Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Your health, musette bag

Two things:

(1) spam is starting to get poetic. I actually like reading it now. This one's from Christian Mccullough (from Russia) and the subject is "Your health, musette bag".

The following, while true to the text, is my parsing.

"minor paste wash odd-come-shortly oak bark mouse-color

odd-fangled modern-made oak-tree

one-rail paschal controversy
nettle geranium pain-bearing
olivine-andesite Non-marcan mother-sick mis-ship mug-wet mullein pink mosquito bee

outside finish
nitrogen fixer
molding book
pass check
Middle westerner
Out-milton mirror carp"

It also mentions Mendel: "olive-skinned moccasin plant mode beige Neo-mendelian os magnum"

(2) Jack Curtin, Pennsylvania beer writer extraordinaire, claims that Celebrator (a beer publication) has named its top 10 best American beer cities and they are as follows:

San Francisco
San Diego
Washington DC/Baltimore
New York & Chicago (tie)

All the way live from the 215.

And here is Mr. Curtin's commentary that was published with the ranking.

"Why Philadelphia? The answer is Lager. But let's get the other stuff out of the way first.

Start with diversity. More beers of more styles are brewed the Philadelphia region than anywhere else in the U.S. Most are excellent. A few are superior. And the lot of them are generally balanced, nuanced brews which represent all the detailed complexity of the brewer's art at its finest.

Consider the milieu. Our best beer venues have been as highly praised for their culinary skills as for their beer selections for years now. We get virtually every popular craft beer from other areas in the country. Philadelphia is where the American craze for Belgian beers began; it remains the largest U.S. market for Belgians.

Still, it's lager beers which set Philadelphia apart. There's Yuengling Lager, the beer that stopped Budweiser in its tracks in this market. Or Victory Brewing's flagship Prima Pils, named Top Pilsner in the World by the New York Times a few months back. On a grander scale, the annual Sly Fox Bock Festival poured four Bocks (plus two Eisbock versions), Helles Lager, Dark Lager, Pilsner and Rauchbier this May. Got anything like that where you live?"

some comments on the "first" beer sommelier (part 3/5 in my "NY Times Inspires" series; parts 4 and 5 will not be mentioned as parts of the series... were parts 1 and 2 similarly not parts of the series).

I read an article in the NY Times the other day about the so-called "first" beer sommelier in New York. Fine. In New York. But people who know a thing or two about beer have been employed in restaurants and bars for a long time. I guess it is a good thing though. Maybe some day I'll drop out of academia and become a beer sommelier. Anyway, Mr. Baylor, the Potable Curmudgeon himself, has some good commentary on the short piece here.

Then today, I discover that a keen reader of this very blog, whose identity I know not (why don't you people say who you are when you leave comments? And Glen, I'm not talking about you), has discovered yet another piece in the "Gray Lady" about the very same restaurant where the first beer sommelier began his trendsetting period of food and beverage service employment.

I have just a couple things to say about these article.

(1) I agree with Mr. Baylor that calling this guy a beer sommelier might be kind of strange. Why don't they call him the beer director? I also agree that trying to imbue beer culture with wine-snobbyness is a mistake. I've become more and more sympathetic to the claim that beer should not be treated like "fine wine". Beer is by the people for the people and oftentimes it just won't be comparable to a fine wine. But that is ok. It's a different kind of beverage. One that I like much better than wine.

(2) I think people often use the term "clove" to describe any sort of phenolic character. German Hefeweizen yeast are the archetypal clove-phenol producing strain, but many Belgian strains will produce other phenols that range from "clove-esque" all the way to harshly medicinal. I usually just like to say something like "spicy fermentation character" unless something obvious is sticking out.

(3) I love how this guy's favorite beer is Deus. I don't think that's a coincidence. I also don't think it's a coincidence that the author of the longer restaurant review tried Deus, the beer sommelier surely talked him into it. They probably charge 50$(actually they charge 44$) a bottle for this stuff and it just isn't that great in my opinion. Definitely not worth that much money. It is over spiced and while the super duper high carbonation is cool and the method champenoise etc. etc., it just makes for an overly dry, prickly, spicy beer. But you can't blame them. That beer is so dressed up with the champagne connection and the weird bottle, it was made to make money. So good for them I guess.

