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Social media 101 - 10 things about todays internet · 23.08.16 by colin newell

Get back to the basics - of the internet

25 years ago the World wide web was born. In the beginning it all seemed simple enough: Web pages were 100% information. Eventually they would include photos and multi-media. At that point the entire resource became limitless as a medium for knowledge deployment, information sharing and instant global communications.

I am fortunate enough to have been born before the internet. To have lived at a time where I did not have instant access to everything, I think, was something of a developmental benefit. It was a valuable experience. Like growing up without electricity or television… not that I was one of those people! It gives one perspective.

At this 25th anniversary juncture, I have some thoughts and questions about where we are at right now – and yes, it is going to come across as “you kids get off of my lawn…” Here are 10 thoughts:

10.) When did content on the internet become all about search engine ratings? Everywhere you look, you see rubbish, junk content and click bait. This article, for a refreshing change, is 100% information. There is nothing for you to click on, no sensational content, no mass reloads of pages to see one simple article. You are not forced to load 10 pages of ads to see a 300 word article. It respects you and does not treat you like a fool. This is actually the top thing that gets me fuming. Because I am fuming, I put it at the top of the list!

9.) When did the internet (our greatest knowledge resource) become so dumbed down and assume we are all stupid? We are not stupid. The average person functioning on this planet is quite smart. You have to be to survive. So why does the “internet media” feel that we are all idiots?

8.) Where there is potential for so much more we see endless quantities of junk or rubbish content, scandal sheet articles, click bait and pointless advertising shills that pose as meaningful consumer reviews. It’s everywhere. This article has no hidden agenda. There are no surprises. No insults.

7.) Whither integrity? I may not believe in the same things that you do, but I have stood for some things all the years I have been online and have not really changed my perspective that much.
Websites that try and pass off rubbish for pure profit – or legitimate media sites that include rubbish content (like our local Times-Colonist newspaper) leave me feeling kind of cold.
In their favour I imagine that the life of newspapers is a pretty tight one right now and maybe their very survival depends on this strategy.

6.) Too much information. Yea, I use Facebook and Twitter. When did the curtain of a reasonable expectation of privacy fall away with everyone (quoting a dear Hawaiian friend…) “Drop their panties for the camera…” Is it because we all want to share every moment of our lives and all our desires OR have we been conditioned to do so. I think it is the combination of the two.

5.) Is this a lost opportunity. I think every day we are given the chance to make a small contribution to the greater good of the Planet. The power of the internet and access to information could help us do this. But we waste our time running around after junk content, passing off jokes and gags as a meaningful use of our time and chasing phantoms in the street as a game (Pokemon…) Yup, full on old man rant now!

4.) I’ve still got hope. Actually, I think during a crisis situation the net becomes an awesome tool for coming to the rescue and marshalling a response really fast. Examples include the devastating Earthquakes in S.E. Asia (Indonesia, Thailand), Japan and Haiti. There is no question that people can pull together when they need to. And who knows, maybe the greatest global challenge is still ahead of us.

3.) Why all the eggs in one basket? I worry about the centralization of media and information on the internet and the abandonment or neglect of traditional forms of media, like newspaper, TV and radio. When you think about it, for the consumer, radio is one of the most economical mediums to reach a very large audience at little cost to the end consumer. TV used to be like that in the day we had TV antennas. Truth is, you can still put up a TV antenna and pick up a lot of good stuff – even HD. Most people don’t know this. For most of us, our cable bill (often bundled with internet) is often the priciest of utilities that we have little or nothing to show for our expenditure at the end of the month… apart from wasted time maybe.

2.) Spam is still king. It takes many forms but by and large, unwelcome e-mail is still the bane of the internet that has been with us every day the internet has existed. If anything, our laws and tools against spam may actually be improving. Ironically perhaps, we have grown to trust online commerce for its robust nature, selection and time-saving capabilities and it might just be that we don’t even need spam anymore – of that it might be completely ineffective anyway.

1.) There is hope. I just told you a bunch of different things. Perhaps they may have been laid out in a haphazard manner without the best grammar or punctuation. What I have tried to do is challenge my readers on some level, getting them to stop and think for a few minutes. This content is simply that. Content. No more. No less. So on this 25th anniversary of the world wide web, I offer you this. A single page of words with no music, no photos, no links, no promoted content, no rubbish or bullshit.

