Tag: Coffee

I also don’t like the public toilets. The doors are short and do not reach the ceiling or the floor. They are simply stalls. They remind me of the ‘outside’ loos at Leasowes Junior School which the class of 1983 avoided using at all costs for fear of peeping people. I feel that same fear in the US (it has not yet happened but I don’t like the idea of being heard either). I am also challenged by the automation of US public toilets – the flush, the soup dispenser, the water, the dryer. On the plus side, US public toilets are always free whereas over here we may have to pay a small sum (more than a penny) to visit the micturition station.

Sitting in the stalls

Sitting in the stalls

The hotel rooms make full use of mirrors

Every hotel I have stayed in, in the US, has contained lots of mirrors: in the lobby, in the lift, in the hotel room and in the hotel room toilet. I don’t really enjoy seeing my naked self or my naked bottom perched on the funny toilet (see above).

My photographing the big mirror

My photographing the big mirror

You can’t just have a bagel

This applies to coffee, bagels, pizza and in fact almost any food stuffs. I have quite simple needs in the morning: a coffee and a bagel. It’s not easy to order that. On my first ever trip to the US (Boston) we had to cross the road to the bagel shop to get some breakfast and the first time I remember feeling somewhat confused by the person serving me when they asked: ‘What sort of bagel would you like, ma’am?’ I think my response was ‘Huh? Just ordinary please’.

Panel bagel with no frills

Plain bagel with no frills

Everyone moves so fast

This might only apply to New York and Boston (I have also been to Cape Cod but that was 15 years ago). Certainly in New York the people move as if they are being chased. They don’t run, though. They are still walking but they walk very fast. They would struggle with the slowness of a day out in Shrewsbury.

The fast-moving people of New York

The fast-moving people of New York

I blend in well

This is something I like about the US. I have some weird and wacky clothes (not too weird and wacky, but perhaps a little wacky for Shrewsbury) but in New York at least I look less like the eccentric artist.

Videos in lifts

I’ve only ever encountered this phenomena in the US. Perhaps it is only a New York thing. But both hotels I have stayed in in that city have had videos in the lift.

Videos in lifts

Videos in lifts

Revolving doors

This is most likely a New York thing but the city is full of revolving doors. In the UK the only place you will find one of these is in Morrisons.

One of the many revolving doors

One of the many revolving doors

Everyone walks around (very fast and with purpose) with a drink in their hand

Everyone (again, perhaps this is a New York thing only) walks carrying a Starbucks or similar cup, presumably of coffee. They do this at any time of day or night. They also often are attached to headphones and an iPhone. They also are more likely to use their phone as a phone. They like to march across the road, phone against ear in one hand, coffee in another.

The adverts for medications list all the side effects

I love watching American TV because it is different and refreshing. On our second morning, I enjoyed an hour or so watching the US-equivalent of BBC Breakfast or GMTV. One of the adverts during this programme was for a sleep medication. The narrative of the advert was very convincing. It sounded too good to be true. Towards the end of the advert a different, and faster-speaking narrator, listed all of the side effects of this medication which included: suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, liver problems, kidney problems, death. It was almost as if the angel and the devil were competing with each other. I certainly wasn’t convinced by this wonder-drug by the end of the advert.

I have returned home now and already I miss the energy of the US. I may be ‘weirded out’ by the things in the list above but I am also energized and inspired by the very same things (if at the very least, to write this blog).

Costa Coffee do not want me to eat their cakes

Today’s weird thought came to me in the toilet at Costa Coffee in Melrose Brace (yes, there really is a wikipedia entry for Melrose Brace) in Shrewsbury. The thought derives from an experience I had when I was in the queue to buy a coffee.

While I was waiting behind the people ordering complicated coffees, taking their time, I started to think that a cakery treat would be nice.

My favourite tipple

My favourite tipple

It was only 9.30am and the display of cakes and croissants was more-or-less complete and looking very fresh.  In fact everything looked delicious. I don’t normally eat cakes. I don’t have a very sweet tooth (offer me cheese and I find it hard to say no but offer me cake and chances are I’ll decline). But having to wait in the queue in front of the cake display and seeing this lovely spread in front of me, I decided that yes, today I’d have a treat. I’d been having a really few days with too much to do with work and organising an exhibition at Powis Castle so I was feeling very stressed and felt I deserved a treat.

This is Becky heaven

This is Becky heaven

Immediately, my attention went to the chocolate orange fancies in the middle of the display. I love chocolate orange. We are never without a chocolate orange in the fridge at home. I always get given chocolate oranges for Christmas. I love chocolate, I love orange, I love them together.

This winked at me today

This winked at me today

It was my turn and I was about to say ‘a medium Americano and, erm, one of those please’ when my eye spied a sign next to the chocolate orange fancies. I peered closer to the glass front of the cake display. The sign provided useful information about the chocolate orange fancy, including calorie content. My eyes widened in horror: 400-odd calories!! No thanks!

Costa obviously don’t want me to eat their cakes. What planet are Costa Coffee on? Why do they want to provide the calorie content information next to all their cakes? Are they trying to put customers off? If so, it worked on me. I don’t want to know how many calories I’m eating. I just want to enjoy chocolate and orange with coffee. I’m not sure if other people are put off by these calories signs, but it had that effect on me.

So after I’d had my coffee sans cake, I went home and ate a piece of chocolate orange out of the fridge.

Is there such as thing as a non-drip teapot?

I have to give credit to my husband for this thought. ‘On no’, I hear you cry, ‘not him again’. This thought is about teapots.

Lasts week we were having a coffee / tea break together at a nearby restaurant-coffee shop-nightclub. He ordered tea. I had coffee. I am a bit of a coffee addict. He usually orders coffee so I queried his unusual choice. He said he was thirsty and he hoped that tea was more likely to quench his thirst than coffee. Then, as he started to pour his tea, he turned to me and said with some annoyance ‘why can’t I find a teapot that pours properly!’

Where we had our drinks

Where we had our drinks

I told him that I hadn’t ever found this to be an issue. In fact, I’d had tea with my mum earlier that week and I hadn’t remembered a badly pouring spout then. I thought back and couldn’t remember ever feeling annoyed at teapots.

So I decided to research this issue. The World Wide Web straight away throws up information about a distinguished Stanford University emeritus professor of mathematics who is known for the geometric theory of diffraction and something called the Einstein-Brillouin-Keller method, who is obsessed with badly functioning teapots. The chap is called Joseph Keller, and he is a well-known expert on why teapots drip, he is widely recognised for his thoughts on the matter. He is world famous for his teapot discoveries.

I'm a cool scientist

I’m a cool scientist

The Internet tells me he first felt the pull towards teapots after attending a lecture about the issue in 1956. In the lecture an experiment by Israeli scientist, Markus Reiner, was described. Reiner had asked 100 physicists why teapots drip. They had all concluded that it was due to surface tension. So Reiner then carried out some experiments that proved that dripping couldn’t be caused by surface tension. This drove Keller to write a famous paper called: The Teapot Effect. In this he concluded that the phenomena is in fact the result of fluid and mechanical forces. Rather than surface tension, the effect, he came to believe, is caused by air pressure. In other words, at the pouring lip the pressure in the liquid is lower than the pressure in the surrounding air. So air pressure pushes the tea against the lip and against the outside of the spout. The result? Drips.

This is not the best teapot to own

This is not the best teapot to own

Keller now prides himself on being able to spot a drippy teapot by just looking at it. If the teapot spout goes up and then down at the pouring end,  the tea will flow back into the pot when the pot is turned the right way up again and a drip will then  be almost impossible. Metal teapots with sharp pointy spouts are also good.