(4) And what is up with Leffe in NYC? Leffe is kind of like the Red Hook of Belgium. It is an OK mass produced sort-of-craft-beer. Leffe is ok, but it certainly wouldn't be on my menu if I had a good beer bar. But I see Leffe everywhere in NYC. We went to this cool little Belgian beer bar in the West Village (?) this past Christmas, Vol de Nuit I think it's called, where everything was Leffe this and Leffe that. Leffe is now owned by InBev, the largest brewing conglomerate in the world and is imported into the states by Labatt USA. Interestingly, InBev is who A-B purchased Rolling Rock from recently. Anyway, I think there is some distributor in NYC who is pushing Leffe.

(5) The food at this restaurant, Cafe d'Alsace, sounds excellent and I'm sure the beer list is very good as well, Leffe notwithstanding, and I can't wait to try it the next time I'm in the city.

(6) I'm not sure why the author of the longer piece says the following: "I don't think any other New York restaurant combines this many Pilseners with food this sturdy." I'm pretty sure there are actually lots of other restaurants in New York that combine more pilsners with sturdy food. Belgium isn't exactly famous for their pils unless you're talking about Stella Artois, but that just happens to be brewed there now, definately not a real Belgian beer. Every place that serves Miller lite, Coors light, Bud light etc. serves pilsners. Also, we get this about Duvel, for christ's sake: "Why not, on occasion, let a lager carry the load?" Duvel is certainly not a lager. And I bet he pronounces it Doo-vell. It is actually pronounced Do-vul. That is one of my pet peeves. If you ever have any doubts about how to pronounce something associated with Belgian beer, go to this website to learn how to say it as an American, a French person, and a Flemish person. It rules.

That is all. Over and out to doubt I spout a lout aloud through the gap in my teeth.

I haven't flossed in weeks.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I hope the rivers cleanse the flood plains and the bears and moose overrun trenton

I'm not sure why I'm on this "back to nature" kick, but I think my vision is getting more and more violent every day.

And the NY Times just keeps fueling my fire.

They posted a story today about animals invading urban places. The article verges on the edge of tabloidism, but it is easy and entertaining to read. And kind of funny too. But repeatedly calling biologists "the wise men" is really a bit absurd.

Anyway, I hope the bear population gets completely out of control in NJ and 9/10ths of the people in that filthy state get eaten. Except my father. And my mother. They live there sometimes and I wouldn't want them to get eaten.

I certainly have a hard time reconciling my desire for lots of people on the earth to die and the cities to be overgrown with my own desire for my family, friends, and self to continue living.

I also have a hard time reconciling these kind of views with my desire to have a computer and a car. At least a nice LL Bean tent. Eh, I suppose I'd give all that up and make stone tools and live in the ground. My brother could make bow and arrows and all would be well in the wilderness.

I've always wanted to be a geologist

While flooding is pretty bad for people sometimes, it sure is interesting.

The NY Times has an article about a river in New Hampshire which cut a new course during the pretty serious flooding a little bit ago. People are whining about it, but you know what people, that's what rivers do. They meander around the flood plain. If you knew a little something about hydrology you could probably see the signs of past meanders. Even though your floodplains are pretty narrow up there in old New Hamshire, it still happens. Maybe it will turn into an oxbow lake and then you'll all shut your yaps about losing your precious waterfront property.

I'm not sure why I'm pissed about this. If I lived on a river and it just dried up one day I'd be pretty pissed too. But what are the odds? Unlucky saps. yaps

Here is a picture of some meanders and oxbow lakes on a tributary to the Amazon I posted a while back from Google Earth. That was a mouthfeel.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

some beer and the navier-stokes equations

Some many beers I brought back with me from PA. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

Some beer I made yesterday. An American IPA and a Mild, fermenting quite happily at 67°F.

Some whiskey I've been drinking.

Some of R's Navier-Stokes equations. CLICK FOR BIGGER.

And some of this, from the guy who wrote the Cambridge University Press online-book about the Navier-Stokes equations. I know (?) he doesn't mean that evolutionary biology is "light reading during a coffee break", but it's still a little funny.

