Monthly Archives: April 2005

Wired News: The New Old Journalism

Wired News: The New Old Journalism

Because whether we’re talking today or 10 years ago, it’s not the medium, it’s the reporter.

And if “we’re talking 10 years from now,” it won’t be the reporter either.
Penenberg’s other Wired “Media Hack” contributions have tended to be much more insightful. So either he’s getting defensive (“we’re still relevant as we teach journalism students to write the same way as we did 10 years ago”) or he was a bit lazy in his critical thinking. No, not the buzzword. The actual reflection.
I’m sure Penenberg and others see the implications of people’s appreciation for the convenience of skipping “reporters” to get critically at the writing itself, whether the author has been trained at NYU’s journalism department or did a dissertation in molecular biology in Madrid.
It’s this thing with journalists: they tend to think that they’re better than people at processing information. So instead of helping people use their own variety of perspectives, they delude themselves in the notion that they’re the closest thing to “objectivity” that the world can get. Not to mention the fact that they think “objectivity” is an absolute value, in and of itself (they probably never appreciated a tasty old cheese!). Well, the other problem (that we see in blogs, including my own blogging activities) is that people focus on “releasing early” instead of seeing the broad picture. No, it’s not about “depth.” It’s about taking a step back. Very few things are extremely time-sensitive and none of them is covered particularly well by journalists.
Hey, it’s not their fault. They’re trained like that. So I wouldn’t ever blame journalists. But I think journalism is more of a problem than a solution.
Once in a while, I get the impression that there’s hope and that journalists will finally see the light. But then, even the most “enlightened” act reactively.

Ah, well…


Stem Cell Research and Morals

Wired News: How Much for a Dozen Human Eggs?
How about research outside of the US? Any insight from elsewhere?
In fact, hasn’t there been an exodus of sorts among stem cell researchers who flew from the US for similar reasons?


(US) National Homebrew Day

National Homebrew Day

In 1979, the American Homebrewers Association originally claimed National Homebrew Day to be the first Saturday in May. On May 7, 1988, Congress officially recognized National Homebrew Day. Homebrewers around the world use the day to celebrate beer and brewing and attract attention to their hobby.

No idea Congress had recognized it. Wasn't 1987 the year homebrewing was made legal again?


Google and Ignorance?


Goal: Communicating Ideas


(Spoof) Science and Hyperbole

The Onion | Amazing New Hyperbolic Chamber Greatest Invention In The History Of Mankind Ever
There seems to be a pattern on “foul language” in this issue of The Onion. This item lets us think about how neutral science should sound…


(Spoof) US Foreign Policy

WARNING: Very “inappropriate” and non-PC but quite insightful.

The Onion | Report: U.S. Foreign Policy Hurting American Students’ Chances Of Getting Laid Abroad


(Spoof) Early Chapters

The Onion | Area Man Well-Versed In First Thirds Of Great Literature
You know, not such a bad idea, actually. I like this idea of going against the notion of a book as a complete form. Multiple readings, voices, interpretations, which run against the canon by using the canon. Nicey!
Yeah, yeah. It’s intended to show that you can’t be well-read if you haven’t read the whole works. But what’s fun with a book is partly that we can do whatever we want with it. If I want to start with the final chapter, so be it. If I want to peruse and browse, catching glimpses of thought-provoking notions, who’s preventing me. Let’s break free of the narrative structure! Let’s go back to excerpts of Greimas, Guattari, Bakhtin, Propp, Genette, Barthes, Gramsci, and Derrida to fight linearity, hegemony, discourse, and dialogue!
😉


(Spoof) Sturch=State+Church

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE VANISHES, REPLACED BY NEW ENTITY CALLED STURCH
And the joke can go much further while still remaining insightful…
I do like the name. Sounds starchy.


Two Radio Pieces on Beer

Chicago Public Radio – Audio Library: Eight Forty-Eight
One is partly a repeat from Steve Dolinsky’s TV report mentioned earlier but with more contextual information. The other one was originally broadcast in 2000 and features Bob Skilnik (who put up an elaborate excerpt from his book right here).
What’s interesting about all of this, apart from the situation of Chicago in the world of beer, is that beer seems to connect to several social phenomena. I’ll need to read Skilnik’s books at one point, especially as he emphasizes the class struggle in the Prohibition movement, but I also think there’s a lot to say about what’s happening now.
For instance, Dolinsky’s extended piece here has a more elaborate comment Hopleaf’s Michael Roper about “artisan” beer in Belgium. Yes, all beer geeks know about this, but it’s interesting to see that these ideas are being brought to a larger audience. As opposed to wine, which tends to be known for its origins, beer is more rarely associated to specific regions or traditions. Well, then again, people probably think of Mexico as a beer producer because of Corona and Sol… 😉

At any rate, two interesting radio pieces about beer, now available online.


