Tag: “M”

In My Teacup, I Will Read

There are few things more constant in my life than my morning cup of tea. I wake up, roll out of bed, stumble out to feed Gypsy, and turn on the tea kettle.* Twinings Lady Grey, Teavana’s Jasmine Pearls, and Celestial Seasoning’s Imperial White Peach are my top three choices, though I have strong feelings for a number of other flavors.  Rooibos nauseates me, which is unfortunate because a lot of smaller tea blenders that I’ve discovered have a strong fondness for it.

I trace my own tea history to early childhood, where giving up chocolate for Lent included giving up hot chocolate. While I liked the smell of percolated coffee on the stove, I wasn’t interested in drinking it.  Hot sweet tea on the other hand, that was appealing.  These days I’ve mostly eliminated sugar from my tea cup, reserving it for an occasional lump when I’m really tired or I realize I’ve forgotten dinner again.  I do keep lumps of sugar on hand though, they’re much easier to handle and to control how much sugar I’m adding.

Of late I’ve noticed that my reading has been trending towards my teacup:

It started when I got How Sugar Changed the World (Aronson/Budhos) and For All the Tea in China (Rose) in as holds at the same time.  The former is a children’s non-fiction book that got a lot of press last year; the latter is a narrative nonfiction that I can’t remember where I encountered. To my surprise and amusement I found myself approaching my favorite drink from two different sides of the globe.

How Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science (Aronson/Budhos) takes a harsh look at the history of the sweet stuff that surrounds us. While giving a little bit of the extended history, most of the book focuses on the cultivation of sugar through a particularly brutal form of slavery.  It’s intended for a middle school/high school audience but that shouldn’t deter adult readers. One of the best/fastest ways to get up to speed on a topic or at least give yourself a good starting place is a children’s non fiction book and this is an excellent example of that.  The research behind this is dense and the images are provoking.

For All the Tea in China:How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History (Rose) gives the history of Robert Fortune, a man who would steal into China, exploring the horticulture and learning the secrets behind China’s most valuable export at the time. She points out the involvement of the East India Company, whose goal was primarily to make money off of tea, and demonstrates what would today seem to be a shocking amount of patience (several years of funded travel, albeit not that highly paid) for Fortune to commit international horticulture espionage. You get some English and Chinese and Indian history all rolled into the book and while I would have really liked to see her full bibliography, I found the book very readable. So much so that I’ve suggested it to M and the Incredibly-Patient-Mother, both of whom read and enjoyed it.

What slammed these two books together was the Industrial Revolution.  Both books talked about the need for workers in English factories to be focused and able to work long hours. Factory owners/managers realized they could give the workers sweetened tea, combining the tea plants that Robert Fortune was stealing from China, and the sugar that was being imported from slave labor in the Americas, in substitute for meal breaks.  Sweet tea (not the good Southern kind, but close I imagine) was found to be a substitute for ale, one that promoted health and kept the workers focused, rather than perhaps just a bit tipsy from the midday drink.

The health benefits of tea for English workers really surprised me. Of course, I know tea has lots of antioxidants and there are studies coming out all the time about why we should all be drinking tea. A quick PubMed search shows 45 new articles in 2011 alone that have tea as a Subject Heading, many of which are focused on the health benefits. And while when they mentioned water quality, I knew it wasn’t up to our current water treatment standards, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that switching one’s beverage intake to one where you were primarily consuming recently boiled water would so greatly lengthen life expectancy, lessen any number of gastrointestinal issues, decrease child mortality, etc etc etc.

And there’s apparently more to it. I’ve just started reading, at the Philosopher’s recommendation, The Ghost Map (Johnson), which is about a deadly outbreak of cholera in London. While I haven’t gotten to the specific mentions of tea yet, I’m told they are there and I’ll be looking for them (tea only gets two mentions in the index).

Finally, Gail Carriger’s fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate just came out. My copies of the first three books have been lent around a circle and while I’m pretty sure I know who has them, I enjoyed the books enough to grab a second set of copies which will hopefully hang around a little longer. I was rereading Book 1, Souless, to get back in the mood for Heartless and was enjoying her writing of tea, Battenburg, ordering tea from a butler, and immersing myself in a society that believed in the afternoon pause for a hot cup and a biscuit.

What’s in your teacup?

*Yes, the cat really does get fed before anything else in my day happens. Life is much easier this way and so  long as she only occasionally tries for a 5 a.m. breakfast, I’m okay with it.

Units of Time….

If you’re dropping by from Madame Storyteller’s Blog, please check out my post about the La Crosse job and feel free to contact me with questions.

I need an egg timer, I announced to M the other day.  She inquired as to the necessity of that, when we have clocks and such.  Mostly, I said, because I am oblivious and wander off while doing things like baking.  I also do well in the “do x for 15 minutes and then you can reward yourself with y” type of housekeeping. Finally, the new microwave has a timer but the “I’m done” beep is so quiet and subtle that if I’m not in the kitchen actively listening for it, I won’t hear it. This is not good when I set a timer to tell me when I need to get ready to leave.

My favorite unit of time is how long it takes the tea kettle to whistle. As I have a new and rather aggressive stove (seriously, it’s a show off) and a new tea kettle (purple even! a bday gift from the Incredibly Patient Mother, who has heard me for some time lament a non-purple teapot)–this is still an unknown quantity at the new apartment.  But in La Crosse it was about ten minutes.  I could get loads of things done while waiting for the tea kettle.

A new unit of time for me is my actual train ride in the morning and evening.  My total commute is about 50 minutes, give or take a train. Once you take off the walk to the train, waiting for the train, various interruptions from  and walking from the train, it’s about 25 minutes of reading time.  It took four trips to get through an issue of the Smithsonian. Next week I’ll be timing an issue of National Geographic.

It’s research, right?

Hedgehog on the Move

It is with not a small amount excitement that I announce that I’ve accepted a new position.

I’m moving back to Chicago to join the Health Sciences Library at the University of Illinois, Chicago (Circle) Campus. I will be an Assistant Professor and Assistant Information Services Librarian.

*celebratory dance*

This will come with all sorts of new missions, goals and challenges.  It’s academic, tenure-track and I’m back full time with medicine. I’m very excited to get to be working with people I had the opportunity to meet during my interview and a few names I’ve seen around the medlib world.  My start date is December 1, 2010.

I’ve had a lot of help and support getting to this point.  Madame Director, Madame Storyteller, the Reference Queen, Warmaiden, Sir Shuping, Sibling-the-Elder, M, the Incredibly Patient Mother, the Blonde and Brunette, Vaa, Gypsy, Rudy, Rothman and many others have held my hand, helped me get ready, read cover letters, been references, listened to me, and just been there.  I would not be where I am without others belief in me.

My to do lists have just tripled as all of the “when I get time” stuff turns into “has to be done before…” but I hope to get to blog more–it’s been so hard keeping secrets about all this when I’ve been so excited.

Here I go!

Egypt: Days -2 to 0

I left La Crosse on Saturday morning and headed for New York. Got to see the Brunette and Husband. Attempted to locate new reading material for the Brunette before he left for his next work trip (he’s picky). Met up with M on Sunday evening. Monday, M and I walked up and down Manhattan, trying on hats, futilely searching for interesting silver, and shunning the spring fashions that were just starting to make their appearance.  I’d been able to leave my heavy coat in Queens and wore only a light fleece. In January!

After one more meal we headed to the airport. Security was pretty standard, nothing I hadn’t expected. I’d now gone through two sets of airport security with knitting needles and no questions. For the curious, I was flying with KnitPicks Wooden 4″ Double-Pointed Needles, or as I prefer to call them, oversized painted toothpicks. I cast on a project immediately after getting through security in La Crosse and through 4 airports no one even asked what I was making. I did, of course, have extras in my checked luggage. 

