Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rules Protecting Endangered Sharks Strengthened

Pretty much anytime people are "attacked" by sharks, the animals are simply exploring their environment, with their mouths (since they don't have arms or hands), as dogs do.

Unless you are already dead (carrion), likely sharks'll leave you alone (to bleed to death, but that's not their fault, is it?) after the first taste. I think people taste bad to 'em, given the amounts of shit we absorb daily. The WaPo reports:
Lawmakers have passed a landmark shark conservation bill, closing loopholes that had allowed the lucrative shark fin trade to continue thriving off the West Coast.

The measure - which the Senate passed Monday and the House passed Tuesday morning - requires any vessel to land sharks with their fins attached, and prevents non-fishing vessels from transporting fins without their carcasses. The practice of shark finning, which is now banned off the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico but not the Pacific, has expanded worldwide due to rising demand for shark's fin soup in Asia.

"Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans," said Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the bill's author, in a statement. "Finally we've come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life."

Both Del. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), who sponsored the House version, and Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Fla.), spoke in favor of the bill Tuesday before it was adopted under suspension of the rules. It now awaits President Obama's signature.

"Some things are just worth waiting for," said Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist for the advocacy group Oceana. "Now we can all be a little less afraid for sharks."
Related stories:
Threatened species, but there's still hope

Atlantic Ocean sharks get new protections

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Pit Bull Blues" by John Shipe...

I love this song, but that's 99% because I love these dogs. They used to be Americas Nanny Dog. Don't get me started...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Annual Christmas Bird Count Begins Today

Unlimber those digits, pull the lens-caps off those birding glasses and get ready:
It’s finally here. The day you’ve been awaiting: The start to the 111th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.
Between now and January 5, 2011, birders across the country and North America will get out their binocs (if you need a pair, check out this handy guide we ran last year), open their guides books, and start tallying up the birds. It’s not as simple as writing down every bird that crosses your path during this two-week period. Here’s, how it works, from the National Audubon website:

Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. If observers live within a CBC circle, they may arrange in advance to count the birds at their feeders and submit those data to their compiler. All individual CBCs are conducted in the period from December 14 to January 5 (inclusive dates) each season, and each count is conducted in one calendar day.

Still have unanswered inquiries about the count? Check out the Frequently Asked Questions page. Or, if you’re not sure how to find a count in your area, click here. Finally, want to read about some CBC extremes? Check out the Nov-Dec 2010 Audubon.
This is a worthy effort. I have known MANY 'birders' who basically live for thie yearly fortnight.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ten American Whiskeys that Made the World News in 2010 a Bit Less Unbearable

By Phil Gourevitch (The New Yorker:
What can you say about a year in which self-styled American patriots made tea their drink of choice—nay, worse, their drink of identity? Tea! Where does tea come from? China. India. Burundi. The best you can say about this tea-partying year is that it’s almost over. And while you say it, reach for a glass of something both righteous and indigenous, American whiskey—a great bourbon, or a great rye. We’re coming to the close of a decade of incessant chatter about American decline, but—even as our wars dragged on and our global reputation grew sketchier and our economy cratered and our legislators grew ever more insupportable—one thing that America has been getting better and better at is making world-class whiskey, single-barrel and small-batch stuff of the first order. And yet, as a foreign correspondent, I have always had to bring my own with me, because—American hegemony be damned—try finding a proper Kentucky bourbon or rye alongside Johnny Walker and J&B in the bars of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, or the cabarets of Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or even in most cafés in France.

You can read elsewhere about their hints of leather and clove, vanilla or citrus, and the hot and the sweet of their finish on the tongue. Sure, that’s all there, I suppose. But if the world is too much with you and you just want to know what to sip when masked gunmen take hostages, or what to turn to when those hostages are released, what bourbon is so balanced that it can serve as an antidote to watching a stolen election, and what rye is rye enough to bring you relief when you’re reminded of Kim Jong Il’s finger on the missile-launch buttons—I’m going to tell you my ten favorite, not-too-hard-to-find-in-America indigenous whiskeys, and let you match them to the occasion according to your tastes. None of them costs much more than a night of beers at most American bars. And all of them, one by one, or taken together, could immunize you forever against tea-partying.
1. Four Roses, Single Barrel
2. Noah’s Mill
3. Rowan’s Creek
4. Russell’s Reserve
5. Pappy Van Winkle, 15 year
6. Michter’s Rye
7. Blanton’s
8. Baker’s
9. Sazerac Rye
O.K.—so that’s nine, but it feels like ten…
On the less expensive side: Don't overlook Evan Williams Black Label: 86 proof, yet smooth, with body and a lovely back-flavor.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All My Dogs Have Always Acted Like It Was Auto-Matic

