Nevada Test Site Cocktails

These both come to me from retiree workers at the Nevada Test Site who were there when we were still “stamping our feet”.  Some vocabulary review is necessary:

Mercury, NV was the ghost town inside the Nevada Test Site that was taken over by DOE and the military. It’s about as nice as you could imagine a pre-1950s middle of nowhere desert town subsequently attacked by military aesthetics and architecture to be. These days, with staffing levels dramatically reduced, it’s effectively a ghost town again.

A “shot”, in Atomic Energy Commission/Department of Defense/Department of Energy parlance, refers to a nuclear test, as opposed to NASA where this refers to a vehicle launch.

The Nevada Test Site was formerly known as the Nevada Proving Grounds.

The Proving Grounds Test Shot
1 part whatever juice mix (usually military Bug Juice) or soda type item the Mercury commissary has available
1 part spectroscopic grade (99.999%) ethanol
Mix with ice, if available, in a large container, serve in shotglasses stolen from a Vegas casino or commissary coffee cups (whichever is handy)

Safety recommendation: DO NOT serve in Dixie cups.  The wax melts in the heat and dissolves with alcohol that strong.

Frenchman’s Flat Martini (be sure to bring ingredients in a cooler)
4 parts gin
1 part dry vermouth
Crush desert sage and drop leaves into the drink
Mix with ice in a shaker, serve in a martini glass in the presence of a nuclear device to be detonated within the next 24 hours.

Etiquette Recommendation:
The device is a member of the team as well.  Team members should toast the device by clinking their glass against it.

Safety Recommendation:
DO NOT drink from that side of the glass.
DO NOT use desert sage collected within the Nevada Test Site.

Impending Service Interruption

HLARF!

Perhaps the only thing the Lovely Assistant wants less than writing her dissertation.

BBotE and Stein of Science production has been ticking along nicely while I try to stay out of the Lovely Assistant’s way as her PhD draws to a close. There are few states more delicate than someone in the home stretch of their dissertation and thus are desperate to do anything that isn’t that. If there is one thing more distracting than the cats, the internet, cats on the internet, and herself, it’s me. I’ve been over here in the corner quietly making coffee, drinking beer, and playing with uranium. Don’t mind me.

But in late May you all should be aware that there will be a three week BBotE and stein drought when Cross-Country Road Trip 2014 takes place. The final pre-order slots before vacation will close on May 21st and then there will nothing until production resumes on June 15th. In that last window before departure, I will try to make as much BBotE as I possibly can so that I don’t leave anyone high and dry; in fact, feel free to place an order now with “delay shipment until mid-May” if you like. I will permit ordering while I am slowly driving my way back to California, but the coffee engines will obviously be idle while I’m away, so nothing can ship until I get back.

“WHY ARE YOU DRIVING ACROSS AMERICA AND SPENDING THREE WEEKS NOT MAKING ME ULTRACOFFEE!!!?!?!?” you might ask. Well, the short answer is that it isn’t entirely a trip of pleasure. I’m wrapping up the last of my dad’s affairs after his unexpected passing last October and that means a trip to the mountains of South Carolina. Keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter (more likely) for my usual blithering streams of words, pictures and nerdery. I expect to be drinking a great deal of beer from across our fair land in my stein…at least, in the counties and parishes that aren’t dry.

Really, c’mon people. The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition a long time ago. I know many of your counties and municipalities got into the Prohibition movement decades before the 18th Amendment passed, but it’s time to move on and explore how well you can ferment your local agriculture.

You have been warned.

Cocktail Challenge: The Water of Life

As regular visitors to the blog side of Funranium Labs and my long suffering friends know, I am a fan of the works of Frank Herbert, particularly his Dune series. When other people were diving into fantasy as children with C.S. Lewis and Tolkein, I was reading up on the rise of Islam, pre-Islamic polytheism in Arabia, the Umayyad Caliphate, and geologic terms I needed to even try to get a grounding on all the things Dune was throwing at me. Trust me, this is relevant.

EXHIBIT 1: Jen's birthday cake top.

EXHIBIT 1: Jen’s birthday cake.

This weekend is my friend Jen’s birthday. Jen has hit that very special stage in life where she has looked around and said, “Fuck you world, I am having the birthday party I always wanted when I was 12, except now there will be booze too.” I applaud this moment where a person realizes her dreams and also realizes she has both the means and the skills to make them a reality. You see, Jen really, really, REALLY likes Robocop. As evidence, I submit to you her birthday cake top. For her birthday party, Jen will also have a tastefully arranged exhibit of items that anybody may take, provided they pay her back for for each item. This art installation will be called “Things I Have Bought For A Dollar“.

