coffeecupcoffee-dryingpatio-coffeeresearchorgcoffee-harvesting-cherries-coffeeresearchorgHave you thought about your cup of Starbucks? What’s its story, anyway?
THE COFFEE BEAN: The United States imports more coffee than any other nation. In 2009 the average person in the United States consumed 9 lbs of coffee. Brazil is responsible for approximately 45% of the world's total coffee exports.
The coffee bean is a seed of the coffee plant, the source for coffee. The pit inside the fruit is called a berry or cherry. Even though they are seeds, they are called beans because of their resemblance to true beans.
PICKING/DRYING: When the coffee bean is ripe, it is almost always handpicked. There are two methods of processing the coffee beans. The first method is wet processing. The flesh of the berries is separated from the seeds and then the seeds are fermented–soaked in water for about two days. This dissolves any pulp or sticky residue that may still be attached to the seeds. They are then washed and dried in the sun, or in drying machines.
The dry processing method is used for lower quality seeds. Foreign objects are separated from the berries and the fruit is then spread out in the sun for 2–3 weeks, and raked regularly by hand. The outer shell of the beans turns brown and the beans rattle around inside. Once the beans are dried, all of the layers are removed from the beans (this process is called hulling). Occasionally, beans may be polished in a machine to remove that last little bit of silver skin. Beans are then graded and sorted, first by size, then by density. Beans of unsatisfactory size, color, or otherwise unacceptable, are removed. The green beans are bagged and shipped to buyers around the world−to coffee buyers and then to Starbucks!
ROASTING: The green coffee beans are heated in large, rotating drums using temperatures up to 550 F. The tumbling motion of the drums keeps the beans from burning. Roasting time depends on the desired coffee strength−seven minutes for a light roast to fourteen minutes for espresso.
GRIND: The proper grind brings out the most flavor. Generally, the finer the grind the more quickly the coffee should be prepared. Coffee ground for an espresso machine should be ground finer than coffee brewed in a drip system.
BREWING: Before you brew your coffee, take a moment. Smell their aroma. Think of the many processes these beans have gone through since the day they were hand-picked and sorted in their origin country. Consider the long way they have traveled to your kitchen. Prepare your coffee thoughtfully and enjoy it with pleasure. Many people have been instrumental in bringing it to your cup.
WRITERS CORNER: Like the journey of the coffee bean, as writers we travel a long road from the idea of a novel to its completion. Take time to research for accuracy, fully develop your characters and your plot. Bring it to its fruitful conclusion with care and thoughtfulness.
EVERYONE ELSE: Never undertake a project or a journey without a specific plan, whether it’s baking bread or taking a trip across town. Without consideration of whether you have all the needed ingredients, your bread could be dry and tasteless. If you don’t have a mental GPS of how to get where you’re going, you could end up in Timbuktu. (Metaphorically speaking).


The Swallows Return to Capistrano

capistranoThey say the swallows fly 7000 miles from Argentina every spring headed for Southern California. Perhaps one day, on the flight south, Father Sparrow spotted the San Juan Mission located on the plains, next to the wetlands. “Whoa, guys,” he may have tweeted, using today’s vernacular. “Check out that pond full of mud, those orange groves over yonder full of insects, and the lovely bare mission arches. Let us, forthwith, suspend our travels and build our nests here.” And all the tired swallows flew down to feast and build their nests and raise their young. The weather wasn’t that bad, either.

So every year after, they returned to the mission on or about March 19th to spend a thrill-filled summer, raising a family and blessing the mission with lovely twittering songs until mid- October, when they headed back to Argentina.

Along came 1939, and Glenn Miller wrote a song, immortalizing the swallows and the town, bringing tourists to San Jan Capistrano to visit the Mission, built in 1776, to see the miracle of the swallows returning every spring on almost the same day. City fathers rejoiced, making merry with parades and souvenirs, food and song…and made money.

]When the swallows come back to Capistrano

That‘s the day I pray that you’ll come back to me.

Enter the development crews who noted the increasing public interest in the fair city. They drained the wetlands, built shopping centers and cut down the orange groves to build apartment buildings and housings. And the town grew. In 1990, the church noted all the expanding tourism at the mission. They decided to remodel those nasty old bare arches left standing after the 1812 earthquake, so they knocked down all the swallow’s nests to renovate…and the swallows stopped coming.

