A Bounty!

So, as we previously discussed, I’ve been to Antarctica.

In my time there I got to visit two of the American stations, McMurdo and Amundsen-Scott South Pole (where I wintered over), and New Zealand’s station right over the hill on Ross Island from McMurdo, Scott Base. I want to take a moment so that I can for the who knows how manyeth time thank the Kiwis for the hospitality they extended me when I got marooned in McMurdo for a month by weather and waiting for my cargo ship to come in. Most Americans are only allowed to visit one day a week to keep the summertime 1000+ McMurdans from overrunning the ~50 folks at Scott Base. You welcomed my forlorn Polie butt to visit anytime and for that I will be eternally grateful. Also, you had way better food.

Scott Base Hat In Action

Scott Base Hat…In Action! – Signing The 2003 Geographic South Pole Marker

Like all the stations, there is a ship store that has various sundries for the staff and visitors alike. While I may have enjoyed the amusing designs of the South Pole Station t-shirts more, the actual quality of the gear at Scott Base’s store was far superior. In particular, I purchased a simple black beanie with the words “SCOTT BASE” embroidered on it. I wore that thing damn near every day the austral winter of 2003, plus many cold and windy days since coming home. It has been a boon companion in countless urban exploring adventures.

And now it is missing.

Perhaps by posting this love letter to my missing beanie, it will reappear and I will merely look foolish for sharing these words. But if it doesn’t, I make this offer to the world: the first one of you that can give me a replacement Scott Base beanie, I will give two 1L bottles of BBotE postage included anywhere in the world. This is likely a golden opportunity for some lucky New Zealander to get some free BBotE.

You know how to get a hold of me, people. THE HUNT IS ON!

EDITORIAL: Yes people, that is a Fairport Convention shirt I’m wearing. It was the last concert I saw, shortly before departing for Antarctica.

Local BBotE Hand-Off Update

Alrighty, here at the start of December I’m making an effort to restock all the BBotE Pimps & Pimpstresses so that you can make a local pick up if that suits your fancy rather than ordering directly on the site. Go hit the Local Pickup page and drop your local super addict, I mean, supplier today and ask what they’ve got for you. If there’s something you want and they don’t have it, let ’em know and hopefully I can get it in their next case. Here’s the current status as best I know it:

The Pimpstress of Minneapolis-St. Paul just got a resupply on Monday (Kona, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sumatra, Death Wish).

The Intermittent Pimp of Dublin (Ireland) is due to get a case of assorted 1L bottles, including Death Wish, toward the end of next week. He may have completely pre-sold it so drop him a line if you are in need.

The Pimpstress of Greater Los Angeles will be getting a resupply this Wednesday if you need to caffeinate your Thanksgiving. Perhaps you have a thankfulness altar built to caffeine and need a centerpiece. If so, she’s got you covered though I think much of it will be going to people that made requests at the BBotE Tasting Party.

The Pimp of Santa Barbara will also be getting resupply this holiday weekend, though I can’t precisely tell you what he’ll be getting as it’ll be everything that’s not nailed down before I jump in a car and drive away.

The Caffeinatrix of Portland will be receiving her resupply run in the first week of December, content to be determined, likely to be high in Death Wish & Ethiopia.

The Pimpstress of NYC is likely to get resupply early in the second week of December, with case consist similarly to be determined.

The Pimps of London, Chicago, Austin, Houston, Seattle, and Baltimore/Washington DC are still decently supplied. The Pimp of Detroit is on hiatus unless someone makes a request of his services.

I Went Here: Exploration, Toilet By Toilet

Fallout Shelter No. 9 1/2

Fallout Shelter No. 9 1/2 – the kind of wonderful things you find while Urban Exploring

At last, the long promised “Bathrooms of Antarctica” post.

Once upon a time, in the dawn of the new millennium when Geocities and Angelfire sites still littered the internet, I came across a brilliant website, now lost to the ages, entirely dedicated to one man’s exploration of the world via it’s bathrooms. Now, you might not be terribly impressed by a series of pictures of porcelain from exotic locales (especially since the view doesn’t change all that much in bathrooms) but I took away a valuable lesson that complimented my interest in Urban Exploring. If you want an excuse to go visit any given place, it doesn’t get better than “I need to pee”.

This is how I came up with a new rule for myself: every day, use at least one toilet you’ve never used before. I have some friends with shy bladders or crippling cleanliness-focused OCD to whom this sounds like absolute torture, but it has served me well. Following this rule, I managed to learn the UC Berkeley exterior and interior within a matter of weeks. By the time a year had passed, I shocked employees that had been at Cal for decades with the ease that I traced the fastest/easiest path in three dimensional space between destinations. Just call me the Human Hamiltonian.

