’t mind people home schooling – I’ve thought of doing it myself in some circumstances, and well, creation is going to be taught in Christian schools, but I really really really draw the line at using a myth from one tradition to prop up another especially when all kinds of additional interpretation is edited in.

A third site intimates that Grendel the moster was a juvenile Tyrannosaurus.

Please someone come to the rescue of reason at this point!

Isaac Asimov once said that if it is the “Choice between bad science and Cecil B. DeMille, Give me DeMille, and quickly!”

I found all that at Another Medievalist quite by accident tonight – it was the reference to ‘Grendel’ that caught me.

Lets Talk Coffee Too

My coffee consumption was low, very low for the next 15 months, and I was a bit leery of gravy as well. But my next posting was to the tropical paradise of Airlie Beach, with its waving palms, multitude of tropical islands and suitably attired backpackers and an incipient cappuccino strip that was bribing nescafe drinkers with views of the coral sea in order to get them drinking coffee.

It wasn’t great coffee. I know that now, and the foamy sudsy stuff on the far too hot cappuccinos wouldn’t even support the chocolate powder. But it was a start, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that their gravy was made well away from the coffee machine..

I do remember one new bloke who arrived at our office and asked “so where does a bloke get a decent latté round here?”.

Some laughed because they thought only gays drank lattés, some laughed because they knew the answer was that you couldn’t and others laughed because they had no idea what a latté was but if everyone else is laughing you better laugh right along with them or else they might get suspicious and start asking questions.

I took him aside later and explained the situation he’d got himself into. This was a town where beer was king, where wine was queen and where spirits meant Bundaberg Rum. Coffee was something that people thought came from a jar and we were both is serious trouble if our colleagues overheard these furtive whispers.

After I met my wife we got into the habit of Sunday breakfast and coffee at a little café overlooking the ocean. The owner was working hard to improve the coffee but it was always a real struggle between the lack of trained baristas and the fact that the coffee was always stale.

I got hooked on the good stuff when we came on a holiday to Perth. 14 months later we’d moved here and were living in Subiaco which is not a bad place to start learning about good and bad coffee.

Along any coffee strip the quality is variable and this is true of Subi also. It was here that I got into the habit of trying an espresso first at each café. I figured if they couldn’t get the basic unit of coffee right the rest of their coffee menu was worthless.

There was one place that roasted their own beans and that always fascinated me. I didn’t yet know how fragile a roasted bean is and how short its life. So many cafés had these big stocks of imported Italian beans that actually had dust on the packet. It was like they were trying to age the beans like wines. I also saw some operators (can’t call these guys baristas) re-use the coffee puck.


Think about it, you take the ground up coffee, put it in the filter, extract a shot of coffee and then you:

a) remove the filter, tap it into the knock-box and add more freshly ground coffee to pour you next shot.

b) Remove the filter and top it up with more coffee

c) Leave the filter in and extract another shot from it

d) Leave the filter in and extract multiple shots from it

I recently heard a story from a Perth barista that he’d encountered a variation of ‘d’ where you fill the filter with a shot of coffee each morning and use that all day. That’s a hanging offence surely!

I did see ‘b’ & ‘c’ all in action and thus it is no leap of faith to accept ‘d’ as well.

I drank a lot of coffee over the next year or so, but all the while I felt empty inside, there was no life in this stuff, no joy, no passion. And then I found it, a small coffee shop, hidden away, with a trained barista and coffee that was roasted locally to order – that is the shop orders and then the roaster roasts the coffee to be delivered 2 days later.

This was coffee. For a while I bought bags of beans and took them home, but they were going stale too fast and I had now been spoiled – I knew it was stale and that drinking stale coffee was wrong!

Next up – learning to fly. . .

Grendel and God – part 3

Well, I’m off on two journeys here so far, my spiritual journey and my one about faith. We’ll get back to the coffee in a bit and talk a bit more about faith.

There have been some interesting and thought-provoking comments posted – so thanks everyone, for your contributions so far.