Despite frantic efforts to bring the swallows back to the mission, which now includes fake nests on the arches and piped in mating calls meant to woo the birds, it’s all for naught. Only a few sparrows come to the mission these days. Most nest under bridges or in the eaves of the taco stand down the street. They say it was a combination of knocking down the nests, draining the wetlands and taking away their food source. Do you think?

Authors: Don’t risk changing your writing from a genre that has been successful. “Forget Victorian Romance,” some may say, “Try Horror-Fantasy-Thriller-Sci-Fi. You’ll like it.” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s not original, by the way. Stick with what you know. If you love writing Victorian Romance, forsooth, keep writing it.

Regular Folks: Remember family traditions. Bake the marble cake with lemon icing that your son always asked for on his birthday−even if he’s 40. Put up the manger scene at Christmas− even if the kids won’t be home this year. And don’t forget the note in your husband’s sandwich. One bite and he’ll find the note, saying, I love you. Don’t risk changing the traditions that made your memories beautiful. Don’t drive away the swallows. They may never return.


A Cat And Mouse Story

mousedroppingsONCE upon a time, or so the fable goes, there was a colony of mice who were tormented almost daily by the tattered old cat that lived down the way. Almost daily, as the less wary mice fell prey to the tattered old cat, the colony diminished in size. On a dreary day in the month of May, having heard yet again of the demise of another citizen, the mayor of the mouse colony called a town hall meeting to discuss this disturbing matter.

The mayor stood tall upon the top of a match box and shouted to his diminutive mouse constituents. “What can be done about this conundrum threatening our health and welfare?”

The towns-mice had no solution, having discussed the issue ad-nauseum and laying the blame to everything from feline over-population to unemployment.

One small mouse spoke up. “You all agree that the sly cat has made our lives miserable by the treacherous manner in which he sneaks around on padded feet. If there was a way we could be forewarned of his approach, we could scamper away and avoid his murderous attacks. Therefore, I propose that we break open the General Disaster Fund and purchase a small bell, string it to a ribbon and attach it to his tail.”

“Can’t happen,” said the Mayor Mouse. The General Disaster Fund is reserved against the day of a natural disaster, like a flood or famine. This is neither flood nor famine. We’ll have to raise a new tax to meet the demands of this monstrous issue.”

The towns-mice applauded and shouted in unison, “Let’s do that. Raise a new tax.” A motion was made and carried to tax each mouse according to his means, laying the highest tax on the worker-mouse as the wealthiest among them had tax breaks and the poorest received cheese subsidies. The motion was voted on and passed. They would announce a tax, purchase a bell and proceed with the plan. Faint music could be heard in the background as an old mouse stepped forward, “But who’ll tie the bell on the old cat’s tail,” said the wise old mouse. “Who’ll tie the bell on the old cat’s tail, so we’ll know when he’s around the house?”

The towns-mice, having no answer, and with meetings to attend, scampered away.

Then the old mouse said. “Foolish mice. It is easy to propose impossible remedies, harder to accomplish the goal, when you consider all the impediments.”

Author Corner: “I’m going to write a book about my life.” Foolish people. We laugh. Only another author knows what is involved between the plan and publisher. And then there’s the marketing! Only when one has a true calling to write can one devote the time, energy, commitment, perseverance, luck, and skill to begin, complete and sell a novel in today’s market.

Everyday Folks: If you have a seemingly insurmountable problem, try discussing it with someone with a different perspective. Then, listen to what they have to say. Now with all points of view on the table, you’ll have a complete understanding of the problem and be able reach a plausible solution.


Angels All Around Us. Fact or Fiction?

balaamsangelangel and bridgecolorDO OTHER RELIGIONS BELIEVE IN ANGELS? Angels are part of many religions including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism and are mentioned in the Bible as well as in the Qur'an and Hadith. All religions agree that angels are divine spiritual beings sent by God as messengers to comfort, or to protect in time of great need.

