21 May, 2009

Tasting Tea, Again

Part II of his essential guide,
in which Hobbes tells you how to raise a cup to your lips,
put tea into your mouth, then swallow.

Ouseley Garden
It's nearly summer, it's beautiful outdoors, and you're stuck in front of your computer reading about tea. Are you ready to admit that you're a tiny bit sad, yet?
Yes, you're one of us. Come play with us, forever, and ever, and ever...

(For disclaimers about how this reflects personal experimentation, and should be immediately disregarded, see the previous article.)

Here are some more notes on how I sometimes look at tea. Don't get caught up in process or routine - read this, then forget it. Drinking tea would be a huge chore if you followed the same mechanical procedure each time, unless you really enjoyed it. The following is more of a vocabulary from which individual observations might be drawn (if you're me). Your mission, as a tea drinker, is to find a vocabulary that works for you. Don't get bogged down in other people's vocabularies unless it's working for you. Be honest with yourself, and keep only what helps. There is no real map for enjoying tea.

Having successfully negotiated the process of getting tea into the mouth, I notice what happens from lips to throat.

What about my lips and throat?

The first impression comes as early as the first contact of soup on flesh.

Good tea can be energetic. That is, it can impart a certain liveliness, an almost effervescent quality on the lips that... tingles a bit. It can also be felt where it first touches the tongue. It is a tangible sensation that suggests energy, life, and Good Stuff. In my humble experience, this correlates interestingly with non-plantation leaves, though I have had a small number of plantation teas that also show the same effect. It's a good sign, I think, like a lively grape.

With the tea now in contact with your mouth, the product of aeons of evolution kick in and the volatile organic compounds slopping around in the tea-water get involved with your facial, glossopharyngeal, and vagus nerves, with your piriform cortex, and ultimately, your orbitofrontal cortex. That is, you taste it and smell it, then decide if you like it.

Angel and Greyhound Meadow
My orbitofrontal cortex happens to like cow parsley.

Just like the aroma cup, you get hit by the "light" volatile compounds first - you sense the higher notes of sweetness, floralness, and so on. If it's Yiwu, Banzhang or Mengsong tea, you might be getting plenty of sweetness at the outset.

Then, the "heavier" compounds make themselves felt, and you get some bass components. You might get undertones of leather or grain. If it's a Lincang tea, maybe there's some sort of cereal-crop effect at work.

You'll also be getting plenty of information (the majority, in fact) from your nose, as the compounds head upstairs from your mouth. I make plenty of use of this stage, as I love those tobacco-like effects that dwell back there. I'm a vicarious smoker, and this is my substitute. Ahhhhh...

Angel and Greyhound Meadow
And bark. Some teas definitely have barky notes.

So, you've been witnessing that progression from high-notes to low-notes, as it swells in the mouth. You've been getting plenty of nose into the bargain. What about the texture? What does it feel like in the mouth? Is it a chunky, gloopy, viscous monster, stuffed full of beefy contents? Or is it a thin, weedy affair, that feels like it's been stretched too thinly? Some really heavy teas almost feel as if they're adhering to the roof and walls of the mouth. Some watery, worn-out leaves pass like water.

If you hadn't guessed by now, one of my objectives is to find tea with contents. I like bold, chunky teas with plenty of stuff in them. Overstretched soil and high yields can, unsurprisingly, lead to empty teas. Any guesses what might happen to those after twenty years? I'd hazard a guess that the teas with content are going to fair better with time, and that intuition (which had bloody well better be right) guides my tastebuds. And, to a large extent, my wallet. I don't have time for teas which are waifs, ready to disappear in a strong wind. I have too many old teas that have simply become empty - mostly old maocha seems to suffer from this.

Some older examples can seem tired out.

With flavours and aroma progressing nicely, we might be getting to the throat. Acidity at the end? Bitterness? What's happening back there? I like some acidity - a little bit of challenge. I quaff Bulang by the bucketload in a quest to find my perfect acidity. My body appears to like it.

(Important note: your physiology is your own, and you're going to have different reactions to different teas. Chinese medicine would prescribe "cold" drinks like, for example, brutal green Bulang for "hot" conditions, and would prescribe "hot" substances like, for example, roasted teas and hongcha, for "cold" conditions. Most orientals I know have generally "cold" complexions, and can't tolerate much coldness; most Westerners have "hot" complexions and seem to thrive on it. Whatever the details, and whichever system of physiological analysis you subscribe to, be careful with what you drink. Moderation in all things is the key, and sensitivity to your own conditions. Keep an eye on yourself, and let your body guide what you drink.)

I prefer medicinal philosophies that prescribe muffins for most ailments.

Back to the acidity/bitterness, and other throaty goodness. Plantation teas can feel "rough" at this stage - they could get abrasive around the throat, and that's never a good thing. Good tea never hurts, or feels uncomfortable. If it has bitterness, it has a good bitterness, that you enjoy, and that challenges, but doesn't abrade. Bad tea, on the other hand, can be as rough as a German woman's legs*. Rough, rough, rough. That's no fun for anyone.

*Ich mag die Deutsche Frauleinen, btw. Sie sind sehr schone und Teuflisch!

Some wine folk like to "chew" the wine, and I've seen teafolk ape this. The idea is to get some air into the mixture, and to spread the fluid over the mouth - disturb it, and provoke airation into the nose. Amusingly enough, I've seen plenty of old Chinese chaps do the same with their pu'er, in which they take a little right at the front of their mouth, on their tongues, and then draw air in through the tea, making a slurping, pftttfffth'ing noise. If this works for you, brilliant. I don't find this so enlightening, but it's another technique in the bag for you to try.

My personal favourite is to hurrrr a little air, slowly, into the mouth from the lungs, at the same time as flexing the tongue to guide some of the brew towards the nasal cavity. I keep the nose open and smell the vapours very gently. This works for me, and helps me to check out the content via scent, amplifying some of the contents. If this sounds like voodoo, disregard it. Wine chums have called this "reverse smelling". Bless 'em. Basically, it comes down to working your sensing equipment in such a way that you can get what you want from the tea. I've no idea how your equipment works, but urge you to find out.

It's not polite to show other people your equipment.

You swallow the tea. That acidity might have been swelling into a huigan [HWEE-GAN], which is lit. return-sweet. You swallow, and you get a resounding crescendo happening in the throat. This can dwell for yonks, in a good tea. Lingering, lingering, making the mouth water more and more, a decent huigan is sometimes worth the price of admission alone. Needless to say, I've found that "better" teas have longer, more powerful, more pronounced, more saliva-inducing huigan - but it can vary. Some huigan come and go quite quickly, some build to a crescendo, some remain constant and loud throughout. There are as many varieties as there are different leaves and methods of production.

At the same time as the huigan, you're getting some aroma heading upstairs from the throat into the nose. This "after-aroma" is sometimes called yunxiang [YOON SHEE-ANG] by some teafolk, lit. rhyme aroma. Here, the character for rhyme means... complementary charm, that harmonious charm often classically associated with women that have reached maturity, in some sense. Chinese is a suggestive language. If our language is technically Romantic, Chinese is actually romantic. What does the yunxiang remind you of? I get my kicks from those that leave plenty of tobacco back there - but equal pleasures abound in the floral equivalents, or buttery-sweetness of some others, or the pure leatheriness of a good Banzhang.

Some folk like to include chayun [CHA YOON] in their tasting vocabularies. This can mean varying things depending on whom you speak with, but the characters literally mean tea-rhyme, where "rhyme" is the complementary charm mentioned above. I take it to mean a gamut of sensations that are felt alongside the flavour, aroma, and huigan. Some teafolk include the texture of the soup in this term, some include the effervescence, some neither.

Seven Tea Moons
English can also be a romantic language.

The tea will also affect your body in some way. Yes, I'm talking about our old friend, Mr. Qi.

To some folk, chaqi is that mystical force that flows through us, surrounds and binds us; it's in you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. To others, chaqi is a blanket term for describing subtle physiological phenomena. Some folk relate it to the parasympathetic nervous system. Some folk use it to put out candles and throw people across a room (or pull x-wing fighters out of swamps in the Dagoba System). My own opinion is one of agnosticism on the subject of qi. Both Western and Eastern descriptions seem useful, and I wouldn't want to discount either as both are equally right, and equally wrong. I've done loads of qigong [chi'kung] in my time, am a (semi-) regular taijiquan [t'ai chi ch'uan] practitioner, but also a paid-up member of the Science Club (discounts available on scientific calculators and pocket-protectors). So, I take it all and use what works.

British Museum
The Science Club does not have oak panelling or first editions of Principia Mathematica.

