Thursday, September 25, 2008

Multitasking tools

Several months ago I upgraded to a nice, new, shiny stainless steel racking cane (this is the thing that gets stuck in carboy while siphoning beer from one container to another). I had a plastic racking cane that was not being used. I decided it needed a use.

There are many uses, but I decided to use it to help clean my fish tank. You may recall we replaced a dead fish with some new fish around here.[1] We did this primarily because dead fish are really boring and eventually smelly.

I try to clean the tank regularly.[2] It is a pain, so I came up with a brilliant solution using my old racking cane.

Here's how it works: I put the racking cane in the fish tank and run the tube out of my deck door. I start the siphon and send the used tank water out to the grass under the deck. The fish stay in the tank. As the water gets lower I add more water to "wash" the rocks and stir up any settled fish poop. Water out, water in. I exchange a few gallons of water to ensure the tank is clean (or almost clean). Finally, I let the tank water get to about 3 inches deep. I cease the siphon and fill the tank with fresh clean (treated) water.

Here are some really crappy pictures to demonstrate my method.
I know, the pictures are lousy, but I think you get the point.

[1] We had 4 but are down to 3.
[2] Hehehehehe, yeah, whatever.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tales of Biochemistry

Some of the comments in my last post got on the subject of Biochemistry courses. The comments reminded me of a couple stories from when I took Biochemistry.

I have had the "pleasure" of taking an undergraduate Biochemistry course not once, not twice, but three times. The latter two were cross listed as graduate courses, so don't go thinking I'm a moron. That should have been obvious long before this post.

I have two stories about my experiences in Biochemistry.

The second time I took it, it was team taught by two professors at a large state university. He was a good teacher, and she was not. One day she was scheduled to teach, but he showed up. The class of about 100 undergrads burst into applause and cheering when they realized he was going to teach and not her. A few class periods when she showed up, the groans and moans were hardly subtle. As a grad student, I didn't think she was that bad. She wasn't good, but not deserving of that treatment. Yet, it was humorous to observe that.

The second story comes from when I took the third time. By this time, I was just going through the motions. I knew most of the stuff and was bored. Sadly, the teacher this time was less interested in accurate chemistry. She would do a lot of things that would make chemists cringe. One day, she decided to deprotonate something with a chloride ion. I don't remember what she was deprotonating, but it doesn't matter. Chloride will never deprotonate anything, especially in an aqueous environment since water is a base about 1,000,000 times stronger than chloride. And that's if you ignore everything else that is even more likely to act as a base. OK, she may have just been trying to simplify things, but when we asked her about it, she would not back down. She tried to convince us that chloride was the base. We decided to not push the issue. The effort was just not worth it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An analogy is sort of like a....

I'm a big fans of analogies in teaching. I think they can be useful at simplifying complex concepts. They help by putting the general ideas of a concept into more familiar forms. This is gives the student something to grasp and contemplate. The ultimate goal is that the simplified version incubates and eventually provides a foundation for the understanding of the complex concept.

The danger is that the student never gets past the analogy, and the full understanding never develops. So, analogies must be used carefully and judiciously.

With that said, I like to use analogies using kindergarteners (figuratively, not literally).

For example (my apologies to any non-chemists; this is going to get nerdy), I use kindergarteners to explain the stability provided by resonance.

The following carbanion is very unstable and highly reactive because the charge is localized on one carbon.
Whereas, this next molecule, while still quite reactive, is more stable and less reactive because the negative charge is delocalized through the pi system.

The first structure is analogous to being locked in a small room with 20 hyper adn overly energetic kindergarteners. That would be a high stress and uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. What the kindergarteners need is room to run. The second structure is analogous to being in a gymnasium with the same 20 kindergarteners. When the kindergarteners have room to run around, things are a lot less stressful. In other words, kindergarteners are nonbonded electrons.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hop pantry raid!!!!

The hops one uses to make a certain style of beer are important. There are some hops that must be used to achieve a certain style. During the recent hop shortage some hops have been hard to find.

If you are a homebrewer like me, you have tried to experiment with certain hop varieties when your variety of choice is not available or costs too much. Sometimes, I have stockpiled some varieties that were readily available in case I needed them.

The good news is that due to disciplined usage and rationing, more hops are now available than was anticipated back in March. There are a lot of things not available, but many more things can be found.

I finally decided to get rid of the hop remnants sitting in my freezer. I decided to use them regardless of beer style. Beer snobs will be appalled.

I brewed two batches. A Guinness clone and a style of beer that has never been seen on the face of the earth.

First the Guinness. Here are the hops I used:
1 oz Willamette (4.6% aa)
1 oz Kent Goldings (4.5% aa)- that actually fits the style!
0.5 oz Saaz (2.3% aa)
0.6 oz Hallertau (1.5% aa)

The rest of the recipe was pretty standard. Maris otter, roasted barley, Mountmellick LME etc...

The second beer is... well, I'm not sure what the style is even close to. I decided to use some of the grains I had on hand. Here's the full recipe:
Partial mash
3lb 2-row pale malt
8oz biscuit
6 oz carapils
8 oz medium crystal

2 lb DME

and here are the hops:
Bittering (60 minutes):
1 oz German Tradition
0.3 oz Tettnang
Aroma (5 minutes):
1.3 oz Tettnang

Wyeast 1056 American Ale.

Pretty weird, eh? I agree, but so what?!?! I'm not trying to win a beer competition. I'm making beer. No matter how this turns out, it will be better than Clydesdale piss. Beer styles be damned (at least for now).

Brewers, any thoughts???

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fluorene, what's it good for?

I've been culling items from our organic stockroom. This task has been long overdue. I have bottles of things that were filled before the EPA and OSHA even existed. They were filled before benzene started causing cancer.

I found a 1 pound bottle of fluorene. Fluorene puts the F in FMOC and the F in a lot of other things.

My question is, does anybody know what uses plain, old, ordinary 9H-fluorene has?

I know the proton can be removed relatively easily and then it probably acts as a nucleophile.

It can also be oxidized to fluorenone using a phase transfer catalyst.

What else can I do with my newly discovered stash of fluorene?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I live to brew again

If I had a dime for everytime a blogger wrote "sorry I haven't posted. I've been really busy" I'd be rich...

**clears throat**

Sorry I haven't posted. I've been really busy. Things are getting into a groove now, so I found some time to not only post, but to brew beer.

Tonight I brewed my Metathesis Pale Ale. Here's the most recent and most refined recipe (I'm still tweaking this one, but it never turns out bad).

Partial Mash:
2 lb Pale Malt
1 lb Briess Caramel malt (10°L)
8 oz Malted Wheat
1.25 gallons at 154°F for 90 minutes
Sparged with 2 gallons at 164°F
3 lbs DME
1 oz Cascade hops
Boil 45 minutes
1 oz Cascade hops
Boil 15 minutes
Chill, top to 5 gallons
Pitch Wyeast 1056, American Ale

When the time is right, dry hop with 1.5 oz Cascade hops

Next up, an Irish stout similar to Guinness.

Here's a picture of my porter I currently have on tap: