Category Archives: All News

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.

VACATION TIME

Alright, that’s it folks. All the orders for the production window ending 5/17 have now shipped, including a restock case for the BBotE Ambassador of Chicago. I opened the next production window for people that want to make absolutely sure they’re at the head of the line for when I get back from the grand road trip, but as you may notice, that window closes on June 28th and production doesn’t even resume until the 12th. That goes for Steins of Science as well as BBotE, can’t very well take the drill press with me. Rest assured, I won’t be silent while I’m out there, though you’ll like have to be paying attention to my poop jokes and puns on Twitter.

That said, if you drop me a line and your needs just happen to line up with what I’m making for myself, it’s possible I can get a bottle or stein out the door before I hit the road on Thursday. You can always ask and the worst that can happen is that I’ll say “Nope. Time is too tight.”

And with that…

Cocktail Challenge: The Water of Life

As regular visitors to the blog side of Funranium Labs and my long suffering friends know, I am a fan of the works of Frank Herbert, particularly his Dune series. When other people were diving into fantasy as children with C.S. Lewis and Tolkein, I was reading up on the rise of Islam, pre-Islamic polytheism in Arabia, the Umayyad Caliphate, and geologic terms I needed to even try to get a grounding on all the things Dune was throwing at me. Trust me, this is relevant.

EXHIBIT 1: Jen's birthday cake top.

EXHIBIT 1: Jen’s birthday cake.

This weekend is my friend Jen’s birthday. Jen has hit that very special stage in life where she has looked around and said, “Fuck you world, I am having the birthday party I always wanted when I was 12, except now there will be booze too.” I applaud this moment where a person realizes her dreams and also realizes she has both the means and the skills to make them a reality. You see, Jen really, really, REALLY likes Robocop. As evidence, I submit to you her birthday cake top. For her birthday party, Jen will also have a tastefully arranged exhibit of items that anybody may take, provided they pay her back for for each item. This art installation will be called “Things I Have Bought For A Dollar“.

And then a conversation happened. This is how these things start.

Me: If I were to do your Robocop birthday, but for me, everyone would need stillsuits. Because Dune.
Me: It would be a pub crawl without rhythm.
Me: I may need to create a series of Dune related cocktails.
Jen: Plz call one the Water of Life
Jen: Plz also call one Relcaimed Water, and make it with Pocari Sweat
Me: The problem Jen, and there is one, is that the Water of Life practically invites me to use blue curacao.
Jen: Why is that a problem? That is not a problem.
Me: I will have to work hard to mute the orange flavor.
Jen: Oh. Well. It is the Water of Life. Ain’t it supposed to be tangy?
Me: And cause the Agony.
Me: I’m gonna go make this RIGHT NOW.
Jen: oh no. Phil. I care about you, man. plz don’t do that.
Me: TOO LATE

Exhibit 2: The Water of Life - assembling the ingredients

Exhibit 2: The Water of Life – assembling the ingredients

And that’s how this cocktail happened. First, the line up of ingredients that spoke to me as all of these should be in the Water of Life. One of the things that Frank Herbert harps on in Dune is that the spice melange tastes different every time you taste it. That as you have changed in the flow of your life, so too does the flavor of spice. This demands a wide variety of herbal flavors, the alcoholic equivalent of throwing your entire spice rack in a glass. Luckily, I have just the things for that. Also, the end product has to be blue.

Exhibit 3: The Water of Life

Exhibit 3: The Water of Life

My mix was as follows, stirred with ice:

1 part Botanivore Gin
1 part St. George Spirits Absinthe
1 part Canton ginger liqueur
1 part green Chartreuse
1.5 parts cinnamon schnapps
1.5 parts blue curacao

I chose the ingredients I did to give the greatest chance of an incredibly complex and evolving flavor, particularly the Botanivor gin and absinthe from St. George Spirits and chartreuse. The cinnamon schnapps is there as Herbert is always quite clear that the primary flavor of melange is cinnamon. I was unable to add BBotE because that would screw up the color. Also, it was 11:30pm when I did this.

The Lovely Assistant’s official review: “This is not nearly as horrifying as I thought it would be looking at the bottles you lined up. You have no right as a bartender to make all those things taste acceptable together.”

Please note that “acceptable” is a far cry from “good”, but it is nowhere even remotely close to the worst cocktails I’ve had/made. On the 1 to 10 scale, it’s probably a 6; an amusing stunt drink, but not one that I would drink regularly and I have no idea what food I’d eat with it. The cinnamon schnapps and blue curacao conspire to make it cloyingly sweet at times. The really bizarre thing was I had succeeded in making the eternally changing flavor. The palate is looooooong. Sometimes it started with anise, sometimes cinnamon, sometimes juniper, sometimes sage and then it kept changing on the tongue. Perhaps this is because taste buds or brain cells were dying one by one.

Really, this is all just an elaborate excuse to get you all to listen to the the Dune Prologue/Main Title Theme by TOTO.

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.