Saturday, December 27, 2008

Safety glasses are not optional!!!! PART 2

I once told a tale about how safety glasses saved my eye sight. I have always been and will always be a safety glasses extremist. No one works in my labs without safety glasses.

Even when I am at home, I use safety glasses when I'm doing things like using power tools (saws, trimmers, drills etc..) or mixing a really strong drink (OK, maybe not that one, but you get the point).

I am slowly (sloooooooowly) building a bar in my basement. Tonight, I finally found some time to make some progress. I went to my shed to cut some lumber to the requisite size. I was wearing safety glasses as usual. During the course of events, I measured and marked a piece of plywood without glasses on as tape measures and pencils are not commonly known to cause eye injuries.

I didn't put the safety glasses back on.

As I started to saw through the wood, I hit a knot and a small chunk of celluose, hemicellulose and lignin (i.e. wood) flew through the air and nailed me in the eye. It specifically hit my sclera (the white of my eye). It didn't hurt much, but I knew something had happened.

I had my photographer-wife take a picture so I could put it on my blog and gross some of you out:
From my perspective, it looks a lot worse. At this point, I'm not going to seek medical attention since 'tis mearly a flesh wound.


I am the dumbass for not wearing them like I preach.

Wear your safety glasses, people.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Party time???

Happy Boxing Day everyone...whatever the hell Boxing Day is.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A chance to brew

Now that my grades are in, my children are on the mend, and I've shoveled my driveway, I finally got a chance to brew tonight. I brewed a cream stout.

Not only did I brew a much needed batch, I got to break in my new brew kettle. I recently purchased a 22 quart (5.5 gallon) stock pot. This thing is awesome. I am now able to do full boils (i.e. boil the entire 5 gallon batch). There are a lot of benefits to doing full boils. One of which is hop utilization. The extraction and isomerization is more efficient in a full boil.

Here is a picture of my new baby. I put a pint glass next to it for reference:
Since it is butt-ass cold around here and there are mounds of snow everywhere, I decided to let Mother Nature chill my wort for me. So, I stuck the pot in a drift on my deck:
The snow was cold and the air was a zero degrees Fahrenheit. I moved the pot around as it melted the snow. Here is the aftermath:
My spent grains are in a bucket to the left waiting very patiently to be composted.

This version of my cream stout was a partial mash version. I changed the recipe a bit. I'll let you know how it turned out.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Grades and Basketball

I finished grading, and I just submitted my grades through the world wide web to my institution's computerized grade collector. It's good to be done.
As a special treat, I am watching basketball on the telly. I'm watching Minnesota compete against the Louisville Cardinals. I'm glad I can use the word 'compete' as it has been a long time since a Gopher team has been able to compete with a top ten team. I fully expect the current Minnesota lead to evaporate. Louisville is too good, but Minnesota actually has a chance to win.
The Blizzard of '08 is winding up nicely. We've had about 6 inches of snow and it is blowing around nicely. In Minnesota snow always falls at a 45° or more angle. Today that angle is about 85° from perpendicular.

I'm back

I know, I wasn't gone long. Thankfully.

I'm still not done with my grading for the semester, but that has been the least of my concerns.

My son had surgery this past week. Everything went well and he is in good shape. The worst was trying to explain to a 2 month old why we we couldn't feed him for nearly 10 hours. That really sucked. We were waiting for an OR to open and the cases currently in the OR were all going long. This was unfortunate, but it put things into perspective. Our son's condition required surgery, but it wasn't a liver transplant or anything. We could wait, even if it meant a lot of crying.

So, that ordeal is done. He is doing very well. We are hopeful this is the end of it.

What do I do now with all of my free time?

#1 I'm going to finish my grades today.
#2 I'm going to brew a cream stout today
#3 I'm going to help a friend keg his beer.
#4 I'm going to enjoy watching the Blizzard of '08 move in.
#5 I'm going to learn some more Latin.
#6 I'm going to rest.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Temporary silence

Sorry for the silence around here. Along with the crazy finals crunch and insane amount of grading (or 'marking' for my non-USA readers), my son needs surgery after all. That's one hell of a way to end the semester.

As a result, the silence around here is probably going to continue. For many of you, I'll be visiting your blogs and commenting. I just don't have the energy to write a real post right now.

