Thursday, October 2, 2008

What's brewing? Or, why I only ever finished one philosophy class.

Is the mug half empty or half full? What are your assumptions? It's not about what's in the mug, but the possibilities of the whole picture. So, step one is to invalidate the question and instead determine a better course of inquiry.

We can see that the coffee is still dripping from the Melitta cone into the cup. Therefore we can assume that no matter what the coffee level was when the picture was snapped, it continued to rise higher. We can't see enough of the cone to know how much brewing coffee is left to go. Based on what we can't see, we know that it's possible that there is enough brewing coffee to fill the cup to a reasonable level. Conversely, it is possible that what we view from the bottom of the cone is just about to stop.

For those of us with experience in brewing coffee, we also know that a continuous stream first changes to a series of rapid drips, then the rapid drips slow to more infrequent drips before stopping. Therefore we might assume that the picture above depicts a half-brewed cup which will continue to brew for awhile yet, perhaps not filling the cup, but it's not in the absolute last stages of brewing.

However, the continuous stream could be an illusion if the shutter speed of the camera were slow enough to blur the dip-drip-drip which is nearer to the end of the production cycle. What do we know of the photographer, and is it possible to obtain the EXIF data from the exposure?

But wait, the top of the cone indicates that it has been filled, because the coffee grounds are coating the filter up to the brim. Also, there are clear water droplets on the glass mug, and on the outside of the cone itself, indicating that both have recently been washed. Is this the first cup, or a subsequent cup of coffee?

Before I answer this great mystery, ask yourself if the price of housing could continue to rise indefinitely without a major setback, when the whole real-estate investing industry is based upon this presumed to be perpetual price inflation plus the ability of the average worker to keep up on the mortgage. Then ask yourself how to predict when said prices might bobble back to four or five years earlier in the cycle (or more), because, obviously, wages don't always keep up with inflation.

OK, here's some pertinent information. It was my second cup of coffee. The coffee mug is a huge 20 oz cup, therefore half a cup is still a good sized cup, especially when I add cream. The shutter speed was 1/60th at f 6.3, and from that you'll have to interpret your own conclusions about whether it was really a continuous stream. If you look close, the stream was bending from the vertical and about to go to rapid drips but that doesn't matter because I still had plenty of hot water to pour in, which I did, and then Sheryl asked for the last of the weak coffee to be put in a mug of her own rather than pour it down the drain (she likes it weak ). I couldn't possibly write this blog entry without prodigious amounts of caffeine.

Caffeine artificially inflates my perceptions, temporarily raises my blood sugar-- and then if I'm not careful, I crash.

If you have done your research, you'll know that I'm highly unlikely to ever brew just half a cup of coffee. If you've done even more research, you'll know that I almost never drink more than 2 cups in a day, which by US standards is what the average male drinks. If you do more research you learn that I sometimes elect to drink tea instead, which has far less caffeine but a lot more theo-bromides and theo-phyline. (So I can't drink it after 4pm either and expect to sleep well). Better yet I could drink juice or milk; even a glass half full might do me more good.

One way or another, I'm not going to die of thirst.

You might be interested in Charlie Rose interviewing Warren Buffet, this year he became the world's richest man.
He had a lot to say about our current economic situation. It's also well worth reading about Warren on Wikipedia, or anywhere else you choose to look for (more?) credible sources. Warren still lives in the house in Nebraska that he bought for $31,000 in the fifties. Despite having more money than anybody else in the world, he lives on a salary of $100,000. He calls the current crash "poetic justice" even though he clearly does care about the state of the US economy. I think he's somebody who sees beyond the cup in front of him, and considers all the factors. He plans to donate about 85% of his general wealth to charity when he goes, and said he's never really had much use for a lot of material things. He's an interesting case. One can learn a lot just by observing.

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