Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Dear chemists,

Should I spend $1000+ of my faculty development money to attend the National Organic Symposium in Boulder, CO?

Dear beer enthusiasts,

Should I spend $1000+ of my faculty development money to attend a chemistry conference near a hot bed of craft breweries and brewpubs?


Saturday, March 28, 2009


Ugh, we have a pond behind our house. It is covered with ice... again.

Will this winter never end?

Today, in an attempt to appease the gods of winter (who are all bastards, by the way) I shall sacrifice some grains to them by allowing some chosen yeast to eat their innards.

Behold, the Chosen Ones (by, 'Ones' I mean 'Billions'):
The gods better be pleased.

UPDATE: I just realize the picture I posted is essentially a yeast orgy as they reproduce by budding. I'm sorry if I offended anyone's delicate sensibilities with my pornographic picture.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Here's a picture of me filling my kegs. I filled three kegs. Right to left: Cream Ale, Irish Stout, and Spiced Ale.
About 1 day at 20 psi of CO2 pressure and the beer was fully carbonated.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Worst time of the year.

As a sports fan, this is one of the worst times of the year. The NCAA basketball tourney started last Thursday in typical fashion with a flurry of activity. During the course of 4 days, 50 basketball games were played. Some were good, some were almost great, some were boring, some were stupid, and some were downright bad.

The games were done by late Sunday afternoon and now....... now we have to wait!! I hate this time of year.

I'm not the biggest college basketball fan. I pay casual attention during the season, but I get really interested during the tournament. After the first 4 days of work-skipping action, I need more.

It's like doing crack for the first time and then having to wait a few days to get your next hit. [FYI I know nothing about this]

So now we wait until Thursday until our next hit. Pitiful? Yes, no doubt. The good news is that when the championship rolls around, I will be burnt out on college basketball. Then I won't care.


In related news, Tubby is staying. At least that's what he says. This is unusual for us Minnesotans. We do not know how to deal with rumors that someone is lusting after the head coach of one our sports teams.

While the Gopher basketball team is done, we can now turn our attention to the annual event known as "Minnesota Plays in the NCAA Hockey Tournament." Like clockwork, the powerhouse Minnesota Gopher Hockey team will be playing in the tournament just like they do every year.... wait a minute.... what the f***???.... AH CRAP!!!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

HF is in what?

Today in Pennsylvania, a truck carrying hydrofluoric acid (HF) overturned. CNN.com had a story about it. As so often happens, the main stream media continues to display a certain degree of scientific illiteracy.

In the story the author wrote:
It also is an ingredient in high-octane gasoline, refrigerants, aluminum and light bulbs.
HF is indeed a nasty little molecule that demands a great deal of respect, but I can assure you, it is NOT an ingredient in gasoline, refrigerants, aluminum and light bulbs. HF is used in the manufacturing of these things, but it is not an ingredient. A subtle difference, but an important one. Even a quick Wikipedia search could have helped.

If you don't understand science, don't write AP stories related to science. That's why I don't write AP stories about poetry, cricket or knitting. I know what these things are, but I don't know enough to be accurate.

NOTE: I was going include a picture showing some HF accidents, but some of them were too gruesome. I didn't want to gross out any unsuspecting reader. Do your own search.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Curse of all curses

I found out something amazing and sad today. Fellow blogger, mjenks, suffers from a terrible affliction. He is allergic to hops. Yes, hops. The hops found in beer. In other words, he can't drink beer. I can think of few fates worse than this one.

So, tonight I drink a home-crafted Irish Stout while watching Notre Dame duke it out with UAB in the NIT.[1] Cheers, mjenks. This one is for you.

[1] Truth in blogging: I actually spent most of my time watching the Minnesota Wild beat Colorado in a 'howkey' match.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sophomore year Spring Break

During my Sophomore year, me and two girls (a male friend of mine backed out) took a trip to Boulder, CO. We jumped into my 1982 Chevy Celebrity and headed west. One of the girls lived in Nebraska so we had a place to stop along the way.

We got to Boulder, and I was amazed. Boulder is a very nice town, and I used to think that until I attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Then, thanks to football rivalries, I learned to dislike Boulder. Petty? Yes, but I digress.

The other girl I was with had an aunt that lived in Boulder so we stayed there. I don't remember doing to much. We were underage and so we didn't do any drinking or partying. We did touristy stuff. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park. Most of it was closed due to snow. We went to Red Rocks and I pretended to be Bono when U2 was live at Red Rocks.

The biggest highlight/farce of the trip was our quest to find some Crystal Pepsi. Denver was a test market for Crystal Pepsi, and we had plans on scoring a few cases and selling them for profit back in Minnesota. We searched around Denver for a while and found nothing. It turns out we were about 2 weeks early. It also turns out that Crystal Pepsi was crap and not worth the effort.

We headed back to Minnesota and as we were driving across Nebraska, I noticed vehicles traveling in the westbound lane were increasingly covered with snow. Little did we know, we were heading into a major late season snowstorm. Once we got to Lincoln, NE the snow started to get heavy. We made it to Omaha and realized we needed to make a decision. Thankfully, one of the girls on the trip had an uncle in Council Bluff, IA, just across the border from Omaha. We got there and stayed the night. I didn't want to stop. I had an Organic Lab on the next day.

