Chemexing

Last week, I gave you my Aeropress recipe. This week, I want to share my technique for Chemex coffee. Unlike an Aeropress, a Chemex is pour-over—which pretty means what it says—and pretty straightforward. Your pour the water over grounds for a few minutes, it filters into the carafe, and boom—you have coffee. This recipe is for an eight-cup (40 oz) Chemex which makes enough coffee for two to three people at a time, depending on how much each person drinks.

I'll say that the appeal of pour-over—and the Chemex in particular—is part aesthetics (these are beautiful devices), part taste (you get a much smoother and flavorful cup from pour-over than most other methods), and part control. Everything is up to you: the size of the grind, the temperature of the water, the flow of the pour, and the pace of the extraction. Everything. For those of you who like a bit of ritual in your mornings, pour-over devices are an ideal addition.

Anyway.

This is a variation on a standard Chemex recipe. I adjusted the grind a bit and upped the amount of coffee. It's nothing special, but it works for me, and I wanted to share.

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First: Bring about four cups of water (32 ounces or 940 grams) to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, weigh out 50 grams of coffee beans.

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On a Baratza Encore grinder, grind at the 18 setting. (A little coarser than kosher salt.)

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Put the filter in the Chemex—with the double-folded portion on the spout—and rinse the filter with a cup of hot water.

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Pour out the hot water, place the grounds in the filter, and set the whole thing on your scale (You should really own a scale, by the way). Zero out the scale.

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Add 100 grams of water, circling outwards. Set time to 4 minutes and allow coffee to blome for 45 seconds.

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At the 3:15 mark, begin to pour 300 grams of water—again, circling outwards—and let sit until you get to the 2:15 mark. Repeat at the 1:15 mark and let all the water drain out.

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When you're finished, you'll have about this much coffee. Remove the used filter and grounds, and serve.

"It’s prana energy because they still breathe through their stomach."

This interview with Willow and Jaden (children of Will and Jada Pinkett) Smith is so delightfully bizarre. Here's a taste:

You mentioned breathing earlier, and it’s also an idea that recurs in your songs.

WILLOW: Breathing is meditation; life is a meditation. You have to breathe in order to live, so breathing is how you get in touch with the sacred space of your heart.

JADEN: When babies are born, their soft spots bump: It has, like, a heartbeat in it. That’s because energy is coming through their body, up and down.

WILLOW: Prana energy.

JADEN: It’s prana energy because they still breathe through their stomach. They remember. Babies remember.

WILLOW: When they’re in the stomach, they’re so aware, putting all their bones together, putting all their ligaments together. But they’re shocked by this harsh world.

JADEN: By the chemicals and things, and then slowly…

WILLOW: As they grow up, they start losing.

JADEN: You know, they become just like us.

Political philosophy and "white flight"

A fascinating interview with philosopher Charles Mills on race and political theory:

G.Y.: So, would it be fair to say that contemporary political philosophy, as engaged by many white philosophers, is a species of white racism?

C.M.: That would be too strong, though I certainly wouldn’t want to discount the ongoing influence of personal racism (now more likely to be culturalist than biological — that’s another aspect of the postwar shift), especially given the alarming recent findings of cognitive psychology about the pervasiveness of implicit bias. But racialized causality can work more indirectly and structurally. You have a historically white discipline — in the United States, about 97 percent white demographically (and it’s worse in Europe), with no or hardly any people of color to raise awkward questions; you have a disciplinary bent towards abstraction, which in conjunction with the unrepresentative demographic base facilitates idealizing abstractions that abstract away from racial and other subordinations (this is Onora O’Neill’s insight from many years ago); you have a Western social justice tradition that for more than 90 percent of its history has excluded the majority of the population from equal consideration (see my former colleague Samuel Fleischacker’s “A Short History of Distributive Justice,” which demonstrates how recent the concept actually is); and of course you have norms of professional socialization that school the aspirant philosopher in what is supposed to be the appropriate way of approaching political philosophy, which over the past 40 years has been overwhelmingly shaped by Rawlsian “ideal theory,” the theory of a perfectly just society.

