Firing Things Back Up

As I head back to California from the darkest wilds of Penn Yan, NY it is time to get balls rolling again. Won’t be an adventure report for a bit yet but it I should share the things that are coming back into stock:

665ml “Rugged” Style Steins of Science – I made some folks sad a couple months ago when I absolutely could not more of the rugged style dewars to build with. Well, I’ve got six more finally. Folks obviously figured this out with their psychic powers because I was going to say I had eight on hand except…*POOF*…now I have six.

750ml Death Wish Black Blood of the Earth – One of my first priorities after getting home is going to be getting some Death Wish BBotE back in the pipeline. There were some folks upset that they never got a shot at those first experimental bottles. Well, a few more are going up. Get ’em while you can, the last lot was gone within 30 minutes.

Happy news of Pimpery – Sometime in the next few weeks the Pimp of Madison and Pimpstress of NYC will receive their inaugural cases. The Pimpstress of PDX should receive resupply somewhere in there too. The Pimp of Santa Barbara is currently out but he would not be surprised if he got a jab in the ribs by the needy.

Herr Direktor Funranium, Reflected in the Voyager Record, Trusting In Science

Again, no tales of adventure here, but have a picture of yours truly reflected in the a copy of the record currently hurtling out of the solar system aboard Voyager. Every time I think of that record, I miss Carl Sagan.

Planting The Seeds Of DOMINATION

Machete/Wheelock Pistol Hybrid - Not A Sword-chuk

Knife/Wheelock Pistol Hybrid - Not A Sword-chuck (apologies to Brian Clevinger's 8-Bit Theater)

As a complete non-sequitur, let us begin with this: I want to applaud the brilliance that came up with this magnificent weapon. A German with an armament oriented dedication to More Awesome nearly 500 years ago created this beauty. When I saw it in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all I could think of was Fighter from Brian Clevinger’s webcomic 8-Bit Theater and his mastery of the deadliest of weapons, the Sword-chuck. I think I said that out loud at the Met and confused a docent.

In this round of the Scientific Drinking Tour 2011, my Lovely Assistant and I have taken it upon ourselves to gather together some interesting folks. We then did the most important thing we can do: feed them alcohol and let the talking begin. I like to think of this as a debauched and excessive salon-like event except, knowing my history like I do, that we will never hold a candle to the revels & extremity of pre-Revolution France. At least, not without getting arrested in modern America.

I have dubbed these gatherings the Shadowy Cabal For Global Domination (or SC4GD as Test Subject Scott dubbed them). Currently, DC/Baltimore and New York City chapters exist (oh, plus San Francisco but I can hardly help that) and I can only hope the folks that have brought together keep drinking, talking and thinking. Who knows what wonders may come out of them. At the very least, some new friends.

Just to give a feel for the expertise of the assembled NYC attendees, allow me to list them by field of expertise: economics, immigration law, PR, chemistry, freelance comic artist, physics. This is an impressive collection of skills fit to tackle damn near any topic. Admittedly, discussion was rather beer-centric as we sampled the fine wares of The Ginger Man in the wares of yours truly, a ginger man. As I recall, and things got hazy, other topics discussed were:

  • The robustness of certain camera lenses when dropped from various heights on hard surfaces. A conclusive declaration that a lens that can be reassembled and used with only minor problems after bouncing down a mountain was a Good Lens. No, I can’t remember the manufacturer.
  • When trying to make a new start in comics, possibly graphic arts in general, trying to dive into print has good nostalgia value…not necessarily the best business plan.
  • Black Blood of the Earth has allowed everyone, save the Economics Cabalist who has not yet partaken, to make great achievements. Cabalist Mr. Black declares that this is because caffeine allows the creative mind to focus and actually Do Something. We all need to meditate upon this wisdom further.

In other news, I have always been a proponent of learning new places by making it a point to urinate in different toilet each time, if practicable. I did it to learn all the buildings of Antarctica, all the accessible area of LLNL and the much greater task to get out of my normal science haunts at UC Berkeley.

NYC Main Library Reading Room

NYC Main Library Reading Room - Egon Says The PKE Readings Were Low

At the NYC Main Library, as made famous in Ghostbusters, their bathrooms are magnificent which makes their modern toilets seem all the more cheap and tawdry by comparison. I wasn’t expecting much out of the United Nations Headquarters, but peeing there completed one more step in my plans for global domination.

Last Minute Orders, & Further BBotE Experimentation

The past couple weeks have been rather exciting what with the travel and even more travel coming, with no sign of letting up. That said, I’ve had time to do a little bit of BBotE tinkering that I’d like to share with the collective.

Speaking of more travel, the next leg of Scientific Drinking Tour 2011 is coming up very soon, next week in fact. So, get your orders in by Friday at the latest so I can ship on Monday. After that, my Lovely Assistant and I will be on our way to the reclaimed malarial swamp that is our fair nation’s capital.

Herr Direktor Funranium, Growler & Stein In Hand at Silver Gulch Brewery

Herr Direktor Funranium, Growler & Stein In Hand at Silver Gulch Brewery

From the previous trip on the tour, Fairbanks AK, I give you the Silver Gulch Brewery, America’s northernmost legal brewery (I would be very surprised if there weren’t some small clandestine operations in Point Barrow). Pay no mind to the several miles of what looks like heavy equipment junkyard on the Richardson Highway as you drive from Fairbanks out to them, that’s just the scenic town of Fox. The beer was delicious, particularly the Epicenter Ale, so much so that I had to grab a growler to go for home enjoyment.

With regards to BBotE experimentation, I have begun tinkering with a new medium roast from a small farm in El Salvador. I have to say the flavor has been all over the map and, as always, everyone thinks my nose and tongue are broken. I swear the BBotE made from the Salvadoran has a grape Bubble Yum aroma to it. This got me strange stares as everyone else declared a salty, bacon-y aroma and flavor. On tasting, I agreed with the collective’s assessment, in so much as that I thought it was smoky. Except my smoky made me think of black powder smoke from a Civil War Re-enactment, something I’m quite fond of. In terms of mouthfeel, there was a strange sensation of a pat of flavor/butter sitting in the middle of the tongue, melting off to the sides and letting the whole tongue taste it.

No, that last sentence doesn’t make sense to me either. Describing flavor is hard.

In other news, my samples of Death Wish Coffee are now in process and I hope to have news on how they turned out by the end of the week. The guys at Death Wish have actively pursued one of my earliest questions: we know robusta strains are more hardy and higher caffeine content than arabica coffees, but taste awful. Have we tried to make good tasting robusta? I look forward to seeing the result.

Oh, some discussion with the folks at Caffe Vita seems to indicate that the Guatemala Mundo Nuvo will be returning. I have been lusting for this for nearly nine months now, as has everyone else I let taste the BBotE made from it. It will still be a limited run of BBotE, but there will be quite a bit more than last year. Probably will happen some time in late summer.

Buddies - A 665ml Shiny Brass & A Growler of Epicenter Ale

Buddies - A 665ml Shiny Brass & A Growler of Epicenter Ale

Right, with that, I should probably go play with x-rays again. I leave you with this picture of joy.


A Scheduling Observation

Sitting here in Fairbanks, AK on the latest leg of Scientific Drinking Tour 2011 while drinking a stein worth Silver Gulch Brewery‘s Epicenter Ale (took a growler home today), I realized that the next leg in DC and NY is going to be unhelpful to people looking for presents for Father’s Day. This year Father’s Day is on June19th and if you wanted to get a stein for day so he can drink his cares away in a properly cooled style or hep’d up on BBotE, you’ll need to order very soon to get it there in time.

We depart for DC on June 2nd, so all orders will need to be in by the June 1st to get orders in the mail to you. Possibly your father will be understanding about a late gift.

If so, your dad is more forgiving than mine. That’s why my vacation ends on the 18th…


United Airlines Business Class

Oh, International Business Class. Will I ever get to sit in you again?

Tickets are officially purchased for upcoming the May and June parts of the 2011 Scientific Drinking Tour plus a new addition in September! This is your opportunity to get direct hand off of either Steins of Science or BBotE while we’re on the road. They more detailed itinerary looks like this:

May 12th-17th: Fairbanks, AK

We will most definitely be going to the Silver Gulch Brewery in addition to My Lovely Assistant’s sister’s graduation from University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

June 2nd-8th: Washington, DC

Well, more properly staying in Arlington, VA but there will be much nerding about in our nation’s capital. A trip to the Confederacy’s capital might happen.

