Monthly Archives: November 2006

Beer Explosion and Other Cautionary Tales

Here’s an old message I sent to the Members of Barleyment brewclub mailing-list, a while ago.

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Beer Explosion and Other Cautionary Tales
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 09:04:41 -0400
From: Alexandre Enkerli <>
Got back from the in-laws this morning. The house smelled like beer.
Not really a good sign.
Had brewed a batch and bottled another one on Thursday. Left Friday
afternoon. Thought the yeasties didn't need their herder for the
weekend. The new Scotch Ale seemed happy, bubbling in a cool carboy
with blow-off tube. The bottles of Mep were all warm and cozy, didn't
seem to want to transform into little bottle bombs, yet.
Where's that smell coming from? Oh, well, people were in the house
during the weekend so if a catastrophe happened, they probably know
about it. But let's check the bottles, just to make sure. Snif.
Snif-snif. Sniffffffff... Nope, no b.o. (beer odour) here. Fine, then.
Talked a bit with SWMBO before she left for work. Thought about going
back to bed (got home before 7am). Hey, it's Spring Break for everyone,
right. But no /Girls Gone Wild/ shooting in perspective. Just this beer
Speaking of beer: how's the new batch coming? It's always cool to check
on a fermenting beer. Except, that...
OMG! What's that thing where the carboy used to be? Did someone put it
somewhere else? Looks like it. An empty beer pack isn't where it was on
Friday. But, wait. This is the t-shirt that served as a carboy-jacket.
Why's it all wet? And where's the Scotch Ale?
Hey, the blow-off tube's still here. So is the wine bottle at the end
of the blow-off tube...
There you go. That's where the b.o.'s coming from. And that's where the
carboy morphed into a pile of shattered glass in a pool of wort. Smells
good, though.

Let's learn some lessons:
a) Murphy's Law applies to brewing
b) yeast can be mighty strong
c) a rubber stopper can stick to a carboy more strongly than the
carboy's walls themselves
d) a blow-off tube shouldn't be constricted
e) there's a reason to have a headspace above fermenting wort in a
f) it's a good thing to have your fermenters in the basement
g) carboys break fairly cleanly
h) a 5 gallon carboy filled with about 4.8 gallons of wort might make a
mess of ca. 1.5m^2
i) New Brunswick's blue plastic bags for "dry" trash aren't really
j) there are situations where beer odors don't smell so good
k) it's probably a good thing to open-ferment ales in primary

["Whoooooo are you? Who-Who? Who-Who?"]
Sara's surprisingly not in the mood for beer this early in the morning,
so Warrick's the one taking the pictures and sending the yeast to Greg
for DNA analysis. Al establishes time and cause of death: carboy
explosion. Grissom, using his in-depth knowledge of brewing,
establishes a timeline.  Lag time was probably around 9–10 hours,
blow-off tube was blocked after 30 to 48 hours, pression accumulated at
a rate of 2 PSI/hour, carboy exploded about 66 hours after pitch-in,
most of the wort dried off in the remaining 18 hours.
Stokes notices some mud-like substance on a fragment of glass. Analysis
comes back: precipitated protein, yeast sediment... Yup, it's trub. But
how did it get there?
Catherine tours brewpub to identify the victim. The brewmaster at the
pub: "Hey, it looks *somewhat* like Scotch Ale, but real Scotch Ale
would be maltier and bigger." A botched attempt at Scotch Ale? A
lagered Tripel? Maybe...

Ale-X, not in Vegas

References/Apologies to:'s_law.html

I hope this might help others, if only as a funny anecdote.

Success and Gender

My friend Vali is releasing her latest movie (Ex-Centris, November 24 to 30). Here’s the trailer:

YouTube – Tupperware: recettes pour le succès


Zune Debacle: Worse Than Expected

Microsoft’s Zune media player is out:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Zune goes head to head with iPod

We already knew the sharing feature was crippled, even for non-DRMed user-created files and that Microsoft’s own “Plays for Sure” DRM will not play on the Zune. The Zune is crippled in other important respects.

  • Doesn’t use Windows Media Player.
  • No podcasting support.
  • The Zune software doesn’t allow for sharing between computers (the way iTunes does).
  • No PDA features (not even the iPod’s calendar and contacts).
  • Apparently no recording feature.
  • Apparently no add-ons.
  • Some music studios are asking for a share of the profits on unit sales, even though the device could be used with non-studio content.
  • The store’s “point system” is even more confusing than it first seemed. (A song is worth 79 points, costing $0.99, the minimum number of points is rather high…)

Actually, I just read Duke University’s report on their early iPod initiative. Since that report, the iPod has improved a lot and several features and services are especially useful for educational or academic use. Podcasting support in iTunes and iTunes U is far from perfect but makes the iPod a very desirable device for course-related use. With the help of an inexpensive add-on , the latest iPods can record in much higher quality audio than the version Duke had for its iPod initiative. Since recording was the most appreciated feature through that initiative, the iPod is a much better academic tool now than it was at the time of the Duke initiative. In fact, my iRiver H120 lacks many of the feature expected from the latest generation of media player but has proven an extremely valuable tool for academic purposes due to its recording abilities and the bookmarking features of the Rockbox firmware (ideal for podcasts).
Microsoft Zune’s goes in the opposite direction. No podcasting features, apparently no support for recording.

Too little, too late.

Beer Tourism

We made the list!

Top 10 Cities for Beer Lovers (Sherman’s Travel)

Got this through the mailing-list for the MontreAlers brewclub. People are discussing some of the choices made by that travel agency but it’s still nice to see more awareness for beer tourism. Some beer lovers go to great extremes in those contexts and there’s a lot to be said about the cultural, economic, social, and even political importance of the quality beer movement.

The list, in alphabetical order:

  1. Amsterdam
  2. Berlin
  3. Brugge
  4. Burlington
  5. Dublin
  6. Mexico City
  7. Montreal
  8. Portland
  9. Prague
  10. Sapporo

Petite expérience à 1$

Ma femme et moi étions au Marché Jean-Talon, ce midi. Toujours agréable, surtout la semaine. Il y a moins de commerçant, mais l’ambiance est excellente. Beaucoup plus calme, beaucoup moins de «m’as-tu vu?» plateausiens, des commerçants plus décontractés et moins vendeurs sous pression…

En quittant le Marché, j’ai décidé d’aller nous chercher un chocolat chaud chez Chocolats Privilège. Très différent de celui de Juliette et chocolat (mon préféré), bien meilleur que celui de la très chrômée Suite 88. Coût? Un gros dollar, TTC. Le chocolat chaud est dans un gros thermos Bunn-o-matic, on se sert soi-même. Les tasses (en styrofoam) sont seulement de 8 oz., à l’oeil, mais c’est suffisant pour moi.

Ce qui me fait dire que plusieurs commerçants du Marché ont bien compris le principe. C’est une petite expérience, toute simple, pour un dollar. Oh, bien sûr, on peut se faire du bon chocolat chaud à la maison, pour moins cher. Si on achète un contenant de poudre de chocolat. Mais, l’idée, c’est de profiter de la vie à son maximum. Quand on n’a pas d’argent (ce qui est essentiellement mon cas), on se débrouille comme on peut. La petite tasse de chocolat m’a procuré autant de plaisir que beaucoup d’autres choses dans ma vie qui ont coûté autrement plus cher. Oh, il y a des choses qui ne m’ont rien coûté et qui étaient encore plus agréables. Mais c’est pas vraiment une question de rapport qualité/quantité/prix. C’est le rapport plaisir/prix. Plaisir à peu de frais. Simplicité volontaire, objecteurs de croissance, Simple Living…
Au Marché, nous avons aussi dégusté de très bonnes saucisses de gibiers (1$ chacune, toutes petites mais succulentes) et d’excellents sandwiches maroccains (kefta et merguez). Tout compris, ça nous a coûté moins cher que deux repas chez McDo et nous a fait autant plaisir qu’un bon souper.

Bien que tout coûte plus cher qu’avant, se nourrir à Montréal peut être une expérience très agréable, même pour ceux qui ont très peu d’argent. Il y a beaucoup de choses qui nous manquent (comme une épicerie Whole Foods!), mais on peut très bien se débrouiller.

Automatic Translation: Not Ready for Primetime

From Slashdot, via the Buzz Out Loud podcast…
TechSearch Blog | DARPA’s Dream – Ultimate Language Translation

Basically, hopes are still high but the technology “isn’t there yet.”

For those of us in language sciences, the issue is quite important but the conclusion is probably that the attempts are misleading. There is more to communication than this type of translation.
Related (older) article:

BBC NEWS | Health | ‘Tower of Babel’ translator made

Building Ethics and Media

I sometimes have issues with moral entrepreneurs and other self-righteous “do what I preach or submit to my wrath” people. I certainly tolerate and respect them, but I do have some difficulties coping with their attitude.

On the other hand, I certainly salute initiatives which combine ethical values with self-empowerment, sustainable development, alter-globalization, sound economic principles, and pure, plain fun. I’m not an activist myself but I support and admire those who have the convictions of their strength.

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