"Life in Moving Fluids
Written by S. Vogel and published by Princeton University Press (1994), this book appears to be written for biologists in order to introduce them to the physics of fluids. While the fluid mechanics presented is descriptive, even compared to a junior level engineering fluid mechanics course, it is definitely worth a look by the mainline fluid mechanist. There is an abundance of neat (at least to me) data, e.g., the drag coefficients of crabs, frogs, and mackerels and the Reynolds numbers of similar creatures. Even more interesting (again, at least to me) are several discussions of how fluid mechanics influences the behavior and possibly the evolution of a wide variety of plants and animals. The treatment certainly satisfies that urge in all of us to explain why things are the way they are. I think the typical fluid mechanist will find this to be a great source of stories, applications, and data for the classroom or at least light reading during a coffee break."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I have photographed the wilds

My latest and greatest story has been posted. Check it out yo.

Also, do not forget about the "greatest movie ever made".

And now, on to the wilds.

The fishing trip to Pennsylvania was good. Six days of driving, fishing, hiking, and generally traipsing around central PA was exactly what I needed. My brother made a bow and arrow. It actually worked.
You can enlarge most of these pictures by clicking on them. I encourage you to do so.

Although you can't enlarge this one. It's my brother, tying flies in the car at Penn's Creek. Big March Browns were coming off the water. It was pretty cool.

This is an old train tunnel where we parked on Penn's Creek.

This is a picture of the wild brown trout that I caught in the water. It was a pretty big one. Penns Creek has probably the best population of wild brown trout in the state. It is a completely spring fed stream so it stays full and cool and the right ph all year round. This fish hit a #10 March Brown emerger my first 20 minutes on the water.

This is me holding the trout. It was probably 15 inches long. It looks really small in this picture.

When my Dad holds the same fish, it appears much larger.

This is Penn's Creek. This year we fished down from Coburn whereas last year we fished up from Weikert. We also fished for a little while at Poe Paddy, which is in the middle of the two towns, but that wasn't much fun for me because when we got to Poe Paddy I realized I had left my fly box in the woods where we were fishing near Coburn because I had fallen in the water a bit and emptied my pockets etc. and forgot to get the fly box so I had to try like 30 minutes on dirt roads over a big ridge and then hike into the woods 20 minutes to get to the spot. And my fly box was still there. Thank god. There's probably $250 worth of flies in there.

My dad also caught a nice Penns Creek wild brown trout.

This is Big Sring Creek which is just north of Penns, maybe a half hour away? It is also completely spring fed and in places the water is this really remarkable color.

These rivers are in central PA. My dad left us for Jersey and my brother and I traveled north, through Lock Haven where we found a bar with a great beer selection that reminded me a lot of Boxer's Cafe in Huntingdon where I went to college which. They even had the same glasses. It was pretty cool.

We camped at Colton Point State Park on the West Rim of the Pine Creek Canyon (aka "Pennsylvania Grand Canyon" as the tourism folks call it). This is rural PA. Very close to the New York state line. In fact, here is a google earth image to orient you.

Anyway, the forest in the northen part of PA is really great. Lots of bugs, but you just sort of learn to pace around so they have to work for it. But the Northern Hardwood forest type is just beautiful forest. Tons of beech, hemlock, some oak, couple birch species, and lots of black cherry. Although the black cherry is worth a lot of money for furniture wood so it is pretty hard hit. A couple mature trees can go for tens of thousands of dollars...or so my grandfather told me. But he would probably know. Anyway, I found this branch on the ground near our campsite and thought it was cool. It is probably from a cherry tree but maybe a sweet birch. the little cracks are lenticels, breaks in the bark where stomata used to be that supposedly are important for oxygen diffusion into the surrounding bark. ANYWAY... the lenticels here had what appear to be the fruiting bodies of some sort of fungus growing out of them. Which is cool.

There was some other cool fungus around out campsite like this really cool black jelly fungus, probably in the Exidia genus.

Then that reminded me of this other Jelly fungus I saw in the Smokies once. It's called Witches Butter and it's edible. Tremella mesenterica.

And that reminded me of this other really cool alien space ship fungus I saw once in the Smokies. I don't actually know what its name is, but "cool alien space ship fungus" sounds good to me.

Adam tying more flies in camp.

This is a picture of Slate Run.

It rained a shit ton one night. But my tent really held it together and kept me very dry. But I did have to deal with the mud. And I had to dig some channels to drain the area in front of my tent. The giant Coleman tent without sealed seams also managed to keep my brother dry (mostly).

Clivus Multrum.

Adam and Pine Creek Canyon. The leaves were just starting to leaf out up there.

A picture along Cedar Run.

The Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) was out in full force along cedar creek.

This is part of a huge pool on Cedar Run. You'd think there would be a ton of trout there but no rises whatsoever.

Rest assured that my brother did catch a ton of fish, I just don't have any good pictures of them.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

clivus multrum presents, a brothers dunn product:


This is a video I made of my recent fishing trip to pennsylvania with my dad and my brother.

We fished, in order of their appearance in the movie: Cedar Run, Penn's Creek, Slate Run, and Cedar Run. I'll post some pictures soon. Click the picture to watch the movie.

I stand and look at them sometimes half the day long.

"They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied....not one is demented with the mania of
owning things,
Not one kneels to another nor to his kind that lived thousands of
years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth." has posted their "Top 50 places to have a beer in the US". They did this last year (and maybe before too) and people were pissed because the rankings are based on the reviews from the website which aren't exactly representative of the entire US. has a lot more users from the northeast than other places so rankings tend to skew towards the northeast. Last year Roger Baylor (and myself, amongst others) were pissed that Rich O's in New Albany Indiana didn't make the list even though it probably would in an "objective" ranking. But this year, it was #19 on the list. Which is awesome. I guess more people reviewed Rich O's since last year. This is cool because that's how it should work. Last year they called the ranking the BEST places to have a beer in the US but changed it to TOP places this year because best kind of implies an objective ranking. I don't think top is really much different. I wish it was top places ON BEERADVOCATE.COM.

Greatest video ever is coming shortly.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I can't stop eating popsicles

"You've overstayed your welcome. Please leave and never come back" she said in a shaky, nervous voice; her somewhat mangy, friendly collie mix sniffing my shoes looking far more threatened than threatening.

A small, slightly intimidated woman of perhaps 40 years was telling four large men to get off her property for good.

Myself and my brother had grown up fishing on West Valley Creek (just Valley Creek to us). It's only 2 minutes from our parent's house. My brother still fishes there maybe 50 times a year. I only get there once or twice when I'm around and have the time. It's not great fishing. Mostly "put and take" stocked trout fishing, but you'll catch sunnnies and rock bass and small mouth there too...which is fun on a dry fly.

But most importantly, it was where I caught my first trout on a fly rod, where I learned what opening day of trout season in Pennsylvania means, and it's the closest little patch of country to home.

Of course it is private property.

This woman must have purchased the property in the last couple years because nobody ever seemed to care before. My brother's had some run ins with her recently. Apparently she drives down from her farmhouse on the hill if you're still there and it is even beginning to look like dusk and tells you to leave.

But tonight she told us to leave and never come back.

"If I ever see you or your cars here again I will call the police."

This is a verbatim quote. She was very deliberate in her admonishment.

Stupid fucking psycho bitch.

It was 8:30pm. We were literally walking towards our cars. It was dark, but it wasn't DARK. When is dusk anyway? Well, good thing my brother wasn't there tonight and I wasn't driving.

I really don't like that woman. At all. She needs to chill the fuck out.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

clivus multrum...the first

It has been a long time, friends. There has passed much grading, much driving, much drinking, much Mike Pell paying my brother 20$ to leave without me at 4am last Saturday so I was forced to stay until 6am at Ben's surprise party, since the last time I had trodden on these interwebs.

So it goes.

There was much fishing. Much, much fishing. We saw a bear.

There was much arguing with my brother about whether or not so called genetic algorithms are actually evolution properly so called, sensu stricto...if you will.

So it goes.

There was also much reading of Slaughterhouse 5, if you couldn't already tell.

So it goes.

We just got back from Victory. I had their Dark Lager on tap (a rare treat indeed) and their Throwback Lager, a pre-prohibition style beer. It was a very good, clean, crisp lager. They also had their Tripilsner on. An 8.8%, all continental hops, beast of a pilsner. I didn't get to try it...yet. I bought a six pack of Ten Years Alt. It is tremendous in all possible ways...and in all possible worlds! I'm enjoying one as we speak, in this world.

So it goes.

