Monday, January 26, 2009

Marshmallows in my head

The plague of black bubonic death has settled on my house. It wasn't that big of deal when everyone else in my family had it. That is... until I got it. I felt it coming on late Friday afternoon. By Friday night, I was one hurting unit, attempting to extract sympathy from every corner. I had a fitful night of sleep and in the morning, I felt like 8 2.5-inch nails had been pounded into my head with a ball peen hammer. I spent the day sprawled on the couch, accepting any and all pity and sympathetic overtures.

By Sunday, my head didn't hurt as much, but it started to feel like my head was filling with marshmallows. That's where I'm at today. I can't think clearly. My lectures today were terrible (I did warn my students). I could not think clearly enough to prepare a coherent lecture.

I'm going to go to bed early tonight, but not until I extract a little more sympathy... if there's any left.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kutti's back

Kutti at Jungfreudlich is back from a blogging hiatus.

Welcome back!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

more bar progress...

It's getting there. I made some progress on my bar by gluing the oak veneer to the plywood. I used contact cement to do the job. I did the top on Wednesday and learned that the solvents used in the contact cement can become quite annoying after a while. On Wednesday it was too freakin' cold to open any windows for ventilation. But, yesterday, when I did the rest of the veneer, it was way up to 8° F. That was plenty warm to open the windows and air out my work space.

By use of my organically trained nose, it was obvious that toluene is the main solvent in the contact cement (think airplane glue). The label also indicated there was naptha and 2-butanone present as well. Naptha is a general term for a mixture of hydrocarbons.

When using contact cement, the cement is added to both surfaces. The glue is allowed to dry (i.e. the solvents evaporate) and then the surfaces are stuck together. Since I had about 80 square feet of surface area to cover with contact cement, I decided to open the windows and vent out the evaporating solvents. By the time I was done, I could see my breath in my basement. It was cold, but on the other hand, the vapors vented out quite nicely.

Here are a few pictures.

The front of the bar.
Look at that tight corner

The end of the bar.A close up.

Now, all I have left is to add trim, stain, gloss up the surface, and add the beer delivery system.

The only drawback to the progress I am making on my bar is that I have not had time to brew. That will need to be remedied.

Friday, January 16, 2009

In other news...

In news not involving me, Tubby Smith is now second only to Bud Grant as the greatest coach this state (Minnesota) has seen.

The Gophers beat the Badgers in Madison for the first time in something like 780 tries (or something that seemed like that). Except for the era that never actually happened, this is the greatest era in Minnesota basketball.

Thank you Kentucky!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

10 seconds of my 15 minutes has been used

Today I was asked by a local TV station to help with some demonstrations for their news program to illustrate how freakin' cold it is in Minnesota. This morning the temp was -25°F. That's freakin' cold, my friends.[1]

I went to the station and we taped a few minutes of using a frozen banana to hammer a nail, blowing bubbles and watching them freeze and "popping" balloons. The edited footage was going to air tonight on the nine o'clock news.

Well, it turns out the big CBS news show with Katie Couric called down to the minor leagues for some video foder to fill up their national newscast. Long story short, they lumped about 10 seconds of the footage we shot into a story about how freakin' cold it is.

Here's the video. I'm the ugly bastard at about 1:37 using a banana to pound a nail.

Watch CBS Videos Online

So, what that means is I have 14:50 seconds of fame left.

[1] I must include a disclaimer here. While it is freakin' cold here in Minnesota, we must remember that there is an entire country further to the north of Minnesota (and another state). When it's freakin' cold here, it's usually f*cking cold in Canada.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


As I sit here getting a bit loopy from the toluene and methyl ethyl ketone fumes from the contact cement I am using to attach the oak veneer to my bar top, all I can think of is: shouldn't palindrome be spelled 'palinilap?'

Monday, January 12, 2009

A flurry of bar building activity

I made a good deal of progress on my bar yesterday and today. Since I am doing all of my cutting in my shed or garage and the temperatures are expected to plummet to -15°F, I felt compelled to do as much cutting as I could. I like my testicles and prefer not to freeze them off.

On Sunday, I installed 1/2 inch plywood on the front of the bar. Tonight I installed the bar top (5/8 inch plywood) and cut (but didn't install) 1/4 inch oak veneer. I need to figure out the best way to attach the oak veneer. Obviously, screwing it or nailing it in place would defeat the purpose of the veneer. I will probably glue it, but I need to figure out what type of glue to use.

Here are a few pictures.

After I attach the veneer, I will install trim, stain it, lacquer of the surface real good, and install the kegerator. I'm getting close.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

'tis now a wet bar

I worked on my bar tonight and installed a sink, complete with drain. Here is a picture of the sink with the water running just to prove that it works.

Here is a picture of the "main prep" area that I tiled and grouted.

As you can see, my work area is a bit messy. That's because I have not taken the time to clean. Time is too valuable right now to clean. I need to get ready for the new semester that starts on Monday. Obviously, that's been my #1 priority.

Also, sitting in my garage, I have all of the plywood and oak veneer I need to nearly finish the beast. After that comes trim, but that is only cosmetic.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Learning things...twice.

Have you ever learned something twice?

Have you ever learned something, forgot it, and learn about it later only to realize you already knew that?

Sometimes, it can be kind of embarrassing. Especially if you tell something you are convinced is true only to find out you knew better. That happened to me today.