Whether you think chaqi is voodoo or life-affirming, your body reacts in some way to the act of ingesting tea. I believe, based on observing the responses of my own physiology to tea, that it is possible to separate the effects caused by caffeine and Other Stuff. Whether that remainder be theanines, complexes of organovibronucleotides, or the sheer rampant power of Grandmaster Qi, there is some non-caffeine effect induced by tea. Let's call that effect "chaqi" for the sake of shared discourse.

Sometimes, this chaqi can be calming. Soothing. Highly relaxing, in an almost narcotic sense. I remember sitting down at an afternoon conference session some time ago with a huge feeling of post-pu'er narcotic bliss. Like, far out, man. Sometimes, this chaqi can be brutal, shaking, vibrant, energising. Sometimes there is no chaqi whatsoever.

In old teas, much of the flavour can have devolved into something less exciting, but the chaqi can be as huge as a star destroyer. I have previously called these CDVs (Chaqi Delivery Vehicles) and take every opportunity to wheel out that old chestnut. It's a sad fact of an engineering education that TLAs* become a thing of humour. My travel tea kit is an MGP - Mobile Gongfucha Platform. Etc.

*Three-letter acronyms

My favourite photographs in tea magazines are the get-togethers of people wearing new age clothes, eyes closed, enjoying their chaqi. If there was any article that I would not want my friends to see, lest they truly discover how sad I really am, that would be it.*

*I like to think that I'm not actually this shallow. My friends are fully aware of the immensity of my sadness, and I theirs. And I have some really sad friends. Mind you, I'm the one quoting Master Yoda, so that speaks volumes.

Say hello to our old friend, Mr. Qi.

There's plenty to check out when you're next looking critically at your tea, but I advise you to read this article with a sensible degree of skepticism. If you study anything too much, you'll kill it. Find what you enjoy, and hang onto it. And don't worry about people telling you that you suck. When it comes to your tastes, you are the only arbiter. Just because Grandmaster Big Jimmy has been writing about tea for years doesn't mean you have to copy him. Hang in there, and you'll be your own expert within a few hundred pots.*

*Exact number of pots required to become an expert may vary. Please send cheques for your "tea expert" certificates to me at the usual address. We offer certification to suit a range of budgets.

18 May, 2009

Tasting Tea

Something nice has been happening recently - more people seem to be tuning into tea sites, and compadres from other blogs have been reporting increases in interest that I am happy to say have been echoed here at the creaky old Half Dipper. More people are getting interested in tea, and that's brilliant. Having a bigger crowd of people tuned into good tea is beneficial for absolutely everyone involved.

Our rhubarb.

The rhubarb that I churn out here is mostly transcribed from pen-and-ink journals, and so it can be buried under layers of jargon and other unfriendly material. Jargon itself is necessary, within reason, because it is short-hand. It's much more clunky to write about "the sweet sensation that comes into the mouth and sits in the throat after the swallow" when the word huigan (HWEE-GAN) does the trick in a concise way. As long as we don't go overboard with the jargon (and I'm thinking of typical managerial-style verbiage), a little bit of short-hand can improve the overall readability of an article.

This leads me to a number of e-mails I've had over the past few weeks that have been saying something along the lines of (i) I'm newish to tea and want to explore more, (ii) what's with all the crazy language, (iii) what's a good way to go about enjoying tea?

So I'll briefly deal with these three points in turn. Apologies to the gnarled, wizened tea ninjas in the audience, as this will no doubt sound quite elementary. Maybe you can offer some corrections where you see fit.

An amusing photograph in which Heidu sleeps with his head rammed between his hind legs,
right next to his derriere.

(i) I'm newish to tea and want to explore more.

Welcome. Gentle Reader, you have to come to terms with the fact that you are, I'm afraid to say, a bit sad.

Reading and writing about tea, of all things, is actually rather tragic when you look at it from a distance. I came to terms with this some time ago, and can live with it. I try not to tell people about the Half Dipper, and my wife is very sporting by not mentioning it to people. Yes, you can convince yourself that it's like enjoying wine or cheese, and that's very cool, and that you're a connoisseur (awful word), and so forth. Unfortunately, this does not change the fact that what we do here, furtively, behind closed doors, is rather unusual. I think it's brilliant, and very healthy, and great for the development of all manner of personal faculties... but your peers will, in all likelihood, judge you as being as sad individual. What do they know anyway, right? Everyone has their foibles. Etc.