My work has taken me to some interesting places, and I have been witness to and participant in some amazing and terrible events (not always at the same time!).

I am well aware of the flawed nature of humanity and how Christians view these flaws as at the core of what goes wrong in the church rather than a failing of God. From my perspective though this is not evidence of God (or evidence against the existence of God) it just is – humans are not perfect and whether we adopt a code of ethics or moral framework that is based in religious beliefs or atheistic beliefs we will at some point fail to meet our own (or God’s) expectations.

Just a little aside here: I talk about God, rather than ‘a supposed deity’ or the ‘mythical creator figure’ or any of the other atheist sounding terms you might expect me to use – this is for two reasons, 1. I’m a guest here and I respect the role of this blog and the people that discuss issues in this space, 2. Talking about God is something I’ve done all my life and I’m hardly going to change the language I use whether or not I accept the existence of God.

Ok back on thread. . .

So I have seen a local youth elder, apparently strong in faith and full participant in the life of his church arrested for dealing in drugs, theft and during the investigation multiple affairs with women were also revealed – he was also a police officer. Would such a revelation shake my faith? No, I understand human nature well enough to know that such things are not even uncommon – no matter what belief structure you adhere to.

At this point in my journey though I was already to the point where I had serious questions. I do remember one event that gave me a lot to think about. I had been assisting a colleague to resuscitate a young man who had fallen from a balcony on to his head. He was not breathing when we arrived, but we got a pulse and then breathing with a bit of effort, and I knelt there monitoring him while we waited for the ambulance, his breath coming in ragged gasps, blood trickling from his ears and nose, his skull fractured and open, his eyes open but unseeing.

I knew as I waited that although he was breathing he had little chance of survival, or if he survived I could not imagine that he would have any cognitive response, the best we were doing was keeping him alive long enough for his family to say goodbye while he was still breathing.

I prayed at that point, I wanted him to live, I wanted him to be able to go back to his family, I didn’t even know who he was, just some bloke who got drunk and fell over a balcony but he was there, and I was there and I didn’t see why he should die at such a young age. Even as I prayed it hit me – I don’t even believe this will help – in fact I know it won’t. It’s not the first person I have seen die and it won’t be the last and the process is inevitable.

A couple of years later after I moved to Perth I attended a similar situation, although it is possible that this young man intended to fall rather than fell accidentally – I just don’t know. He was in some bush at the bottom of a cliff about a kilometre from our office by the river. I dashed up the track and met the rescue team from our office there and helped carry the stretcher back up the track.

Déjà vu.

The same sound of breath coming in ragged gasps, the sight of blood trickling from his ears and nose, his skull fractured and open, his eyes open but unseeing.

Again, he lived long enough for goodbyes and then died.

I know some people exposed to events like this receive reinforcement to their faith from them. What I experienced was realisation that life is very finite, it needs to be lived and valued. The fact that we can realise we are alive, that we a cognitive creatures capable of introspection and communication is remarkable and both a blessing and a curse.

For me – life is very very precious, and I don’t mean just my own life, I mean everyones. Because I see the ‘one shot’ we get, and thus taking someone’s life, or destroying it by harming them in terrible ways in an anathema to me. Helping people live their lives in dignity and helping people to meet there potential are therefore great gifts that one person can give another.

From a Christian perspective you might say “so that you can have life, and have it more abundantly” meaning that life in its fullness, both temporal and spiritual can only come through Jesus.

From my perspective that is not the responsibility of God but the responsibility of each person to every other person. For me that sometimes means supporting my human brothers and sisters in their religious beliefs or obligations because that is the path to fullness of life for them.

I’m sorry about the long posts but the opportunity to post on Hamo’s blog has certainly given me a new outlet for expressing my thoughts!

And this too shall continue later. . .

The Rapture

I was reading a few comments on a political blog thread about the Greens vs the Exclusive Brethren and saw this comment

“I wish God would hurry up with the rapture so the impure could inherit the earth and start having a good time.”

Lets talk coffee

First off – what is coffee?

