HomeRoast Digest


Topic: Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists (20 msgs / 714 lines)
1) From: Daniel Remer
My thought on Amateurs is that if they are dedicated they can do  
better than Professionals for the simple reason that they can spend  
time and money on something that for a Professional has to return a  
profit. Some of the best photographers,  writers, potters and  
sculptors are amateurs because they do it for love rather than for  
money, and can afford to devote whatever it takes to progress.
On the other hand Professionals, while they gain competence from  
repetition, can suffer from boredom, burnout and forced compromises to  
quality in order to make money. Sometimes the Amateur and the  
Professional merge, but it's rare and often fleeting.
On Art and Craftsmanship, I'd suggest that a barista who is good  
craftsman (someone who can consistently make a drink of high quality)  
is all I'd aspire to. I have no desire to make one of a kind coffee  
drinks. I just want excellence and repeated excellence. I don't want  
to remember every great shot of espresso I've ever had, just a few  
memories are fine. Coffee is a science, a craft and if someone wants  
to use it to paint their faces with, I guess it's an art too.
Nothing wrong or second rate about wanting to be a amateur craftsman  
of excellent drinks.
dan
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2) From: Ryan M. Ward
Personally, I like to avoid the term 'amateur' for those very reasons and instead prefer the term 'independant'. In most peoples' minds, amateur seems to suggest second rate, or wannabe. But I have met MANY "professional" Barista's that don't know anything about coffee (in my not so humble opinion). Some of them former co-workers at coffee houses. In her case, the term "professional Barista" had absolutely no correlation with skill behind the bar- it only correlates with time, specifically her experience doing it poorly for 10 years.
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
*Note: This email was sent from a computer running Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmic Koala)http://www.ubuntu.com**Note: This signature was placed here by me and is not automatically-generated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. I am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and the Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I send, I encourage you to do the same.
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3) From: Rich
A "professional" is simply a person who holds a job and receives 
remuneration for doing it.  An amateur is unpaid.  Neither term implies 
skill and/or competence.  Look in the general press and you will see 
that "professional" is used to imply skill and/or competence, this use 
of professional is incorrect.  Check your Webster Dictionary.  One more 
indication that the talking head is empty.
In most cases the non paid person who is performing a task will have a 
higher competency level than a comparable paid person.
Ryan M. Ward wrote:
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4) From: miKe mcKoffee
Actually, "holds a job" is not a defining qualification of being a
professional. "Holding a job" in our society commonly means being paid to
work for someone else. 
Tom is most assuredly a coffee professional. Tom is self employed and hence
does not have a "job".
Most doctors are considered professionals. Many doctors are self employed.
Most attorneys are considered professionals. Many attorneys are self
employed.
Etc.
While I agree being a professional does not assure competence the statement
"In most cases the non paid person who is performing a task will have a
higher competency level than a comparable paid person" is baseless hogwash.
Most people would be fail miserably performing brain surgery or defending
themselves in court. 
As far as coffee is concerned I've observed and experienced a rather large
sampling of both amateur and professional skills over the last decade. While
I agree there are many competent and even some exceedingly excellent highly
skilled home barista I highly doubt many if any would have the skill to come
close to matching any of the six finalists in the recent US Barista
competition, all professionals. I also highly doubt many if any would match
the skill of even some of my baristas. 
Slave to the Bean Kona Kurmudgeon miKe mcKoffee
www.NorwestCoffee.com
URL to Rosto mods, FrankenFormer, some recipes etc:http://www.mckoffee.com/Ultimately the quest for Koffee Nirvana is a solitary path. To know I must
first not know. And in knowing know I know not. Each Personal enlightenment
found exploring the many divergent foot steps of Those who have gone before.
Sweet Maria's List - Searchable Archiveshttp://themeyers.org/HomeRoast/
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5) From: Ryan M. Ward
I too question the validity of the statement: "In most cases the non paid person who is performing a task will have a higher competency level than a comparable paid person" a great example is mathematicians (also a pathelogical case I know). I have know many "amateur" mathematicians- many of whom are pretty good what they do. I am only familiar with two amateur mathematicians in history that ever published anything significant. your brain surgery example is also great, although if I ever met someone claiming to be an amateur brain surgeon, I would start running away very quickly!!
""Holding a job" in our society commonly means being paid to work for someone else. "
I am not so sure of this either. 
First off, I looked up the word 'job' in the dictionary and the definition is a little vauge but did not seem to preclude working for oneself. I am sure the Oxford English Dictionary would hold the definitive answer here- I do not own a copy.
Speaking personally (acknowledging that I alone do not represent society as a whole), I agreed with Rich's definition with a slight exception (that being that I don't feel that being paid to do something is enough, that payment should be significant, and constitute a significant portion of one's livelihood. I would not consider someone who works in a coffee house one hour a week to be a professional barista, that is an amateur barista with an allowance).
"I highly doubt many if any would have the skill to come close to matching any of the six finalists in the recent US Barista competition, all professionals."
Well, I imagine you are right, but again these people are almost pathological cases. Rich stated: "In most cases" This does not mean, amateurs are better than professionals always. It means take a random amateur, and a random professional and compare them. Statisitically, I doubt any of those six, or any of your Baristas would be chosen at random. Most likely a Starbucks employee would get drawn honestly. Although I think you do have a very valid point in that there appears to be some kind of an upper limit to the skill levels of amateurs that has been exceeded by the skill levels of professionals- considered as one large set. Its just this apparent exceeding of skill is being done by a very small subset of the professional population.
 Think what it boils down to is interest and ambition. Amateurs make coffee because the are interested in coffee- this is their hobby, so they tend to get good at it if they approach it correctly. They start tinkering in the kitchen and coming up with come really cool ideas. 
Some baristas are interested in coffee but honestly, many are just holding jobs(This is what I have noticed working in coffee). They know that if the customer does not complain, they are home free. Maybe they like coffee, but minimal work is sufficient for them. They have little ambition to advance their skill. I think this is the phenomena we are noticing. 
Those baristas who are interested; however, have the financial support, and the equipment to take their skills to the next level, beyond the typical amateur. They can afford to make coffee all day and practice their art. Most of us amateurs have other professions. We get to make coffee when we get home from work.
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
*Note: This email was sent from a computer running Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmic Koala)http://www.ubuntu.com**Note: This signature was placed here by me and is not automatically-generated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. I am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and the Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I send, I encourage you to do the same.
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6) From: Ryan M. Ward
I should mention, there are some really bad baristas here locally. I tend to speculate that the typical Amateur is better at making coffee drinks than the typical professional barista, but I do so skeptically. I have a bias in a sense because there are not very many truely skilled baristas here locally that I have met. Now that I brought it up I am not really even sure that I want to make the assertion above. 
Now that I think of it, I don't think I believe that the typical amateur is better than the typical barista. I also do not believe the converse... need more evidence.
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
*Note: This email was sent from a computer running Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmic Koala)http://www.ubuntu.com**Note: This signature was placed here by me and is not automatically-generated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. I am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and the Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I send, I encourage you to do the same.
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7) From: Joseph Robertson
Ryan,
No more speculation with out a double blind test. I mean both baristas need
to be blindfolded. At least do a current local ( 50 mile radius ) taste and
observation test then report back......
Joe
On Sat, May 1, 2010 at 8:41 AM, Ryan M. Ward
wrote:
<Snip>
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Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
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8) From: michael brown
-Ryan, I'm glad you used the word 'hobby,' I've been trying to figure out how to weigh in on this discussion.  My coffee obsession started as an appreciation for good coffee, then turned into a "hobby roaster"  
Define Hobby: "an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation"
Now, fast forward to today.  Due to other's appreciation of my coffee, I'm roasting around 100 pounds a week on a 3kilo USRC BUT still working weekends at my "job."  And maybe, just maybe, with a few more accounts, could quit my "regular JOB" within a year or two and then "make a living" doing what i love.