Hopefully, in a week or two, things will get back to normal. At which time, I will rededicate myself to writing about all of the things I know related to Homebrew and Chemistry.

Until then, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pink paper sucks

Recently, Chemist Ken wrote a post on his blog recollecting the drama surrounding the submission of his dissertation. This reminded me of some drama related to the submission of Ph.D. dissertation. I will admit, it was no where near as dramatic as Ken's, but I was freaked out for a while.

For reasons I won't go into right now, when I left grad school I was not completely done with my dissertation. I left campus thinking I was nearly 95% done. The reality was that I was only about 65% done. One of the biggest challenges was properly formatting my dissertation.

There are very stringent guidelines that must be followed when it comes to formatting a dissertation or thesis. I knew this from my experience writing a M.S. thesis, and I was prepared. I submitted early versions through the mail to the Grad School office for inspection. I got several suggestions and made those changes. In other words, my formatting was all set and essentially approved. No need to worry about that.

In preparation to print the thing out, I had purchase 3 reams of the appropriate type of paper. I ended up printing it out on the very last night I possibly could. In the morning I had to send it overnight. If I didn't get it out I would miss the deadline and I would not graduate.

It was while I was printing it out when I noticed it: two of my reams of paper were noticeably pink!!! Not a bright pink, but compared to the white pages, they were pink. I freaked out for a little while.

I needed to print 4 copies. They would be inspected for compliance to the formatting rules. I assumed pinkish paper was NOT going to be acceptable. But, what choice did I have. There was nothing I could do at that point. I printed them and tried to not mix the white and pink paper in the same copy.

If they were not approved, I would miss the deadline, I would miss graduation, and I have to wait 8 months and another semester to officially graduate. There were job implications, salary implications, expectations implications, all sorts of implications. Yeah, I was a bit freaked out.

In the morning, I overnighted them and decided to accept my fate as there was nothing else I could do.

I waited for a few days until I heard they had been accepted. They were in compliance. I have no idea if they noticed, but I don't care.

Can I get a break from life for a minute????

Just when things were settling down from the previous craziness, my 3 year old broke her arm tonight. Poor kid, but man is she tough.

Long story short:
She was running in the house. Dad (that's me) yells, "slow down before someone gets hurt." She trips and smacks her hand on a book shelf. Stupid books. What are they good for anyways. She cries inconsolably which is very uncharacteristic for her as she is tougher than me. Something is wrong. ER. X-rays. Yup, broken radius. Stupid bookshelf. Cast. Sling. We go home. She eats a bunch of pizza sans the use of her dominate hand. It doesn't slow her down and self-pity is unknown to her. What a kid.

Stupid books and their shelves.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Several tidbits

I've been away from blogging for a while. I have a reason. Read the following tidbits for more.


My Thanksgiving sucked. 75% of my children got sick with something. In one case, my 5-week old needed a urgent surgical (non-emergency) procedure. The local pediatric surgeon was enjoying the holiday and couldn't be bothered. So, our pediatrician sent us to Rochester. The Mayo clinic is located in Rochester, MN. The Mayo clinic is one of the top medical facilities in the world. Kings stop by on a regular basis to have their colons examined.

If you live in the Midwest (USA) and a doctor sends you to Rochester, it is because you either had your arms removed by a farm implement or you have a disease that has not yet been named. In other words, you don't get sent to Rochester unless you have a dire medical situation. To hear a doctor say my infant son had to "go to Rochester" scared the shit out of me. In my mind, that translated into "this is a critical situation and your son is in a dire medical situation. Failure to act now will endanger his life." Well, it wasn't that serious. The threat was not imminent, but it was serious enough that we couldn't wait until Monday.

Long story short... after a visit with no fewer than 4 doctors on Friday and an unplanned follow up today, I am delighted to say his only major problem is that he is still related to me. He should recover fully.


My Thanksgiving sucked (sorry to be redundant). My three year old started vomiting in the morning on turkey day and continued to do so every 45-60 minutes for about 24 hours. I felt so bad for her, but I was sooooo proud of her for hitting the bucket every single time. I stayed up helping her all night. This was the night before the preceding story took place. I was very tired.


When we took our son to Rochester, we were expecting that he would need surgery. Therefore, we could not feed him. He eats every 2 hours and this was torture for him and us, but mostly for him. While he was screaming in the ER, I discovered one of the greatest medical inventions of all time: sugar water. The nurse brought us something called "sweet-ease." Cute huh? It was just 24% sucrose in water. She dipped the pacifier in the sweet nectar, plugged it in his mouth and he sucked like he had never sucked before. He fell asleep even though he was 4 hours late for food. The sugar water induces a strong sucking reflex which induces, as far as I can tell, a state of euphoria (just for you mjenks).


To add to all of this, my youngest daughter has a chest cold. She sounds like she has been a 2-pack a day smoker for 10 years. I feel so bad for her, but she does sound kind of cool when she talks. Her spirits are high (so are mine thanks to Mr. Daniels, he he he he), and she is getting better.


Don't you hate it when people talk and talk and talk about their kids. Thanks for reading.


I realize none of this has to do with Chemistry or Homebrew, but for me, writing it has been theraputic. I promise, once things slow down, I will post something interesting. I actually do have a post almost ready about how Irish Moss works. I just need the time to pull it together. I also racked a spiced ale tonight. It tasted pretty good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Opportunity missed

About a year ago I wrote a post about the traditional pardon for the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

I had suggested that maybe this time Bush could not issue the pardon. He did.

Opportunity missed to have a nice fresh turkey dinner.

Have a great Thanksgiving America.

How do some people get their jobs?

Have you ever wondered how some people get their jobs? I often do.

If you are in charge of getting polar bears to breed, you might want to, for example, be able to tell the difference between boys and girls. Just a thought. Apparently, in Japan it's not important.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

There has always been an interstate rivalry between Minnesotans and Iowans. It is sometimes unfair because Iowans are too easy to pick on.

Last weekend the Iowa Hawkeyes demolished the Golden Gophers of Minnesota in an American football game. The score was an embarrassing 55-0. But, apparently there was not enough action on the football field for a couple of fans.

My favorite part of the story was:
"Walsh was released to his girlfriend and Feldman to her husband, police said."

Oh to be a fly on the wall in either of those homes.

There was one part though that really surprised me:
"Both were intoxicated, said Deputy Minneapolis Police Chief Chuck Miner."

Stupid Iowans.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

5 things about me

Abel Pharmboy over at Terra Sigillata has tagged me with this meme. His was insightful and interesting. Since it has been a while since I posted[1] I figured this would be a nice easy post to do even if it isn't insightful or interesting.

5 Things I was Doing 10 years Ago:
1) Getting geared up to marry my first and only wife
2) Trying to decide if I should return to grad school and finish my Ph.D..[2]
3) Singing excessive amounts of karaoke but getting paid in drinks to do it.
4) Finishing my first fall semester of teaching
5) Trying to figure out how I was going to pay off my student loans.

5 Things On My To-Do List Today:
1) Finish building the bar in my basement
2) Formulate objectives and expected proficiencies for our Chemistry Major
3) Grade the exams from my Chemistry of Art class.
4) Sleep[1]
5) Take over the world

5 Snacks I Love:
1) Keebler Toasted crackers
2) Anything from my childrens' Halloween bucket
3) Beer
4) Aged Cheddar
5) Smoked sausage and Diet Pepsi.

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:
1) Give it all away to charity[3]
2) Pay someone to finish the bar in my basement.
3) Buy some kick ass science equipment my department can't afford and put auto-samplers on everything. EVERYTHING.
4) Buy a lot of cheese and sausage.
5) Give my wife the things she really deserves.

5 Places I've Lived:
1) In a tiny rural, farm town
2) In a major metropolitan area
3) In Husker territory
4) In the shadow of mountains
5) In a state of denial

5 Jobs I've Had:
1) Bean walker[4]
2) Cell phone part builder
3) Oat bran bar packager
4) Movie theater cashier
5) Edumacator

I'm going to tag 5 people to do the same thing I just did, but I'll have to do that later.[1]

[1] I've learned to spell the word "colicky" if that gives you any idea what I've been dealing with.
[2] I did.
[3] Unless I actually had the million. If I did, I'd be like, "stay away from me, charity. Get your own million dollars. This one is mine."
[4] Back before Round-up ready beans, kids like me would be hired to walk through bean fields and pull weeds.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"BBA" is for...

