So I decided to do something slightly crazy. I’m starting a campaign on chipin.com to raise about $500 to get a kegging system/build a kegerator for my homebrewed beer. If this already sounds great to you, just go ahead and do at this link. But you probably want a little more explanation, so here goes:

  • “What do I get out of this as a donor?”
    First of all, you WILL get something out of this. Sometime shortly after the end of this little fundraising campaign I will throw a party at a TBD location. At this party, there will be at least one keg, if not a couple kegs of my homebrew- kegged by the kegging system that you helped me buy. As a donor, you will receive a free cup and get to drink as much of this homebrew as you wish. I promise it will be good beer. And if I can pull it off, there will be bands and/or DJs at this party as well. Of course, anyone can come to this party, but if they were not a donor they will have to pay something like $3 for their cup.
  • “Why do you even need a homebrew kegging system? You’ve been bottling your brews for a couple years now!”
    True, I have been bottling so far. But bottling is a royal pain in the ass and takes forever. You have to rinse and sanitize about 45 bottles. One. At. A. Time. Then you have to fill and cap said bottles. One. At. A. Time. Plus, kegging is a lot greener, is much more party-friendly, and everyone is much happier.
  • “What exactly am I helping you pay for here?”
    The complete homebrew kegging kit from Rebel Brewer, one Sanyo 4912 mini-fridge, and a tap kit. The mini-fridge and tap are to build a kegerator: simply put, a mini-fridge with a tap installed, which is connected to one or two 5 gallon kegs full of beer inside.
  • “How much should I donate to this?”
    Well, it’s up to you, but if you give $10-$20 you’ll easily get that much in beer at the party. But if you give a whole lot more… thanks, but I can’t promise you’ll be able to drink that much beer at the party! Of course, you’re always welcome to just come over to my house and have a pint. 🙂
  • “Why can’t you just save up/put it on your credit card or something?”
    I’ve had a few unexpected expenses hit me (read: my credit card) recently, mostly involving my Jeep, and any big purchases of this magnitude are just out of the question till that shit’s paid off. Which may be a while.

This may seem silly to you, and if it does you don’t have to participate! I’m not going to be offended, I promise. I agree this whole idea does seem a little ridiculous, but I’m not one to take myself too seriously. But if you’ve gotten this far you’re probably a friend of mine and at least like me, just a little bit. And if none of you care enough to get me to my goal- again, I won’t be offended. I’ll just keep slaving away at those bottles.

If you’ve gotten this far and are totally into it, go right ahead.

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I find it interesting that while this July is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record (duh, just walk outside), just 1 year ago we were experiencing one of the coolest Julys on record. More on that at the National Weather Service.

That cool summer was followed by a cool winter as well, and though it’s hard to even think about snow right now, it was also one of the snowiest winters on record for most of the eastern US. I mentioned this once before, but a new study confirms the findings that last winter’s brutality was due to the convergence of 2 things- El Nino and a negative North Atlantic Oscillation. The former usually brings more precipitation to the southeastern US, and the latter usually brings colder air to the southeastern US. (Via EurekAlert)

I haven’t mentioned beer on this blog in a while… so here’s whats up with my homebrewing endeavors: I currently have a batch of northern English brown ale in the bottles carbonating. Haven’t tasted it yet but they should be ready to drink this coming friday. I’m about to start another batch of the ESB/Pale Ale hybrid that I made in May. That was by far the best batch of beer I’ve made, and it will be the first one I’ve repeated. I’m still not to the point of all-grain brewing yet, as I haven’t built a mash tun. It’ll happen soon though.

Credit: NASA

Space Shuttle Atlantis is set to liftoff for its final scheduled flight this Friday at 2:20pm EDT. This will give some parts of the US an opportunity to see both the ISS and Atlantis streaking overhead at night. They will appear as simply a relatively fast-moving bright dot in the night sky. The ISS is so large now that its reflective surface allows it to be one of the brightest visible objects in the sky, even brighter than Venus. You can use Spaceweather.com’s simple satellite tracker web-tool to see when the ISS (and other satellites) will be doing a flyby of your area. Here’s the list for Nashville this week/end.

The European Space Agency is in the final phase of a large experiment designed to study the physiological and psychological effects of a small group of people being isolated for extended periods of time as they would be on a mission to Mars. This final phase is called Mars500, and is about to subject 6 crew members from all over the world to 520 days of a simulated Mars mission. They’ve gone to great detail to make the simulation as realistic as possible, with outside communication on a 40-minute delay, and with random interruptions. This all sounds a bit crazy, but it’s absolutely essential to understanding how humans will behave and interact in such isolated conditions. I have no doubt that this research will contribute to the success of mankind’s first manned mission to the red planet. The participants were all, of course, eager and willing to put themselves through this. (Via ESA website)

NASA is asking for help from the general public in identifying “scientifically interesting” features on the surface of the moon. The recent Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken extremely high-resolution images, and there’s so much real estate to cover that NASA scientists can’t possibly go through it all in any reasonable amount of time. So, they created a website through the Zooniverse project called Moon Zoo where people can take a virtual tour of the surface of the moon, seeing details potentially as small as astronaut footprints from the Apollo missions! The surface feature identification tasks they need everyday people to do are still too complex for even a supercomputer to manage. This idea follows a long line of crowd-sourcing computing projects that began with SETI@Home in the late 90’s. A brilliant idea if you ask me. (Via Space.com)

On a personal note: I just bottled a batch of Belgian Blonde Ale and it should be ready to drink in a week or so. This stuff is 7.3% ABV so it’s venturing into the realm of high-gravity beer. Contact me if you want to try some. Next batch: a British ESB/American Pale Ale hybrid that should be interesting.

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano has had all the attention lately, but a much bigger and meaner eruption might be around the corner from its cousin, Katla. This beast almost always erupts around the same time as Eyjafjallajokull, and geologists don’t expect this eruption to be any different. Katla is actually connected to Eyjafjallajokull underground via a common magma chamber, thus the connected eruptions. The main concern is that the ash plume will be even bigger than Eyjafjallajokull’s and will cause even more air travel problems. Another major concern is the fact that Katla is underneath a huge glacier. When 2,000 degree lava comes into contact with that much ice, you’re bound to have major flooding, and history has shown that indeed Katla’s eruptions have caused flooding problems for Icelanders. In fact, I’d say the only thing Katla has on Eyjafjallajokull is that its name is hella shorter and easier to pronounce/spell. (Via Daily Galaxy)

I’m sure you’ve already seen plenty of Iceland volcano photos since it’s been so prevalent in the news lately, but I must share this link: Live Science has a really nice gallery of volcanic lightning images that are simply breathtaking. All of them are of the recent Eyjafjallajokull eruption.

The US Military is not generally known for being environmentally-friendly… let’s face it, they blow up things, destroying not only buildings but also the land, not to mention releasing tons of toxic smoke and gases from the explosives. However, the Navy is trying to at least make a dent in their carbon footprint by adopting renewable fuels for their fighter jets, and eventually all other fuel-consuming vehicles/ships/aircraft as well. They’re about to test a new Camelina-based biofuel for the first time in an F/A 18 Hornet fighter. These are the same types of jets flown by the famous aerobatics demo team the Blue Angels. It’s pleasantly surprising to see the military taking such important steps in the right direction. (Via EcoGeek/National Geographic)

In other news- I now have more homebrew for your drinking pleasure, if interested. It’s a hefeweizen from an ingredient kit. I plan for this this be my last kit brew. I feel confident enough now to start using/tweaking online recipes, buying the ingredients separately and creating some brews that can be truly called “my own creations.” I’m actually about to start on a Belgian blonde ale. This hefeweizen, though, is just a simple straight-up wheat beer. It’s not a Belgian style (no orange peels or corriander) so it won’t taste like Blue Moon, and it doesn’t use any funky yeast strains or spicing to produce fruity flavors (such as Yazoo’s hefe, which has a distinct banana nose to it). It’s actually a very middle-of-the-road, normal-tasting wheat beer. If you want any, you know how to get in touch with me.

them-crooked-vultures-at-war-memorial-auditorium-10-5-09.3954914.36It seems like there’s been a ridiculous onslaught of supergroups coming out in the last 2 years (most of which somehow involve Jack White). Amazingly, supergroup Them Crooked Vultures (Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, Josh Homme, and Alain Johannes) decided they had the sheer starpower to pull off a small US tour before even releasing a single recording to the masses. It seems crazy until you realize that a lineup like that could sell out a medium-sized venue even if they were doing nothing more than farting into mics on stage. They’ve finally released details of their album, and you can stream the whole thing on their youtube. (Odd place to stream your album?) (Via Stereogum)

Sam Patton of the WRVU radio show Penguin Parade, and founding member of the now-defunct (or at least on-hiatus) Left Can Dance, did the November mix for Blogging Is Serious Business. I haven’t had a chance to listen yet, but I have no doubt of its quality. Go grab it now. And if you haven’t grabbed my October mix for BISB, go grab that, too. This is somewhat old news now, but Justin Kase (who runs BISB) has a new remix/original music project called Fitout, and you can sample part of his remix of Little Boots’ Earthquake on the Fitout bandcamp page.

Next month I should have some tasty new beer ready for consumption. This is the first batch where I’ve toyed around with the recipe a bit. Basically I used a Brewer’s Best pre-packaged kit for a Robust Porter, but I added some ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. I’m gonna call it a “Holiday Porter.” The wort smelled exactly like gingerbread cookies, so I’m thinking maybe this will come out tasting something like them as well… but who knows? It’s an experiment for sure. Look for this batch to be ready sometime around Dec. 12th.