We boarded and were happy to find that we had a set of three seats to ourselves. After a first round of airplane food, we read, listened to music, I did a minimal amount of knitting, we talked…the usual airplane time passing tricks. And we tried, pretty much unsuccessfully, to sleep. This was abnormal for me. I’ve been known to fall asleep before take off.  

Arriving in Paris at something like 4 a.m. Eastern Time, 9 a.m local, we hustled down the concourse and on to our next gate. I was bleary and my brain wasn’t registering what was said to me in English, let alone polite French, but eventually I gathered I needed to also shed my jacket (not just my shoes) and got my carry-on bag rummaged through again. We had coffee and muffins and eventually we shuttled out to our plane, where we boarded and waited for a couple of hours. No particular reason was given, so we all just hung out and eventually they said sit down we’re leaving. It was a full flight this time and we were seated next to a man heading to work on the oil rigs.

We’d left New York in the dark Monday and arrived well after dark in Cairo on Tuesday, total travel time about 16 hours I think? Whatever time it was, I was wiped. We shuttled to the airport, got our passports stamped, and started the search for our luggage. I also flagged down the car service meeting us. Luggage in hand we were passed through a couple of people to our personal car.

We hurtled towards Cairo, the guide accompanying our driver chattering a mile a minute about what we were passing and offering to set up various tours for us, which we politely said we’d consider. We arrived relatively quickly on Zamalek, an island in the middle of the Nile River, which is the richest area of Cairo and where our hotel was located. Zamalek is a warren of one way streets, abrupt turns, and triple parked cars, as well as the home of most of the embassies, including the one for the US.

M and I stayed at the President Hotel, which, we were told, is primarily a Canadian/European travelers hotel. Our room was relatively spacious, with a desk and a “comfortable” chair besides the twin beds with bedside tables. There was a mini fridge that we didn’t use, and a TV where we kept up on world happenings, mostly the earthquake in Haiti and the Senate race in the US. It was clean though slightly worn and we were very careful about using bottled water to wash our faces, brush our teeth etc. Our room had a view over the courtyard of the Chinese Embassy next door.

Now local, I phoned our tour guide arranger Mohammed, who joined us at our hotel to review the plans for the next four days. My one page of details and scribbled notes became the basis of all reminders and my travel journal. He also took us to buy water and sandwiches from one of the local delis. Fed and through showers, we adjourned to bed. Cairo continued it’s noise, the noise pollution of car horns, sirens, etc, said to make the city 8x as loud as a city of equivalent size.

We would sleep through a light rain and awaken at 4:30 a.m. to the pre-dawn call to prayer.

Egypt: The Pre-Show

Ha…and you thought there would be pictures of my trip to Egypt. Yes yes, they are forthcoming.  But to answer a few questions ahead of time:

M and I went to Egypt together in January. We went for the brilliant reason of “Because it is Tuesday.” This is an excellent reason for just about anything, I suggest you make use of it.

We traveled with Air France Holidays. Our vacation package included round trip airfare from JFK through Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris to Cairo, ground transportation to and from our hotel in Cairo, and hotel accommodations. Through a friend of mine here in La Crosse, who used to go to Egypt every couple of years, and a professor in Minnesota, I obtained the phone number for a gentleman at Wings Tours. He and I communicated mostly via email, which was helpful considering the eight hour time difference. I gave him a wish list of things we wanted to do and he filled gaps with recommendations and arranged for a driver and personal tour guides for our days in Cairo. I cannot speak highly enough of our tour guide in Cairo or of our driver.

It was just the two of us, no big tour group, which I loved. We could set our own speed, ask a million questions, decide between us on meals without it being a production. I may never get on a tour bus ever again.  🙂

I know it’s been a while getting this up. February kind of exploded in my face and suddenly it’s April and I have the 4th Annual Knitting in Public Day next week.  Bear with me.

Oh fine…here’s a picture of a Pyramid: