Cleaning up the Kitchen

For some reason I felt like conducting a purge this weekend. It rained for most of the day Saturday and when the rain stopped the humidity made it feel like someone was steam pressing your shirt while you wore it. So, I milled about the kitchen cooking a few things and just kind of staring at the accumulated detritus of various recipes and ideas gone wrong.

Why did I have so many packages of extra butter microwave popcorn when my family usually just eats a bowl of Tiny But Mighty from the Whirly-Pop? Never mind that the stuff might actually be hazardous to your health.

What were we doing with various containers of frosting and decorating items that had expiration dates as far back as three years prior? The mini M&Ms, chocolate stars, whipped fudge frosting, and strange confetti cake mix all went into the trash.

Before long I had discovered I had filled an entire tall kitchen bag with food that was long expired, potentially bad for me, or just plain mysterious. It felt good in the same vein as spring cleaning or taking all the stuff out of your garage to really get at the accumulated grime.

However, things took a decidedly unexpected turn this morning. We woke up to a refrigerator that had ceased to cool food sometime in the past twenty four hours. The freezer was okay, so it is likely just to be a problem with the defrost cycle or ice buildup near the ducts that blow cold air into the refrigerator. Regardless, we spent a good portion of the morning chucking room temperature yogurt because we had no clue how long it had been in that particular state.

Like the pantry I started to wonder why I had so many condiments and how old some of those sauces really were? What does one do with a quart of Panda Express orange sauce? I do not know nor do I care to discover an answer because that gloppy stuff went right into the trash. Ditto the various salad dressings that no one could remember purchasing. Really, when did I buy that Honey Dijon Wasabi salad dressing?

Looking at a completely bare refrigerator is an odd experience. One, it’s a great opportunity to clean all the drawers and shelves that rarely see a scrub brush. Two, it’s a great chance to really think about what food you keep around. Some social theorists believe that our refrigerators make us fat because we keep high calorie foods in easy to consume vehicles—think cheese sticks which should really be called little fat twigs—which would be impossible without huge refrigerators. As I restock my refrigerator over the next couple of weeks—assuming that it is as easy a fix as my friendly appliance repair person thinks it will be—I will be intrigued to see what makes the cut.

Friday Linkage 8/22/2014

Taking a different job within the same company is a surreal experience. I work at the same company, but due to the company’s size and building footprint it is a totally different experience in my new job. I do not want to make excuses for why I have not been posting lately, but I am too swamped to even come up with a better reason.

On to the links…

Pink Slime Is Making A Major Comeback—You knew it would happen. The furor would die down and industry would be waiting to swoop back in to offer their nasty products. This crap is nasty and we should not be feeding it to our children.

False Facts and the Conservative Distortion Machine: It’s Much More than just Fox News—There is a concerted effort, funded by big business, to muddy the waters on every important issue of the day. Books have been written, exposes aired, and no one seems to really care that one political party is making a conscious effort to use bad information in crafting policy.

Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State—This series of interactive graphs showing how the populations of states evolved is a massively fun time waster.

Why the Scientific Case Against Fracking Keeps Getting Stronger—Is there a good story about fracking? Sure, our energy prices have remained low because of new domestic supplies, but doesn’t that just delay the inevitable price shocks that will come later?

This Is Where Your Electricity Comes From—I just love data visualization.

At Ford Headquarters, Electric Cars To Be Charged By Solar Canopy Parking Lot—The United States is covered in parking lots. Between roads and parking lots we have paved over an area the size of Georgia. Why isn’t more of this area covered in some type of solar canopy?

Power Surge in Minnesota’s Solar Industry—Minnesota, like Germany, does not strike me as a place where solar would be a big deal but the Land of 10,000 Lakes and Michele Bachmann is a surprising place sometimes. Now, will someone please explain hot dish to me?

Explosive US Solar Power Growth & Jobs—So, despite a hostile regulatory environment and Congress that cannot get out of its own way solar is kicking ass. Yep, solar is kicking ass.

Rooftop Solar May Reach Grid Parity In 25+ States By 2017—I would not want to be a power industry exec imagining what the demand destruction will look like when more than half of the states can generate clean power on their roofs for the same cost as dirty coal power. I can’t wait to listen to those investor calls.

Wind Energy Prices at an All Time Low—Wind power is cheap and it is generating almost 5% of the total electricity in the U.S. Wow!

Spain Met More than a Third of July’s Electricity Demand with Wind and Solar Power—Sure, Spain’s economy is in the toilet but the country is a renewables leader. It’s not correlated by the way.

NYC Has More Food Waste-To-Energy Tricks Up Its Sleeve—It amazes me how much energy we just throw away each year. Think about all the waste, both from our kitchens and our bodies, that just gets thrown in the trash or down the sewer drain. What if we could harness that waste to create energy? Imagine…

How To Make Marinara Sauce—This is one of those skills that every child should be taught before leaving the house. It is a lifesaver when you need to make a meal.

Sh*t the Candidates Say in Iowa

We’ve got some real winners running for Congress in Iowa this year. The crème de la crème is Rep. Steve King, Republican blowhard from the 4th Congressional district which covers a broad swath of northwestern Iowa, who says things like:

This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back and if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.

Granted, that is the most classic line but there are too many to list. Just check out Right Wing Watch’s sampling of the best of Steve King.

However, Rep. King is not the only one getting in one the action. Joni Ernst, who is running for the soon-to-be vacated seat of Sen. Tom Harkin, has had some classic lines herself. Do you know how someone will be good at cutting through government waste? Let Joni Ernst tell you herself:

Hi, I’m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.

Somehow cutting the nuts off of a piglet qualifies someone to determine what government spending priorities are wasteful or not. Besides the metaphor of government waste being called pork for some reason I am missing the connection.

Somehow, Joni Ernst also thinks that President Obama has usurped power from the legislative branch and become a dictator:

They’re not speaking up against these actions. They’re not speaking out against the president when he oversteps his bounds, when he makes those appointments, when he’s appointing czars, when he is producing executive orders in a threat to a Congress that won’t do as he wishes. So he has become a dictator.

Wow, a President who has a hard time getting a simple budget through Congress, who cannot get judicial nominees confirmed, and who watches the lower chamber repeatedly pass repeals of his signature legislation is a dictator because he uses executive power in a way similar, but not as frequently, as the occupants of the office before him? Interesting, Joni, speak truth to power:

He is running amok. He is not following our Constitution, and unfortunately we have leaders who are not serving as leaders right now, they’re not defending the Constitution and they’re not defending you and me.

Really, in what way is he not following “our” Constitution? Did you even read past the Second Amendment? Then again after the horrible shooting incident at the University of California-Santa Barbara she said:

This unfortunate accident happened after the ad, but it does highlight that I want to get rid of, repeal, and replace Bruce Braley’s Obamacare and it also shows that I am a strong supporter of the second amendment. That is a fundamental right.

First off, when a whacko grabs a gun and kills 6 people it’s not an “unfortunate accident.” It’s murder. Plain and simple. But somehow relating the deaths of 6 people at the hands of a shooter to your desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act is stunning in its stupidity. There you have it, Joni Ernst for U.S. Senate because without Michele Bachmann we need some comic relief.

There are some real beauties from Rod Blum, running for the soon-to-be vacant 1st Congressional district seat occupied for Iowa Senate candidate Bruce Braley, about the EPA regulations costing upwards of $1.75 trillion dollars per year. Considering that the U.S GDP is estimated at ~$17 trillion this would mean that environmental regulations cost our economy nearly 10% of potential output. Wow, that seems pretty amazing and it’s probably untrue. Of course, he is also a climate change denier who uses a cover of Time Magazine from the 1970s as evidence that the scientific community is uncertain about the path of our climate.   That’s like using the cover of People Magazine as a proxy for why the U.S. Census is uncertain about its figures. Clown.

It seems that every year the candidates get increasingly more whack, but this is going to be nothing compared to the circus that will surround Iowa prior to the caucuses in 2016. From the summer of 2015 until what will undoubtedly be a cold January night in 2016 candidates will be crisscrossing the state trying to outdo each other in a vain attempt to curry favor with the small portion of the electorate that actually goes to the caucus. I might change my party affiliation to Republican just to get in on the show. Okay, maybe not.

Friday Linkage 8/15/2014

Moving to a new job is interesting. I have not had a job change in six years, so it kind of feels like a milestone but it is odd at the same time. Who knows what next week will bring?

On to the links…

Sales of Shark Fin in China Drop by up to 70%–I hope that international pressure and the realization that the soup really tastes like warm snot is starting to make people reconsider this outdated practice. Again, it could be just some spin from China’s PR machine.

China Will Install More Solar This Year Than The U.S. Ever Has—Is solar taking off? Well, here is one little stat to make you think about the volume of deployed solar. Remember, solar PV destroys demand.

Stacked Solar Cells could make Solar Power Cheaper than Natural Gas—Even cheaper solar power would be sweet. It’s already cost competitive, but if it were cheaper that makes the adoption curve go crazy.

Wind Farm Powering A Million Homes Nears Approval Deep In Coal Country—Considering that Wyoming is coal country this is a big deal.   3,000 megawatts of power would put this single wind farm on par with all but a few states total wind generation capacity. Damn.

Carbon Dioxide ‘Sponge’ could Ease Transition to Cleaner Energy—Here is the thing that climate deniers and opponents of the new EPA regulations forget, their vaunted market will come up with cost effective solutions because the demand is present.

When Did Republicans Start Hating the Environment?—When did Republicans start hating everything? Seriously, what does the party stand for as opposed to what it stands against? It’s a party devoid of big ideas.

20 Big Profitable US Companies Paid No Taxes—As you read this list, remember that Republicans want corporations to pay even lower taxes. The thing that kills me is that if corporations are people why don’t they pay taxes like people?

Absurd Creature of the Week: This Goofy Fish Poops Out White-Sand Beaches—A parrotfish is an amazing thing to watch when you are snorkeling. You can watch little puffs of white sand come out from their rear ends. Cool and gross at the same time.

Judge Refuses To Throw Out Challenge To Utah’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law—This is important and should be followed by anyone with an interest in activism and free speech. If “ag gag” laws are allowed to stand there will be a chilling effect on speech and it will encourage industry to promote even more restrictions on our rights.

America Now Has Over 3,000 Craft Breweries—and That’s Not Necessarily Great for Beer Drinkers—The beer aisle is crazy now. How many IPAs and amber ales and bocks and sour ales and whatever else can a beer drinker choose from effectively? As I read more and more articles I believe a shakeout in the industry is coming.

Fermenting Beer Time Lapse Shows one Beautiful Breathing Sludge Monster— These open fermentation tanks are crazy mad scientist stuff:

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Upslope Brewing Company India Pale Ale

I recently wrote about Upslope Brewing’s Pale Ale and today I am going to regurgitate some thoughts on the same brewery’s India Pale Ale:

Upslope India Pale Ale

What? A pale ale and an India pale ale? What the heck is going on here in the world of generously hopped ales?

The general difference between the two beers is that an IPA will be hopped to a higher degree and contain more alcohol relative to volume, e.g. the IBU and ABV ratings will be higher. This is not true in all cases as the style guides for beer have been blown apart in the past few years.

Upslope’s IPA actually tastes like a breed of beer I am going to refer to as Colorado pale ale. Why restrict ourselves to monikers created during a time when there were not 3,000 breweries in the United States? The beer has a little more body than a traditional pale ale, but it’s also hopped more and comes in with a greater boozy punch than a lighter pale ale. Colorado pale ales have a bigger hop bouquet than a traditional IPA, which is the result of using newer varieties of hops like Citra, Amarillo, and so on. It’s a distinct beer, in my opinion, that is typified by Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale.

Upslope’s IPA falls short of the benchmark set by Dale’s Pale Ale in one primary area: the hop aromas and flavors are kind of muddled, which when you think about it is the sole reason for an IPA to exist. It’s about the hops, man! There is some resin and some citrus, but nothing really shines through as the signature note of the beer. Honestly, it’s the same problem I have been struggling with recently when it comes to my homebrew recipes for a House Pale Ale. The hop profile is either over the top—usually from a single hop recipe—or muddled—the rest of my recipes using a blend of hops.