Rawls himself said in the opening pages of “A Theory of Justice” that we had to start with ideal theory because it was necessary for properly doing the really important thing: non-ideal theory, including the “pressing and urgent matter” of remedying injustice. But what was originally supposed to have been merely a tool has become an end in itself; the presumed antechamber to the real hall of debate is now its main site. Effectively, then, within the geography of the normative, ideal theory functions as a form of white flight. You don’t want to deal with the problems of race and the legacy of white supremacy, so, metaphorically, within the discourse of justice, you retreat from any spaces worryingly close to the inner cities and move instead to the safe and comfortable white spaces, the gated moral communities, of the segregated suburbs, from which they become normatively invisible.

Watching a marathon in Richmond

This weekend, I watched my girlfriend's father run—and finish—his first marathon. Well, I saw him a few times at different points on the course. During most of the race, I took pictures. Here are the ones I like.

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These were the first runners to reach the 17 mile mark. They were...intense, to say the least.

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Another early runner.

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One of the larger "packs" of runners, also by the 17 mile mark.

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Kids unenthusiastically handing out dry towels.

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Looking for a very particular runner.

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Not fooled by my attempt to take a candid.

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Approaching the finish line.

"Too Many Qualms"

Count me as 100% on board with Drew Magary's critique of internet culture:

Now 90 percent of all internet thinkpieces are dedicated to explaining why you should have a problem with something you originally had no problem with. OPEN YOUR EYES, SHEEPLE. Don't you see that keyboard cat is a way of enforcing traditional heteronormative privilege in America today? The cat is wearing a house robe, which means that it he/she is clearly being forced into a domesticated, subservient role against his/her free will. NOT FUNNY. NOT ON MY WATCH. There's a whole black hole of the internet that spends all day up its own ass, endlessly worried about approving of pop culture rather than actually fucking enjoying it.

This is shitty, pointless writing. You think something is racist or sexist? Say it's racist or sexist. Don't hem and haw and say you something "bugs" you like it's some kind of yet-to-be-revealed magical revelation.

Aeropressing

On Twitter a little while ago, I mentioned I got my Aeropress recipe right. For those unaware, the Aeropress is a manual coffee brewer that relies on pressure to get its results. It's cheap, straightforward, and a solid introduction to the world of manual methods. I recommend it.

For those of you who have an Aeropress, here is my recipe. It makes a great cup—or at least, one suited to my tastes—every time. As far as the beans are concerned, I used the latest release from Blue Bottle Coffee, an Ethiopian variety called Yirgacheffes. (As an aside, this recipe only works if you have a burr grinder. If you like coffee and you don't own one, you should get one. Here's a cheap manual version if you don't want to spend the cash for an electric one.)

First, you'll want to bring your water to 200 degrees fahrenheit. If you don't have an electric kettle that reads temperature, the next best thing is to bring water to a boil, and let it rest for around 30 seconds.

As your water is getting hot, weigh out 18 grams of coffee, roughly a decent scoopfull.

Grind to around the consistency of kosher salt, which—on a Baratza Encore grinder—is about a 12.

Now, you want to rinse out the filter with the hot water to remove any of the paper taste and warm up the mug. After rinsing, dump the water.

We're doing the inverted method, so at this point, place the grounds in the Aeropress like so.

Add water until you get to the "3" mark, gently stir, and let sit for 30 seconds, so the coffee can develop flavor.

After 30 seconds, add water until you get just past the "1" mark and let sit for 1 minute. Give the grounds 10 vigorous stirs—the Aeropress comes with a handy paddle—then press into your mug.

Top off your mug with hot water—the Aeropress makes something of a coffee concentrate—and enjoy!

N-I-G-G-A-R

Apropos of this Washington Post story on "nigger," I think the best statement on the word—at least in the last decade—is this Dave Chappelle skit, circa 2003:


By making the word a surname, Chappelle shows every possible use of the word, its assorted contexts, and its different meanings. And it does so without the judgment or sanctimony of most conversations on the word, which tend to cover the same territory, ad nauseam. You should watch it, though—obvious warning—it's not safe for work.

The return of compassionate conservatism?

Amanda Becker, writing for Reuters:

Kasich, a potential 2016 presidential contender, touts his zeal for tax cuts and balanced budgets. But he also says the Republican Party should be run “from the bottom up, rather than the top down,” and do more to help the poor, mentally ill and incarcerated.

The key question here is how Republican voters feel about the Affordable Care Act. If they can tolerate his push to expand Ohio's Medicaid program, then he's fine—all he has to do is keep orthodoxy on tax cuts, abortion and foreign policy. But if Obamacare hatred is still en vogue come 2015/2016, he's a long shot.

How do you bring Dr. Strange to film?

Alex Pappademas' profile of the Sorcerer Supreme is very good, and raises an important question: How do you even bring Dr. Strange to screen? He's just weird and just idiosyncratic enough that he doesn't fit the usual template of the Marvel Studios movies.

My own half-cocked idea is to do Strange as a supernatural thriller with human-sized stakes—he's trying to save a single individual from a mystical threat, not the whole Earth. Or maybe you tell the story of his journey from Dr. Strange, practitioner of the dark arts to Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme. The stakes are a little greater, but even this is a smaller story than what you get from most Marvel films.

Basically, I want Dr. Strange—and Black Panther—to buck the third act "world is threatened" nonsense of the recent films. Show us something different, for a change.

"The unspoken option is guns"

Ta-Nehisi Coates on black people and their relationship to his country:

But this is not really an option at all—and not merely because it is impractical. Black people are Americans, one of the oldest classes of Americans. It is crucial to understand this. We are not seeking integration into someone else’s burning house. We built the house. It belongs to us as much as it belongs to anyone. And I think we will no more destroy our own American home than we would shoot down our own American children.

Fun with the iPhone 6 Camera

On Sunday evening, my partner and I took a walk around the Lincoln Memorial. It was nice, and the light was perfect, which made it a great time to try out the camera on the iPhone 6. Here are a few of the shots. I wasn't disappointed. All photos were edited with VSCO Cam.

Here is the Washington Monument, from the Lincoln Memorial side.

Here is the Washington Monument, from the Lincoln Memorial side.

Another one of the Washington Monument, from across the reflecting pool.

Another one of the Washington Monument, from across the reflecting pool.

And here we have a very...golden shot of the Lincoln Memorial.

And here we have a very...golden shot of the Lincoln Memorial.

And finally the Lincoln Memorial, at dusk.

And finally the Lincoln Memorial, at dusk.

"The perfect world is made up of so much should."

Roxane Gay on Janay Rice, domestic violence, and our national cycle of indifference:

We do not live in a perfect world. We live in this ugly mess of a world, where Janay Palmer wasn't really believed until we bore witness to incontrovertible evidence — the repulsive image of her being knocked out with a single blow by an NFL athlete. Even with such brutal evidence, Ray Rice still has his defenders, and he will likely get third and fourth and fifth chances. For women in far less visible relationships, the imperfect world is even more unfathomable. I am here, writing from this imperfect world about yet another terrible thing that happens to women, knowing these words will not make a difference.

"The social & moral bankrupcy suggested by this fact is of the bitterest, most terrifying kind."

It's hard to write about racism—about the problems faced by blacks and other minorities—without a certain kind of response from a certain kind of writer: White people are poor too. Why don't you write about them.

James Baldwin had this problem too, and his response—I think—is perfect:

People are continually pointing out to me the wretchedness of white people in order to console me for the wretchedness of blacks. But an itemized account of the American failure does not console me and it should not console anyone else. That hundreds of thousands of white people are living, in effect, no better than the “niggers” is not a fact to be regarded with complacency. The social and moral bankruptcy suggested by this fact is of the bitterest, most terrifying kind.

Yep.

"Free Stuff"

On Twitter, Jessica Valenti asked if any countries provide free or subsidized tampons or pads. In response, a crowd of angry men denounced her as a "cunt" and a "slut" who just wanted free stuff.

Nonsense slut-shaming aside (do these people not understand that women menstruate regardless of their sexual activity?), the reason this was a stupid response—and the reason Valenti's was a reasonable question—is that affordable access to feminine supplies is a human rights issue.

For poor and rural women in places around the world, menstruation can mean isolation and stigma. Without a way to absorb bleeding, women on their periods are shunned from schools and jobs, and stigmatized as unclean. Tampons and pads are a necessity, but they're often out of reach and unaffordable. Instead, women use rags and newspapers, which risks infection, especially since the stigma attached to menstruation also extends to cleaning mentstral products in nearby rivers or streams.

Per Valenti's question, free and subsidized tampons and pads would be a huge boon to women and girls around the world, saving lives and expanding women's autonomy. Even in the United States, feminine products are expensive.(Seriously, if you're a straight guy who has never bought tampons for a partner, go to the store and see how much they cost. It's bananas.) Something as simple as making them tax-exempt (like other medical necessities) would benefit millions of low-income women.

