The Joy Of The Barter Economy

Once upon a time, before departing for australia, Test Subject Mickie Rat asked if he could get a bottle of Kona BBotE for the upcoming tour his band, The Secretions (blog to be found here), were about to embark on.  As the day for hand-off approached, finances became dire and it was clear that money was best devoted to the gas tank for the tour and food so they didn’t starve whilst rocking.  After some brief consideration that helping make music happen was a good thing, I told him, “You know, I’ve already made it, it’s going to a good home.   I’ll give it to you provided you give Funranium Labs the pimping too.”

When he showed up in the Ratmobile, he gave me a Secretions belt buckle in thanks.  Mickie, thank you much for keeping my pants off the ground in the event of the A to Z alien/zombie attack.  Oh, and for some mighty fine punk music too.  I find it is necessary to have angry music to do math properly and The Secretions make the equations flow for me.

"We Secrete - You Suck"Now, it has come to my attention that not all consumers of BBotE are high-falutin’ investment banker nuclear rocket surgeon physicists.  Many are artists, writers, and musicians.  I respect the creation of art mainly due to my own incompetence at it.  I’ve choked on paint, fumbled words, and managed to bleed just touching a bass guitar but man do I think it’s important.

If you are a broke and starving artist but in desperate need of BBotE or a Stein of Science and willing to engage in the time honored tradition of barter, I am quite willing to do so.  Heck, the beauty of the current incarnation of Funranium Labs you are enjoying now is brought to you by the power of barter.  The worst I can say is no*.

*: Actually, I know many worse words, phrases and creative imagery.  But the worst I’m likely to say is no.

A Moment To Say Thank You

As Herr Direktor Funranium, I have a great deal of  fun being a semi-inebriated raconteur expounding upon things scientific and being a general ass online.

But as Phil Broughton, I  have had far more pleasure with all the questions and conversation that have come my way in the last year since the Steins of Science and Black Blood of the Earth really came into being.  A bizarre stein in my hand has opened so many conversations in bars around the country, and in Australia and New Zealand, that I never would have otherwise had and led to new friends.  Deep down, I’m a teacher and it’s hard not to share and teach what I know with everyone.  I’ve talked to people around the world about their experiences with Coffee Gone Wrong and the most horrific/wonderful cocktails they’ve ever had.  In one case, I helped a man design an ideal chilled cocktail storage apparatus for hiking 5 days deep into the Sierras.  People have moved beyond mere morning caffeination rituals, to cocktails and gourmet meals using BBotE (like BBotE glazed roast suckling pig which I desperately want to taste) and then ask if I approve of their work.  Standing answer for approval of your experiments: as long as you’re all consenting adults, enjoy, but don’t be offended if I laugh sometimes.

But it might never have happened.  Both the steins and BBotE grew out of misfortune.  While I’d started messing with the initial work on BBotE in August of 2008, I didn’t have a burning need to DO SOMETHING until I got diagnosed with Type II diabetes in June 2009.  You’ll have to take my word for it that for this epicure, that diagnosis was just short of the end of the world.  The original Stein of Science, der Wissenschaftenstein #1, happened because I had my first day of unpaid leave from UC Berkeley, courtesy of the furlough program, and boredom got the better of me.

In short, I turned squeezed something good out of the two most unpleasant events that happened to me last year.  I never could have guessed how good and how much joy sharing them with the world would come back to me.

So, keep hitting me with your questions, comments and emails.   I never know what will inspire the next experiment or adventure.  Thank you for indulging my foolishness.

Now…where did I put that drink?

A Fireside Chat, With Herr Direktor Funranium

Hello Citizens, let’s chat.  This Herr Direktor Funranium and you’ve had some questions for me.  Rather than answer you one at a time, though I have done a few, let’s take this from the intimate to the public.  To the next level, as it were.  I’m ready to progress to this stage in our relationship.  A variety of questions from the last couple of weeks:

“What is your favorite flavor of BBotE?” – many people, most recently Mark of Troy, NY

Truly, this is like asking a parent which of their hyperactive children, running around the house setting the place on fire, they love the most.  Each has its own place in my heart and cocktails.  In terms of difficulty and thus pride in the result, I’d have to say that I am most proud of the Panama.  Light roasts are rather difficult to work with but so rewarding when you get it right.  Some, like Brasilia, have been disappointments and others, like Malabar, have not proven consistently reproducible in flavor.

“Can I be a pimpstress too?” – several people, most notably Rojir in Baltimore, MD

First off, you’re an hombre, Rojir.  Gender conversions for pimpstress duties are not included in the benefits package.  Ow, I think I just hurt myself with the pun there.

Maybe, perhaps.  Drop me a line and we’ll chat.  The duties aren’t rigorous, they pay is negligible, and it make you feel like the Avon Lady of Caffeine.  The main benefit is complimentary BBotE to keep you alert with your efforts.

“Seriously?  That much for shipping?  Can’t you just parcel post it for much cheaper?” – The Entire World Beyond America It Seems

Yes, I could parcel post BBotE, but I certainly wouldn’t want to drink it when it arrives.  I have to send it ridiculously expensive global express to make sure that the BBotE, a perishable good, arrives in foreign lands in a timely manner.

Steins of Science can go by slower shipping modes, but even that it isn’t all that much of a savings I’ve discovered.  Blame the high shipping costs on the rising cost of fuel, the decline of advertising mailers crashing the western postal systems, and quantum butterflies.  No one ever suspects butterflies.

This, inevitably, leads to the next question…

“Why don’t you ship BBotE in dry ice or chilled shippers?  You could ship more cheaply if you did.” – The Next Paragraph In Emails From The Entire Rest of The World Beyond America

I might saving on postage, which is questionable as chilled shippers are fairly heavy, but I certainly wouldn’t save on packaging and thus neither would you.  I mean, wow, are those expensive.  If you are selling a $400k bluefin tuna, I can see how they make economic sense.  For BBotE, I am content to use the nice insulated shipping boxes and, for The Case of Caffeination, throwing freezer gel blocks to add a little extra cold time.

Using dry ice actually turns your normal fragile, perishable goods shipment into a hazardous materials shipment. And if you are shipping it by air, which I certainly would be doing to foreign lands, you have to have FAA/IATA shipper certification or you have committed a serious federal pound-you-in-the-ass-prison offense for a private indivdual (you’re probably a terrorist in their eyes).  I don’t have this certification…yet.  Eventually I will, because shipping radioactive materials is necessary from time to time in the day job, but not right now.

“I’m getting married.  Can I get any kind of bulk discount on Steins of Science for my groomsmen?” – Nick in Sacramento, CA

Yup.  I live to bring the joy of Scientific Drinking to the world.  Drop me a line for discussion.

“I was reading about your BBotE and was wondering how you actually make this stuff, or is that a secret?”  -Dirk in ***UNKNOWN LOCATION***

Yes, it is a secret. Not going to go into great detail about the two years of process trial and error, as that’s where the Coca Cola-esque original formula trade secret action lies, but suffice it to say I started with the Toddy method and immediately ran face first into a wall of “This makes no sense. I think I can improve this.”

BBotE Experimentation: Southern Colombia (Huila) PLUS Firelit MkII

This week’s coffee experiment was Huila Province in southern Colombia.  Adventures in the land of dark roasts are always a safer proposition than light roasts as the long roasting process tends to make them all taste uniform in flavor to me, regardless of origin.  Which is to say: earthy, vaguely caramelized, and burnt toast-ish.  If you are uncertain of your beans, it is always a safer proposition to make a dark roast with them but some honestly need that high heat to get the oils to actually liberate in the bean, also known as “the first and second crack” (yes, I’m looking at you, Sumatra).

The Colombian, dark roast though it was, had a very nice Mexcian hot chocolate like aroma as a grind that gave me high hopes that it might persist in the BBotE.  I was not disappointed.  While decanting, there was an roasted almond aroma as I stood before The Apparatus, an aroma the persisted on the nose when drinking it later with my favorite Test Subjects at the St. George Distillery in Alameda, CA.

Tasted straight, the Colombian had a chocolate flavor, though much sharper than the Kona or Kenya.  As Test Subject Freshmaker  identified, it was a “nibby” chocoalte.  Luckily, they had some Tcho Chocolate nibs in the fridge in back for a compare and contrast.  Yup, the uppity whippersnapper was right.  The aftertaste had an interesting cool sensation, like menthol.

Vodka Test: after adding the small modicum of straight vodka, the “cool” volatilized and could be detected on the nose.  On tasting however, the nibby chocolate flavor had found an extra crushed red pepper spiciness to go with it, very reminiscent of Mexican hot chocolate.

In conclusion, I’d be willing to do this again.  I’m not going to make it product option yet, but if you’d like to give it a go, drop me a line and we’ll see about making it happen.  After all, I’m now out of Colombia (experimental batches are normally small) and will happily take an excuse to make more.

In other news, remember a while back when I gushed with love for the Firelit coffee liqueur?  Well, it’s back again but this time it’s been made with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.  The flavor is different then the previous Yemen Saani, as you might expect.  In my opinion it has a more buttery, milk chocolate flavor with hints of apricot.  The Yemen supply went away remarkably fast, so I recommend not dawdling if you’d like some.

As the gem guys on QVC, Steve & Steve, used to say long ago, “You gotta swoop on this like a duck on june bug!”

Oktoberfest Coupon

You’ve tasted Blood and now you want more.  Well, I’m not surprised.

(That’s right, I just combined Rocky Horror and Flight of the Conchords there with consummate skill.)

Whether you are after another hit of Black Blood of the Earth (perhaps your first) or need proper Scientific Drinking gear for the upcoming beery festivities, I’m here to help.  Using the coupon code “Oktoberfest”  at checkout will get you 10% off your purchase.

But the coupon ends the same time proper Oktoberfest does on the 4th of October, so act now while the stars are right!  Cthulhu lies sleeping but you should not!

People Playing With Their Steins Of Science

Once a stein leaves my hands into the cruel, uncaring world of the United States Postal Service, I occasionally spare a thought to wonder what is happening to them out in the big wide world.  Sometimes people will send me a picture of themselves with their Stein of Science in action for addition to the Gallery of the Steinwielders.

(I have high hopes of reconstituting the Gallery of Steinwielders from website Iteration 1 again, as time permits.  If you send me an action shot and it doesn’t promptly appear, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.  It just means that the world is a busy place, especially for Herr Direktor Funranium and his vaguely mild-mannered radiation wrangling alter ego.)

And then sometimes people do things like this.  I apologize if you get a crick in your neck watching this, but Steinwielder Jessica in Portland was a little bit excited while filming.

Steinwielder Jessica, Her Mice and Her Stein

It is worth noting, that’s a 2/3 of a degree per hour by her process equipment.  She also noted to me that the lid was off and she was taking sips off her soda while doing this or, as she put it, “Adding her dirty monkey heat to the drink.”  Thank you for sharing, Jessica!

Secondly, this was shared by Steinwielder Tommy in West Virgina who wanted the old bare glass style I used to make with the silvered glass look but saw the wisdom of the full shield (bare glass is pretty, but no protection for the dewar vessel…or you).  This did not change his desire for shininess, however.  While sitting in front of the TV, he spent a half hour episode of ***INSERT BRAIN CANDY HERE*** idly polishing the brushed aluminum full metal jacket with a Cape Cod Cloth.  The results, as you can see below, are remarkable.  Check out all that majesty!

Funranium Labs, Iteration 4

The slow and steady march of progress drag this website forward and away from the almost Geocities, nay, Angelfire-like quality it was when I first began construction on Iteration 1 back in January. My utmost thanks go to Steinwielders Brad and Jason for their efforts in making my foolish actions and words appear in a professional manner. Allow me to give a shout out to them thusly at (Jason) and Point to Point (Brad). Read more

Not To Cause Alarm Or Anything…

But it is now August 1st.  This means …*hastily checks the calendar, while carefully not spilling the cocktail*…Oktoberfest starts in roughly 7 weeks.  The event that caused the original “der Wissenschaftenstein” to come into being a year ago is once again upon us.

If you want a Stein of Science in time for Oktoberfest, don’t dawdle and run down the clock.  I normally quote a three week lead time, so tempt not the fates particularly if you want one of the larger ones.

Oh, and if you want one and you’re actually heading to Munich with it (or you’re already in Munich)…drop me a line.  It will be worth your while.

I don’t even want to think about Christmastime.  Unless we’re discussing eggnog.  Mmmm…delicious nog.