Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘so much caffeine so little time’ Category

TAKOTOR 2016: Inaugural Takotor by the Numbers

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Our inaugural “Takotor” ride in February found a group of us cycling thirty miles around Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, sampling local taco joints. Thanks to visiting friends Hyunoo and Tif for inspiring us to show you a bit of California living.

Hungry riders: 8
And we’re already thinking of the second mouthwatering Takotor, so keep your ears to the ground for the next round.

Taco (and burrito) purveyors: 5

  • Stacky’s Seaside in Summerland (now closed, I hear) for breakfast burritos
  • Taqueria Rincon Alteno, a gas station taqueria in Carpinteria with loaded up veggie tacos
  • Tacos Don Roge, close to Carpinteria beach
  • Taqueria La Colmena in Santa Barbara, a near-unanimous fave by the group
  • Taqueria El Bajio in Santa Barbara

Ratings collected through TakoScore: 34
At our second stop, Sheldon came up with a quick and easy taco rating system so we could collect our comparisons of all the taquerias visited throughout the day. And thus TakoScore was born! It evolved throughout the day to include previously-overlooked metrics. In the end, we landed on measuring the following aspects of each taco purveyor: taste, mouthfeel, ingredients, ambiance, salsas, and the open-to-interpretation sexiness.

Venue Taste Mouthfeel Ingredients Ambiance Salsas Sexiness
STACKYS 4.2 4.3 3.3 4.3 3.0 3.8
RINCON ALTENO 3.3 2.7 3.6 2.7 3.0 2.7
DON ROGE 2.1 2.7 2.4 5.0 3.3 2.7
LA COLMENA 4.9 4.9 4.6 4.6 4.9 4.7
EL BAJIO 3.5 4.6 3.6 3.4 3.3 3.0

takotor 2016: "The horizon is an endless taco."

Brewery stops: 2
Stopped for pints at Island Brewing and BrewLAB in Carpinteria.

Cafe breaks: 1
Just the one stop at one of our favorite Carp joints, Lucky Llama!

Churros: 0
To the dismay of our ridership, once we finally located the mystical churro shop, they had run out of churros for the day. Next TakoTor must return.

Written by Crystal Bae

April 29th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Errandonnee 2015

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I know our “winter” here is very different from winter in DC, but hey, the Errandonnee Challenge is open to all! Judging by everyone else’s photos and entries so far, the errandonnee is a great way to herald the coming of spring. Here’s my write-up from this year’s challenge. This isn’t so much a “challenge” as a pleasant way to work more utilitarian riding into your week while connecting with bike-minded people all over the country (and the world?). Ride your bike to complete at least 12 errands in 12 days. Simple, right?

Onto my entry for 2015.

Thursday, March 5, 2015 | Category: Store
Took an extended lunch break to ride 5.9 miles to the bike shop. Had to get my derailleur tuned up after an unsuccessful (but not horrendous) attempt to fix it myself. Bikes seem to take a beating when transported often in a trailer alongside many other bikes.

Three Pickles in Goleta, CA Cyclists on Goleta Beach

Continue onto the rest…

Written by Crystal Bae

March 17th, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Coffeeneuring 2013, Part Two

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Here’s the continuation of my coffeeneuring in 2013, with part one here. It was nice to complete this run in a new city, as last year’s trips took me around the Washington, DC area. My new home base has proven itself a fine land for coffee adventuring thus far.

Visit to Handlebar Coffee Roasters on Saturday, November 9th
128 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, California
Ride distance: 14.7 miles

This place is uber-hip and serves delicious coffee. The patio, tucked in an alley and open to the cafe counter, is small but welcoming, and on this particular weekend afternoon happiness seemed effortless. It’s amazing what a space for enjoying the art of coffee can do for the neighborhood.

Handlebar Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara

Latte at Handlebar Coffee

See? The art of coffee.

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Written by Crystal Bae

November 19th, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Coffeeneuring 2013, Part One

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Currently I’m very much in the exploratory stage of settling into our new home: learning best routes to get around, acquiring a sense of how things are oriented, and seeking out the best cafes. This last point is helped along by my friend Mary’s annual autumn Coffeeneuring Challenge, which inspires many utilitarian cyclists around the country – and perhaps around the world – to bike to seven different coffee shops by Sunday, November 17th and report back, well-caffeinated. Any reason for riding bikes and sipping coffee is fine by me, so here are my first four rides.

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Written by Crystal Bae

November 2nd, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Coffee Break: Dark Side of the Brew in Hebron, ND

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In small towns, it’s been tough to find proper cafes like the kind we’re used to in the city – the ones that serve coffee, tea, and pastries and encourage you to dwell awhile, not the ‘cafeteria’ kind of cafes which are more like restaurants or diners. Rolling into town in Hebron, North Dakota, we were very pleasantly surprised to see a cafe called Dark Side of the Brew.

The coffee was great and included unlimited refills if you had it in a mug to stay. Even the iced tea came with one refill. We celebrated having crossed the 2,000 mile mark on our trip that morning by splitting a huge caramel roll, which was just the thing to fill our sugar craving. And going along with the Pink Floyd theme, names of the sandwiches here are inspired by songs on the album.

Owners Andy and Carmelita opened up Dark Side of the Brew just a month ago. Right before opening day, the water level of the nearby creek rose rapidly due to major rains and they worried that Main Street (and their new cafe) would flood. Luckily it didn’t go quite that high, and the sandbags they piled up weren’t needed. Dark Side of the Brew’s coffee is roasted just on the other side of town, and you can also buy the coffee beans in their cafe. The first month has been more successful than they predicted, with locals showing their support and visitors passing through on their stop in town. They weren’t sure what to expect, as they were doing something pretty different for that town.

Dark Side of the Brew in Hebron, ND

Andy also warned us to be careful around Dickinson, which has seen increased oil traffic. It’s not quite the epicenter of the boom that Williston is, but road accidents are becoming a daily occurrence in some areas. Many people we’ve talked to in North Dakota have told us that they’re afraid to drive in those parts of the state, as the truck traffic is too heavy for them to feel comfortable on the road. We’re glad to be past Dickinson and into the beautiful North Dakotan Badlands.

Written by Crystal Bae

July 4th, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Logistics of Planning Our Bike Tour

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In the past few weeks I’ve had several friends tell me that it’s amazing that we’re going to ride our bikes to California, but making a longer-term trip happen is possible if you have the motivation to plan in advance, save up, and take some time off from work or school. Here’s the breakdown of the planning we did to get ourselves to this point of imminent departure.

3 months out

  • Start dreaming and searching our calendars for when we can make this trip happen. The easy part here was that we’d plan to arrive by September when I start my graduate program, so we have a natural time frame.
  • Read lots of bike touring blogs and see how others have done it. My favorites are The Path Less PedaledGoing Slowly, and While Out Riding – though there are as many ways to bike tour as there are bike tourists!
  • Save money by cutting back on extras: ride a bike instead of Metro (kills two birds with one stone), cook more at home, stick to your budget by reminding yourself what you’re working towards.

2 months out

  • Make lots of additions to our bikes – get both front and back racks, enough pairs of panniers (two pairs each), new tires – and buy a great new campstove.
  • Sketch out a route we want to follow and start asking friends for recommendations. We didn’t want to go south because of the summer heat, and going across the north seemed more interesting than through the middle of the country – more mountainous, though.
  • Do a shakedown bike tour, fully loaded, to test out if we’re bringing too much. A few items did get cut after five days of riding with all our gear.

Lunch on the C&O Canal

1 month out

  • Do more research into the route. Order Adventure Cycling maps – a mix of several of the routes in the ACA network – and other maps we’ll need for navigation.
  • Research travel insurance options.
  • Finish ordering last things we think we’ll need: sunblock, spare brake and shifter cables, extra water storage, and so on.

3 weeks out

  • Throw a going-away party and try to see all our friends in the area before we leave.
  • Attempt to write down everyone’s great suggestions for the trip – which roads to take, who to stay with, etc.
  • Finish wrapping everything up at work to get our departures in order.