June 8th-14th: New York City, NY

Again, more properly we’ll be staying in Brooklyn but we’ll be all over the place. It is guaranteed that we will be going to the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. A trip to Brookhaven National Laboratory has been discussed. One of those nights at a location yet to be determined, there will be a meeting of the Shadowy Cabal For World Domination (NYC Chapter). I expect great things will happen around this table. At the very, least some Steins of Science will be hoisted with delicious beer.

June 14th-18th: Penn Yan, NY

Visiting My Lovely Assistant’s extended family in Finger Lakes. Oh yes, I am looking forward to the Mennonite beer. It is possible that we could be tempted to say hello to Rochester.

September 2nd-5th Portland, OR

PDXYAR succeeded in their Kickstarter project to build their boat/stage (AKA El Tiburon) which means we’ve got tickets to go to the Portland Pirate Festival. I’ll be danged if’n I ain’t going.

Fundamentals Q&A

“We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn’t we, Wang?” -Big Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Some interesting bits that have come my way asking very basic questions about why I do things the way I do. I often find questioning the basic assumptions and things so common that they’re invisible reveals interesting information.

Question 1: Why do you ship BBotE in glass bottles and risk them breaking? Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to do it in plastic? – Marie of Ypsilanti, MI

Answer 1: A better question might be “why don’t you ship it in bags like box wine?” The reason why is flavor. I use glass because it is inert; typical bottle plastic I’ve discovered leaches into the BBotE and shifts the flavor, nevermind the eww factor. The plastic bottles are also rather difficult to clean and reuse. Glass can be cleaned for a refill and honor accumulation, but the plastic is stained forever. I’d like to encourage reuse of the bottles, and plastic runs counter to that.

Stainless steel has potential, but the vessels only get cost effective such that they don’t eclipse the BBotE itself at ridiculous volumes. Despite two particularly vocal and repeated calls (Test Subjects Misha and Sangre) we are still a long way off from the Keg O’ Caffeination. The Jug O’ Madness, a mere 4L vessel permitting musical ambitions after you’ve finished off your BBotE, is in the works.

Question 2: Do the Steins of Science have to have the worm gears on the strapping? They look clunky. – Several people, but most recently Marten of Bethesda, MD

Answer 2: When you figure out a better method to securely attach a handle that doesn’t destroy the dewar and satisfies your desire for a less clunky appearance, please let me know. Don’t get me wrong, I see your point of view and have been looking in order to satisfy the delicate aesthetic sensibilities of others, though not very hard. “Why?” you might ask. Because I rather like the look as it is.

One of the reasons I know this style of mounting works for the handle is that it also works for securing dewars in place as condensors/cold traps for big and impressive distillation setups. The Steins of Science look close to how I’m used to seeing dewars in use out in the wild.

Before you say to me “I’ve never seen a dewar mounted like that in a lab” I would ask if you’ve seen one shatter when knocked off a bench? If no, then your lab has probably gotten lucky and never broken one yet, destroying the science in progress, and scaring the bejeezus out of your fellow researchers. The learning curve is seems to be pretty steep as it is an expensive mistake you don’t want to make more than once.

Question 3: Why are the the shields on the FMJ Steins of Science aluminum and not steel or copper? Copper is sweet and a one of those with a brass handle would be hardcore Steampunk. – Paul of Oakland, CA

Answer 3: The lazy answer is that’s they way they’re manufactured and the shield is epoxied onto the glass, couldn’t change it even if I wanted to. It’s the lazy answer because it doesn’t answer the actual WHY, which is a bit more tricky.

It comes down to a matter of a trade off between protecting the dewar flask, the glass bit with a vacuum inside the metal jacket, ease of manufacturing process, and the overall weight of the completed dewar. Aluminum is quite ductile, even at the 1/16 thickness of the “rugged” style dewar; it flexes and you can easily wrap it around the glass without too much effort. Go grab a piece of sheet steel and see how easily that works (be sure to wear gloves so you don’t slice yourself to ribbons in the process). Steel is also quite a bit denser than aluminum, increasing the overall dewar weight and making survival less likely when you drop a glass vessel.

NOTE: There are dewar vessels out there made entirely out of stainless steel. They tend to be the larger transport dewars as steel is easier to work with at this size. The little stainless steel guys, by which I mean 2L, cost an arm and a leg for one that could potentially be used for a drinking vessel. The 4L ones make fantastic lemonade transports for picnics though. I’m just saying.