Travel the next day was pretty decent. We made it back, but I missed my lab.

Nothing too exciting, but it was a fun trip and I'm glad I went.

Monday, March 9, 2009

300? Took me long enough

This is my 300th post of my blogging career. My most humble blog has been chugging along for a little over two years now. I appreciate those of you who have posted comments over the years, even if it was just once or several times.

In my first post ever, I listed out some goals for me and this blog:
"I have set up this blog to give me a chance to #1: Record my homebrew recipes and batches (I'm terrible at keeping records about my brews). #2: Talk about some of the Chemistry associated with brewing that I find interesting (There are professionals that do this. I'm not one of them). #3: practice my tpying. #4: Talk about anything I like. In reality, #4 may become a bigger factor as things go on. I'm not looking to change the world or influence public opinion or control a general election, I just want to write some things."
I have done #1 OK, but not in the last 5 months. However, I started keeping a notebook and have done pretty good with that.

I have not pursued ideas for #2 as vigorously during the last 6 months. I'm going to try to do more of this again.

As far as #3 goes, my tpying still sucks.

I have definitely taken #4 and run with it. That is the default mode of operations for me.

So, for my 300th post, I want to say 'thank you' to those of you who have read and maybe even posted a comment or two, or many. I appreciate the blogging friendships I have made with many of you. They are, by their very nature, impersonal, but yet they are still very meaningful.

As an added bonus (and I'm taking this out of the That Blue Yak playbook), for the next 5 people that start following this blog, I will start following your blog.


Minneapolis. The town that gave you Target, The Lakers, Flour, the '87 and '91 Twins and Prince now has something else to brag about.

They drink more Irish whiskey[1] than any other town in the world[2]. Take that Dublin pubs!!!!

22 bottles a day.

[1] specifically Jameson.
[2] at one specific location

Saturday, March 7, 2009

SPRING BREAK 2009!!!!!

Sorry for the silence lately. I've been swamped with midterm exams, projects and grading. Now that Spring Break is here, it is time to party!!!!

And by 'party' I mean hang out with the kids and make french toast. As I get older, I look forward to Spring Break more for the time to rest than for the revelry for which it is so well known. I may go on a several hour bender and finish off two-thirds of a six-pack, but I won't be jetting down to a warmer climate trying to score with drunk chicks I meet on a beach. Those days are long behind me. OK, to be honest, I never had those days.

My Spring Breaks were, in my opinion, more fun (mostly).

Freshman year: On the Thursday before Spring Break a friend (let's call him Stan) casually asked, "hey, wanna go to Florida for Spring Break?" Me, "sure." We quickly planned and convinced two other friends (both girls I might add) to join us. We jumped into Stan's Dodge Shelby (yes, 4 of us in a two door hatchback) and headed south. Stan knew two people in Florida, one person near Tampa and another near Vero Beach. We could stay with them and get to see both coasts of Florida. I didn't know these people, but I trusted Stan.

We got to Tampa and it was then that I found out Stan's friend was 40, married with 3 kids and unaware that 4 people (including two women) were coming. It was a bit awkward. He and his family ended up being very nice hosts. We basically used their home as a place to sleep and recover from sunburn. We didn't do too much other than hang out at the nearest beach and consume a few Coor's lights. We did take a trip to Sea World, but it was on the coldest day of the trip. It was in the low 50's (F) and it sucked because we didn't travel to Florida to freeze. For the rest of the trip, it was warm (70-80s).

After a few days, we traveled across Florida to Vero Beach. There we spent a couple days with another of Stan's friends. She was a college student ane understood the meaning of Spring Break. Nothing too remarkable happened. I don't remember much, but I do remember having some of the best fresh squeezed orange juice I have ever had in my life. We picked the oranges right off the tree. It was awesome.

The drive back was long. We were tired. When we got back, it was 20°F and windy. We missed being warm.

Next time, I'll recount my Sophomore year Spring Break.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I like shiny things

Before I went off and had a few centimeters of my manliness removed, I got some work done on my bar. I made it all real nice and shiny. In addition to the obvious use of polyurethane, I coated the surface of the bar with a substance known as Envirotex.

Envirotex is a resin that can be poured onto a surface resulting in a shiny and resilient surface. There are two solutions, the resin and the hardener. These are mixed in a 50:50 ratio and stirred like mad.

The chemistry is bit complicated due to the number of components, but the net result is the formation of a polymer between bisphenol A and epichlorohydrin.
The first step is to seal the wood to prevent air from forming bubbles in the resin. I coated the wood with 2 coats of polyurethane. The second step was to fill in the gaps between the trim. I was going to flood coat the top of the bar using the trim as a dam to keep it contained, but if the cracks (small as they might be) were not plugged the resin would leak out. I filled them up with a small amount of Envirotex.
Here are a few pics. You can kind of see where I did and didn't add the resin.

When that cured I flooded the whole top. Here's the result. The draft tower shown has not been installed yet. That comes next.

Progress. Glacial, but steady.