At The Curious Wavefunction, Ashutosh posted about an article in the New York Times about radio signals and early stars. He identified a rather curious statement in the article:
Dust grows over time as stars manufacture heavy elements called metals, like carbon, silicon and oxygen, that make up dust and then spit them out into space.
I checked out the article and found the offending sentence and it offended my delicate chemistry teacher sensibilities. Carbon, silicon and oxygen are most decidedly NOT metals, nor are they "heavy elements."

I decided I had finally found my purpose on this planet and decided to send the author an email and personally advance his education. This is what I sent him:
Mr. Overbye,
In a recent article you wrote: "Dust grows over time as stars manufacture heavy elements called metals, like carbon, silicon and oxygen, that make up dust and then spit them out into space." Carbon, silicon and oxygen are most certainly NOT metals nor are they heavy elements.
Best wishes,
Eric Woller, Ph.D.
I added the Ph.D. part to make sure he knew I wasn't messing around. I felt good. I had taught some big shot NYT science correspondent some damn fine chemistry. He was nice enough to reply. This is what he sent me:
Astronomers refer to anything heavier than helium as metals.
Thanks for writing,
That was when I slapped my forehead and realized...I knew that. I'm such an idiot.

While one can argue that labeling anything heavier than helium as a metal is silly, that's what astronomers and the like do. I knew that, but it didn't stop me from displaying some degree of ignorance.

So, I learned that little fact...again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I love my Mac

"I'd buy anything if it's shiny and from Apple."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bar progress

As I mentioned yesterday I am building a bar in my basement. Even though I really should be getting ready for the new semester, I decided to install some tile on my bar (I am such a terrible procrastinator).

I have installed a lot of ceramic tile in the past 5 years. I did our kitchen, dining room, 2 entry ways, a shower and now on and under my bar. I own a tile saw and have used it a lot. I do all of my tile cutting outside because a tile saw is a bit messy. A tile saw is a wet saw meaning the blade cooled by water. The bottom inch of the blade dips into a reservoir of water.

As evidence that Minnesota winters are cold, my tile saw froze up between cuts. It was only outside for a total of 3 hours, but that was enough to freeze the blade in the "not moving" position when I hit the switch.

Tomorrow I will add grout. That job sucks, but it will help me procrastinate.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My slooooooow bar project.

When we bought our house several years ago, the entire basement was unfinished. It only took me about 4 years to finally finish it. Money and the arrival of children really slowed things down.

Right now, I'm building a bar in my basement. I planned for the eventual addition of said bar. I put plumbing and electrical in all the right places.

I'm not a professional handi-man, but I would like to think I am entirely capable. My main drawback is that I am very slow and methodical. I will literally spend hours thinking and planning. That's why my bar wasn't finished in July as planned.

The first step was to cut a perfectly good chunk of carpet out of our newly laid carpet and replace it with slate tile.

The second step was to frame in the bar. That's where I am right now.

Here are some pictures:

The bar in it's current state of disarray:
Where the sink will go:
The other side of the bar. I'll be tiling the surface with small slate tile.
Where the kegerator will go:
The kegerator that will go into the bar:
My kids think they can hammer screws into scraps. Silly kids:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Irish Moss: A brief description

Clear beer is often a goal for many homebrewers, the standard being set by the commercial brewers. With modern brewing techniques and common industrial practice we have come to expect our beer to be crystal clear. When homebrewing, clear beer is not common. In reality, most homebrews are cloudy.

The two main culprits of cloudy beer are yeast and proteins.

As the yeast near the end of their job (i.e. when fermentation is ending due to lack of sugars) the single cells of yeast will clump together in groups of thousands and settle out. This is known as flocculation[1]. Different yeasts flocculate differently. Some yeasts settle out nicely and others do not. One strategy to get more yeast to settle out is to cool the beer (such as lagering) before bottling or kegging.

The other culprit of cloudy beer are proteins along with polyphenols and lipids (fats). While proteins are not necessarily small molecules, they are small enough to remain in suspension.

Beer can be clairified using Irish moss, a fining agent. Fining agents all work by making the smaller molecules aggregate into larger particles so they settle out of solution. This can be mathematically described by Stokes Law:

Where v is the rate of sedimentation, r1 is the density of the particle and r2 is the density of the wort, r is the radius of the particle, g is 9.8 m/sec2 (a.k.a. acceleration due to gravity), and h is the viscosity of the medium. In other words, as the density and size of the particle increases it will settle out faster. In addition, a thinner wort will allow settling to occur faster.

Irish moss is Atlantic red seaweed[2] that contains k-carrageenan:
The k-carrageenan is a polymer of β-D-galactose-4-sulphate-3,6-anhydro-a-D-galactose. It is similar to starch or cellulose (i.e. comprised of thousands of carbohydrates). The negatively charged sulfate groups are thought to interact with the proteins in suspension. As the wort cools, more and more proteins interact with the k-carrageenan and the k-carrageenan adopts a more compact structure. The result is the molecular equivalent of marbles in syrup. After the churning of an active fermentation ends (4-5 days) the carrageenan-protein chunks settle out with the yeast.

Homebrewed beer is still often cloudy, but Irish moss does make a noticable difference.

[1] He he he he, I said flocculation.
[2] Yes, seaweed.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to my blog.

I almost forgot that today is my blog's 2-year birthday.

I should do something special.

Maybe I'll post a real post for once

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone and...

GO BIG RED!!!!!!!!!!
I love me a good New Year's day bowl game...