The “Playa Grade” Stein Of Science

A while ago, sometime in the vicinity of February in the warm and boozy cocoon of the Forbidden Island tiki lounge, I seem to have promised a certain burner that I would figure out how to make a Stein of Science that could stand up to Black Rock City.  She declared the idea of loading up the stein in the morning with a cold beer, tromping around all day, and still having a cold beer in there to be perhaps the best possible thing EVAR.  I may have been a scorpion bowl or two deep into the evening and with a pshaw or two, I said that it shouldn’t be a problem and I’d get right on that.

Fast forward five months to this week.  Project Status Report – Diddily/Squat, to quote one of my favorite Bloom County strips.  UNTIL TODAY!

You see, the problem has primarily been a matter of creating a lid that:

  1. Was sufficiently airtight to not let dust sneak in.
  2. Was sufficiently watertight to not leak the delicious beverage that it is keeping cold.
  3. 1 & 2 remained so with a little bit of playa dust accumulation.
  4. Did not completely defeat the thermal properties of the dewar.

First efforts revolved around trying to cannibalize an existing airtight sealing top and adapting it to the stein.  This was a failure mainly due to the dewar’s internal dimensions not particularly matching any other extant vessel.  I do have a lovely variety of bailtop preserve jars for my kitchen to preserve…something…in I guess.

Other identified problems involved that the average airtight lid would turn the stein interior into a greenhouse while out on the playa.  Dewars are exceptionally good at keeping a constant temperature, but if you intentionally add more thermal energy it’s going to keep that too.

Working from a very simple baffled pancake design of silicone and HDPE (if it’s good enough to build chemistry labs out of, it’s good enough for my steins), I think I have a functional lid design and ordered some bits to start experimenting with.  If all goes well, I hope to have something to throw out to the world by mid-August.  But to answer these three questions right away:

  1. No, it won’t have a straw hole.  A straw through the top and down into your beverage introduces an opportunity to leak, collect playa grit and, most importantly, is a thermal short circuit from the outside world directly into your drink.
  2. Yes, I’ll sell the lid separately.  But for the sake of the sanity of your safety people, DO NOT fill a dewar with liquid nitrogen and use one of these lids.  The foam lids that dewars normally come with are vented so that expanding vapor can escape.  This lid is intended for beverages in the desert, not LN2 in the lab.
  3. Of course, the Playa Grade Stein of Science will come with a carabiner.  It would hardly be Playa Grade without one.  Dur.

And now the three rums and Coke is gone.  Perhaps another is in order.  Perhaps bed.  Hmmm…

A Caffeine Clarification

In response to an urgent missive that asked if I was adding an extra caffeine to BBotE (or, perhaps, massive quantities of speed) I must answer with a most emphatic “No”. He took a 50ml belt around 10pm before heading out the clubs, was still dancing long after the bar closed and, after willing himself to sleep sometime around 8am, woke up without the usual trashed feeling he got from his usual “Club Power Ups”.

Incidentally, I think someone’s been playing a bit much Mario.

While BBotE may indeed by the club drug of the future (new ad copy: “The dance-all-night pep of meth, but delicious and without losing teeth”), the only thing I’ve got in BBotE is what I can extract from the beans. Experience from environmental clean up operations tells me that nothing tends to grow well in the soils contaminated with methamphetamine and the precursor chemicals, so the bean growers around the world probably aren’t lacing their beans with it.

The average coffee bean has somewhere between 10-20mg of caffeine in it, depending on varietal.  By comparison, the average 8oz cup of drip coffee has approximately 120mg of caffeine.  The is speaks to the efficiency of the normal extraction techniques as I somewhat expect that we all use more than six beans to make a cup of coffee.

So, no, there is no need to add extra caffeine.  There is plenty there to work with in the beans, you just have to work a bit to get at it.  Besides, the happy days of getting reagent grade chemicals by mail order is receding further into the sunset.  Alas…

More Awesome For The Entire World

My time in Australia and New Zealand taught me several important lessons:

1) Winter is the best time to visit the antipodes.  Most of the unpleasant wildlife is hiding from the elements.  Humans, luckily, have mastered pants technology and can cope with inclement weather.  Sadly, winter does limit the scantily clad on display.  Take the good with the bad, I suppose.

2) Asia and Australia go to New Zealand to ski in austral winter.  Sure, they have their own snow at that time of year, but New Zealand’s is nicer.  Late June/late July is not yet peak season so good deals are still available for lodging.  Cheap flights…less so.

3) New Zealand’s immigration/customs authority has gotten less friendly since I last visited 7 years ago after spending a year in Antarctica.  They are quite stringent about you providing proof of a departing flight and a visa to prove that you can go where said flight declares as its destination.  It seems that some cheeky monkeys discovered that quite a deal could be had by buying a one way ticket to New Zealand and then letting the Kiwis pick up the tab for sending them home by deportation.  Not likely to permit you a return visit, but good value travel.

Now, on to more salient observations about beer.

I am to shocked to report that for the majority of establishments in Australia, their default serving size is a 330 fl.oz. (AKA half imperial pint) glass.  This left my Stein of Science regularly half full and me pouting for more beer.  I attribute this to the harsh summers of Australia where serving more than a half pint of beer at a time would leave it warm and unpleasant before the drinker completed their glass.  It is a natural response, I suppose, when a superior drinking vessel is unavailable.

New Zealand, however, has hewed more closely to their cool Brittanic roots and still serves in proper imperial pints.  The United States has no excuse for the bastardization “standard pint” that we serve.  To me, it is as if the founding fathers are gypping me out of beer every time I go to the bar here.

However, the time of want for superior drinking vessel and BBotE is at an end!  Behold, the new international listings!  (edit: since superseded with a superior shipping module, all you have to do is enter you address anywhere in the world) The time has come, fair is fair…no longer must Australia suffer at the hands of warm beer, baked to 45 degrees just as Midnight Oil once sang.  You too may enjoy a beer or cocktail that maintains a nicely chilled temperature.

Oh, and the rest of the world, this applies to you too.

P.S. – Still working on the bulk shipping option to other lands.  A 12 pack of 1L bottles seems to be a bit heavier than the US Postal Service wants to cope with. More news as it becomes available.

Herr Dirketor Funranium, Down Under (100% Paul Hogan Free Content)

The quote of the trip so far: “I think that in the depth of winter, Australians have forgotten what summer is like and what it does to beer.  This thing is brilliant.  How many thousand have you sold to Queensland?”

Answer: None…yet.

Let me begin by thanking the exquisite attack hospitality of the people of Australia with their demands that I try their favorite beers.  A stein that is empty is a void that demands to be filled and no suggestion has been ignored so far and all enjoyed.  I do have to scoff at the declaration for one of the brews at the Lord Nelson Brewery that it was “very hoppy”.  The brewers of California are demented and fighting a war of nuclear escalation with their ever hoppier beers.  Like the decendents of white mice turning black in mutagenic defense against radiation in the MegaMouse Project, I’ve had to acclimate to the ambient beer.

The mother of the groom on being served a modicum of Kona BBotE declared in good British fashion, “Ooo, yummy!” with Wallace & Gromit cheese-related finger wriggles.  I’m calling that a win.  A budding librarian has her 2L of Ethiopian with gleam of delight & fear in her eye.  I look forward to hearing how it treats her.

I have, unfortunately, discovered that all the tales of indifference and horror attributed to Australian Post are entirely accurate.  There is a certain level of quantum uncertainty combined with a lackadaisical attitude that gives one the impression that an package will get there when a passing drunken traveler can be flagged down and bothered to care.  I realize this is a traditional postal service mode, but BBotE demands a higher level of professionalism.  Eventually, when sufficient money is waved in their faces, postal employees remember that they do have actual express mail options and have to go rummage for the forms and remember which buttons to press on the McMail Service register screen.

I did bring extra Steins of Science with me to the antipodes, but both the imperial pint FMJs have been claimed leaving only a 350ml and a 1000ml.  Unlike BBotE, the steins are not perishable and can be entrusted to the slow pace of Australian Post.  The listings are active on the main page, but I will refuse orders from anywhere outside Oz and NZ until the 13th of July.  I am all about the instant gratification.