Well coffee doesn’t dissolve instantly in water. It can’t be stored in a jar in powdered form and you can’t squeeze it out of a tube. There are a lot of ‘coffee flavoured’ and ‘coffee style’ things you can do this with, but coffee isn’t one of them.

Ok, yes I am a coffee snob – there is even a club for us. There are a lot more coffee snobs than you’d imagine. Have you ever had anyone round for dinner and fellowship who says “oh, no thanks, trying to cut down, I’ll just have water” whenever you bring out that special jar of Moccona?

This IS the same person you see daily in the city finishing a quick ristretto with their right hand and picking up a take-away flat white with their left. If you know this person then there is a very good chance that they too are a coffee snob.

There are fundamentalist coffee snobs – these own the conical burr grinders, espresso machines that Harvey Norman and Myer have never heard of, and custom made tampers. They buy their coffee freshly roasted and have done a barista course.

Then there are the extremists. These people roast their own green beans, and collect bean stocks like kids collect stamps. “Oh, this is my Panamaria, and this bag here has my Elgon AA – very nice, almost organic, that is the 2004 monsooned robusta I use as a blend base and this is the latest cup of excellence from Guatamala”.

Coffee extremists burn with a passion for their beans, and some may even have a shrine in dedication. Most though have at the very least – a wok that was their first roasting vessel, a cheap popcorn popper, a more expensive popper, a 17 year old ‘West bend poppery’ popper that they bought on Ebay for $150 (incl. freight from the USA) with a 110v to 240v transformer (it cost $18.55 new in 1989), a heat gun, stainless steel dog bowl, converted bread machine or even an I-roast, gene-roast or Hottop domestic coffee roaster.

I am a coffee snob extremist – I’m pretty new at it so I don’t own all the gear yet but I am using me second popper and working at converting a bread machine.

So why bother?

There is nothing, nothing at all like the taste and smell of really fresh coffee – to buy fresh coffee in the city you really have to know where you are going. I spent two year wandering the streets of Perth each morning before work sampling espresso before I found a coffee shop that suited me.

Then I moved offices to West Perth and had to start all over again. It did not take as long this time because I knew what I was looking for.

13 years ago I did not like coffee. My only exposure was to Nescrapé and I was not happy, not happy at all Jan with what I found in a cup of that.

So, no coffee for me – just tea or water until I went overseas to a country where small cups of very strong, very sweet coffee are served as the basis of hospitality whenever you enter anyone’s house. Also these people get offended if you don’t like their coffee.

I drank the coffee.

I liked the coffee.

I asked for more – they were pleased and smiled a lot. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but the bonhomie of universal coffee brotherhood had filled me and I didn’t care.

I stayed awake for a while after that but only for two or three days.

From that point I was on a mission to find and drink strong black coffee.

There were a couple of low points in this journey – I went to work in western Queensland to a small town – there was a café. They had a coffee machine. I was hopeful.

While waiting to order (some kids had gotten in before me for some hot chips and gravy) I stood waiting and looking around the place. Old, high ceilings, peeling paint, a poster advertising the new hit movie ‘Tron’ that was ‘Coming Soon’ 15 years before and OH MY GOD SHE’S USING THE STEAM WAND TO MAKE THE GRAVY!

The black and gold variety powdered gravy. Congealed gravy had actually created a new kind of ‘cool touch steam wand’ coating.

“Can I help you?”

“Ahhhh, I’ll have a can of lemonade and a bucket of chips with Chicken Salt – NO GRAVY! please god, no gravy”.

To be continued. . .

Grendel and God – Part 2

Ok, I promised I’d get back to this so here I am.

I’m pretty tired right now so I may ramble (yes, you’ve looked at the timestamp of the post and its not even 9pm. . . My job at the moment is pretty full on and I don’t really have a team to delegate to so the work is mine to manage – thus right now I’m sleepy).

Where was I, ahh yessss sleeeeeepy, no, oh god – yah that’s it I was talking about Mr G.

I’ve had friends who’ve asked “why? why don’t you believe any more? you seemed to have such a strong faith?”

