Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

Football season is officially here.[1] Most of the college football schedule kicked off today, and I couldn't be happier.

I refuse to recognize the four game preseason that the NFL runs. Seriously, 4 games of meaningless football? So, thanks to the "unpaid" college boys, the football season started today.

More importantly for me on a personal level, my Nebraska Cornhuskers pounded a hapless opponent from who-knows-where as is their tradition. Things have been tough in recent years for my team in red, but at this time of year, there is always the hope that this is the year things will improve. This year is no different. This is the year things get back on track.

For my other team (the Minnesota Gophers)[2], after winning today, they are guaranteed to have the same or better record than last year. Yup, it's hard to do worse than 1-11. So, on that front, things are looking up.

[1] For any international readers, I'm referring to 'American football' not 'football.'
[2] it's my 'other' team due mostly to geography. I've never been a big Gopher football fan, but they are the only show in town at the major collegiate level, so....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Maybe kegging my own beer isn't such a good idea

If you recall, I recently acquired all of the items necessary to keg my own beer. This was one of the best days in my brewing world ever. I immediately kegged a bitter I had on hand in a secondary. I force carbonated it, and two days later I was drinking beer from a tap. Awesome!!!!

Maybe not so awesome.

The thing about drinking beer from a tap is that it is easy to lose track of how much one has consumed. The following is a cautionary tale.

Last week a colleague and fellow homebrewer came over to drink tap beer and discuss the upcoming academic year. She is one whose opinion I greatly respect so I like to bounce ideas off of her. My wife went to bed around 11 PM and my friend and I talked until 2:30 AM. That was great, but we drank homebrewed beer on tap the whole time. She left and I went to bed unaware of how much beer I had actually consumed. With tap beer, there are no empty bottles around to tally.

In the morning, I realized how much I had consumed. Too much. Way too much.

I like to drink beer, but I do not like getting drunk. Sure, I've been there before. There was a time in my life when that wasn't a problem. But now, I have no desire to drink to inebriation. I like to drink things that taste good.

Well, after the night of not paying attention to how easily the tap beer flowed, I paid a big price. I spent the entire day on the couch feeling like complete crap and being really pissed off at myself for such a frat boy mistake. I slept a lot as my liver worked overtime.

A few days later (I still felt icky), I had some other friends over. I gave them some of the beer. Unsolicited, they all claimed the beer was very strong. That may be the case, but it is still no defense for me getting totally destroyed.

So, my friends, if you ever keg your beer, pay attention to how much you drink. Don't top off your glass until it is empty and make a mental tally of how much you've had. Unless, or course, you don't mind spending the day in bed or on the couch. If so, do whatever you want, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The year begins

So, Milkshake asked me to tell a little about the start of the school year here at my institution.

That is a great idea. Here it is:

OK, it's not supposed to be this stressful, and it usually isn't. However, the summer for me has been loaded with (as I have alluded to before) the Great Crap related to an impending accreditation review for my school. That's a bit of a big deal if you are in the business of higher education. And, it's an even bigger deal for me because I'm in charge (partially) of getting everything ready. I am really ready for summer vacation fall break winter break.

OK, I'm feeling better. This is very therepeutic tharepeutic theraputic therepuetic STUPID F-ING SPELL CHECK!!! JUST TELL HOW THE F*CK TO SPELL THERAPEUTIC BEFORE I BREAK YOUR FREAKIN SILICON!!!!!

OK, sorry, I'm better now. really. honestly.
So, how does the school year start at my school?

Students move into dorms on Saturday (yesterday).
Girls spend that night figuring out which tank tops to wear during the week.
Boys spend the night trying convince dorm mates that they where the shit in high school.
Matriculation service on Sunday afternoon followed by a campus picnic.
Girls wearing tank tops meet boys who think they were the shit in high school.
Monday is orientation day. All first years report for two hours of blah, blah, blah very useful information.
After that I meet my new advisees, all of whom are probably delusional pre-meds. Oh well, a bit of Organic Chemistry should take care of that.
The rest of the day is spent by me prepping for classes.
On Tuesday, classes officially begin. Lives start to change, for better or for worse.

OK, through most of this post I have been a bit cynical, but that last sentence is true. I've been heavily involved with non-teaching activities related to academic policy during the summer. Right now, I just want to teach. I realize accreditation is important, but (here comes the cynicism again) so much of it comes down to budget. Yes, a school needs to financially stay afloat, but we get paid crap to do what we love to do and what we love to do is why the school is here. This is a place of learning and not just teaching. It's not just about the bottom line.

I am very excited to see my returning students and to meet the new ones. I can't wait to help them learn new things. I can't wait to help them see how cool the molecular level is. I can't wait to torture them with Organic nomenclature teach them about carbon.

I love teaching and I love my job. There are still sooooooooo many non-teaching things that must be done that detract from the teaching, but I still love to go to work.

Thanks Dr. Phil. I feel much better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fewer changes than I anticipated

I was going to change the format of this blog, but based on a few comments and the fact that it really did look like crap, I'm back to the old format... sort of. I've tweaked a few things and will continue to make a few changes.

Here's my dream computer:

More changes

Since I changed how I store my beer from bottles to kegs, I thought I'd change the look of my blog.

Maybe I'll post something interesting too, like something about the proteins that make up the head on a beer (lipid binding proteins, that is) or some of the things related to the solubility of CO2 in beer.

Who knows. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Finally, my brew world is complete

On this day, Monday August 18, 2008, I kegged my beer for the very first time.

I am, in a word, giddy. At the moment, I am force-carbonating it.