Take this knowledge freely. And in your internet travels, keep a watch out for the truth and integrity – two things often in short supply.

Colin Newell is a Victoria area resident, writer, technical analyst and a bunch of other things who has been writing on the internet for an awful long time.


Social media 101 mad as hell and what are you going to do about it · 21.08.16 by colin newell

Prisoner of Social Media

I heard a TED Talk not too long ago on CBC radio and I would like to track it down and listen again.

It was all about how social media (as good as it appears to be on a surface examination) has robbed us of creativity and productivity.

How our addiction or dependance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like has separated us of from our true potential selves.

But how is that even possible? I think of myself as a smart person, an engaged person and a person who is making a contribution to society. But am I, as an avid user of social media, really making a difference or the best possible contribution that I possibly can?

Let’s talk about one contribution that I make to the World around me that I am kind of proud of.

It is the website that I have been writing content for, for over 20 years.
A site that has been suffering from a degree of neglect over the last few years. But can we say definitively that this is the actual issue? Perhaps I have said everything I need to say about coffee culture or that it is time for younger voices to be heard. Fact is, when I started writing about the culture of caffeine consumption 20 years ago, I was relatively alone in a very finite field of coffee writers. That has changed. But could I be doing more?

Well, here is my truthful observation. In an average day, I may dedicate 45 minutes to “social media” or the “internet”. You know, checking e-mail, posting a couple of tweets or photos and updating my “Facebook” status. In that 45 minutes I may flip over to one of my web projects, like this one, and have a quick look see to make sure everything is ship shape… a couple of seconds of my time.

The reality of social media is that we are now all working for “free” for giant media mining companies like Facebook and Twitter. Many of my friends post on twitter like it is their own personal blog, not realizing that every word they are writing is being “exploited” in some fashion or another. They share their lives, their birthdays, the very minutiae of their earthly existence. I am often astounded by the sheer richness, the overwhelming quantity of words and thoughts that people post to their Facebook space is if it was a private personal journal. They update their profile photo’s with every change of hairstyle or mood. Outwardly this would appear to be pretty darn harmless. But is it?

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist. Most global conspiracies are merely that: the product of someones overly fertilized imagination. If there was a conspiracy of global domination driven by a handful of evil doers, I think word would get out. And yet, here we are, sharing our whereabouts, our birthdays, our holidays and our most intimate feelings to an online behemoth. Relationships germinate, develop and coalesce and often die miserable deaths on social media. We use social media, like Facebook, as if it was some tangential communications form as reliable and without strings attached as a casual conversation or a binding agreement between strangers.

We often worry about an overly nosy government or police forces that want more power to surveil, ostensibly to save us from ourselves or terror threats, also imagined and otherwise. And on one hand we fight excessive police powers while revealing our destination, location and desires every hour and minute of each and every day. What happened to the essence of our private selves?

I have had this conversation with many, many people about this phenomenon of “social networking” and how much we all “need” social media. Parents and grand parents insist that they would not be able to connect with their children and grand children if it was not for social media APPS like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Seriously? What did we go before electronic social media? We picked up the phone and put pen to letter.

I do not wish to be a luddite but I cannot help but look in the mirror occasionally and ask myself, what kind of contribution could I have made today if I wasn’t spending so much time naval gazing and looking for that perfect, funny, witty or perfunctory tweet that will, I assure myself, change the World.

My mother once told me two stories that have hung with me my entire life: after I spent an evening in front of the TV glued to a sitcom with my dad and sisters that the World could crumble around us if we did not occasionally “self assess” our devotion to pop culture (at the time television entertainment).

And while standing at a bus top in the early 70’s she overheard two young women talking about a TV celebrity as if they they knew the characters personally. And one of the girls said to the other one, “Hey, isn’t that you brother across the street sitting on that park bench?” And the girl squinted and said, “Yea, I think so… haven’t talked to him in years…”

Perhaps what life in the 21st Century should really be about is balance. It takes work to achieve balance and sometimes it’s just easy to go with the flow. And that’s what scares me.

