Dunecember and Indianapolis

First and foremost, I am pleased to announce the new BBotE Ambassador to Indianapolis, Jeremy! And I don’t want to hear people on the coasts complaining about BBotE heading to the Flyover states rather than them. You don’t even know the MIGHTY NEED of the heartland for caffeine; what they lack in population, they make up with enthusiasm.

Jeremy is a brave soul that subjected himself to experimentation to see if BBotE would destroy him, as there were Fuckbrain(TM) medication considerations and the delicate stomach they’d had given him, for he wanted coffee back in his life so badly. I am happy to say that he survived The Harrowing and emerged on the other side faster, harder, and stronger…and as an Ambassador. So, feel free to drop Jeremy a line, IndyBBotE [at] gmail [dot] com. He is stocked with 750ml bottles for your drinking pleasure.

In other news, all of the December 18th pre-order window BBotE shipments are on their way along with all the Steins of Science ordered as of yesterday. New pre-order slots ending January 4th go up today, though any orders placed at this point have only a slim chance of being shipped and arriving before Christmas. There seems to be a bit of confusion as to how pre-order slots work, and it makes me sad that may have torpedoed some folks’ cunning Xmas present plans, so allow me to reiterate:

I can only generate so much BBotE in a given time period. I parcel that production in to pre-order slots to make sure that I can make everything people want and ship it out by the end or that window. Your pre-orders tell me what you would like that production in that window to be. The longer you wait in an pre-order window, the fewer slots that remain as time and other people claim them.

In order to keep myself sane through what, frankly, is a ridiculous level of production over the last several weeks, during brief downtime I have been reading Frank Herbert’s Dune again. I first read this book in the third grade and finished the series quickly, as I did the weird leap from Golden Books and Dr. Seuss to Dune without any intermediary steps. A younger me made it a point to read that entire series, along with all the Hitchhiker’s Guide books, every year and every time I found something new, something else Herbert had hidden in there. Eight year old me found his hero, what I wanted to be, hiding in the chapter headings blurbs of Dune: Pardot Kynes, not Liet, the Imperial planetologist, a character that doesn’t actually appear in the books.

Sometime around when I started working at LLNL back in 2004, I fell off the Dune wagon. The free time to read became scant. But this year, I have collected enough people that had never read Dune, or never gotten beyond the first book, or hadn’t read it in decades that I was willing to shepherd to them and crack the books open again for the first time in a decade. My first and most important observation: the older I get, the more I identify with Duke Leto but Pardot Kynes still holds my heart.

So, as my holiday wish for all who read this, pick up Dune again. In fact, pick up Dune Messiah and Children of Dune too, as the three are meant to be read as a set. It’s intricate, dense, slow read but well worth it. It’s like the puzzle boxes from Hellraiser; Herbert and his wife Beverly (who contributed at least as much to these stories as him) have such sights to show you and you see more every time.

The Decembering 2013 & A Worrisome Cigar Box

Alright, the December 14th pre-order slots are now up. There’s a slightly longer window this time than normal because of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US. I’ll be out of town for a bit engaging in conspicuous consumption of turkey and fine drink, so there’ll be a while when the coffee engines are wound down before the December BBotE begins flowing out in quantity.

As far as steins go, I have a rather large shipment of dewars slated to show up right before Thanksgiving. The number of “steins on hand” should dramatically increase, so keep any eye out there.

Your full holiday purchasing advice for this year can be found in the previous postI do regret to inform you that one of of the BBotE varieties will soon disappear from the selections. Caffe Vita’s Guatemala Nueva Vinas is now done for the season and hopefully will return sometime around next May 2014. I have a still small supply on hand, but as soon as it’s gone, it’s gone.

Now, on to the wonderful worlds of radiation and history.

Two weeks ago, I got to go take a tour of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s “Old Town”, AKA the few remaining buildings that still date back to WWII, as they are preparing to demolish them. Space is at a premium up in the mostly vertical space of LBL, these buildings have seen better days and science needs those scant square feet back to do research again.

Lovely boxeses, but what does it keeps in them, Precious?

Alhambra Casino Cigar Box – Lovely boxeses, but what does it keeps in them, Precious?

The day before we showed up, they had found an Alhambra Casinos cigar box in one of the Old Town buildings. To most people, a cigar box is a curio box, filled with your odd great aunt’s odds and ends from decades back when her first husband smoked a cigar a day after work. To people in my line of work, specifically those of us that have had any time in the nuclear weapons complex or former Manhattan Project sites, a cigar box is a moment for sphincter clenching, reach for the gloves, respirator, radiation meter, and everything needed to secure and dispose of this box as the likely radioactive hazardous waste that it is.

WHY do we react this way? Because Alhambra Casinos were Glenn T. Seaborg’s favorite brand of cigar. In addition to collecting titles as the head of

Box Interior. Note reads "VERY VALUABLE SAMPLE. Do Not Disturb in any way! Sample-J G. T. Seaborg"

Box Interior. Note reads “VERY VALUABLE SAMPLE. Do Not Disturb in any way! Sample-J G. T. Seaborg”

commissions, agencies, departments, and universities like they were Pokemon, Glenn also collected souvenirs of all the places he’d gone, the projects he participated on, and the discoveries made. When you keep in mind that this is the man who rode on a train with the sole sample of plutonium in the world in his possession, his souvenirs get a bit interesting. And what did he always stick them into? One of the ubiquitous cigar boxes lying around his office, home, or hotel room as he never traveled without them and smoked like a chimney.

Smithsonian Modern Physics Exhibit - That's a familiar looking box.

Smithsonian Modern Physics Exhibit – That’s a familiar looking box.

He was a remarkable man that presided over the dawn of the Nuclear Age, but damn if he didn’t leave quite a mess to clean up. In the course of decommissioning his many labs & offices, we’ve found these with plutonium, americium, curium, neptunium, beryllium alloys, reactor graphite, shaped explosives, playing cards signed by nuclear test teams, and much more. At some point we’ll find them all, but he’s been gone for 14 years and they’re still popping up. Sometimes it feels like the Manhattan Project never quite ended.

 

Impending Holidays, Site Changes, and Extensions

As you may have noticed, It is November. This means it’s the time that strikes dread into creative and retail hearts alike as we look around franticly and say “IS IT HIDDEN?! IS IT SAFE!?” Actually, most of us don’t go Full Gandalf but we do start getting worried about disappointing people who wait until the last minute, because we don’t like making people sad. Also, we like money and your desires going unfulfilled means less presents we can buy with our own last minute shopping.

[Several artist friends would like to completely disavow my completely accurate description of their lives. Not because I’m wrong, but because they try not to think about it.]

Because people have requested it (and I would like to try to work on another chunk of my mom’s debt), I will keep doing special runs of the Atomic Robo, Tesladyne “REMAIN CALM, TRUST IN SCIENCE”, and Ineffable Mustachio’d Goat of Science labeled bottles through the end of the year so people can give them as gifts. After I clear the decks on the current orders, I will extend the pre-order slot time horizon on the those listings to mid-December. As always, orders to tend to ship fairly quickly, so you won’t have to wait until then unless you want to.

I’m also going to remove all the individual limited run 750ml bottle listings (i.e. Ipsento Panama, Guatemala Nueva Vinas, Death Wish, Colombia, Peru Salkanty) on the store as they are all now selectable in the drop downs in the normal listings. Of course, those listings included special information relating to flavor characteristics, so I’ve had to add this handy tasting guide for each of the varieties to link to the posts that described them as they first went into production. The tasting guide is something people have been poking me to do for quite a while, so that’s an improvement as well. This cleans up the store page and hopefully makes things a bit less confusing. It does, however, make a lot of broken links in posts. I’ll be cleaning those up for months I’m sure.

Now, a few things you should probably think about if you decide to place 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 up 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. Alternatively, embrace the idea of the holiday season and decide that give it to the recipient immediately, for all days are special.
  2. Let People Know BBotE Is Coming: I know part of the joy in presents is the surprise of what you get. However, joy is not the emotion people feel when a bottle of mysterious black liquid shows up on their doorstep, especially if it’s been sitting there for a week outside because they were out of town. Give them a heads up, that something’s coming they’ll want to stick in the fridge. I will also tuck handling instructions in the box and a note stating who sent it if you ask me to.
  3. The pre-order slot dates date are “Ship By”, not “Ships On”. I get your orders out as soon as I can, but even in the furthest flung corner of the US with the slowest mail carrier, this means you should have your order in hand by December 21st for that last set of late order slots. If you want to order something NOW to ship later, in effect reserving a spot in a later order queue, you can do so but please leave a note with your order telling me when you want it to ship by.
  4. Yes, I will probably add a extra more slots as I get a handle on how much I can make at the last minute but shipping gets dicey in those last days before Christmas.
  5. 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, so time your orders accordingly to make sure things get to you in time.
  6. 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” because, obviously, any liquid from the West must be alcoholic in nature. In short, I’ll do my best but you’ve been warned.
  7. Local Pick Up: Resupply shipments will go out to all the BBotE Ambassadors as fast as I can crank them out, so be sure to drop them a line if grabbing a bottle that way is convenient for you. I’m sure they’d like clean and empty refrigerators as their Christmas present.
  8. Italy & Brazil: It breaks my heart to say this, I can’t ship to these countries. Italy, I absolutely do not trust your postal system. The level of theft shipping things anywhere south of Rome is, frankly, appalling. If you ask me to ship to Naples, I make absolutely zero guarantee of it arriving. Brazil, your customs causes shipment to languish for so long that the BBotE goes off before it arrives, even if shipped express; steins seem to be fine though.
  9. Steins of Science Have Lead Time Too: 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. Dewars that are on hand for me to build steins with RIGHT NOW can be found here.
  10. BBotE Production Is First Come, First Served: My maximum daily production output is 12L per day. Thus, people who request 12pk cases will lock up production for an entire day.
  11. 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.
  12. 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. You may think you are a super drankin’ badass, but consider that you may want to drink more often than once a year, so think about a smaller size. I’m just sayin’…

Awesome Product Endorsements

In my previous post, I mentioned that I’d used the Goat labeled 1000ml bottles for fundraising to help make neat projects happen. Well, Laurie Penny decided to write me some rather kind words as an endorsement which I’d like to share here:

“I do not generally endorse products. This time, I’m more than happy to do so. Black Blood of the earth is made by my good friend Phillip Broughton, who got me addicted by giving it to me for free until books happened. It is ultra-distilled yummy supercaffeine. It tastes like espresso. It is not espresso. It is smoother and stronger and deadlier. Coffee beans all over the world are sad because they will never get to be part of it.
Black Blood of the Earth funds have been raised to support various good causes. They were used to get me to Egypt to report on the women’s revolution there, and to get me and Molly Crabapple to Greece to write our book, Discordia. (The substance itself was used to enable me to actually write the damn thing.)
This time, though, the cause is much closer to home. Two weeks ago, Phil’s lovely dad passed away suddenly, and his mother needs help to clear the debts that have suddenly accrued to her as a result of her husband’s passing. I cannot think of a better excuse to encourage the internet to purchase unwise amounts of supercoffee.
Black Blood of the Earth is a) delicious and b) dangerous in the wrong hands. It is what happens when a nuclear physicist decides to run a sideline in supercoffee distribution. It is powerful writerjuice. It can be enjoyed hot, cold and in pintglasses. When you add it to vodka it magically becomes sweet without the need for extra Baileys, but, you know, you can put that in too, thus making a cocktail I like to call the Deadline. 
So, go on, buy a bottle or five. I’d say be careful with the stuff, but fuck it, you’re an adult, and it’s legal, although it probably shouldn’t be.”

never cease to be amused by the interesting names that people give cocktails made with BBotE. I should compile them someday. Thank you, Laurie.

Not long after, Brian Clevinger chimed in with his own remarks. He receives two points for managing to make a RIFTS® reference while doing it:

“Help us help a friend help his mom!

Long time friend of Robo, Dr. Phillip “Phil Me Up” Broughton, has a long and storied career in action science. He is the Officially Unofficial Science Advisor to Team Robo and he stars as “Phil” the guy who is in charge of keeping Robo alive in Vol 6 and Vol 8.

In real life he is an actual radiation safety guy. Which, yes, that’s technically what Homer Simpson did. Or should have been doing but never did. Whichever.

Phil also makes a Super Coffee that he calls Black Blood of the Earth because he is a nerd. He foists it on us at every opportunity. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, It’s Tuesday, whatever. And this stuff has gotten us through some dark nights and looming deadlines. It’s like coffee in the sense that nitrous is like gasoline. Like it is bad for you to drink more than one shot glass of it in 24 hours.

This is the coffee RIFTS(r) Juicers would drink.

And if can be yours. And if you buy some with a special label –the “REMAIN CALM/TRUST IN SCIENCE” Tesladyne gear label or the ROBO BOMB SMASH label — then the proceeds will go toward the very nice cause of helping out his mom.

Special Runs Of BBotE & New Merch

In the wake of my father’s death, we did a lot of paperwork and sleuthing to find where everything was hiding,  If you ever needed someone’s advice about the importance of making a master list of logins, passwords, associated sites, and security, I’m your man because guess what my family just spent the last week or so creating after the fact. *INSERT GRUMBLING NOISES HERE*

Then comes the accounting, perhaps reckoning if you are feeling more poetic. The unfortunate discovery was that this has all left my mother in the hole, debt-wise. A net negative cash flow on a fixed income is no way to start widowhood. Luckily, she has a son with a supplementary source of income and he has friends that have happily contributed to help make something wonderful happen.

Ineffable Mustacio'd Goat of SCIENCE!

The 1000ml Ineffable Mustachio’d Goat of SCIENCE! bottle

We start with inveterate caffeine fiend and artist Molly Crabapple. In January 2012, in a moment of BBotE inspiration she asked if it would be okay to draw a new label for me. The amount of arm twisting required to get me to agree to wouldn’t have even registered on this. The result was the Ineffable Mustachio’d Goat of Science which has previously appeared on other special fundraiser BBotE bottle runs. I just went back to the printer and got a fresh set of vinyl labels to put on the bottles that will make Molly’s art more durable and you can happily put the bottle up on the mantle when you finish it. You can grab one of the 1000ml Goat bottles here.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

In my Enumeration of Good Things, I mentioned that

REMAIN CALM TRUST IN SCIENCE

Atomic Robo Tesladyne 750ml Bottle

some special labels had been created for the Atomic Robo Kickstarter that we’d changed our mind on using as a stretch goal for the project. I still had the labels kicking around and after brief chat with the Atomic Robo creative duo Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener that I can sum up as, “Why are you even asking us, dummy? Help your mom.” the listings were created. What you didn’t know from the previous post is that there are TWO different Atomic Robo labels because I couldn’t pick which one I like more from what Scott created. So, why choose? Have both. You can have the Tesladyne Industries “REMAIN CALM AND TRUST IN SCIENCE”

Atomic Robo Bomb Droppin' 750ml Bottle

Atomic Robo Bomb Droppin’ 750ml Bottle

750ml bottleOR you could have Old Glowing Blue Eyes dropping da bomb on a 750ml bottle. Really, the choice is up to you.

This special run of bottles is slated to be completed and shipped by November 16th, but they’re likely to ship much sooner than that.

Lastly, I have been asked many times over the last couple of years if I’d be willing to make other kinds of merch with the BBotE logos on them, because people like the art and would like to represent for their method of caffeine delivery. I can understand that but I jealously guard the art I’ve been given because, frankly, it’s something I flat out don’t have the skills to do. However, with the consent of original BBotE coffee eruption volcano artist, Erin Hall, and Molly Crabapple, both of whom told me I’m silly for even asking, I have made up a whole bunch of 4×4.5″ stickers of the BBotE art you’ve come to know and love, both the Volcano and the Ineffable Mustachio’s Goat of SCIENCE! If you want Atomic Robo stickers, however, you’ll have to get those from them.

Lastly, thank you everybody for once again giving me the opportunity to be a good son. Last year, I was able to make sure my parents were able to complete their last big vacation. Now I have a chance to give my mom a clean start.

An Enumeration Of Good Things

So, in the wake of Tuesday’s rather sad announcement, I’m taking a piece of my bereavement leave to try to write down all the nifty things I haven’t actually gotten a chance to sit down and share. The store is back up and running again as the only thing more expensive that dying is living, and I needed to fire the coffee engines up sooner than I might’ve liked to help my mom out. Such is life and death.

First off, I inaugurated a new BBotE Ambassador for Perth, Australia. Karl made a convincing case for why the fine but odd folk of Australia’s far western shore deserved to have BBotE regularly arrive, and lo it has been done. He is furnished with 1000ml bottles and you can reach him by email, karl [at] fishoutoforder [dot] net. Sometime in the near future Indianapolis will be added as the next city with Ambassadorial representation, but I still have to hammer out exactly who will assume this mantle.

My compiled thoughts regarding alcohol and Antarctica back in June seems to have struck a chord with a few folks out there. I’ve been interviewed by the BBC World Serivce, The Atlantic, The Guardian, a decent substance abuse site The Fix, and Smith Quarterly (hasn’t come out yet) despite the fact that my Antarctic experience was a decade ago. Apparently, I’m still sufficiently entertaining and the tales odd enough to be worth talking to. Go figure.

Remain CalmThen there’s this comic book called Atomic Robo I might’ve mentioned it once or twice over the years. They had a kickstarter project to put together a store and get some merchandise together. Not only did they succeed, they broke their goal by almost 2000%. I had offered to do some special Atomic Robo themed label bottles but it was determined, logistically speaking, that this was a pain in the butt considering the need for refrigeration, limited shelf life, and bundling all the rewards together. These labels do exist and may appear on special bottles by and by, probably after all the Kickstarter rewards go out. However, they weren’t going to let me off that easy. One of the reasons I’ve been somewhat radio silent, other than being ridiculously busy, is that I got tapped to make a contribution to the Tesladyne Field Manual. From their stretch goal statement:

“$70,000 Actual Scientists – Here’s where things get a little crazy. Our buddy PHIL BROUGHTON, of Funranium Labs (also of Vol 6 and Vol 8 fame) will write a whole bunch of SAFETY TIPS covering a wide range of catastrophic sci-fi problems as well as a special chapter/entry/whatever pertaining, we think, to the problems and pitfalls of time travel and why you shouldn’t ever do it if the chance arises. I mean, obviously everything in the Field Guide is real, right? Like, you follow our advice and I promise you’ll never be killed by a dinosaur. But Phil’s stuff is extra true because he’s been there, man. Possibly including time travel, I dunno, the side effects of his super coffee are not fully documented.”

I handed them several thousand words of Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory culled from my physics degrees, Fortean Times, countless night driving dark roads listening to Art Bell with my dad, and helldiving expeditions on abovetopsecret.com (NOTE: do not go to that website without a healthy sense of humor and at least one adult beverage at the ready). I’ve lost count of the number of times Brian has said “Oh lord why” in the course of writing my contribution for them. It was also just a *titch* longer than they expected, perhaps by an order of magnitude, but I believe in giving value for money.

A good friend and talented spookypants musician Meredith Yayanos, AKA Theremina, has returned to the Bay Area after a long stint in Wellington, NZ. Kiwiland’s loss is our gain. Her latest musical endeavor, The Parlour Trick, is pretty much exactly what you need for Halloween. And Purim. And Christmas. Also Flag Day. I do strongly recommend getting rid of any creepy dolls you have in the house that might be staring at you before hitting play though; there’s a couple songs that might get to you if they’re on the shelf. If you happen to have creepy dolls and need them dealt with by Full Ecclesiastical Decon & Disposal before listening to your musics, well…

I have acquired a Dominican friar! It’s not okay to call him my Pokémonk. Br. Gabriel Mosher is here in Berkeley as a student at the Graduate Theological Union and is an exemplar of the Dominican precept of “Faith Through Reason” (which is why the Dominicans founded so many universities). I think I’ve made him happy by being an atheist who thinks religion is intensely interesting on the grounds that none of human history EVER makes sense without studying religion. Well, that and I’m fond of good beer, happy to discuss pretty much anything that doesn’t violate clearance, and not in the least bit embarrassed by his white robes. I mean, c’mon, I used to hang with Vampire LARPers long ago; the full Dominican regalia is quite mild by comparison. You may find his ecclesiastical musing here.

In August, I visited Portland as part of effort to take a long weekend out of town at least once a month to get myself out of the Lovely Assistant’s hair so she can write thesis. There is nothing in this house, not me, not kitties, not the internet, not even herself, that is more distracting than me. I simply have no off switch, therefor I gotta to go. In addition to attending the fifth a final season of Trek In The Park, I got to visit the magnificent citadel of nerdery for Guardian Games right after they moved to their new location, and I got to consume a bit of the Mackinlay & Co. “Antarctic” single malt whisky recreation from Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition. I also got to participate in this short music video about depression for my friend Jessica, who is also the Caffeinatrix of PDX.  It was a pleasure.

The coming weekend of October 25th is going to be crazy-go-nuts.

First, I will be working the door and being generally interesting for BarBot with the Lovely Assistant. I love booze, I love robots…of course I’m going to be there. I don’t have a bot to present but I definitely support and appreicate the work and talent on display. I would love to see you there. I will be the strange man with long red hair and a funny looking stein.

After I finish my BarBot-ly duties on Saturday, I will then wander down the the street a little way to join the tested.com Octoberkast in the wee hours to be entertaining and generally try to keep people awake and pledging. The Octoberkast is always a treat and are now raising money for a variety of charities beyond Child’s Play. As I did for the last three years, BBotE will be on hand I will be putting a 665ml FMJ stein up for auction. More news for this as it develops.

I’m going to leave it there for the moment as I should go get back to more serious business, but it’s important to remember the good things.

The Worst Kind of Update

Effective immediately, I have zeroed the inventory on all BBotE products on the store and will not be accepting new orders for the time being until I return and life is under control. My father passed away this morning and I need to go be with my family and help sort things out.

The current orders in the queue will go out as soon as can possibly get them out the door, though it may be a little later than my anticipated release date of this Sunday. You have my apologies and I hope I have your condolences.

I hope had hoped to return to you with a much happier large stack of words as good things have been adding up. We’ll see about that after this is winds down.

RIP Mitchell Felton Broughton, 1948-2013.

Alcoholism in Antarctica

This is a post over two months in the making as it’s pulled together some hard times from Pole. I hope it helps someone. While I stand by what I’ve done and my justifications, I can’t say they give me great comfort.

Today is Midwinter in Antarctica. It is one of the most important dates on the calendar because it means you’ve hit the halfway mark of the Long Night and every day from here is one closer to the sun coming back above the horizon. You might think this is cause for jubilation. While it was certainly the reason for a feast and party, the more common reaction was “Fuck. It’s only halfway through winter. At least four months until the station opens again. Fuck. Pour me some more whiskey, dammit.”

I once gave a presentation to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where I opened, “Hi, I’m Phil Broughton. I’m not an alcoholic but I am a compulsive bartender.” From there, I told a tale of alcoholism and enabling from the perspective of a safety professional serving people booze to oblivion. In my previous tales of the Ice, I’ve discussed the fun associated with being at the end of the Earth, rivers of ions swimming in the sky over head, and a cocktail in your hand. This has generated a lot of fine detailed questions about the drinking culture of the continent which I’m going to try to tackle with one post. But it’s also time to discuss when that goes wrong, because when you’re 14000mi from home there’s a lot that can go truly horribly wrong. There are times I still wish we’d had a chaplain down there like they did in the Navy days but, alas, there was me. I like to think I did right, at least well enough, by people that were hurting.

Whichever US station you were at dictated how and what alcohol was available to you. Each of the three had a ship store from which you could by whatever sinful products of comfort you wished: liquor, beer, wine, smokes, soda, Keebler E.L. Fudge cookies, etc. One of the stereotypical flags that you might have a problem with alcohol is that you’re in your room drinking alone. The Navy knew this, which is why the bars were built; if you’re going to be consuming alcohol, you need to do it in public where everyone else is watching. McMurdo, being the largest station, was also unique among the stations for having three bars that all charged for drinks. Barbaric, I say. South Pole and Palmer Stations operated on the “bring some, take some” honor system. You want to drink in Club 90 South, you better put a bottle up on the shelf or beer in the case now and then. No one really said anything, but yes a silent tally of your consumption versus contribution was being made in the heads of your comrades. I formalized the honor bar a bit by making broadcast announcements of what the bar was lacking so that when the ship store opened on Saturday afternoon people could make sure we were well stocked for the evening and through the next week (this didn’t necessarily go over well with management as it was seen as encouragement).

