Sunday, July 21, 2013

Searchin’ For Research, Part 2: Getting Started

The first step in beginning a research project, of course, is to decide on a topic. Once the topic is settled on, finding source material and actually doing the research can begin. I would have thought that the internet would make doing research easier than it was fifteen years ago when I was in college. To a certain degree, that is true. The problem is, since I have decided to write a paper titled “Role Playing Games: Their History and Influence on Society”, the vast majority of what I’ve found in the way of information has been on the internet. Considering my topic and that I’m only writing the paper for my own enjoyment, that is probably fine, but there is always that concern about sources such as Wikipedia not being seen as trustworthy and accurate. Unlike the woman in the insurance commercial on television, I know better than to believe that, “They can’t put anything that’s not true on the internet.”

Internet research aside, I have also obtained, for the first time in years, a public library card. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, finding materials for which a library card is actually useful or needed has been difficult. Still, it is kind of cool to have a library card again and with today’s technology I can search the entire library system catalog from the comfort of my couch and request anything I need to be placed on hold and pick it up at the branch closest to my house.

So far I’m enjoying doing the research and tracking down sources. It has been so long since I’ve done something like this, though, that I am a little concerned about achieving my goal of having the whole thing written and posted by the end of the quarter.

~ JC

Related post:

Searchin’ For Research” (July 7, 2013)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Coffee Has Become A Pressing Matter

Let us harken back to the days of yon; ok, let’s just go back to December 25, 2012, upon which date I received an Aeropress Coffee Maker as a Christmas gift. I had put this on my wish list because it seemed like a really cool idea to be able to brew a single cup of coffee without having buy an overly expensive machine that uses little proprietary premeasured packages. I was quite excited to get it, but I have to admit my first attempt at making coffee with it resulted in something more like coffee flavored tea. I tried again one other time a few weeks later, which resulted in a very good cup of coffee. The first attempt I simply didn’t get the water hot enough.

For the last few months it has sat behind the coffee maker untouched; that is, until last weekend when I decided to try a bit of experiment. As I mentioned before, my first attempt resulted in not having the water hot enough because I had tried to heat it in the microwave. The instructions recommend a temperature of 175° F. Using my electric hot pot worked much better, but it has not real temperature control (it’s either on or its off). I good electric teapot with programmable temperature is pretty expensive, so I decided to find out if the coffeepot itself would get the water hot enough. Thankfully, it does get the water to a little over the recommended 175° F.

The way the Aeropress works is pretty simple. There are basically three parts to the whole thing; the chamber, the plunger, and the filter cap.  The filter cap (naturally with a filter in it) attaches to the bottom of the chamber which is then placed on top of your favorite coffee cup. Using the included scoop, measure an amount of coffee into the chamber (for me, it’s three scoops since I use a fairly large mug). Pour in the hot water (the amount will depend on how much coffee you have used); let that steep for a few moments, give it a stir then put the plunger into the chamber and press. Voila! There are, of course, some other methods I’ve found on the internet for using the Aeropress in other ways which supposedly make a better cup of coffee than the prescribed method in the included instructions.

This won’t fill the mug to full. What you end up with is a really concentrated amount of hot coffee. What I do is top off the mug with more hot water, essentially making an Americano, but you could also use steamed milk to make a latte or cappuccino if you prefer.

My next step will be start trying whole bean coffee to figure how many scoops of whole beans I need to use to make the coffee strong enough.

The other great thing about using the Aeropress is that I don’t waste coffee. There have been plenty of mornings that I’ve made a pot of coffee (actually, I set it up at night and use the timer on the coffee pot so it’s ready when I get up) and only had time to drink one cup before having to head to work. Using the Aeropress, I make each cup fresh, so I don’t waste coffee by having to pour out the leftovers. Cleanup is also much faster as the Aeropress itself only really needs a quick rinse in the sink, and the coffee pot only had water in it.

So now, I get a better cup of coffee, cleanup is much faster and I can still use regular coffee instead of having to revert to instant if I just happen to want a one-off cup of coffee later in the day.

~ JC

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Searchin' for Research

As I’ve mentioned so many times before, I write this blog because I like to write. I don’t necessarily think I’m that particularly brilliant at it, but it’s a very cathartic act for me. The thing is, as you may have noticed by the gaps in the dates of my more recent postings, I’ve been having a bit of trouble coming up with topics, or at least trying not to rehash topics that I feel like I’ve written about entirely too much or too often.

As strange as it may sound, one of the things I actually enjoyed most about my college courses was doing research and writing papers. It has been some thirteen or so years since I left college. I kind of want to do a research paper and post it on my blog; perhaps even in parts, like a serial blog.

Ideally, I’d love to write a novella or short story, but I seem to lack the ability to write fiction without blatantly “borrowing (read, stealing) ideas from books and stories I’ve read (or from the backstory “fluff” found in role playing game rulebooks).

Here’s the thing; I’m much better at writing non-fiction than fiction, but so many things interest me that picking a topic is difficult. Should I write about history, technology, religion? I can’t decide!

I’m not looking to come up with a Master’s thesis or Doctoral dissertation here. I just want a topic that I’m interested in that I would like to learn more about and then parlay that into a research paper.

Step one, of course will be to start making more time to actually read and dedicate that time to reading articles and books other than novels. It probably wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and get a library card at my local library (because, you know, books are expensive and borrowing them versus buying them doesn’t kill my budget - as much as I’d much rather add even more to my personal library).

The second thing would be to remember how to write a research paper (odds are I’d format it in Turabian style as that’s what I primarily used in college). As I said earlier, it’s been at least thirteen years since I have had to do a research paper, and to be honest, most of the ones I wrote in college were of the 2-5 page variety and not the lengthy 10 or so pages I’m thinking of attempting for this project.

So, for those of you who have read my past blogs, any thoughts or ideas on something you might be interested in reading about that I could expound upon from just simple Sunday morning blog post? And for that matter, does it need to be a full blown research paper, or should it be more like an essay?

~ JC