Bad Bond Angle!

There are a few things I insist on in Organic Chemistry. One of the big ones is that I expect students to draw realistic bond angles. I am always reminded that this must be very hard for students to do. Even my best students draw impossible bond angles.

Things look like this:

These present teachable moments. I don't bring the sledgehammer down. Just a calm and stern correction. What they have drawn is wrong, and they can learn from their mistakes with proper guidance.

Eventually, when they should know better, I take points away. I once had a student ask me why I took points away. I told her it was because her answer was wrong. She didn't like that. Apparently she felt her ability to put something onto paper was worthy of credit. I had to convince her otherwise.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Information... it is everywhere

My modest experiment to see how long I could go without finding out who won the presidential election lasted only a few hours. All I wanted to do was see if it was even possible to avoid what would be historic news (one way or the other). After all, Obama was going to be the first African-American to either win OR lose a presidential election.

Well, I found out who won thanks to the scroll on ESPN. I was just trying to watch a little football.

I could have avoided finding out if I would have shut off all electronic devices. If there is one thing that defines our modern times it is the relentless flow of information. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it sure is something that makes modern society unique.

I recently read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. Even as recently as 200 years ago[1], It would take days for news to travel from the East Coast to Missouri. Nothing moved faster than the speed of horse. Now information is instant. The fact that I was unable to avoid the presidential information is not surprising but yet impressive.

[1] in the grand scheme of human events, 200 years is nothing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


If you are eligible to vote in the USA, please do so. I did. It took me 3 minutes, literally. I walked in, they checked my name and ID, I signed, got a ballot, voted right-wing-ultraconservative-nut-job across the board and dumped my ballot into what looked like a shredder. I'm assuming it was a shredder.

For those of you who stood (or will stand) in long lines, ha ha!!!!

Now, how long do you think I could go without finding out who won the presidential race.

I'm going to try a little experiment and see how long I can go without finding out. Any bets on how long I can go? I have a meeting first thing in the morning, so that will be tough. If I don't turn on my internet, I should be OK. It's worth a try.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sports, sports, sports

I've been a bit distracted with the new baby around. With that and an impending accreditation review at my institution, I may not be blogging much during the next week or two.

I decided to post a simple post about football. Since that's all that's important in life, right?

As some of you know, I am a Cornhusker fan. I'm also a Minnesotan. I revel in the cold, and I talk funny.

There is a certain receiver from Minnesota who plays for the Huskers. His name is Nathan Swift. He came from Hutchinson, MN a small, rural town in the middle of MN. This young man will soon become the all-time leading receiver in Nebraska Cornhusker history. This is a storied program that has seen its share of success. There have been a lot of great college players that have played for Nebraska. I'm proud that a Minnesotan will soon be the leading receiver in Nebraska history.

But, here's the catch[1], Swift has 136 career reLinkceptions and the record is 143 (held by 1972 Heisman trophy winner Johnny Rodgers). That is not a lot. For comparison, Jerry Rice had 301 receptions in his career. 143 total receptions is nothing!!!! That is not a criticism of Swift, but it illustrates the historic style of play employed by the Huskers since day one: RUN, RUN, RUN!!!

Times, they are a changin'. The pass-happy Huskers are entering a new era.[2] I'm glad a Minnesotan is inv0lved. Well done, Nate!

UPDATE: Nate Swift, a Minnesotan, is now the career reception leader for Nebraska with his 11 receptions today against Baylor. The 2 TDs he scored were pretty nice also.

[1] pun intended
[2] finally.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


My wife and I just had a baby.
It's a boy.
His IQ is 210.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

AB's grand experiment

Out of curiosity, I decided to try Budweiser's new American Ale. The label describes the beer as being brewed from American Barley from the heartland and hopped with Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest.

Relative to the rest of the Budweiser family, this is a fine beer. Compared to the other beers that American Ale is apparently trying to emulate, it is mediocre at best.

First, the Cascade hops are barely noticeable. This is the distinct flavor of American ales. If you are going to make American Ale to be like American ales, then maybe you should add enough hops to give American Ale that distinct American ale flavor. The hops don't have to punch you in the nose (which seems like a trend for many American beers), but I should be able to notice them.

The nose was weak. I nearly dipped my nose into the beer trying to get some aroma.

The taste provided a little maltiness, but is was all much too light for my tastes.

All in all, this is a good beer for Budweiser. I'm glad they made it. For lovers of craft beer, it may not be a big hit. However, this may be a great gateway beer for people to move from macrobrews to craft brews.

I was expecting more from this beer, but I think I got exactly what I should have expected.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Perfect combination

Recently, my children and I made some soft pretzels. mmmmmm, them are good. I paired mine with a delicious pale ale on tap.[1]

A critical step in pretzel making involves a brief dip in a boiling aqueous solution of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The increased pH speeds up the Maillard reaction and give pretzels their unique pretzely taste.

[1] currently my keg is holding beer hostage due to an apparent hop clog. I'm devastated.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Midterm exams

It is midterm time. Time for exams.

I'm writing an Organic exam for tomorrow. It covers cycloalkanes and an overview of organic reactions.

Feel free to suggest a question you think I should include on the exam. I'm not opposed to letting other people do my work for me.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


For several years, I have been involved in fantasy football. I love football and I love fantasies. What's not to like?

If you don't know what fantasy football is, you may want to stop reading. I'm not going to explain it, but I will say this, fantasy football is a way for the athletically untalented and the otherwise incompetent loser to pretend to be the big shot running a professional sports team. It makes me feel like a big man when I make decisions that help me win.

To be successful at fantasy football, one must make several decisions. Often it is a crap shoot, but sometimes it is an easy choice. Like should I start Adrian Peterson or Darren Sproles. Easy.

To make good decisions, you need a lot on information. One piece of info is the injury report. It really sucks when a player is a game-time decision and you don't find out they are out of the lineup after the first play. By then it is too late.

I was surprised to find out this week that my #1 tight end, Kellen Winslow, has a certain affliction. Apparently his testicles have swollen to the size of grapefruits. OK, that sucks (mostly for him of course, but this affects me to).

What shocks me the most is that he is still listed as "questionable" which means there is a 50-50 chance he will play! What!!! He's got a pair the size of grapefruits and he might play?!?!?
If my boys are ever the size of any citrus fruit, I'm taking the day off.

Sure, these reports have not been confirmed and they may be false, but when has the internet ever provided inaccurate information?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

5 gallons at a time

Someone once asked me how many batches of beer I've made. That's a good question, and it requires some creative accounting. My numbers are fuzzy because I have not kept track of everything.

When I first started making beer I didn't keep track at all. It was: make beer, drink beer. At the time, I only did kits and established recipes found on Al Gore's young internet. This was around 1995-1997. I have no idea how many batches I made back then.

I took a bit of a hiatus (9 years or so) and started brewing again in 2006. Since then I have increasingly improved my record keeping. This is mostly a result of the fact that I have been experimenting more, and I sometimes forget when I brewed something and don't know if it is time to bottle or what it was I brewed. With 3-4 batches going at a time (as opposed to 1) I need to keep better track of what I got.

I first recorded my brewing activities on iCal (24 batches recorded). Eventually, I started using a notebook. So far I have recorded 23 batches in the notebook.

So, long story short. I estimate that I have brewed about 75 batches. I think that is conservative, but I am going to use that number as the official tally. I brewed a cream ale last night. I am going to consider that to be #75.

So, I've brewed 75 batches (at least). At 5 gallons a batch, that's 375 gallons and about 3750 bottles of beer.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A chill is in the air

It is getting to be that time of the year. Time for stouts and porters. Time for beers that curl your toes. I plan on brewing a spiced winter ale for! Here's what I did last year. I hope to make something a little more balanced with the spices.

So, brewers and people who know or pretend to know what you are talking about, what should I include in my spiced winter ale 2008? I hope to bottle it by Thanksgiving.

Last year I was amazed at how overpowering (or nearly so) 0.5 tsp of nutmeg can be in 5 gallons of beer. It wasn't bad, but it assaulted the palate a bit too much. Perhaps, too much spice....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A few things

Egad!!! It's been a week since I last posted. Sorry.

Let me give you a update on what I did in my world during the last week.

I kegged the following beer:

Partial mash
3lb 2-row pale malt
8oz biscuit
6 oz carapils
8 oz medium crystal
2 lb DME
Bittering (60 minutes):
1 oz German Tradition
0.3 oz Tettnang
Aroma (5 minutes):
1.3 oz Tettnang
Wyeast 1056 American Ale.

I'm not sure what this beer is, but it is low alcohol and decent in flavor though lacking in body. It will be much safer than my first keg. The alcohol is about 3.5%.

I put a Guinness clone and a Metathesis Ale in their respective secondaries. Those are waiting to be kegged.


On a separate note, my beloved Twins found a way to piss away a great season by not beating the lowly Royals more than once. The door was wide open and they ran into the door frame. What a pisser. What makes it worse was that Justin Morneau was on track to win the AL MVP. Now, that he is a long shot.

Oh well, I've still got my Vikings.... what?? 1-3? Ahh Crap!!!!!


On another sports note, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be practicing on our campus tomorrow. I could not be less excited. I'd rather watch a VP debate. While I still consider the Wolves 'my team,' I cannot get excited about a team that still has Kevin McHale as its GM. He was a fantastic player, but as a GM he is terrible. He needs the Matt Millen treatment.

That is all....

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:

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.

Monday, July 28, 2008

pH crash course

Herein, in as few words as possible, I will attempt to describe what pH is and why every aqueous solution has a pH.

pH is mathematically defined as the negative log of the hydronium concentration. Or:

pH = –log[H3O+]
So, what is H3O+? Simply put, it is the active ingredient of acid. A more concentrated acid will produce more H3O+.
Water spontaneously reacts with itself to form hydronium (H3O+) and hydroxide (OH-):
2H2O <----> H3O+ + OH-
At 25°C, the concentration of hydronium times the concentration of hydroxide is always 1x10-14 moles per liter (M). Mathematically:
[H3O+][OH-]= 1x10-14
To make a long story short, [H3O+] cannot be zero and will never be zero. So, any and all aqueous solutions must have a pH value. Besides, the log of 0 is really big. I mean really, really big.

A neutral solution has equal amounts of hydronium and hydroxide:
[H3O+] = [OH-] = 1x10-7 M (at 25°C)
The pH of a neutral solution is 7 since -log(1x10-7) = 7.

So, it is inaccurate to say a solution does not have a pH.

In addition:

A solution can have a negative pH. For example a pH of -1.0 would correlate to a hydronium concentration of 10M.

Every common usage of pH is at 25°C. pH is temperature dependent. For example a neutral solution of pure water at 100°C has a pH of 6.14!!! Even though the pH is <7, this is neutral solution!!!!

negative log of what, exactly?

I love the show How It's Made. But tonight, I was annoyed. They were showing how aluminum cans are made. Nothing too fancy. What I did find interesting is that after the can is made, it is rinsed out with hydrofluoric acid. The acid etches away some of the metal and any aluminum oxide as a way of preparing it for the sprayed on can liner. The sprayed on can liner puts a barrier between my beer and the aluminum metal.

OK, so what annoyed me? The narrator said that after the acid bath, the cans were rinsed 4 times with deionized water "which does not have a pH."

For those of you in the know, I'm sure you will join in my annoyance with how basic chemical concepts have been totally ignored.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry. I'm going to write a post about it in a day or two.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fermentation Friday

Mike and John, the Dudes of Brew Dudes are hosting the monthly Fermentation Friday. This month the topic is Beginner Homebrewing Tips. Check it out for some very useful info.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

and then there were four....

Sorry for the post on personal matters, but this is my blog after all.

My children's goldfish died last night. It was 2. Dori the Goldfish was preceded in death by Nemo, whom Dori killed less than a week after I liberated both from PetCo. Dori was great at reorganizing rocks and getting pissed off when the aquarium light was turned on.

I gotta be honest. I never liked that fish. It cost me $0.29 and it wasn't worth it. Let me tell you the story:

One day, while my children were taking naps, I decided to surprise them. We had talked for a while about getting some fish. I decided this would be a great time to get some fish. So, while they slept, I dashed to PetCo and purchased a 5 gallon aquarium and 2 goldfish.

