Monday, November 18, 2013

Coffeeneuring 2013 in Eugene


I had ambitions to do more, and in particular to declare my home a coffee shop for a day (with a good story or cycling advice as the price of a cup), but in the end I am satisfied with having finished the coffeeneuring challenge successfully, boosting ever so slightly Oregon's standing as a nexus of bicycles and coffee.
My adventures are as follows: Fall colors
Lynne and Lesli, coffeeneuring before randonneuring
Coffeeneuring #5: Wolf Creek
  • October 5:  Mocha at Wandering Goat with Patrick Deegan and his daughters.  This was a wonderful start, and I wish I had been able to turn more of my coffeeneuring outings into meet-ups with delightful people.  Approximately 5 miles round trip. 
  • October 12: Mocha and pastry at Hideaway Bakery, with Cyndi.  Bonus visit to preparations for 2013 Eugene Cargo Bike Fair and Disaster Relief Trial on the way home.  Approximately 5 miles round trip. 
  • October 13: Hot chocolate at Allann Brothers on Hilyard.  Combined with a scenic loop up McBeth and down Fox Hollow, for a total of about 15 miles. 
  • October 19: Caffe Latte at Vero Espresso House, with Cyndi.  Combined with shopping at Smith Family Bookstore (before) and Arriving by Bike (after), for a total of about 9 miles. 
  • October 20: Coffee at Linda's Cafe and Deli, Lorane, OR.  This was my only longish coffeeneuring expedition:  Wolf Creek loop counter-clockwise.  Little stores and restaurants in itty-bitty towns are such a treasure and a resource to those of who ramble.  It's a great pleasure to be greeted as a regular at a place like that, some distance from home.  About 70 miles. 
  • October 26: PC (Market of Choice) at dawn, before setting out on a permanent brevet with Lynne and Lesli.  Straight espresso. Just barely over the 2 mile minimum. 
  • October 27: Hot chocolate at Morning Glory Cafe, by the Amtrak station, to see Lynne off to Portland.  About 10 miles round trip. 
  • November 3: Extra credit coffeeneur (#8 of 7), a semi-successful attempt to bike in shapes.  The cup, carefully designed on a map before departure, is more-or-less recognizable.  The saucer, improvised at the last minute based on my mental geography of the river bike path, is a travesty. Straight espresso at Full City Coffee on the way back home.  About 15 miles. 
I regret that I didn't manage to open a coffeeneuring bar one morning and make coffee for lots of other Eugene area lovers of coffee and cycling.  Maybe next year, if there is a next year.  Can MG really keep this up if the coffeeneuring boom spreads?  I hope so.  I have more adventures to plot, and plenty more cafes to visit in the Eugene-Springfield area and further afield.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Coffeeneuring extra credit: #8 of 7


I've seen a couple suggestions to ride a coffee-cup shaped route.  It's not as easy as it sounds, because street systems tend to be on a grid with few suitable lines to form the bowl of a cup or a handle.  Coburg/Cal Young/Willagillespie/Country Club was the closest thing I could find to a cup shape in the Eugene area, with a somewhat clumsy handle looping around Monroe Middle School.  That much I mapped out in advance, but I forgot to consider one-way streets, which caused me some problem where I tried to complete the bottom of the bowl.

On the way to the start of the cup, it occurred to me that I should be able to draw in a saucer with the river path.  This I did not see on a map before I got there, and I should not be surprised that my mental picture of the geometry is way different from where the path actually goes. That stretch along the river was supposed to be the saucer ... obviously that part didn't work.

The only coffee along the cup itself was a Starbucks.  I'm not too snobbish to acknowledge that Starbucks makes reliably pretty good coffee, and has had an overall very positive influence on coffee in the U.S.   But this is Eugene, and we can do a lot better, so I stopped at Full City (Pearl Street) on the way back.


Full City is more-or-less the original really good coffee in Eugene.   More-or-less because the proprietor was roaster at Coffee Corner when Coffee Corner was the best coffee in town, 30 years or so ago.  I'm not 100% certain, but I believe I bought my first batches of green beans from him when I was living in Indiana.   Fully City has a high standard for quality, from the roasting and freshness to the pulls.  They make a few choices differently than I would ... some of their roasts are a bit darker than I prefer, and the practice of serving the shot separate from the steamed milk in a caffe latte seems to me an unnecessary exposure of the coffee to air.  No latte art here; the focus is on flavor.   I had a shot. It was good.