2007 Xizihao Dinjin Nuer
Writing about tea is actually rather sad. Confess!

(ii) What's with all the crazy language?

As above, it's short-hand. I try to make it accessible by quick translations in square brackets, but for extended explanations, I advise you to head towards that lexicographical leviathan, Babelcarp. It will serve you well. (Three cheers for its author, Lew - thanks again on behalf of everyone for an invaluable tool. I use it all the time.)


(iii) What's a good way to go about enjoying tea?

Yikes, that's a big one. It's the equivalent of slyly asking a Zen master, "What is Zen?" It's a trick question, with a venomous tail.

Like the Zenji, I won't answer it directly, because it doesn't have an answer. What I will do is gingerly tiptoe around the subject like the woeful coward that I am, and point the odd random finger at what looks like the moon.

Step 0 is to ignore ab-so-lutely everything out there. Especially from tea blogs. We all think we know the answer, and we all like to pontificate upon our endless, fathomless knowledge for the greater edification of mankind. However, we're really all confidence tricksters. Not one of us has the answer, because there isn't one.

Sure I'm a Zen master. Just feed me catfood when I ask for it.

I can live with the fact that there is no answer. It's actually rather liberating. Just be aware of it when you're reading the latest exposition of how you should be drinking your tea, and how it tells you that your storage method sucks, how your choice of tea sucks, how your method of wiping your teapot sucks, how your cups suck, how you suck, and how everyone in China is laughing at you, Gentle Reader.

They're not laughing at you really. In fact, most people in China don't know their Yiwu from their Wuyi, much like most Westerners couldn't tell a claret from a Beaujolais*.

(*Classic lyric from British indie band, blur. Name that tune!)

There are some good ways to get started. The eternally superb pairing of Tea Nerd and Marshaln's Xanga have recently published articles on simple teaware set-ups for getting into tea. My advice is always: start small. Start inexpensive. Start simple. Tread slowly - you can make decent tea in the simplest of vessels, and don't let teapot salesmen tell you otherwise. Upgrade at your leisure, not theirs, when you have a better feel for what you're up to.

Seigan Hagiyaki
Health warning: teaware can seriously damage your wallet.

The real crux of the e-mails was hinting at "how should I taste tea?"

Sip it and see what you think!

Though that's fundamentally true, I could put it somewhat less fatuously. What I'll write here is what works for me. This is how I do it, not how you should do it. If you like parts of this approximate description, that's great - but they're just personal preferences. My particular method that has evolved as a function of the way I look at tea, the particular teaware I happen to enjoy using, and so on. Remember, we're just a bunch of charlatans, so take everything you read with a hefty pinch of salt.

I like to use an aroma cup (a.k.a. wenxiangbei - WEN SHEE-ANG BAY). It (i) cools my tea, and (ii) gives me an insight into the content of the tea, complementary to the sensations obtainable from the mouth, in a manner facilitated by the design of the cup.

Yes, we know you don't use an aroma cup. Gnnghgh.

When you pour the soup out of the wenxiangbei, you get what perfumers (and modernday biochemists) traditionally term the "top note" or "head note". It's all of the "light" volatile compounds that make it into the nose first - you get lighter, higher notes such as sweetness, floral compounds, etc. Teafolk might call this the beidixiang (BAY DEE SHEE-ANG), lit. cup-bottom scent. Do you get mushrooms? Flowers? Sweetness? If so, what sort of sweetness?

As these disappear, and the "heavier" volatile compounds take over, you get the "bass note" or "body note". Perfumers liken their craft to music, and it's easy to see why. As an engineer, I think in terms of low-frequency spectral content and high-frequency spectral content - it's exactly the same as the audio analogy. (Engineers are great to take to concerti - "oh, listen to the high-frequency components in that section!") This heavier stage consists of deep sugars, richness, lowness, bass notes, that kind of thing. Teafolk might call this the lengxiang (LUNG SHEE-ANG), lit. cool-scent. Molasses? Brown sugar? What do you get at this point?

Sensing of these compounds gives you an indication of the content in various stages of the tea. Often, the aroma correlates with observations made using the mouth, throat, and aftertaste. It can another way to determine what compounds are tucked away inside your tea.

I like the design of the wenxiangbei, as it makes this transition from beidixiang to lengxiang obvious, and concentrates the evaporation in an aperture sufficiently small enough to be filled up by your probing, inquisitive nez. The tall walls of the cup make for a large evaporative surface, and promote rapid cooling. It's a nice bit of engineering, in fact. Evolutionary engineering.