Automatic Surrealism

The Prior-Art-O-Matic
Not new principle, still fun.


Google Groups : Michiana Brew

Google Groups : Michiana Brew
I just set up an informal mailing-list to help people I've met in South Bend appreciate beer and brewing together. We'll see if it works…


Beer and Brewing in South Bend and Elsewhere

Ok…

Been living in South Bend since August, talked to a number of people about beer and brewing. Sent long messages to some of them. Hopefully, didn’t scare them off too badly… 😉

Thing is, there’s a lot of resources for/about beer and brewing. Here’s
just a few to get people started. And once you get started, well, anything can happen.

Local/Regional

Relevant for North Central Indiana and some other parts of the MidWest

  • Legends of Notre Dame
  • Beer pub on Notre Dame Campus. The site has their beer menu…

  • Mishawaka Brewing Co.
  • Michiana’s only brewpub, at this point. They have some limited brewing supplies.

  • Quality Wine and Ale Supply [Added: 24/03/08. Thanks, Andy C!]
  • A homebrew supply shop in Elkhart, which might be the closest “LHBSS” to Mishawaka/South Bend. Looks like they have an extensive selection and decent prices.

  • Zeke’s
    Beer pub in Dowagiac, MI.
  • Indiana Beer
  • A site about beer events in Indiana.

  • Great Lakes Brewing News
  • A beer newspaper which is distributed for free at Legends and MBC. Jim Herter, business manager for Notre Dame’s food services, writes for the Indiana section.

  • Chicago Beer Society
  • Group of beer lovers and homebrewers. They do cool events like “Thirst Fursday” the first Thursday of each month.

  • Grape and Granary
  • A mail order brewing supply shop which has a good selection and ships to Northcentral Indiana pretty fast. There are other homebrew supply shops, including online, but this is the one that my friends in town have been using.

  • Theta Ridge Coffee
  • Importer of green coffee beans. As other beer lovers seem to enjoy fresh coffee, I thought I’d mention this one.

In my humble opinion, the best liquor store for beer in South Bend is City Wide Liquors’ downtown location:

109 E. Jefferson Blvd.
(Across from Keybank, down the street from Century Center)
South Bend, IN 46601
574-287-8652

General Beer Sites

Lots of information about homebrewing

  • Palmer’s How to Brew
  • A homebrewing book available online for free.

  • Papazian’s Complete Joy of Homebrewing
  • A good, inexpensive brew book for beginners and intermediate brewers.

  • HomeBrew Digest
  • A mailing-list for homebrewers and a “library” of brewing information.
    Some of the library’s stuff is a bit old but the mailing-list is a cool place to contact brewers.

  • Beertown
  • A site for different brewing associations, including the American Homebrewer Association

  • Real Beer
  • A general site about beer with a lot of information about brewing.

  • Bodensatz
  • A site with lots of info about homebrewing.

Miscellaneous Beer Sites

  • Beer Judge Certification Program
  • The most useful thing, IMHO, are “style guidelines” that are used for homebrew competitions. I hope people won’t get too stuck on the details as some of it is very arbitrary. But it’s a good way to get information about some styles, like “Irish Red Ale” or “Dunkelweizen”…

  • Rate Beer
  • A site where one can rate beers they try and/or read people’s comments about beers. Some of these comments are a bit strange and those people tend to like specific types of beer, but it’s sometimes a good way to choose a beer you want to try. Hops are liked by raters and so are strong full-bodied beers but the best-rated beer is in fact a Belgian Trappist…

  • Michael Jackson the Beer Hunter
  • The best-known beer writer, not the youngest member of the Jackson 5.

  • Beer Advocate
  • I mostly use it to look for beer pubs across the US and in other places, especially when I travel. Many places have lists of brew- and beerpubs and may even do pubcrawls for beer geeks…

  • PubCrawler
  • Another site listing beer pubs in the US and elsewhere. Actually, I was confusing PubCrawler with BeerAdvocate. They accomplish similar goals…

  • All About Beer
  • A brewing magazine.

  • Siebel Institute
  • A very serious institute where you can get a degree in brewing technology. Education you can actually use!


Brewing Philosophy, Techniques

Not to wax too philosophical, but brewing can really help people
achieve what psychologists call "Flow" experience. It's the way you
feel when you're in a situation that's challenging enough without being
discouraging. Some people see brewing as "meditation" and there's part
of that for some people. Also, there's a huge social part.

Perhaps the most obvious social part is that it's quite easy to make
friends when you offer them free beer. If someone's friends like bland
beer from macrobreweries, it's still possible to help them appreciate
beer for the way it tastes. The best way to do that is to brew beer
with that goal in mind. Sure, it's a challenge. It might take a few
trials and any given batch might not be that well-appreciated by
everyone. But little by little, it's possible to make people understand
that binge-drinking on Rolling Rock isn't that enjoyable when you can
get tasty beer on the cheap.

Another social aspect is that brewers tend to do things together.
Adults of any age or "walk of life" may belong to the same brewclub
and, usually, there's a very strong sense of friendship among brewers.
I know brewers and brewing groups in a couple of places and could help
people make contacts. Even if it's just sampling each other's brews or
discussing the amount of diacetyl that's acceptable in an Extra Special
Bitter, it can be quite fun.

Now, to get someone started on brewing. Many people start with cans of extract and it's certainly a solution. A cooler method is to use "ingredient kits" (e.g. from Grape and Granary) which include malt extract, grains, hops, and fresh yeast. You steep the grains and boil that solution with the extract. It's easy enough to do and it givessome amount of control. It's not the cheapest way but it works well. The
equipment one needs for these types of brewing techniques would mainly include a large kettle, a plastic bucket, a glass carboy, and some tubing. Homebrew supply shops usually sell equipment kits like that but it's easy to get many parts through other ways…

Among homebrewers, "all-grain brewing" is often considered the advanced step. It's not that much more complex and it's usually cheaper to do (especially with bulk grain). It does require a bit more equipment and more time on brewday. The equipment needed can be as simple as two plastic buckets. One has small holes drilled in it and serves as a false-bottom while the other one has a spigot. Some very good brewers
use that kind of a system and it works quite well. What I use is the same thing except that the bottom bucket has a heater element in it so I can control temperature. Other people use an Igloo-type cooler with a manifold in it built with some copper tubing in which slits have been cut. Other people go nuts and have a semi-automatic system made of stainless or even copper with all sorts of pumps and heat exchangers.
All of these achieve the same results: quality beer.
The basic principle remains the same. If you want to brew…
You need to mash grain at a certain temperature (150F to 158F, depending on what you want to achieve) for a certain amount of time (20 minutes to an hour or so). You then need to pour hot water in that mash to get all the sugars out. That's the all-grain part and you end up with wort (sweet liquid).

You then boil the wort for an hour or so, adding hops at specific points (for bitterness, flavor, and aroma). You then chill the boiled wort, transfer to a primary fermenter (usually a plastic bucket), pitch yeast, and wait for a while.
After a week or two, you transfer from primary to secondary fermenter (usually a glass carboy). After a few weeks in secondary, the yeast should have finished its main job and you can bottle. After a week or two in bottle, the beer is ready to drink. If you have a kegging system (with those 5-gallon kegs that were used for soft drinks), you can get the beer carbonated within minutes instead of weeks.
Some beers don't need to be transfered into a secondary fermenter and might even be ready to bottle within a few days. But it's safer and usually better to do a secondary fermentation.
Palmer's book (available online) explains most of these techniques well enough. And all the brewing books you could buy will give details on every step of the process.
With all of this, sanitation is quite important, especially after the wort has been boiled. But we all do a few things that aren't completely sanitary and scrapped batches are quite rare.
Among brewers, the motto is "Relax, Don't Worry, Have a Homebrew!"
Again, brewing can be a very nice "Flow" experience. It can be intensely creative and it relies on a scientific basis (enzymatic reactions, use of gravity, etc.). Plus it can be very social.
While it's easy to go overboard with equipment or ingredients, homebrewing can be quite cheap an activity. IMHO, it's quite easy to get started for less than 100USD and then get more equipment as we go on. Brewing with other people, it's often possible to cut costs by sharing equipment or doing bulk orders. Without cutting costs too much, I think I can brew a batch for 1USD/gallon, especially if I repitch
yeast (use it for several batches). On average, I'm guessing I probably spend about 7–10USD for a 5 gallon batch as I use a bunch of specialty grains, expensive yeast packages, and some spices. The larger the amount brewed, the cheaper the gallon will be, for many reasons (including the cost of bulk ingredients, the energy costs (fairly minimal anyway), and "mash efficiency" (the proportion of sugar
extracted from the grain)).
Of course, that's not counting the time spent brewing. Some people say
it should be counted but then one would need to "deduct" the experience
gained and the relaxation coming from brewing…
In my mind, it's a very enjoyable activity which has brought me a lot
of nice things in the last four years.

Cheers!

AleX


Ghanaian Traditions and Intellectual Property

Boing Boing: Ghana nationalizes folklore, threatens jail for folk artists

Ghana nationalizing its traditions, making it unlawful to profit from them.


Presentation Artist Phil Jackson

Macworld: Editors’ Notes: It’s all in the presentation:

Phil Jackson give the SoundTrack demo during the Final Cut Studio announcement last Sunday, and it was amazing.

Same idea here and here.
Now, this sounds really neat. Can’t we get the video of that? I mean, just for inspiration into presentation techniques. After all, it’s a lot of what we need to do as instructors, even in relatively small classes…


Beer and “Ethnicity”

[Ugh! I lost a first version of this post because of Blogger maintenance… Now I know why people complain…]

The very first comment on my young blog is an extensive excerpt from Bob Skilnik's book on beer history. Thanks!
The relationship between beer and "ethnicity" is really a fascinating issue. Some say that the movement leading to the federal prohibition was related to anti-German sentiment. Others associate it more closely with the growth in the political influence of some woman groups. The events were probably a combination of both and other causes. Similarly, the MADD lobby group probably had a large part to play in rising the drinking age to 21.

All of these seem to relate to what Ruth C. Engs calls Clean Living Movements. Engs also has interesting articles available on health, alcohol, and social issues. For instance, binge drinking is a major problem on some US campuses and seems to be linked to a negative attitude toward alcohol.

One concept that I'd like to explore a bit more is that of "moral entrepreneurs" who seem to be at the center of those movements and are trying to get ahead politically. The first exposure I got to the concept was in Mezz Mezzrow's Really the Blues. In that book (on Jazz musicians in the US between the two World Wars), moral entrepreneurs are associated to the change in legal status for cannabis in 1937. A Wikipedia article on cannabis associates the criminalisation of the herb to both DuPont's interest in plastic and to anti-Mexican sentiment (with the word "marihuana" resonating with that sentiment). No idea how accurate this explanation really is (it's always safer to take things with a grain of salt) but the associate with xenophobia is illuminating.

Not that the US are the only place where sentiments against foreigners
are brought forth. In fact, many parts of the world deal with issues of
xenophobia, especially where the notion of a "nation-state" is still
believed to mean something. What's interesting about the situation in
the US is the fact that xenophobia seems to be so intimately linked
with political, legal, and social issues. In a "country of immigrants"
which recognizes itself as such, the situation is quite striking.


The Chicago Beer Riots

The Chicago Beer Riots
For more context on beer-related historical events…


Iowa “Alcohol Culture”

Easy access to alcohol and an alluring bar scene contribute to a high rate of drinking-related arrests, even by college-town standards

A newspaper article full of fallacies, logical flaws, non sequiturs on the association of alcohol-related problems with "easy access" to alcohol.

Of course, coming from Quebec which has comparatively loose alcohol laws and even more widespread availability of alcohol (especially for university students) to a dry university where they have more alcohol-related problems, I'm quite ready to challenge this point.
Interestingly, they use the number of alcohol-related arrests as a major proof that they have more problems. What's the name of that specific logical flaw?

From the article:

Recent studies show that people in the upper Midwest drink more than in other parts of the country and that heavy binge drinking corresponds with less-strict state laws on alcohol.

I'd really like to see those "studies," especially since it seems quite unlikely that the MidWest in general has looser state laws on alcohol than every part of the Northeast. Also, the article keeps saying that those who overindulge come from out of state so their data would in fact support the notion that Iowa has more problems because other places have stricter laws. There's a significant difference.

One would hope that, one day, the US will wake up and see that restrictive attitudes toward alcohol compound the problem. It's even a problem for us in Quebec because "college" students from the US go across the border to drink excessively. Also, influence from the US, in some places, seems to make some Quebeckers see alcohol as a way to get drunk as opposed to a part of a normal healthy adult life. Hopefully, we'll keep the focus on responsible drinking and non-judgemental help for those who abuse alcohol for one reason or the other. As the Quebec liquor board says: «La modération a bien meilleur goût» ("responsible drinking tastes better").


Beer: Riot and Diversity

ABC7Chicago.com: Hungry Hound: Extensive beer lists
[Updated Link]

Interesting historical event (alluding to the "ethnic" part of prohibitions). The point of beer diversity does come across, though it's not emphasized so much.
Dolinsky seems to be more of a food geek than a beer geek and there are several mistakes on the website (including their misspelling Maibock and Blanche de Chambly) but it's always good to get some recognition from the food crowd.