My dad taught me early on, that "work" is a four letter word.  If you can find something you love to do, and make a living doing it, you never have to "work" a day in your life.  Right now i "work on weekends" and spend the week doing what i love.
And I'll say this, with most the wholesale accounts i've secured, the cafe owners have said it's the passion they can see and hear in my voice that translates into the great coffee, that makes it a win-win situation for them.
Soooo, i'm not sure what my stance is on the "competency" level discussion.  But i do feel i'm doing as well as i'm doing because i spent 4-5 years working on improving my "hobby."  And of course my love for coffee does not gaurantee i'd be a good business owner.  But i think we're talking about skills here.  And i know this was more about baristas than roasters, but i think the idea transfers, just like the surgeron and mathematician etc..
that's my two cents...just wanted to jump in...i've been lying dormant on the list for a little while.
Michael B
b'ham, AL
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9) From: Ryan M. Ward
Yes sir!
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
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10) From: Ryan M. Ward
YES! Beautifully represented!!! You hit the nail right on the head (at least from my perspective). 
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
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11) From: Dhananjaya
Frankly, in my book we're talking apples and potato chips. How good one gets
at doing something is much more dependent on a person's inner convictions
and character. Whether they are getting paid or not to do it may be a factor
for motivation, as are the expenses involved, training or not, how much you
learn (or how disinterested you get) from doing something repeatedly, etc.
But again those are heavily dependent on a person's character and goals.
The No. 1 Barista, currently owning his own coffee shop / roasting facility,
gets married and decides to accept a lucrous management position so he can
make more money and spend more time with his family. He's still the No. 1
Barista, but no longer a coffee professional. Hmmm, I think that would make
a cool movie "The Barista", with ... Paul Rubens???!!!
I don't believe miKe is a super-competent roaster / barista because he's a
professional. Quite the contrary, he's now a professional because he loves
this type of work and is truly adept at it (or is heavily addicted to coffee
and really picky, not sure which :-).
Generally speaking I hate generalizations because they change so much by
geography, demographics, seasons, mosquito population, planetary alignment.
And remember kids, we're trained professionals, DO try this at home ...
DJ
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12) From: sci
Dan,
I agree with you completely. Quality gives way to quantity, the
McDonaldization effect.  Over the years I have noticed this dynamic in many
pursuits and professions. An "amateur" carpenter can and does spend three
times as much time than a "professional."  It is a strange twist that comes
when someone steps across the line to do something for $$. At that point,
the commodity can suffer as one tries to sell more, especially if
competition undercuts you. Pros usually lower the quality to a sweet spot
where customers are happy, but quantity of output is the highest.
Case in point: My local favorite coffee shop baristas are great guys, some
are my college students, but when I walk in to get a double shot 'spro,
there are  three people in line behind me. They don't have time to "hand
craft" a perfect shot, but they make a consistently decent shot of one
single blend. Whereas I can spend a lot of time at home, trying different
blends, different extraction parameters, etc. I can make a much better shot
at home. But, I am an amateur, who does not worry about three people
standing in line.
The same could apply to roasting. A true world class roaster operates about
20 miles from here in Durham, NC,  yet I roast more kinds of beans than they
offer. I roast more varieties, at less cost, at four roast levels, with more
freshness. Can I roast as well as they do? I should hope not. It would be
ironic if with my Behmor I roast as well as they do with their $100K
roaster. Still, the pro usually has the advantage of having superior
equipment, that allows high consistency yielding consumers a convenient
acceptable product that they won't make.
FWIW
Ivan
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2010 10:51:00 -0700
From: Daniel Remer 
To: homeroast
Subject: [Homeroast] Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists
Message-ID: <504CBBFE-9539-4EC5-A954-C453E75CECB2>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset-ASCII; format=flowed; delsp=yes
My thought on Amateurs is that if they are dedicated they can do
better than Professionals for the simple reason that they can spend
time and money on something that for a Professional has to return a
profit. Some of the best photographers,  writers, potters and
sculptors are amateurs because they do it for love rather than for
money, and can afford to devote whatever it takes to progress.