I’ve used urinals that were barely more than a funnel soldered into a joint on a drainpipe in mechanical chases. I’ve stepped into heavy oak paneled and door stalls with massive works of porcelain that are best described as “eliminatory edifices”, not toilets. I’m impressed with the utilitarian simplicity that is the New Zealand bog, where you’re standing on grating from the time you enter the bathroom and the entire floor below you is the drain. So, pick a wall and the they only thing you really need to manage is not urinating on your fellow patrons. For some folks this easier said than done, so it pays to be alert.

Where it gets interesting is when you discover a toilet you didn’t expect, such as the one in the middle of the old power plant for South Pole Station so the person on watch who can’t leave can still take care of business (the aforementioned funnel attached to a drain line). Would you recognize such a convenience if you saw it? I heard numerous tales of westerners who achieved extreme discomfort before realizing the hole in the floor was the toilet when visiting Southeast Asia, not a place where the toilet was stolen from. When water is precious, you don’t waste it on such things as flushing.

Of course, at South Pole Station, water is a luxury because it has to be melted using precious fuel. Every time you flush the toilet, you’ve effectively sent your business down the drain with JP-8 jet propulsion fuel. For this reason, the new elevated station has .5L per flush toilets and the waterless urinals that seem to be increasingly popular in California in years since I returned in 2003. But what about the previous iterations of the station and what of the remote buildings?

The Poopcicle

The Poopcicle – sewage pipe flange leaks are forever at the South Pole. Note that there’s another one at the next flange.

The first thing to know is that running water only happens if you have liquid water and pipes sufficiently insulated to bring it to you…and take sewage away. This is a problem in the Dakotas, much less Antarctica. In McMurdo, they get away with elevated insulated pipes but South Pole has to put all their pipes will under the ice for extra insulation; the constant -80F of 20′ below the surface is preferable to the variable -8 to -108F of the surface, plus they’d get buried by blowing snow anyway. You’ve seen wrapped pipes before I’m sure, but please look at the sewage line for South Pole Station. That is a 4″ line with 10″ thick of insulation and then the corrugated pipe. It was just barely enough to keep liquid water flowing in and out of the buildings of the central station, from the meltwater pumping well to the previous played out melt well that now serves as sewage bulb. What I’m getting at here is that flush toilets are a luxury at the South Pole and always have been because Fuel Is Life and how much of that do you want to spend on water you don’t absolutely need to survive?

South Pole Solar Outhouse (Note the freezer door style entry)

South Pole Solar Outhouse (Note the freezer door style entry)

The answer is to take advantage of the environment. During the summer, there are portable solar toilets that are transported around the station on skids and planted near the worksites they’re needed most. 24hrs of low angle sunlight means that you can blacken the all the walls and be guaranteed that some part of the outhouse is getting enough sun to keep things melted. And let me tell you, as a toilet seat, 2″ thick heavy foam insulation is damn comfy. They work particularly well at Pole as there are no storms that to obscure the sunlight; at McMurdo one good hurricane-blizzard (AKA Herbies) and they’ll freeze solid without the sun, probably get buried under snow for good measure.

For the remote camps, where you’re just living in a tent for a couple weeks in the summer, you still have to have a toilet. The solution here isn’t much different than a Coleman camp toilet. The good news is that smell quickly stops being an issue as everything freezes. For men, we have the added benefit of the makeshift urinal made from a 55gal drum and a funnel.

During the winter, we used the same approach at the out buildings with the plastic bags placed outside to quickly freeze. NOTE: It’s is very important to remember that you did this. Otherwise, someone will receive a very unpleasant surprise when they clear away some snow later on.

The "Old Pole" Heads - I imagine the hinge & splinters would get a bit uncomfortable

The “Old Pole” Heads – I imagine the hinge & splinters would get a bit uncomfortable

It is worth noting that the first two iterations of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (the IGY ’57 station, AKA Old Pole, and “The Dome” in 1975) were built by the Navy. As such, they were able to take certain liberties with the comfort of the station crew. When you take into account that the no women wintered over at Pole until 1979 and none even visited prior to 1969, no segregated bathroom facilities were needed and even the main station were spartan. Interestingly, in terms of design, they’re not all that different from Roman latrines. There’s not all that much photo evidence handy of life when Old Pole was active, but the base is still there, 80′ under the snow and ice for people brave enough to go in and ignore the US Antarctic Program/Raytheon edict strictly forbidding entrance on pain of removal from the continent, forfeiture of pay & bonus, and ban from future return.

So, let us just say that these photos came into my possession. Let’s not discuss how I got them. Old Pole was abandoned because the weight of ice & snow overhead splintered a central support 8×8 timber. It takes a lot to break those. I’m to understand that when it buckled with a bang, the whole station heard and it sent out wooden shrapnel in manner that would have staked a whole platoon of vampires as an area effect weapon. That was 30+ years ago and the weight overhead has only increased, so enter at your peril.

The point I’m getting at here is that everybody, all of humanity, every day, poops. There isn’t a society anywhere on Earth that doesn’t have to deal with the repercussions of this, from the most remote tribe of the Amazon, to the financial houses of the City of London, to the frozen wastes of Antarctica. Any place you go, you have a chance to learn how someone else goes, to build that little bit of empathy. And, on a practical level, it is a chance to learn the place you’re at in great detail.

Spoke Too Soon, Plus A Field Report

Sooooo, remember my declaration last week that some time had cleared up in the schedule to do some experimentation? That window appears to have slammed shut. I have been reminded by my minion (AKA: work study student at Cal) that finals are coming up soon for semester based colleges, which helps explain a small surge that is a bit too early to be Festivus shopping. In that interest, I’ll see about cranking up the Death Wish production a bit more considering four bottles just went to one nursing student, just one. I can only hope he is sharing so he doesn’t die; alternatively, I’ll accept the treatment for functional immortality he figures out so that he doesn’t perish.

In other news, there was a great meeting of the minds as the Pimp of London and the Intermittent Pimp of Dublin got together for caffeination summit talks. Some excerpts from the meeting:

(1826GMT) Observation: Brady, AKA “the intermittent pimp of Dublin”, is presently sitting here with a bottle of BBotE and a bottle of Absinthe and is going “hmmm”… and the level of common sense in the room is slowly dropping. Will keep posted.

 

(2008GMT) The results are in! It was described as “alright!”, then “actually kind of nice!”, then “first the liquorice hits you, then the coffee!”, then “it’s a really nice, surprisingly tasty combination”, then “I feel like a dragon!”.

 

(2009GMT) Then “Is this real life? No, seriously, is it?”

Common Sense Damage

Lose 3d10 SAN: With Drastically Lowered Common Sense, *THIS* Seems Like A Good Idea

On my consultation of the D&D library for the Dragon Disciple prestige class, London and Dublin are probably safe as the first step in the progression is only a natural armor boost. So, it’ll be more difficult for the Bobbies to take him down as he runs naked through the streets of London at 3am, but they’d have to decide to take him over the other afterhours loonies. [Edit: Actually, the meeting happened in Dublin, but this doesn’t prevent him running naked through the streets of London at 3am. In fact, it’s the kind of crazy I’d expect.]

More seriously, this is one of several tales of people have sent letting me know that the BBotE + absinthe combo was much more delicious than their brain thought it would be. I have to give New Orleans some credit as they poured absinthe into most everything to see if it was more delicious (by definition, most everything coming from New Orleans is already delicious).

Tanzania, Nicuragua and the BBotE Pimp of Austin

In a shocking development, I have actually had enough free time to do some experimentation AND be able to write it all up for you, the adoring public. This is what playing at a remote radio telescope observatory without other distractions will do for you.

For experimentation, I decided to move a bit further down the African Rift Valley and sample the delights of Tanzania. In certain geology nerd respects, this is something akin to drinking coffee while time travelling. That is to say, the further south you go in the Rift Valley, the younger the volcanism is. As volcanic area gets older, the chemistry of it’s mantle source changes, particularly with decompression melting (AKA: spreading centers, like mid-ocean ridges and rift valleys). So, theoretically, drinking Tanzanian coffee is like drinking Ethiopian from 30 million years ago, ignoring climate differences of course.

So, what does the past taste like? The consensus is that it similarly fudgy to the Kenya, but it’s like a fudge made with nibby dark chocolate that’s low on butter. There appears to be a north-south “greasy”-to-chocolate spectrum for the Rift Valley. With vodka addition, the Tanzania became *dramatically* sweeter thought the flavor overall stayed the same. The next step, obviously, would be to experiment with some Malawi and Mozambique.

In my most recent acquisition of the Guatemalan Mundo Nuvo from Caffe Vita, I asked if them if they had anything else they were particularly proud of as they certainly impressed me the last time I did that. I was sent their Nicuraguan la Aserradero as they are well aware of my soft spot for light roasts from the Americas. The odd thing here is that tasters have been all over the map with previous Nicruaguans but there was a pretty solid consensus here: nuts.

Not talking peanuts here, which is something that has come up in other tastings, but the leading contenders were walnuts and pecans. The smell had a delightful coffee ice cream aroma to it, sweet and decidedly cream, which is what threw us for a loop when tasting and we got a strong nut flavor. Oh, there were bright citrus notes but nut was the primary, though James Brokentongue (his new D&D dwarf character name I think) declared tomato soup + smoked cheese.