Asking about tampons and pads isn't about "free stuff," it's about helping women, protecting health, and saving lives.

Let's Do the 'Jerry Lewis'

A great look at a "lost track" from Paul's Boutique, the Beastie Boy's second record and arguably one of the best hip-hop albums ever made:

"Capitol higher-ups expected the Beasties to deliver a hit. Their A&R man, Tim Carr, had presented the Boys with the so-called “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” memo, which made the comparative case that the Rolling Stones were pigeonholed as a novelty blues band until they created their crossfire hurricane hit in 1968.

Capitol was saying – pleading – that the Beasties could make a new smash single without compromising their integrity. Their plea fell on deaf ears. Which is, probably, a good thing. If Capitol execs had ever heard “The Jerry Lewis,” they would’ve immediately opened a new Swiss bank account. Had “The Jerry Lewis” been released as Paul’s Boutique’s first single ahead of the under-performing “Hey Ladies,” Beastie Boys would likely have been permanently pegged as novelty knuckleheads, never to go on their long, strange journey."

"DOOM, not to be confused with nobody"

Eric Thurm on heteronymity in Kierkegaard and MF DOOM is a great read:

Each of Doom’s characters is also a way of showing off the full range of his musical talent — the Metal Face, Viktor Vaughn, and King Geedorah characters all have distinct syntaxes, flows, and levels of vulgarity, and are tied to different elements of hip-hop. The Metal Face name appears on albums that Doom has both produced and written himself — the closest thing to a pure expression of himself — while King Geedorah is primarily a behind the scenes producer, executing a “script” over the course of Take Me To Your Leader in accordance with the “voice-throw trick” the character uses to control Doom, and Viktor Vaughn raps and promotes himself (including on a series of tracks representing an open mic night), but leaves the beat making to outside producers woven into the narrative as his friends.

The eternal recurrence of "black pathology" arguments

There's very little new in American politics, and that's especially true in our debates over racial inequality. For example, here's the Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley in an editorial from July 31, 2014:

People often lament the quality of black leadership in America today, but in some ways it's a sign of progress. If blacks were still facing legitimate civil rights issues—like legal racial discrimination and voter disenfranchisement—that would attract the best and brightest of black America to the cause. But serious people like Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King and others fought and won those battles a half-century ago. What we have left today as civil-rights leaders are second- and third-tier types striving for relevance in an era when the biggest barrier to black progress is no longer white racism but black anti-social behavior and counterproductive attitudes toward work, school, marriage and so forth.

And here's conservative economist George Stigler, as quoted by Geoffrey Kabaservice in Rule and Ruin, in the December 1965 issue of New Guard, the official publication of Young Americans for Freedom:

[C]onservative economist and later Nobel Prize winner George Stigler claimed that the basic problem of the black American was that “on average he lacks a desire to improve himself, and lacks a willingness to discipline himself to this end.” The African-American male’s lack of employment owed not to discrimination but to “his own inferiority as a worker.” Residential segregation existed because “the Negro family is, on average, a loose, morally lax group, and brings with its presence a rapid rise in crime and vandalism.” Equality for African-Americans would arrive only when they imitated the virtues of an earlier generation of Jewish immigrants: “a veneration and irrepressible desire for learning; frugality; and respect for the civilization of the western world.”

It's fine if conservatives oppose color-conscious policy. But I think it's time for new arguments.

The more things change...

I'll have a lot to say on the book when I'm finished, but for now, I wanted to share these excerpts from Geoffrey Kabaservice's Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, which stands as a treasure trove of information on an earlier, less ideologically rigid iteration of the GOP.

Here's the first, from George Romney in response to Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater's drive to purge moderates from the party:

“Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”

It's fair to say that, in the Republican Party at least, this has come to fruition.

The second comes from a Republican judge unconvinced the party should spend time appealing to black Americans:

An Indianapolis judge spoke for many conservative Republicans who believed that it would be impossible to “out-promise” Democrats on rights and benefits for minorities, and that therefore “the more of these people who are pressured into registering and voting, the greater our party will suffer.”

Change a few words, and you have a version of Mitt Romney's statement after his presidential loss, which he blamed on "extraordinary gifts" from President Obama to his "key supporters."

The more things change, and all of that.