And then a conversation happened. This is how these things start.

Me: If I were to do your Robocop birthday, but for me, everyone would need stillsuits. Because Dune.
Me: It would be a pub crawl without rhythm.
Me: I may need to create a series of Dune related cocktails.
Jen: Plz call one the Water of Life
Jen: Plz also call one Relcaimed Water, and make it with Pocari Sweat
Me: The problem Jen, and there is one, is that the Water of Life practically invites me to use blue curacao.
Jen: Why is that a problem? That is not a problem.
Me: I will have to work hard to mute the orange flavor.
Jen: Oh. Well. It is the Water of Life. Ain’t it supposed to be tangy?
Me: And cause the Agony.
Me: I’m gonna go make this RIGHT NOW.
Jen: oh no. Phil. I care about you, man. plz don’t do that.
Me: TOO LATE

Exhibit 2: The Water of Life - assembling the ingredients

Exhibit 2: The Water of Life – assembling the ingredients

And that’s how this cocktail happened. First, the line up of ingredients that spoke to me as all of these should be in the Water of Life. One of the things that Frank Herbert harps on in Dune is that the spice melange tastes different every time you taste it. That as you have changed in the flow of your life, so too does the flavor of spice. This demands a wide variety of herbal flavors, the alcoholic equivalent of throwing your entire spice rack in a glass. Luckily, I have just the things for that. Also, the end product has to be blue.

Exhibit 3: The Water of Life

Exhibit 3: The Water of Life

My mix was as follows, stirred with ice:

1 part Botanivore Gin
1 part St. George Spirits Absinthe
1 part Canton ginger liqueur
1 part green Chartreuse
1.5 parts cinnamon schnapps
1.5 parts blue curacao

I chose the ingredients I did to give the greatest chance of an incredibly complex and evolving flavor, particularly the Botanivor gin and absinthe from St. George Spirits and chartreuse. The cinnamon schnapps is there as Herbert is always quite clear that the primary flavor of melange is cinnamon. I was unable to add BBotE because that would screw up the color. Also, it was 11:30pm when I did this.

The Lovely Assistant’s official review: “This is not nearly as horrifying as I thought it would be looking at the bottles you lined up. You have no right as a bartender to make all those things taste acceptable together.”

Please note that “acceptable” is a far cry from “good”, but it is nowhere even remotely close to the worst cocktails I’ve had/made. On the 1 to 10 scale, it’s probably a 6; an amusing stunt drink, but not one that I would drink regularly and I have no idea what food I’d eat with it. The cinnamon schnapps and blue curacao conspire to make it cloyingly sweet at times. The really bizarre thing was I had succeeded in making the eternally changing flavor. The palate is looooooong. Sometimes it started with anise, sometimes cinnamon, sometimes juniper, sometimes sage and then it kept changing on the tongue. Perhaps this is because taste buds or brain cells were dying one by one.

Really, this is all just an elaborate excuse to get you all to listen to the the Dune Prologue/Main Title Theme by TOTO.

Dunecember and Indianapolis

First and foremost, I am pleased to announce the new BBotE Ambassador to Indianapolis, Jeremy! And I don’t want to hear people on the coasts complaining about BBotE heading to the Flyover states rather than them. You don’t even know the MIGHTY NEED of the heartland for caffeine; what they lack in population, they make up with enthusiasm.

Jeremy is a brave soul that subjected himself to experimentation to see if BBotE would destroy him, as there were Fuckbrain(TM) medication considerations and the delicate stomach they’d had given him, for he wanted coffee back in his life so badly. I am happy to say that he survived The Harrowing and emerged on the other side faster, harder, and stronger…and as an Ambassador. So, feel free to drop Jeremy a line, IndyBBotE [at] gmail [dot] com. He is stocked with 750ml bottles for your drinking pleasure.

In other news, all of the December 18th pre-order window BBotE shipments are on their way along with all the Steins of Science ordered as of yesterday. New pre-order slots ending January 4th go up today, though any orders placed at this point have only a slim chance of being shipped and arriving before Christmas. There seems to be a bit of confusion as to how pre-order slots work, and it makes me sad that may have torpedoed some folks’ cunning Xmas present plans, so allow me to reiterate:

I can only generate so much BBotE in a given time period. I parcel that production in to pre-order slots to make sure that I can make everything people want and ship it out by the end or that window. Your pre-orders tell me what you would like that production in that window to be. The longer you wait in an pre-order window, the fewer slots that remain as time and other people claim them.

