Tuesday, June 28, 2011

He's bad-assed...

This...is the spider that lives in my brewery.  He's totally bad-assed...and just doesn't give a shit.

Skinny little guy with spindly legs, right?  Yeah, but don't let his delicate appearance deceive you because he is a totally bad-assed mother-fucker that would have Samuel L. Jackson crying like a school girl if the two of them ever went toe-to-toe.

Okay...excuse the gender bias here.  I'll stipulate that "he" might well be a "she."  Let's move on...

So...said (non-gender-specific) spider moved into the brewery a few months back.  Boris - as we'll call him/her - set up a web in a remote corner over the main floor drain.  I didn't think much of it at the time as the brewery is in a garage...the presence of insects, arachnids, and other invertebrates is not unusual.  But over time, Boris thrived - on what, I have no idea - and the web was gradually enlarged.  It finally got to the point where I could not shut off the cold water line to the brewery without waving away all kinds of spider web crap.  Creepy.  So, tonight, I am doing some routine cleaning in the brewery and say, "Enough!  Sorry, but this mess has to go."  I pull out my hot water hose and let fly on Boris and his/her web.  This is hot water straight out of my water heater. I have literally killed scorpions - the toughest invertebrates on the planet - with this same jet of hot water.  Web destroyed and washed down the drain.  Boris, not in evidence.  Mission accomplished and Miller time, I figure.

Not so fast.  The picture above is Boris in his/her NEW web, not more than 20 minutes after the hot water Armageddon I unleashed on him/her.  This motherfucker is bad-assed and I'm a little skeered right now.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In honor of Father's Day...

Since it's Father's Day, I thought I would share this rather touching father and son story that has always been something of an inspiration to me:

On Father's Day, Jesus and God decide to spend the day together and they start with a round of golf.  It being Father's Day, Jesus gives God the honors.  God tees up and just bangs it...big hitter, God...but he hooks it off towards the trees.  Just as Jesus is about to say, "Nice one there, Shankosaurus," a powerful wind comes up and starts whipping the tree branches around.  One of the branches knocks God's ball back onto the fairway.  A squirrel runs out on the fairway, grabs the ball, and starts scampering into the rough with it.  Just as the squirrel reaches the edge of the fairway, an eagle swoops down and snatches the squirrel up in its talons.  The eagle flies down the fairway, clutching its prey, who still has a death grip on God's ball.  As the eagle flies over the green, it drops the squirrel, who carries the ball over to the hole and drops it in.  God turns to Jesus and says, "I guess you can put me down for one."

Jesus looks at God and says, "Are we playing golf here or are you just going to fuck around?"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Squirrely wrath Beer Chronicles, Part III

...and for the final post in the Beer Chronicle series, I answer the question:  Favorite breweries and brewpubs are fine, but what's in the refrigerator at the Fortress of Solitude?  In truth, since I am a brewer, there's usually not much there - and, shut up! That twelver of Stella Artois is the Redhead's, not mine.  However, given the demands of work, travel, and the usual life maintenance activities, on occasion, homebrew stocks run low and I am required to venture out and purchase commercial beer.  When that happens, here's the result (again listed in no particular order):

The Squirrely wrath List of Favorite Beers
  1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - It's hard to over-emphasize what an outstanding beer this is.  When the big American breweries were treating hops like a rare and expensive seasoning, Sierra Nevada started using American hops by the bucketful.  Forget budmillercoors beer, this is the quintessential American beer.
  2. North Coast Brewing Red Seal Ale - Another great example of an American pale ale; a little more balanced towards malt than Sierra Nevada, but still insanely hopped with a long, lingering finish.  I'm drinking one now, even as I type.  Don't hate me, beotches...
  3. Uinta Brewing Cutthroat Pale Ale - For the non-cognoscenti, it's pronounced "You-in-tah" and the beer is named after a native species of trout, not nefarious piratey-types.  Uinta describes this as a Northwest amber ale, but, given this is a low-alcohol beer per Utah law, it really shows the world that "lite" beers do not have to be the tasteless, colored water that the mega-breweries churn out.  Cutthroat is sold in a higher alcohol version outside of Utah as Angler's Pale Ale and Angler's is a very credible beer, but the Cutthroat low-alcohol recipe is genius.
  4. New Belgium Fat Tire - Just as Sierra Nevada showed the world what you could do with American hops, New Belgium demonstrated what could be done with malt, specifically, biscuit malt, lots and lots of it.  However, in the interest of full disclosure, when New Belgium's 2 Degrees Below comes out in the fall, there's no room for Fat Tire in my refrigerator.
  5. Bell's Two-Hearted Ale - Where Sierra Nevada very generously hops their Pale Ale with Cascade hops, Bell's uses another classic American variety, Centennial, for another great American pale ale.  This beer is, sadly, hard for us Western folks to come by.
  6. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale - This is Sierra Nevada's winter seasonal beer and think of it as their Pale Ale, squared; more hops, more malt, just more of a beer, if that's possible to imagine.
  7. Any Beer Brewed by Deschutes - It's impossible for me to pick a favorite beer from this brewery.  Their Black Butte Porter might well be the best commercial example of this hard-to-get-right style.  Their Mirror Pond Pale Ale is a less hoppy, more balanced pale ale than other American examples and the list goes on: Inversion IPA, Obsidian Stout, Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale, and I'll never pass up a six-pack of their Jubelale when it shows up on the shelves.
  8. Victory Brewing Yakima Glory nee' Yakima Twilight - This has been described as a dark India pale ale and that pretty much nails it; insanely hopped with a whole chocolately, roasted malt thing going on in the background.  This is just a dang good beer.
  9. New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest - I like the Oktoberfest style and have brewed a lot of them.  In my mind, I have a model of what an O'fest should be; deep amber with caramel overtones, balanced with a toasty flavor that comes from the use of a big pile of Munich malt.  Most Oktoberfests don't match up to this ideal.  Even imported Oktoberfests seemed to be watered and dumbed down for the American market.  In my mind, Staghorn is what an Oktoberfest should be.
  10. Flying Dog Doggie-Style Pale Ale - Another, very well-balanced pale ale from the brewery endorsed by Hunter S. Thompson, who knew a little about drinking beer.
Obviously, I'm picking ten beers out of literally hundreds (if not, thousands) and I've restricted my list to strictly domestic beer, so the above list begs for Honorable Mentions:

Goose Island Honkers Ale
Victory Brewing HopDevil
Three Floyds Alpha King
Bell's Hopslam
Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale
Goose Island Nut Brown Ale - sadly, GI has retired this beer
New Belgium 1554
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
Others to be added as I think of them...

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    "Call me crazy..."

    A troubling and enduring story line among 9/11 truthers is that the Twin Towers were brought down, not by an act of Islamic terrorists, but by a deliberately planned act of the Federal government that was intended to incite the American populace to a) support a war for oil in the Mideast, b) permit themselves to be manipulated into complacency by fascist stormtroopers, or c) some other silly bullshit.  One of the central tenants of this "argument" is that the fires started by the planes crashing into the Twin Towers could not have been hot enough to melt the structural steel that was used to make the frame of these buildings.

    Years later, the estimable Charlie Sheen famously came out and said, "As I watched the Twin Towers come down, I remember saying, 'Call me crazy (Author's note: It's hard to imagine more prescient words ever being uttered), but did that look like a controlled demolition?'"

    This silliness has persisted since 9/11 and survives primarily because anyone who knows anything about metallurgy knows that the argument is so moronic that even bothering to respond is likely to make one stupider.  However, fools rush in...so, here are the facts:

    Steel is an almost magical material; a mixture of iron and a tiny bit of carbon, which if heat-treated a particular way, makes a material that is harder than crap but very brittle and, if treated another way, makes something that is so soft that most of us could bend in their hands.  For the most part, this process is reversible; you can take a hard, brittle piece of steel, re-heat-treat it and turn it into a bend-in-your-hands metal noodle.  Note - because this is important - heat-treating steel is done at temperatures much, much lower than the melting point.  I could launch into a long, involved discussion of how the strength of steel is largely determined by its microstructure (a combination of the size and shape of the iron crystals that make up the steel and how the carbon is distributed among these crystals) and that this microstructure changes radically with temperature, but I won't.  For the purposes of this discussion, it is only important to know that steel loses strength as it is heated up.

    Strength versus temperature data for structural steel is pretty easy to come by.  Here, for instance.  What is this graph telling us?  Most importantly, it says that structural steel heated to 1200 deg F has only 20% of the strength it has at room temperature.  Note that steel melts at 2795 deg F, so at less than half of its melting point, steel is already 5 times weaker than it is at room temperature.

    Next question:  Exactly how hot is 1200 deg F?  As any Boy Scout who has spent time playing with campfires - and all Boy Scouts, of course, were primarily Boy Scouts so they could do just that - will tell you, a reasonably hot campfire will melt an aluminum can.  Aluminum, as it turns out, melts at 1220 deg F.  Consequently, a reasonably robust campfire will be hot enough to seriously weaken structural steel.  As a historical aside, this fact was used to advantage by William Sherman's Federal army during its march through Georgia.  Any Confederate railroads they came across were torn up, the wooden ties piled up and torched, and then the steel rails laid over the fire.  Once the rails had heated up, men would pick up the ends of the rail and bend it around a nearby tree trunk.

    Back to the Twin Towers, terrorists crashed planes into them with essentially full fuel tanks.  For a 767 this is 23,980 gallons of Jet-A.  Twenty-four thousand gallons of jet fuel burning is more than a reasonably hot campfire.  In fact, simulations run by the NIST in their report on the WTC collapse put the maximum structural column temperature 60 minutes "after impact" at 1396 deg F.  At this temperature, structural steel is down to ~10% of its room temperature strength...the Twin Towers collapsed due to temperature-induced creep and plastic failure, period.  End of story.  Sorry, truthers, go sell crazy somewhere else.

    Of course, there's no need to take the word of an anonymous blogger on this.  Take a look at the National Institute of Standards and Technology reports on the WTC collapse...it's all there, post-mortems on the recovered structural members, mechanical and thermal simulations, analysis, and enough other "techy" stuff to drive a much-needed wooden stake into the heart of the truther vampire.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Even more things explained...

    Many people who meet me think, "Wow! Anyone that awesome must have sprung, like Athena, fully formed from the forehead of Zeus..."  However, that's not the case.  I was born of woman like everyone else and my sister, having dug deep into the family archives, has provided the following photographic evidence, taken shortly after my introduction to Planet Earth:
    I need not point out here that Holy Cross Hospital clearly did not have Annie Leibovitz on retainer to handle their infant photos, but let's be honest...I wasn't giving anyone a lot to work with here.  Not obvious in the picture is the fact that it was taken while I was in a little baby straitjacket.  No, that's not a typo.  Shortly after birth, I was put in a straitjacket.  Now, I'd like to say that it was because the head nurse spoke up and said, "Leave this one alone" 'cuz she could tell right away, baby, that I was bad to the bone.  Bu-bu-bu-bu-bad.  Bad to the bone.  I'd really like to say that, but no.  It turns out that, not only was I born with a full head of hair, I was also born with fully formed fingernails that I kept trying to gouge my eyes with...and from the looks of the above-mentioned picture I'd been doing a little bit of that in utero.  The motivation for my wanting to gouge my eyes is a mystery, but let's remember this was the 50's - people thought putting fins on cars was a good idea for God's sake - and being thrown into that half-formed...well, let's just say that's a Rod Serling Twilight Zone intro right there.