I’ve been asked when the bars opened. Again, depended on the station. McMurdo’s bars had specific hours that they were opened to serve the various shifts and you as customer were supposed to attend the correct bar accordingly. I don’t know about Palmer, but Club 90 South at Pole was open 24/7/365. Not that I was there 24/7/365, mind you; my bartending duties were purely a volunteer matter which guaranteed me a chair when I showed up in the bar. At first during the summer it was just Saturday nights, but by the time winter rolled around I was up there most every night doing my thing for folks. This is the joy of an honor bar; come on in any time, no one’s gonna charge you, so help yourself. You are, of course, supposed to be working during the day but if it’s just you in the bar, and no one’s keeping a tab, who’s to say you were even drinking? (this is a very Zen alcoholic justification) The answer: me, when I find you passed out on the floor with a toppled barstool beside you when I come to “open” the bar at 8pm.

Antarctica’s problem is that you’ve run as far as a person possibly can to “escape”. I heard about every relationship shattered by the distance to the Ice…and all the ones that ended before you even thought about coming to Antarctica. The strings of jobs and towns abandoned as you tried to make a new start, a new life, in the next town, or state, or country over. But once you get to Antarctica, there’s simply nowhere further to go. Then the station closes for the winter with no more flights for nine months. When things start going wrong for you again, because the common denominator in all the situations you’ve fled from is you, you’re trapped. So you’d better get acquainted with yourself OR you can just drink yourself to oblivion and kill the days so that you aren’t even there. I’m not going to put a number on how many people took the latter route, but I’m having a hard time thinking of any that really made the former work.

I recall pouring glass after glass of Crown Royal for a person that, against all odds, was still managing to sit on a stool and semi-coherently ask for another drink. There were three people that individually pulled me aside and said, “Dude. STOP SERVING HIM. He is so far gone it’s not even funny.” Assuming they remember, as it was a decade ago, they were drinking too, and the ravages of hypothyroidism in Antarctica on memory, they probably still blame me for serving irresponsibly. I had a different perspective. I try to keep in mind and control the most serious danger and deal with the other ones as they come up. The most dire danger in Antarctica is always failure to respect the absolutely lethal environment of Antarctica itself. I was far happier to serve until I could guide him over to a couch to pass out than to see him stagger out into the -85F night. I was doubly happy to be serving him in the bar rather than have him get to this state, or worse, alone where something dumb/wrong might happen and no one would be able to help him until it was far too late.

So, yes, I ended up cleaning up more than my fair share of puke from my fellow Polies that were in a bad way. I apologize for any bruises I may have given manhandling them into chairs or onto couches because I wasn’t going to let them lie on the floor. But I am happy to say very few people had to shamefully look at their vomit permanently frozen into the ice, until painstakingly chiseled out so that the crew wasn’t embarrassed when the new people arrived. And no one, no one, had to be treated for hypothermia and frostbite due to getting drunkenly disoriented or passing out in the cold.

Phil Does Stupid Human Tricks, AKA "The Dragon", with Liquid Nitrogen in Club 90 South

Phil Does Stupid Human Tricks, AKA “The Dragon”, with Liquid Nitrogen in Club 90 South

Oh, the Crown Royal. One of those odd things that just happens, any bartender will tell you this, is that bars have peculiar booze consumption characters. That there will be a type of alcohol that sells remarkably well in one bar but doesn’t even move in the bar the next block down. Or, for similarly unknown reasons, a college town bar will see that each different year progressing through college has it’s signature booze, i.e. the class of 2014 all order dry martinis, but the class of 2015 is all Jaegerbombs, all the time. For the South Pole 2002-2003 winterovers, the booze of choice was Crown Royal, I think because of the lovely felt bags the bottles came in. Every time a new bottle was opened, the bag got suspended from the Christmas lights over the bar, slowly making a curtain. In the picture to the above, taken January 2002, it was still pretty sparse up there; by July, one of the communications techs took down about 50 of the bags to make a quilt. There were so many by then that we didn’t even notice.

A fair question I’ve been asked is “How did you get all that booze down there? What did you have? Was there non-alcoholic anything?” At Pole & McMurdo, you could buy hard liquor, wine, beer, and soda from the ship store, though as memory serves we had a better variety at Pole though not the same vast inventory. It is telling that the very first cargo pallet that came off the plane when I arrived at Pole on the opening flight was nothing but beer (my luggage didn’t arrive for another two weeks).   While bulk cargo can be brought to McMurdo & Palmer by boat, everything that comes to Pole has to do it by plane. I would describe the variety of booze in the ship store as comparable to a middling supermarket. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see both sweet vermouth and Makers Mark on the shelf, because it meant that I didn’t bring the Angostura bitters in my luggage for nothing and that there’d would be manhattans to drink all the way through winter.

