Friday Linkage 11/20/2015

Damn, Bobby Jindal dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Oh wait, you did not know Bobby Jindal was running? Neither did 99% of Republican voters because none of them cared that the soon-to-be-former Governor of Louisiana was really just trying out for Fox News. Maybe he can join Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum on a weekend talk-a-thon called “The Losers.”

Note: There will be no Friday Linkage published on Friday November 27th because I will be enjoying the slopes in Colorado.

On to the links…

The U.S. And Japan Are Close To Reaching A Major Agreement On Coal—One of the next links to break in the coal chain is the financing provided by developed countries to build coal fired power plants in the developing world. If the U.S. and Japan stop financing these projects coal will really be on a downward spiral.

Coal’s Cruel Fortune: Its Biggest Market Is Also the Windiest—The states that depend on coal the most in the U.S. are also the ones that have the most wind resources. As wind becomes cost competitive or even cheaper than coal how can the dirty old fuel compete? The answer is that it cannot.

The Clean Energy Revolution In Three (Or Four) Charts—The cost curve has been bent in renewables favor and policies will only make it the more sensible choice going forward. This is the future.

Federal Fossil Fuels Programs Contradict Obama’s Climate Goals—If we want to make real progress on climate goals the federal government should adopt a “leave it in the ground” policy when it comes to fossil fuels on public lands.

University of Iowa Ramps up Use of Biomass Fuel—Generally, we think of renewable fuel advancement coming from large governments or power companies. Universities can be a source of positive change and forward movement.

Solar Prices Could Be 10% Less Than Coal In India By 2020—We have been waiting for renewables to get to the “China price” or the “”India price.” That time may be coming sooner than we thought.

When Will the World Wake up to the Potential of Poo Power?—In the western world, particularly the United States, we like to just flush away any reminder that were defecate. It is unfortunate because we are flushing away something that might be a potential resource.

A Glimpse into the Promising Future of Wheat—Between the gluten free craze and low carb diets wheat has had a pretty dismal run the past few years. What if the wheat we eat today is really just a product of bad genetics and there is a better wheat out there?

A Million Pounds of Pedal Powered Compost—Pedal powered compost? Where do I sign up?

The Innovative Delivery System Transforming Gothenburg’s Roads—This is such an amazing system. Now, it would require collaboration and in the U.S., at least, collaboration is a dirty word in private business. Reeks of socialism or some such crap.

The Republican Wall of Climate Denial Is Starting to Crack—It’s a small change, but when the dam breaks it is over for the climate change denial crew.

This Climate Denier Just Can’t Wait to Debut his “Documentary” in Paris—How are these guys even getting the time of day from anyone anymore?

That Big Beer Merger Might Make You Pay Too Much for Your Brew—The new mega brewer made possible by AB InBev’s recent acquisition of SAB Miller means that beer may get more expensive. I am not worried about the price of crappy light lager, but craft brewers are worried about the price and availability of hops next year.

Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip Pale Ale

Every fall a seasonal beer variety is released to much acclaim. No, I am not talking about the insidious march of pumpkin beers that invades point of sale displays everywhere. I am talking about fresh hop beers.

Normally, hops are harvested, dried, and stored in either whole cones or pellets. This process, understandably, destroys some of the oils and aromatics that make hops so delicious when combined with malt to make beer. As craft brewers have widened their net in ways to differentiate themselves from the macro brewers and their faux craft labels fresh hopping became “a thing.”

The idea is that you take hops harvested within the past few hours and use them in a brew. As this process is limited in time frame there is a small amount of beer that can be produced. It is seasonal and limited in ways that pumpkin beer cannot ever aspire. Until recently I had not been given the opportunity to try many fresh hop beers because none of my regional brewers went down this path owing to the lack of hop farms in the upper Midwest. That is until I saw a six pack of Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip Pale Ale:

Hop Trip


The beer pours a dark amber color which puts it squarely in the American or Belgian pale ale category. This speaks to a strong malt body that is supposed to be a backbone for an explosion of hop flavors and aromas. Hop Trip clocks in at 6.1% ABV, so it is stronger than some ales but not out of the ballpark when it comes to wanting to stay upright late into the evening.

At “only” 38 IBU there is something missing from the statistics. Like dry hopping, fresh hop beers bring more hoppy goodness to the table without contributing significantly to the bitterness. However, the similarity to a dry hopped beer is something I could not get out of my head as I drank this fresh hop ale.

