Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Precision Creep



Beer brewing is an odd hobby.

Oh, don't get me wrong, brewing beer is one of the finest activities that a man can partake of.  The final product is a good thing, liquid bread and a balm for the soul.

But here in the USA, the cult of the material has taken the simple and time-honored process some pretty strange places.  I am not speaking of the cult of stainless steel and gizmo's that cause inadvertent erections in a sizable sub-population of the brewing world.  No, I am speaking instead of the quest for precision in a biological system that is passed off as "essential for good beer".

I am brewing up a batch of Imperial Stout while I am writing this screed.  I have a four-gallon pot.  I put three gallons of water in it, turned the burner onto medium low and sat down and folded clothes and did some laundry while the temp went up.  Obviously, I keep an eye peeled on the temp, and when it hit 130, I dumped in eight pounds of grain.  I upped the burner to a quarter of the way between medium low and medium and set a timer for ten minutes.  Watched the temp rise.  Kept resetting the timer until the temp hit 150 F. and then turned the burner back down to between low and medium low.  Checked the temp every ten minutes and it is now fifty minutes later and the temp is still 148 F.

Sparging is just heating some water up and using it to suck the last of the sugars out.  This can easily be done with a teapot and pouring.

Now, the beer brewing enthusiasts will sneer at a decidedly low tech operation like this.  Not enough control they will posit.  But the truth of the matter is that if you are in the range of 145 F. to 150 F. when you convert, you will make a dandy beer that you can be proud of.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Approaches and other such basic thoughts

"Mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water."

Being married to a particular outcome to me seems an odd approach.  

The one thing that everyone agrees on is that, for the most part, shit ain't working right.  That a change of plans and a change of the guard will produce the change needed for us to point in the right direction and get moving.

But what is the right direction?  Trump won by taking into account and pushing to the fore the plight of the dispossessed internal proletariat of the US.  Folks whose town, jobs and live have been slowly dying for the past thirty years.  Trump also says that he will return these jobs to our shores, that he will keep the jobs that are here from leaving.


Do we really want to go there?

I spent far too much time on a plane winging my way to Beijing in the day.  Setting up factories to receive the jobs that left Alameda and Rockville and Vancouver.   This experience left me with a firm view that the price that China pays for taking over the dirty and polluting industries of America is pretty damned high.
Beijing, from the Kerry Center, circa 2004
I would post my pictures from Xi'an or Huairou, but y'all get the idea.  

So, is the Donald proposing to bring back heavy industry? Can heavy industry survive under a rational set of environmental regulations?  If we partially gut the environmental regulations to allow for the return of heavy industry, will the proletariat that demanded the return of their jobs understand the price that needs be paid for that return?

Is Donald planning on just doing assembly work, with the highly polluting heavy industry farmed out to other countries? That seems to make us more dependent than ever on the vagaries of self-interest wielded by the hosting countries.



Monday, January 9, 2017

History Continues

Pein Forte et Dur

No, really, it isn't a dialectic.

For a long while, I was into the thesis-antithesis-synthesis model.  It was hard to do think any other way if you were raised here in the US in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first century.  Marxism was present and constantly molding the conversation to the Hegelian.  Truth be told, a lot of the teachers and profs and politicians jumped in willingly because a simple competition between two ideas allowed them a simple enough model to teach from.

But watching the world for the past fifty-some-odd years has convinced me that it is not a clean dialectic, with two competing ideas and a clean compromise/victory of one thought over the other.

But the sports ideal was then getting real traction in the US, the idea of a gentlemanly tiff with the best man winning and moving on.  Hire the best players from the other team and stay on top of the pile.  Winners keep winning.

No, the game is akin to the pastime of the sixth grade boys being schooled by Mr. Mayberry in the basement of Clearfield High School back in 1965.

Pig Pile (or smear the queer, as it was named when the teachers were out of earshot) had a very simple set of rules.  The dominant male 12-year-old would shout out the name of a mid-range social status member of the pack.  As soon as one heard his name called, that lucky individual would haul ass in the direction where the pack was the thinnest.  He would keep running like hell, because there were 15-20 other boys tearing after him to pull him down and all pile on top of him.

Now, being on the bottom of a pile of 15-20 boys is not a pleasant experience.  Personal hygiene habits at that age are, at best, suspect, and since each of the assailants weighs between 80 and 120 pounds, the "pig" usually has around seven-hundred to eight-hundred pounds weighing down on him.  Breathing becomes problematic (pein forte and dur).

After a bit, depending on the perceived manliness and ability to "Take It" had been established, the pile would unwind and everyone takes a bit of a rest.  Remember, being the person pulling down the prey is at the bottom of the pile as well, his reward for a job well done is quite similar to the reward offered the pig.

After an appropriate rest, the pig would then become the person singing out the name of his successor (Caller of Names).  Now there was some subtlety to this portion of the "game".  It was usually not done to sing out the name of the previous caller of names.  There is usually a brief inventory of slights and calumnies received, then an individual is selected, a name called out, and the whole process is repeated.