But those friends are few and far between. For most, I’ve just never heard from them. I don’t think it was intentional – part of this process was involved in me taking up my working life which involved leaving my university part time job and going to a remote town in the desert to take up a government post. This mean’t losing contact with a lot of people – is maintaining faith then all tied up in the community you share your faith with? Perhaps, to some extent, but if it is dependent for its existence on that level of support from others, is it really faith any more?

Or was it just that living alone in a place where I knew no one, I had a lot more time to think. This wasn’t the starting point – but it was a time when I had a little space, a task to focus on, and a community with needs that I was there to serve.

I certainly saw a lot of human misery, stupidity, malice, bigotry and debauchery. I also saw resilience, nobility, sacrifice, service, humility, empathy, caring and love. Some of those people were even Christians!

Ok – yup, Christians are human too, but what I did observe was that people with a strong moral centre existed and acted as I had been taught was not possible without God. They were just as dedicated to serving their fellows with love as their Christian colleagues.

You could argue I guess that Christian teaching has permeated our thinking so deeply that this is inevitable, except that we do see examples of people behaving this way who have not been exposed to Christian teaching.

From a perpective of faith you might see that as the spirit of God at work. From my perspective I see human potential to act in ways initially beneficial to an individual alone but ultimately destructive for that individual and the group, along with the potential to recognise that the good of the group can also mean the longer term good of the individual.

Ok – I’m not a psychologist or I’d have a great collection of terminology to use in that paragraph but hopefully you get what I mean. I think people can choose to be good or not, and they do so without a guiding entity.

I was also having trouble at this time reconciling the conflicting possibilities of a divine entity that could both reward with heaven or punish with hell (be that a lake-of-fire or absence-of-presence type hell), and I know that is an oversimplification – but as I said at the start – yawn. . .

More than that though was the conflict of the human condition – that, and the pelvis.

The pelvis is a tricky one – particularly on women. It is really really badly designed, it so so flawed there is no engineer who would design it (ok, not true, there is no FEMALE engineer who would design it. . .). Imagine sticking the birth canal through the narrow channel of bone that is the human pelvis and then shoving a baby through that.

We don’t think on it too much here and now because in Australia in 2006 we have a great medical system and caesarians are performed as a matter of course. How many? lots. And before we did those? Women died. In their thousands, every year, in agony, in blood and in terror.

It must be late, I’m heading down hill fast with this and I said at the start that I didn’t want to ‘preach atheism’ but it is part of the process I went through. Leaving it at that point I’ll just say that I began to find the idea of a God who designed that poorly to be a bit weak. And all that for taking the apple from the tree of knowledge?

Next up – a post on coffee. I think its a good idea that I alternate these darker thoughts with some even darker roasty toasty coffee thoughts, because we can all agree on coffee.

(Except the nescafe drinkers, for you I will have faith in a special nescafe drinker’s hell, where swedish lounge singers sing those 70’s lalalalammmmmm aaaah type elevator songs and you are served tepid, weak nescafe while having your toes nibbled gently by aunt mabel look-alikes. Us coffee drinkers will be in a kind of coffee-drinking valhalla with gorgeously stylish baristas, warm muffins and fractal designs of latte art using microfoam to tiny its really nano-foam.)

Grendel and God – part 1

I was raised as a catholic and I received the sacraments of the catholic faith and participated in church life until the age of 24. I was raised in a catholic charismatic community, in which it was expected that the holy spirit would descend on you at some point and you would speak in tongues.

I worked overseas (very briefly) with the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Theresa of Calcutta and our family had been founding members of the Catholic charismatic community in Brisbane and been in covenant with that community.

I accepted faith blindly for most of my youth – it had always been a part of our family’s life. I studied for seven years at university, and during that time I did not question my own religious beliefs.

It was later after I started working in the desert that I really began to think long and hard about what I honestly could accept about my own faith, the dogma and teachings of the religion of which I was at least nominally a member and the deeper mysticisms of belief in the divinity of Christ.