At ~$11 for a six-pack, Hop Trip was ~$2 more than a regular six-pack of Deschutes Brewery beer at my local purveyor. For that extra cost I am missing what was special. Sure, the beer was good and it had a lot of hoppy goodness but there was little to differentiate it against a well-done dry hopped beer using the same hops. Maybe it was not fresh enough or the malt body was too much to let the delicate fresh hop notes shine. Either way I am not seeing what the increase in cost really bought me.

I would be interested to see how this beer tasted near the completion of its minimum bottle conditioning—my example was bottled in October and consumed in mid-November—or if the beer were available in a draft format. Take a drink and tell me if your opinion of this fresh hop beer is different:

Two Mug Purchase

See what others are saying about Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip Pale Ale at Beeradvocate.

Stuff I Like: Early Morning Harvest Flour

I have a muffin problem. The muffin is my “go to” breakfast food vehicle of choice. Now, most muffins you see in a glass case at the coffee shop or at the store are little more than fist size sugar bombs. Take a moment and look at the nutrition information from Panera.

A blueberry muffin, with fresh blueberries, is 460 calories and delivers 40 grams of sugar. The same muffin also only has 2 grams of fiber. You might as well be chugging a soda for your breakfast.

So, my muffin problem has turned into a baking odyssey. I want to control what is in my ritual morning breakfast. Naturally this has led me down a rabbit hole of ingredients (e.g. wheat bran versus oat bran, maple syrup versus molasses, etc.). One of the major issues that I faced when perfecting my morning muffin was a source of local, organic flour and bran. Enter Early Morning Harvest:


Early Morning Harvest is a diversified farm operation located in Panora, Iowa.

At less than 170 miles from my house I am going to count them as local. Sometimes those 100 mile limits seem arbitrary as 170 miles in Iowa might take you the same amount of time in a car as fifty miles in Los Angeles.

The farm produces vegetables, eggs, tilapia through aquaculture, honey, grass fed beef, herbs, and milled grain products.

For my recipe, which will be forthcoming in a future blog post, I use whole wheat flour and wheat bran from Early Morning Harvest. It is certified organic and stone ground. The flour contains the entirety of the wheat grain. Nothing has been removed. The result is a whole wheat flour, owing to its freshness and completeness, that bursts with wheat flavor. It kind of reminds me of the concept that Mark Schatzker was making in The Dorito Effect: the better a food tastes, the better that food will be from a nutritional perspective.

I was able to find the Early Morning Harvest products at the New Pioneer Food Coop. The products are also available at a variety of stores in Iowa as well.

Shame on you Terry Branstad

If the dominant chord in our nation’s political rhetoric remains unchanged terrorism will have won out against freedom.

In a calculated move to score cheap political points in the wake of the brutal attacks in Paris, France over the weekend at least 27 of the governors in the United States have made statements or policy changes in an effort to slow or stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

One of those governors is Iowa’s Terry Branstad. I am often embarrassed by the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad. In election after election the voters in the state of Iowa reelect the governor for life regardless of the imperial actions he takes and the imperious attitude he has for anyone who stands in the way of his desires.

Now I am ashamed to say that I come from the state of Iowa.  Branstad himself acknowledges that the rhetoric is little more than hot air and political posturing. Given an opportunity to score cheap political points over half of the nation’s governors took the money and ran.

This is the time when the United States should open its arms to the very people who are fleeing terror. Even though the nation’s governors, self-admittedly, do not have power over immigration, a power which rests solely in the hands of the federal government, the rhetoric has a chilling effect on the ability of refugees to successfully integrate into American society.

Families do not risk their lives to climb aboard flimsy inflatable boats in the vague hope of a better life unless that which they are fleeing is so terrible as to be unimaginable. If we continue down this xenophobic path the terrorists will have won the day and, perhaps, the war.

Our values are stronger than what is on display with our elected officials. Our culture is stronger than the threat of terrorism. Our country is better than this.

There it is…

It came in a little late for me to add to my normal Monday post about the happenings in the right wing whack-o-verse.  This morning Steve King, one of the leading dispensers of hate speech and ignorance in Congress who also happens to be from Iowa, endorsed Ted Cruz.

King made his endorsement by saying:

I believe Ted Cruz is the candidate that’s the answer to my prayers. A candidate whom God will use to restore the soul of America.

Never mind Steve King believing that God herself has answered his personal prayers for a political candidate to come forward in order to “restore the soul of America.”  If someone switched the word “God” with “Aqua Buddha” there would be a line of orderlies waiting to take that person to crazy town.

Apparently, this is important because Steve King fancies himself a kingmaker in Iowa.  Now he has endorsed a candidate with poll numbers lower than three other candidates.

Oh well, crazy deserves some crazy company.

The Joni Ernst Watch 11/16/2015

When it comes to Joni “Make ‘em squeal” Ernst or Steve King it’s clown shoes all day, every day. Recently, the conversation in Iowa has turned away from our homegrown whack-a-doos and focused on the nutcase circus that will be the Republican caucus.

It looks like Senator Ernst is more a creation of the Koch political machine than previously thought.

Were there really winners and losers from the GOP debate last week?

Pundits would like to ascribe those labels to the candidates, but considering how little movement there is in the polls does anyone voting in the caucuses and primaries actually care about the debates?

Here is what the GOP would like the debates to look like:


Ben Carson is a liar. Remember, this is a candidate who has put everything on how credible he is as a person. His whole shtick is that he may not have the experience of some of the other candidates, but he is a trustworthy person. Nope, he is a liar. Here is a guide to Ben Carson’s biggest fictions, misstatements, and exaggerations.

This is a man who claims to have better sources on the reality in Syria than the White House.

But, will Carson’s lies actually sink his campaign? Recent polling does not suggest that caucus and primary voters care.

NOTE: There will be no post on Monday November 23rd because I will be on vacation in Colorado hopefully avoiding any mention of Republicans running for President. Good luck, right?

Friday Linkage 11/13/2015

Apparently Starbucks destroyed Christmas with its minimalist holiday cup. I did not know that the final straw to break the back of Christmas celebration in the United States was the lack of an overt Christmas message on the cups of overprice coffee. I guess I missed Jesus’ teaching on that issue. Damn.

On to the links…

Satellites Expose Just How Bad Indonesia’s Fires Are—Will climate change lead to a world on fire? If Indonesia is any kind of harbinger we better be ready for a smoky world.

Congress’ Chief Climate Denier Lamar Smith and NOAA Are at War—I applaud NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan for responding to Texas Republican Lamar Smith’s bluster with simple steely determination. It is high time that Congressional Republicans be called out for the chilling effect their rhetoric is having on scientific speech in this country.

Average US mpg for October falls—Gas is cheap, so people bought big cars that get bad mileage and drove more. We are so short sighted.

Bankruptcy Expected for Arch Coal, A Reflection of Industry Woes—Alpha Natural Resources declared bankruptcy and Arch Coal is expected to follow. Arch Coal used to have a stock price of over $3,400 per share. As of Thursday the stock was trading at ~$1.50 per share. Coal is dead.

One of the World’s Largest Coal Companies Misled Investors About Climate Change Risk, Investigation Finds—Coal companies lied and people died. Simple enough.

Solar Cheapest Electricity Option In Chile—Solar, and wind in a lot of countries, is now the cheapest option when it comes to installing new electrical generating capacity. Here is to hoping that the cost curve keeps bending downward and we can deploy even more demand destroying solar.

Prefer Your Meat Drug-Free? You’re the “Fringe 1 Percent”—Here is the playbook from the right wing: Label someone’s personal choice that is completely rational as something originating from the lunatic fringe. That way it sounds like it comes from the same pool of thought as the anti-vaccine movement and those creepy quiver full people. Oh wait, those are right wing pet causes. Whoops.

When a Supermarket Changes How a Neighborhood Feels About Itself—Interesting stuff about how small changes can lead to indirect changes in people’s behavior and attitudes. It makes you think about how the built environment contributes to attitudes and behaviors.

25 Sneaky Names for Palm Oil—Palm oil is bad stuff. It is driving deforestation in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, which is imperiling orangutans and other at risk species. The problem is that stuff is in a lot of the products we use and producers are sneaky about not actually calling it palm oil, lest Girl Scouts get all nasty on them.

24 Mind-Blowing Facts About Marijuana Production in America—Marijuana is going to be mainstream in the United States within my lifetime. Heck, it may get there in the next couple of election cycles. Here are some facts about the production of your weed that may surprise you.