ANGELS IN THE BIBLE: The Bible includes many interactions and conversations between angels and humans. The most remembered− the Archangel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to foretell the birth of Jesus Christ.* Angels directed the shepherds to the stable where Jesus was born.** Following the Resurrection of Jesus, an angel rolled back the stone and spoke to Mary Magdalene.***

DO WE STILL BELIEVE IN ANGELS? In the US, a 2008 survey polled 1,700 respondents, and found that fifty-five percent of Americans, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life. Thousands of personal accounts have reported interactions with angels.

BALAAM’S DONKEY: One interesting story from the Bible describes the prophet Balaam who was instructed by God to deliver a specific message. Three times Balaam beats his donkey when it stops in the middle of the road. Finally the donkey turns and speaks aloud, “I can’t move forward? Can’t you see that Angel with a sword, standing right in front of us, blocking the road? Why are you beating me?”
Balaam answers, “Because you won’t obey. If I had a sword, I’d kill you!” Finally he sees the angel who delivers God’s message and Balaam obeys. (Loose translation.)##The amazing thing is that Balaam wasn’t the least bit amazed when his donkey spoke aloud to him. Instead, he argues and curses the donkey. Something to think about…But we’ll deal with talking animals another day.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The angels in the Bible are described as masculine. In the middle century, art and mythology depicted angels as female and artists added wings. Nowadays, angels could look like any one of us. The prophet in Hebrews admonished us to be kind, even to strangers, as they may be angels in disguise.

AUTHOR CORNER: Whatever success you’ve achieved as an author is due to many people who mentored and helped you learn your craft: writing coaches, critique partners, agents, publishers and other authors. Now you can be someone’s angel by mentoring, helping and encouraging new and budding authors. Be honest but remember, a kind word goes a long way to ease a tough critique.

EVERYONE ELSE: Donkeys can be stubborn and contrary. Sometimes they hold back when they should move forward. Angels lend a helping hand in time of need. Who knows? The person you meet on any particular day may need an angel. Or…he may BE an angel. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2**** It’s your choice. Donkey…or angel?

* Luke 1:26
** Luke 2:10
*** Matthew 28:5
****Hebrews 13:2
## Numbers 22


Do You Have Bats in Your Belfry?

PikiWiki_Israel_11327_Wildlife_and_Plants_of_Israel-Bat-003Bat_Roost_San_Antonio_TexasWhen people think of bats, they often conjure up images of something evil, a terrifying flying creature to be feared, the thing of myths and legends.

THEIR ROLE IN ECOLOGY: In reality, in many cultures or locals, the bat is a boon to the farmer. Often, bats are the primary nocturnal insectivores in some ecologies, as each night they consume one-third of their body weight in aerial and ground-dwelling insects. Each bat can consume several hundred insects in a few hours. This reduces the need for pesticides around crops and gardens.

Bats are present throughout most of the world, also performing vital ecological roles of pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds.

ARTIFICIAL ROOSTS: Often, people work to attract bats by creating an inviting environment. Bat houses attract bats just as birdhouses attract birds. Bat houses can be made from scratch or bought ready-made. Plans for bat houses even exist on many web sites, as well as guidelines for designing a bat house.

HOW THEY GET AROUND IN THE DARK: Bats use echolocation to get around in the dark. They emit a continuous call and separate pulse and echo in frequency. Their ears are sharply tuned to a specific frequency range. They emit calls outside of this range to avoid self-deafening. Bats use echolocation to locate and catch their prey. When the sound waves produced by these sounds hit an insect or other animal, the echoes bounce back to the bat, and guide them to the source. Modern day radar and sonar was developed by studying how bats maneuver and using the same principles of echolocation.

BATS ARE MAMMALS: Their forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. Other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, can only glide for short distances. Females generally have one offspring at a time and nurse their young until they are nearly adult size, because a young bat cannot forage on its own until its wings are fully developed.

AUTHOR CORNER: What can a writer learn from the bat? She begins to write a mystery book. She sends out a signal−how to get the protagonist from point A, the story beginning to point B−to bring down the bad guy? She takes the protagonist on a twisting, turning journey, following the echoes, negotiating the obstacles. If her signal is clear and she focuses on the echoes, she will reach a satisfying conclusion. Lose sight of the echo and her story gets lost along the way. Hey! How profound is that?

