Brewing Tea

There are plenty of ways to brew tea out there: you can use tea bags, tea balls, loose leaf tea in a strainer, loose leaf tea directly in the pot, a french press, gaiwan, etc., etc., etc.  And I admit, the way that I judge a place that has tea is by how they serve it.  If you give me more tea than can be drunk in one cup and do not give me a way to remove the leaves from the water, that is a failing grade.  I’m looking at you french presses.  Two places that I’ve been to in the area, Caffe Driade and Open Eye Cafe, serve tea in french presses and it just doesn’t work.  Unless you just put in enough water to serve one cup of tea, the rest of the tea that doesn’t get poured out oversteeps and becomes bitter.  So that leads me to understeeping the first cup, trying to drink it too fast, and both not enjoying and burning my mouth on it; then, trying to quickly pour a second cup that is brewed fairly well; the rest of the tea in there is basically undrinkable.  I had a similar experience at Mill Mountain Coffee; however, since the leaves were just floating free in the pot, I was able to fish them out with a fork.

Tea bags and tea balls are far better than trying to brew tea in a container from which you cannot remove the leaves.  Some people refuse to use tea bags because they swear that they can taste the paper and the lower quality tea that is used.  I can’t taste the paper; I just don’t use them because the kind of teas I like aren’t often found in bags.

I have found one tea, so far, that I can taste the difference between brewing in a tea ball and brewing in a pot.  The difference comes from the fact that the leaves have more room to expand in a pot rather than the tea ball.  More room to expand means more surface area for the leaves to come in contact with, and therefore a fuller flavor is released.  The first tea in which I’ve definitely noticed this difference is the Houjicha Gold that I have; its a roasted green tea from Japan.  In a tea ball, it has barely any flavor, but when you brew it in a pot you can taste its roasted smoothness.  It really is a good tea, but I never would have known it without my teapot.

Researcher/archivist confidentiality

VII. Privacy

Archivists protect the privacy rights of donors and individuals or groups who are the subject of records. They respect all users’ right to privacy by maintaining the confidentiality of their research and protecting any personal information collected about them in accordance with the institution’s security procedures.

-From the Society of American Archivists Code of Ethics.

I apologize for the generalities in which this post is written, but I don’t want to cause more of a ruckus than has already occurred.

This is the story as far as I know it.  A researcher was using one of the collections at the repository at which I work.  She found information which was useful to her and that she found interesting.  She found out that one of our archivists was reprocessing that collection.  She sought out this archivist and told her about this material that was in this collection but not described in the finding aid. This information was included in the finding aid and then put online.  I wrote a blog post using some of the information that the researcher found and pointed out to our processing archivist.  The researcher read this blog post and was irate, saying that we scooped information that she was preparing to publish in a book.  The blog post was taken down.

Did my blog post violate the SAA Code of Ethics?  I obviously don’t think so, the way the facts are seen from my point of view.  The relevant section of the Code of Ethics is

They respect all users’ right to privacy by maintaining the confidentiality of their research

And this is an important pat of the code.  People need to be able to trust their archivists and need to be sure that they aren’t going to be spreading their research all over town.  Firstly, its bad PR if you violate this, potentially affecting future donations.  Secondly, while this is not an issue in the United States at the moment, as far as I know, some sorts of research can be dangerous.  Government archives of newly democratic nations are one example.  Some people might want to cover up their wrongdoings, and if these are detailed in the records of government, they may be exposed when these records become public.

However, from my point of view, if you seek out the archivist who is processing that collection and tell her about something in a collection, you cannot reasonably expect that archivist to not put that in the finding aid unless you explicitly tell her not to.  Perhaps I’m missing some key bit of the story, since I was only involved with this at the very end.  But, especially since we do not do item level processing at my repository, the researchers are the true experts on any of our collections.  To not use their expertise when we can would be foolish.


Crowdsurfing, to me, is the most selfish thing someone can do at a concert.  You are making a lot of people, who are there to enjoy the music, hold you up while you float on top of a sea of bodies.  You’re ruining the experience of the people who are holding you up.  If I had my druthers, I would probably just let all crowdsurfers fall on their heads.

This comes from Warped Tour, which I went to with Christi, her friend Megan, and Megan’s brother and friends.  I can’t even remember the name of the band we were seeing when this happened, but the singer said, after like the 3rd or 4th song, that he didn’t like crowd surfing.  “Sweet,” I thought. I thought he was gonna tell everyone to stop crowdsurfing and let everyone enjoy the concert.

