Monthly Archives: July 2006

Beer Comments by a Wine Expert

CBC Montreal – Programs – Homerun

Norm Bélanger recently made a few comments about beer during one of his segments on CBC Radio One (listened to it on the Quebec This Week podcast).

My comments to them:

Glad to see beer is getting some media attention in a city which is getting international recognition for its beer scene.
Several factual errors slipped in this segment. The part of hops which are used in beer is in fact the flower itself, not the leaves. Typically, only female flowers are used. While hops are sometimes “macerated” in the beer (a process known as “dry hopping”), neither Schloss Eggenberg nor Moretti are brewed in this way, to the best of my knowledge. Hops are boiled in the wort to contribute bitterness and the length of this boiling process will determine the bitterness of the final beer (along with the percentage of alpha acids in the hops themselves). Hop flavour and aroma, on the other hand, come from late boil additions or dry hopping.
While lagers are typically fermented at lower temperature, the defining characteristic is the type of yeast used during their fermentation (Saccharomyces uvarum, formerly known as carlsbergensis). These yeast strains typically work from the bottom of the fermentation tank and are thus known as “bottom fermentating” yeast, while ale yeast (S. cerevisiae) works from the top of the fermenter and is known as “top fermenting” yeast. Yeast type affects the taste as ale yeast strains develop more of the fruity esters typical of Belgian and British ales while lager yeast strains tend to make for cleaner and crisper beer if it is used at lower fermentation temperatures. Some lagers are fermented at higher temperatures, such as California Common beers (Anchor Steam being the best-known example).
Wine glasses may work for some beer styles but are far from ideal for most. Snifter-style tulip glasses are preferred for some of the stronger examples of Belgian ales while pilsner glasses are closer to a flute.
Kilning temperature and method does affect colour but other factors are involved. Darker grains are not typically contributing more body than lighter grain. Guinness is in fact a very light-bodied beer (the impression of body comes from the nitrogen head and the general mouthfeel of the beer).
Too bad you didn’t focus on some of the many outstanding local breweries (i.e., not InBev’s Labatt breweries).
As for the more subjective aspects (beer being a summer drink, beer being somewhat less complex than wine, etc.), it’s hard to trust a wine enthusiast on other beverages but a training in wine tasting may not prevent someone from learning something about the wide world of beer (including the variety of its food pairings, some of the many seasonal varieties of the drink, the complexity of its aromas and flavours, etc.).
Information about beer is plentiful and it would be useful if your researchers could look deeper into the beverage. Montreal has a vibrant beer scene and your audience would surely appreciate the sophistication of the beverage if you could help them learn more about it.
You could also lead listeners to some of the following sites:
Beer guide to Montreal from a North American perspective

Beer guide to Montreal from a British perspective

Local organization for beer aficionados

Local beer publication

Another local beer publication

Yet another local beer publication

Local beer resource

Another local beer resource

Local brewing club

North American beer publication with Quebec coverage

Information about beer styles

General information about beer

Beer and brewery ratings

Beer ratings

Thank you for your kind help!


Eventually, even the “wine people” of this world will give some credit.

Ah, well…

“Defending” Mailing-Lists (Draft)

[Should edit this heavily. At some point. If time allows. It’s already somewhat on the long side of things…]

Been on hundreds of mailing-lists during the last thirteen years. Yes, literally.
All sorts of distribution lists, listservs, Yahoo! Groups, listprocs, Google Groups, majordomos, announcement lists, etc. Lists about community projects (,,…), academic disciplines (linguist-list, Anthro-L, SEM-L…), open-source projects (,…), commercial software (OmniOutliner-Users, EccoPro…), hobbies (,…), communities (Causerie, MaliNet…), online stores (,…). The list goes on and on.
Those who assume that “email is dead” probably give little consideration to mailing-lists. To them, mailing-lists may easily be replaced by Web-based forum- or blog-style comment systems. Yet, to me, and despite all the hype about what Tim O’Reilly calls “Web 2.0,” mailing-lists are one of the most interesting things happening online. Yes, even today. Maybe they’re not really here to stay but mailing-lists have yet to be replaced by “better” technology.

