kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


As you might imagine, someone who gets a Ph.D in philosophy—in addition to various other psychopathologies and deep maladjustments—drinks (or has drunk) a lot of coffee.

I know I have: from the coffee shop in the basement of the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, as well as the late The Flying Lox Box ("Now Serving Nobel Laureates!"), Morry's, and the coffee shop at the Divinity School, and even vending machines, I drank a lot at UC.

I actually think the availability of coffee at a University is an important sign of its academic seriousness (that, and good graffiti in the bathrooms); it should be decent (not necessarily great), and available at least from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.. Chicago had this, but I'll be honest and recognize that the best graffiti I've ever seen were (yes, it is plural) at the Stanford Undergraduate Library.

At the University of Dayton, coffee is often unavailable all weekend (except from vending machines, which doesn't count under the "decent" criterion), and certainly late at night or very early in the morning. As much as I love the Philosophy Department here, I do believe it has the worst coffee I've ever had (thus, I prefer stealing it from the English Department, enduring steely glares and hostility, even though one Barb Farrelly told me I could until I retired). Draw your own conclusions about academic seriousness.

But I am also willing to drink a fair amount of instant coffee: it's decent, and definitely fast. (I haven't tried the Steven Wright trick of putting instant coffee in the microwave to see if I go back in time).

Thus I recently tried "Via," the new instant coffee offered by Starbuck's. (When my wife Robyn and I hung out at the local Starbucks, and became friends with the baristi, they came to one of of our parties and made fun of the fact that I had instant coffee; I now savor the ironies like a good Kenyan Peaberry.) Ten packs for ten dollars: extensive calculations indicated that a cup of their instant coffee is $1/cup. Maxwell House--as Preston Sturges might put it, "good to the last gulp"--is approximately a nickel a cup. And having sampled a fair amount of both, I'm confident that Via is better, marginally; but that margin is hardly 20 times better. I'd say about twice as good? So I say "adio" to Via.

My friend Richard, who now teaches at a campus that prohibits coffee (you can make your own in your office; draw your own conclusions, again, about the academic seriousness of that place), and I once went to an Afghan restaurant in Chicago. The food was okay, and then we ordered coffee. Absolutely out of this world, and easily the best cup of coffee I'd ever had (and then had about thirty). Sadly, the Helmand went out of business in 1987.

It was the reigning champ all these years, until Robyn took me to the Strip in Pittsburgh. While she shopped, the kids and I went to a coffee shop and I ordered a cup. The barista fussed and fumed, and it took what seemed like a very long time, and it all seemed rather pretentious. Then I tasted it. Knocked me out, blew me away: the new champ.

21st StreetCoffee and Tea

Turns out that a good bit of their excellence comes from the coffee they use (what a surprise!), a brand called "Intelligentsia." Admittedly, there is a lot of pretense and silliness in all of this, and when you hear about licorice leading to a mango and charcoal laced after-finish, well, I sometimes think maybe I'll just go back and talk to my wine snob friends, who sound even sillier.

But the bottom line is that the best coffee I've ever had in my life was at this place in Pittsburgh. And that, my friends, is an important thing to know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A challenge

After last night's snoozefest, Game 4 of the ALCS, courtesy of the well-paid (and worth it) C.C. Sabathia, a blogger writing for Yahoo Sports wrote the following:

Just when you thought the 2009 postseason umpiring couldn't get any worse, Tim McClelland goes ahead and makes what ends up as the worst call — or non-call — of all time.

Yes, you read that right. The worst call of all time. Not just this postseason. Not this entire season. Not this decade. Not this century. I challenge you to think of one that was worse.

At this point, not even Kanye West could interrupt to suggest something worse after McClelland left the entire baseball universe shaking its head at his work during the Yankees' 10-1 victory over the Angels in Game 4 of the ALCS.

I accept the challenge.

Don Denkinger. Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, St. Louis against Kansas City.

Bad call. Very bad call. Obvious when it was seen live. More obvious when seen on a replay. Was it technically as bad as McLelland's? Perhaps not; not as complicated, certainly.

But it would have been the first out of the ninth inning of game 6. Had the call--an easy call, mind you--been made correctly, the Cardinals would have only needed two more outs to win the Series.

Denkinger missed a call Helen Keller could have made. The Cardinals proceeded to lose their minds, lose the game, then get blown out in Game 7.

I claim that is a worse call.

I welcome other candidates. I should add that Denkinger doesn't deserve getting death threats (which he was still getting, just a few years ago). Those should probably stop now.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I hate baseball

For those of you who know me, I'm somewhat of a Cardinals' fan.

They had what might be their most agonizing loss I can remember; the only competitor is Game 6 of the 1985 Series. That had more significance, being in the World Serious and all.

But tonight reminds me of what a great game it is, that can produce such exquisite torture.

And the preemptive comment for my Cubs fan reader(s): I'd rather lose in embarrassing fashion in the post season than not be there. And I remember my team winning a World Series. Perhaps--if you're old--your greatgreatgrandparents remember the Cubs doing so. So shut up.