2 weeks out

  • Get the first week of the route planned out in detail in our spreadsheet: options for lodging, friends nearby, available amenities, and expected daily mileage. We’ll probably take it easy in the beginning since we haven’t been able to do much riding lately.
  • File forms for student loan deferment (for those of us still paying off our education).
  • Visit our families!

This is where we are right now. Fifteen days and counting. And this is what’s coming:

1 week out

  • Pack our U-Haul pod and have it shipped out to California! Odd to think that our furniture will beat us there.
  • Make last-minute bike checks.
  • Hang out with friends and toast the beginning of something new.

Night before

  • Pack our panniers.
  • Preemptively drink lots of water and eat lots of food. Okay, let’s be honest – this step should last the entire week (month?) before departure.

Morning of Friday, May 24th

  • Grab coffee with wonderful friends at Swing’s in DC and pedal on.

Written by Crystal Bae

May 9th, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Autumn Coffeeneuring in DC

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What is “coffeeneuring”? It’s an act of combining two great loves of many Washington, DC residents: coffee and bicycling. Mary has a write-up of the official rules here: 2nd Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge. Essentially you write up your weekend coffee bike ride experiences to share with the community. The true reward is exploration and caffeine! Last year, twelve people completed the challenge of 7 different coffee shops in 6 weekends, and I’m willing to bet that even more people participate this year. It’s a creative, seasonal idea. Excuse the poor photos – most were taken on my phone.

Here’s my entry in this year’s coffeeneuring challenge:

1. SOVA Espresso & Wine at 1359 H St NE on October 8th

Intelligentsia coffee at SOVA on H Street NETook a Capital Bikeshare bike from Eastern Market to SOVA on H Street. The ride was brisk and fast, waking me up from my commuting haze even before ordering a coffee. It sure gets dark early on these fall nights. SOVA is a combination coffee bar and wine bar that I had only ever been to for live music before. The downstairs cafe area is cute, with good service, good tunes, and (huge mugs of) good coffee. Stopped by in the evening and got a cup of their drip coffee (Intelligentsia), but would like to try their espresso drinks soon. Bike ride home was uneventful – took Florida Ave as I often do, but being on a Bikeshare made it harder to keep up with traffic.

Distance: 3.3 miles
Drink: Medium-roast drip coffee, black

2. Kafe Bohem at 600 Florida Ave NW on October 13th

Cappuccino at Kafe BohemRode to Kafe Bohem, the cafe connected to Bistro Bohem, early on a Saturday morning to get the day started before heading over to the unveiling of the St. Elizabeth’s East Gateway Pavilion. The staff was pulling shots of espresso for customers and baking strudels in the back. Kafe Bohem is only a short ride from our place, yet this was our first visit to this new coffeehouse in Shaw. I ordered a cappuccino, Adam had an Americano, and we split a tasty onion, cheese, and tomato strudel. The interior is cozy, with European touches here and there, and drink presentation is refined. One of these Bohemian spa wafers are included with your drink, and are available to purchase if one isn’t enough. Staff was very welcoming – joked around with us and even brought glasses of water over to our table without being asked for any. Other customers seemed as comfortable there as the staff: some reading, others settling in to work on their laptops. Kafe Bohem is a much-needed neighborhood spot, helping to revitalize this little corner of Shaw.

Distance: 11.0 miles
Drink: Cappuccino

3. Baked and Wired at 1052 Thomas Jefferson Street NW on October 20th

Dirty chai at Baked and WiredLocated in Georgetown near K Street, Baked and Wired is a great place to meet up with friends before any ride that starts off on the Capital Crescent Trail or the C & O Canal Towpath. John chose this as the launch point for his Hoppy 100 ride, and then three of us decided to meet here before getting onto the C & O. I tried the “dirty chai” which adds espresso to a chai latte (effectively both coffee and tea?) and had a slice of spinach and feta quiche to fuel the ride. Friends had coffee, a slice of ham quiche, and a scone. They only have two outdoor tables, but we snagged one of them by getting there early.

Distance: 63.2 miles
Drink: Dirty chai

4. Big Bear Cafe at 1700 1st Street NW on October 21st

Big Bear is also in my neighborhood, but I don’t spend a lot of time here. It’s usually just a quick stop when I’m at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market. I like the interior because it’s cozy and welcoming, and the exterior is cute with the bear painted on the side and the vines crawling over the building. We stopped by on our ride home from Harper’s Ferry – one metric century from there to here – and grabbed some hot chocolate and coffee. Nice to take a moment to relax after spending a whole day riding.

Distance: 65.1 miles
Drink: Hot chocolate

5. Pound the Hill at 621 Pennsylvania Ave SE on October 28th

Coffeeneuring at Pound the HillEveryone is preparing for Hurricane Sandy! After going to the Farmers Market, where all vendors had signs saying something to the effect of “Stock up for Sandy!” I rode over to Pound the Hill – appropriately named for its location on Capitol Hill. It was quite a windy ride. More seats than I expected at the cafe, with ample room to find a place to plug in the laptop and work for a little while. The drinks are good and the food looks good, but I wish the music was a bit less ‘smooth jazz’. Missed John who stopped by, but he did recognize my bike outside. Coffeeneuring takes the city by storm!

Distance: 5.3 miles
Drink: Soy chai latte

6. Qualia Coffee at 3917 Georgia Avenue NW on November 3rd

Coffeeneuring at QualiaA very cozy coffeehouse with friendly, talkative staff. This is the kind of place you go to meet up with friends or read a book or magazine. They discourage laptop-sitting, which is refreshing since there are already so many other cafes in DC overrun with people soaking up wifi. Qualia is the sort of place where you’re probably a local, and if not, you happily share that it’s your first time stopping in. They seem to know their coffee and also offer pastries and bagels. We grabbed mugs of drip coffee, a salted caramel bar, and a honey sticky bun, and read a few magazines. It was a welcome reprieve from the chill outside.

Distance: 16.3 miles
Drink: Drip coffee, black

7. Lot 38 Espresso Bar at 1001 2nd Street SE on November 4th

Coffeeneuring at Lot 38Lot 38 has a pretty simple design – downstairs is a narrow espresso bar where they take drink and food orders, upstairs is a single room with tables and chairs. The tables near the windows are the best, because you can overlook the street below. The clientele included families with young children, couples reading the paper together, and a few people working on laptops. I noticed that everyone in the vicinity seemed to have the dog. Perhaps it’s just the demographic that’s moving into the Navy Yard area. Navy Yard (maybe it has a hip new neighborhood name I’m not aware of) seems to be developing rapidly. It already looks completely different from a couple years ago, and from Lot 38 you can look out onto the construction across the street. The cafe serves up illy coffee, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, smoothies, and pastries. This would be a good place to work because it’s pretty quiet. Lot 38 definitely looks like it serves a need where there is growing demand – and it’s a better option than the Starbucks down the street.

Distance: 25.1 miles
Drink: Chai latte

That’s it for this year’s run at the Coffeeneuring Challenge. It was a tasty way to explore more of DC’s coffee options and discover some neat new places. Out of these 7 coffeehouses, only 2 were ones I had been to before.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 4th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Black Prairie at Iota

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Black Prairie was great last night at Iota in Arlington. They’re a merry band consisting of three of the members of the Decemberists, so I wasn’t expecting such a pronounced bluegrass sound.

Maybe it isn’t a thorough characterization, but I see the Decemberists as holding close some folk vibes while being more a sea-faring, yarn-spinning sort of bunch. Their songs are sagas. My favorite Decemberists song is “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” which clocks in at almost 9 minutes, and in it Colin Meloy employs his conversational style of singing.

Black Prairie performs at Iota (excuse the camera-phone pic)

Black Prairie was rich instrumentals carried by the (to me unfamiliar) Dobro resonator guitar played by Chris Funk, and the roots requisites like the violin (Annalisa Tornfelt), guitar (Jon Neufeld), double bass (Nate Query), accordian (Jenny Conlee), and at some points also a banjo and a fiddle.

Further into the set, Tornfelt started playing a traditional Romanian instrument – it’s fairly small, played with a bow, and looks like it has two necks. I puzzled over it for awhile, then the Internet whispered that it’s probably the Stroh violin or something very much like that. Please also comment if you know anything more about the Strohn violin!

Black Prairie’s encore was probably the best thing about the show. They came off stage and played in the middle of the crowd. I know several people videotaped a song or two of the encore, so I’ll be checking online for those. After Black Prairie performed, my friend decided, “I like the Decemberists better without Meloy.”

Written by Crystal Bae

October 27th, 2010 at 6:19 am

The Eightfold College Path

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Lessons from Buddhism, applied to college finals time! Adjust as needed. Everyone’s path is unique.

Right View
Everyone tells you to enjoy college because you’ll be working full-time when you enter the real world, right? That means college isn’t real. Therefore, assignments exist only in your mind. Let go.

It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas… – The Noble Eightfold Path

Right Intention
Sure, we’ve all known about this assignment for a month and we meant to start these essays sooner, to write multiple drafts and everything. Procrastination came to do battle with our willpower. Guess who won? Wait, that’s due tomorrow?

Right Speech
Bad-mouthing your professors doesn’t get your work done any sooner. Take responsibility for your actions (or inaction).

Right Action
Naps don’t count. Though they can’t hurt.

Right Livehihood
Exam week survival foods are coffee, spicy & tangy almonds from Trader Joe’s, ice cream, and celebratory beers to be enjoyed in the sun with other zombies-in-training.

Right Effort
That is to say, not much at all until the deadline is close enough that it feels palpable. Also refer to the “oh sh*t moment.”

Right Mindfulness
Nap. Often. Never turn down invitations to happy hour, even when you know that’s a misnomer and you’ll end up out longer than a single hour. See also: “I’ll go to this party and just have one drink and do some work when I get home.”

Right Concentration
Think mindfully about the overwhelming amount of work you have. Carefully compute how much of the course reading you would have to do to be caught up by exam time. Then call your friends to commiserate about how much studying you’re doing. Cover your bases by posting complaints on Facebook.

Written by Crystal Bae

April 27th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

University course blogs

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Skip this post if you believe school = boring.

Student: ideal occupation?
I am going to miss on-campus academic life when I graduate this May. Can’t deny that. Intense classroom discussion, lectures by experts in their field, free access to scholarly databases – what’s not to like? I haven’t had as many all-nighters in the library as many of my GWU peers, though the ones I’ve had were memorable for the coffee and snack breaks, run-ins with friends and classmates at 3am, watching the sun both rise and set over the span of a single research session… Plus, mad props to those small-sized literature classes I’ve had over the years, and my recent geography professors who have really inspired a focus in GIS.
And who knows, I may be back to school within a couple years to pursue graduate studies. Haha, OK, maybe it’s still a bit early to write a tearful goodbye to undergrad life.

I stumbled onto a few great class blogs recently and for the first time, I’m taking notice of the value of following university course blogs for continuing my studies. Graduating from student status doesn’t mean I have to completely leave the academic scene. It’s free, though you don’t always have access to all the external resources that are provided in class by the professor. (Purchasing course textbooks is optional, of course.) And some classes use the blog as an added discussion channel between students and the professor, not just a drop-box for assignments, meaning you can at least get a taste of the questions that arise. If you have a lot of time, you can try to keep pace with the class homework and readings.

Though you’re missing out on a bulk of the content, there are a fair number of these blogs that supplement course readings with useful online articles and other web references. It’s useful in that way that reading a newspaper exposes you to the information you’re not necessarily seeking, the outside contexts and contrasts that expand your understanding. And yes, the Internet is full of  so-called “experts” but if you want to learn, give credit to those who have experience teaching and years of background in a subject area. I’m starting a new section of my RSS reader for these kinds of blogs.

Finding them can be as simple as a running a search on WordPress or Google. Here are a couple geography examples that look active:

Written by Crystal Bae

February 21st, 2010 at 12:01 pm