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Friday Linkage 8/11/2017

Heading out on vacation in a few hours because nothing says relaxing like Orlando in August with your extended family.  There is absolutely nothing quite like late summer Florida heat and humidity to really bring people together.  At least there will be Dole Whip.

On to the links…

Utah Commission: Keep “Negro Bill Canyon” the Same—Between the zealots who cannot stop fighting the Civil War by idiotically flying what they assume is the flag of the Confederacy—when in truth it is bastardization of a battle flag flown by either the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of Tennessee—to maintaining symbols of hate like this we will never grow as a nation.

How Midwestern Farmers Could Help Save the Gulf of Mexico—It will never happen with the current White House and most of the governors being Republicans, but there should be a national program to pay farmers to deploy cover crops.  No single action would be better for the health of the Gulf of Mexico and our nation’s water quality.  It is a proven solution.

How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God—Be wary of the man who claims to be godly, but spends his time talking about earthly matters.  It usually means that he is hiding an agenda and using a veneer of piety as a shield against criticism.  As I tell people all the time, “I do not remember a single passage in the bible where Jesus talks about the rights of oil companies to drill on public lands.”

Americans Are Using Less Electricity Today Than A Decade Ago—The key caveat here is per capita.  There are more people, but we are using less electricity per each person.

Thanks To Co-op, Small Iowa Town Goes Big On Solar—I went to a wedding this summer just outside of Kalona and the solar panels were all over the place.  Ground mount arrays were at almost every farm that was not owned by an older order Amish or Mennonite family.  If everyone could embrace solar like the customers of Farmers Electric Cooperative the world would be a better place.

Dirty Energy’s Quiet War on Solar Panels—They can try and stem the tide but solar panels will win in the end.  The guys who put the panels on my house this week were booked solid with jobs for the rest of the summer and fall.  Solar power is real and it is here.

To Solve ‘Duck Curve,’ Missouri Utility to Pay Bonus for West-Facing Solar Panels—It’s not just about south facing roofs anymore.  As someone who has installed a west facing array—270 degree azimuth baby—I cannot wait to see how my peak production lines up with the duck curve.

Shell Oil CEO Stunner: ‘My Next Car will be Electric’—The worm has turned.

More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane—Bikes are amazing and can be a major component of the mobility solutions puzzle we, as a nation and species, are trying to solve.  Seriously, if people are willing to bike in New York City you should be willing to bike in Cedar Rapids.

A Perfect Illustration of the Spatial Inefficiency of the Automobile—Remember, if you work in a cubicle your parking space is bigger than your office.  What do we truly value?

Pedal Power: How Denver Bike Crews are Rescuing Food from Landfills One Ride at a Time—I love this business model.  Collect scraps—for a fee—with a no-emissions bicycle and create wonderful compost to nourish the soil.

Here’s Proof the Average U.S. Household Isn’t the ‘Dumb Money’—I spent twenty one months in business school listening to the icons of “smart money” tell aspiring investment bankers how they were the masters of the universe and what not.  The financial crisis in 2008 was a total nut punch to these guys, but it obviously did not make them humble.

Papa John’s has Made a Gluten-Free Pizza that Gluten-Intolerant Diners can’t Eat—Here is proof that the gluten free trend is not about people with celiac disease and more about marketing.

Impossible Burger’s ‘Secret Sauce’ Highlights Challenges of Food Tech—Soy leghemoglobin may be an allergen, but I love the government’s concern.  I also find it stunning that the FDA has acted so quickly when other problems in our food system are persistent and pernicious going on for years and decades without any government intervention.  Do you think big meat is behind this?  Oh yeah…


Learning to Live Lactose Free

There have been a few times over the course of the past seven and half years of being a parent that I have been completely floored with sadness. The first two times followed the death of my parents when I realized that neither would get to watch my children grow up.

The third was late last week when my daughter told me, “Daddy, my stomach does not hurt anymore.” How did I get to this point?

A few weeks ago my wife and I noticed our daughter would have an odd smell. Not like normal body odor, but really hard to place. I should have known better than to dive deep down into the well that is health information on the internet. Pretty soon you are at the worst case scenario which is almost always a rare terminal disease.

Not so this time. Between some internet research, conversations with a family member, and some good ol’ process of elimination we concluded that our daughter might be lactose intolerant. Without telling her, because a seven year old can be hyper sensitive, we cut out the lactose. In our house this is a major ordeal. We do not eat a lot of meat, but cheese is a constant. Four cheese baked macaroni and cheese is a fall staple. Baked potato soup is one of our daughter’s favorite meals in the whole world.

Within a week the odd smell was gone. Not better. Gone. It also led to the most brutal statement ever from my daughter to me. She said she did not know her stomach was not supposed to hurt because it always felt that way. Wow, I felt like the worst parent ever. Okay, maybe not the worst parent ever but I was completely floored.