But if, for example, you are with your first dog this year, nd s/he and you may be a bit nervous, these tips are jolly good. Here's the first FIVE (of 20; nobody said dog-travel was easy; just fun); go to the LINKEE for the remainder:
1: Remember safety first, if you don't have a large window boot in your car, your dog will have to travel on a seat. Purchase a dog safety seat and it will be safer and more comfortable for your dog if your turn or stop the car suddenly.

2: If you do have a large window boot, put up a wire grid to stop your dog jumping over the back of the seats, most cars have a wire grid already installed.

3: Line the boot with dog blankets or place his bed in the corner so he can nap comfortably on the journey. Most dogs find sleeping an easy way to cope with motion sickness.

4: Let a puppy or new pet become accustomed to riding in a car gradually. Begin by allowing your dog to wander around your car with the motor off. Then start with short trips until you and your dog become familiar with traveling by car together.

5: Do not feed your dog just before the trip. Feed him at least a few hours before. You don't want to make your dog car sick.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mutual Assistance: Wounded Vets & Abandoned Dogs

This just makes such perfect sense: I am sure abused and abandoned dogs suffer pretty much the canine equivalent of PTSD.
Struggling with post-traumatic stress, veteran David Sharpe says he found a dog at a shelter that saved his life. Now, with a group called P2V, he pairs other vets with rescued pets.
Read more:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And Waves! How Surfing Joined The Dominant Culture

This is a promo I can get into. The intersection of surf and culture, the ocean and the beach, together IS the surf. Gonna glomm onto the film. Watch this space for a review when/if I can find it...
The late sixties, early seventies were all about change: in society, the surfboards we rode and the way we rode them. Jamie Budge's classic surf film "The Californians" shows from a perspective of "Four Years After" how far we had come. The long and short of it. The best of the old. The newest of the "new"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Proudly Pit Bull!

Best dang dog, ever...Via LifeWithDogs (sine qua non, around here):
Another important creation from Kenn Bell that you’ll want to set aside time for, Pit Proud does much to dispel the Pit Bull myths that continue to threaten this misunderstood breed. Proponents of the dogs will note that this is a very complete piece for it’s relatively short length. It’s clear that this was a labor of love.

Do note that there are five or six seconds of dog fight footage included – important for historical accuracy, but troubling to see nonetheless.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hanging Ten Off A Sailboat! Radical

Via BoingBoing:
This is what luck looks like. Luck, combined with a whole lot of skill. Notice the person at the front. I'm sure they're locked in with a harness, but that would still be a wild ride.

The harbor is Svaneke, a town on an island in the Baltic Sea. According to this thread at the Wooden Boat Forum, local guides say you shouldn't even attempt entering Svaneke harbor during strong onshore winds. I have no idea what prompted this crew to take a shot, but I'm guessing they decided the alternatives were worse.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pibble "Ruby" Is BOTH A service & A Terapy Dog.

I mainly want to bitch-slap folks who bad-mouth these dogs.

Pitbulls always seem to get a bad rap, which Ruby doesn't deserve. She shines a great light on her breed! Just a clarification on RUBY THE SERVICE AND THERAPY DOG. She is BOTH. In November 2005 she received her TDI therapy dog certification. As the medical needs of her owner changed, Ruby went back to school and was trained thru www.puppyloveinc.org (service dogs). In February of 2009, she then received her credentials as a SERVICE DOG with proper id. Hope this clears up any confusion. Sadly, Ruby is now fighting Cancer. So to clarify, Ruby is DEFINITELY a SERVICE dog and does go into stores, ect.
My friend/vet/pal Laurell, the gypsy-vet in the Mountains, learned sad news yesterday: her 7-yr-old Ausssie cattle dog, Nita, has cancer that has now entered the lungs, and the prognosis is as you'd expect. My heart goes out to both.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

They Do LOVE to Climb

The Pit-Bull breed get a bad rep, and for (NO GODDAM--W)good reason...there are some good ones out there. Take this dog for example from the Ukraine, looks evil (DOES NOT, fuckwit!) but you'll make an exception once you watch it's amzing Parkour talent.

Jesse, the Jack Russell, at Home...

Note at the end, it describes ALL the training routines as being SR/click, humane methods...

The Great Pumpkins Arrival = Much Feline Joy

Thursday, October 21, 2010

If You Didn't Know, You Wouldn't Know It Was There (or: How You Dispose of a Dead Giant)

The following was posted on FaceBook this morning without comment: "The modern spirit is a hesitant one. Spontaneity has given way to cautious legalisms, and the age of heroes has been superseded by a cult of specialization. We have no more giants; only obedient ants." -Roger Lowenstein in "Buffett: The Making of a Capitalist."

I don't weep for any fucking giants, frankly. They're often quite dangerous, obnoxiously willing, even eager to throw their weight around to get what they want.

Because, though their bodies are oversized, they're likely to be stunted, psychologically: immature, violent, and willful.

By way of analogy, I replied:
On my folks' place in a northern New Mexico river valley which had been inhabited for at least a millennium and a half, there were some mostly buried ruins we all knew were there, but had left undisturbed, except for pilfering the occasional pot sherds that emerged after every rain.

Then the county decided to straighten out a particularly deadly curve, and to do it they needed to purchase the corner of the property where the ruins were. We sold 'em the needed acre. But before they could tear it up, the law required they conduct a survey for ruins. Sure enough, they turned ours up. So they hadda excavate, to preserve such artifacts as might be damaged by the construction.

One thing they turned up, and this is where the "giants v ants' thing struck me, was a burial of a (naturally) mummified man, with a cracked skull. They estimated he was about 6' 4-5". When he lived, the average people were about 4' 5-6". This guy was TWO FULL FEET taller than his neighbors. And when he died, they dug him a hole deep enough to accept his VERTICAL carcass, which they buried head first, and stacked stones on his FEET: the archeologists speculated that his neighbors did NOT want him rejoining them.
I cannot think of a single thing Warren Buffett has actually contributed to humanity.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

IMHO: Not a "Hoax," An Intentional Slander

Breed-specific laws only began to appear after certain breeds --rotties and pits, mainly-- were adopted as iconic accessories by members of the "Urban/Gangsta" culture and trained to exhibit dangerous behaviors to accentuate their owners' "hostile" personae. All dogs bite; all dogs can be trained to fight. It's NEVER the dogs; it's the people.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Dog Files, Episode 12: "Pit Proud"

Pit Bulls… are just dogs. No more, no less.

And like all dogs, they are individuals with individual personalities and temperaments. But because of their intense loyalty and strong form, the pit bull has been singled out amongst lesser men to abuse and kill for their small-minded, cruel entertainment.

You see, the pit bull problem isn’t the dogs, by any means.

The pit bull problem is people.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dept. Of Your Brain On Drugs: THIS Explains It! Too MANY Brain Cells!

I get confused because there's TOO MUCH information storage available.

Yeah. I like that. (The study cited dates from 2009.)
New Study Proves That Marijuana Increases Brain Cell Formation

How many times have you been hit with the usual jargon about how bad marijuana is for the brain, and how stupid you are going to become if you smoke it.

Yet, some of the most creative minds of our time attribute their unconventional thinking to the effects of this beautiful herb. So does it make you stupid, or does it actually INCREASE innovation?

Well according to a study conducted by the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, the effects of marijuana on the brain are everything but detrimental. Let me explain.

Professor Xia Zhang and some of his colleagues at Saskatchewan University decided to test a synthetic form of THC (HU210) on a group of test rats to observe the effects the drug has on neurogenesis (brain cell formation and generation). They gave these rats HIGH DOSES of the THC-like compound twice a day, everyday for a period of ten days to get a good idea of THC’s effects on brain cells.

It turns out, this synthetic THC-like compound actually INCREASED the rate of brain cell formation in the hippocampus (neurogenesis) by a whopping FORTY PERCENT!

Not only did the rate of brain cell formation INCREASE, but the rats also appeared to be less susceptible to observable symptoms of anxiety and depression. The hippocampus is the area of a mammals brain that controls memory, learning, anxiety and depression. So it makes sense that increased brain cell formation in this area of the brain would prove to be beneficial for people suffering from problems associated with these brain functions.

Meanwhile, when you compare these POSITIVE neurological effects of marijuana with the neurological effects of other LEGAL recreational drugs such as nicotine and alcohol, you find that nicotine and alcohol actually DECREASE brain cell formation.

As an activist for legalizing marijuana, it is becoming a bit infuriating to see that such break-through discoveries are being ignored by the medical and legislative communities! Especially when you consider the countless detrimental effects of cigarettes and alcohol, which are sold freely in every store you can find.

This discovery actually explains why some of the most creative minds of our time have attributed their innovation to the effects of marijuana. With every new brain cell that is formed, comes the possibility of a new and interesting thought process, that can break the boundaries of what an individual was previously capable of.
The universities’ findings on the anti-anxiety qualities of THC also explain the peaceful nature of marijuana smokers, and now it is not so hard to understand why marijuana smokers have a “no worries” kind of outlook on life.

Now take a moment to think about how wonderful this plant really is! It is capable of providing clothing (hemp is the strongest fiber in the world), it provides nutrition (cannabis seeds contain the most concentrated nutrients found in any food)! It’s “main ingredient” THC has even been proven to be anti-carcinogenic, eliminating lymphatic tumors in test rats within two weeks.

On top of all of these wonderful benefits, it has now been SCIENTIFICALLY CONFIRMED that it indeed does increase creativity, reduce depression and anxiety, and promote peace.

No wonder half of the population smokes it even though it is still illegal.
I have indulged in marijuana almost every single day since I was discharged from the USAF in Sept., 1968. Since then, I have earned Bachelors', Masters' and Ph.D. degrees from major universities; have taught at two of them; have taught high school; have been a respected journalist, and have been a journeyman carpenter. I don't think weed has hampered my achievements in ANY way.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Coyotes: Canine Survivors

These guys are really interesting critters. I've seen 'em within 20 yards of human dwellings--my own--scouting for a meal.

Friday, September 24, 2010

From 2727 B.C. to the present*

Via Mad Mike's page:
(The name of the band and the song is; Spirit Kid: You Lit Up for Me)

*Who EVER thought they'd live to see the day when a comic, benevolent "history" of "Weed" would be a trailer for a mainstream TV program?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Wombats, At Least, Things Appear To Be Looking Up

One of the bloggers I admire most is "D r i f t g l a s s" in Chicago. He has been an indomitable spirit through this past, truly frightening decade. Today he departed on one his whimsical (fund-raising) asides, which I will supply the bare bones: his illustration (above) and the AP story that inspired it (below), and invite you to traipse over the his site for to savor the rest.

From ABC News:
American gives $8m to wombat rescuers

A multi-million-dollar bequest from an American benefactor has shocked a volunteer wombat rescue program in South Australia.

The man visited Mannum in South Australia to see the work two years ago and has now given $8 million to the Wombat Awareness Organisation.

Founding director Brigitte Stevens has been astounded by the donation and plans to put the money towards buying land to develop a centre to care for wombats.

"There's nothing like that in South Australia and you know that'd be a big step forward for conservation in South Australia where we can then work on co-existence with other species of wildlife as well," she said.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jerry, the Dachel, Plays Well With Self

"How To Buy A Cowboy Hat"

There is one and only thing that matters if you want to look good in a hat: You MUST think you look good in it.
You can always tell folks who aren't comfortable under their brims, cuz they look stupid in their hats.
How to buy a cowboy hat

Friday, September 10, 2010

You Don't Know Dick About Drugs!

I ALWAYS score "high" on drug tests!

Here is your chance to test your knowledge and find out how much you know about drugs and drug policy.
September 8, 2010 |

Drug use, addiction and the war on drugs touches everyone.

Most people's drug use starts before they leave the house (coffee) and many end the day with a drug (alcohol). While most people have beneficial relationships with drugs, we all know someone who has misused or developed an addiction to certain drugs. And we all know someone who has been harmed by the drug war.

The war on drugs is in the news every day: whether it's violence in Mexico, Californians voting on marijuana legalization, or some famous person getting caught with marijuana or cocaine.

Here is your chance to test your knowledge and find out how much you know about drugs and drug policy!

Sample questions:
1) Which Country Locks Up the Most People for Drug Law Violations (In Total and Per Capita)?
A) Russia
B) China
C) Mexico
D) United States
E) Iran
2) True or False: The U.S. Congress Passed a Resolution in 1988 Calling for a Drug Free America by 1995?

3) Which Country Decriminalized Drugs in 2002 and has since seen declines in crime, death and disease?

A) Portugal
B) Netherlands
C) Germany
D) England

4) Which Current/Former Presidents Used Illegal Drugs?
A) President Obama
B) President Bush II
C) President Clinton
D) All of the Above
There are 20 questions in all, and the answers are supplied. If you don't finish during class-time, finish it for homework.

Class dismissed.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Non-Prescription Attitude Adjuster, W/Salt & Lime

The narration's a hoot, but there needs to be more animation, action.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Five (Wait, Make That 10) Things The Feds Don't Want You To Know About Marijuana.

"First, take care of head!"

The first five, which were presented in a piece on Alternet last year (2009) by Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink ?(2009, Chelsea Green), are these:
1. Marijuana Use Is Not Associated With a Rise in Incidences of Schizophrenia
2. Marijuana Smoke Doesn't Damage the Lungs Like Tobacco
3. Cannabis Use Potentially Protects, Rather Than Harms, the Brain
4. Marijuana Is a Terminus, Not a 'Gateway,' to Hard Drug Use
5. Government's Anti-Pot Ads Encourage, Rather Than Discourage, Marijuana Use
Qouth Armentano: "“[N]ews outlets continue to, at best, underreport the publication of scientific studies that undermine the federal government's longstanding pot propaganda and, at worst, ignore them all together.”
Now comes another five things the Gummint and the CorpoRats don't want you to know:
1. Long-term marijuana use is associated with lower risks of certain cancers, including head and neck cancer.
2. Most Americans acknowledge that pot is safer than booze.
3. The enforcement of marijuana laws is racially discriminatory.
4. Marijuana may be helpful, not harmful, to people with schizophrenia.
5. Workplace drug testing programs don’t identify impaired employees or reduce on-the-job accidents.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"First, Make A Simple Beer

My old pal in Ol' Blighty, Susan Jordan, posted this on FB today:
The science and art of whisky making
Andy Connelly describes how base beer is transformed into golden whisky – the drink of angels and hairy Scotsmen
"... drinking whisky is never about just drinking whisky; we're social creatures and we tend to drink in a social context... Even if we resort to drinking alone, we drink with memories and ghosts."~~ Iain Banks
If you are lucky enough to be reading this with a glass of whisky in your hand then take a second to regard the contents of your glass. Is it a pale golden or dark ruby colour? Does it greet your nose with memories of heather moorland or salty coastlines? Is your mouth filled with a honey sweetness or a dark acrid smokiness? All of these and many more are possible from the most multifaceted of spirits known variously as whisk(e)y, liquid sunshine, and the water of life.

Whisky is the liquid gold that emerges from the distillation of base beer. It is "the separation of the gross from the subtle and the subtle from the gross ... to make the spiritual lighter by its subtlety" (Hieronymus Brunschwig, 15th century doctor and distiller). Almost all spirits are produced by distillation: a liquid with a low alcohol content such as wine or beer can be taken and from it a spirit produced. Alchemists believed that through repeated distillation they could extract the essence or spirit of a material and that from wine they could extract the aqua vītae or water of life. The word itself, whisky, is an Anglicised version of the Gaelic for water of life: uisge beatha or usquebaugh is what Irish and Scots monks called their distilled barley beer.

Scotland's mild, maritime climates, with long hours of daylight in summer, was ideal for growing barley for making beer. Thus, the Scots distilled beer not wine, and so made whisky not brandy. The first evidence of whisky production in Scotland comes from an entry in the Exchequer Rolls for 1494: malt is sent " ... to Friar John Cor, by order of the King, wherewith to make aqua vitae". Since then whisky has been as intimately associated with Scotland as the kilt and Tunnock's caramel. However, it is not thought to be a Scottish invention. Whisky making is most likely to have developed in Ireland and have been carried across to Scotland by monks some time between 1100 and 1300.

The processes that go into making whisky appear simple but they can produce an infinitely complex and subtle drink. Whisky can be made from many different grains but a Scottish single malt can only be made from malted barley. Scottish single malt is what we will concentrate on here as there are many more whisky distilleries in Scotland than anywhere else in the world.