I was sucessful in surprising them. They were ecstatic. They were allowed to name the fish. The predictable monikers were Dori and Nemo. Within a week, Dori had bullied Nemo to death. Life and death lesson #1. We had a burial (i.e. flushing). Thankfully, the kids didn't take it too hard. Killing Nemo made me not like her. That feeling never went away.

Fast forward to yesterday. Dori, being the cheap goldfish she was died. Today we had a second burial (i.e. flushing) and again the kids were emotional pillars. I don't think they liked Dori either. That makes me wonder when the last time was that we fed her. hmmmm. Oh well, gotta go on living. Can't dwell in the past.

While the kids dealt with it OK, they also wanted a new fish. Since I had invested nearly $20 in a tank, I agreed.

After naps we headed off to PetCo. This time with a little professional assistance we picked out 4 small fish that aren't jerks. We got two Zebra Danios:
One Red Wag Platy:

and one Painted Platy.

So we now have 4 fish and no one has killed anyone. So far so good....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Methylene chloride

I've always wondered and now I am asking the world: Why does methylene chloride hurt when I get it on my skin? It's especially bad under a ring.

Here's another question, what is your preferred name for CH2Cl2?

Monday, July 14, 2008

This Bud's for someone else

I have nothing against Belgium. Nor do I have a dispute with their brewing tradition. Far from it.[1] Belgium is great for beer even if most Americans don't even know where it is.[2] What annoys me is that a Belgium company now owns (or will soon own) America's largest brewery.

Anheuser-Busch, while not a brewer of finely crafted brews[3], is an American institution. And now, it's owned by Europeans.

I have enjoyed many an A-B beer. Many. Now, I am less inclined, in fact, not inclined at all to drink a beer that sold out this badly.

Sure, business is important, but what about being true to those who built you up in the first place: The American Beer Drinker (ABD).[4] Thanks for the kick in the nuts you greedy share-holders and executives. You may as well get a job in the gasoline industry. That's where a lot of money can be made screwing over the American consumer.

For InBev and the Belgium investors, good for you. I hope it works out. For those who sold out, I hope you drown in a vat of beer because you couldn't drink it all.

P.S. I will no longer voluntarily consume an A-B product. That should teach them.

[1] Not a sentence.
[2] It's 2nd behind France in closeness to England.
[3] this point could be argued... even by me. But then, I argue with myself too much.
[4] Oh, so that's what that means.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carbon Tet is back on the air

Greg is back and posting again at Carbon Tet. That's good, because he usually[1] has something worth reading.

Thanks Greg.

[1] I would say 'always' but it's nice to have the freedom to post completely worthless stuff every now and then. This blog is a perfect example of worthless stuff.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Tough decision time.

Time to make some tough decisions. If you will notice, to the right there are a number of blogs that I read. Well, OK, I try to read them, but some blogs have sadly become defunct or nearly so.

It is time (regretfully for some) to cull the list and remove those who are not actively posting. I am removing the following from my list[1]:

Carbon Tet: It was fun and all too brief.
Jungfreudlich: My German speaking friend. Life got in the way. Please come back.
Liberal Arts Chemistry: Incredibly good insight into a world like mine. I have valued your thoughts.
Chemical Musings: Milo closed shop of his own volition. I can't argue with that. Thanks for the ride.
Ithaca Beer Brewers Blog
: Good stuff about brewing, but nothing since May.
Dylan Stiles: The Dylan of Tenderbutton fame that started it all (I think). It just ain't the same.
Chembark: This is tough. I have the magnet and everything. I met the author in Boston. I hope this is temporary.


A Synthetic Environment
: This has always been one of my favorite blogs. I am NOT going to remove it at this time, but I may have to eventually. If I do, I will be sad.

Farewell, my friends. I will continue to monitor these blogs, but will remove them from my list for now.
So, who wants to be my friend and have their blog listed on my list?

Here's one I am going to add. Lisa-tastrophies. She writes good stories and I like to read good stories. I found her blog through Matt's blog.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that I added Chemistry and Cooking recently. Sorry, Taitauwai, for not mentioning it in the original post.