But if you don’t have a metal teapot with a sharp spout or a teapot that has a spout that goes up then down then the advice is don’t over fill your teapot. Overfull teapots lead to drips. There is science behind this. Tea from a less full pot will flow with greater speed. The speedier the flow, the less likely it is that the tea will stick to the lip.

I bet this teapot drips

I bet this teapot drips

Recently, in 2009, French scientists added to Keller’s teapot theories when  they discovered that we also should consider the effect of ‘wettability’.

Wettability is a measure of how much a liquid likes being in contact with a surface. For materials such as clean glass, water tends to spread out. For superhydrophobic materials, such as the lotus leaf, water resists spreading.

So thanks to people believing in the teeny tiny possibility that those scientists who for years had thought that surface tension was the answer to the issue were wrong, we may yet get the perfect non-drip teapot.

My husband will no doubt be glad to hear this.

 

I really do have a Chandler Bing Job, a job that nobody understands

I have a friend who calls my job a Chandler Bing job. When she says that I tend to get a bit defensive because to me it sounds as if she is saying my job is boring. But she’s not saying that. She’s not trying to be mean, in fact what she means is that even if I can explain my job in the easiest, simplest way possible, nobody will understand what I do.

So I thought about this yesterday, while on the toilet of course, and thought I’d better write a blog entry about what I do so in the hope that I can explain exactly what my job is and to try to shed the Chandler Bing image.

Job title: Freelance Online and Print Publishing Manager (don’t be deceived by the word ‘manager’ – this refers more to project management than people management).

Work for: Oxford University Press and Bloomsbury Publishing

Please keep reading, it gets better, I promise.

Work on: academic monographs that get published on a subscription website owned by OUP, mainly published by OUP but also by other University Presses. I also work on or have worked on Trove Law (law higher education titles online), Very Short Introductions Online (fabulous little books about a variety of subjects from the eye to the earth) and Oxford Handbooks Online. I also am a Listings Editor for the annual Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Still awake? Then read on.

What do I do every day?

Besides drink coffee in coffee shops in town, you mean? Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) is the main love of my life (we have a bit of a love hate relationship sometimes but it is mostly the former). For OSO I maintain all forthcoming and past title lists, update the database of forthcoming titles, attend phone meetings, liaise with editors and production staff in Oxford and New York, work with the datateam in Oxford, and circulate lists to Sales and Marketing and royalty departments every month. I also commission and check abstracts and keywords. I check OSO titles on a pre-live server every month. I might also write and / or check abstracts and keywords for other University Presses (e.g. MIT Press, Chicago University Press) or for Trove, or occasionally VSIs. This is the part of my work which makes me feel clever and academic, as if I really am mingling with great minds.

What I work on most of the day

What I work on most of the day

For the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook: I am responsible for all the book publishers listed in the book, the art agencies, the national and regional newspapers and the card and stationery companies. I have to email them all every year and gather updates to their entries. I update their entries in a database and from this proofs are generated which I have to check. I also have to research new companies to add. This is the part of my job which makes me feel like a trendy trade publisher, as if I am mingling with the likes of Oliver Jeffers, Nathan Filer and Terry Pratchett.

My baby

My baby

Makes sense?

I get it but then I get it because I’ve been doing it on and off for around seven years. More importantly, are you still awake and if so, do you get it?

The baby of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook - my favourite of the two

The baby of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook – my favourite of the two

Do I like it?

Yep, I love it! I am so lucky that I can work from home for the same wage (if I were to measure my old full-time job by the hour) I’d earn working in Oxford in-house. I can still take the children to school, pick them up, do a part-time foundation art degree, go to school plays and sneak off for the odd coffee in the middle of the day. And I get the odd day trip to London or Oxford where I can pretend I am important with a laptop on a train.

One of the perks of the freelance life

One of the perks of the freelance life

Do I mind being thought of as a bit of a Chandler Bing?

Not at all! I love having a job nobody gets.

I do statistical analysis and data reconfiguration

I do statistical analysis and data reconfiguration

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