That is not say that Upslope’s IPA is a bad beer in any way shape or form. Quite the contrary, but the bar for this particular “family” of beers is pretty high in the U.S. right now when you consider how much effort is being expended to brew varying pale ales. Overall, it’s a middle of the road result:

Two Mug Purchase

Steel Toe Brewing Provider Ale

The first beer I drank from Steel Tow Brewing was big and brassy—Size 7 IPA—but Provider Ale was a totally different experience:

steel toe provider

At only 5% ABV and 15 IBU there is little “big” about this beer. It is also hard to categorize. It’s not a wheat beer, even though it pours with a golden straw color and is unfiltered. It has some sweetness and the hop notes are floral as opposed to resinous.

If you were looking for an analog I would suggest a cream ale like New Glarus’ Spotted Cow or Galena Brewing Company’s Farmer’s Cream Ale. These are both light beers that pour like a wheat beer but have a very different flavor that is hard to categorize.

These beers are actually quite hard to pull off from a technical standpoint because there is little hop flavor and aroma to “hide” behind when off flavors present themselves in the malt body of the beer. I have also found these beers to be heavily influenced by the temperature at which they are fermented. It might be the exact same recipe, but the fermentation spent a few days at a temperature higher or lower than ideal which leads to a totally different beer. Trust me, I have brewed Northern Brewer’s Speckled Heifer partial mash kit a few times and each batch tastes noticeably different. Not bad, but definitely different.

If Provider Ale and Size 7 IPA were poured side by side a person would be hard pressed to know that these beers were from the same brewery. It is a very different approach to beer in each glass:

Two Mug Purchase

You Must Read—The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines

The climate scientists have to be right 100 percent of the time, or their 0.01 percent error becomes Glaciergate, and they are frauds. By contrast, the deniers only have to be right 0.01 percent of the time for their narrative. [Page 223]

9780231152549Last week I suggest that you read Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, which was a stunning longitudinal look at the history of contrarian “science” and denial in the U.S. on a range of topics. If you really want to understand the mechanism behind the current crop of climate denial you need to read Michael E. Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.

Michael E. Mann is a climatologist and member of the faculty at Pennsylvania State University. He holds a PhD in geology and geophysics. This is not the sort of person you think would be the subject of severe character defamation and the target of a coordinated public relations campaign to discredit his work.

However, in 1999 Mann—along with Raymond S. Bradley and Malcom K. Hughes—published a paper consisting of a reconstruction of climate going back approximately 1,000 years. The model, entitled MBH99 for the authors and the year in which it was published, would become famous as the “hockey stick.” The model showed a relatively stable climate, in terms of temperature volatility, for most of the time period with the recent history showing a market increase in upward volatility. Hence the hockey stick.

Somehow this model became the bete noir of the climate change denial movement—most of which was outlined extremely well in Merchants of Doubt. Michael E. Mann’s personal account shows the degree to which the attacks on this particular component of the climate debate were founded on bad science, funded by fossil fuels, and perpetuated by a modern media machine that craves controversy to feed its twenty four hour programming schedule.

The destruction of climate denier “science” is a nice read, but it hardly matters to people who will literally claim to not believe anything because of Jesus or some such shit. Don’t believe me? Check out Pastor Matthew Hagee. These are the type of people you are trying to convince that mankind has altered the physical conditions of the planet.

Even worse are the elected officials like Joe Barton and James Inhofe, who clearly do not understand the science at its most basic level, conducting hearings where they praise the work of hacks. Worse still is that these politicians use their offices like truncheons to bully those who do not fall into line. Other authors have pointed out that these tactics are strikingly similar to what took place in the Soviet Union when official science, no matter how unsubstantiated, ran up against contrarian viewpoints. Rather than let the scientific process work its natural course the contrarians were silenced. Ironically, the consensus scientific point here is that climate change is real, but the contrarian viewpoint, which is clearly false, is being given more air time than even the most insane alien abduction theory should be afforded.

If you want to understand the dynamics behind our country’s inability to address climate change read The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. You will be amazed that Congress can even get its act together enough to agree on when to take a vacation. Oh wait, they always seem able to agree on that fact.

BTW, Michael E. Mann is not to be confused with Michael Mann, the director of such films as Heat and Last of the Mohicans. I half expected Joe Barton to castigate Michael E. Mann for portraying the tobacco companies as evil doers in The Insider.