EVERYBODY ELSE: In a like manner, we relate to other people by sending out a signal. Good or bad, what is returned from others is the echo of our signal. Ask a question? Get an answer. Smile at a stranger? Usually you get one back. Be a friend and your friendships will flourish. Deceive or lie and in most cases, it comes back to bite you. Appreciate the bats. They pollinate flowers and catch insects. But be careful. Just of few of them may bite you on a dark night.


What Put the Crack in the Liberty Bell

CASTING THE BELL: In 1751, the bell was originally cast as the Pennsylvania State House bell in an England foundry. The first time the new bell was struck, it cracked. It had to be recast twice during the following year before it was rehung in the Philadelphia State House bell-tower. The words from the bible are inscribed on the side “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Leviticus 25:10

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: Among many other occasions, the bell was rung on July 18, 1776 to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The people immediately associated it with the Revolution and made it the symbol of their fight for freedom. Later to be renamed the Liberty Bell when it became a symbol of the abolitionist, seeking the end of slavery, it has since been struck during times of war, when women won the right to vote, the passage of civil rights and other momentous occasions marking societal freedoms.

THE BELL IS SAVED: In the fall of 1777, as the British armies advanced toward Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, the bell was removed and hidden in Allentown to prevent it being melted down by the British to make cannons. After the British defeat in 1781, the bell was returned to the Philadelphia bell-tower.

THE BELL’S LAST TOLL: Then in 1846, it rang for the last time. The Philadelphia Public Ledger reported on February 26, 1846: "The old Independence Bell rang its last clear note on Monday last in honor of the birthday of Washington and now hangs in the great city steeple irreparably cracked and dumb. It had been cracked before but was set in order of that day by having the edges of the fracture filed so as not to vibrate against each other ... It gave out clear notes and loud, and appeared to be in excellent condition until noon, when it received a sort of compound fracture in a zig-zag direction through one of its sides which put it completely out of tune and left it a mere wreck of what it was."

SYMBOL OF FREEDOM: If there was ever a symbol of America’s freedoms, including an author’s freedom of speech, it’s the Liberty Bell. Americans love the bell, despite its flaws and cracks. Today the Liberty Bell is on display in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Independence Hall, free to all who wish to witness it.

View of video of the Liberty Bell


AUTHOR NOTES: The Liberty Bell symbolizes perseverance despite its crack. If we wish to succeed as writers, we must persevere to meet deadlines, work on our manuscripts, rewrite, edit, and then persevere to promote our finished works. Even as flawed human beings, even if what we write disagrees with others, in America we have the freedom to express and publish our works for all to view.

EVERYONE ELSE: The Liberty Bell has been a symbol of freedom for over 150 years. Don’t waste your freedom. Don’t be satisfied to be one of the silent majority. Stand up and be counted. If you disagree, speak out when laws are passed, entertainment defies our moral values and decency is trampled through what society insists is political correctness and a sign of the times.


What Is Murphy's Law? Why Worry?

What is Murphy's Original Law?

If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.

Other wise men have opined similar notable truisms.

  • Etorre's Observation - The other line      moves faster.
  • Acton's Law - Power corrupts,      absolute power corrupts absolutely
  • Boob's Law - You always find      something in the last place you look.
  • Franklin's Rule - Blessed is he who      expects nothing, for he will not be disappointed.

As authors, Murphy’s Law affects our craft. I’ve taken the liberty of thinking how some of these laws might apply to an author. Perhaps you’ve experienced a few?

To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer

1.  The chance that your copy machine will break down is proportional to the importance of the manuscript that needs to be copied.

2.  When you arrive at your pitch session appointment, you’ve left the synopsis at home on the desk.

3. There will always be beer cans rolling on the floor of your car when the writing instructor asks for a ride home after class.

4. Any time you are unable to solve a problem scene in your manuscript, ask your critique leader. She probably won't know how either, but she will fake it.

5. If you’re broke you ask your publisher for an advance on your royalties, she will help you remember what you wasted all your money on.

6. The display settings on your computer will play havoc only when you have to finish the article for a press release by 5:00 this afternoon.

7. At the end of the Writer’s Conference, you recall having enrolled in a lecture at the beginning of the weekend…and never attending.

