Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tea Report

I feel I should tell you about two things: how my last batch of Twinings internet tea went, and how my new batch is going.

Tea Report: First Shipment

In ascending order of awesomeness, here's how my first six boxes shook out:

6) China Oolong--I don't really care for it. I drink it sometimes because I bought it and I might as well, but I find it mostly bland and a little bitter. I'm sad its taste does not match the greatness of its name.

5) Ceylon Orange Pekoe--it turns out that I was mistaken and that this isn't orange-flavored tea, it's orange-colored tea. It, too, is a little bland, but I just add a little more honey than I do to other teas and it's a'ight.

4) African Rooibos--I started out not caring for this one (and unfortunately, I can't say how Twinings' rooibos compares to other rooiboses, as it's the only rooibos I've had), but it's grown on me. At first, it tasted like cinnamon with an aftertaste of medicine, but by about my third try the medicineyness went away and now it mostly tastes sweet. Still a little odd, but pretty good. (Oh, and I've been reading books about this African lady detective, and she drinks this tea, so I enjoy drinking it whilst I read the books. It's fun!)

3) English Afternoon--very good. I don't know what about it makes it afternoony, but I still like to drink it in the afternoon anyway, just for kicks.

2) Prince of Wales--so good! It tastes like the Platonic ideal of black tea. It's exactly how tea should taste. It's just so tea-like!

1) Lemon Twist--now, the Prince of Wales is probably "better" than Lemon Twist; I imagine that tea afficianados/snobs would sneer at pre-fruited tea (although I have nothing to base that on besides imagination). But I love it! Once you put the honey in there, it tastes like Froot Loops! But not like, if you dumped Froot Loops in some tea--more like the essence of Froot Loops as interpreted through the medium of tea. I'm drinking some right now!

Intermission: A Japanese Twinings Commercial!

When I saw my sister (who's been living in Japan) recently, she indicated that she has some hostility toward the Twinings company because of their terrible commercials. Then yesterday, she sent me a link to demonstrate.

I don't know what the problem is. That was adorable!

Tea Report: Second Shipment

For the second go-round, I reordered the favorites (Lemon Twist, Prince of Wales, and English Afternoon; since I started out slow and Neal doesn't touch it, I haven't run out of rooibos yet), got my other favorite that I could buy at the grocery store but which is cheaper online (Darjeeling--mmm, Darjeeling) and took a gamble on two new teas.

I ordered a box of Orange Bliss based on the success of the Lemon Twist and my affinity for orange-flavored stuff. So far, I'm a little disappointed; it tastes like orange Kool-Aid, which is fine for Kool-Aid but not a flavor I crave in tea. Of course, when I say "so far," I mean the one cup of it I've had. I've discovered that it often takes three tries for me to nail down a solid opinion on a tea flavor, so this verdict may yet change.

This next one will not.

In my previous tea entry, I mentioned I had to get one additional box to come up with the minimum order total, and I had to decide between the Ceylon Orange Pekoe and the Lapsang Souchong. Since Orange Pekoe carried the day last time, I wanted to give the Lapsang Souchong a chance this time. Well, it turns out that when the company describes it as a "an adventurous tea with a unique smoke flavor," they ain't kidding around.

I opened the Lapsang Souchong box and was immediately hit by the smell. (Keep in mind, when I say I opened the box, I mean I opened a box full of sealed envelopes of tea bags.) Neal was sitting halfway across the room and he could smell it. Smoke flavor? Yes indeed. You get anywhere close to this stuff, and it's like walking into a barbeque restaurant, if the hints of sweet and tomato flavors were somehow erased. It's so gross. I dumped the bags out of the box so I could put them in a Ziploc bag. Then later, I realized I needed to put the Ziploc bag inside another Ziploc bag, because the smell was still leaking out.

I had to try some.

Neal was not particularly supportive ("I don't even want to know what it's going to smell like when hot water hits it!"), but I was determined. I boiled the water (not opening the envelope to free the tea bag until the last second, and when I did yes, there was an even greater wave of Smell) and then poured it into the mug with the tea (and yes, there was more Smell when hot water entered the equation). I steeped it for awhile, not because I wanted to intensify the flavor, but because I had to steel myself to taste it.

I tasted it.

The biggest question was, did it taste worse than it smelled, or about the same? I went back and forth. Neal did try it, although I don't remember him weighing in on that specific question, just confirming that it was real bad. First I drank a little straight, then I added milk (it dampened the taste a little, but the pre-smell as I bent to drink was as ripe as ever) then honey (a lot of honey--it just tasted the same, except also with honey). I dumped most of it out.

So here's the new question: what do I do with it?

The most obvious answer is, of course, throw it out. I'm a big believer in throwing things away if you're never going to use them. But there are alternatives. Um . . . I could keep it around to try to get people to drink it on a dare! And . . . no, that's the only one I can think of. But if any of you would like to try it, send me your address . . . although I'm not sure if the USPS would approve of me sending that substance through the mail.
Click here to read more . . .

Saturday, March 20, 2010

RIP, One Shining Bracket

Well, KU played terribly today and deserved to lose, but since they were my projected national champions, they took my bracket with them. There are two vague silver linings (for me personally, not for, like, the guys who actually play for KU--sorry, dudes): first, a whole lot of people also picked KU, so at least we're all in our unfortunate predictions together; second, there's a sort of freedom in not needing to worry about how my bracket is doing. I can now root for whatever the opposite of chalk (see def. 6) is qualm-free.

