Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Month: March 2013

Webcam Woes

As I write this, I’m currently in the middle of a plague of some sort.

Flu2

Not sure how it slipped through my tea-and-apple-cider-vinegar defenses…but it did. Now, my brain is stuck on stupid, and you fine folks have to put up with whatever the heck I’m typing. Without further ado (or adieu) – with a pot of Greek Mountain at the ready – I shall write something…of some sort. For some time. Bwaha.

Sunday was when the plague finally hit full force. I did the unthinkable and called in sick to work. After that, I rousted at the ungodly hour of…1PM. Somehow, the notion entered my phlegm-fogged brain to participate in this week’s Tea Salon (via Google Hangout) on Bi Luo Chun. Normally, I borrowed my brother’s computer for those “outings”, but he and his girlfriend were occupied with it. My Droid was out of the question because Hangouts came in choppy.

Sidenote: Seriously, Google? Why the f**k doesn’t Google Hangout work on a f**king Google phone?! That makes no bloody sense.

captain picard WTF

Anyway…

I decided to do some technical troubleshooting. Something I should never do; I’m a techtard – relying on the kindness of nerd peers to keep me connected. The task in question was finding an app for my phone that would essentially turn it into a webcam. On the Google Play store, there were several free ones to choose from. Naturally, I went with the highest rated one – IP Webcam.

To sum up how this process works: Basically, a webcam app takes your phone’s camera hardware and (in theory) syncs it with your computer – either by USB, WiFi, LAN, or…magic. I dunno. Once installing the app on your phone, you need to install a matching driver on your computer, then link the two. Again…by magic, I think.

Magic

While IP Webcam worked on my phone just fine, the matching desktop driver was shite. Not to mention extremely complicated. You had to visit, like, three or four different sites and FAQs, know your IP address, and other miscellany to link the two. In the end, my phone and computer decided not to tango. App deleted.

At this point, Tea Salon had already begun. I went with the second recommended app on the Play store, one called “DroidCam”. It sounded easy enough that even a techtard monkey like me could use it. Again, in theory. Like magic. The app installed cleanly, as did the computer driver. They synced perfectly, and then I entered the Hangout.

With no sound. For the duration of the webcam chat, I was pantomiming any emphatic point I had to make. Some remarked that it was kind of an improvement.

mime

That and the damn thing kept freezing when my phone’s screen shut off. I finagled with it for the better part of the hour-long Hangout session. Various comments from the attendees heckled my attempts, commenting that I had somehow turned into “a thumb” on several occasions. They were mostly right.

It wasn’t until the end of the Hangout when I gave the proverbial battlecry of “F**K IT!”, and just entered the chat session with my phone. And wouldn’t you know it…it worked perfectly. Just as the Tea Salon was ending. I managed a very witty – and very nasally – “Hi” and “G’bye”.

Afterwards, Robert “The Devotea” Godden humored me as I tried to get a third webcam app working – one called SmartCam. It…wasn’t so smart. Either that, or I wasn’t. Whatever…

PutinCheckingWatchNewYear2007

I muttered something along the lines of, “I need a laptop.”

He said, “A webcam is much cheaper than a laptop.”

I replied with, “Yeah, but that would get in the way of purchasing some rare Nepali teas.”

He countered with, “For the price of some rare Nepali teas, you could be sharing your opinion on rare Nepali teas via webcam.”

sudden-clarity-clarence1

Point.

In the end, I gave up, went back to my pot of white tea/Greek Mountain blend, and continued to read more The Dresden Files books.

Because that what sick tea snobs do.

Flavored of the Week

cuppa fruitI love Sundays.

It’s usually my day off from the perpetual work grind, and – by some de facto decision – my DRINK TEA ALL DAY!…uh…day. By happenstance, it is also the day when Michael “Tea Geek” Coffey hosts his weekly Google+ Hangout dubbed “Tea Salon”. The hour-long online discussion is often the highlight of my week – the one time I can geek out on all things tea (and un-tea-related) with like-minded cuppa-folks. This Sunday in particular, we discussed Yunnan Dian Hong (black tea), and – as per usual – the conversation sidetracked often.

I mean, there’s only so much one can say about Yunnan black tea. It’s black tea. It’s from Yunnan. Next topic. But the counter-discussions toward the end were what fascinated me the most. The subject segued to supply-and-demand, and a tea vendor’s adaptability to the market. We all lamented and commented on the state of tea consumption in the United States. Consensus? There seems to be a growing emphasis on flavored tea concoctions rather than orthodox teas (i.e. single-source, unfettered offerings from specific regions/varietals).

The subject came up because there was an event – if it can be called that – known as the “Pu-erh Bubble” that occurred in the first decade of the 21st century. For a shining moment, people took a zealous interest in aged teas from Yunnan, and the regions they stemmed from. That splintered into interests in other orthodox teas as well, particularly oolongs from Taiwan and other parts of China.

Said pu-erh bubble, however, burst somehow in 2008, which I find ironic. Why? Because that was the time when I became a tea reviewer and started taking an interest in orthodox teas. One of the first companies I ever reviewed sourced the first Himalayan-grown black I ever had. They were also the company that introduced me to one of my favorite herbal infusions – Greek Mountain. As the years went by, though, their direction and philosophy changed. Slowly but surely, they placed more emphasis on their flavored blends.flavored cat

Let me iterate that I’m not against blends. Some of the best teas I’ve tried have been blends – some even flavored ones. I need not look any further than The Devotea’s Lord Petersham or Joy’s Teaspoon Lemon Zest (a rooibos monstrosity of awesomeness) as key examples. What I was irked by was the primary focus being placed on these. Orthodoxy was slowly taking a backseat with a lot of vendors.

I won’t name names, but one of my favorite local haunts in N.E. Portland – one I visited frequently – scaled down their oolong and pu-erh lines in favor of flavored blends. While I liked a majority of them, I was sorry to see some of those oolongs go the way of the dodo bird. Again, I reiterate, I love their blends, and I still visit for their awesome Earl Grey, but I loved their orthodox stuff more.

During the Tea Salon discussion, though, the ever-reliable (and folliclely blessed) Jo Johnson brought up an interesting point. I shall paraphrase what she said slightly, “So what if the U.S. market aims toward flavored teas?! That means more for us!”

derpAnd she nailed it.

We orthodox tea drinkers are a niche market; we are not what the average tea vendor aims for when seeking profit. However, there are those that do source their teas from single estates and specific regions. They’ve tailored their business plans to meet that need. Leaving the normal, flavored tea drinker to their generalist sellers.

To them, I say, “Have at it.”

The niche market isn’t going away, it’s just becoming more secular. We don’t want everyone drinking up all of our orthodox stores. That would cause a price hike, and I – for one – can’t afford a damn scaled-up Golden Needle or single estate Darjeeling. The less of a market there is for those, the more there is for me…and for a whole lot less.

So, to the undiscerning tea drinkers out there…drink up. Keeping consuming your Maple Cheesecake Derpdeederp. I salute you. Because of you, there will be more Sikkim Temi for me. My cup clanks (and gives thanks) to thee.

laughing tea snob

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