Mailing-lists are based on simple technology and vary greatly in the way such technology may be implemented on each list. Several announcement lists are quite similar in effect to XML-based syndication (RSS and Atom). You get a message anytime new content is added (for instance, on or Others are very interactive and dynamic, with dozens of people sending each other messages throughout the day (Members of Barleyment are part of one such list). In either case, a mailreader (Eudora, Thunderbird,, Entourage, Outlook…) is a very convenient “aggregator” as list messages can be checked quite regularly, may be routed in different folders automatically or manually, are easy to label and archive, and use relatively little bandwidth or disk space (though my current mail folder weighs in at about 5GB and doesn’t include all of my mailing-list content for even the last five years).
On more interactive mailing-lists, using a mailreader is even more beneficial because mail editors are usually much more efficient than browser- or Web-based editors, especially when replying to somebody else’s comments. Furthermore, editing list posts in a mailreader makes it easy to archive and search their contents in a centralized place. On several occasions, looking through my list archives for my own submissions or those of others has been a very efficient way to find information and put it in its proper context.

Contrary to Web-based content, mailing-lists are not usually about getting larger audiences. While some list subscription numbers are rather impressive, many mailing-lists give more value to what happens on-list and off-list between listmembers than to the possibility of getting advertisement monies. As such, mailing-lists are much less likely to get hyped than Web-based “social” projects. Yet mailing-lists are often where important things are really happening online.

In some ways, mailing-lists are “push technology” done right (anybody remember the hype surrounding PointCast? Anybody believes PointCast had that much impact?).
Some mailing-lists (Humanist, HomeBrew Digest) have long histories and their archives are among the most valuable sources of online information.

Much mailing-list traffic is made of threads. Threads have lives of their own, often splitting in multiple subthreads and follow-ups. As such, they do look like comments on a Web forum or blog, but are quite possibly more fluid. This fluidity might imply a lower “signal to noise ratio” in some cases as off-topic messages multiply, but some of the more open mailing-lists greatly benefit from the “stream of consciousness” effect of having threads develop in different directions.

Many mailing-lists are really about building communities. Though blogs and “social networking” sites are seen as community-builders, mailing-lists are, in my humble opinion, more efficient ways to build stronger and longer-lasting online communities.
Although subscribing to a mailing-list is almost as easy a process as subscribing to an XML-based “feed” (RSS or Atom), becoming a listmember is often an easy way to fully integrate a community. It’s common practise, on many interactive mailing-lists, to introduce yourself as soon as you subscribe to a list or before you start posting queries. Responses to these introductions are typically welcoming and often generate interesting discussions. On some of the more personal mailing-lists, unsubscribing to a list may also be an interesting process as people’s parting words can be quite revealing.
Mailing-lists often emulate societies as group dynamics grow from the meeting of individual personalities. Contrary to blogs, mailing-lists are often based on large numbers of “authors” and “replies” have the same status as “posts.”
Members of mailing-lists often develop long-lasting relationships. This is especially obvious on the more personal lists where members will go to great lengths to visit each other. But even academic mailing-lists often give way to important collaborations between members. In some ways, listmembers know each other on a deeper level than comment writers on Web-based content.
Even more important than list posts, listmembers interact through private messages. Yes, like many might do on “social” sites. The difference here is in the transition from list to private communication which, though not strictly codified, often follows interesting lines. Because listmembers form a specific group (however open and large that group may be), those who interact through private messages already have the possibility to refer to a shared “history,” especially if both of them have been active members of the list for a significant amount of time. Similar processes have been happening on some IRC channels, chatrooms, MMPORPGs, and in some blogging communities but private interactions stemming from mailing-lists tend, in my experience, to be broader-reaching than other forms of online communication.

None of this is meant to say that mailing-lists are the only “cool” thing happening online. In fact, the claim is that mailing-lists are simply more useful than “cool.” The hope isn’t to have mailing-lists remain what they currently are, but for mailing-lists to transform and integrate into other online technologies. For instance, a few Web forum commenting systems send detailed notifications when new messages are added in a thread. This could be improved by allowing replies to these notification messages as an easy way to post Web comments. Mailreader could greatly improve their handling of mailing-lists as, to this day, none of them seems to even facilitate the distinction between a list address and a personal address. While some scripts exist to facilitate the creation of separate folders for different mailing-lists, mailing-list content often remains difficult to distinguish from private messages. List messages received in digest formats are “unpacked” by only a few mailreaders. Threaded mailreading (in Gmail,, and Thunderbird) has improved over the years but is still imperfect. Mailing-list software has come a long way but much more could be done in terms of archiving and repurposing list content.

Ah, well…

Zune (Microsoft’s iPod/iTunes rival)

Microsoft’s Zune to rival Apple’s iPod | CNET

Little is known of this development yet apart from the fact that the Zune brand covers both hardware and software, that one device will be hard-drive based and have wireless capabilities, and that the first device will come out before the end of the year (i.e., before Windows Vista).

Microsoft’s reputation has changed a lot in recent times, in part thanks to its gaming devices. This is also a time at which Microsoft, a latecomer in the music device field, may have learned from the mistakes of others. As with the iTunes Music Store itself and Steve Jobs’s personal implication, a lot may hinge on Microsoft’s ability to negotiate with the “music industry” in order to improve the experience of music listeners and musicians, for instance by allowing people to share music over a wireless connection from a portable device. This could well be the “killer app” for digital audio players…
One can only hope that the “music industry” will eventually see the light. If Microsoft is to help them through this, more power to them.

Shaving Seconds

Today’s Rocketboom episode (for casual Friday, July 21, 2006) is about a method to tie shoelaces and the benefits of shaving two seconds off some tasks.

For someone who likes to take his time rapidly instead of hurrying slowly, it still fits in my way to do things. For instance, finding the right door to exit at a metro/subway station often means that you can catch a bus just before it leaves, especially if you run up the stairs in the station (as long as nobody’s in front of you).

Yeah, just the silly little things that make life funny.

Dessin animé à l’européenne

SCIFI.COM | The Amazing Screw-On Head

C’est peut-être ma perception qui est faussée mais le dessin me fait penser à de la BD européenne, même si le sujet est américain (voire patriotique!). Humour bien noir, belles trouvailles.

Le pilote est disponible en-ligne avant d’être diffusé à l’écran, ce qui lui a mérité une mention sur This Week in Tech.

Music Publishers Getting Clue?

RED HERRING | Gracenote Frees Lyrics

“We’ve been in a real catch-22 situation,” noted Nick Firth, chairman and chief executive of BMG Music Publishing, which has signed with Gracenote. “It’s kind of difficult to go after the illegal sites when you haven’t got a legal alternative.”

Of course, music publishers are not the same thing as the recording industry. But it’s still nice to see some of them state what seemed obvious to most of us.

In the Buzz Out Loud podcast in which they mentioned this story, they also alluded to the fact that Gracenote reappropriated the CDDB from a community project into a commercial site with very harsh usage restriction. Similar things happened with several of the early community-built online projects, including IMDb (though the IMDb remained somewhat more community-friendly). Will the whole “Web 2.0” projects avoid CDDB and IMDb’s fate?

Tikiboom, RocketBarTV

The latest Rocketboom episode is a cross-over with TikiBarTV. With speculation that LaLa might have been considered as a replacement for Amanda Congdon, the cross-referencing is even more likely to generate buzz.

Yes, as many have been saying, the new personalized/community-oriented syndicated online distribution systems for content (all these “Web 2.0” things based on versions of RSS and Atom) like blogs, podcasts, and vidcasts/vlogs are like an “echo chamber” or some other metaphor about self-referential, inward-looking, insular communities with rather high clustering coefficient. Cliques, so to speak. But not really elitist per se. And, in fact, not at all close-ended. Just groups which are their own little universe.