Yesterday, I dismantled and thoroughly cleaned my Cornelius keg. Today I spent about 4 hours trying to figure out the gas connections. Nothing matched up and I had to improvise. Regardless, it works. The keg held 10 psi for 4 hours, so I siphoned my bitter into it. I put it under 20 psi of CO2 and will shake and chill the keg a few times to help dissolve the CO2. Hopefully, by tomorrow or Wednesday, I will be drinking beer from my very own tap.

This is a new chapter in my life.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Distractions, disappointment and delirium

There have been a lot of crazy things going on in my life lately. Here's a list.


The school year is about to start and I have a lot of things to do before the season starts. The last thing I need are distractions, but I've been overwhelmed with distractions that I cannot ignore. The big one is the Olympics. I've been glued to the tube watching the every-four-year spectacle. I can't turn it off. Obviously the coverage here in the United States has covered mostly the USA, but I've found myself watching boxing matches between Zimbabwe and The Dominican Republic.

In addition, a new academic building is being built near my building on our campus. They've been at it for almost a month. I find myself watching them dig for 20-30 minutes at a time. There is something about a big huge excavator digging tons of dirt out of the ground that I can't turn away from. I can't get any work done in my office because I just can't help but watch the construction site.


After much dreaming I finally got a spare refrigerator with which I was going to make some lager beers (or more accurately: I was going to lager some beer). I was so excited. Really, really excited. I moved it from my parents house. Long story short, it doesn't work. It is old and probably didn't survive the move. I'm very sad about this.

Shortly after the spare refrigerator sadness, some really amazing things fell into place. They have to do with kegging my beer. First, I got a hold of two Cornelius Kegs (see the picture). These are regularly used by homebrewers to keg beer. A friend of mine independently offered some tubes and connections need to dispense the beer. Then, another friend decided to get rid of his kegerator!!!! He is going to give it to me complete with CO2 container. All of that would create a complete system needed to keg my beer. I am delirious.

I am also in the early stages of building a bar in my basement. These things will fit very nicely.

If I can avoid all of these distractions, I should a full bar in my basement that dispenses homebrewed beer.

Now, does anyone want a broken fridge?

Update: The kegerator is in my garage. OMG, I'm GIDDY!!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

What do you want?

So, I've been really bad at posting on this blog. I'm not sure what my problem is. Oh! I know. I've been really busy at work with an impending accreditation review coming up in October.

So much for my summer.

Back in the day when I was pretending to be a premed, I had a med school interview. I was ready to answer all possible questions. So, I was taken aback when the doctor interviewing me asked me, "so, what do you want to know?" That was his first and only question. I didn't expect to be asked to ask questions. Perhaps I was naive. When all was said and done, I went to grad school. However, even before then, I was convinced I wanted to be a chemist. At the time I was just going through the premed motions.

So, I thought I'd ask you, my readers (both of you), what do you want to know?

What do you want to know about brewing beer? About teaching Chemistry? About holding your high school high jump record for 18 years (and running).

I know some things about these areas and will dispense whatever information I have about them free of charge.[1]

So, what do you want to know?

[1] I realize I'm overcharging you, but deal with it!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A bit paranoid perhaps?

So, the Brett Favre saga is over for now. Favre was traded to the Jets. Fine. There's enough blame to go around for how stupid this whole affair was.

Through this whole ordeal there was talk that he may end up with my beloved Vikings. I was always opposed to that idea. As good as Farve was, I did not want this distraction on my team.

Apparently the Packers were never going to allow Farve to play in Minnesota. That idea must have really freaked them out. It freaked them out so much, that in the deal with the Jets they included a clause that stated if the Jets ever trade Favre to Minnesota, the Packers would get 3 first round draft picks from the Jets!!!!

Wow, someone is a bit paranoid.

Now, for the record let me state that I hope the Vikings pick up the soon to be released Chad Pennington. I've always liked him. He will make a great back up and mentor to T. Jack.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

That would have bought a lot of beer

It's presidential election season here in the good ol' USA (and has been for about 3 years now). In a few weeks the Republican National Convention will be held in St. Paul, MN [1]. Being a Minnesota boy, I am quite proud of the fact that my state will be hosting this national convention.

I don't care if it is the RNC or the DNC. The flavor of the politics doesn't really matter to me. This is good for the local economy and it's good for exposure to the rest of the country.
Of course, any political convention of this magnitude comes with many challenges. One obvious challenge is security. The St. Paul police have been very busy preparing.

One big security challenge is the protests and the potential that these protests can escalate into riots. All of the protesters deserve to have their safety and their first amendment rights preserved. However, the protesters do not have the right to put the public or property at risk of harm.

To be prepared for any potential riots, the St. Paul police will be spending $1.9 million on chemical irritants, or as the budget request says "public order agents."

$1,900,000 would buy a lot of beer. That would buy at least 100,000 cases of beer, though I'm sure we could get a volume discount.

I don't know how much chemical irritant/public order agent $1.9 million actually buys, but I bet it's a lot.

The most common riot control agent is what is know as CS gas (2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile)
This 'tear gas' is not a gas but a solid with low water solubility. It is dispersed as an aerosol usually combined with an organic solvent such as dichloromethane. It really sucks when it gets in your eyes and on your skin. I've never experienced it. I'm just not into the riot scene.

I don't know if the St. Paul P.D. is going to have $1.9 million worth of CS gas specifically on hand, but they will have a lot of something. Incidentally, they are also going to spend $1 million on gas masks. That's probably a good idea.

Let's hope they don't need to use any of it.

[1] Not in Minneapolis as the ever intelligent Katie Couric believes.