June 29, 2009

All my childhood memories are in ashes

Check out this link and be saddened. :;sob::

Credit to the puppy blending monster for the link.

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June 26, 2009

Cool geeky tool

At my office, we just moved from Lotus Notes (yes, I know: UGH!)- to Outlook. Despite Notes being a crap email system, it had at least one feature that I liked: the ability to Save/Delete attachments from emails while still saving the email itself. Outlook 2003/2007 do not have this as a native capability. However, Nicola Delfino has written a nifty VBA macro which does the trick just fine. Check it out. And if you decide to use, please keep the comment section giving credit to Nicola. People should receive credit for the work that they do.

Posted by Physics Geek at 07:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2009

Back in the day

Back in the day, Today...

1638
A lunar eclipse becomes the 1st astronomical event recorded in US

1672
1st recorded monthly Quaker meeting in US held, Sandwich, Mass

1788
Virginia becomes 10th state to ratify US constitution

1798
US passes Alien Act allowing president to deport dangerous aliens

1953
1st passenger to fly commercially around the world &

1962
Supreme Court rules NY school prayer unconstitutional

1968
Bobby Bonds hits a grand slam in his 1st major league game (Giants)

1975
Mozambique gains independence from Portugal (National Day)

1991
Slovenia and Croatia declare independence from Yugoslavia

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What he said

People asked me what I thought of Gov. Sanford's recent epic asshole-ish stupidy. I believe that John Scalzi sums it up quite eloquently here:

Before people start gloating in the comments about the GOP having a spate of high-profile stupid adulterous politicians, two names for you: John Edwards. Elliot Spitzer. Yes, people, thinking with your dick is a bipartisan activity.


Posted by Physics Geek at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Beware of this scam...

I'm pretty sure this is a scam...

Warn your friends anyway just in case it's not! See photographic evidence below the fold.

mammogram.jpg

Posted by Physics Geek at 07:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 24, 2009

Brewing your first beer, post II: the ingredients

Our first beer is going to be an extract only brew and, to simply things even further, we're going to use what's called a beer kit. We will, however, discard the directions that come with the kit. Following those instructions reduces the chance of making a decent beer. Anyway.

So what kind of beer kit should you buy? Like anything else, it depends on what kind of beer you like. Stouts, pale ales, bitters, nut brown ale. For my part, I'm going to pick a nice, crisp, refreshing beer, one that will quench my summertime thirst. I'm not usually in the mood for a Guinness just after I've mowed the lawn. To that end, I've decided to brew my next beer using Coopers Draught malt extract kit. It comes in a 3.75 pound can, which isn't sufficient for a 5-gallon batch, meaning that I'll have to buy two. On to the next ingredient.

To magically transform malt sugar into alcohol, you're going to need yeast. Once again, we'll take the path of least resistance and use dried yeast. It's economical and easy to use. I've had good success using both Coopers Ale yeast and Doric ale yeast. The Munton's Ale yeast worked okay, too, but I've had more success with the other two. I recommend the Coopers Ale yeast because it ferments fairly well, even if the temperature climbs up out of the optimal range, which is certainly possible during the summer months.

The next ingredient is obvious: water. What may not be obvious, though, is that you shouldn't use plain old water straight out of the tap. Most municipal water systems are chlorinated and that stuff will make your beer taste like a child's wading pool. However, if your water is charcoal-filtered, you're all set. You could purchase 5-gallons of drinking water(not distilled) from the grocery store if you like, but I think it's unnecessary. Up to you, of course.

After your beer has fermented and you're ready to bottle, you'll have to add a little bit more yeast food to the beer so that it will carbonate in the bottle. So you'll need a little bit of corn sugar, about 3/4 cup or so. This is NOT table sugar and you won't find it in your grocery store. Just add it to your shopping cart when you're purchasing your other ingredients at the local homebrew supply shop.

Optional ingredient: some hop pellets for aroma/flavoring.

The kit you'll buy contains hops already, but these are bittering hops. There will be essentially no hop aroma from this kit unless you add some of your own. If you enjoy a nice hoppy aroma, you might consider tossing in 1/2 ounce of Cascade hop pellets. They have a great floral, citrusy aroma, which I really enjoy. Again, though, it's not necessary. Completely up to you.

To recap:

1) 2 x 3-4 pound cans of any hopped malt extract beer kit. I've chosen Coopers Draught kit for my brew; it comes in a 3.75 pound can.
NOTE: If your kit comes in a 6-7 pound can, you will only need one can. Just an FYI.

2) 5-gallons of water, with all of that nasty chlorine filtered out.

3) 1 package dried ale yeast, purchased separately from what's included with your beer kit

4) Optional: 1-ounce packet of Cascade hop pellets.

Up next in the series: brewing the darned thing.

Posted by Physics Geek at 02:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Just got off the phone with my stepdad, a nice long conversation. Two things struck me:

1) I don't think that he feels particularly well
2) He didn't say anything about it because he just isn't the type to complain, and never has been

There are a lot of things that I could say about this man who has been a giant during most of my life, and I don't want to save them all for when he finally passes on. However, I say all the important things to him, which is as it should be. I don't feel much like sharing them with everyone right now. Jonah Goldberg, though, had a pretty good column about his father a few years ago. It's well worth reading.

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June 18, 2009

If Obama had a Facebook page

Top shelf stuff right here.

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June 17, 2009

Cool, but not new

Using visible light for early detection of breast cancer is cool and all, but it isn't new. I and two friends did graduate work on this very subject back in the early 1990s. We weren't the first, of course. You can figure that out by searching for "dianography" and seeing how many hits you get. Still pretty cool, though. One of us worked on the research documents, another on the electronics and the last (me) got to do the programming. I never finished and my work was picked up and improved upon by my friend, which turned out to be his master's thesis work. Also, it had to be changed from breast cancer to cavity detection. What can I say? The dental school had more money to give us.

There was one category that we honed in on: some breast cancers are undetectable by X-rays, but can be found via the visible light method. I'm fairly certain that this is where the impetus for this research lies. In any event, I'm hopeful that this cancer, among others, will eventually be eradicated. And that date cannot come quickly enough.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Brewing your first beer, post I: the equipment

Since this will be your first beer, we're going to keep things as simple as possible. Terms that you likely won't hear in this series:

1) sparging
2) protein rest
3) saccharification
4) isohumulone

Things that you are likely to hear:

1) boiling
2) carbonation
3) bottling
4) drinking

Anyway, there a variety of items that you could use for homebrewing, but I don't want to stress you out. In the motto of the American Homebrewers Association: Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.

Okay, first things first. You will need a kettle to boil your beer in. Technically, the beer will be called wort at this stage. And now you've added a new word to your vocabulary, although I haven't found a way to use it in conversations NOT about brewing.

Back to the boiling pot. It should be at least 3 gallons, although 5 gallons is probably better and 10 gallons would be better still. But if you want to save money, stick with the smaller pot. Some people get a little too serious about the type of kettle: ceramic coated stainless, pure stainless steel, pots that come with your own personal Emeril to screech "BAM!" every time you add something to it. Me? I went the inexpensive route and bought an aluminum pot. But hey, it's your setup. Whatever makes you happy.

Next on the list as a must have item is a fermentation vessel. You have a couple of realistic choices here as a homebrewer: glass or plastic. 5 gallon glass carboys are easy to find and they're not too expensive. Since you'll typically brew 5 gallon batches, though, you will need to use a blowoff tube for the first couple of days and then add on a fermentation lock. If that sounds like too much effort, a 6-1/2 gallon carboy is probably a better choice because you can stick the lock on top from the get go. And having said all that, I suggest that you go with a plastic fermentation vessel for your first batch. They're usually 6-1/2 to 7 gallons in capacity and have airtight lids with a single opening for your fermentation lock. Also, they're pretty much unbreakable, which isn't the case for glass fermentation vessels. Again, it's your call.

On second thought, you'll probably want to go ahead and order a 5 gallon glass carboy, or at least put it on lay-away. Glass is absolutely required for secondary fermentation. Granted, we won't bother with that for our first beer, but we will for future brews.

How will you get the beer into your fermentation vessel? You're going to need a pretty large plastic funnel. Maybe not for your first beer, but definitely for the next one.

If you want some idea of the potential alcohol in your brew, you'll need a hydrometer, a device used to measure the specific gravity of liquids. The more sugar that's dissolved in the beer, the greater potential alcohol content. And a floating thermometer is useful as well. It's bad form to add yeast to your brew while it''s too hot. Also, you'll need to know the temperature of your wort when taking the specific gravity if you want to correctly determine the specific gravity of your beer.

Since I mentioned fermentation locks in the preceding paragraph, I might as well discuss those next. There are several types available. A picture of the two most common ones can be found here. They both accomplish the same task: let carbon dioxide from the fermentation escape while preventing anything from getting back into the beer.

Once fermentation has completed, you'll need a bottling bucket. I suggest that you buy one with a spigot already attached. You will rack(siphon) the beer from the fementation vessel into the bottling bucket using a racking cane. This prevents having a lot of yeasty sludge from ending up in your bottles. Also, you'll probably want to buy a spring-loaded bottle filler, which makes filling up the bottles a much simpler task. It also leaves about the perfect amount of headspace in each bottle. In my opinion, this small piece of equipment will make your bottling experience less painless.

You'll need bottles, too, about 50-60 12-ounce bottles, or 25 24-ounce bottles. How do you aquire them? Well, you could buy brand spanking new bottles from the store, but I tend to get them from my other friends that drink beer, asking them to save all of their empties. My pals are usually very helpful in this regard, especially after I've promised to give them some samples of my homebrew. By the way, ask your friends to rinse the bottles after they're empty. Cleaning mold out of bottles isn't an enjoyable task.

Okay, you've filled your bottles with your beer. Now you need to cap them. This means, of course, that you will need 50-60 unused bottle caps, as well as a bottle capper to put them onto the bottles. Again, go the inexpensive route and purchase a lever-armed bottle capper. Bench cappers are nice, but more expensive, and they require more effort on your part if the bottles aren't all the same size, which is likely to be the case if you're using castoff empties.

I almost forgot: you'll need a couple of pieces of plastic tubing, too. One piece will attach to the racking cane and another to the bottle filler.

I think that our brewing list is pretty much complete. Let's recap what you'll need:

1 3-5 gallon brewing kettle
1 5 or 6 gallon glass carboy
1 6.5 to 7.5 gallon "food grade" plastic fermenter with airtight locking lid
1 6 foot length of 3/8-inch inside diameter clear plastic tubing
1 racking cane
1 fermentation lock
1 rubber stopper to fit the fermentation lock(It's bad form to not notice until you're pitching the yeast that they don't fit. Not that I know from experience or anything. I'm just saying.)

1 2-3 foot length of 3/8-inch outside diameter tubing which should fit the next item
1 spring-loaded bottling wand
1 large plastic funnel
1 floating thermometer
1 hydrometer
1 bottle capper, for which you'll need lots of new bottle caps.
50-60 beer bottles, preferably the non-screwtop type. Brown glass is the best, but pretty much anything will work.

I forgot to mention how important proper sanitation is. Let's go the cheap route yet again and use unscented household bleach. You don't want your beer to taste lemony fresh. Ugh.

That's enough to get started. We'll go over the limited ingredient list in the next post in this series.

What's that you say? You don't have a brewshop in your town? Have no fear, there are shops all over the country that will gladly ship the stuff right to your door. Check here and here. If you don't find what you're looking for there, then check out these links. Oh, and lots of places sell beginner kits containing most or all of the equipment listed above. Your mileage may vary.

See you next post.

Posted by Physics Geek at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time for an update

A while back, I started a series on "Brewing Your First Beer." My plan was to finish that series and then move onto intermediate and advanced brewing techniques. How did it turn out? Let's just that epic fail is pretty close to the truth. In any event, I'm going to restart the endeavor to

1) Drum up interest in homebrewing
2) Jump start my own brewing

I hope that some of you will join me in this hobby. If anyone wants to brew along, we can discuss how the process went, what went wrong/right and how the beer ultimately turned out. Along the way, we should make some pretty good beer.

Check back later today, or maybe tomorrow for the first post. And happy brewing.

Posted by Physics Geek at 07:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2009

I finished it last week

Why do you ask?

Don't know what to say about this little doohickey, but I kind of think I might get fired if I tried this sort of thing. Then again, YMMV.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Break out the tar and feathers

I find ideas like this one to be so inherently bereft of logic and common sense that only someone in DC could think it's a great idea. Excerpt:

With federal spending in 2009 at 28% of the economy and deficits heading north, Democrats are eyeing tax increases on everything from soft drinks to electricity to health benefits to charitable contributions. But the palm for creativity goes to the Internal Revenue Service, which is contemplating a new tax on the use of business cellphones.