Step 1: Make a simple beer

Like most processes based on fermentation, beer making is the conversion of sugars into alcohol, using yeast. In wine making these sugars come from grapes, in beer making they come (in the majority) from malted barley.

Malting, carried out by maltsters, is the process of extracting the sugars from barley. It begins by soaking the barley in water to allow the barley seeds to germinate. During germination enzymes turn the starch within the barley into soluble sugars. After two or three days the germination is stopped by drying. This drying process is critical to the taste of the beer, and so the whisky. In many parts of Scotland, especially on the Scottish islands, drying was traditionally done using the local fuel peat to fire the kilns. Phenolic compounds transferred from the peat giving the malt, and so the whisky, its signature smoky peaty flavour. The greater the amount of peat used, the more peaty and smoky the whisky.

The malt is then ground and hot water is added to extract more fermentable sugars. The liquid that is drained off after this process is called the wort. Yeast is added to the wort which is allowed to ferment giving a rough beer called wash (7-10% alcohol).

Just as different grape varieties are used in wine production, there are a number of different barley varieties that can be used for the distillation of Scottish single malt whisky. If any other type of grain is used (such as maize, buckwheat, rye, corn, etc.) the result cannot be called single malt whisky.

Step 2: Distillation of the beer

Distillation works because different liquids boil (evaporate) at different temperatures. The boiling point of alcohol is 65-80 °C, depending on the type of alcohol, substantially below water's 100 °C. This means that as a mixture of water and alcohol is heated, more of the alcohol than the water will be released as vapour. These vapours are collected or condensed on a cold surface, similar to the water droplets on a pan lid when you boil water. In fact, the word distil comes from the Latin destillare, "to drip".

Scottish whisky is generally distilled twice. The first still is called the "wash still", and is used to separate alcohol from the wash. The wash still produces a spirit called low wines (21-28% alcohol). These low wines are then transferred to the "spirit still", which separates out the drinkable alcohol.

During heating, the condensed vapour is separated into three parts or cuts. The first cut is called the heads or foreshots and contains a high proportion of toxic methanol and acetone and other low boiling point liquids. As the temperature increases, the next cut is called the 'heart of the run': this is the spirit that will evolve into whisky. With more time and temperature the vapour decreases in alcohol and increases in water content. This third cut is called the tails or feints, and includes a host of aromatic compounds that give desirable flavours. However, some are only in small quantities, such as fusel oil.

Fusel oils are longer chain (higher) alcohols than ethanol. They are mildly toxic and in high concentrations have a strong disagreeable smell and taste (fusel being German for "bad liquor"). In small concentrations, however, they give the whisky flavour and body.

The craft of the stillman is to know at what point to draw the boundaries between these cuts; each distillery will take a slightly different fraction so each spirit is chemically different before it even gets into the cask to mature.

The "new make spirit" produced at this point is about 70% alcohol. It is what would have been drunk in the early days of whisky, straight from the still, like vodka. It was only discovered in the 16th century that over time whisky kept in oak casks would evolve and mellow becoming something greater and more complex. But what is this evolution and why does it happen?

Step 3: Storage and maturation in oak casks

When alcoholic liquids are stored in new oak casks several things occur. First, the liquid extracts soluble materials from the wood that contribute colour and flavour, including tannins, oak lactones (a coconut flavour), clove and vanilla aromas. These flavours, particularly vanilla (vanillin in oak, the same compound found in vanilla pods), can be very strong in new barrels, hence second hand casks are desirable for Scottish whisky as they give milder flavours.

The inner surface of the casks is generally carbonised by burning. This acts like an activated charcoal absorbent, removing some materials from the whisky and accelerating chemical interactions between wood and whisky. The browning-reaction products of burning and smoky volatiles formed are also extracted by the whisky, giving flavour and colour.

Every cask "breathes" while it matures. Gaps and pores in the wood allow the liquid to absorb limited amounts of oxygen which leads to oxidation of alcohols and aldehydes. Acids also react with ethanol to form esters, some of the most aromatic and often fruity of whisky's flavour compounds.

The wood of the casks expands during the heat of summer and contracts during the cold of winter. As a result of evaporation the whisky will annually lose up to 2.5% alcohol while it matures. The part of the maturing whisky that vanishes between casking and bottling is called the angels' share.

