Is It About You Or Was It Ever?

Selfish? Self centered? Narrow minded? It’s my party or it’s not? It’s about you but really about me? Why should I change to please someone else? Is it possible I’m misunderstanding or just misunderstood? Why doesn’t anyone care about what I want? How could everyone be so mean?

Yes, ego is in full swing above. This really leaves no one out because ego is not selective. Everyone has some. It’s just that some who are super insecure go overboard. Were they raised that way? Insecurity happens for many reasons, and possibly no reason at all.

Consider the drop dead beauty who thinks she’s ugly. The genius  that doesn’t think he’s smart. The 6 ft. tall girl who thinks she’s too tall and slouches to be shorter. The “nerd” afraid to show what he really knows. Each one with a huge mental block to the truth.

The opposite side of that spectrum is the super jock who thinks the world revolves around him. How about spoiled rich girl who thinks it’s all about money. Or “know it all” who is obnoxious. There’s the “Drama Queen” who lives to create disturbance and unrest to draw attention to herself for fear she’s really unimportant. More instances of those who try to hide behind a shield to mask their fear of not measuring up.

You know them and so do I. What do you do? Ego is in charge and the illusion of being something they are not overpowers logic, reason and being in the moment. It’s worse especially, if they happen to be family or close friends? Ahh, now this gets down to where the rubber meets the road. The attitudes, and all the other issues create real challenges, many times resulting in estrangements that can last years. In some cases lifetimes, and all over illusions that being right makes one superior over another.

That’s the thing about ego, and the illusion it can create that if you can make someone else appear inferior in your mind, then it elevates you to a higher level. The problem is it’s only in your mind, and since it is an illusion that means it’s not even real. Yet lives have been changed for the worse because of this living in some sort of fantasiacal world that doesn’t exist.

There are those who choose to live in that world rather than in the here and now. The drama is created in each of these lives based on illusions and fantasy, rather than enjoy real life in the real world. Those who number in this category are in the majority as most spend far more time living in the past than present.

Is there a chance they know who they are? In order for that to happen a dose of reality would have to break through the illusion. Then another dose to expose the ego. When one can actually face the fact of an ego, a huge battle has been won, but it’s just the beginning. Once that ego is exposed the lie of it’s power will fight to maintain control.

Being in the present moment is like recovery from an addiction. It’s minute by minute, day by day. Rather than one day at a time it’s one moment at a time. As with most addicts, the large majority will deny there is any issue with ego. Those who do discover they are wrapped up in it, will do what many do. Discover it’s easy to change, just easier not to, and continue living in another world.

I can attest to all of this, having been one of those caught up in that illusion for many years. Breaking free is the same as any addiction, in that it is a daily action to remain in the moment and not slip back to the past.

Have I mended all those holes created from the past? What is past is dead, and only now has the chance to be changed. There is still residue that remains in the present, like something in my eye that obscures my vision I can’t quite seem to get out. Being able to see, just not as well as I could. I’m still a work in progress, of which there is acute awareness.Cuicocha-2013-15 18

So is it about me or was it ever is a fair question. The honest answer is it’s about life and learning how to live it. There seems to be far more time spent as student than teacher. Knowing who, what, and whose I am. Being. In the end, that is the best thing, rather than just existing. There is a purpose for me, and a large part of that is being accomplished writing. So I write, as it helps to keep me in the now.

There are those who have no problem in dishing out the drama, but don’t have the courage to even consider that they have an ego, or that it is their worst enemy. Many have a hard time distinguishing between ego and pride.

Ego is that mindset, the feeling of being superior to others. It starts in the mind, very likely as a protection mode, but has no touch with reality. An example again may be a person who grew up with very basic necessities and was made to feel shame at some point. It may have even been in adult life due to circumstances surrounding being fired from a job, a divorce, an experience that was a jolt to their person.

Such an experience creates real fear when finances or a sense of security are threatened. Some might make a decision that they are never going to let this happen again, and take steps to build a life that is the opposite of what was.

Perhaps they do this by beginning to associate with those who are financially better off. Then there is the imitation of a lifestyle using brand names, expensive perfumes, clothes, restaurants, and affectations such as only drinking gourmet whatever, going to the best concerts or musicals.

Of course none of this matters if everyone within hearing doesn’t know, so all effort is made to make certain names are dropped, brands and labels shown, restaurants named and who with. This is defined as arrogance. Ego can never say “sorry.”

Pride quite simply is the satisfaction of a job well done. It is the encouraging and motivation factor to seek to do better, never accepting mediocre. The accomplishment is shared, and in humility, never puffing up ones self at the expense of another.

It is all too common that the person who actually is well off financially, never has to resort to such behavior. The one who has the “connections,” usually doesn’t divulge them. It is very likely they are not insecure and have no need. However, it can clearly be seen that wealth is no insulator to insecurity. J. Paul Getty had it all, yet his suicide clearly showed he was not secure with it.

It may be the worst sort of addiction, as it requires somewhat the same efforts to deal with it. The ego requires feeding, and is never satisfied, exactly like a drug or any addiction. Once the ego is exposed there is hope, but that individual must come to the point that they are out of options for satisfaction.

A great book on the subject is A New Earth by Eckhardt Tolle. It’s a great read, and one that has been worth re-reading 5 times. Am I egoless? Probably not, but it doesn’t get fed so is probably starving!

Are You Ready For That Mountain-top Experience, Or Just Think You Are?

“It’s on my bucket list! I’m just dying to go! Just a little more preparation and I’ll be ready. Maybe this time next year. I have to be in better shape than I am now. No, I don’t have a trainer who has the experience, helping me. How high? It’s over 25,000 ft. Do I know I’ll need Oxygen at that altitude? Well, I never thought about it. My legs will feel like lead? Gee, guess I still have lots of training to do.”

It’s safe to say that the above may fit in that category of unrealistic expectations. Better yet that of dreams. Some plan all their life to do something, until it reaches the point they can’t. Any excuse will serve as a reason, rather than face the fact that fear was indeed a factor.

Some of my favorite places are the most difficult to get to. As a boy it was not uncommon to climb to the skinniest limbs in the highest tree that could be found. As a five year old, it was going down the 40 foot high, water slide at the community pool. When that became too boring it was diving off the 3 ½ meter high dive.

Getting my first airplane ride at the age of five may have had something to do with the love of height. Since then there have been more adventures jumping out of swings, or off the top of garden sheds with capes, only to discover they don’t fly very well.

From there to climbing the 897 steps of the Washington Monument which is 555 ft. tall at age 11. Then came scaling the heights of fire towers in the local state park that were 1058 feet high around age 14. Perhaps climbing the water tower in my hometown to paint our Senior Class numerals at age 18 was epic!

But it hasn’t stopped there. Having the chance to go up mountains in Ecuador have taken me to heights over 13,500 feet above sea level, where the Oxygen is thin, but the panorama is breathtaking! When the air is clear at that height distant snow caps of the Andean Chain can be seen, as well as the sprawling city of Quito.

It’s likely the ultimate experience of height was at age 60, Sky-Dive1skydiving from 13,000 feet! If there is anything that can be compared to human flight that would have to be it. Of course the flying suits that have been developed for cliff jumpers is even more extreme and as dangerous as it might sound.

Understanding what draws me to find yet higher places to go is what is interesting. It doesn’t seem to be about the accomplishment nearly as much as the journey. It took 40 years to finally have the opportunity to go skydiving. And it can be said there was never one second of nervousness during the entire event. That was a very interesting observation.

The mountains have welcomed me to their heights on many occasions. The absolute awe at the magnificence of everything that is captured with the naked eye is humbling. Yet to know it is there for my pleasure goes beyond that. To think that one can conquer a mountain seems so ludicrous. When a climber has reached the highest peaks of Everest, Ojos del Salado on the Chile/Argentine border, Mt. Chimborazo, or Kilimanjaro, the thought occurs that they have only been pardoned by the mountain for a brief moment in time.

Yet it seems men are destined to look for those high places, and to find a way to get there. In just over 100 years man has gone from flimsy one-man airplanes flying a distance of 26 miles, to a trip of 238,857 miles to the Moon! And there are space objects traveling beyond what might be considered up or down. But since the initial direction from launch is up, all direction outward may be looked at as that.

How much higher can we go? Better yet, how much further up is there? It’s one thing to climb when there is a limit to how far you can climb. Something else completely when you are willing to jump off a cliff or out of a plane, knowing there is only so far you down to fall. Ask yourself what you would do if those limits were removed? I’ve asked myself, and my initial reaction is…I’ll stick with the parachute! Come to think of it, Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 ft. with a parachute. Hmm…

Is Good Enough Acceptable Or Detestable For You?

Good is good enough! There is a world out there that would love to jump all over that, claiming that it is detrimental to the mindset of excellence. They may even offer a world’s view of examples, such as what if Edison had stopped with a light that only lasted for a few seconds and stopped trying to improve. So did Edison reach excellence when he finally found the combination of things that worked? Are we still seeing to this very day that the light bulb continues to improve?

Wouldn’t that seem to answer the contentions related to perfection? If something as simple as the light bulb continues to improve and get better, was it ever perfect for even a nano-second?

The “not good enough” camp has been the executioner of more genius than we will ever know. That “fear of failure” illusion has  always gone hand in hand with the equal illusion of “perfection.”

What has man ever created that was perfect? In the last 100 years, what has man made that still lasts in it’s original form? If it was perfect it would remain the same, and I submit to you there is no such thing.

Is there a state just shy of perfect? Who knows? I dare say not one human being can determine what perfection is, because there is not one human being that is perfect who could recognize perfection if it stared them in the face!

It just possible that the human mind is even incapable of creating anything perfect, simply because it’s never been seen in any form, save that of Jesus or God, and there are multitudes who will disagree on that.

So science, mathematics, quantum physics, one or all, can not provide one single example of perfection because in all their wisdom none know outside of of human application what real perfection is.

It’s possible the one perfect thing is the creation of life itself. There have been many imitations with cloning, test tubes, and who knows what else, but the creation of life from the dust of the Earth or out of thin air has never been duplicated. Life requires that spark that can only come from the perfection which can not be described in man’s terms, and goes beyond the mind of human understanding.

Many would pretend to have the answers, and impart all such to underlings who are ill equipped to understand on their own. The most primitive, unschooled person on this planet can attest to a “source” of life.

The quest comes back to “is good, good enough?” If it allows the freedom to continue, embraces change for improvement, motivates and encourages, induces confidence then how can it be anything but “good enough!”

It gets back to the glass half empty…half full, or at the source of the water. This particular discourse has gone on probably longer than there’s a record of. Is it black or white, or is it two colors of a multitude of choices?

If perfection were ever reached, what would there be to look forward to? If anything, no mater if it’s human, natural, man-made, artificial intelligence, could ever reach perfection, where would things go from there?

Still, there are those, myself NOT included, that seem to feel they are the bearers of wisdom personified, which pretends to be superior to all the underlings in our world, especially as it relates to things spiritual.

The word “spiritual” is deliberately used here as opposed to “religion” so as not to mix things up that are defined by one but not the other.

The intent of this missive is simple. Ambiguity is rampant in every phase of life with the exception of what is of nature and not manipulated. This is most obvious when someone takes a stand on any issue. While the intentions may be to point out an assumed wrong, invariably the author fails to see the fingers pointing back to their source as being fallible.

No claims here, rather offering up some food for thought. Is there any truth contained in these words? It could be argued what is considered truth, as that may assume truth for one is truth for all.IMG_1555

While this may be a good place to stop, even that may be debated as contrary, conflicting or comments in agreement could be added. I’m gonna go watch some clouds.

Would You Visit Ecuador With 30 Active Volcanoes?

Smokin'!
Smokin’!

Which ones are erupting? Are all 30 volcanoes spewing out lava? Is it true that all of them are active? What does it mean for a volcano to be active? Would I be in constant danger? How do I know I would be safe?

The last place you might want to be in your life is close to an erupting volcano. This natural phenomena is perhaps one of the most unpredictable occurrences. While it’s possible to have some degree of warning there is no absolute indication until the ultimate activity occurs.

Ecuador has a number of what are called “active” volcanoes. Active means a volcano that has erupted during the last 10,000 years. Seems a little over active, since there a likely few records to indicate such activity that many eons ago.

The most active in Ecuador are Tungurahua, Cotopaxi, Reventador and Sangay. These four are pretty much in constant activity, with Tungurahua being the most active since 1999. Cotopaxi has been the least active up until 2015, when it was almost certain a major seismic event was eminent. However at this point it has just been a lot of smoke!

So what has been the history of danger to tourists regarding injuries from volcanoes in Ecuador? Couldn’t find any. It seems for the most part common sense has prevailed and the many other attractions in Ecuador have garnered attention.

Really, why not appreciate from a distance the light show a volcano can produce, especially at night. The most visible active volcano is Tungurahua, with it’s streams of lava shooting high into the night sky. While it is spectacular, Ecuador is rich with volcanic lagoons such as Cuicocha, Quilotoa, Lago San Pablo and many more.

The Amazonia in the jungles of this country offer a completely different view of nature. Fresh water dolphins and manatees. Life without phones, cable, even electricity. Any electrical when available is by a power plant, but no direct connections with a utility.

Samona Lodge in the Cuyabeno Reserve.
Samona Lodge in the Cuyabeno Reserve.

There are many unique Lodges offering amazing opportunities to see the are from platforms in a 150 foot Kapok tree. Another has installed 3 towers connected by a walkway just above the treetops, providing a few of all the life that takes place at that level.

Opportunities to witness celebrations of the indigenous tribes in Puyo among others could be your once in a lifetime moments. Receiving a “cleansing” from a Shaman in La Victoriano in Cuyabeno could be life changing!

Spending time with the butterflies at the Emporium in Mindo is an eyeopener. Putting some banana juice on your finger to get one to the Monarchs or another to come to your hand and stay there consuming this sweet nectar, will have you amazed at such a delicate interaction.

Amazing what happens with a little banana juice!
Amazing what happens with a little banana juice!

Soaring up to 13,000 ft. on the Teleferico provides a view not only of Quito, but the Cordillera and the “Avenue of the  Volcanoes” plus a breath-taking panorama of Quito and the various peaks of Mt. Pichincha.

The Volcano Park is also a great attraction for the kids, and there’s the chance to actually hike up to the peak of Rucco Pichincha, but your better have your “high altitude” lungs ready for some exercise.

Looking up towards Rucco Pichincha.
Looking up towards Rucco Pichincha.

There’s what water rafting, rainbow trout fishing in the rivers behind Mt. Cayambe, or just trekking the many mountain trails guides will be happy to show you.

So would you visit Ecuador with 30 active volcanoes? Since no planes have been blown out of the sky by flying gigantic boulders being shot out of a volcanic crater, or humongous  flames belching from the same source, you should feel safe. For that matter, planes don’t go near enough for that to even remotely occur.

So the answer to the question is, “YES!” Come on down and see what Ecuador is all about…besides volcanoes.

Can You Go Coffee Free From 3 Cups To “0” For 30 Days?

Is coffee really addictive? Is caffeine as addictive as say, nicotine? What about alcohol? Can people addicted to coffee break the addiction? How hard is it to detox from caffeine? Would someone wanting to have detox caffeine have to go through a rehab program? Could this be you? Well…could it? Yours truly is going to take on a 30 day detox, so read on!

So how’s life sans coffee you ask? Well, you haven’t asked but I’m going to tell you anyway. You’d be surprised to say the least. Now obviously I can’t speak for anyone else that has ever done this insane challenge (better not let my wife see that) but for me it has been a breeze.

So far 15 days without that daily infusion of java! I am as calm as anything you could imagine, such as an iceberg, or a mountain. No heebie-jeebies, shakes or biting fingernails because I’m having caffeine withdrawal. That was rather mild by comparison to previous experiences.

So once again it is this weird sensation that I don’t need this like there was an addiction. That’s always the way it has been in the past as well. That’s sorta refreshing to know, that this is a take it or leave it scenario. There is an adamant determination to return to my fav beverage once June 1st shows up on the calendar!

In fact I just could make a big todo about it, like shooting off fireworks or some such activity to celebrate. Setting off the car alarm would surely draw some attention in the neighborhood. Of course they have no idea what I’m doing. Maybe I could drum up some support (as though I needed it) for my solitary endeavor.

I really feel like my cartoon character created for a website I had called “I Gotta Have Coffee.” I’ll post the photo of the drawing, or better yet the logo as it is much better. Ben was having a real problem without the “bean!” I really can’t relate, but I’m sure there are those who can.

Usually there have been some rather uncomfortable aches for a day or two in the past when detoxing, but the only thing experienced this time was an unusual muscular ache in my upper chest. Yeah, I know what you’re thinkin’ and it wasn’t angina, or anxiety pains! It kinda had me wonderin’ too, but then it occurred as to what it was.

What has been the most interesting through all this effort to bring my blood pressure under control naturally, was a huge change in our food regimen. It has nearly gotten to a vegetarian status, but what that means in the end is maybe 12 ozs. of any meat per week.

OK, I know what you’re waiting for and here it is. Today my BP was 147/74. It has been averaging over 150 for systolic and the mid 70’s for diastolic. The diastolic had been climbing up to the high 70’s and over, so it’s still “out to lunch” as to what things will look like at the end of the month.

So here it comes. The good news is…IT AIN”T THE COFFEE! Or at least it doesn’t look like the culprit at this juncture of things. Oh there is joy in Mudville today! My name will be “mud” if this doesn’t turn out the way I expect, and there will be no “mud” in my cup! Because the Dr. wants to put me on medication to bring the BP under control. His challenge is that I refuse medicine!

So for all those hanging by their fingernails, anxiously awaiting to see the results of my singular experiment, it’s lookin’ good for the coffee! Stay tuned for the next installment!

OK, next installment.

My BP was not significantly affected by one month of no coffee. That comes as no surprise as there has never been any significant study that could relate the two. Many have tried, and there have been many flawed studies that made that claim, only to not hold up in the end.

So if I were to leave it there, some of you wanting to know about the BP and if anything worked, I’ll bring you up to date.

In 2014, after moving to the mountains, we both went on a new food regimen. No carbs, no dairy and no processed sugar. Fair to say this was under a Dr.’s suggestion, not orders…per say. Now for someone who loves fresh baked bread this was a real challenge, but complete abstinence for life was not the issue.

This also included no coffee (again?) for the duration of this change in food. Being borderline diabetic there were two challenges here. Lower BP and lower A1C. Long story short, both intents of lowering the numbers, not to mention weight, were totally successful.

Now, does that mean I could go back to my coffee? Absolutely! While the Dr. never had an issue with the coffee other than it prompted the desire to eat, it was not the culprit with any of the issues at risk.

The good news is I have completely cut rice, potatoes and pasta out of my diet. Don’t miss them at all. Coffee is back to three or four cups daily. BP is still under control and A1C which is just under the magic number of 6.

The main thing is the detox that came along with no coffee, again, was nearly non-existent. I kept waiting for the familiar symptoms of detox, but there was just nothing. No headaches, no muscular discomfort, just nothing. I have no idea if it had something to do with walking two miles plus daily at an altitude of 10,000 ft. or not. All I do know is it was painless.

So what’s the objective of this story? It was mainly about detoxing from coffee and whether or not the “coffee/caffeine” addiction was serious. By now it should be apparent that it depends.

Some people have less tolerance fro caffeine than others. Drinking a cup of coffee just before bed would keep some up all night, while others would not be fazed at all. The latter would be me. So as always, everyone is different.

Most importantly, caffeine is hardly as addictive as those other items mentioned at the beginning of this article. Yes the detoxing for some can be uncomfortable for two or even three days, but then it’s over.

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The “empty cup” is the best cup because now it can be refilled!

Doing the coffee detox is really a good thing, as it allows your body to rid itself of any unwanted toxins. Is caffeine life threatening? Not according to the most recent health studies. That’s something your need to evaluate for yourself.
So enjoy your coffee guilt free. Know that you’re not harming your body, rather again, according to current studies, it’s quite the opposite! Here’s lookin’ at the bottom of the cup!

Differences Of Arabica And Robusta Coffee. Does It Matter In Your Cup?

What’s in your cup? Is it the nasty, bitter stuff that requires you to add cream, sugar, or a plethora of other add-ins to make it taste like something it doesn’t without? Is it even possible for coffee to taste good without all that other stuff? You’ve been drinking it to the point of addiction, even though it doesn’t taste good? Is it reminiscent of when you started smoking and got nausea, but you kept at it anyway? Yeah, been there…done that.

So the real question, can coffee taste good without all that other stuff added in? Chances are you’ve just never had the opportunity to know what a really great cup of specialty coffee, single origin, tastes like. Even more, you’re least likely to find that at your local supermarket. So let’s get down to facts.

Real coffee comes from arabica beans. This is what came from Ethiopia nearly 1000 years ago. The Arab countries hoarded this coffee for centuries, on penalty of death to anyone caught trying to take it outside their borders. The history of arabica coffee is long, varied, anything but boring.

Harvesting Coffee In Olmedo, Loja Province, Ecuador.
Harvesting Coffee In Olmedo, Loja Province, Ecuador.

To the average coffee hound all this is just a lot of unnecessary verbiage. Who really cares what it’s called? There really isn’t any reason to get all educated about this…right? No, not necessarily. It could be compared to knowing the difference between dark and milk chocolate. Who really cares. Truth?

So great! Is there anything worth knowing about arabica coffee to make this a must reading? That depends on if you have the slightest interest in knowing how to get the best cup of coffee. Maybe you would like to know why some coffee tastes so bitter and burned. That would definitely apply to coffees blended with robusta. Don’t know what that is? Keep reading. The only thing robusta is used for is as a filler to create instant coffees or blends. Roughly 70-80% of instant coffee is robusta.

If you’re interested why others are smooth and glide across the tongue with a great aftertaste, then you do want to know about arabica. Because those are some of the nuances it offers to coffee. So now you have names of two different coffees, one of which it’s almost guaranteed you’ve never heard of, and the other only if you have ever been curious enough to Google it.

Better said, coffee IS arabica. Nothing else tastes like it.
Getting past all the complexities of what arabica is, it may be easier to say what it is not. Sour it is not. Bitter relates to burned. Harsh usually is poorly processed. Ultra high in caffeine it is not. Believe it or not the darker arabica is roasted, as in espresso or French Roast, the less content of caffeine.

What is more interesting is that espresso blends which have traditionally used robusta to create the “crema,” or foam created by the oils in coffee espresso is known for, are now finding that certain arabica beans can do the job just fine. So roasters are now switching to richer blends of all arabica beans for amazing espresso blends, eliminating the bitter aftertaste with robusta.

There is no such thing as a bad arabica coffee, just poorly harvested, processed or roasted. That cannot be said for robusta, which is why no one in their right mind would ever want to drink it full strength by itself. This coffee by itself is very bitter, and that alone is reason enough to never drink it, in anything. There is probably a group in the world that would, but to each their own. Those would be a definite minority.

Arabica coffee is simply the very best. Whether it’s Hawaiian Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain from the Wallenford Estate, Tanzanian Peaberry, Kenya AA, Ethiopian Harrar or Yirgacheffe,  Costa Rican Minita de Oro, or Colombian Mesa de Los Santos to name just a few of the more well known specialty varietals. They’re all 100% arabica. It’s also Specialty Coffee. Don’t settle for cheap blends that claim to be what they are not. It may taste OK, but who wants just “OK?”

Keep in mind that arabica coffees are like any other product. There is always the good, better, best. Some coffees demand a high price when they are no better than a good Colombian blend. Many times it’s about marketing. Mexican Chiapas, Selva Negra de Nicaragua, Brazilian Santos, Peru La Florida and the list goes on. Discover arabica coffees sooner than later.

Try your first cup black. Why? You will be amazed just as I was by how bitter it’s not! Don’t judge by what you’ve been drinking for years, that you have to add cream and/or sugar to drink it. Do you add those ingredients because the coffee tastes bad otherwise? Right! So the challenge here is to try your first cup of a truly, specialty, non-blended single origin coffee black. Because if you never have, then you don’t know coffee…yet!

Give yourself the opportunity to taste real coffee without the added stuff. Is this going to apply to everyone? Not a chance unfortunately. Why? Because your taste is going to be unique to you. On the other hand, you will never know until you try it.

One thing can be guaranteed! You can say you have had the experience of tasting genuine coffee with nothing added. No frappes, carmelatos, or whatever name they come up with for a distorted version of some coffee drink. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with flavored coffees. If that’s where you are then none of this will matter to you. Wanting to raise the level of your coffee experience? Then definitely pay attention to all the article.

Then you can share with anyone willing to listen your knowledge about the differences between arabica and robusta coffees. There’s a good chance you’ve heard some others talking about this coffee or that shop where you get some great java. Possibly you thought they were talking about some drink with all the fluff and stuff, when in fact they were discussing specialty coffee.

Above there were several names of specialty coffees listed. The caution is many attempt to imitate those well known names with what are called blends. Costco would be well known for one they have carried for years that appears to be Jamaican Blue Mountain. It may have the added word “reserve” or something akin to that. Searching the label of ingredients you will discover that maybe only 10% is actually from the Blue Mountain range in Jamaica, and has nothing to do with the coffee that originates from the Wallingford Estate.

The same can be said for Hawaiian Kona, and any of those specialty brands mentioned. Quite simply, a blend is what these coffees are. This means that say 30% can be Hawaiian Kona or something from that region, and the rest can be any other inferior coffee. But this is talking about those that can really classify as coffee.

The end of the story here is when inferior coffee that is not good enough to classify as “specialty coffee” is blended with the robusta to create what the giant roasters such as Maxwell House, Folgers, and others put on grocers shelves. While they’ve had to up their game in the last 15 years, for decades the stuff many consumed was undrinkable, without adding something to it.

There’s more to this story which will be covered in subsequent articles, so sign up to follow this blog for more, that is if you’re tired of just ordinary coffee. Here’s lookin’ for the bottom of the cup!

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Coffee Time!

Why Does The I.C.O. Matter To Your Cup Of Coffee?

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Another international organization of dubious use. Who needs or wants another, especially when it has to do with coffee? Are you beginning to get overwhelmed with all the coffee “propaganda” hitting the news on a regular basis? There was a time when not much good was being said and coffee’s name was somewhat “muddy.” My how things have changed. Why is that?

Enter the International Coffee Organization, founded back in 1963 with the assistance of the United Nations, brought the coffee producing countries into agreement pertaining to export quotas. Why quotas? The help maintain a stable and less volatile  price in the commodities market.

During the WWII Brazil and all Latin producing countries were cut off from the European market. It was feared that Brazil might side with Germany if they could not find an outlet for their massive production. Because of this an agreement was reached which established quotas for all of the producers in Latin America. This mollified Brazil and some order was established in the coffee market.

Fast forward to 1962, years after the war, and these same quotas were no longer valid as the European Market was now open. At this point an International Coffee Agreement was created, which then led to the creation of the International Coffee Organization, responsible for overseeing the ICA rules and regulations.

The Untied States, being the largest consumer and importer of the worlds coffee was obviously a part of this, with a great deal of influence in the goings on of the two organizations. A five year contract was established, and from 1963 to 1989 it was continuously renewed.

However, in 1989 Brazil felt their production and exports could do better than the quotas assigned to them, and in the subsequent meetings was unwilling to agree on current limits. As such, a new contract was not established and coffee prices felt this almost immediately.

The U.S., now confident that Brazil was no threat in terms of siding with Russia, pulled out of the ICO in 1993. Since this was the one largest importers of coffee the effect was felt immediately, and coffee prices went sliding downward.

The roasters, suppliers, importers, buyers, were not the ones who felt this compared to the farmers. By 2001 coffee prices were at their lowest of more than 30 years. Many reasons are speculated, but the most probable has to do with Vietnam becoming the second largest producer and exporter of Robusta.

Added to this is the abundant supply with a sluggish demand, so in simple terms there is no export or productions quotas anymore. These were difficult to enforce and police in the past, and the present is no exception.

This would be similar to what goes on in any retail market, where the more businesses that enter into a geographical area continue splitting up the proverbial “pie” until it becomes non-profitable. As long as there is no agreement on production and export quotas the plight for coffee farmers continues.

What’s worse, the very real possibility that this will begin to have a negative effect on producers who will change to other cash crops that will provide a living already has an inroad. Producers cannot continue to invest in a loosing proposition.

The major roasters will not pay a fair wage, and yet charge exorbitant prices at the retail level. Green coffee they pay $.67 a lb. for is commonly sold for $12-15. Anyone can do the math. Starbucks may be the greatest abuser as they have retail locations around the world, allowing them to bypass so many of the “middlemen” in the coffee industry.

You can bet they will make a convincing sounding case for their abuse, and show how they benefit producers in Ethiopia by creating a ready market for their production. However, if the buying prices are below production prices, where’s the advantage? Starbucks nicely sidesteps answering such questions, blaming the inefficiencies on poor management among others.

So, how does this affect you, the ultimate coffee consumer? There’s a better than even chance that you already think coffee is expensive. Consider it has absolutely nothing to do with supply, but the ability of roasters to control the retail market.

The ICO still exists, but it begs the question as to why? It doesn’t seem to offer any control as in the past, leaving the price of coffee up to the commodity brokers and the market. Does the market want to see prices increase? Since they are the ones controlling it, so that would seem to be a “no!”

So enjoy your cup of coffee, yet keep in mind what a farmer living in a 3rd world country, cultivating maybe 20 acres of land with coffee, who has a family and knows no other way of life, depends on a once a year income and lacks enough to even send all his children to school.

The impact is felt at all levels, since there is no income there is no spending, so even the schools lack the revenue to provide supplies. Countries like Ethiopia based 80% of the GNP on coffee, and it employs some 15 million people along the chain.

Consumers make the difference, or at least they can. Will they? Will you? I can’t tell you want to do, or how effective it will be. The fact remains that consumers changed the marketplace for organics simply by their purchases. Looking for coffee with the International Fair Trade or (FLO) logo at least is a start. This is not to be confused with Fair Trade USA. Follow those links to learn more.

This organization (FLO) works with farmers to help them create a fund that is available when harvests are bad and/or prices are low. The farmers subsidize themselves and are not dependent on governments or international handouts. So buying these coffees and other products is one of the ways you help.

So why does the ICO matter to your cup of coffee? After reading this article you should be able to come to your own conclusion. As for this writer, I’m looking for International Fair Trade Certification for starters.

Is Your Coffee Really A Diuretic Or Is This False Information?

Do you really believe after all these years of hearing bad things about coffee, that suddenly it has somehow become the “good guy?” How is it that now we see scads of information making all sorts of claims about the positive benefits of coffee? Why back in the ‘90s it was being linked to cancer, and now it’s being linked to help reduce the possibility of certain cancers as well as Alzheimers. So what do you believe. Even more, WHO do you believe?

rue de la Vierge

Well, as a matter of fact “rust inhibitor” is alive and well in coffee. Ok, so it really means “antioxidants” in coffee are abundant. In fact, there are more of these microscopic warriors against oxidation and inflammation in the body from the husk of the coffee cherry.

The bright red coffee cherry husk has been said to contain as many as 100 times the amount of antioxidants as in coffee itself. As a result, you would think some holistic company would jump all over this and start peddling the coffee cherry husks as a “super antioxidant!”

Sadly, at this time in history, most get used for fertilizer and mulch around the coffee trees. Makes sense when you think about it, since this avoids the need for chemical fertilizer.

The most up to date studies seem to provide strong evidence that at least three cups of coffee daily can have a positive impact in your body helping to defend against several diseases. The only caution here is discovery of who actually has contracted these studies. Those independent of the coffee industry would be the most credible, so due diligence is in order.

Several links have been included for your review to see just how credible this information is according to the relative independence of the study.

Note: *** indicates an interesting disclaimer of the entity contracting the study done by the University of Birmingham in England, and published in PLOS 1. This is a peer reviewed research article, which simply means it has been reviewed diligently in the attempt to refute claims made, which in this case the positive results were published.

http://www.onemedical.com/blog/newsworthy/10-healthy-reasons-to-drink-coffee-2/

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-good-news-about-coffee-901665.html

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/13/262175623/coffee-myth-busting-cup-of-joe-may-help-hydration-and-memory

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/caffeinated-drinks/faq-20057965

***http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0084154

Funding: Funding for this study was provided by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC). ISIC is a non-profit organization, devoted to the study and disclosure of science related to coffee and health. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

As noted earlier in this information, the study made in 1928 that first made the claim of coffee having a diuretic impact in the body, has been the basis of all claims to that effect since. So this is what has created the interest to see if the facts support the claim.

