Author Archives: phil

The Decembering 2014 and Stein 600

I feel this is a good visual metaphor for sending this message in October. (image courtesy of the DOE/NNSA Nevada Site Office Historical Archive)

I feel this is a good visual metaphor for sending this message in October. (image courtesy of the DOE/NNSA Nevada Site Office Historical Archive)

As the city’s contractors start putting lights up in the trees before all the leaves have even fallen yet, it is time for me to grimly face the holiday season and say the words that must be said.

The last pre-Xmas BBotE production window will close on December 17th. All things being equal, domestic or international, everything shipped by the 17th should end up at their destination by Christmas Eve. I can’t control weather doom snarling the global postal system utterly, but a week is usually quite sufficient even taking weather into account. I will put another pre-order window up after the 17th, but I make absolutely no guarantees about shipments in that window arriving before Xmas. I’ll do what I can, but that’s all I can do.

As far as steins go, I have a rather large shipment of dewars slated to show up right just a bit before Thanksgiving. The “steins on hand” should dramatically increase, so keep an eye out on that page for the fluctuating numbers.

Speaking of Steins of Science, we’re approaching another milestone again. Just as I did for Stein #200 and #400, whoever orders Stein #600 is also getting #601, a 665ml FMJ, FOR FREE. The current count is in the high 500s, so it won’t be long.

To reiterate shopping advice from the previous year, here’s a few things you should probably think about if you decide to place an order for a holiday 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 most 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 for a gift and a note stating who sent it if you ask me to.
  3. The pre-order slot dates date are “Ship No Later Than”, not “Ships After”. 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. Turkey, 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. Turkey, well, I discussed those problems in #6.
  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. REALLY, 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. Far be it from me to dissuade you from giving me money, but I’m just sayin’…

New BBotE Ambassadors!

[Professor Farnsworth Voice] GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! with one small bit of bad news

First off, many of you appear to have noticed that the BBotE ordering window that closes on October 11th is up, so order away to get your spot in line.

Second, as of my trip to the post office yesterday, I am pleased to inaugurate not one, not two, but THREE new BBotE Ambassadors for local pick up. They are:

  1. Melbourne, Australia – Kavi, kaviblackblood [at] gmail [dot] com. An acolyte of the Ambassador of Perth, Kavi has decided that in addition, to being an anesthesiologist, that “the coffee nut capital of Australia” deserved representation. He is stocked with 1L bottles for $75 a piece. He’s actually on resupply now, as his first case went away before I could even announce him.
  2. Prescott, AZ – Dan,  bbote [at] deusexcaffeina [dot] com.  As someone who got his first taste of BBotE at DEFCON thanks to the very alliterative Coffee Consul of Chicago, he wanted a more regular supply to Arizona. Now he has it and so do you. I’m also to understand that he makes regular trips to Flagstaff. He is stocked with 750ml bottles for $45 each.
  3. Toronto, Canada – Justin, BBotEToronto [at] gmail [dot] com. Justin is another victim happy customer of the Caffeine Consul of Chicago, except he was making the trip from the Great White North to get it. It was an altogether more reasonable thing to just turn him into Canada’s first BBotE Ambassador to take care of our caffeinated brethren & sistren across the border. He’s currently stocked with 1L bottles for $75 each.

They’re fun people, so drop ‘em a line!

Now for the bad news. The Guatemala Nueva Vinas crop is done for the season and the Jamaica Blue Mountain is gone for at least a month. In general, the coffee crops of the New World have taken a double hit from weather (read: drought and/or floods) and a blight called coffee rust. Depending on the country and crop, coffee production is down by 10-30% but that’s an aggregate measure. Some individual farms have been utterly wiped out, or seen such a dramatic decline they hardly have enough to sell to gain the premium price of “single origin”, instead getting bulked at a much lower cost.

I am hoping the Nueva Vinas isn’t gone for good, but it’s run has come to an early end this year. Do not mourn it but rather hope for it’s return.

PLEASE Don’t Open That – A Rant on Generally Licensed Materials

Let’s start this out right by terrifying people. If your home hasn’t had any major renovation since 2001, I can almost guarantee you have radioactive materials in it. I’m not talking natural occurring radioactive materials like the uranium & thorium in your granite countertops, the potassium-40 of your concrete, or the radon in your basement if you live on nice old cracked igneous rock. I’m talking transuranic materials here, ol’ Americium-241 (Am-241), originally a byproduct of the nuclear weapons program that we’ve put to good use. How can I make this guarantee? Because you’d be violating the building & fire codes if you didn’t have at least one smoke detector. You may have heard about this before due to several precocious Boy Scouts cracking them open over the decades to try to get the old Atomic Energy merit badge.

Now, some of our less enlightened citizens at this point normally reply along the lines of “OH MY GOD THE DEADLY RADIATIONS ARE IN MY HOME. MY BABY AND DOG ARE GOING TO GET CANCER. WHY IS THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY DISPOSING OF RADIOACTIVE WASTE IN MY HOME!?!?!?!” Aaaaand this is why I don’t go to Berkeley City Council meetings anymore. Once was enough.

But seriously, why would you bring radioactive materials into your home? To answer that question, you first need to know the radiation safety philosophy for ionizing radiation dose minimization called ALARA, which stands for As Low As Reasonably Achievable. Note, this is not “As Low As Possible” or “As Low As Achievable“, both of which have been been used as one point or another. The problem with these words is that Reasonably, Possible, and Acheivable are very subjective concepts. Many legal, regulatory, and scientific careers have been built arguing them since the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 was signed. What is a bankrupting expense for very little reduction in dose for a small company may be normal business operations for a national laboratory.

There is a flip side to the coin of ALARA: we take no ionizing radiation dose without commensurate benefit. At a purely mercenary level, this is why the annual radiation dose limit for public exposure is 100mrem, versus the occupational radiation worker dose limit of 5000mrem. In addition to being better trained and cognizant of the hazards, I’m receiving a paycheck in return for my willingness to take additional dose. What benefit is there to bringing Am-241 into your home? It’s what makes your smoke detector actually work (tiny amounts of smoke blocks the alpha particle emissions of the Am-241, which causes the alarm to go off when the alpha detector stops seeing them). We’ve judged that the hazards to life and property from fire are much more immediate than potential problems with small amount of americium sealed up in a plastic box, on your ceiling, not being messed with.

NOTE: newer smoke detectors are laser based rather than americium. No radioactive materials, but you end up changing the batteries much more often.

But did you actually know that there was radioactive material in the smoke detector in your home? Did the contractor that demolished that building over there know? Did all the people the contractor hired know/were they trained/did they listen or understand? How many smoke detectors got to the landfill in the loads of rubble? How many times has this happened over decades? Whoops, we’re back to panic at the city council meeting again.

When you buy a new smoke detector, there are messages all over instructing you to return the old one to the manufacturer, with a self-addressed, pre-paid postage box. They have to accept the old one. It’s part of their general license for use of radioactive materials under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is quite picky about what they let people put radioactive materials into and then let be sold to the public without controls. That item has been sold and licensed for that very specific use. It is certified as safe under normal operation and certain easily anticipated failure modes in consumer use, e.g a fire.

What is NOT covered by the general license is cracking them open, yanking the source out and starting to build new apparatus with them. The general license, in short, says “This specific use with that specific source is fine. Anything else and all bets are off.” I say this keeping in mind that I built an x-ray fluorescence unit as a physics undergrad using one of the many small Am-241 sources the lab manager had collected for class purposes. If I had a time machine, on my list is to go throttle that lab manager for his many, many transgressions. Screwing with a general licensed item is, technically speaking, a federal offense under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 punishable by up to a $10000 fine or 10 years in prison. The moment you pop the case open, the general license for this source vanishes like Robocop’s Directive 4, which means you now need an actual license to possess this radioactive material and work with it.

And that is not something you can buy for a dollar.

A Reactor Accident Cocktail

Once upon a time, there was a nuclear reactor in England that was air cooled like a 60’s Volkswagen Beetle, called Windscale. It worked about as well as the average 60’s Beetle too.  One day, oops, the fuel and graphite moderator caught on fire. Who’d’ve thunk it, that dry graphite being pure carbon would burn readily…amazing! After this happened, this region of England was told not to drink milk for a good long while, about a month, but the terror stuck depressing dairy for years.

In order to get vital calcium and vitamins to children in the Cumbria area, a fortified version of the beverage called Ribena was created for use in the schools. If you are not British, you can be forgiven for having never heard of this demon nectar because your government didn’t have to find a way to prevent scurvy for an entire nation during WWII. I find it less palatable than Manischewitz as, to me, black currants ≠ food. About seven years ago, they finally demolished the Windscale reactors, which had long since renamed Sellafield to help with the public relations problems.

