THE BIG SHILL: Things You Can Buy Which I Don’t Sell

Many years ago on livejournal, my friend Ben Stone and his now fiancee Nadja, AKA The Benchilada & fairyarmadillo, AKA Stone Robot Enterprises, inaugurated a holiday tradition of collecting all the friends who made things to share their wares with the everyone else which he called THE BIG SHILL. The Steins of Science were part of one of these long ago, in the beforetime. I would like to maintain this tradition.

There is a difficulty however. In this darker era of the internet, I can’t just ask people to add their favorite things to my list in the comments below since I turned comments off four years ago. If you have something you think I should know about and share with the world, drop me an email.

Without further ado, a far from exhaustive list:

Jenn Rose – Jenn is a special effects artist who every last one of us who has seen a movie in the last decade has enjoyed the work of. When she isn’t making wonders for the screen, she is making mostly bug-based wonders to wear at Cetonia Designs. Also, her instagram account, @bugluvphotography, is well worth checking out.

Meredith Yayanos – my friend Mer has done so much wonderful spooky music over the years and is one of my favorite people. She helps keep me thinking and my life strange. I direct you here to her previous project but poke around a bit and you may find new things coming from her soon.

Laurie Penny – is a journalist and writer I’ve been enjoying the work of since Warren Ellis first introduced her and her red pen of justice to me oh so many years ago. She has a new book out “Unspeakable Things” which you can get here, and enjoy her other work and articles.

Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener – Atomic Robo is a pleasure I have been sharing with you folks for years. I’m pleased to say that they’ve gotten their act together, admitted that they actually like money, and put together a decent shop for their merch. Please support Action Science.

Maki Naro – A cartoonist formerly contributing to Popular Science, who I worked with a little bit to help make one of his series happen, Maki is now doing his own thing with his own patreon and store, featuring such items as Octopus Jesus.

Matt Lubchansky – a DADicated collector of DADS and creator of the comic Listen To Me. He also regularly causes hilarity on The Nib. You may find some of his fine wares on offer here.

In fact, in light of that last link, why don’t you just go through the entirety of the Topatoco store. They’ve provided me a box of holiday delights to give to people every year.

DrinkTanks – I previously discussed this in a post a while back, but I heartily endorse their Juggernaut 128oz growler over buying the 4.3L Stein of Science. Get the Juggernaut and a smaller stein. Everyone, but especially you, will be happy.

Ben Templesmith – On of my favorite comic artists, I’ve been enjoying his work since “Fell” though I suspect you’ve been enjoying his stuff in any of a dozen different venues. His current project Blackholers has been a hoot, I’m looking forward to Blood Songs, and he also has his own store up as well.

Warren Ellis – Speaking of Warren, as I can blame my acquaintance with half the people on this list on him in one way or another, I would like to really encourage you read his prose fiction rather than just his comic work. I have an unholy lust for his book Gun Machine to be turned into a crime of the week serial on AMC, but that just ain’t gonna happen because we aren’t allowed to have nice things. In the last year, he made two very enjoyable novellas, Elektrograd and NORMAL, that I would love to see more of and I think you may enjoy them too.

Shadows of Brimstone – this game has brought me so much fun in the last several years. I often refer to it as Cowboys & Cthulhus. Buying absolutely everything they’ve made related to this game is Warhammer-level, credit card melting purchase, but if you get the two base sets, which are available for an EXCELLENT deal right now, you’re good to go for a very long while.

Recent Improvements, New BBotEs, and Vacations

Let’s begin with the improvement you can’t see or, rather, won’t see anymore. At some point a “helpful upgrade” was done by BigCommerce who provide the architecture and servers for the store side of Funranium Labs. In the course of this upgrade, they managed to break the 3rd party SSL chain and depending on the browser you received a warning letting you know that my store was as suspect as a Moldovan merchant bank and to be avoided at all costs. It took far too long to figure out exactly how they broke it and then longer to determine how to fix it correctly with them. Needless to say, I have received a fresh customer service lesson which I will file away for how to treat others better. If I’ve done everything right, you won’t be getting nasty red flags anymore…at least until the next “upgrade“.

In the near future, I have some travel coming up which is going to make production schedules a little screwy. This weekend, I’m headed up to Portland to celebrate a friend’s birthday, which means for those of you who want go juice for Burning Man BBotE the schedule’s a little tight. Meanwhile, while Burning Man is going on, I will be fleeing to the Sierras to collect two national parks I haven’t been to yet, Kings Canyon & Sequoia. It is very important to give me camping hermitage time or I start getting stabby. And finally, there will be a longer service interruption as I go to Boston on Sept 20th to celebrate the wedding of Test Subjects Vision Science. I will then be fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was 20 or so when my grandma did it and coming home via cross-country Amtrak trip, with a couple stops along the way. The coffee engines will fire up again after that trip on Oct 5th.  All that said, I’m not going to turn off ordering, but I’m going to ask your patience as listings may zero out on you and production windows may go longer or shorter than normal as I try to crank as much out as possible.

