26 July, 2018

Ahoy There

Avast, Gentle Reader!

Good grief, it has been a long time, has it not?  To be precise, it has been, checking the sidebar, at least one year since the previous post here at the ol' Half Dipper.  Perhaps it is not long in the life of a cake of potent, pugilistic pu'ercha, but it seems significant in duration for mere homo sapiens.

It's been so long, in fact, that I received a message the other day asking, "So what's up with your blog these days?"  As you might accurately conclude, the author was from the Americas.

I am writing from a breezy place on the island of O'ahu, which is apparently part of the USA, but which does a very good job of seeming like a lovely little island. I promised myself that I'd set aside a few hours to write to you, Gentle Reader, before I left to rejoin the real world.

So what IS up with my blog these days? I mulled over the question for some time.  I fermented and steeped and brewed over the question.  I thought it high time that some explanation might be necessary, for any old friends that still inhabit the digital nethers of this strange Interweb, and for newbs alike.  After all, are we not all newbs, in the greatest sense?

It took me a while to find my bearings. In the recent year, after swearing the darned things off (successfully) for nearly a decade, I caved in and bought a smartphone, as has become necessary for one part of my life (on which later). The switch from feeds to apps was difficult at first... but now, and I roll my eyes as I write this, I would find it difficult to function, professionally or socially, without my little iProduct.

One of the first baptisms into this brave new world came when I registered for a service that I had, like the smartphone itself, managed to avoid to date:

Instagram seems to be the new teaworld. I like Reddit very much (Mondays would not be complete without gratuitously browsing prequelmemes for half an hour), but this IG thing really seems to be the heart and soul of whatever remains of the teasphere.  I like it!

It has its downsides.

I found friends old and new in the IG multiverse, but then came to feel a certain unease. The ephemeral nature of the beast means that something comes and goes before you know it. There is little permanence, by design, of course. This means that, in order to communicate, I observe that one has to be an absolute slut.  As in, really very slutty indeed.

Many of my favourite vendors are there, and some new favourites (Crimson Lotus and Bitterleaf Teas seem like tea shops I should visit soon, among others).  However, in order to maintain a presence, the level of sluttiness involved is quite substantial.  These guys are posting all day, every day - it must be exhausting.  Every time I check, there are a few new stories (short videos) and a few new posts from each vendor.  The blood pressure on these guys must be sky-high by now!  That's some admirable, full-on sluttiness right there.

Perhaps the master of this medium, in the nicest possible way, is the King of Sluts (you knew it all along), Miss Lin at white2tea.  It's like late-90s MTV in there as far as I can see, with Miss Lin bestriding them all like a rubber-clad, titanic colossus.  There are plenty of challengers for the title, too, with sluts coming out of the woodwork from all angles.

Now, a pro like Miss Lin manages to keep up the quality, because he's been pimping for many years now.  However, the intense sluttiness seems to take its toll on those sluts closer to the median on the distribution of digital promiscuity.  It's simply very difficult to maintain any level of quality when one is pimping quite so hard.  Thus, we have to wade through an infinity of cat videos, dudes attempting to pour tea one-handed (are they gripping their phone in the other hand, or something more sinister?), and so on.

It's not pretty in there.

It is great fun, of course.  Never one to shy from a challenge, I found it a medium of good fit for that substrate of strangeness that you have tolerated here for so long: my haiku (or more properly, my haiga, in their combination with an image).  It was said of a previous president of the European Union that he was "worryingly professorial, in that he seemed to compose haiku for leisure, and read Shakespeare for fun".  This was intended as an insult by the journalist behind the piece, but in me it met with high-fives and exclamations of "my man!" I do both of those things, proudly.

So, come and join me on IG, by doing the clickings of the link below, or by finding half.dipper therein.

So, in the "ghastly private details" part of the post, as promised for my old friends, a quick update to explain the howling abyss that once comprised a pseudo-regular stream of ASCII making its way from my cortex to yours.

It's been brutal, but in a pleasurable way. Kind of like being punched in the face, but with a beautiful boxing-glove, lovingly hand-stitched from silken fibres collected by hand from the polished backsides of selected Chinese silkworms.

These last two months have seen me open a second laboratory in China, funded by the Chinese government (working on AI - are we building Skynet?!), which has been great for acquiring tea, and great for my airmiles balance, but not so great for updates here at the ol' Half Dipper. If you're ever in the Shanghai area, look me up, as there's a relatively high chance I'll be mooching around there with a bunch of similarly pasty "recently escaped from the basement" techie types. Or facedown in a bath of Tsingdao beer, one of the two.  This required the smartphone - you can't buy or sell there without the mark of the beast, or at least a smartphone, equipped with a Chinese bank account (which I now have, after a battle) and WeChatPay + Alipay.

My two dudes are now Big Dudes (being 5 and 7 years old, with better Mandarin than their ignorant father). I'm just about to finish a Research Fellowship, have moved into being an Associate Professor ("Ass Prof"!), and was last month offered a Chair. You know academia is an ancient business when a good job is named after a piece of furniture. Finally, the AI company that was set up last year is about to go through its IPO, which is an education in itself.

I'd like to get back to writing you, Gentle Reader, but I must be realistic with my own aspirations. I manage to drink tea (a lot of tea, in fact), because it seems that 95% of my job these days involves sitting in meetings and talking science. This means that I am, more often than not, in close proximity either to my own gongfucha setup in my lab, or near a temporary equivalent that I've snuck into a meeting. My ability to drink is fine - but my ability to write about it is not forthcoming. So let's proceed on that basis.

Come and join me on IG for the interim, and we can take mutual pleasure in watching all our old favourite companies dancing for our delight.  And it's not a nice dance, but rather something like a rough, abrasively grinding lapdance.

Encore! Encore!


Curigane said...

I doubt any photo can surpass your writing. Please don't give up your blog.

Sam Parkinson said...

You are much missed! While I'm sure life will keep on keeping you from writing, I hope you'll be able to return to it.

The slow extinction of good tea blogs is very sad. It's ok for the experts, and those who spend their lives with it, but for anyone slightly new/on the fringes, the permanence and searchability of blogs is hard to do without. Newbies espcecially can't wade through all the dross on facebook/instagram/whatever, and plenty others, like me, don't have the time.

Most internet reading isn't good for me, but your posts always brought a little joy and peace into my day, besides teaching me nearly all I know about tea, alongside MarshalN.

But all the best with the sciencing, all the same.

Qaantar said...

Spot on about IG, on all aspects of it. Also, be prepared to be followed by about 1,000 other tea vendors, with most of those being in Russia or thereabouts. Thanks for the update, and cheers!

Qaantar said...

I'll add that the reason for the posting behavior (particularly from vendors) is that the number of follows is directly proportional to the posting rate. More posts per day = more followers (and hopefully the majority of those aren't bots, but they usually are). Anything less than 1 post a day results in an equilibrium (or slow decay) of followers.

Unknown said...

With the vendors you have mentioned you aren't buying tea from them you are buying a story. If that's your thing, ok.....

James said...

Welcome to the dark vortex of obsession known as Instagram... You are dooooooooomed! There is no turning back.. submit to your destiny..

I will look forward to your pithy tea and otherwise haiku related posts on Instagram. 😉


~ MightyTeaMonster

Hobbes said...

I am seeing emojis when I close my eyes -__-



Charles T. Draper said...

Nice to hear from you again!