Vacation – The Sad Truth

Now in the homestretch before the redeye flight to Sydney on Tuesday.  All of you in America who placed orders for BBotE last Thursday will have your precious braingojuice shipping on Monday and in your hot little hands by Wednesday.  As for you lucky Australians, assuming Oz Customs does not declare me to be a potential terrorist based on the quantity of caffeinated beverage and steins I will be carrying in my luggage, steins will be ship out on Thursday and BBotE the following Monday (I don’t trust Australian Post not to leave your BBotE languishing over the weekend anymore than the US Postal service…with damn good reason).

For everyone else, I am sorry to report that I’ll be taking no orders until July 12th.  The listings have all been switched to Out Of Stock.  Stay tuned for announcements of the taps being turned back on and tales of misadventure in Australia & New Zealand.  For those coming to meet Herr Direktor Funranium in person in the pubs of Sydney and Christchurch, I look forward to some damn fine racontuering…

Coming Down To The Wire

Ordering for BBotE will be turned off this evening at 10pm PST.  For you people who like to wait until the last minute, I have one 1000ml FMJ and one 350ml FMJ Stein of Science on hand.  Grab them now if you want them, otherwise they go in my luggage to Australia & New Zealand.  You never know, a wallaby or kea might steal them from me.

Goddamn keas

Last Call: A Literary Review

Last Call for BBotE.  I’ll stop accepting new orders on June 17th, resuming July 13th.

In other news of a Last Call nature, I highly recommend the book by the same name written by Daniel Okrent.  While the over-arching story of Prohibition, the abolition/temperance/suffragette movement, and the 19th century religious revival is one I am familiar with, this book has been fantastic at filling in the names, dates, and fine detail in the story.  I think I’ve read roughly a third of the book out loud in dramatic style to the delight/annoyance of my girlfriend.

What strikes my most while reading it is how very little has changed in the tactics of the control of illicit substances, attempting to legislate morality, and general manipulation of the American political process since the dawn of the Anti-Saloon League.  We are still inheritors of the temperance movement’s textbook approval process where they gave up on the adults and instead tried to educate a generation that “would hate the bottle” to vote the previous generation away.  Sound familiar?  The marginal politics of micro-targeting and “single issue voters” in the last 20 years are nothing new; the original yes/no political litmus test was “Are you dry or wet?”.

It makes me want to cry into my beer and keep reading.  I am very thankful for my legal beer.

Having Trouble Placing Your Order?

I’m noticing several orders for BBotE that seem to be getting hung up at the Paypal stage of the game.  If you’re having issues, please drop a line through the “Contact Us” link on the homepage.  That way I have an email with which to get in touch with you.

SCIENTIFIC DRINKING TOUR 2010 – Sydney, Australia & Christchurch, NZ(possibly)

To celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Test Subject Astrophysicist, Herr Direktor Funranium will be touring the Dominion of Oceania from June 24th-July13th.  If you are a denizen of Australia or New Zealand and wish a Stein of Science hand carried with significantly reduced shipping, now is the time to drop me a line.

The secret of the Black Blood of the Earth travels with me and batches may be conjured during my travels for lucky locals…yes, I am looking at you KAOS.

SCIENTIFIC DRINKING WORLD TOUR 2010 – Portland, OR

Now in our third day in the Rose City and the stats are pleasing.

Beers consumed: 6 delicious imperial pints and counting

Black Blood of the Earth Distrributed to Portlanders: 2.5L and counting

Hours slept: not enough, but that’s the cost of fun.

To the folks at the Lucky Devil, McMennamins Imbrie Hall, and Deschutes Brewery, thank you for humoring the man with the strange stein and filling it with beer, but only charging me as if it were a normal pint. I happily explained how the steins worked to a few employees and interested fellow patrons at each place. When I shared my belief that beer should be consumed at the temperature it comes off the tap, one of the bartenders nodded sagely and declared, “That’s why I work behind the bar, man.”