I am also amazed at the way a seven year old can police herself better than most adults when it comes to consuming lactose. She has turned down ice cream—thank you summer camp counselor for finding a Popsicle—and tells us when a party might have pizza so we can make sure there is an alternative. Other times she just goes without eating the treat with nary a complaint. On the flip side, it makes me wonder just how much better she feels if this is the level of self-control she is willing to exert.

Food is so basic and woven through so much of our life that eliminating a simple and pervasive component like lactose becomes a challenge and a treasure hunt. Now the trips to the New Pioneer Coop have become exercises in what dairy free items we can find that day. Vegan carrot cake anyone?

The biggest challenge so far? Finding a suitable replacement for Parmesan cheese. My daughter loves Parmesan cheese. For the first few years of her life she referred to it solely as “yummy cheese.” She would eat slivers cut from the block and hoard them at dinner. When someone brought out a canister of Kraft Parmesan cheese she looked at it askance and said, “That’s not yummy cheese.” Please help internet, you’re my only hope.

Friday Linkage 1/23/2015

I am taking a certain sick pleasure in watching the current Republican controlled Congress. The Senate recently voted, nearly unanimously, to admit that climate change was real and not a hoax. The same Senate also did not pass a resolution saying human actions were the cause of global warming. Okay, Mr. Wizard, what is the cause of climate change?

On to the links…

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says—Basically, the oceans are dying and we are to blame. It’s not too late to save the oceans, but it will take coordinated…ah, screw it. We’re too stupid and narrow minded as a species to do anything to actually save the oceans. Let’s go shopping.

S.F. Bay Bird Rescue: Mystery Goo Bedevils Experts—There is a mystery goo, it’s a technical term folks, that is coating and killing birds in the Bay Area. If we did not need more proof about the dire health of the oceans, here it is.

India’s Tiger Population Increases by almost a Third—The animal is still critically endangered and there are many threats to a continued recovery, but the effort is being expended to make this a success story. That in and of itself should be a ray of sunshine on a Friday morning.

A Brief History of the Oil Crash—As I write this post oil is trading sub-$50 per barrel. The rolling 52 week high was just over $100. This is an interesting look at the causes of the price crash.

Graph Dispels The Myth That Cheap Gas Means Cheap Energy—Oil is just one energy source and the energy source that leads to a near daily price interaction as many of us drive by gas stations advertising the price of a gallon of gas. However, the total cost of our energy is a much more varied picture.

Single-Family Residential Solar Power Investment Beats S&P 500 in Most US Cities—I am not suggesting that you stop investing in your 401K, but maybe solar on your own roof could be seen as an investment just like that condo your Uncle Benny keeps talking about in Boca Raton.

Largest-Ever Study Quantifies Value Of Rooftop Solar—People are willing to pay more for homes with solar PV systems. Did this really need to have a study to confirm?

Florida Power & Light Solar Rebate Sells Out Completely In 3 Minutes—Florida is not the friendliest state to renewables. Heck, Florida is not the friendliest state to its own residents. However, this rebate program’s quick sellout confirms a market demand for solar power in the Sunshine State.

Why It’s Taking The U.S. So Long To Make Fusion Energy Work—Fusion is the unicorn of energy technology: cheap, plentiful, pollution free…a man can dream can’t he? Too bad it always seems like it is a decade away.

Striking Photos Show Struggle Of Farmers In California Drought—Maps showing drought conditions are nice, but sometimes photos convey a lot more meaning without being technical. Our best understanding of the misery of the Dust Bowl comes not from facts and figures but from striking monochrome photos.

Experts Zero in on Pizza as Prime Target in War on Childhood Obesity—Damn, I have never been so glad that my kids are not pizza eating wild animals like a lot of other kids. Tacos and breakfast burritos are our problem.

Craft Beer Uses 4 Times As Much Barley As Corporate Brew—It turns out that Natty Light really is just watered down real beer.

A Brewery Too Far?

Colorado is like Napa Valley for beer lovers. If there is a style of beer that you like then I am sure that there is a brewery somewhere along the Front Range that caters to your desires. After spreading my parents’ ashes somewhere west of the Continental Divide my brother and I headed into Denver for a day of sampling some of what the region’s brewers had to offer.

After filling our bellies with delicious, if odd, hot dogs from Biker Jim’s we set out into the Five Points neighborhood to see what was good on tap. First, no one actually calls this area the Five Points neighborhood anymore from what we could tell. Everyone seemed to call it the Ballpark neighborhood owing to the presence of Coors Field. Second, almost no place was open in the late morning. If you want to feel like a degenerate spend a few minutes on a beautiful Saturday morning trying to find a place to drink a beer. Yeah, I kind of felt like we were trying to bring back the glory days of Denver’s skid row.

NOTE: I am not going to give ratings to all of the beers that I tried because that would not be a fair assessment considering the amount I had consumed toward the end and my general level of inebriation. I will try and pick out some highlights.

Finally, at 11 AM the Breckenridge Brewery’s restaurant pretty much across the street from Coors Field opened and we were saved in our pursuit liquid libation.   This location is not the actual brewery of record, so it is also not a traditional taproom. BTW, this location cannot sell growlers because there is no actual brewing taking place on site.

Breckenridge Brewery is not a small craft brewer. The brewery has been in business for almost 25 years and is now distributed in 32 states. I can find Breckenridge Brewery beers on the shelves of my local grocery store here in Iowa. I think that the presence in the middle of the scene—squeezed by the big craft names like New Belgium on the large end and the innovators on the small end of the scale—cause people to forget that this is a brewery that is capable of delivering some excellent beers.

I started with a tasting flight:

photo 1

The tasting flight included—from left to right—Avalanche Amber, Agave Wheat, Nitro Vanilla Porter, and Lucky U IPA.

Nitro Vanilla Porter had the smoothness we have come to associate with beers dispensed from a nitro tap, but the vanilla flavor was overwhelming in an artificial way. It came across like the scent in a cheap holiday candle.

We followed up the tasting flight with a pint of Trademark Pale Ale:

photo 2

The bartender interestingly described Trademark Pale Ale as a good entry point into craft beer. Usually, I consider amber ales to be the entry point because of the lack of a super distinctive hop character. However, I would not quibble with is assertion given Trademark Pale Ale’s easy drinking nature.

It was noon and that meant that down the street Great Divide Brewing Company’s taproom on 22nd and Arapahoe was open. To say we went a little gangbusters at Great Divide would be an understatement. This was a brewery that I had wanted to visit for a long time.

It started out with a tasting flight again:

photo 3

From left to right it was Titan IPA, Hercules Double IPA, and Yeti Imperial Stout. I would love to tell you about Titan IPA, but the taster was pulled back from me by the barkeep. This was a good thing because she felt that the beer did not taste like Titan should and replaced it with a taster of my choice:

photo 4

This is Lasso IPA. I followed this up with another set of three tasters:

photo 5

From left to right it was Hoss Rye Lager, Denver Pale Ale, and a beer described only as “hoppy wheat.”

What to say about Great Divide? There was not a bad beer in the bunch, but these beers drank “big.” Each example was big in flavor, big in hops, and pretty big in terms of alcohol. Not an all-day drinking adventure for sure. For example Hercules Double IPA clocks in at ~10% ABV with an aggressive hop profile. My brother was not going the taster route and had a tulip full of Hercules. By the end of that glass he made a point of slowing down for the rest of the day.

Great Divide is an excellent example of a brewery making a lot of beers that orbit a similar style, in this case IPA. So, you get to taste a lot of variation without each beer being such a grand departure that comparison is impossible. I kind of felt like I was in my basement trying the different house pale ale recipes that I have been working on throughout the spring and summer.

We walked out into the searing afternoon sun and walked a few blocks south to a newer player in the craft beer scene, Jagged Mountain Brewery. It’s a comfortable taproom situated at an interesting Denver corner with a brewery on one corner, a yoga studio across the street, a Buddhist temple kittie corner, and a place called the Cannabis Station on the final corner. Only in Denver.

Again I hit up a tasting flight:

photo 6

From left to right it was Zero Gravity Saison, Spearhead Saison, and Keyhole Session IPA. Can you sense that I was starting to feel it by this point? Yeah, I went for the lower alcohol beers like a moth to a flame. These were again all excellent beers. I feel a little bit like a broken record when I say this, but it is hard to find a bad beer from these craft brewers in Denver. It’s not like the mid-1990s when you would order a beer at a brew pub and be served something akin to bathtub hooch.

The beer that I got really excited about was Imlay American IPA. Somehow in my increasingly drunken stupor I failed to snap a mediocre picture of the beer. I guess this means that I will just have to make a trip to Jagged Mountain again in July.

Although a somewhat “bigger” beer than I normally really dig (~7% ABV and 60 IBU) the beer had a balance to its hoppiness, body, and alcohol that was downright perfect. I really look forward to sitting down with a few of these at a later date and really thinking about what I am drinking.

By this time the pre-game meal at Biker Jim’s had worn off, but the good people at Basic Kneads had parked a truck outside the Jagged Mountain taproom and were dishing out solid wood fired pies. At some point during the day I felt like I had died and gone to my own personal heaven where good beer was everywhere, the sun was shining, and food trucks just parked a few steps away.

Although I am not ranking any of the beers I have commented upon, I can without hesitation or reservation recommend almost all of them—sorry Nitro Vanilla Porter, but you were the lone loser today. If you find yourself in the Ballpark neighborhood sometime Breckenridge Brewery, Great Divide Brewing Company, and Jagged Mountain Brewery can handle your liquid needs.

This story is to be continued with a look at breweries that are a little further afield than downtown Denver…

Friday Linkage 4/26/2013

I hate Earth Day.  Not the actual day itself or the activities that people get involved in because anything that raises awareness is probably a good thing.  No such thing as bad publicity, right?

What I hate about Earth Day is that it begets Earth week or some company claims it is green by changing its logo for a few days and putting some preachy PSAs on the airwaves.  Big freakin’ deal.  Not to get too negative, but the problems we face are about more than recycling or changing a light bulb.  It’s about trying to reorient our way of life to something that is more sustainable.

It would mean something if I saw a PSA that said eating meat is one of the most environmentally destructive choices that an individual makes in a day.  Too bad the beef and pork producers would be all over the network that airs that little tidbit.  Money talks and conscience walks.

On to the links…

Climate Activist Tim DeChristopher Released from Prison—Has there been a person more railroaded by the justice system than Tim DeChristopher?  If an oil company bid on leases and failed to pay no one would go to jail.  But because DeChristopher was unrepentant at trial the judge decided to put him away as an example.  An example of what?  How the system protects the interest of the oil companies over all others?  Pretty much accomplished that your honor.

13 Reasons to be Glad George W. Bush is not President Anymore—I wonder why the good folks at Think Progress stopped at thirteen.  This could have become one of those running memes, like Chuck Norris jokes, that evolves into entire websites.  I also think that they forgot to mention one critical reason I am glad W. is no longer president…we no longer have to hear the “leader of the free world” mispronounce the world nuclear.

What The House GOP Doesn’t Want You To Know About Wind Vs. Oil Tax Credits—Why we subsidize the most profitable industry in the history of the world is beyond me.  Sorry, I cannot figure it out.

Fast-Growing U.S. Solar Industry Now Employs Over 119,000—When does the realization that the solar economy is real hit people?  When someone in your neighborhood puts panels on their home?  When someone in your neighborhood is employed by a solar company?

Could an Artificial Leaf Power Your Car?—It sounds like the Holy Grail of biofuel—an organism that secretes the raw ingredients of biofuel—but researchers appear to be on the right track to developing or isolating organisms that do just that.

Electric Taxi Experiment to Begin in New York City—I cannot think of a more brutal proving ground for a vehicle than being a taxi in a major metropolitan area.  Okay, maybe being owned by a high school kid who is the only person with a license in their circle of friends is also a brutal proving ground.  The experiment may not be totally successful, but the lessons learned will be invaluable.

Europe’s Carbon Market is Sputtering as Prices Dive—I think the drive to establish complicated markets to trade carbon is a dead movement.  It’s much easier to tax carbon at the fuel level and let the economics work themselves out without complicated schemes.  Plus, given the insanity in securities markets I have no faith in the same people to do anything good with carbon markets.  Trust Goldman Sachs?  Sure…

Confused Koala Discovers His Home has been Cut Down—The pictures in this article just made me really sad because this little guy seems to be emoting.  Why do we still allow clear cutting when it has been established that healthy forest ecosystems can be maintained with selective logging?  It seems insane.

Giant Animal Invasions—What is it about Florida and invasive species?  If there is some nasty invasive species, chances are that will be prevalent in Florida or start in Florida or be Florida’s state creature.  That state really is Satan’s hemorrhoid.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Make a Comeback—Here was a fish that people thought was extinct that is making a comeback.  If we are to preserve our natural world, humans need to take an active role in actually restoring what we have destroyed.  A passive approach will not work.

Colorado Program gets Dirty Autos Off the Road—This seems like a great program that could be replicated nationwide.  Granted, here in a state that gets snow and, therefore, uses salt on the roads rust tends to claim vehicles before they become rolling relics of a different era.

Natural Gas Use in Long Haul Trucks Expected to Rise—This is a great example of an appropriate technology being used in a targeted way.  It’s insane to think about recapitalizing all private automobiles and fueling stations to a new paradigm, but commercial trucks can make the conversion because the routes are more constrained, the purchasers more concentrated, and the economic imperative more immediate.

Chris Bianco Talks Pizza and His New Place in Tucson—Chris Bianco is the man!  I have been to his pizzeria in Phoenix once—it was worth the wait—and enjoyed every pie that we ordered.  Now with a sandwhich shop and outlet in Tucson his reach can be extended.  Purveyors of great food should get lauded every chance we get.

The New Modern Garden: Edibles, Chickens, and Creativity—It’s so awesome to see gardens moving beyond the sterile, tilled rows of my childhood.  There is something intrinsically beautiful about these gardens that embrace organic lines and chaotic structures.  Plus, chickens are kind of cool.