[1] If any of these blog authors are still around and do not want to be removed, let me know. But please, post something. We like what you write.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ooooh! I feel so naughty.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

The average is 10%, but wow, 4.6%! That make me feel like a sailor. I thought I would be around 0.005%. Oh well.... jackass!!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

y=mx+b is for losers

Everyone who has mowed a lawn or watched professional baseball is familiar with the patterns a lawnmower makes as it cuts the lawn. Here is one example of what I am talking about:

Or here is an example from Minute Maid park in Houston:

The easiest pattern is a linear one, but this is boring. To prove how much of a nerd I really am, I decided to forgo the y=mx+b motif and employ a non-linear function. This week I mowed my lawn in a sin(x) manner. See:

OK, the picture isn't great and I couldn't fit my whole backyard into one shot. I am also too lazy tonight to screw around with Photoshop and merge them together, but you get the idea. The bucket was meant to be a point of reference. It looks better in real life, though one could easily tell I drew this with a lawnmower. It isn't a perfect sine wave.

I was originally going to do ln(x), but I'd still be mowing. *rim shot* (Get it? If not see: [1])

Next week, maybe a zig zag. First I have to figure out the function for a zig zag. Or I could do f(x)=|sin(x)|. hmmmmm, so many possibilities, so little lawn.

[1] Think asymptote.

Friday, June 27, 2008

hop bags

I usually use a hop bag when I make beer. A hop bag is a nylon bag that keeps the hops contained and easily removed from the wort before fermentation. This helps keep the beer a bit cleaner. In addition off flavors can be leached from the hop residue as it sits on the bottom of the fermenter. Removing the hop residue before fermentation helps prevent this.

The main problem with using a hop bag is getting hops into the bag while it is in the kettle.[1] The boiling wort (3 gallons of it) is hot. It's boiling. Boiling water is hot. The bag is full of liquid and cannot easily be removed from the boiling wort. Opening the bag is tricky because the wort is hot (remember).

So, I came up with my own solution: a funnel. I stick a large funnel into the opening of the bag and slowly add the hop pellets. The pellets must be added slowly so they don't plug the funnel. This method also only works for pellets. On occasion, I have hydrated the pellets in water and poured the slurry through the funnel. That works too, but is slower.

Here's a picture.

[1] Brief hop background: There are two main uses of hops: bittering and aroma. For bittering to occur, the hops must be boiled for an hour during which chemical isomerization occurs. For aroma, the hops are typically added during the last 15 minutes of a 60 minute boil.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Time for brewing

Lately, the sporadic posts on this blog have been mostly about chemistry. I have seriously neglected posting anything about beer and brewing. How sad.

I plan on brewing tomorrow (I hope). I'm going to make what I call a summer ale. Here is my planned recipe:

Partial mash:
2 3.5 lb pale malt
0.5 lb honey malt
0.5 lb carapils

3 lbs light dry malt extract (late addition)

Columbus- bittering
Willamette- aroma and flavor

I'm shooting for something lighter in color. The hops are from what I have on hand. I think the Columbus will be nice for bittering. At 14% AA,it won't take much to bitter the beer. The Willamette should provide a nice herbal, earthy flavor that will taste good when I am digging in my garden[1].

Any thoughts?

[1] or trying to kill that stupid rabbit that's decimated my garden.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moving pictures of Thermite

Finally, here it is: Thermite.

At about 2:00 I almost die. Well, OK, not really, but I did almost get a lot of liquid iron on my legs.

We tried to melt a tower of Al cans below the reaction, but it just got knocked over. I will need to support it next time.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thermite video coming soon

By popular demand of one influential commenter, I videotaped a thermite reaction that I recently performed. I am currently on vacation and am away from my videotape. When I am back[1], I will be posting this video on the good ol' world wide web.

Stay tuned.

[1] and when I figure out all of the computer manipulations necessary to get a video onto U-Tube[2]

[2] I know, it's "YouTube" but when I hear "YouTube" I just think of a piece of glassware used for things like manometers and dialysis experiments.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thermite pictures

Here are some pictures of my recent thermite demo. This one was 1.5 kg iron (III) oxide and 500 g aluminum powder. It was ignited by adding some gummi bears to a puddle of molten potassium chlorate. The pile of potassium chlorate on top of the thermite was melted using a propane torch.

Notice the doomed aluminum cans and the gummi bear below the flower pot.


The stream of molten iron.

The aftermath.