One could probably write a Masters thesis on the interactions leading up to the initiation of the game.  If one thinks that boys of this age are oblivious to social slights, wealth dynamics, and dominance rituals, one would do well to think again.

Back to the original thesis, the nature of history.  The multivariate, complex nature of "Pig-Pile" is a much better model for the study of history than the simplistic Hegelian model.  I come to this conclusion despite numerous attempts to get the dialectic to describe the real world without suffering near-fatal suspension of disbelief.

No, climate change and peak oil, Marxist dialectic and efficient market theories, trade routes and the rise and fall of trading countries, radical Islam and Crusaders all are a part of the fabric of the Norns.

Best that a man can hope to do is to have a reasonably balanced "rough-guess" available and then hope for the best. 

 




Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Not Quite a Resolution

I am not going to buy any groceries until I go through the pantry and clear it out.

I would posit that demi-preppers such as myself tend toward this issue.  But the best of good intentions get out of hand and one is stuck with a stuffed cupboard of whatever. 

So, since it is winter, there will be soups made.  Easy to make and can hide a bunch of different odd ingredients.  And will still be quite tasty.

Got some ham, putting beans on to soak.  I'll go from there.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Beer

I am the proud owner of a minimalist brewing system.

I have a sixteen liter pot, a twelve liter carboy, a bag to hold the grain, two muslin bags for the hops, and a five foot section of tubing.  I have a balance and a hygrometer and a thermometer.

I use grains.  I have around 24 flippy-style bottles.  That's it.

 HOME BREW RECIPE:
Title: New Years Brown
Author: Degringolade

Brew Method: All Grain
Style Name: English Porter
Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size: 2 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 3 gallons
Boil Gravity: 1.037
Efficiency: 55% (brew house)


STATS:
Original Gravity: 1.055
Final Gravity: 1.012
ABV (standard): 5.55%
IBU (tinseth): 38.03
SRM (morey): 24.19

FERMENTABLES:
4.5 lb - American - Pale 2-Row (81.8%)
0.25 lb - United Kingdom - Brown (4.5%)
0.25 lb - United Kingdom - Pale Chocolate (4.5%)
0.5 lb - American - Caramel / Crystal 80L (9.1%)

HOPS:
6 g - Summit, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 16.8, Use: Boil for 60 min, IBU: 34.67
7 g - Fuggles, Type: Pellet, AA: 3.5, Use: Aroma for 10 min, IBU: 3.36

MASH GUIDELINES:
1) Infusion, Temp: 150 F, Time: 60 min, Amount: 12 qt, Single Step
Starting Mash Thickness: 1.5 qt/lb

YEAST:
Fermentis / Safale - English Ale Yeast S-04
Starter: No
Form: Dry
Attenuation (avg): 75%
Flocculation: High
Optimum Temp: 54 - 77 F
Fermentation Temp: 70 F
Pitch Rate: 1.25 (M cells / ml / deg P)

TARGET WATER PROFILE:
Profile Name: Milwaukie A&C Blend
Ca2: 15
Mg2: 13
Na: 8
Cl: 4
SO4: 6
HCO3: 0
Water Notes:
Average of Entry Points A and C, Milwaukie City Water
NOTES:
This is the simplest possible all grain system.

Take a four gallon stockpot, dump in three gallons of water, put it on an electric burner and turn the temp to medium (50%)

When the water temp hits 100 F, dump in the grain.  Stir well and continue to stir well every ten minutes until the temp hits 150 F.

Turn the burner down to between low and simmer (20%?) let it sit for an hour.  Strir every 15 minutes and play with the temp so that it doesn't go above 155 F.

After an hour, pull out the bag o'mash and squeeze out what you can and add the squeezin's to the big pot.

Bring to a boil, then drop the temp controller to between low and medium.  Toss in the first muslin bag of bittering hops.  Check every fifteen minutes, then at 45 minutes of boil, toss in the aroma hops.

At the end of the hour boil, pull the hop bags and put the top back on, let it cool naturally for about 1.5 to two NFL football games (I am cooling it during SF vs Seattle and GB vs Detroit)
Toss the yeast in the fermenter and then siphon the cooled wort into the fermenter.  Take a post boil sample at this time.

When the wort is cooled to around 80F, toss the yeast into the carboy and then siphon the wort into the carboy, swirl away.

Cover the outside of the carboy with an old t-shirt and let it rip.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Four Prediction Challenge

Russian peasant girls using chickens for divination; 19th century Lubok.

I realize that making predictions opens one up to questions about one's omniscience, but I don't see that as a bad thing.  Being old now, when I look back over my life and review the opinions and thoughts therein, omniscience is the last thing that I would use to describe my years here on the Earth.

So, I am proposing that folks sit down with their crystal balls and yarrow stalks, cut open the critter du jour and examine it's entrails, or go outside and consult the moon.  Give me four (4) predictions.  That's all.

Now, the rules.

I think that the predictions have to have a certain amount of specificity.  I am certain that some of my fellow Americans (MFA) would love to posit "Donald Trump will be Yuugge!" as a prediction (there will be an approximately equal number of MFA's who will predict the Donald as being the worst president ever.  Again, not a prediction).