I can do this because A&M is an underdog from here on out; Tennessee will be except in the unlikely event that Georgia Tech beats the Ohio State University; I know I should root for Wisconsin over Cornell, but I just love me a scrappy 12 seed. Also, in a development that chapped my hide, Baylor ended up with a congenial route to the Elite Eight. I wanted them to lose to underdog Old Dominion today, and hope very much they'll lose to giant-killer St. Mary's next weekend. I really hate Baylor as far as men's basketball is concerned. I hate their coach, I hate their dirty fouling, and I hate their fans. (That's why I still enjoy this so much. Oh, and this one too. It was a clean screen!)

Oh, here's an upside to KU being upset by Northern Iowa specifically: more of this guy!

Mutton Chooooooopppppppppppps!

I feel like I should have more to mention, but I can't think of anything that would top mutton chops.
Click here to read more . . .

Friday, March 19, 2010


Even though I barely followed college basketball this year, I'm still very excited about The Tournament and, of course, my bracket.

I love brackets.

I filled one out on, and so far I'm doing worse than President Obama, but better than LeBron James. (The thing I'm proudest of, though, is what I named my entry: "One Shining Bracket." Oh, it makes me chuckle every time I think of it. Tee hee!) In case you're wondering, I have KU as my national champion, beating Kentucky in the title game (I couldn't resist the symmetry of KU vs UK); my other final four members are K-State (because I like the idea of KU playing K-State in the semifinal) and Duke (because I've read multiple people who have sports opinions for a living snarking about how the selection committee handed Duke the South region on a silver platter). For now, here's my Day 1 report:

The worst thing that happened to my bracket
Vandy losing. I had Vanderbilt in my Elite Eight, so it's a real blow that they lost to Murray State. I don't know if I had heard of Murray State before today. March Madness is so educational! (Tied to for second-worst-thing-to-happen-to-my-bracket are the losses by Notre Dame and Georgetown, both of which I had in my Sweet Sixteen.)

My best pick of the day
Well, the only real upset I picked today was UTEP over Butler, which failed to come true, but I did pick both of the 9s over the 8s (Northern Iowa over UNLV and Wake Forest over texas), which are each little upsets and pretty OK if you lump them both together. Right?

Best pick I made based on spite
I only picked texas to lose to Wake Forest because I wanted them to lose to Wake Forest. And hurrah that they did! (However, I could just as easily have picked them because Rick Barnes is not a good coach, because he is not a good coach.)

Pick I wish I had made based on spite
I don't like Notre Dame, so I wish I had followed my antipathy and predicted Old Dominion's win today. I cherish the hope that Old Dominion will continue to carry my spite torch and beat Baylor when they meet on Saturday.

My most cherished hope for tomorrow
is that the A&M/Utah State game (hot Aggie on Aggie action!) will be a very dull non-upset. I am so scared about being the 5 in a 5-12 matchup, I cannot even tell you.

My next-most cherished hopes for tomorrow, in descending order
Siena over Purdue (so that A&M, if they win--knock on wood, can play Siena instead of Purdue)
Cornell over Temple (because I also picked that as a 5-12 upset for good measure)
Vermont over Syracuse (because a 16-1 upset is the Holy Grail of Upsets)

The one basketball conversation I attempted to have at work today
Me: "So, do any of you follow the college basketball tournament?"
Everyone else: [silence]
Me: "Oh."
Me, airing what was on my mind anydangways: "They play this terrible song at the end of it every year, and it's already stuck in my head."
Co-worker: "I don't want to ask, do I?"
Me: "Well, even if I sang it, you wouldn't get the full effect of the cheesy 80s music."
Another co-worker: "Is it a different terrible song every year, or the same one?"
Me: "Oh, they've been using the same one for years. That's why it's terrible and from the 80s."

Morals of the story: 1) Libraries are staffed mostly by ladies, and ladies often do not care about sports (to the extent that they're blissfully unaware of "One Shining Moment") and 2) having "One Shining Moment" repeatedly stuck in my head is my comeuppance for "One Shining Bracket", and I don't know how I'm going to make it through the month, songs-stuck-in-my-head-wise.
Click here to read more . . .

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hey, Watch This Video.

As the place where I saw it put it, this music video (by the band OK Go) features "the Rube Goldberg contraption to end all Rude Goldberg contraptions." (Indeed, there's so much stuff in it that it reminds me of Katamari.)

My favorite part is all the umbrellas.
Click here to read more . . .

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Staff Picks

I mentioned how I got to contribute a list of staff recommendations, which will eventually contribute to a display at my work. (I based my list mostly on what I like but also on what my library system actually has available. That especially came into play in the DVD section.) Here's what I submitted:

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

The Wagered Widow by Patricia Veryan*

The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick**

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte***

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett****

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dearest Friend by Lynne Whithey

The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Prisoner of Trebekistan by Bob Harris

The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir*****


Deadwood (1st season)

Friends (4th season)

Project Runway (4th season)

Pushing Daisies (1st season)******

. . . possibly something else, but this was the only section I didn't type up before I handed it in, so I'm relying on hazy memory. Also, there was a CD section, but since I keep up with music in no way, I just left it blank.

*The Wagered Widow is by no means my favorite Patricia Veryan book (The Mandarin of Mayfair, The Mistress of Willowvale, Sanguinet's Crown, The Dedicated Villain, Married Past Redemption, Feather Castles, and The Tyrant--roughly in that order--beat it out) but it's very good, available in multiple copies from my library system, and a standalone (most of her books are in series and no series-beginners were plentiful in the system).

**The Wild Hunt wasn't my favorite Elizabeth Chadwick either, but my first place (The Love Knot) isn't owned by any Madison city libraries.

***I didn't like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as much as I liked Jane Eyre, but I feel like it needs the attention more.

****I could have picked almost any Terry Pratchett book, but Soul Music seems like a good crowd-pleaser.

*****I only intended to put one Alison Weir book on the list, but I still had so much room over in the nonfiction column.

******Wow, I really don't watch many movies.
Click here to read more . . .