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.

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.

More Volcano & Coffee Contemplation

As mentioned in the previous post, I fled the mainland for a week to escape Super Bowl madness in the SF Bay Area to the lovely Big Island of Hawaii. As my Lovely Assistant had never been to that island before, we split our time between Hilo and Kailua so she could experience both sides. Given my druthers, I will happily spend any and all time possible in Hilo. It reminds me of Santa Cruz, CA before the 1989 Loma Prieta quake forced the urban renewal that stomped the a lot of the kindness out of the town too. To be fair, I haven’t crunched a syringe underfoot in well over a decade in downtown Santa Cruz but then my desire to go wander around downtown for fun is gone too.

As I read back over this, that’s probably not be the tourism recommendation the Hilo Chamber of Commerce is looking for. It’s a quiet and beautiful town that hasn’t been destroyed by a tsunami in well over 50 years, so high fives. No really, they changed their urban planning in the 1960s to create a flood plain for typical tsunamis (yes, Hawaii gets enough to have “typical” ones) to exhaust themselves in a serene park. To be fair, that park used to be a fishing village separate from Hilo proper, but after the second time you get wiped out within a generation you start reconsidering your real estate development options.

Years ago, I mentioned that I did work as an undergrad that involved pulverizing a lot of volcanic rocks. To be more specific, I was doing isotope geochemistry on volcanic rocks trying to answer an important geological question: Does what goes down come back up? TL;DR answer is yes, but it’s complicated. if you’d like to know more you’re welcome to read this paper, which became someone else’s PhD outlined by my undergrad thesis, that resulted from me playing with a lot powerful acids and reducing rocks to tiny samples that I then vaporized on a mass spectrometer. Trust me, this is actually relevant to coffee.

That fundamental question was tested by looking for something that had a very distinct isotopic mix, subducting under another plate, with a resulting volcanic arc. If you take the Pacific Ocean, away you can see the chain of dead volcanoes extending  across the plate from the vicinity of Midway all the way to Izu-Bonin volcanic arc. These are big mountains, the kind that are large enough to deform the oceanic crust around them, which makes big troughs on either side that collect sediments, which are mostly landslides from the seamounts and chert from dead abyssal plankton. The Western Seamounts basalt, when mixed with the chert, makes a quite particular isotopic profile that, funny enough, isotopically looks an awful lot like the volcanic island directly above the where they subduct, AKA the island of Guam. As you move north or south from Guam, that isotopic signal fades away.

Which lead me to an odd thought: hey, Guam is in the Coffee Belt and has the right volcanic soil, I wonder if 100% Guamian coffee tastes close to Kona coffee? The mode of volcanism is different but the chemistry is similar. Or, at the very least, I could answer the question of what would coffee grown on the slopes of the submerged mountains I did my thesis on; Guam is as close as I can get. This, unfortunately, is an academic question as Guamian coffee appears to damn near impossible to get outside of Guam as pure varietal as there is very little under cultivation there anymore.

Speaking of Kona coffee, I drank a great deal of it. I also made a point to sample as much Ka’u, Puna, Hilo and Hamakua coffee as I could get my hands on just to compare the very different flavors from what is, more or less, very similar volcanic soils. In particular, I would like to give appreciation to the work of Hilo Shark’s Coffee, which you can hang out at for hours in downtown Hilo. Their coffee, chocolate, and vanilla is coming from their farm on the Hilo coast up the road a bit. When you order a hot chocolate and the whipped cream is sprinkled with nibs rather than dusted with cocoa powder, that’s a damn good sign. The small bar I bought is some of the best bittersweet dark chocolate I’ve had. While sitting savoring our coffee and cocoa, I remarked to my Lovely Assistant that if they had a tea plantation I might have a hard time getting her to leave. She immediately began searching and found one a few miles away from the Sharky Farm so, umm, if Hilo needs a PhD chemist who’s a also decent programmer I think you’ll have little difficulty convincing her to move there.

WELCOME TO THE WAIPIO VALLEY OUTLOOK - Please look, but don't touch or enter

WELCOME TO THE WAIPIO VALLEY OUTLOOK – Please look, but don’t touch or enter

There was one unfortunate thing that happened while there which was a fresh outbreak of dengue fever. The Waipio Valley is beautiful but difficult to get to at the best of times, which also makes treatment for re-eradication of disease difficult. Unfortunately, sick visitors and workers regularly bring dengue back to Hawaii and it sets up residence to make a disease reservoir anew in Waipio. I was ambivalent about finding this sign: while I’m glad this sign exists for me to take a picture of for my collection of interesting safety signs, it’s telling that it happens enough that they have this sign ready to go. As a friend who is now responding to this outbreak said, “It could be worse. They didn’t just leave the sign up at the overlook and add an extra sign & lights of WHEN LIGHTS ARE FLASHING.”

The Waipio Valley in its lush and drizzly glory

The Waipio Valley in its lush and drizzly glory

But that doesn’t do justice to Waipio. Really, it is gorgeous there. I’ll leave you today with this picture from the overlook.

Apologies For The Weird Production Windows

The production window closing on January 23rd, which was a long one due to CES 2016, has pretty much sold out and shipped. The next production window will be completely open on Saturday (some slots are already up) but its going to be a short window ending on February 2nd.  “Why?” you might ask. Because my Lovely Assistant and I will be heading to the Big Island of Hawaii for a week to get the hell out of the SF Bay Area during the Super Bowl. I hope everyone enjoys the game and general festivities but, honestly, the getting around here is bad enough at the best of times. Adding a couple hundred thousand extra people means it’s time for me to be elsewhere.

As has been previously discussed here, I love me some volcanoes and doing isotope geochemistry on their rocks has informed some of my coffee palate. As my other convenient volcanoes require serious snow and winter gear at the moment,  Hawaii is the name of the game. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve been there so I’m excited to see if my golden, transcendent memories of drinking all the coffee at the Kona Pacific Coffee Co-op hold true or it was all just a dream.

So, get you orders in now for the short pre-Hawaii tip production window. The window after that will go until February 27th. Sorry for the weird production windows to start 2016 but the holidays and travel have made things tricky.

As a slice of life from bartending at my friend’s hospitality suite for the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, by far the weirdest moment was helping another friend, Fr. Gabriel, say mass. You see, the EZPR Suite is the happiest place in Las Vegas during CES as it has a well stocked bar, run by me, and a collection of wonderful people to hang out with, which happens to include a Dominican priest. Travel was badly messed up for everyone coming into Vegas so Fr. Gabriel got in painfully late and missed getting to mass at the cathedral. Its helpful to think of priests and monks as dedicated computers that run a very particular program, mass.exe, and it must be executed at least once per day; doesn’t need to be done in a church proper, doesn’t need a lot of people, but the program must be run.

It's sacrilicious!

Fr. Gabriel’s INSTANT ALTAR! Just add wine.

To this end, Fr. Gabriel has a Portable Altar which looks REMARKABLY SIMILAR to my 1960s portable bar from Executair. He was just going to use a closet in the suite, but I had the bright idea that there’s a bunch of wedding chapels in the hotel, usually unused, and maybe they’d be willing to let him use it as a quiet space. As happens a lot in my company, we got told “That’s a new one on me”, “I thought I’d heard everything”, and “No one’s ever asked that one before” a lot.

Please imagine, if you will, a fully decked out Dominican priest saying mass to himself, functioning as celebrant and congregation all in one, with an altar in miniature in the alcove of a casino chapel where they normally put the flowers and gifts. Please also imagine me, a long hair bearded ginger in shorts and Fallout t-shirt, elsewhere in the chapel trying to arrange refrigerator repair by phone at the same time. If there wasn’t a bunch of people gathered around the security monitors asking “What the fuck is going on here?” I’d be very surprised.

BBotE And Steins For The Last Minute Crowd

Really, raccoon stealing radioactive stuff. I'm not kidding.

IMPORTANT HOLIDAY RACCOON WARNING – Well, not really. This was to keep them from stealing radioactive stuff.

So, the shame of not having even started holiday shopping is setting in and it’s getting to the point where glasses of egg nog that are mostly bourbon isn’t blunting that feeling is it? Trust me, I feel your pain as I’ve been spending a lot of my time making BBotE and Steins of Science for the past several weeks. A late Thanksgiving this year compressed an already all too short production/shopping window and I’m feeling it. Judging by emails that are along the lines of “OMGWTFNWOHAARPISIS WHY CAN’T I ORDER ANYTHING ON YOUR SITE, WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM, IS THIS A CONSPIRACY?!?!?” other folks have picked up on this too.

Yes, all of the production slots for the window ending December 15th are gone. This is the sad truth.

I am going to open a small and short production window that will close December 23rd (some are already up, and more will open as I clear the backlog approaching the 15th). I will do my best to get everything ordered in this window out the door as fast as possible so that there’s a hope that you can give it as a Christmas gift but, well, 12L/day remains my maximum output. In light of all the calamities that can befall the US Postal Sevice, I can’t guarantee that your BBotE will make it to you in time, particularly if you’re outside of the United States. If you’re worried and really need to get your order ASAP in the US, drop me a line to plead your case for shuffling the order queue, and bite the bullet to pay for express shipping. I’ll see what I can do.

Speaking of overseas, specifically London, I do have the good news to give that your long dormant BBotE Ambassador, Justin, should see resupply by the end of the week, customs permitting. Feel free to drop him a line by email, jfedouloff [at] gmail [dot] com, if you’d like a piece of that.

Worse come to worse, I do have the option of gift certificates for you. Giving a coupon code is perhaps a little less exciting than a bottle of black ichor or shiny scientific hardware for drinking, but it’s better than nothing. Consulting with my sister, she recommends using glitter pens to jazz that code up when writing it in a tastefully irreverent card, but she is a inveterate glitterfiend and suggests that for most everything.

As for Steins of Science and the Stein #666 special offer, well, it’s quite close. The current inventory on hand can be found here if you’d like to get a piece of that action.

The Decembering 2015 Is At Hand!

As my Birthdaytide Fortnight draws to a close and Berkeley’s holiday lights go up in the trees, I must acknowledge what is coming and say the words that must be said.

It was only -38F that day. It's a dry cold.

My Ceremonial South Pole Hero Shot & Xmas Card 2002

The BBotE production window that closes December 1st is now up. This window is a little longer than normal because Thanksgiving is in there and I expect at least one day of turkey & pie coma.

The last pre-Xmas BBotE production window will close on December 15th. All things being equal, domestic or international, everything shipped by the 15th 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 15th, but I make absolutely no guarantees about shipments in that window arriving before Xmas. Express mail gets more and more necessary in the last days. I’ll do my best, but that’s all I can do.

As far as steins go, I have a another 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, Stein #666 hasn’t been claimed yet and there is a pretty sweet deal for who ever that lucky soul is who buys it. The current count is in the 650s, so it won’t be long now.

To reiterate shopping advice from the previous years, 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 18th 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. Amazingly, shipments to Korea and Okinawa seem to arrive faster than they do to other places on the west coast. Go figure. 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 at UCSC, this does not permit me to sanctify food.  Sorry.
  12. REALLY, I’m not kidding and never have been, 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 saying, dude, it’s big.

Yet Another Q&A

Oddly, there’s been another surge of questions lately that have come in often enough that I reckon I should tackle them for the benefit of everyone:

Scott Wegener has perfectly captured me at work

Scott Wegener has perfectly captured me at work

Question 1: “Holy crap, you’re Atomic Robo’s Phil!” – Vernon, Goleta, CA

Okay, that’s not a question but with the current story arc of Atomic Robo, Volume 10: The Ring of Fire, there’s been a hell of a lot of people that seem to have made the connection in their head finally. Yes, that is my ugly mug which Scott Wegener has adapted for the comic page. I also get the pleasure of bullshitting with them about science as the Science/Weirdness Consultant. This mainly consists of sending Brian Clevinger this picture all day long. I could probably set up a macro to do this, but I like the personal touch.

Question 2: “What the fuck is with the $5 shipping & handling charge? It’s bad enough I’m paying shipping without that shit. This coffee better be fucking gold!” – Mario M., Staten Island, NY

I specifically chose Mario’s version of this question because he was clearly the most irate & profane of them; the one that tempted me to just refund his money and add his email to the block list. PROTIP: abusing people while asking a question does not make them more inclined to answer your question.

The shipping and handling is the price you’re paying to get the packaging that will get your item to you in one piece and worth consuming, with a side order of my time playing shipping department. Now, you may ask “Why do I pay this again even on refills when I’m sending it back to you in the original shipper?” That is something that I realized was unfair a while back, which is why the refill discount got cranked up from 10% to 20%.

The next question is somewhat related.

Question 3“Can you sell this through Amazon or some local storefront so I don’t have to pay shipping?” – Amanda K., New York, NY

I understand the desire to pay as little as possible for the thing that isn’t the product itself and there’s a heck of a lot of people that have asked some variation on this question. The short answer is no, though if you’re lucky enough to live in a city in the US with a BBotE Ambassador there you can effectively get it without shipping costs.

The longer version is that Amazon’s supplier relations business model isn’t all that friendly to small producers and their shipping model is based on an economy of scale you have to be Amazon sized to compete with. I, thankfully, am not competing with them but they’ve trained a generation accustomed to a marketplace that provides them with their heart’s desire with one click, overnight, and no shipping costs. You’d think that all this shipping would be saving the USPS’ keister except that economy of scale bit has driven down the margins on postage to the point that it barely covers the wear and tear on the post office’s trucks. Amazon drives a hard bargain in several senses.

And, yes, BBotE has to ship at least at priority mail speeds for domestic orders. Any slower than that, and my faith in it getting to you in a timely manner is weak.

Question 4: “The postal service sucks in around here. Why can’t you ship FedEx?” – John P., State College, PA

You won’t find FedEx as shipping option because, hoo nelly, for all the people that don’t like the price of USPS priority mail you get to pay at least double for the pleasure of FedEx. You also won’t see UPS as a shipping option on the website ever as I have beef with them as a mere recipient of packages, much less trying to ship things with them.

One of those statistics I hear bandied about and I’m inclined to view with a certain level of skepticism is that 3% of packages and letters that go through USPS are lost, damaged or undeliverable. Based on my own five years of heavy shipping experience, their failure rate before implementing their tracking on priority mail was somewhere closer to .4% of my shipments. For the last year and change, my postal problems have mainly been related to people not filling out their address completely/correctly.

Now, that’s strictly domestic mail. Oz Post and I are getting along well as of late. But Parcelforce in Great Britain and Chronoforce in France, oh man, I assume UPS will find a way to merge with those firms to vanish into singularity of abhorrent customer service and incompetence. Really, I have no idea how any package successfully gets anywhere in England and consider it a minor miracle when it happens.

Question 5: “Can you teach me how to make BBotE at home for myself? I promise that this isn’t for sale or profit.” – Matt K., Menlo Park, CA

No, but I welcome you to read the original BBotE posts, glean what information you can and start experimenting. That’s been the most fun part about all of this for me and I wouldn’t want to deprive you of it. If you want my process without the years of effort that went into it for all the various different coffees, well, you’re effectively asking to buy me out of the business and that ain’t gonna come cheap. As the great sage Homer Simpson once said, “Money is exchanged for goods and services.”

Question 6: “Have you considered using your BBotE process on something else, like tea?” – Mike N., Cottonwood, AZ

I get asked this question a lot and had previously answered it here. The TL;DR version is: the pharmacopoeia of “tea” is complex and there sure are a lot different teas in the world.

That said, I did do an experiment a couple weeks back with cascara, AKA the dried coffee cherry or “Bolivian Army Coffee”, from the amusingly named Klatch Coffee just to see what I could see. I was, in short, quite impressed with the result.

The coffee cherry fruit actually has more caffeine in it than the coffee beans do, though the resulting cascara tea that you make typically only results in a drink with about quarter to half the caffeine of a comparably sized cup of coffee. I can’t really call what resulted from putting cascara through my normal processing a Black Blood of the Earth (for one thing it isn’t as dark as the tar entity for ST:TNG) but I like the result. It’s incredibly sweet to me, as if I’d added honey to it or somehow managed to make drinkable raisins with a hint of mint & cherry. Reminded me a lot of Moroccan high tea, minus an entire jar of sugar cubes. It’s quite peppy and I seem to have gotten the caffeine out of the fruit quite nicely.

I’m doing longevity tests on it now. If it works out, I may make it available now and then in the store. Still need to figure out what I’m going to call it though.