Much more to come as soon as I get back to Bloomington which should be Tuesday or Wednesday some time. Including, get this, THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

lambics and losers

NY Times covers lambics. I think it's generally pretty good, but there are a couple things I disagree with. (1) Traditional 'dry' lambics (as Mr.Asimov calls them) are very agressive beers. Some of them are almost undrinkably sour and funky, I mean like eat the epidermal layer off the insides of your cheek sour and funky. Battery acid sour and funky. Some more so than others. But the article describes them as "a dry, almost sour beer with a fresh, lively acidity and an appealing funkiness". To each their own I guess. But this is particularly problematic when you take into account my second issue, (2) the article's constant comparison of lambics to wines. It's like physics envy amongst biologists and philosophers. Listen people: beer is beer and wine is wine. Lambics are no more like wine than a fucking Coors light is, ok? "Take the time to seek out and try a few lambic beers from Belgium and tell me if these are not as complex and distinctive as many fine wines." Yeah, they're distinctive, but so's a pint glass full of rotten milk.

Now it's not that I have anything against lambics. I love lambics and I love sour, funky beers in general. But Asimov argues that it is the use of spontaneous fermentation (I almost wrote generation) and aging in oak barrels that make lambics so "complex" and "Like a good red Burgundy, it seemed to change continually in the glass."

"Modern breweries today are generally antiseptic environments in which brewers seek absolute control over the chemistry of fermentation. You can imagine them in their lab coats, selecting the proper strains of scientifically prepared yeasts to create the precise flavors and aromas they desire. But lambic beers are made as they were centuries before Pasteur, when the process of fermentation seemed to be a miracle rather than a controlled reaction. Instead of managing fermentation, the lambic brewer leaves it to nature. Wild yeasts, along with just about anything else in the air, shepherd the brew on its path to beerhood, converting barley and wheat sugars into alcohol, producing fascinating and, dare I say, wine-like beers."

Firstly, it is certainly not the case that fermentation was "uncontrolled" and "a miracle" before Pasteur. This is one of the biggest myths in the public history of science and in the history of brewing: Pasteur changed everything! A revolutionary! Yeah, Pasteur was important, but the vast majority of brewers were not practicing spontaneous fermentation before Pasteur, let alone even in, say, 1400 in England. Brewers realized that the glumps of slimy white stuff was really important to getting a good beer and you had better add handfuls of it to your wort and if you had a bad batch it was probably that so you better go to your neighbors and borrow some of theirs. Anyway, the bottom here is that so-called controlled fermentations can make some pretty damn good beer. I think lambics are great and complex etc. etc., but there are a lot of good, complex beers out there that don't involve a bunch of weird microorganisms. Barley wines, big Belgian beers like Abbey style dark ales, wheat beers, big American IPAs, these can all be very complex beers and I think much "closer" to wine than lambic, whatever that may mean.

Also, check out this rant by PZ Myers:

"The only reason to read any of their work is not because it's the honest thing to do—if we carried that reasoning to its logical conclusion, I've got a library of stuff you need to read first—but because it will prepare you better to deal with their arguments. It takes the edge off that first moment of shock, when they say something so awesomely stupid that you find it incredible that anyone would even suggest such a thing. I've experienced that moment: your eyes focus on infinity, your lips move involuntarily as you try to parse the absurdity, your brain spins its wheels for a while as you mentally downshift, trying to get yourself in the proper frame of mind to handle the curious words of the deranged person in front of you. Otherwise, though, there isn't much point to wading through the dreck."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Lew Bryson rants. I grade.

Things are coming along. I gave my presentation in population genetics today. I talked about some crazy new ideas that philosophers of biology have about population genetics and my take on it and it got people kind of riled up. Which was cool.

Now I just have to grade projects and finals from my class, put together a research outline for North Carolina this summer, write the FDIBS beer guide, write an article for, get my loan straightened out, go out with Brian for his birthday tomorrow, and meet with a couple students all before Friday at 7pm when I head for Plucky One's house in beautiful Clairton PA. Ain't no thang.

Also, Lew Bryson, beer writer extraordinaire, bitches about the Philadelphia Inquirer's coverage of beer. He makes a lot of good points.

Read it here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

two things

Have you seen Stephen Colbert's "roast" at the White House Press Association thinger-majinger dinner? Holy crap. Thank god for people with balls like Stephen Colbert. He is in the heart of the beast.

Part I

Part II

Number 2, there is a very cool online philosophy "conference" that is happening here. I've been reading and thinking a lot about causality in evolution recently and Jessica Wilson's paper "Non-reductive physicalism and degrees of freedom" seems to be, at least at first glance, quite relevant to the phil-bio stuff.