BBotE Line Up Change July 2016

I regret to inform you all that one of my old favorites from the limited run group has, well, hit the end of its run. I’ll be completing the last batch of Guatemala Nueva Vinas for 2016 tomorrow and it is already fully allocated. According to my roaster of choice on this one, the earliest it may return is next spring but that I shouldn’t hold my breath on that as blights continue to plague the coffee growing regions of Central America.

However, I am firmly committed to finding good Central American coffees to use to make BBotE on the sound basis of “I like them”. I’ve got a Guatemala Antigua that has performed well in a few test batches (some of you may have seen some vials from the test runs in your Sampler Pack II). I’d like to give it a few more before I officially put it up as a selection on the store, but rest assured I’ll let you know when that happens. A world without a regular stream of good Guatemalan coffee going into my mouth is hardly a world at all.

In the meantime, please entertain yourself with Pakled Captain Reginod as he sums up my relationship with the world before I get my morning dose of Go Juice.

Shifting the Production Window Ending July 2nd

It’s been pointed out to me that July 4th is holiday, like it is every year. As is appropriate, I will be grilling delicious meats, drinking fine adult beverages from my trusty stein, and playing games with family & friends because I’m pretty sure that is what the Founding Fathers really wanted for themselves. Sure, there was some tax stuff, wanting respect for existing self-rule, and other fine Enlightenment philosophies but let’s focus on the important things. This does mean travel out of town…on Friday. You may have noticed that the previous window was set to end July 2nd.

Welllllll, since I’ve shipped all the current orders on the docket for this production window so far and heeding the wisdom of the calendar, I am going to shift the open production window to end July 16th now. This way I don’t run the risk of leaving someone sad waiting for ultracoffee over the holiday weekend. I still have some runs finishing up this week and some leftovers from previous runs on hand. You may get a lucky shipment this week.

For those of you in the old country that was on the receiving end of a certain Declaration, I have some good news. May be adding an additional BBotE Ambassadorship in your neck of the woods in the near future. More details as they develop.

And now, a MAGNIFICENT presentation of a patriotic tune.

Product Recommendation: The Juggernaut

A while back, the fine folks at Drinktanks ran a Kickstarter to create their double walled steel growler, with vacuum insulation, plus a handle and the ability to run a pressurized tap on it to use it as a tiny keg. As someone that had to figure out how to attach a handles to a dewar without destroying the vacuum, I had some searching questions for them as to their game plan. I can report that I’ve been using my two 64oz growlers from them quite happily to transport cold beer for a couple years now.

The Drinktank Juggernaut on the left and their normal 64oz growler on the right.

The Drinktank Juggernaut on the left and their normal 64oz growler on the right.

More recently, I received the 128oz version of their growler, the Juggernaut, and I’m quite pleased with it. In terms of volume, it’s just a hair shy of being able to fill the most ridiculously large of the Steins of Science I make. For the record, I have made a grand total of four of the 4300ml steins in six years, one of which was for me. As I continually warn people, it’s BIG, ridiculously so. Empty, it weighs 15lbs; fill it with beer and it weighs ~25lbs. I goddamn crippled myself for days in the wake of trying to drink an entire 4300ml stein worth of Anchor Steam Christmas Ale. I am not in good enough shape to do that many arm curls at that weight.

So, I’m making an official recommendation:

DON’T buy at 4300ml Stein of Science and repeat my poor life choices. DO purchase a Juggernaut to store your beer and get a more reasonably sized stein to drink from. Heck, get two and share with friends. You’ll keep your beer cold at all stages of the game and you won’t hurt yourself with too much accidental exercise while drinking.

I’m not going to discontinue the listing for the 4300ml, but I don’t really expect to ever make one again either.

BBotE Ambassadorial Updates

First, the bad news: for the most part, all the slots for the production window closing June 4th are gone.

GOOD NEWS: Most of the production slots for the June 18th window are now up for ordering.

Other than Melbourne, Australia and Washington, DC, I haven’t been doing a lot of BBotE Ambassador resupplies lately. Well, that changes as of this week as I’m proud to announce that:

  1. Washington, DC has recently received a resupply. Go drop Eric a line if you’d like some.
  2. Portland, OR has been mumbling about resupply, though summer vacation plans have made things a little higgledy-piggledy. Drop Jess a line if you want to put your name in the hat to trigger a case order.
  3. The new BBotE Ambassador of Chicago, Kyle, will be receiving his resupply case next Monday, so feel free to hit him up.
  4. FILTHY FOR THE BEAN - art by Jen Miller

    FILTHY FOR THE BEAN – art by Jen Miller

    And continuing the tradition of finding Australians who are Filthy For The Bean, I am pleased to welcome Ryan to the posse as the BBotE Ambassador of Brisbane. While Queensland is region of Australia well conquered by the Steins of Science, with several people asking why I haven’t been nominated their Emperor/Savior of Beer, Ryan wants to give BBotE a try there. This is mainly on the grounds that he is a very short on sleep IT professional and needs to support his own habit. He received his case today, so get in touch if you need a bottle of your own.

Alright, folks, that’s it for now. If you want to contact any of the BBotE Ambassadors, their contact info is under the link along with their local prices.

Great Moments In Teaching – Fecal Samples

PLEASE NOTE: there is a very good reason there are no pictures associated with this story.

As some of you may know, I teach radiation safety course at a local community college. A while back, we were discussing bioassay techniques (read: ways determine if there’s been an uptake of radioactive material in the body, where, how, and how much) in my radiation safety class. 

My fellow instructor, after explaining how fecal dosimetry techniques work, declared that no one, not the subject providing the sample, not the dosimetrist who has to process it, certainly not the rest of the lab staff, nor even the lab building’s neighbors, likes it when you have to do fecal samples.

I begged to disagree before the class. I clearly remembered an occasion that a world renowned health physicist and internal dosimetrist loudly declared in my presence “I LOVE FECAL SAMPLES!

I stared at him very hard. He saw me staring. There was then a several beat pause…

He then corrected himself, declaring somewhat less loudly, “I love the numbers I get from fecal samples.”

Once again, I love making sure lessons hit home and stick for life with memorable vignettes like this to hang the information on. I’m proud to declare all our students aced that part of the exam. I’m just sad no one took video of my “Rubbin’ My Ass On Uranium” dance to demonstrate proper dosimeter badge usage.

The Picric Acid Tale or “Why I Can’t Have Four Day Weekends Anymore”

Once upon a time, the radiation safety officer (RSO), let’s call him Bob, had been out performing the inventory of source material* and ran across a bit of excitement.

In this particular lab, they had approximately 10 grams of uranyl acetate, a very common contrast stain for electron microscopes.  The poor unfortunate grad student who was trying to wrangle things for the RSO presented the uranyl acetate to Bob for him weigh and verify, but Bob ignored him.  Bob was looking over the grad student’s shoulder at the fume hood behind him.  Bob took a picture of it for us all to enjoy later, evacuated the lab, and told the grad student to get the department chair down here RIGHT NOW while Bob called the chemical safety folks to come up and help.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Picric Acid Sat. Sol. 3/18/69 ☺ – You see, the ☺ means it must be safe.

Flash forward to the staff meeting as Bob presents his pictures.  I may have let out a pained yelp of terror when this one came up on the screen.  I apologize for the lack of detail for this picture, but the brown bottle has a handwritten label that reads “PICRIC ACID, SAT. SOL., 3/18/69, *happy face*”

Bob: “So, does anyone see any problems with this picture?”
Me: “YES!  There’s a four fucking liter bottle of picric acid!”
Bob: “Note that the bottle says ‘Sat. Sol.’  How would we know if it weren’t safe?”
Me: “Well, I suppose if it wasn’t safe they would’ve labeled it with a frowny face instead of a happy one.”
Bob: [gives me a glare] “Right, no more four day weekends for you.  You get sarcastic if we give you too much time off.  I was referring to the crystalline sediment in the bottom of the bottle that shows this is clearly a supersaturated solution now.”
Me: [emits another yelp of terror]
Co-Worker 1: “Jeez, they haven’t cleaned their lab in 40 years if that’s been lying around since it got labeled.”
Co-Worker 2: “No…the building they’re in now has only existed for 17 years.  The had to move it here from somewhere else first…*trails off into contemplative horror*

Supersaturated picric acid is a shock & light sensitive bomb, similar to unstable crystallized ether.  There have been an awful lot of lab explosions over the decades due to forgotten picric bottles which is why it is pretty much banned in anything other than microquantities.  A 4L bottle is a job that even the bomb squad is reluctant to touch.

As a nice bonus, if you look closely you’ll notice that there’s a bottle of 70% percholoric acid next to it, which is another potential bomb. At the very least, a POWERFUL oxidizer to help promote the coming firestorm when everything goes sideways.

The happy ending is that everything worked out nicely and nothing had to be detonated with a sniper rifle from a safe distance. This time.

 


* Source material is defined as naturally occurring or depleted uranium or thorium materials which could, potentially, be refined and enriched.  In practice, this normally translates to “anything we feel like nailing you for not having on your inventory already” as this is stuff any member of the public can buy, but as license holder you have a responsibility to keep track of it.

No Pants-Bear Bad

Adding this slice of life from almost a decade ago at LLNL to the permanent record of Funranium Labs as a reference point for Test Subject Vision Scientist (subcategory: Male)

[SCENE: Early April 2008, Lawrence Livermore Nat’l Lab. The transition to the new managing private consortium, primarily run by Bechtel, has proven to be very uncomfortable and isn’t improving. All the people involved in this story, and even the departments, have moved on or are dead.] 

The only thing I hate almost as much as group projects are All Hands meetings.

There is nothing more fun than a one hour meeting that runs a half hour over where no useful information is conveyed despite actual insightful, searching questions from the audience.  It was very much a meeting because management felt it necessary to Say Something, except that everything anyone wanted to know they couldn’t say.

After then All Hands meeting I went to go visit a former co-worker who now works in the Department That Doesn’t Get Out Much Because They’re Too Busy Thinking Terrorist Thoughts.  She asked how things were going out in the Lab at large where people get to see sunlight.  After due consideration I described it, speaking very fast and panicky, “Ohgodohgodwe’reallgonnadietheskyisfallingit’scoldoutsideilostmypantsandthere’sabearthatwantstoeatme!!!”

She blinked a few times and then she began laughing in way that I felt justified in grabbing the spill clean up kit just in case, which only made her laugh more. They’re a little short of entertainment in there.

This morning I was shocked to hear someone else describe a situation as “No Pants-Bear” Bad. I’ve gotten a stern finger waggling whilst sniggering by my manager for creating a new term that is spreading through the Laboratory like curium-244 contamination.   I now give it to you to enjoy and share with the rest of the world.

The Money Rant

I think I promised that I would write up this rant roughly five years ago. Recent announcements of the coming changes to our printed currency has finally triggered me to share one of my favorite old man grumbles with you, a grumble I’ve had since I was 12 years old. The TL;DR version:

I HATE THAT WE DEPICT HISTORICAL PERSONAGES AT ALL ON OUR MONEY

 

There, I said it. If I had my druthers we wouldn’t have Washington on anything, much less the rest of the questionably dignified dead presidents. In fact, Washington on money was the specific thing they were trying to avoid with the original Coinage Act of 1792. At that time, America was a little touchy about anything that, per the writers of the period, “smacked of Monarchy” or, more rudely, “We waged war to get one George off our coins, damned if we’re going to put another one on.” In the course of the Constitutional Convention, America was arguing about it’s very structure and it got down to seemingly minor things, such as what should our coinage look like? It seems minor until you remember that for as long as anyone in the western world could remember, coins had depicted the current or at least a relatively recent monarch (please ignore the coinage of any Muslim state or iconoclast Byzantium for this argument).

The initial proposal intended to put Washington on all the coins but this was argued back quite forcefully, with Washington’s approval, to a figurative representation of Liberty. And that’s the way our coins stayed until 1909. We had all manner of different representations of Liberty and a few unspecific representations of Native Americans, on the basis that the tribes were the embodiment of freedom and liberty… as long as you ignored the Indian Wars and reservation system entirely. We never depicted an actual person on our coins until the 20th century. Even the Confederacy held to this same minting guidance, not that they had an opportunity to make many coins down in New Orleans with their very limited supplies of bullion. Our paper currency was another matter, with our first post-Andrew Jackson federal bank note in 1862 depicting Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, but that’s a separate rant on Jackson being a worse person than most people think in addition to the horrible corruption of the banking system left in his wake.

As an aside, I hate the “In God We Trust” argument about this having always been on our coins, required by law. The only words that have been required since the beginning were “LIBERTY”, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, and something to tell you what the denomination of the coin is. That’s it. To bring it back to ol’ Chase again, he had to get Congress to pass a new Mint Act to permit the coins to actually say anything other than these three things. He started with the brand new two cent piece to see how “In God We Trust” was received and then added it to the rest of the coins from there. Once you start a change, it’s hard to undo it which is why people were so resistant to changing anything on coins in the first place.

Which brings us to 1909*.

To help stave off counterfeiters, the US Mint had been changing the designs of the coins roughly once per 25 years, often more frequently, but the penny had been one of those coins that was hard to change. History had shown Americans to be VERY PROTECTIVE of their pennies and they didn’t like it when people wanted to change them, putting the penny on something closer to a 30-50 year cycle. In 1904, Teddy Roosevelt embarked on a beautification campaign of American currency, arguing that a world class power deserved a beautiful world class money. He got easy agreement to update everything, except the penny. The Indian Head Cent was very popular and no one wanted it to change.

The 1909 VDB Lincoln Cent Obverse. The VDB refers to the engraver's initials, which they forgotten in early mintings but added later.

The 1909 VDB Lincoln Cent Obverse. The VDB refers to the engraver’s initials, which they’d forgotten in early mintings but added later.

That is until 1909, the centennial year of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The case was made that The Great Emancipator deserved special recognition, that the most important president since Washington should be immortalized on our coinage in addition to a bunch of fresh statues and buildings in his honor. But that original restriction of the Coinage Act of 1792 remained: you could only depict a figurative representation of Liberty. For Lincoln we made an exception and Congress amended the act to specifically allow Lincoln to be put on the penny.

By 1948, every goddamn coin in the United States depicted a person, with the Walking Liberty falling to Benjamin Franklin on the half dollar. And now, 107 years later we still have Lincoln’s face on the penny. There have been many efforts to change the penny over the decades, with the back of the coin changing four times now, but the idea of replacing Lincoln’s face on the front with something else is a non-starter. Hell, even the argument that we lose money making pennies cannot stand against the tradition of pennies and the face of Lincoln. We are now trapped by the people we honor.

EDIT: As a follow up to answer someone’s question as to what the point of all that was, the purpose was to highlight something historians and archaeologists have always known: a culture’s money says a lot about it. Sometimes it tells the only story we’ll ever know about a culture when the distance in time becomes centuries and those stories also raise questions of their own. Questions like “What happened that they stopped worshiping Liberty and put these people on instead? Who were they? Or are they aspects of Liberty too, because we still see that word there?” This is one of those cases where I rather liked the original intent and the solid 70 years before the first modification of the Coinage Act of 1792. And to quote My Lovely Assistant “It suggests we worship the Founding Fathers like the gods they weren’t.”

These are the things I think about when bored.

 

 


The Columbian Expo Half-Dollar Reverse

The Columbian Expo Half Dollar Reverse

Columbian Exposition Obverse

The Columbian Exposition Half Dollar Obverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*:  Or 1892 if you want to be super picky and include the very first commemorative coins. Special half dollars and quarters were struck as a fundraiser for the Columbian Exposition, but they were never intended for circulation and more like a collector’s item instead. Technically, Christopher Columbus is the first historical personage depicted on a coin the US Mint struck, followed shortly after by Queen Isabella for the same Expo.

FURTHER EDIT: As I had people argue with me that “obverse is where the face goes, idiot” I would like to clarify. That would be true on non-American coins and would be true all the way back to the first Lydian coins more or less. The face tells you who’s reign you’re in and thus the rough date it was minted. But America didn’t have kings, thus our obverse was defined by wherever we stamped the date and the word LIBERTY. Part of the olive branch in making the Columbian Expo coin was that Columbus’ head would not be put on the front of the coin with the date. It also doesn’t say LIBERTY, so it was never meant to be a “real” coin to the point that they had to make the qualifying statement “COLUMBIAN HALF DOLLAR”.

The obverse is wherever the date rule is went out the window with the Presidential Dollar Coin Program. The Mint Act was amended to more or less remove all the restrictions of the original 1792 act in the interest of artistic freedom. You’ll notice the dollar coin’s date is on the rim now.

Klingon Scrabble and Odd Units of Measure

The other day I was trading tales with the former BBotE Ambassador of NYC, @EditrixW, and after sharing my new favorite Beatles cover song from Mongolia we drifted by COMPLETELY REASONABLE CONNECTIONS to the reason why my Lovely Assistant and I haven’t played Scrabble in quite some time. You see, we used to play it in a way I like to call Klingon Scrabble; you aren’t playing for the actual points but rather for honor. You can claim honor with such things as, but by no means limited to:

  • Longest word
  • Most words made at the same time
  • Dirtiest word
  • Bingos are still impressive
  • Most swear words
  • Most ridiculous acronym which you can explain
  • Really, you managed to play “HITLER” on the board more than once?
  • AND “STALIN”?!?!

And because both my Lovely Assistant and I hold science degrees, a PhD in her case, some latitude has been made to allow scientific terms because they also hold honor and are generally pretty hard to play. Also many scientific terms are proper nouns, so we had to kinda give up on that rule too but took it on a case by case basis. A complete list of the words played by each player should be written down for use to create a story, which is also a source of honor. Now that you’ve got the setup, let me now tell the tale of the last game of Scrabble we played which more or less went as follows.

SCENE: a late Sunday afternoon sitting at the dinner table, playing Scrabble.

Lovely Assistant: [plays the word “EXAM”, claims a triple word score]

Me: [looks hard at the letters on my rack, has a staggering realization, starts giggling]

LA: (very suspiciously) What?

Me: I got a bingo! [lays down the rest of my tiles after the M in “EXAM”]

LA: [making a Face] “EXAMONGOLIA” is not a word.

Me: Sure it is! It’s 1018 Mongolias.

LA: There is only one Mongolia and it is a proper noun.

Me: In the infinite multiverse, there is a similarly infinite number of Mongolias.

LA: No. You can’t just add unit prefixes to things. Mongolia isn’t a unit.

Me: It is too. Mongolia is the unit of hordeosity.

LA: [makes the Face again] Hordeosity isn’t a word either.

Me: When you have a group of people, you have to look at them to assess their likelihood/capability of going on a rampage. This is how horde-y  they are. Their hordeosity.

It is too totally a word

EXAMONGOLIA – 21 Points For Straight Letter Value Isn’t Bad (it is totally a word)

LA: [looks at me quietly with the Face that says she is working really hard to remember precisely WHY she loves me]

Me: Obviously, the Mongolia is one of those ridiculous basic units that’s hard to use like the Farad, Tesla, and Becquerel.

LA: Nope. We’re done here.

 

To end this story, she would like me to remind all of you that examongolia is totally not word. I, in turn, encourage you to contact the International Bureau of Weights and Measures to get this new fundamental unit recognized.

Final Notes for 2015

I expect there’ll be radio silence from me for a while after this as I vanish into an eggnog + BBotE + slivovitz & Fallout 4 haze until 2016. It’s time to do a round up to close out the year.

  1. There are still a few slots left for the production window ending on December 23rd, mostly sampler packs. I expect to ship pretty much all the outstanding orders by the 22nd, so that gives a chance for priority mail to get you things by Xmas Eve here in the continental US. If you want to make absolutely certain, it’s expensive but go with express.
  2. For local pick up in the San Francisco Bay Area, if you aren’t picky as to BBotE variety your chances to grab last minute gifts directly from me improve dramatically. You will be taking a trip to Berkeley or Oakland to come get them though as I’m somewhat geographically limited in the last days before Xmas. Same thing applies to Steins of Science on hand, though there’s no hope for me to get more dewar supplies before Wednesday.
  3. Speaking of steins, Stein #666 has been claimed by Steinwielder Diederich in Michigan. May he hoist well with all the fine beers to be found in America’s Mitten.
  4. Another short production window for the week after Xmas will start appearing for items soon. I’m headed to the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 from January 4-10th, so clearly there’ll be no production then, though I may be able to bring somethings with me to Las Vegas if you want direct hand off. Regular service will resume after that.

On review, 2015 has been a hell of a time. Bartended for my friend’s hospitality suite at CES 2015, visited the Nevada Test Site (a personal goal), built Legos with Friends, actually served jury duty without them kicking me out immediately, reestablished myself as a Laser Safety Officer in addition to my normal THE DEADLY RADIATIONS fun, celebrated my 40th birthday in style on an aircraft carrier, and countless bullshittings regarding science, things nuclear, and what all with artists, writers, journalists, and above all time with friends. By far my game of the year has been Shadows of Brimstone and I recommend it to anyone who needs that tabletop RPG or minifig combat fix but just can’t quite bring themselves to start up a campaign. Really scratches that itch nicely.

I realize the Commonwealth Wasteland doesn't look like this - Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Field Office

I realize the Commonwealth Wasteland doesn’t look like this – Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Field Office

Of course, there’s also Fallout 4. To paraphrase John Muir, the wasteland is calling and I must go.