So far, so good. Remember - don't take any of this to heart. This is just loose talk, and you should disregard it in favour of your own empirical observations and use of equipment (grazie, Gautama.)

HH Dalai Lama
Do Buddhist bodyguards break your legs compassionately?

Next up, I drink it. In conventional (hongcha or "black tea") tasting, a taster might spit out the tea. This works if you're just evaluating the mouth- and nose-sensations, as you'd find in familiar Indian tipples. Pu'er, though, has a lot happening after the swallow, and I don't find the spitting approach works too well. Plus, it's less gross. I always get wasted at wine-tastings for this very reason.

Amusing tangent: my brother (one of the coolest cosmologists in this galaxy or any other) is a "keen oenophile", as his biography reads. As such, he spends plenty of time in Napa Valley, and recounts the tale of one very famous producer who was holding a tasting. There were big spittoons on the tables, for obvious reasons. He and his companions (other European scientists) at the time were making use of them, as has become second nature for people that spend enough time knocking back corking Burgundies and other treats. Apparently, the (American) folks gathered around other tables started shooting them black looks. They continued tasting, as discreetly as ever, thinking that the complainers were probably in the wrong place if they didn't like the standard practice for wine-tasting. Ultimately, they were asked to leave by the house for using the spittoons! It seems that the spittoons were just in place for show.

Let's get back to tea-tasting. In the next section.

Angel and Greyhound Meadow
Please refrain from spitting in the spitting receptacles.

(Cont. later)

15 May, 2009

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

What a piece of work is a Woogie...

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty...

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

In form and moving, how express and admirable...

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

In action, how like an angel!

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

In apprehension, how like a GOD!

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

Copious thanks to dear Woogie for providing such a lovely gift.

Though I write here for no other reason than that I enjoy doing so, to collect my notes, and to compare thoughts with you, Dear Reader, I am always overwhelmed when I realise that (i) there are people out there reading and apparently tolerating this nonsense, and (ii) they are overwhelmingly generous, far out of proportion with the humble rhubarb that I serve up here.

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

What we're dealing with today is one of a bunch of 2003 tuocha, dry stored like no other in Canada. These are dry, dry, dry - so very clean and sharp. As shown above, the leaves are small, as you'd expect in this format, but of good integrity - this is not the mulch of standard Xiaguan offerings. The aroma is very gentle - distant sweetness. Shown further up, the "Big G" logo appears to be impressed in the tuocha, which I haven't seen before.

2003 Xiaguan Export Tuocha

It turns out to be a solid yellow soup, whose main character is heady sweetness, but which has plenty of unkempt bitterness in reserve (which is good). In six years, even given dry storage, and tight(ish) compression, there are notes of age about it. Certainly, it has a long road ahead of it, but there are signs of change already - more than I would expect, given the conditions.

By the seventh infusion, I am pushing it quite hard, and yet the sweetness never turns to roughness, which is admirable. These were, I gather, inexpensive, but they far exceed the expectations of their class. I look forward to enjoying more of them, and to seeing how the humid Oxford environment will affect them.

Thanks again to Woogie, paragon of animals.

13 May, 2009

2008 Xiaguan "Xizi" Tuocha

These are some of the most adorable teas I have ever seen. They truly are works of beauty, and, best of all, they taste mighty fine for the money.

2008 Xiaguan Xizi

They're very popular little creatures, and rightly so. The fan-base for these hexagonal treats is big. The price is very low. I've been acquiring lots over the past year, in orders placed with Yunnan Sourcing, because they're such good value, and so very pleasant.

2008 Xiaguan Xizi

As with the majority of "the good stuff" from Xiaguan, these tuocha are made at the behest of the Feitai company. (Cue Don Corleone accents. You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married...)

The photography in this article was shot about a year ago, and at about 4.30 a.m., so forgive the really rubbish quality. However, beneath the dazzling glare of an ill-adjusted flash, you can see the small leaves of the blend. It's not too tightly compressed, and a session's tea can be prized off from any part of the tuocha with no fuss.

2008 Xiaguan Xizi

The bitterness can be controlled nicely using one of my favourite toys: the wooden tray. Shake it, and the little fannings sift to the bottom while the bigger leaves and fragments can be easily separated (pictured below). The leaves are very small, aren't they?

2008 Xiaguan Xizi

Unsurprisingly, the brew is orange-yellow - the leaves have that rich, tobacco-like aroma that is similar to many modern Xiaguan blends (Baoyan, Jinse 8100, even the Menghai 0622), which usually ends up as a deep-coloured soup.

Of all the effects in pu'er, I'd love to know how Xiaguan achieve that particular tone of rich tobacco. It is malty enough that I suspect shaqing [kill-green] has been performed a little late, allowing some pre-oxidation to take place... but just a little, because there's plenty of pleasant bitterness remaining. Oh, to be a fly-on-the-wall in Xiaguan factory!

2008 Xiaguan Xizi

As with some of those teas, this has a chunky, tobacco nature - but it also has tons of sweetness. In my notes, I wrote "candied darkness" - which is precisely it. Candied darkness.

Though it is a quite simple tea, as you'd expect for the tiny price, it is very good. There are hints of "purple" sweetness in the finish, and plenty of cereal-like, savoury flavours. I usually associate Lincang leaves with that flavour, and maybe Xiaguan (even further to the north than Lincang, around Dali) have been benefitting similarly.

Side note: the once-famous lake around Dali is allegedly so polluted that tourists are no longer recommended to visit it. Not a good sign for Xiaguan-area teas!

Along with its multitude of simple-yet-satisfying characteristics, there is plenty of texture, very decent activity, and a warming, heavy chaqi. Each time I sit with this tea, I feel good about it. Keep your expectations in line with the price, and you'll be in for a treat.

09 May, 2009

A Tieguanyin for All Seasons

Normality, I missed you.

Ouseley Garden

I like normal life very much. I know when normal life is happening, because I have time to make my wife matcha in the morning, and stir-fry a dinner in the evening. I have time to polish my shoes, catch up with friends on the 'phone, appreciate a new geranium brought home by Lei. Normal things. There's nothing more awesome to me than normal things.

For in the dew of little things
the heart finds its morning
and is refreshed.

Normality is a state I enjoy very much indeed. For one reason or another, I've not been getting a great deal of it lately. As normality begins to exert itself once more, I reach for a sample of tieguanyin (thanks to Nada for this one), and breathe out a long, relieved sigh. Like a deflating balloon. Ahhhhhh.

2009 Nada Tieguanyin

I don't know much about the tea other than that Nada enjoyed it, and it's easy to see why he would. I don't drink a huge amount of tieguanyin, for no particular reason. At one point, I had bags of it knocking around, but it didn't feel too positive to have tea "needing to be consumed". These days, we keep a little lucha, a little qingxiang wulong - just what we can drink in a season, without fear of it fading. Small quantities to be enjoyed and then forgotten.

It's been a rather huge period for Lei and I lately, and I'm glad it's over. As I'm sure you know, there isn't much stability being a junior academic. Perhaps that's true for other careers, too. So, you never quite know what's going to happen. It can be good training, in a way, to concentrate and enjoy what we have in the present, rather than fretting about tomorrow. Certainly the short-term nature of junior positions makes this a reality. At the same time, you need to ensure that your tomorrow is not going to be a complete disaster. It's a juggling act.

I went on a course recently where a don of English Literature was dispensing some wisdom. She said,
"During your studies, you're probably used to succeeding. You're used to winning the prizes, and getting the grades. This is because it's just you against 'the system'. But when you leave your studies, and start applying for positions, you must be ready for disappointment. Suddenly, you will not get what you want. Statistically speaking, most of the job applications you make will fail, because they are competetive, and because there are many applicants. And you need to be ready for those rejections, and not become disheartened. It's a big change, and that takes some learning."

Heidu Snoozing

It's been good advice to me, as I've been going about making applications for various roles in my university. I've been getting a first-hand taste of the change of mindset required.

Eventually, I'm happy to report that the news is good. However, the road is a tough one. With every position here typically attracting applications from some 50-70 applicants (many from outside the university), most of whom I'm sure have much more impressive career records than me, I've had plenty of disappointments. A number of seniors have been giving me their similar stories of woe, telling me how they took a year or two to get the positions they were after. It's a humbling process, just as the professor said, that takes some learning.

I felt like I've learned a lot, lately. That's got to be a good thing. Maybe I'll bore you with the details some other time. That normality that I crave, however, has been long returning and is all the more welcome when it finally arrives.

Normality is everyday life, and there is nothing more awesome than everyday life.