On the other hand Professionals, while they gain competence from
repetition, can suffer from boredom, burnout and forced compromises to
quality in order to make money. Sometimes the Amateur and the
Professional merge, but it's rare and often fleeting.
On Art and Craftsmanship, I'd suggest that a barista who is good
craftsman (someone who can consistently make a drink of high quality)
is all I'd aspire to. I have no desire to make one of a kind coffee
drinks. I just want excellence and repeated excellence. I don't want
to remember every great shot of espresso I've ever had, just a few
memories are fine. Coffee is a science, a craft and if someone wants
to use it to paint their faces with, I guess it's an art too.
Nothing wrong or second rate about wanting to be a amateur craftsman
of excellent drinks.
dan
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13) From: Joseph Robertson
Life is a generalization, humans make it complicated. Was that Confucius?,or
is it just another generalization.
Hate?, you know I can't think of anything I truly "Hate" except maybe bad
coffee. Hate is such a waste of my time and karma.
Joe
On Sat, May 1, 2010 at 11:09 AM, Dhananjaya <
djgarcia> wrote:
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14) From: Ryan M. Ward
I agree with your basic premise here, that skill at anything comes from interest and love of the craft. I do agree completely that love/interest/ambition/(insert favorite appropriate word) is the primary root here.
As far as generalizations, I am not quite certain exactly what you mean by generalizations, if you mean classifying members of a group into subgroups based on common characteristics with the intent to draw inferences about the members of the group based on those common characteristics, then what's to hate. Generalizations in and of themselves are not bad things. If fact, I argue that the ability to generalize is very important to us as humans. 
Take two Huskies- different dogs, different DNA,etc... but many common traits- they are both huskies. The breed huskie is in fact a generalization. Two different huskies have an astronomical amount of dissimilar traits, but the few that are common between them make them huskies. 
Instead of the need to consider every single individual member of the dog species, we have grouped together large chunks of the species into subgroups which share common traits(we call these subgroups breeds). This gives us the ability to make certain assumptions about the breed as a whole. 
Generalizations become unhealthy when we cling to them too tightly and take them seriously to an inappropriate level or if we over generalize or inappropriately generalize (Such as racial stereotypes).
In this discussion, we noticed a trend- speaking typically, amateur baristas tend to do a better job at making coffee than professional baristas (or whatever each particular person's take was on it, I am using this one for illustrative purposes- and yes I acknowledge that this was not, strictly speaking, the original topic of discussion). We then began to discuss why this is the case. We then determined what was different between amateurs and professions- namely pay. When then attempted to determine how this might affect different in cup quality and end product. 
So, my point here is that yes we did use some generalizations but none of which we took too seriously (See Mike's point, in which he used a counterexample to the generalizations we used). Generalizations allowed us to consider all members of the coffee craft simultaneously- but broken up into broad categories, without the need to consider individual members (unless appropriate to do so). Generalizations are our friend. They are why biologists have a job (and most scientists for that matter).
Your point, however, is well received in that often times we fail to see generalizations for what they truly are: tools- we either take them to heart too much or we apply them inappropriately (Logicians recognize a logical fallacy called a 'hasty generalization' basically you apply a generalization argument before establishing that such a generalization is appropriate). What we were interested in during this discussion was not individual baristas, we were interested in the traits associate with broad groups of baristas and how those traits affect their work. We need a thought tool to do this. Generalizations are the appropriate tool. If you can think of a better one to use to have such discussions, I would love to hear about it because I would really like to win the Fields Medal, but have not come up with any good ideas yet to do so :)
-- 
Ryan M. Ward
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15) From: Joseph Robertson
I know from my coffee heart of hearts I'm generally on the same page with
you dj. Each and every day I try to step out of my self and look back at
myself for as long as it takes to grow a smile and know that I'm am happy
with in myself and without myself. "As long as coffee' is with me. ;^)
JR
On Sat, May 1, 2010 at 11:09 AM, Dhananjaya <
djgarcia> wrote:
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16) From: Jim Gundlach
On May 1, 2010, at 11:09 AM, michael brown wrote:
<Snip>
Another two cents.  Coffee and car repair are two of my hobbies, I  
enjoy doing them and I feel I am quite good at both but I made a  
living as a sociology professor and now live off the retirement income  
generated by teaching and doing research for more than thirty years.   
But, one of the kids we adopted worked with me on all my auto repair  
activities for the year and a half that he lived with us and it took  
him from not knowing how to change a tire to being a professional  
mechanic.  He has obviously learned more since he left home but he  
will still occasionally ask me a mechanic question.  His wife was  
working in a women's fashion store and after she tried my coffee she  
consistently wanted to know more about selecting beans, roasting, and  
brewing.  She has moved from women's fashion to working in and now  
managing one of the best coffee shops in a very large metropolitan  
area.  She is now asking for more help in learning more about coffee  
as she plans to open her own combined coffee/custom fashions shop.   
Out of dozens, only two of the people paid to make me coffee produced  
as good a drink as I regularly do.  I have completely quit using  
mechanics so I can't make a similar statement about their work.  In  
general we label people by the activity they do to make most of their  
income, not by what they do best.
       pecan jim
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17) From: denis bordeleau
Hi Ryan,   Pretty useful essay and I will only add the dimension of obl=
igation of results vs the best efforts  obligation.   I mean by that =
the difference between a physician or a surgery or a lawyer, etc...  and =
a mechanic or a bricklayer, or an engineer.  For these last, you expect a=
 result according to what was written on the contract or the blue prints. N=
evertheless,  all these people have to perform according to the  " best=
 practices".      We are in year 2010.  If, in what your curios=
ity, taste or obligation to earn money brings you to a level different of w=
hat  is all said about a domain, if you think about it differently, if yo=
u go further than the "normal", then it is art.  Is art research?  May =
be.     If you are a grand chef and invented  formidable recipes,=
 you are an artist.  If the patrons love your food so much that you are b=
ooked one year in advance and they come back and bring their guests expecti=
ng to have
 exactly the same tasting plate at their table, then, you become a slave of=
 yourself  or something called" employee".   This employee is not an =
artist because he has to reproduce the exact same thing according to the cu=
stomers desires every time they put their hand on the machines and ingredie=
nts to obtain similar  result severy time...They are not artists but I ca=
n tell you I have great respect for them.  One day, they will be replaced=
 by a machine invented by an artist engineer who will be hired and paid by =
an art protector, a sponsor or a mecene.  Even if paid, is this artist an=
 amateur or a professional?  The butterfly we look at to enjoy our garden=
 is only doin his job but in our eyes he his an artist.  The art only rul=
e is not to have any.  When Mike works in his mind in his  lab, torrefa=
ction room or at his espresso machines we see the artist.  The day after,=
  when somebody ask for his usual brew, then it is different, except if M=
ike
 dare ask: " Standard or Custom", sir?                 =
    Have a great First of May night.      Denis
--- En date de : Sam, 1.5.10, Ryan M. Ward =
 a écrit :
De : Ryan M. Ward 
Objet : Re: [Homeroast] Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists
À : homeroast
Date: samedi 1 mai 2010 16 h 51
I agree with your basic premise here, that skill at anything comes from int=
erest and love of the craft. I do agree completely that love/interest/ambit=
ion/(insert favorite appropriate word) is the primary root here.
As far as generalizations, I am not quite certain exactly what you mean by =
generalizations, if you mean classifying members of a group
 into subgroups based on common characteristics with the intent to draw inf=
erences about the members of the group based on those common characteristic=
s, then what's to hate. Generalizations in and of themselves are not bad th=
ings. If fact, I argue that the ability to generalize is very important to =
us as humans. =
Take two Huskies- different dogs, different DNA,etc... but many common trai=
ts- they are both huskies. The breed huskie is in fact a generalization. Tw=
o different huskies have an astronomical amount of dissimilar traits, but t=
he few that are common between them make them huskies. =
Instead of the need to consider every single individual member of the dog s=
pecies, we have grouped together large chunks of the species into subgroups=
 which share common traits(we call these subgroups breeds). This gives us t=
he ability to make certain assumptions about the breed as a whole. =
Generalizations become unhealthy when we cling to them too tightly and
 take them seriously to an inappropriate level or if we over generalize or =
inappropriately generalize (Such as racial stereotypes).
In this discussion, we noticed a trend- speaking typically, amateur barista=
s tend to do a better job at making coffee than professional baristas (or w=
hatever each particular person's take was on it, I am using this one for il=
lustrative purposes- and yes I acknowledge that this was not, strictly spea=
king, the original topic of discussion). We then began to discuss why this =
is the case. We then determined what was different between amateurs and pro=
fessions- namely pay. When then attempted to determine how this might affec=
t different in cup quality and end product. =
So, my point here is that yes we did use some generalizations but none of w=
hich we took too seriously (See Mike's point, in which he used a counterexa=
mple to the generalizations we used). Generalizations allowed us to conside=
r all members of the coffee
 craft simultaneously- but broken up into broad categories, without the nee=
d to consider individual members (unless appropriate to do so). Generalizat=
ions are our friend. They are why biologists have a job (and most scientist=
s for that matter).
Your point, however, is well received in that often times we fail to see ge=
neralizations for what they truly are: tools- we either take them to heart =
too much or we apply them inappropriately (Logicians recognize a logical fa=
llacy called a 'hasty generalization' basically you apply a generalization =
argument before establishing that such a generalization is appropriate). Wh=
at we were interested in during this discussion was not individual baristas=
, we were interested in the traits associate with broad groups of baristas =
and how those traits affect their work. We need a thought tool to do this. =
Generalizations are the appropriate tool. If you can think of a better one =
to use to have such discussions, I would
 love to hear about it because I would really like to win the Fields Medal,=
 but have not come up with any good ideas yet to do so :)
-- =
Ryan M. Ward
*Note: This email was sent from a computer running Ubuntu Linux 9.10 (Karmi=
c Koala)http://www.ubuntu.com**Note: This signature was placed here by me and is not automatically-gener=
ated-annoying-end-of-email-spam placed here by anyone other than myself. I =
am a Linux nut and am doing my part to support open source software and the=
 Linux and Ubuntu communities by getting the word out with each email I sen=
d, I encourage you to do the same.
<Snip>
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ets
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tor
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ou
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ty,
<Snip>
 family. He's still the No. 1
<Snip>
ke
<Snip>
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fee
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t.
<Snip>
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ariascoffee.com
<Snip>
ee.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=7820
                           =
The New Busy is not the old busy. Search, chat and e-mail from your inbox.http://www.windowslive.com/campaign/thenewbusy?ocid=PID28326::T:WLMTAGL:O=N:WL:en-US:WM_HMP:042010_3
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18) From: Dhananjaya
Ryan,
You are absolutely correct. I should have said "I dislike bad use and abuse
of generalizations", which as you correctly point out is just a common (and
highly useful) mechanism for dealing with information. And hate IS such a
strong word as Joe mentioned.
I generalized the use of generalizations :(. Looks like I fell for the same
bad habit in criticising it! Chalk it up to hasty composition. The humanity!
Cheers,
DJ, getting ready to brew some Guatemalan espresso

19) From: Joseph Robertson
Coffee humor DJ. Life to me is coffee humor. Thanks for bringing me back
around to the basics.
Joe
On Sun, May 2, 2010 at 11:29 AM, Dhananjaya <
djgarcia> wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
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20) From: Phil Palmintere
<Snip>
Ah yes, cars and coffee go well together; I'm a fan of both, too.http://www.carsandcoffee.com/ for example.  Hang out much at
www.garagejournal.com?
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