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and writer, often with a mug of coffee in hand – looking for the truth or something that passes as truth.


Food, drink and smoking Summer 2016 · 19.08.16 by colin newell

Best smoking times

Having saved up for a house, back-yard and BBQ for going on 20 years, you can imagine my delight when all of this actually came true!

I now have the house and back yard and a very beat up but serviceable Weber Genesis 3-burner 300 series BBQ that is still cooking away (and over ten years of age…)

And in the first 60 days of living in our house, I BBQ’ed 45 nights! We just started our 3rd year in the house 1 month ago! Amazing. I am a better BBQ chef now but what kind of smoker am I?
Well, I am not a smoker at all – but I could aspire to be.

And if learning how to gas flame BBQ cook is one skill, then learning how to smoke meat is an entirely, ahem, different kettle of fish. But let’s discuss some basics.

Smoking meat to perfection requires much more finesse than many people are aware of. There are two distinct setups when it comes to the arrangement of a smoking system: the vertical setup, and the horizontal setup. In the vertical setup, the fire can be as low as the bottom level of the apparatus, separated from the meat at the top with water and smoking wood in the middle.

In the horizontal setup, the cooking chamber, water, meat, smoking agents, and firebox are all connected. Of course, it is also possible to achieve good smoking results simply by using a regular grill. The source of heat for completing the smoking process can be achieved with a number of different agents, including wood, steam, electricity, gas, and charcoal.

The greatest challenge in being able to achieve a consistent temperature throughout the meat is to be able to maintain a constant, healthy flow of smoke. Generally speaking, those who are new to the art of smoking meat will be best-suited with an electric smoking apparatus.

Generally speaking, indirectly seating through smoking is a method adopted for larger pieces of meat. Naturally, different cuts of meat will have a different amount of time that will be most ideal for dispersing the heat of the smoke across the full surface area and throughout the entire cut.

The attached graphic gives you a great idea how different meats or proteins respond to smoke – or in other words, “when they are done…” It was a neat graphic to look at and the attached image prints well – so use it freely and learn a bit more about “smoking” – smoking of the healthy kind that is!

What you can do is open up the graphic by clicking on it and then right clicking it to save to your desk top.

Or (and this should work better…) Click on this – smoking-times-and-temperature.jpg

Now I need to get out some of those hickory wood chips I have kicking around!

Apologies in advance to my lovely Vegan and Vegetarian friends.

Colin Newell has been writing this blog for over 20 years and you will notice the absence of junk content, click bait, promo links and other rubbish. We are better than that and everyone should demand better content!


A slight book review - Adventures in Solitude · 11.08.16 by colin newell

Adventures in Solitude Review Grant LawrenceOne would hardly think that we could improve on the relative paradise of Kona, Hawaii – a coastal village often basking in a seemingly endless summer sun, caressed by a cleansing surf and feeling the gentle quiet of the off season.

Despite this perfection, we did. And we did it with a book no less.
And what better book than one that dishes out surprises and regional familiarity by the pail full.

As a Canadian West coast resident who grew up in the in-between zone of not quite country but not quite city life of Southern Vancouver Island, it felt familiar reading a comprehensive, compelling and honest tale of a young man’s coming of age in the blustery South West coastal region of British Columbia. This area, often so unflinchingly merciless, so physically and mentally challenging, was the backyard of my childhood.

Although I have never been in the heart of Desolation Sound, I have been in the region. One of the towns mentioned in the book, Lund, which is the gateway to Desolation Sound, was one of my last stops on many roads trips exploring the area. It is up the road a ways from Powell River at the end of a fully paved 6600 mile road that reaches all the way to Santiago de Chile. And yet, it is, has been and will always be the road less traveled.

I have been to similar places to Lund on Vancouver Island like Port Renfrew, Port Hardy, Telegraph Bay, Ucluelet and many, many others. They are the very fabric of this region and offer a glimpse of what life is like in almost complete isolation.

As pages rolled by I would soon come to realize how much of B.C. wilderness was in my own blood – ready to be relived and re-appreciated.

Adventures in Solitude chronicles the life (particularly the early child development) of CBC host and journalist Grant Lawrence – a fellow who comes across as a chatty and witty pop culture expert and music critic perhaps lacking the kind of depth and dimensionality I have come to expect from other more seasoned and elderly statesmen of Canada’s beloved public broadcaster.

So, imagine the delight of tucking into a randomly selected volume from Victoria’s premier bookstore Munro’s for the purpose of getting me through the fairly routine 5 hour flight from the West Coast to Kona, Hawaii and realizing that there was something truly great between these soft covers. Its resonance with so many hardy Canadians, in part, explains why the book has picked up so many accolades so quickly.

Because, for me, a slightly outdoors kind of guy, here was a story that resonated so deeply in my coastal consciousness that on some minute level I felt like parts of me were incorporated into the book.

Raised in a dissimilar vein to my own, Grant’s background was from tony West Vancouver where lawyers, developers and family money call home. Grant’s dad was a property developer of some note and success and happened upon a piece of land in B.C.‘s coastal wilderness at one of those “just at the right time” moments. Spending summer after bucolic summer in Desolation Sound, the Lawrence family found themselves becoming part of the regional history and folklore of the area.

I do not want to spoil the story though folks – you will have to buy a copy for yourselves. Any long time B.C. resident or Canadian that loves the outdoors and spent part of their formative years anywhere near the coastal wild of the West Coast needs to read this book.

This book reminds me of a really good non-fiction version of a Doug Coupland novel – and I hope that neither of the authors find this insulting because I think Coupland is utterly brilliant – and of course as a British Columbian I relate to his work as well.

Get the book folks – if only for what shades of yourselves you might find. You can find out all you need to know about Grant Lawrence over here.

And another important lesson for me revealed – having figured out that Grant Lawrence was more than the sum of some City parts…

Never judge a Man… or a Book… by its cover.

On location in Kona, Hawaii – I am Colin Newell.

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Local artisan series chapter one - Alfons Furniture · 8.08.16 by colin newell

Alfons Furniture Victoria

When we first moved into our new house, one of the first neighbours to pop by was Alfons.

He lives on the street parallel to our and shares part of a back fence. An enthusiastic gardener and outdoorsman, Alfons represents all the good things about good neighbours – engaged, good humoured and genuinely interested in what is going on in the World around us.

Alfons fine designs chairs Victoria

As it turns out, Alfons is a fine furniture maker and designer – a guy who makes some very unique and breathtaking pieces that would grace and compliment any home or business. He completed an apprenticeship program in fine furniture in Germany in 1987. After several years working with a variety of senior masters in the craft, he returned to school to obtain a Master’s Diploma in furniture making.

Alfons fine designs - cabinets

Alfons came to Canada in 1998 and honed his craft in several different work shops in the Victoria area before setting up his own woodcraft design lab in 2005. Alfons focus is on traditional European design and the Contemporary interpretations within North America.

Alfons’s shop and ideas area is in the heart of Rock Bay in an old multi-storied warehouse that contains guitar makers, digital labs and an assortment of high end maker spaces.

Alfons fine designs Victoria - beds

We had lunch together recently after getting a tour of his unassuming work space and environment where many of his great ideas come together. There was something about the positive energy and youthfulness of the space that resonated with me – and I imagine that this contributes to the overall quality of everything that comes from this building and his creation space.

What I also discovered about Alfons is his acute ability to listen and provide instant feedback on what I may have been trying to convey on some of my design ideas – which is an immensely valuable skill when designing items of furniture that may reside in a home for 100 years or more.

Alfons fine design Victoria - fireplaces

As Alfons pointed out to me over lunch at the Salt Chuck Pie nearby, “The customer relationship is the most important key to succeeding in virtually any project… whether it is building the perfect piece of fine furniture for their home… or making their computer work better in their business…” Yes indeed, I can certainly relate to that!

Have a look at Alfons’s website and photo gallery – I think you will agree that he builds and designs some of the most remarkable pieces of furniture in the South Vancouver Island marketplace.

You can find Alfons online or make an appointment with him via – Alfons Laicher
Alfons Custom Furniture & Woodwork Inc. – 2614 Bridge St. #223 • Victoria, BC • V8T 4S9
Phone: 250-361-4119
Email: [email protected]

This is Chapter One of an ongoing series of artisan conversations – with the creators, makers and ideas people of Vancouver Island.


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