Actually, the fact that I was in no danger of running out of Makers Mark or sweet vermouth is an interesting point, given that the United States Antarctic Program and the contractor running the station had made a commitment to reduce alcohol dependence. Turning the stations dry was, frankly, out of the question, though it was threatened. During the offload of the cargo vessel in McMurdo by the NAVCHAPS (US Navy Cargo Handling And Port Services), all the bars and booze sales in the ship store shut down lest there be trouble, again, for the who knows how manyeth time. Of course, the research vessels constantly circumnavigating the continent are always dry vessels, not that this stops homebrewing in the finest of prison wine traditions on the boats. So, there was proof of concept that it was possible to go dry…but booze sales were a decent moneymaker for the contractor because, really, how many t-shirts are you gonna sell to each person? Alcohol, tobacco, and candy are consumables and have the possibility of repeat business that selling souvenirs lacks. People generally got some percentage of their paycheck paid to them on continent in cash and then promptly went to the ship store to buy booze with it.

As bartender that year, I was paying attention to our consumption rates and what things ran out when (something not done before, it seems) and, frankly, it wasn’t complimentary. Remember for this timeline, South Pole Station opened on October 30th with first flight and the station closed on February 14th, with several resupply flights coming in per day while the station was open:

  • Ran out of Dr. Pepper & Mountain Dew in late March
  • Ran out of red wine in early April. SEE ALSO: South Pole “Enhanced” Sangria
  • Ran out of Coke & Pepsi in mid to late April
  • Ran out of Diet Coke & Pepsi, 7-Up, and root beer in early to mid May
  • Ran out of tonic and Bailey’s Irish cream in July
  • Ran out of Crown Royal, Bacardi 151 and club soda in August
  • Ran out of all beer except the worst one (New Zealand’s Export Gold) by early September.
  • Ran out of Export Gold the night before first flight arrived and the station opened.

At the end of the year, we still had more hard liquor than you could shake a stick at on the shelves and in storage. Of the three we ran out of, this was due to irrational popularity (Crown Royal), a special item shipped down by a cargo manager one time, three years prior (151), and for only one of them, a bartender that made mixed drinks (Bailey’s). As a responsible bartender, I made a point of trying to alternate people’s booze with non-alcoholic options but I ran out of those damn early, other than water. We had quite a few varieties of New Zealand’s beers available but they dwindled away one by one through the winter, leaving only Export Gold by the end. Therefore, as the months wore on, the alcohol consumption not only increased in quantity, but it increased in alcohol content per drink. By the end, I was regularly tossing out 4-7 empty liquor bottles a night for a 6-12 people. This doesn’t jibe with a desire to reduce alcohol dependence and the letter I wrote to the USAP and Raytheon stating this got no response.

The other thing all this booze did was cause an extra rift in the station population. Antarctica has always suffered a cultural split between the “beakers” (researchers on NSF grants) and “support” (all the workers from the Contractor that operate/build the stations, i.e. everyone else). As support staff that very directly helped keep experiments up and running, I was in an odd bridging role that let me play in both camps. The new rift that revealed itself was the Teetotalers vs. the Drunks and it was a roughly 40/60 division in a winter station population of 58. I’m to understand that the bar became much more central in the life of the station my year than it normally was, and that might partially be my fault. It was a standing complaint from the Teetotalers that any event that happened always drifted to Club 90 South, or that the event just didn’t work because everyone was at the bar instead. Stitching these two groups together, which were almost but not quite broken along the traditional beaker/support lines, is a task our station manager had that I didn’t envy.

I’m to understand the solution that was implemented the following year was an HR representative from Contractor HQ that stayed for the whole winter to help with problems, by doing such things as sitting in the bar and monitoring drinking habits. When I was told of this plan I predicted the HR representative would be the Most Hated Person At Pole. The result was a lot of solitary drinking and little cohesion in the crew, which made for a very hard winter for everyone. Being at the bottom of the globe for a year, surrounded by two mile thick ice sheets, and no escape is hard enough without trying to do it alone.

While I have misgivings about my bartending and the things I saw in Antarctica, I still think it’s preferable to the alternatives.

EDIT: The original 2nd to last paragraph said “no cohesion in the crew”. As someone that was there the year after me was quick to point out this may also have been a function of a largest station winterover population ever, spread across the old Dome and the new berthing in the elevated station, separated by a decent hike and 96 stairs at ~10000′ of altitude. More people is an opportunity for more cliques so, by comparison, two major blocs looks cohesive next to a dozen or so smaller fractious groups. However, even one friend that isn’t a bottle is a better than none.

GUEST POST: Cooking with BBotE in PDX (Part 1 of ???)

Today’s guest post comes from Jessica who keeps Portland, OR singing in many ways. Over the next several pieces, she’ll be sharing some of the recipes the posse up north have made with BBotE as an ingredient. I, meanwhile, will be over there in the corner extracting more ultracoffee, cocktail in hand. Enjoy their kitchen shenanigans and eat responsibly. – Herr Direktor Funranium

 

Hi. I’m Jessica, the slinger of BBotE to the fabulous caffeine-addicted city of Portland, OR. I’m known to the locals as the Caffeinatrix of PDX, and when I’m not slinging shots of BBotE out of test tubes and shot bandoliers, I’m a laboratory researcher, piratical performer with PDXYAR.org, singer/songwriter with the awesome geek band The PDX Broadsides, and, as of September, I’ll be a PhD student in biology. Sometimes I even sleep, but then I have more BBotE and everything is okay again.

JERBIKERS!!