Native Copper - It's a long way from being a penny

Native Copper - It's a long way from being a penny

Copper, on the other hand, is quite ductile and would work just fine in place of aluminum, but it has the drawbacks of high metals cost, high density and very noticeable corrosion. But I have to admit, Paul is right, a copper jacketed stein would look boss. Can’t actually change the jacket, but I might be able to electroplate it without screwing up the dewar. Discussions about doing this are in progress but actual results may not happen for many months.

Right, time to get down to the post office and send you people the things you desperately desire.


A New Coupon For Upcoming Adventure

Very soon Scientific Drinking Tour 2011 will be taking yours truly and his Lovely Assistant to around this fair nation of ours do places north of the Mason-Dixon line that we have never been. Yes, we freely admit that our mutual failure to go to the Smithsonian is simply unacceptable and we aim to remedy that.

It is not, however, free and my MacArthur Genius Grant has somehow not arrived yet.

In the interest of defraying the cost of our trip to the Capital Wasteland, along with Fairbanks, AK and NYC, a new 10% off coupon code has been created! From now until May 31st, type “JOHNHENRYEDEN” when checking out and reap the rewards that will have us knee deep in Science and Adventure.

And oh yes, there shall be tales of Adventure. Have no doubt.

Playa Grade & Rugged Steins Of Science

665ml Rugged Style FMJ Stein of Science

665ml Rugged Style FMJ Stein of Science, with standard reference soda

So, I think I’ve taken the hint that you guys like the silicone sheathed dewars for your steins based upon my inability to maintain any stock of them. The reason I bring this up is because I normally quote a three week production window on the steins from the time of order until it ships. Typically, turn-around time runs much faster, usually within 72hrs…but not so for the Rugged 665ml FMJ & Playa Grade. Some terrible, bad, no good, unknown thing happened in January (based upon my Frustration Angry STABSTABSTAB Tracking Chart) that has the slowed the supply chain on these style of dewars to a trickle. I’ve managed to get roughly two of them a month and they go out the door again as quick as they arrive, leaving folks grumpy. So, if you are interested in claiming one of these Steins of Science I’ve got two recommendations for you:

  1. Go check the Steins Available RIGHT NOW to see if I actually have any on hand. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t any listed (which is part of why I’m making this announcement).
  2. If you really, really want one, drop me a line to call dibs. Better yet, place an order, be patient, and I’ll keep you informed what the supply chain is looking like. If I’m feeling particularly guilty about how long things are taking there is a fair to middling chance I’ll apologize in the form of BBotE.

If you’re ordering a gift for a birthday, Mother or Father’s Day, upcoming BBQ season, Coachella*, Burning Man, etc. and want one of these, don’t dawdle. I have high hopes the supply spigot will open up, but I have to prepare as if it won’t and let you folks know appropriately.

*:Actually, for Coachella, you’re already too late I reckon.

Spambot(?) Q&A

As an increasingly infamous denizen of the Internet, I am forced to reckon with the potent evolving AIs that want to give me formidable never-ending erections for the Russian girls that want to talk just to me. Our robot overlords only want what’s best for Herr Direktor Funranium, obviously.

Charles Stross had a very good discussion about the Spamularity. I spend at least 15 minutes a day obliterating the chaff coming at Funranium Labs and the Contact Us link and not all of it is easy to dismiss. In this Q&A, I am answering those questions that are sufficiently strange in content but well enough written that I’m pretty sure that they weren’t generated by bots. I will not, however, rule out the possibility that the bots have sufficiently evolved that they can appreciate my beard.

Question 1: Your beard is neat looking. What kind of a razor do you use to get it like that?

Answer 1: What? Are you sure you aren’t a Gillette bot? Most of the time, I use a set of Wahl clippers to beat the hedge back. Having Type 2 red hair, however, my stubble goes to 40 grit sandpaper within hours of shaving. Some days I need to be presentable to strangers that have higher standards of civility than my normal relaxed Warren Ellis quote offensive t-shirt and wild eyed hypercaffeinated stare. When that is needed, or I need to don a full face respirator, I have this antique Gillette safety razor I picked up shortly after returning from Antarctica. Note the tasteful brass of the razor and regal purple felt cushioning of the box:

The 1911 Gillette Safety Razor

The 1911 Gillette Safety Razor

Question 2: These steins are really beautiful. Would they work well on Kilimanjaro or other African volcanoes?

Answer 2: I am almost certain you are a sophisticated bot that synthesized from several previous posts. Bravo for this feat of content recognition.

More seriously, the dewars are rather robust from an air pressure sensitivity point of view. You may feel free to eject them from the airlock of Discovery if you like and they won’t pop. Send them to the bottom of Challenger Deep and they’ll probably crush under the pressure, but I doubt you’ll be doing any beer drinking aboard ALVIN anyway.

If you are a Woods Hole Oceanic Institute employee and going to do drinking aboard ALVIN, notify me at once to receive your Stein of Science. No, I am not kidding, all I demand is pictures.

Question 3: Would you go to other zeppelin hangars and review them for us? I like your style.

Answer 3: In a heartbeat. I’ve actually gotten a lot of positive feedback, mostly of a despairing nature, about my field trip to NASA Ames Research Center. Not a lot of then left, sadly, and they are scattered to the winds around the world. On a positive note, I’ve gotten some destinations to visit on future Scientific Drinking Tours. The likely next one will be the Tillamook Air Museum, and it comes with CHEESE!

Incidentally, if any of you around out there have actually been to the other sites, particularly the one in Brazil, I’d love to hear about them.

Attacking Befuddled Travelers With Kindness & Stein Tragedy

Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of picking up Test Subjects Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, and Scott Wegener’s Beard from San Francisco International Airport.  Both of them had just completed an arduous journey through several of this nation’s finest and most delayed airports. My Lovely Assistant and I felt it appropriate to greet them on arrival with a bottle of BBotE and a bottle of St. George Single Malt Whiskey, to help with the creative process if you will. Also, in a matter of pure happenstance, I parked next to Tesla roadster and it was still waiting for them in the garage when we got back out to car.

If they were crestfallen that the Tesla wasn’t specifically put there for their use, they hid their disappointment well.

It was a pleasure to walk their bleary-eyed, starving, travel corpses over to my favorite restaurant in Chinatown, give them a strange wandering history of San Francisco/California from the pre-Colombian period through John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble In Little China”. I took special care to make sure the Wing Kong didn’t get them and pointed out the supreme difficulty Big Jack Burton would have had in getting the Pork Chop Express anywhere around Grant St.

The following day, they gave a talk to the Academy of Art 2nd Annual Comic Symposium about how to insert robots into any idea you can find. This is known as the Team Robo Method(TM). I am sorry I had to miss it but I had a minor bit of crazy preparing for a trip to Las Vegas to hand  have deliver Stein #200 to Steinwielder & Test Subject Zitron and celebrate my Lovely Assistant’s birthday.

More seriously, I have had the pleasure of reading Atomic Robo since it was a brainworm that would not leave Brian Clevinger’s head. I have yet to meet someone that I’ve introduced to Atomic Robo that hasn’t ended up both adoring the story and laughing at the jokes. I still swear it is amazing the amount of emotion Scott Wegener’s gotten Robo’s almost featureless face conveys. And boy howdy do I have a deal for you, you can read the first issue for free online at Comixology. As they say, want some, get some! Besides, the more comics they sell the more likely I get to see them all again and I’m keen on that. Consider this a continuation of my Shameless Whorebaggery on Behalf of Others from last week.

Right before leaving for Vegas, a package arrived for me. I might have cackled with delight. Dr. Dinosaur is dear to my heart because, as my Lovely Assistant has said, I am prone to feats of broken logic that do a supergenius ‘raptor proud (and I have finger wriggles of anticipation at getting even more Dr. Dinosaur in the coming Free Comic Book Day, if rumor is to be believed). Now that I have both Atomic Robo and Dr. Dinosaur statuettes, I was able to let the duel begin as they chose their respective seconds:

Yes, I still play with dolls. DON'T JUDGE ME!

Atomic Robo & Stein of Science vs. Dr. Dinosaur & BBotE: FIGHT!

The heartbreaking aftermath of this otherwise awesome photo is that the cats of Funranium Labs were feeling very, very, VERY unloved in the wake of 36 hours worth of food ape-less kitty eternities. An episode of cat crazy demolition derby sent them crashing into the stand where the stein was mere minutes after this picture was taken. Therefor, there is now a new cat-damaged stein in the Prototypes & Clearance section, dagnabit.