With vodka addition, the fruity flavors went away and the nutty flavor moved closer to being like nocino. This makes sense as nocino is a walnut liqueur, although I doubt the la Aserradero will stain skin and clothes in a furniture polish manner like nocino does.

So, further experimentation is in order on both counts.

In other news, either today or tomorrow, Keith the BBotE Pimp of Austin, TX will receive his first case for local distribution. You may contact Keith by email, CoffeeVicarKGB@gmail.com. Save him from himself before he drinks it all.

Completely unrelated, but for those of you that are recovering Vampire: The Masquerade players, every time I declare a new BBotE Pimp/Pimpstress I feel like a justicar proclaiming a new prince. With that in mind, please, no one is allowed to claim praxis to become the Pimp of an existing domain. Alright, that’s enough nerd for the moment.

‘Tis The Season REDUX

With a shuddering cringe, I realize that production timelines mean I need to make this reminder sooner rather than later so that no one is left out in the cold. Normally, I get rather grumpy with people that so much as breathe Christmas shopping in my general direction before Thanksgiving, but if I delay that long it might be too late for some folks. So, here’s my helpful thoughts I tossed together last year, with a few new additions from lessons learned in the last 12 months. And, yes, you may order now and drop a note asking me to delay production and delivery until December.

I, first, commend you for your dedication to your loved ones by recognizing their need for More Awesome in their lives with the gift of Scientific Drinking.  Be it a 665ml Stein of Science, a Subaru Outback converted into a hovercraft, a 6pk of Black Blood of the Earth, or a gold plated quarter-stick of dynamite, you have chosen to give the very best.  However, there’s a few things you should probably think about when placing an order for a gift from Funranium Labs:

  1. BBotE Is Perishable: When refrigerated, it has a shelf-life of about three months (possibly longer, but I’m only going to quote three).  If you’re going to wrap it and put it under the tree, this a present to put out on Christmas Eve and the promptly put back in the fridge after unwrapping.
  2. International Shipments Of BBotE Go Out Express Mail: Because I don’t want BBotE to get stuck in postal facilities or customs, express is the only way to ship to minimize their time in bureaucratic hell. Expect it to take 3-5 business days to get to you.
  3. APO/FPO: If you wish to send something out to someone with an Armed Forces address, there’s good news and bad news. Good news – it’s no more expensive than priority mail. Bad news – I can’t guarantee any date as to when things will arrive. Outside of active war zones, things move somewhat normally; inside war zones and ships at sea, things get iffy. Also, depending on routing, some nations (I’m looking at you, Turkey) have bounced BBotE on the basis that it is, and I quote, “morally questionable material” on the basis that any liquid from the West must be alcoholic in nature. In short, I’ll do my best but you’ve been warned.
  4. Steins of Science Have A Three Week Lead Time: The steins are built to order and it sometimes takes a while to get parts in.  Generally, things move much faster and ship within a week but you have now been warned of the possibility of delays.  For some insight into which stein is the best fit for you, I rambled on that a while back. Steins that are on hand RIGHT NOW can be found here.
  5. BBotE Production Is First Come, First Served: My maximum daily production output is 9L per day. Thus, people who request 12pk cases will lock up production for two days.
  6. There’s No Kosher Or Halal Certification: While Robert Anton Wilson did confer the papacy upon me, and all the other people in the Porter College Dining Hall, this does not permit me to sanctify food.  Sorry.
  7. The 4300mL Stein of Science Is Ridiculously Large: Seriously, BIG.  It will should take an entire pre-game, Super Bowl, and wrap up to go through this much beer.  Or one cricket match.  I’m just sayin’…

My Birthday Wish

Gagarin's Spacesuit

Yuri Gagarin's Spacesuit - A Man Who Knew How To Adventure In Style

I get a lot of people that tell me, “Dude! How have you done everything you’ve done in 36 years?” Funny, all I can see is all the things I haven’t done yet and far too few years to do it all.

So, to all of you, I give my birthday wish: Get your asses out there and explore. How should you do this? Take a part of your town you always drive through but never stop, except this time park, get out of the car and walk. Find a restaurant or bar, sit down, eat, drink, perhaps even talk to your fellow diners.

But if you need some help finding adventure, you’re in luck. There’s a website for you called Atlas Obscura. Find your town and go have some fun.

As for me, I’m currently watching Big Trouble In Little China for the who knows how manyeth time, drinking a lovely spot of whiskey given to me on my last birthday, and getting ready to go wandering around Palo Alto after, perhaps, molesting people at Pixar.

I expect you all to report back to me of the awesome shit that I’m not doing to make me jealous. GET TO WORK, PEOPLE!!! Hup Hup Hup!