Oh no.  He told everyone to get their crowdsurfing out on this one song.  He wanted to beat the “record” set by My Chemical Romance of 60 crowdsurfers per minute.  So when the song first started, it was fine.  We were doing okey shoving the people up to the front while still having some semblance of sanity.  However, I was watching for crowdsurfers and pushing them over, and not hearing the song whatsoever.  But near the end of the song there were just too many of them, and two or three of them converged on the little area where me and Christi were.  Christi needed to get out of there, and just as we were trying to get out, another crowdsurfer came over and grabbed my neck while he was surfing, presumably in order to stay up.  I grabbed his hand and threw it back at him; he gave me the “What the hell, dude?” look.

Mosh pits are one thing.  Everyone in the pit should know whats going on, and if you don’t want to be in the pit, you can just move over a little bit.  Even the biggest pits don’t take up that much space.  But crowdsurfing can go anywhere where there are enough people to hold you up; that can be most of the crowd.

Education, the American South, and Strangers with Cameras

[Note: This post was crossposted from my Daily Kos account.  Its similar to an earlier post I did, called Stranger With A Camera, but has a more political bent than the anthropological bent of the first post.]

Recently, there has been a lot of talk of how the Republicans have become a southern, regional party, and a lot of polling done on all sorts of topics, such as where are the Birthers primarily located, who believes that North America and Africa were once part of the same continent, and so on. And the tone underlying some of these posts, whether or not it was intentionally, is one of condescension. When presented with the polling data that shows that white Republicans are the majority of the Birthers, shock and dismissal are the reactions.

Throughout all of this, there hasn’t been any mention of education. Why do you think some many people in the South don’t know that Africa and North America were once part of the same continent, or that Barack Obama was really born in the United States? 7 out of the bottom 10 states for high school graduation rates are in the South. Standing here and gawking at their problems isn’t going to fix any of them; in fact, its probably only going to make them resent us more.

But people from other regions going into the South and telling them we can help them isn’t going to work either. The documentary Stranger With A Camera shows that you have to work with the community rather than try to impose upon it. In the early 1960s, many film crews from television networks and documentary productions came into the South and filmed only the poorest of the poor, leaving out all other aspects of Southern, especially Appalachian, life. The people in Appalachia who saw this going on felt that their communities were being used as propaganda for the War on Poverty and that all of the good aspects of their communities were being lost. People, primarily college students, on the VISTA program came from all over the country to Appalachia and were tasked with trying to help improve these communities, through things like working in schools, helping to develop community centers, and other things.

But people did not like this imposition. They felt that they were being told that they were unable to help themselves, that they needed help from the outside. One man saw a film crew filming on his property and shot and killed one of the, director Hugh O’Connor. One of my bosses was in the VISTA program while she was in college and was assigned to live with a family while trying to develop programming for a community center. While she was there, she was poisoned by the family with which she was staying. Now, this post is of course not condoning their actions. But it is indicative of their feelings that they felt like they had to do this.

All of this to say that we need to stop blanket generalizing any region or any people, but especially the South. What we need to do is to truly understand them and push for better education by working with insiders. Working with community organizations is how we can get this to work. The goals of Appalshop, the people who produced Stranger With A Camera highlight what needs to be done if we are serious about helping people in need.

Our goals are to enlist the power of education, media, theater, music, and other arts:

* to document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia;
* to tell stories the commercial cultural industries don’t tell, challenging stereotypes with Appalachian voices and visions;
* to support communities’ efforts to achieve justice and equity and solve their own problems in their own ways;
* to celebrate cultural diversity as a positive social value; and
* to participate in regional, national, and global dialogue toward these ends.

I-40 craziness in Greensboro

I’m a transit nerd.  I like learning about roads, bridges, highways, trains, neighborhoods, and all sorts of elements of history of cities.  In Greensboro, there is a part of I-40 that is just ridiculous.  I-40, along with I-85, used to go through downtown Greensboro, through a section that they call Death Valley.  They decided to build a road that goes around the city instead of through it, called the Urban Loop, and they routed I-40 and I-85 around the city instead of through it.  They renamed the Death Valley route Business I-40 and Business I-85, and that was supposed to have been that.

Except that the people who lived around the Urban Loop complained about the noise that the two highways brought in.  This is out in the suburbs, so the people there have the money to complain.  After a couple of months, the NC DOT decided to route I-40 back through the Death Valley route, but leave I-85 out on its new route on the Urban Loop.  Now, part of this reasoning was pragmatic: without a real interstate on the Death Valley route, it lost all of its federal upkeep money.

But while the change back was happening, its led to some weird routage.  I first noticed this when I was driving to Virginia, and the I-40 route I took while going west went through Death Valley, and the I-40 route I took east went on the Urban Loop.  I didn’t know the names at the time, I was just really confused that the signs told me to take one route west and one route east.  They’ve been in the process of resigning basically even since I moved to North Carolina, and they’re supposed to be done round about now.  Its just an interesting process, and kinda weird that its taken it almost a year to change all of the signs to reroute I-40 back through downtown Greensboro.