8. On the day you planned to work on that difficult love scene in your manuscript, your neighbor is going to mow the grass all day.

9. At the Writer’s Conference, your laptop will fail during the main speaker’s lecture.

Author’s Corner: Look at something you wrote several years ago. If you can’t immediately improve it by editing or rewriting it today, you aren’t growing as an author. Better take some additional writing courses, join a critique group, or head for a writer’s conference. An author must constantly be improving his craft or risk being left behind.

Everybody Else: If you eat a live toad in the morning, nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.


Why Does my Cat Hate to Get Wet?

safe_imageFishing CatsIn the wild, cats are very lean. Fat helps an animal float and keeps them warm in the water. Since cats don't have much fat, they are not natural swimmers and their natural food source consists of small land animals. In addition, since Cat’s fur is dense, it takes a long time to dry, so a cat wants to avoid the discomfort of a soggy coat.

Not so, the Fishing Cat of the South Seas, Prionailurus viverrinus, a breed of feline with webbed paws and a preference for fish. Over the years, they stepped out of their comfort zone hunting land animals, and adapted to their environment−densely vegetated areas near water, rivers and streams in the South Seas islands, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Burma, and China.

 Although they will eat small mammals, they prefer fish. They approach a stream, tap their paw lightly on the water’s surface, mimicking an insect. When a fish is attracted by the movement, they dive into the water and catch the fish. Over the years, their bodies evolved to have partially webbed paws and long claws so they can scoop out fish, frogs or other prey. They swim underwater to stalk ducks and aquatic birds.

 The Fishing Cat ranges from 15 to 25 pounds. Their long, stocky bodies have short legs, a broad head, round ears and a short tail, with black stripes and rows of black spots marking their fur. They usually raise 2-3 kittens in a litter. Their vocalization is like the bark of a dog

 The Fishing Cat is endangered due to loss of habitat and being hunted for food and fur. People have drained wetland areas for farmland and roads where they lived. Pollution has poisoned rivers and streams where they once fed. However, the few in captivity, (see the Smithsonian Zoo video attached) are doing well, so we may yet be able to save this beautiful and unusual cat, one of God’s beautiful creatures.

 Author Corner: Do you actively promote your book, and attempt to increase your social media presence? Every day? Its takes time and work and cuts into our everyday lives. But why did you write the book if you won’t actively promote it? Random House isn’t likely to come knocking on your door. Get out there and do something every day to promote your book. Comment on a blog, write a blog, (start a blog), query an agent, make a new Facebook friend, pursue an interview locally. Whatever you can think of, just do it! 

Everyday folks: Like the Fishing Cat that stepped beyond his comfort zone as a land animal and found his life enriched when he moved into the uncomfortable water, why don’t you take a chance and move out of your comfort zone? Take on the chairmanship of a committee, learn a new sport like tennis or bungee-jumping (maybe not so much), take a cooking class or volunteer at a local charity. You’ll find your life enriched by your new experiences. What have you done lately to step out of your comfort zone?


Can it really rain frogs?

jayHere’s how a series of events can result in a frog rain. ­­­­

­­­Before a severe thunderstorm, when a high pressure system forms over a body of water, it can cause a small tornado called a waterspout (a whirlwind that picks up water and anything lightweight within it).

Frogs weighing little more than a few ounces are no match for a watery waterspout.

As with tornados crossing land, the center of the waterspout is a low-pressure tunnel within a high-pressure cone. Any light weight item (frogs) can be sucked into the vortex. ­

When a particularly large tornado with waterspout and hitchhiking frogs hits land, it loses some of its energy and slows down. As the vortex loses pressure, it releases whatever cargo it has picked up along the way– The end result? It rains frogs.

 Author’s Corner: An author may find a certain character taking over the scene to the detriment of the protagonist’s goal. Maybe your writing rambles without moving the story forward. Maybe you have too many viewpoint characters. These are the frogs of unintended consequences every author needs to watch out for.

Everyday folks:  Life is complicated. Sometimes, through no fault of our own, we find ourselves the recipient of unintended consequences, either short-lived or life-long.  We are like the innocent storm, crossing a lake, minding its own business, and suddenly, we’ve picked up those frogs along the way.

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