Coffee, Boredom, & Not Much In Betweeen

Woo hoo. This just got published (sans infographics). A friend of mine, Joe (FB), had asked me to write something about coffee, for a magazine he was helping another friend, Han, with. The version of the essay below is what Joe and I produced, before it was submitted to Han for final editing.

To be quite frank, my own motivation for writing this were (a) attempting to temporarily avert boredom, and (b) to push out more content on Third-wave coffee in order to raise chatter, prior to the launch of the client's coffee shop - guerilla marcomms whatnot (who reads lit magazines, anyway? Well probably, hipsters do...)

The publication ended up being THREE MONTHS late, due to editorial limitations, and I had long give up on its usefulness as a marketing gimmick. Then again, perhaps, better late than never.
How Long… oi?

August 27, 2013. My current role is helping to set up a Third-wave coffee company in Malaysia. Now, the seventh month of my assignment is ending. And it continues, by the way…

The first three months were filled with fairly reasonable activities: the formalisation of intuited business plans (“writing things down, for communication to third-parties”), the raising of capital (“asking third-parties for money”), and the initiation of partnerships (“choosing strategic allies”). This is stuff that makes sense, the sort of stuff that one can forget about when one goes home from the office daily, even if one’s temporary office is a hipster coffee shop a city away from one’s own residence. During the first three months on this project, to kill time, I had the headspace to read a dozen books and some three thousand blog posts on the development of the global coffee industry – and started writing a web-development framework for the Haskell programming language, within the realm of personal studies unrelated to coffee.

The four months since then have been filled, however, with non-terminated transactions, unguaranteed investments, dangling deals, and management by artists who have no concern for timelines – fortunately, investors around here are not particularly concerned about rates of return on their investment. It seems like everyone is having a good old time – except myself, I’m bored.

Boredom, science says, has a tendency to lead to a higher appetite for risk. Which helps to explain why just after the three-month mark on this project, after a late night’s haggling over legal wordings, I rushed an amber light on a wet street, briefly lost control of my car, and almost rammed into six workers replacing a truck battery at a junction.

The broad swath between courage and stupidity

I signed up for this project mainly because it contributes information to my plan-Z, of someday being able to pay the bills by running a quiet coffee shop of my own. Running a coffee shop is something that I should be able to do with minimal overlap to my nerdier research interests, ad infinitum. So it’s a sort of retirement plan, and getting started on this was part of the study plan that I wrote for myself five years ago.

At the current rate of cost, I’m beginning to ponder the efficiency of this investment of my time. The saving grace of this period is being delegated certain quanta of manual labour – which I prefer almost infinitely over desk-based work. If ever so redundantly, moving stuff about and sweeping a construction site, cleaning drains, and scooping cat-shit out of rain gutters, have been the most entertaining bits of the last four months.

The coffee bits of this story end here. Only boredom remains. Boredom has no plot, or plan, or character. Boredom is a she-cat’s moans while lodged on the spines of the he-cat’s cock. There is nowhere to run. One could wax lyrical over the varied experiences of human intercourse. Speech is an infinite combination of infinite symbols. Touches and timbres of voice are analogous and never reliably represented. Yet humans, like places, to a patterner, are simply the same (or dasein; sorry, bad pun). I have a tendency to indulge relationships only when work is boring. But these days, I’ve taken to writing ‘emo’ stories, seemingly relevant to the quarter-life-in-crisis crowd which we might be serving in the client’s coffee shop. But I often find myself lacking in material – so I have been farming for it. The obvious places from which to source inspiration for this sort of thing seemed to be online dating services, and conversations with people about their sex and dating lives. I’ve spoken to individuals and groups, at supper-clubs, with cute baristas, with old acquaintances, and others – and then I’ve channelled them as best I can. Perhaps, beyond my exercise of these social tropes, I may actually become a more normal person. But don’t harbour much hope that I will ever become less, boring.

Can you see things in your head? I can flip through entire buildings in mine – through the layers of floors, from any perspective – between the colours of paint (not so good at that), and the spacing of object (better). Of course, I can see people in pornos too – just another droning infinity. Some may have considered the mechanisms between memory, creativity, sensations from the eyes, and mind’s selective recognition of what it is that is being looked at by the person. If one gets into the nitty-gritty of what thought and emotion are, they may eventually become as clear to one as the nitty-gritty of what marks of a pen on paper are. The mystery of souls becomes transparent. The apprehension of such is a curse. So seeing, I seek to reproduce minds in machines, and over the past few years, I have studied their related languages. On this particular project, being frustrated by the lack of concrete drafts in our internal communications on design issues, I started looking into the use of 3D visualisation software, the more scriptable, highly adopted, and functional out-of-the-box, the better (I settled on Blender). Boredom is the beginning, and the end. The reason we search for answers, and the stock of the answers themselves. It is a plight that many deny, which others are oblivious to, and that which some cannot escape.

And what of war? Despite platitudes regarding the fight for peace, the paradox remains that activism in any form, is war in some form. In the absence of opportunity, often, I worry that my intuitions for warfare will entirely fade away, and so I study a game. You must have heard of DoTA. For those of you who haven’t played it, you should be warned that it’s like studying for the Pendidikan Moral exam – one memorises lots of recipes, which combine to form various tactics/strategies, and their specific counter-tactics/strategies. As the only complex non-commercial game that I’ve studied in these years, I’ve devoted a minimal effort to learning its nuances through frequent exposure. Games are inherently boring. As models of unreflective natural conflict, they give us a realm within which to play at war. It is a horrible thing to watch – civil people, playing games, on those days when they do not realise where games come from, or where they lead. To fights and flights, to foods and fucks… ultimately, boring.

Life as I know it, though called real, is much a game as the games that I play are really life itself. I’ve been for many job interviews over the past few years, and rejection due to misaligned interests has become quite the norm. Now that game is one where one’s chances are typically slim. One’s chance of being interviewed for a job at these firms is much higher with a personal recommendation, but despite multiple opportunities, I’ve generally opted to avoid those –I simply prefer the harder game. Generally, in love, life, and jobs, I’ve never really made it a point to get what I want, because wanting is not a very important category to me – rather, I tend to focus on finding out what it is I can get, within specific parameters. I find that my application of scientific methods to most aspects of my consciousness is a good way to go about understanding the world I live in. I suppose.

Boredom is the relevant point between my story and what the reader wants. I chose to lead with my dominant emotion, instead of coffee. Boredom, always wins.


  1. Nice article... many things too complex for my simple mind...but still. nice.