Continuing my irregular schedule…


Many people, many smarter than me, are talking about “the decade” having just begun. I’m one of those people — yes those people — that likes to suggest (in the right company, at least) that “the decade” starts next year. You all know the argument so I won’t repeat the detail here.

This XKCD cartoon almost tipped me to the other side.

XKCD 2249
XKCD 2249

There’s just one problem with the argument presented by the lady on the right… she never uses the definite article “the” in conjunction with “decade”, whereas our poor interloper does. They’re arguing different points.

So, here’s where I now stand. “The 20s” have indeed just started. “Next decade” could, and most likely would, refer to “the 30s.” But these are cultural decades — they have nothing to do with the measured passage of time in an absolute sense. “The 21st century” cannot be argued to have begun on 1 January 2000 because it overtly refers to the measurement. It’s not “this century” or “a new century” but “the 21st” — there were 20 before it and they are measured from an epochal date (however wrongly set).

So to cut to the chase. We are now in a new cultural decade we will call the 20s. Personally, I entered a new decade last year which I call my 50s. The next decade (the third), of the 21st century begins next year.

Coffee drug

There was an article on Stuff recently about the effects of coffee on the human body. It had a really interesting paragraph.

The stimulant properties of caffeine mean that you can count on a cup of coffee to wake you up. In fact, coffee, or at least the caffeine it contains, is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. It seems to work as a stimulant, at least in part, by blocking adenosine, which promotes sleep, from binding to its receptor.

Disclaimer — I don’t drink coffee. I never have, other than a quick sip from Mum or Dad’s cup as a kid. I also don’t drink tea, but I do drink sodas that contain caffeine. I also drink sodas that contain no caffeine.

Here’s what the above quoted paragraph says to me: part of why caffeine is so popular is because people who need sleep want to fight that urge. Think about that for a moment.

I’ll be the first to raise my hand that I do not get enough sleep. I have been working on my problem recently including making my bedroom darker at night, having a hot, milky (and caffeine free!) drink a couple of hours before bed, and learning to mentally prepare for sleep by relaxing (including not watching movies with light sabre duels). A couple of years ago I started a new habit of turning out the light, on average, an hour earlier than I had for many years. It’s all helping.

My question to all the coffee drinkers out there is this: Is your primary reason for drinking coffee to “wake up?” If so — consider that this is, in fact, a drug habit and that you might get better results addressing why you are so sleepy in the morning.

Something else I read some years ago, which I am unsure the veracity of, is that regular use of caffeine to “wake up” actually creates a dependency, and that after a while your alertness level is no higher after coffee than if you had never started the habit in the first place.

If I’m not a coffee drinker, why am I talking about it? Because coffee intrudes in my daily life. The noise pollution alone, from coffee making apparatus, is bad enough. The stench of roasting beans pervades our city from time to time and I find it highly offensive. Damn near every food outlet now serves coffee, which adds the noise, sometimes the smell, and inevitable delays while multiple staff members attend a drawn out process required for each cup. And finally, there are the inevitable moans in the workplace when some administrator changes the brand of coffee, or a new machine is installed and “it’s terrible,” or god forbid someone forgot to stock the right grade of milk or clean the machine.

To close, live your life as you choose, but please understand that coffee is not “just a drink” for many and it does actually affect people around you. Not least in Wellington which has, in the past at least, gained the title of most cafes per capita of any city in the world.

That concludes this edition of Echoes. The comments are open, but will be moderated for civility. Alternatively you can hit me up on Twitter, where I go by @zkarj.

Cover photo by Tina Guina on Unsplash

Categories: Echoes


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