But, I came up with a drink and consumed it so that YOU DON’T HAVE TO, just like the my friend Ben “Benchilada” Stone eats the collective culinary errors of Asia. Much like Jesus died for your sins, I created two variants of a cocktail I call “The Windscale” and drank them for you. I don’t recommend consuming either of them.

Windscale Reactor One: 
    Equal parts Ribena and gin (for a double dose of British fluids)
    Stir, chill, and serve.

VERDICT: Revolting

Windscale Reactor Two:
    Two parts Ribena
    One part green chartreuse (for that concerning “plutonium in solution” look)
    Shake in a tumbler with ice and serve.

VERDICT: Stomping on a week old corpse probably makes liquids this color…possibly this flavor.

I was not willing to waste precious absinthe to create a Windscale Reactor Three after the results of the previous two. The remaining Ribena was safely disposed of down the drain. If magic worked, I would inscribe a Ward vs. Ribena on the door to prevent it from entering my house again.

And Back Again – A Phil’s Journey.

Approximately 3300 miles, many people visited, things seen, and cocktails drank later, we’re back and the coffee engines are running again. Fresh order slots are up for the production window closing 7/12, the Ambassador of NYC is active again and an old friend, Guatemala Nueva Vinas, is available again as one of your flavor options.

CROSS-COUNTRY TRIP 2014 VITAL STATISTICS

Death Toll:

  • Untold thousands of insects. Seriously, in Louisiana near sunset it sounded like rain so many were splattering on the windshield.
  • One small incautious bird in Arizona.
  • Two Hertz rental vehicles for the exact same maintenance/mechanical failure.

Relating to one of my favorite posts to dredge up over and over again, good job Hertz, you’re now on my customer service education list. I was treated extremely well by the counter staff at both Jackson, MI and Albuquerque, NM airports where I did my best to swap failing cars. Every phone call with Hertz HQ was misery with a side order of policies that hamstrung the counter staff’s ability to help.

Arrests: Nearly one. Los Alamos National Laboratory really needs to redesign their entry portal.

Whataburgers Consumed: None. I was able to demonstrate that this was the establishment that Beavis & Butthead worked in, disguised for legal reasons as Burger World, thus showing this was Mike Judge’s first foray into documentary film. The Lovely Assistant was unwilling to set foot inside. Making the connection to Beavis & Butthead probably didn’t help.

National Parks/Monuments Visited: Carlsbad Caverns, Petrified Forest (passed through), Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains (technically we were in the boundaries). Honorable mention goes to Barringer Crater even though the US government doesn’t own it.

Best Rest Stops:

  • Pyote, TX – This rest stop succeeded in a goal no other rest stop has ever achieved: it made me want to stop, deviate from my planned trip, and explore the local history the rest stop highlighted. I actually want to go back to West Texas, visit, and learn more about Rattlesnake Bomber Base.
  • Mississippi I-20 Eastern Welcome Center – It was wonderful to not be in the sultry Gulf air of Magnolia State and be inside instead. As the Lovely Assistant said in a whining voice, “I can taste Mississippi.” Mississippi reminds me a lot of Hilo, HI minus the tropical flower smells.
  • Pooping +1?

    Pooping +1?

    Every Goddamn Rest Stop In New Mexico – When you visit rest stops in the State of New Mexico they have these handy buttons to press and vote whether you approve of this rest area. I am pretty sure New Mexico might have the grounds to sue the shit out of Reddit, Facebook, and Google for stealing their ranking system.

Best Named Store: A marijuana dispensary and head shop in Roswell, NM called “Area 420″. I can only assume they have amazing reverse engineered ALIEN BONG TECHNOLOGY. While I am not even remotely their target audience, I kinda regret not stopping and going in.

Most Irritating Thing: No-see-ums in South Carolina. It seems I react to those far worse than I do mosquito bites. I swear I’m going to have scars from them. In fact, the only thing comparable were the sand fly bites while hiking in New Zealand. Little bastards.

How I Destroyed History: While hiding in George Mason Memorial Park to escape school groups that had been at the Jefferson Memorial and in the wake of listening to all the fine southern accents, my brain decided that Thomas Jefferson sounded like Matthew McConaughey’s character in “Dazed & Confused”. I then rewrote the Declaration of Independence to begin “ALRIGHTALRIGHTALRIGHT! I keep getting older, but these rights are always inalienable.” I can no longer read the founding documents of my country without hearing his voice in my head.