Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Good Cup

I have used a Bialetti Stovetop Espresso Maker on and off for years (I used them at others' houses before I had my own). My original one was purchased in Miami while visiting my grandmother some years ago. A Bialetti is a kind of mini-percolator, but since the hot water doesn't keep circulating, the coffee has a "cleaner" taste than percolator coffee (which can also be excellent). I find that gas heat and glass-top stoves seem to work much better than electric burners. I enjoy making espresso in the Bialetti, and adding warm milk to make my own latte. This lets me use plenty of milk without diluting the coffee taste or strength.

I loved my Bialetti. I even took it to Afghanistan, since a reduced amount of coffee grounds will make regular coffee, and I didn't know if I would be somewhere away from power sources. (I wasn't, but some of the other soldiers in my infantry battalion were away from all creature comforts for several months.) Unfortunately, my Bialetti was lost somewhere after moving back to the States and my divorce. My roommate has a Bialetti Moka, but it wasn't well maintained by her last roommate. I am finally giving in and getting a stainless steel version.

It's not cheap, when countertop coffee makers can be found for $15, but I have found that it's usually less expensive in the long run to buy quality the first time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Concrete Canoes

Would you like a concrete canoe? It doesn't sound , um, very buoyant, does it? But students from 23 colleges met Saturday, 18 June for the American Society of Civil Engineers' National Concrete Canoe Competition in Henderson, KY. Concrete ships were first made in the 1800s, and were made in small quantities during WW1 and WW2, when shipping needs were high, and traditional material and labor was in short supply.

Despite its heavy weight, steel has been the most common hull material for large modern ships beginning with the SS Great Britain. Other materials such as fiberglass and aluminum may be used, as sell as the old standby, wood.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Footsteps Turn Homeward

After a grueling rotation in the field, with 6 LTs, 25 SGTs, and 149 AIT soldiers under me, I walked across the stage Thursday. I am now affiliated with the two oldest branches of the U.S. Army, as first an infantryman, and now, a quartermaster officer. My Temporary Duty Tour apartment clear time was 1200, and in my rush, I forgot to take a picture. My apologies.

I think the last time I visited my family in Mobile was almost exactly two years ago. Home turf always has such mixed emotions associated- my unhappy childhood, far-right Southern Christianity, family, the Gulf of Mexico, Southern food, family, azaleas, and the sticky, brooding Deep South heat. There are things I love about lower Alabama, and things I do not.

But I haven't seen my family in too long, so I'll make the rounds, hurting a little at the age I see assaulting my closest loved ones, and rejoicing and astonished at the growth of young Shirleys. I will be seen as kind and adventuresome by young nieces and nephews, and hopefully will be seen as loving and warm by my siblings and cousins.

For all their imperfect humanity, we can't change where and from whom we come. And maybe that's not so bad.

Happy Fathers' Day.