Coffeeneuring data:  3 November 2013,  Full City Coffee Roasters on Pearl Street, "caffe normale"  (straight espresso), about 15 miles total.

The canon and the value of allusion

Two articles have got me thinking about the value (and cost) of a consensus literary canon.  Yesterday it was a Slate article, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Arcade Fire."  Today it was a Chasing Mailboxes post "Coffeeneuring is Truth, Truth Coffeeneuring".   I imagine more people "get" the latter (Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn) than the former (Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird),  and one could get something out of both articles without catching the allusions, but reading is a richer experience when we catch these inside jokes of reference.

I suspect few of my current students would catch the Keats reference, and I would be surprised if one in ten caught the Stevens reference ... which is a shame, because the whole form of the Slate review is a bit of a play on the form of the poem, with a switch-up from straight numbering of the perspectives to a repeated "one two three four" rhyming with the dance theme in the review.  The Keats theme is less woven into the coffeeneuring blog post, but there is an implicit comment there, echoing Keats, about the relation of aesthetic appreciation to practical pursuits.    Allusion makes writing denser and more rewarding.

But I miss lots of allusions, and not just in the parts of the canon that I am unfamiliar with.  A week ago, a friend who was brought up with traditional Old Testament tales told a story about her work involving  building more bricks without more straw.  I had some idea that straw was involved in making bricks, but my spotty religious education did not include unreasonable demands on Jewish slaves in Egypt.  And I miss a lot of contemporary allusions.  I know now that a British telephone box might be a disguised tardis, and that a tardis is not (as I once assumed) a malicious space creature, but I will never fully appreciate a conversation heavy with references to Dr. Who.  I know that Breaking Bad is about a high school chemistry teacher who turns to cooking meth, but that's as far as my familiarity goes.  Is my recognition of 19th and 20th century poetry adequate recompense for being completely oblivious to references to Duck Dynasty or Homeland or The Wire?

To some extent allusions are "in" jokes that we use to distinguish those from our own group, with its shared values and experience, from others.  If you make a reference to Monty Python, and I get it, then we know we have that in common.  It builds a bond.  I was pretty thrilled when I first read extensive references to Chuangzi in LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven, because I had read a fair bit of Chaungzi and because I knew that not many readers of The Lathe of Heaven likely had ... the thrill of getting an in joke is partly knowing that a lot of other people don't.  I enjoyed the Wallace Stevens allusion in a Slate review partly for the same reason.  It's fun knowing that only a fraction of the readers of that article will be in on the joke.

Which brings us to the cost of a consensus canon.  The traditional canon in western education, as others have complained, is a bunch of dead white European men.  Chuangzi isn't there.  The Bible is there, but the Koran isn't.  Keats is there, but Li Bai (Li Po) isn't.  I probably can't name a lot of the key texts that have been omitted, because of course my own education was largely built around the traditional western canon.   The in jokes that I learned to recognize and appreciate are in jokes told by people who belong to the club of those who share my educational background, and who happen to include the majority of those who have money and power in our society.  The in jokes of people brought up in other cultures, or in other subcultures in America, do not necessarily have less intrinsic value than the in jokes I recognize, but they are less useful as entree into the dominant culture.

I'm not saying that knowing Duck Dynasty is equivalent to knowing Keats.  I can't make a direct comparison, since I'm familiar with only one of them, but I wouldn't trade my 19th century poets as a group for reality TV.  (I might trade Keats for Monte Python and Wordsworth for early Saturday Night Live, if I had to ... neither the dead poets nor contemporary TV are uniform in quality.)

So there is a cost to having a consensus canon:  It is necessarily a narrow selection that omits a great deal worth knowing, and it will unavoidably be slanted toward work most relevant to those with power and resources.  It marks an in-group, and excludes many out-groups.  But there is likewise a cost to not having a canon, or having many, mostly disjoint canons.  Our discourse is plainer and poorer if we can't paint on the rich textured background of our shared reading.

I don't have a prescription for addressing this quandary.  I know plenty of others have thought about it and argued about it, for decades.   It's on my mind partly because I am not part of the community that typically argues about it.  I teach computer science, not literature.  Still, when I introduce aliasing of variables in my intro class, I really want my students to recognize and get a little thrill when I borrow an explanation:

O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;