Now, on to new BBotE offerings and me rambling about history, war, and agronomy.

As previously mentioned, Guatemala Nueva Vinas is being retired until next year when, hopefully, the next crop comes in and is up to snuff. In the meantime, I have identified a Guatemala Antigua that I’ve enjoyed which has an impressive citrus brightness and dark chocolate flavor that, weirdly, reminds me of Pepperidge Farms lemon Milano cookies. My normal tasting crowd ran about a 50/50 split of “Coffee and lemons do not go together” and “Holy shit, this is like that weird Panama you make that tastes like blueberries. Are you gonna make more?” There was a universal opinion that the addition of pretty much any alcohol to it was a winner. Do not take this as a challenge to make BBotE & cynar cocktails.

Lastly, Test Subject Nimby, proprietor of Blackstar Group, recently went on vacation to Puerto Rico and asked if there was anything I’d like him to bring back. I instead sent him on a mission to see if he could find a worthwhile coffee for me to play with. You see, I keep cursing the name of United Fruit because in the course of setting up the banana republics around the world, even in places where they did the least political damage, their market distorting effects destroyed the coffee plantations that had been there for generations, all in the name of bananas & pineapples. After my trip to Hawaii, where I sampled as much coffee as I could stand, I started wondering about the coffee production in the Spanish-American War acquisitions. In Guam, the coffee crops are almost gone, long ago replaced by bananas, importing most of the coffee the consume from Sumatra. In the Philippines, their coffee production never really recovered from an awful blight at the end of the 19th century that, again made bananas look appealing. Production has resumed there, but the Philippines are net importers of coffee by a fair margin and most of their domestic crops are robusta.

Which brings us to Puerto Rico. Coffee production in Puerto Rico never really stopped. It was never as large scale production like Haiti, which supplied a quarter of the world’s supply at one time. Once the filthy Yanqui showed up, the production decreased as work moved to sugar cane instead. Because cane and coffee use very different terrain, the crop transition didn’t destroy the coffee plantations like happened for bananas, so much as them being abandoned or only being used for low key, local production. Once sugar beets displaced sugar cane as the primary source for everyone’s favorite diabetes fuel, they started firing up the the old coffee plantations again.

Initial run of Puerto Rico Yaucono headed to Test Subject Nimby, with a salute for me.

Initial run of Puerto Rico Yaucono headed to Test Subject Nimby, with a salute for me.

That said, most of Puerto Rico’s production remains for local consumption. Puerto Rico has struck me with proud, just this side arrogant, pride of place for their their food. Each valley has the best coffee, everyone’s grandma has the best coquito recipe; it’s one of the things I miss about living around lots of Puerto Ricans. The Yaucono that Test Subject Nimby sent me is a dark roast which generally gives me pause. Dark roasts tend to leave very little of the original coffee’s character which is why there’s so few of them as BBotE, I want to actually taste something other than the roast. However, I got a treat every bit as good as my surprise with the Peru Salkanty here, the taste was like the smell of opening a cedar chest and a cup of hot cocoa. Considering Caribbean fun times, I decided to try a rum addition rather than vodka and a 6:2:1 hot water to Yaucono to dark rum mix is a goddamn treat.

Both of these go on the Limited Run line up and I’m happy for it.

BBotE Availability at DEFCON 2016

Las Vegas from the vantage point of the EZPR HootSuite at the Palazzo, CES 2016 [my cocktail not included in this shot]

Las Vegas from the vantage point of the EZPR HootSuite at the Palazzo, CES 2016 [my cocktail not included in this shot]

So, once again, brave souls have stepped up willing to play caffeine mules to the demented infosec hordes about to descend on Las Vegas for DEFCON 2016. Just like last year, you have two volunteers. Please treat them well:

Bill is an old hand at DEFCON and also the former BBotE Ambassdor of Chicago. He is arriving Monday night to have fun at B-Sides as well as DEFCON proper. His first case of twelve 750ml bottles which you can have for $45 each should arrive today as well. Later this week, a six pack of 1000ml bottles at $60 each will arrive. He has created this handy contact page here so that you can have all his relevant DEFCON ONLY contact information to collect BBotE from him if you’d like some. He is practicing what he preaches and trying to have a somewhat firewalled electronic existence this year.

Dan is your current BBotE ambassador for Prescott, AZ and will also be showing up at DEFCON though he gets there on Wednesday. If you’d like to claim one of his 750ml bottles for $45, you can drop him a line by email: bbote [at] deusexcaffeina [dot] com.

For all of those heading to the desert, we salute you!

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.