So it certainly gives cause for coffee lovers to rejoice on many fronts. It also supports why those consumers of several cups of java have really never displayed signs of dehydration, when copious amounts of water were never consumed to supposedly offset the diuretic effect.

As an added testimony, the writer can attest to a daily habit of at least three cups of freshly ground, individually brewed cups of coffee during the last twelve years, with no where near as much water. Furthermore, coffee has been a daily habit during a period spanning nearly 60 years, with little regard for water. It can clearly be stated that the recommended 8 glasses of water daily have never be observed! Consider that for what it’s worth.

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Alan indulging his daily habit!

Current health indicates no diabetes, normal levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, HDL, with a slightly elevated A1C that is now under control and has absolutely nothing to do with coffee. Current weight is 162 for a 5’ 7” frame.

Bottom line, personal experience would certainly seem to support this claim of coffee not being the diuretic as as been claimed for decades. Yet as all physical makeups are different, your experience may be unique.

The real bottom line leads back to the anti-oxidants in coffee, which can now be added to the hydrating aspect as well. Who would have thought coffee could have ever become a “health drink?” Let the facts speak for themselves. It seems they have.

Is It Your Business Or None Of Your Business?

“None Of My Business?”

“Once I asked another person what they were doing and they told me it was none of my business. Considering that for a scant moment, the fleet winged thought crossed my mind of the infinitesimal possibility they might be right.

Had it not been for all the trouble pursuing that thought to it’s logical conclusion would have caused, I would have let them have their way. Prudence being the better part of valor, shouting “Cops!” proved to be the wiser solution, as efforts to relieve me of property were quickly discouraged.”

As I reread this, another thought arose. Did I write this, or is it a short piece copied from elsewhere? Must be, as there is no memory ever of any such confrontation. What’s more interesting, is whether or not I would have ever yelled “Cops!” Corporal action of some sort would likely have ensued…maybe running?

Now can you imagine yourself in a similar situation? Maybe a perpetrator is holding a knife, more threatening than actually up against your jugular. What do you do when the demand to hand it over is made? Do you meekly do so? Does fear reign to the extent you’re paralyzed, unable to make the slightest move, petrified what may happened?

Is there any move on your part to avoid the situation, such as running for your life? Would you stand there and yell, “COPS!” at the top of your lungs? Here’s a good plug for pepper spray. Got any?

Has it happened to you yet? Chances are it has to someone close to you. Remember how they related the incident in such fine detail, you could feel the fear and panic? So here you are faced with a similar event. What next?

How many times do these scenarios get air time in our noggins? The news is constantly reminding you hundreds of times everyday how vulnerable you are. Here’s where all those defensive moves you were shown by detectives at your workplace come into play. What they really couldn’t show you is the nerve to do it.

When these attacks take place it is usually by surprise, catching you completely in another world and time. Not paying attention to your surroundings, thinking about the latest Cable episode, what you’re going to wear tomorrow, that game of golf at 3 PM, a board meeting where you have to present, and the list goes on.

It’s difficult to say how many assaults would be avoided if the victims were simply aware. According to David Erath Jr. in his book, The Ultimate Guide To Unarmed Self Defense, awareness is one of the key factors in denying an attacker their opportunity.

He offers two chapters to his book for free, so it might be a great idea to see what he writes on the topic.

Knowing that it can happen at the least expected moment, should be a clue to keep constant vigilance, even in those moments where there seems to be no imminent danger. Remembering that looks can be deceiving applies as much to people as it does places.

Without question constant awareness is the hardest for most. This doesn’t imply you should walk around in the parking lot in a karate stance, suspecting anyone and everyone. Being relaxed and aware is the name of the game.

Walking is one of my everyday events, starting at 5:30 in the morning while it is still dark. The walks are 3 miles long in a woods. There is ample opportunity for elephants, rabid Lamas
or squirrels, stray dogs too for that matter, as well as an unseen assailant to pose an attack.

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My walking stick made of Eucalyptus wood.

For this and other  reasons I have made a large walking stick that has a pointed tip 2” long.

20160522_145915 - Version 2
Notice the 2″ tip!

It also does a great job with balance and traversing the mountain bike trails over very rugged and uneven ground.

This can be brought into action quickly and effectively in hands that know how to use it. More importantly it is a deterrent, at least to any human element. The elephants and squirrels don’t exist so that just leaves Lamas, dogs and humans.

 Point being it is an element that provides security, along with constant awareness. You will find that staying aware will become a habit. Strangely enough that could be a bad thing, as once habits are developed they become subconscious, meaning you go back into a state of unawareness.

Do a check on yourself about awareness. See how long you can stay focused on your surroundings, without your thoughts going off on a tangent somewhere. Chances are you won’t last more than 10 to 15 seconds in the beginning. It proves a point, and that is the purpose.

Fooling around for someone to tell you it’s none of your business, could be costly!

A Writes!

Yup, that would be me.