The IRS believes that some percentage of the costs incurred by employees using company-provided wireless devices should count as a "fringe benefit" and thus be subject to taxation. Since workers inevitably end up taking personal calls or emails, the thinking goes, it's only fair that they pay for the privilege. What's next? Maybe a per-cup tax on office coffee, or targeting furtive visits to ESPN or Hulu on the office PC? As one wag put it on the Journal's Web site, "It's like charging for the use of the company washroom."

Hey now, let's not give them any ideas. All that I can say is that if this idea gets more than floated, i.e. a new H.R. gets introduced, numbers at Tea Parties will explode more than they already have.

There a couple of ideas that are so simple that everyone should grok them. Apparently, though, some people have to have it spelled out for them. Ergo:

1) The elected officials in DC and elsewhere? They are the servants of the voting public, not the other way around.

2) Citizens do not exist solely for the purpose of providing a revenue stream to said elected officials.

If you keep those two points firmly embedded in your brain, you'll be fine. To believe otherwise is stupid and misguided. Sadly, there are large number of people who fall into one or both of those categories.

Anyway, hat tip to the Corner.

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June 11, 2009

New National Symbol

Received via email:


The government today announced that is is changing the national symbol to a condom because it more accurately reflects the government's political stance. A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you're actually being screwed.

It just doesn't get more accurate than that.

Posted by Physics Geek at 12:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 09, 2009

Personal preference given thumbs up by medical science

Part of the reason that I run on a regular basis is that I can ingest a few more calories than I would otherwise be able to. Many times, I've refreshed myself with a chilly beverage consisting of unfermented malt sugars and yeast pee and carbonated via yeast farts. As it happens, my rehydration technique is a healthy one. Excerpt:

Researchers at Granada University in Spain have come across a discovery that will undoubtedly please athletes and sports enthusiasts - a pint of beer post-workout or match is better at rehydrating the human body than water.

Professor Manuel Garzon, a member of Granada's medical faculty, made the finding after tests on 25 students over several months. Researchers believe that it is the sugars, salts, and bubbles in a beer that may help people absorb fluids more quickly.

The subjects in the study were asked to run on a treadmill at temperatures of 104F (40C) until they were close to exhaustion. Once they had reached the point of giving up, researchers measured their hydration levels, motor skills, and concentration ability.

Half of the subjects were given two half pints of Spanish lager to drink, and the other half were given just water.

Garzon said that the rehydration effection in those who were given beer was "slightly better" than those who were given only water. He also believes that the carbon dioxide in beer helps quench thirst more quickly, and that beer's carbohydrates replace calories lost during physical exertion.

Salt, Fat, Sugar, Beer and Caffeine: The Five Basic Food Groups. Coming soon to a PBS documentary near you.

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I'm always behind the curve

Well, I've decided to keep suckling at corporate America's teat. Turns out that all my paying bills and feeding my family is merely a lifestyle choice. Instead, I could have been funemployed.

Iowahawk explains:

What most people would call unemployment, Smalley embraced as "funemployment." What other people would dismiss as starvation, he whimsically terms a "starve-cation."

"Economic Depression" once conjured images of tent cities and desperate job-seeking drifters, but for hordes of jobless Gen Xers, there is a silver lining in the new upbeat economic meltdown. These giddily carefree hipsters tend to be single and in their 20s and 30s, happily unencumbered by the obligations of parenthood or teeth.

Buoyed by severance, savings, unemployment checks and free Salvation Army blankets, the nation's new wave of hip funemployed do not spend their days poring over job listings. With no timeclock to punch, they travel on the cheap for weeks, bartering mix CDs or sterno or sexual favors for a fun cross-country boxcar trip. They study yoga and newspaper journalism, or grab a quick al fresco lunch at the neighborhood soup kitchen bistro. They participate in fun dance marathons and pole-sitting contests. And at least till the bank account dries up and the tuberculosis takes hold, they're content living for today.

I had no idea just how wrong I'd been.

Posted by Physics Geek at 06:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 08, 2009

This is parody?

Rob Long usually writes some funny stuff, but this is way too close to reality to be considered funny.

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2009

Have your car unlock itself

Pretty cool DIY gadget found here. I might have to do this as a little science project this summer. When my wife asks me why I think it's necessary, I'll reply in the immortal words of Rip Torn in Dodgeball:

Necessary? Is it necessary that I drink my own urine. No, but it's sterile and I like the taste.


Posted by Physics Geek at 08:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack