Honolulu Coffee: Artisan Kona Roaster

I recently received a bag of Kona coffee from Hawaii’s Honolulu Coffee. These beans are more special as they’re Kona peaberries. I’ve always enjoyed Kona beans. They have a unique ashen aroma that hides a subtle dark chocolate berry taste. Because of how special (and more expensive) peaberries are, the roaster will take greater care in roasting which means a much more delicious cup of coffee!

Follow up to Squash Stringing

As a quick follow up to the squash stringing post, this particular post from the Ashaway has a fairly nice summary of the differences between string guage (thin/thick) and string tension (tight/loose). Each racket should be able to have a small range of tension where the string will operate best. At the moment, I plan to string the PowerNick 18 at 25 pounds (racket recommended) on the TT Sovereign.

Playing with different squash strings

For the past couple months, I have this squash problem…. I’m having a difficult time deciding on the type of squash string to use. Because of a broken string, I opted to try Ashaway’s Ultranick 18 guage and I loved playing with it over my normal Ultranick 17 guage. That ultimately led me to question what the other three Ashaway strings were like. So I bought the PowerNick 18, MultiNick 18 and SuperNick ZX Micro (also 18 guage). I installed all three strings on the remaining three rackets and started to play with them. And now… I’m having a hard time narrowing down the strings to install permanently. They each have their pros and cons with some strings having more cons than pros!!

But first…. what are the difference between the four strings?! The Ultra is a multifilament Zyex. Power is a monofilament Zyex. Multi is multifilament nylon with a polyurethane coating. and Super is also a multifilament nylon with embedded Zyex filament. What’s Zyex? Ashaway has an interesting article on the this topic. Zyex is basically a polymer made of polyether ether ketone (PEEK). In simple terms, this type of polymer results in tough, durable, and elastic threads that recover after deforming (from hitting a ball). Ashaway has a nice collection of links that talks about squash rackets and strings. It’s useful to browse and understand some of the differences in the materials and string guages.

For some background, I’ve been playing with Ultra 17s for the past 5 years on Prince TT Sovereign Black. After breaking the stock strings 5 years ago, I switched to the Ultra 17s after testing the Ultra 17s against a comparable Tecnifibre 305+ 17 gauge. They both have multifilament polymer cores and are both 17 guages. Although the coating are slightly different, I didn’t think the string coating would make too much of a difference especially for a beginner like me. With both strings installed, I began comparing the feel of the string while playing. One of the biggest differences and a key factor in my decision was that the 305+ had a significant vibration everytime I hit the ball. The Ultra 17s did not. As a baseline comparison, the stock Prince strings DID NOT vibrate. Another benefits was that I felt I had very good ball control with the Ultra 17s whereas I had a hard time trying to control the ball using the 305+. The better control allowed me to execute better drops. Looking back now, I realized that the smooth coating on the 305+ requires more skill to exectue. But as a beginner, I clearly didn’t have that skill to make use of the strings.

As I mentioned earlier, I bought and installed the four different strings. Here’s what they look like.

I’ve been playing with these four rackets over the past 2 months now. Switching from an Ultra 17 guage to an Ultra 18 guage string made a huge difference in the power game. Accoarding to the Ashaway site, the thinner strings (18 guage) generally provide greater “trampoline” effect than thicker strings (17 guage). The differences between the different guages using the same material was eye-opening. I realized that I didn’t need to “swing harder” in order to generate the same length I needed. I also realized that I was more able to maintain “hit off the back wall” routine more often because the ball would travel farther without relying on my power. It was this realization that sent me down the squash string rabbit hole.

Once I had all four strings installed on the rackets at the identical tension, I started playing them in rotation making note of what I liked and didn’t like for the string. Some of these are purely subjective and dependent on the playing style.

POWER: All four strings gave me extra power whenever I hit the ball. I had a difficult time trying to control the depth and placement of the ball. The aggressiveness is actually very refreshing being able to unleash a shot quickly. The 18 guage and string construction definitely helped with that trampoline effect. If I had to rank them, Power > Super > Ultra > Multi.
CONTROL: One of the strings gave me almost zero control. To be honest, I had no drop game as I was getting used to not only the string but also the sweet spots. Ultra > Super > Power > Multi
SWEET SPOT: The sweet spots for each racket were also different too. I could hear the racket sound whenever I hit the ball. A badly hit ball generally sounded “hollow” to me whereas a good solid sound indicated the ball was hit well. Generally, the type of material seemed to affect how often I would hear the “hollow” sound whenever I hit the ball. Apparently the difference between multifilament and monofilament were pretty clear. Ultra > Super > Power > Multi.
VIBRATION: One of the strings gave a slight vibration. Ultra = Power = Super > Multi
RESPONSE: The ball feels different when it comes off the strings. This seems to be dependent on the type of string construction too. Reading about the construction on the Ashaway site made it pretty clear why the monofilament generated the power but also the crips response over the multifilaments. Power > Multi > Super > Ultra.

FEELING: This is very subjective. Power > Super > Ultra > Multi
– While I was playing with the rackets, I came to a realization that I didn’t like the Multi at all.
– The Ultra was very comfortable and easy to hit with what seems to be a large sweet spot. It allowed me to continue to play the game. After rotating through the different rackets though, I came to a realization that the Ultra had a larger sweet spot and control that actually compensated for some of the other issues in my game.
– The Super also had a large sweet spot and control but had a much more power than the Ultra. The Super feels like a cross between the Power and the Ultra. Playing with the Super made me realize that my choice of strings would have to result in a change to correct the movement issues and smaller swing issues such as slow return to the T, lazy back court dig mechanics and slow and imprecice movement to the ball and general forehand/backhand swing mechanics.
– The Power has a smaller sweet spot compared to the Ultra and Super. The “hollow” sound when hitting the ball was much more pronounced using this string. At first I didn’t like it because it reflected that I hit a bad shot, but I came to realize that sweet spot is forcing me to approach the shot earlier and set up earlier. Between playing with the Super and the Power, both required me to approach the shot early for a better setup. The Power had a responsive feel whenever I hit the ball.

OVERALL: Rotating through all the different rackets, I realized that there were basically two choices. The first choice was to continue to play the same type of game/playstyle that I’m used to. The UltraNick and SuperNick would “hide” some of the smaller issues in my game by compensating it through better control and touch while maintaining the power. The second choice would be to elevate my game. Using the PowerNick, I recognized that I needed to play a better more technical game. It seemed clear to me that the PowerNick would elevate my game to the next level as I learned to play with the strings. I think the control and touch as well as power adjustment would come over time as I got more used to the feeling of the PowerNick.

CONCLUSION: I’m definitely leaning towards the PowerNick. I played with it this whole week. I noticed over the week that my shots were slowly getting back under control. Slight changes to the racket face allowed me to maintain not only the power but also the appropriate length for the ball to die in the back court. Previously, the ball would come off the back wall very high allowing an easy back court drop. My movement will still need to improve to allow me to setup for the shot. I slowly started to hit the sweet spot more over the course of the week. Overall, I feel that my playstyle is changing for the better.

Broadsheet Coffee Roasters

August’s Trade Coffee (referral link) comes from Broadsheet Coffee Roasters. The beans come from the Guji region of Ethiopia close to the popular Yirgacheffe and Sidamo region (map). These beans have a pleasant chocolate/fruity aroma and have nice fruitier taste than the Portola roasted beans from Guatemala that I posted aobut last month.

Sticker Shock @Eataly

There’s currently a deal at my local Eataly for 50% off select American Wagyu cuts (screen shot below). Not being one to pass up the chance on American Wagyu cuts, I ventured out to buy some meat to cook for tomorrow’s dinner. This deal is usually really good as it drops the price to effectively very high quality USDA Prime prices at local grocery stores like Bristol Farms or Gelsons.

I ended buying two of the Bone-In Strips. I didn’t want a tomohawk and they had nothing smaller or boneless.

When I went to the register, they rang up at full price. I literally had sticker shock and went what the fuck. In my head, I was expecting roughly $60 for each steak. Luckily, before I started to complain, the system updated the price with the promotion. For one short moment, I seriously considered complaining to the cashier about what kind of shady bait and switch was going on.

Tomorrow, I will be eating well.

Portola Coffee Roasters

One of the other roasters that led me down the path of coffee enlightenment was Portola Coffee Roasters. At the time, I was mainly a Starbucks drinker. To me, I thought the lattes from Starbucks were decently good… at least better than Peet’s and Coffee Bean. However, a good friend of mine introduced me to Portola Coffee on a trip down to Orance County. They roast their own coffee in addition to the normal cafe serving espresso drinks. I ordered a latte and the first sip was such an eye-opening experience. The flavors, the aftertaste and even just the aroma from the beans gave me such a “wow” feeling. Soon after, I began to experiement making my own latte’s in the morning and fell into the caffeinated spiral of no return.

Anyways, this past weekend… I was running out of MOMOS Coffee and opted to buy a bag from Portola while I was down in the OC area for a networking event. These beans do not disappoint. If you’re ever in the OC area, drop by the cafes and enjoy their espresso drinks.

Nation Building Never Works

20 years… Trillions of dollars later… Countless military lives lost…

I never understood why countries do not learn from history. Nation building is only successful when you absolutely take control of EVERYTHING and rebuild it from the ground up. Like Japan after WW2, the US rebuilt a demoralized Japanese population into a functioning democracy. They did so by taking control of the government, minimizing any militaristic threat, and helped the people recover from the ravages of war. But… I don’t think the US did any of that to any degree of success in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s militaristic threat was still present. The new government still clung to the old religious views and clearly corruption still remained. After reading numerous articles and opinions in the past 20 years… I came to the conclusion that the US seemed to be “half-assing” this “nation building exercise.” They never pursued all means necessary to eliminate the Taliban threat completely including leveraging Pakistan to eliminate the Taliban from Pakistani borders. The US also never fully committed to building essential services for the the people. Sure some infrastructure projects were built… but is that truly enough to win over people? If you think about Maslow’s heirarchy… Safety/Security and Survivability/Food comes first. US never provided these two items to all the Afghani people. It’s no wonder there nation building failed.

To be honest and to my surprise, a search of “why did Afghanistan nation building fail” gave me two links (link 1, link 2) and a PDF to read. The two links all point to the need to take control of everything or commit the necessary resources for success. A quick read points to the facts that the US could never have won this war because 1) the scope of the war changed from War on Terror to Nation Building 2) the US political system could never agree on the type and level of support needed. These two major issues limited the resources needed for a complete US domination. Bush Jr never fully was able to commit to a US domination since it would have technically required Congressional support (in both troops and money). So… the war on terror / nation building was doomed for failure from the start. Here’s an interesting VOX article about Biden’s history discussing the Afghan War. Egads…

So what now….? 1) The US should accept any and all females who are seeking refuge/refugee status. 2) The US absolutely must help any and all Afghanis that aided the US troops in the war. 3) Rebuild all the lost reputation and good will from the past 20 years.

MOMOS Coffee

I stopped by a local coffee shop called Kumquat Coffee and Tea over the weekend. At this shop, there were quite few imported roasted beans from Korea. Since the most recent Angels Cup roaster shipped a less than the normal amount of beans, I thought it might be wise to stock up on at least one additional bag of beans. Since I’ve had the opportunity to taste roasted beans from Ethiopia, I ended up choosing one that I thought was close to the Yirgacheffe region where many of the roasters also bought their beans.

What I found out later is that that MOMOS Coffee is actually famous because one of their barista was the 2019 World Barista Champion (2nd link, 3rd link). Talk about luck of the draw… Anyhow, I made my latte and this instantly tastes similar to all the other lattes I’ve made with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans. Not only does it taste similar, it’s extremely fruity and floral. This is one of the more delicious lattes I’ve made in a while too.

Pirates of Coffee

August’s Angels Cup goes international with Pirates of Coffee who hail from Canada (says the Angels Cup communications… though I can’t really confirm that info on the Pirates of Coffee website). But nonetheless, coffee is coffee right? The beans come from another Tarrazu, Costa Rica. Reading the website description, I didn’t know there were eight coffee growing regions in Costa Rica with Tarrazu being the most popular.

Angels cup sent only a 6oz version of the beans. They were kind enough to reimburse half the monthly subscription (probably at a loss). Drinking my latte, I do get this nice chocolate flavor.

Kuma Coffee

July’s Trade Coffee comes from Kuma Coffee. Kuma is the Japanese word for “bear” and it just sounds rugged and rough. These beans come from the Antiguan Highlands in Guatemala. Looking back at previous roasters, I haven’t had too many Guatemalan beans. From the website, the beans were picked by small local farmers combining the best beans from each farm.

I had a chance to not only make my latte but also did a cold brew and a pour over with these beans. The cold brew was probably one of the tastiest brews I’ve made that wasn’t a latte. It was bright and fruity with low acidity.