Jessica, AKA the Caffeinatrix of PDX.
Photo by Meredith Gerber of Silhoutte Studios (Chicago, IL)

Portland’s a city of many things, including bridges, roses, and the highest number of strip clubs per capita, but the most relevant thing to this story that make Portland famous is our love for crazy random food creations. This often takes place in food carts (ever want to eat an enormous sandwich with fries on it, turkey and bacon wrapped in a waffle, or peanut butter and jelly poutine? We’ve got you covered!), but it’s even better when you’re playing with your friends in a big kitchen for a barbecue potluck, like we did for Memorial Day.

Of course, when you have a bottle of BBotE…things get crazy.

One of the four delicious BBotE experiments to come out of the kitchen this weekend was the brainchild of fellow piratical friend Houston “Biscuit” Oldland. Houston spent a considerable time in New Orleans and has seriously legit cooking chops, particularly when it comes to Bloody Marys and meat products. As he started whipping up a batch of candied bacon, he whispered, “Hey. HEY. Uh. Do you have any BBotE? Because we should totally do that.” “FOR SCIENCE!” I said, as we began laughing manically and scared everyone else out of the kitchen. GLORY COMMENCED.

BBotE Candied Bacon – Houston “Biscuit” Oldland

1 lb thick cut bacon (about 12 slices, we used Black Forest)

Baste sauce:

1 oz. BBotE (used Death Wish)
1/2 cup red wine (used shiraz, any cheap wine will do)
1/2 cup brown sugar (keep this at 1:1 with wine)
1/2 cup dijon mustard, (keep at 1:1 with wine)

Heat oven to 300F. Baste bacon.

Lay out on cookie sheets with sides or cake pans.

Cook 10 minutes, then baste again.

Baste every 5-10 minutes for about an hour.

Won’t crisp up, but they’ll be a little rigid at the end from the carmelization.

EAT UNTIL FOREVER. Repeat process until arteries completely harden.

Next time on Cooking with BBotE: what happened when BBotE met brownies. Spoiler alert: mind-blowingly delicious.

St. Patrick’s and ANZAC Days, 2003

ANZAC Memorial, Sydney Australia July 2010

April 25th means little to Americans other than, probably, waiting anxiously for whatever you ordered with your tax refund to arrive. But to the fine folk of Australia and New Zealand it is ANZAC Day which, generally, means a fall holiday. At the very least it is an excuse to have gunfire breakfast, AKA coffee spiked with a very respectable amount of rum, which is something I learned as retaliation for my observance of St. Patrick’s Day with my exceptionally Irish coffees.

For St. Patrick’s, I got up early, relatively speaking, checked my dewars and telescopes, and then went up to Club 90 South. I then spent the next five hours cleaning up months of accumulate detritus and generally ignored maintenance in the bar. FACT: one of the reasons bars are dimly lit is so you don’t have to clean them as thoroughly. Once cleaning was completed, I compiled the finest 14 hours of drinking music that the X Drive had to offer, and then decorated the bar with shotglasses and bottles of Jamesons. At 5pm, I pressed play on the tunes and poured myself some whiskey so that I would be ready to salute whoever came through the door as I poured them their shot.

It was good time. Eventually, people started biting beer cans and spitting torn aluminum at each other. That’s how good a time it was.

A little over a month later, our telescope mechanic and former New South Wales rugby prop walked into the bar a plunked down a bottle of something special he’d brought down in his luggage: a bottle of Bundaberg rum. I was familiar with and fond of Bundaberg’s ginger beer but had no idea they made a rum. Flavor-wise, it’s a grassy salty rum agricole similar to St. George Spirit’s Aqua Libre. I can’t possibly do justice to Allan’s accent which was so thick you could drown sheep in it, but when I asked what that was for he said, “Have a Bundy with me. It’s ANZAC Day.”

Turkish Artillery in the Morning – rum by Bundaberg, mug by R. Stevens of dieselsweeties.com

While I knew the history well, it was thus I was made privy to many of the modern cultural secrets of ANZAC Day, primarily the concept of the Gunfire Breakfast, which is coffee with sufficient rum added to it that you didn’t care about the guns anymore. In honor of that, and the fact that they’re running almost 20 hours ahead of the west coast of the US, I made myself a mug of gunfire breakfast with the Ipsento Panama BBotE and my bottle of Bundy I picked up three years ago in Sydney. This was, perhaps, not the best idea at 9pm but it was goddamn delicious and I hereby dub it “Turkish Artillery in Morning”. The recipe:

  • 1 part BBotE (I found the blueberry fruitiness of the Ipsento Panama went well)
  • 3 parts boiling water
  • 1 part agricole rum (grass, salty flavored rum that uses the whole cane)

So, to all those who fell at Gallipoli, all those that mourned them back home, and all those that returned short a few limbs or marbles, here’s to you. And to the people of Christchurch who had to endure me giving a damn long semi-inebriated lecture on the history of the Great War and why the Arch of Remembrance at the end of Cashel Street was there to my ignorant fellow American Polies in 2003, I apologize again.

With that, the band played Waltzing Matilda…