Nope, the prediction will need to have a certain level of specificity.  Now, you can write what you wish, and it will go up in the comments.  In an ideal world, the four predictions will have in internal logic that allows one to get a glimpse into the strategic thinking of the author.

SO...Here goes:

(1)  Saudi Arabia goes through it's own "Arab Spring" problems.  The loss of oil revenues and the "damned if you do and damned if you don't" nature of oil price coupled the on again/off again nature of the shale oil in the US and the complete inability of OPEC to hew to any agreement will make for increasing unrest in the Kingdom.  I don't think that the royal family will go down, but I think that it will have a lot more on its mind at the end of the year than it has at the beginning.

(2)  The Dow will reach 20,000.  But it won't hold it.  While I voted for Trump, I don't think that he is the savior and I do think that he, like Herbert Hoover, will be holding the bag at the end of the process.  I am taking a wild stab at a number here, but I think that a Dow of 16,000 will be in the offing this year.

(3)  Syria will settle down, but Iraq will heat up.  I would guess that Russia, Turkey, and Syria will work out an arrangement and the Takfirs, Unicorns,  Jihadis and such will vanish out of Syria and start stirring the shit in Iraq.  Iran will move more to the foreground and try to stabilize the area with the tacit approval and logistical support from Russia and China.  Saudi will be distracted by it's own problems and Israel will fume, but both will realize that their reach does not exceed their grasp.

(4)  Little Donnie will be under investigation by the end of 2017.  Kenneth Starr on steroids.  Look, the powers that be just don't like him.  They will make the attempt to cripple him.  I don't think that it will go the impeachment route, just an ongoing distraction keeping his eye off the ball.  Can't have a non-member of the Potomac Country Club thinking they can use the front door.  Little Donnie is a servant-entrance-only kind of guy.

Now, I am quite aware of my limitations.  If any of these turn out the way I call them, I will don my robes and announce my new profession of professional Jeremiah.

Please, have at it.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Getting Ready for the New Year


First things first.

I am restarting my beer brewing venture.  Going even more minimalist than before. 

I am also decreasing the batch size to make it easier to work with.  Ideally, I will get yields around 2 to 2.5 gallons or around enough for a single case of beer.

All grain is the requirement.   When you buy even the cheapest extract or powder, the cost goes to the moon. 

Yeast will be passaged ruthlessly.  Careful work will allow a single $6.00 packet to yield up to ten passages, maybe more.  All you need is sterile mason jars and a bit of care.  Additional yeast research will also require stability studies as to the amount of time a stored lot can be kept in the refrigerator.

Hops are getting to be quite the cost center.  Luckily I have not fallen into the current fad here in Portland where you dump so many hops in the wort that you cannot taste anything else.  I am thinking about a IPU of around 35 which is the low end of the IPA scale.  So, a two-gallon batch should take a lot less than an ounce.

So, the point of all this is that I should be able to get microbrew quality beer (I am pretty good at this) for right around $1.50 a six pack. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmastide

There are better things to do than write this right now.

I do think I will start up again after the first.

Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a joyous new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I got nothing

Try again tomorrow​

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

fermiers généraux

Let's start with the basis premise, popular throughout the country, that the Government is the source of the problems here in the good old USA.  This premise is getting a little timeworn.

I think that it kind of depends what level of sophistication you want, the time that you wish to spend analyzing, and the granularity of the approach.

I think that if you want to just listen to talk radio and it's internet ilk, you could suppose that it is a unitary function, led by a small cabal of folks at the federal reserve, the trilateral commision and any number of sundry other nefarious organizations.  You might not be wrong, but you probably aren't all that right and your analysis might be a shade on the unsophisticated side.

Nope, I think that you have to stand back and ask what makes them "elite".  Simply put, it is a function of access to the table.  Whether one likes it or not, government in an Industrial/De-industrial society such as ours is the arena where, for the sake of analogy, representatives sit around a table and figure out how to share the pie of resources (either physical, intellectual, or human) that are available to the society in general.

Now, first things first, I am going to spend a brief digression here disabusing you of the idea that a democratically elected government is in charge of this role.  It hasn't been the case ever, and recent revelations about campaign finance and the Clinton foundation show that access to the table is strictly limited to those who can pay for the privilege.

I cannot and will not make a claim to know the intricate details of who is at the table and at what position.   You have to read a lot in fairly dry journals and news accounts to discover the make up of the table, but simply put, I would just follow the money.

The elite are elite not because of their honesty or intelligence or hard work, nope.  they are there because they have figured out the way to exploit the tax revenues and the workings of the federal government and its functionaries.
  • Defense industry, check
  • Pharmaceutical industry, check
  • Medical Industry, check
  • Educational Industry, check
And so on, and so on.

Now, in the past, the government created a branch to control a particular part of the American experience and keep things under control.  The lords and masters of the industries being thus controlled, feeling this control to be an imposition, promptly lied, bullied, and bribed their way into effective control of the regulatory system that was once their control.