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    LIfe as a Daytime Astronomer: Coffee
    By Alex "Sandy" Antunes | February 4th 2009 06:35 AM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Alex "Sandy"

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    I don't drink coffee, and to some degree this has impeded my astronomy career. Coffee is the one social connection even the most isolated theorist engages in. Heck, our wall of 3x3 monitors showing the newest data from our satellites is intentionally built into the coffee room. It is there to spark discussion among the coffee clique.

    Don't drink coffee? Fake it with tea. You need a pretense to see your fellow scientists, else you'll be out of the loop.


    Informal conversation over some sort of beverage is certainly a key part of scientific success. If you don't like coffee or tea (being addicted to both, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't like coffee or tea), having a water cooler around will do.
    I do love coffee-- the aroma, making it, serving it, toppings for it.  It's just the actual taste when drinking that doesn't work for me.  I was quite happy working at Dunkin Donuts back in college, as a result.

    Another advantage of coffee/tea in the workplace is it's a club, independently sponsored and collected by the worker bees themselves.  Water cooler is so, well, corporate-- literally.  The DoD contract that covered our water cooler ended, and there isn't a NASA line item for us to pick up 'water cooler', so the water cooler on our floor is no more.

    So if the business has to pick up the tab for the informal social spot, that's a problem, but if the team handles it on their own, that's a plus.

    I probably would have finished grad school much earlier if I'd drunk coffee, come to think of it, if only due to caffeine.

    Becky Jungbauer
    I don't know how humans would socialize without food and drink - so many of our activities are planned around them. If you like hot chocolate, try this little gem, which worked for several members of my family (and me): On the first day make the hot chocolate, but replace a tiny bit of hot water with coffee. Each day, gradually replace more water with coffee. You'll end up with a mocha-type drink for a while and will finally be able to graduate to coffee.

    It could also depend on the type and strength of coffee served at your location. I do like breakfast blends from Caribou, and while in Hawaii I discovered my favorite coffee in the world is Kona. I like espresso served in France and Italy too. But I don't care for much for dark roast, the office-world or church-basement kinds of coffee, or Starbucks (which I think tastes "burnt").
    Why make the lad addicted to coffee?  It clearly hasn't hurt his career and if anything it makes him more distinct.   

    Wait, no, I am generally suspicious of tea drinkers.    

    Anyway, I disagree with the rest of your comment too (ha ha).    In our office, we have a one-cup machine with lots of different kinds but the darker ones, like Italian and French, are 5 on a 5 scale for boldness.   Yet we have this one Sumatra that is a 6 ... out of 7.    We have never figured out what the 7 is.    Is it like Spinal Tap's amp that goes to 11?     We still don't know what the 7 is and the coffee delivery guy is some kind of ninja because no one has ever actually seen him, even though he seems to deliver in the middle of the day.
    Becky Jungbauer
    The one cup machines are great because then everyone gets their preference, unless Coffee Ninja doesn't deliver. [At my previous location I had a one-cupper and loved it, especially those little packets of flavor and froth; now I have to deal with people who - and this is true - make decaf pots of coffee occasionally and don't tell anyone. The gall!] I will drink darker roasts, I just need cream to balance the acidity. But to each his (or her) own.
    This sounds like something I call the "Conference Mocha," which I invented to deal with the crappy coffee at conferences.  Mix one packet of instant hot chocolate into a cup of coffee.  I'm not saying it's good, just better than it could be.
    Becky Jungbauer
    It's more of a bandaid than anything, just to allow some semblance of caffeine to percolate through your bloodstream.