In order to keep myself sane through what, frankly, is a ridiculous level of production over the last several weeks, during brief downtime I have been reading Frank Herbert’s Dune again. I first read this book in the third grade and finished the series quickly, as I did the weird leap from Golden Books and Dr. Seuss to Dune without any intermediary steps. A younger me made it a point to read that entire series, along with all the Hitchhiker’s Guide books, every year and every time I found something new, something else Herbert had hidden in there. Eight year old me found his hero, what I wanted to be, hiding in the chapter headings blurbs of Dune: Pardot Kynes, not Liet, the Imperial planetologist, a character that doesn’t actually appear in the books.

Sometime around when I started working at LLNL back in 2004, I fell off the Dune wagon. The free time to read became scant. But this year, I have collected enough people that had never read Dune, or never gotten beyond the first book, or hadn’t read it in decades that I was willing to shepherd to them and crack the books open again for the first time in a decade. My first and most important observation: the older I get, the more I identify with Duke Leto but Pardot Kynes still holds my heart.

So, as my holiday wish for all who read this, pick up Dune again. In fact, pick up Dune Messiah and Children of Dune too, as the three are meant to be read as a set. It’s intricate, dense, slow read but well worth it. It’s like the puzzle boxes from Hellraiser; Herbert and his wife Beverly (who contributed at least as much to these stories as him) have such sights to show you and you see more every time.

The Decembering 2013 & A Worrisome Cigar Box

Alright, the December 14th pre-order slots are now up. There’s a slightly longer window this time than normal because of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US. I’ll be out of town for a bit engaging in conspicuous consumption of turkey and fine drink, so there’ll be a while when the coffee engines are wound down before the December BBotE begins flowing out in quantity.

As far as steins go, I have a rather large shipment of dewars slated to show up right before Thanksgiving. The number of “steins on hand” should dramatically increase, so keep any eye out there.

Your full holiday purchasing advice for this year can be found in the previous postI do regret to inform you that one of of the BBotE varieties will soon disappear from the selections. Caffe Vita’s Guatemala Nueva Vinas is now done for the season and hopefully will return sometime around next May 2014. I have a still small supply on hand, but as soon as it’s gone, it’s gone.

Now, on to the wonderful worlds of radiation and history.

Two weeks ago, I got to go take a tour of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s “Old Town”, AKA the few remaining buildings that still date back to WWII, as they are preparing to demolish them. Space is at a premium up in the mostly vertical space of LBL, these buildings have seen better days and science needs those scant square feet back to do research again.

Lovely boxeses, but what does it keeps in them, Precious?

Alhambra Casino Cigar Box – Lovely boxeses, but what does it keeps in them, Precious?

The day before we showed up, they had found an Alhambra Casinos cigar box in one of the Old Town buildings. To most people, a cigar box is a curio box, filled with your odd great aunt’s odds and ends from decades back when her first husband smoked a cigar a day after work. To people in my line of work, specifically those of us that have had any time in the nuclear weapons complex or former Manhattan Project sites, a cigar box is a moment for sphincter clenching, reach for the gloves, respirator, radiation meter, and everything needed to secure and dispose of this box as the likely radioactive hazardous waste that it is.

WHY do we react this way? Because Alhambra Casinos were Glenn T. Seaborg’s favorite brand of cigar. In addition to collecting titles as the head of

Box Interior. Note reads "VERY VALUABLE SAMPLE. Do Not Disturb in any way! Sample-J G. T. Seaborg"

Box Interior. Note reads “VERY VALUABLE SAMPLE. Do Not Disturb in any way! Sample-J G. T. Seaborg”

commissions, agencies, departments, and universities like they were Pokemon, Glenn also collected souvenirs of all the places he’d gone, the projects he participated on, and the discoveries made. When you keep in mind that this is the man who rode on a train with the sole sample of plutonium in the world in his possession, his souvenirs get a bit interesting. And what did he always stick them into? One of the ubiquitous cigar boxes lying around his office, home, or hotel room as he never traveled without them and smoked like a chimney.

Smithsonian Modern Physics Exhibit - That's a familiar looking box.

Smithsonian Modern Physics Exhibit – That’s a familiar looking box.

He was a remarkable man that presided over the dawn of the Nuclear Age, but damn if he didn’t leave quite a mess to clean up. In the course of decommissioning his many labs & offices, we’ve found these with plutonium, americium, curium, neptunium, beryllium alloys, reactor graphite, shaped explosives, playing cards signed by nuclear test teams, and much more. At some point we’ll find them all, but he’s been gone for 14 years and they’re still popping up. Sometimes it feels like the Manhattan Project never quite ended.