I have heard that for some who come to believe, that the process was sudden – a revelation or insight that dramatically changed their lives.

Leaving faith seemed a much slower process – at least for me.

I went through long periods trying to maintain some sort of belief – but I could not in all conscience continue to act in way that indicated that I believed that something was true when I was certain that it was not.

I do not doubt the authenticity of many who do believe, nor do I question their commitment but I found contradictions that were, at least for me, irreconcilable with the way I exist as a living, breathing thinking creature.

I also found that I could live a moral life without the support (or constraints) of a religious framework. I found the same for spirituality, I am able to acknowledge that humans do have a spiritual aspect, for some this manifests as a religious faith, but for me it is more coming to an understanding that while the ability to think and act on those thoughts may make us distinctive organisms on earth, we must also then take responsibility for our own actions – and in many cases for the actions of other people.

I choose to act in ways that harm others as little as possible whenever I can – this has a benefit to all. I choose to act honestly in my dealings with others because this allows me a knowledge of my own integrity which is useful when building the foundations of thinking.

It may seem odd, but I have enormous respect for others who choose to live a life that in some way serves others – whether that is from a sense of obligation or as a result of faith. I grew up in the world of faith, I know the language, the great strengths, the failings of individuals and organisations and the amazing historical continuity and rich traditions.

I’m running short of time to finish this -so call it part one for now and I’ll continue it later tonight.

In the meantime though – here a picture of Hamo on his first day off round at my place roasting coffee – I call this the ‘Coffee Communion’ shot. Hamo and the Holy Coffee beans



Ok – weird kinda name, like many internet handles.

There is a reason for it – anyone study early English literature? because this is from some of the very earliest. The story of how the hero Beowulf slew the monster Grendel. How I came to acquire the Dane-eating monster’s name rather than the hero’s is a whole other story.

So Hamo has turned me loose on his blog (“whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in blog also. . .”) and he has suggested that I may provoke some discussion because I am in a different place than him.

“Oh crap! He’s let a catholic loose in the blogsphere!” Ha, not quite.

An Atheist (A post on that term later! And I’ll be talking to the one I heard say “thank God it wasn’t a catholic” about the spirit of ecumenism after class.)

So why would an atheist have an interest in a blog that is essentially about religion – and about communicating that religion to others?

Is it that I want to read it and then go have a laugh with all my atheist mates about how silly it all is?

Or am I here to convert people way from their faith from some bizarre sense of atheistic duty?

Or am I here, at the inspiration of some malevolent (and from my perspective – non-existent) spiritual power to lure the faithful into sin?

Well, none of the above response are correct.

Mostly I’m here because of Hamo.

He’s a good bloke, he cares about people, and unlike many of us he acts in ways that make that care a reality not rhetoric.

He also likes coffee and he lives in Brighton. I first encountered Hamo in planning for a backyard blitz up here in Brighton, and he talked about what he was doing here. My background predisposed me to listen to what Hamo had to say and also to recognise his genuineness and commitment to what he feels is where ‘the spirit’ is leading him.

Now, it would be easy for me to engage at this point on trying to explain away ‘Holy Spirit’ as impulses derived from a deep empathy combined with an ethos that makes demands outside the normal realm of dedication to genetic family and immediate social supports. To engage in that exercise would become tedious in the extreme (at least to me) and I am not in the business of attacking those who have faith. I see that as disrespectful, a denial of rights and in (most) cases a futile exercise.

So Hamo has handed his blog over to a self-described athiest for two weeks. What kind of opportunities does this pose for those involved in missional Christianity? That is really up to you – I’m willing to take the discussion along some wide ranging paths – not so much from a debate about who is right or wrong, but more about the role of church and faith in my world.

I’m going to leave the first post there because I’d like to see what the reaction is to our experiment at this point. In the next post I will provide a little more background about me and how I moved to where I am now (spiritually speaking).

At the very least this fortnight will be an interesting exploration into why people who have faith, lose it and their journey from that point royale movie download