The first whisky casks would have been old oak sherry casks from Spain which arrived in the British Isles for bottling. Sherry was very popular in the 16th century and so the casks could be bought relatively cheaply. Now ex-American bourbon casks are generally used as they are cheaper than old sherry or wine casks, although some whiskies are still matured or "finished" in sherry or wine casks.

The size of the cask, the position in the warehouse, the type and previous life of the oak, the temperature and humidity, and many other difficult-to-define variables contribute to the final whisky flavour. This multitude of variables means the age for optimum flavour development changes drastically from distillery to distillery, or even from cask to cask. Some whiskies are best after eight years while others are best after 16; there are no rules, just tasting. This is why the process of "blending" is so important, even in single malt whiskies.

Step 4: Blending and bottling

A single malt whisky is a 100% malted barley whisky from one distillery, blended or mixed from many casks to give the desired colour and flavour; the age on the bottle indicates the youngest whisky in that blend. The process of blending a single malt is complex and highly skilled; if distilling is a science then blending is definitely an art.

Once the whisky is blended it is usually diluted to the final bottle concentration. The source of the water used at this point is considered of great importance and whisky distilleries will guard their water source carefully. Caramel is sometimes added at this point to adjust the colour of the whisky.

The whisky is generally diluted to a bottling strength of between 40% and 46%. Occasionally distillers will release a "cask strength" edition, which is either undiluted or diluted only a little and will usually have an alcohol content of around 60%.

The dilution of whisky is more complex than just the addition of water. Some chemicals within whisky (particularly fusel oils and fatty acids) have limited solubility in water. When whisky is diluted with water to 40% alcohol these oils can give the whisky a cloudy appearance, and so for improved shelf appearance they are generally removed by cold filtering.

Step 5: Drinking and appreciation

No matter how many years a whisky has been maturing, whatever the idyllic Scottish island from which it came, and whatever the long history, whisky is there to be drunk. Hopefully drunk as a pleasurable experience, savoured and appreciated. So if you have the chance, spend some time with your glass of whisky as you might with a good wine. Try using a wine or a brandy style glass instead of a tumbler for an enhanced experience.

The colour of the whisky is the first thing you see in your glass. The colour can give a clue to the type of cask used. Single malts that were matured in bourbon casks, for example, are usually a golden-yellow/honey colour; whiskies finished in sherry casks are usually darker and more amber in colour.

The next sensory experience is the smell. Put your nose to the glass and take a gentle sniff. What do you find? Is there a hint of that peated malt? Or a little of that vanilla from the oak cask?

The chemicals that are reaching your nose are a complex mixture, the culmination of distillation and years maturation. But they are not a fixed set, you can still alter and change the bouquet that greets your nose and so the flavour of the whisky simply by adding water. Adding water to whisky changes the concentration of alcohol and so increases the volatility of alcohol-soluble hydrophobic or long-chain compounds such as the fruity esters, increasing the fruity aspects of the whisky's flavour.

In contrast, smoky phenolics and roasted nut and cereal-flavoured nitrogen-containing compounds are water-soluble, and the volatility of these is reduced with water addition and so the smoky aspect of the whisky's flavour is reduced. However, the addition of ice reduces the temperature of the whisky and hence reduces the volatility of all the compounds, leading to a reduced aroma and a diminished taste.

Good whisky needs time, both during maturation and in the glass. Sip the malt slowly. As you roll it around your tongue let the flavours take over your mouth and savour the warmth rolling down your throat. Hold up your whisky against the light, ponder the centuries of history, discovery and chemistry behind the golden liquid. Drink deep, drink to make your spirit lighter and remember that you drink where angels have been before you; angels and hairy Scotsmen.

Andy Connelly is a cookery writer and former researcher in glass science at the University of Sheffield. He is training to become a science teacher

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ach! 'Tis TERRIBLE News! (And It's Bluiddy "Whisky," NOT "Whiskey," Ye Soddin' Cretins!)

Don’t drink and drive, but feel free to let your car party all it wants! After two years and $400,000, researchers at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland have successfully turned whiskey into fuel.
The researchers were provided with the general products needed to make whiskey as well as the byproducts that typically result from production of the alcohol.
(Ach, well, this is better~~W) They found they were able to make a form of biobutanol — which is 30% more efficient than ethanol — with two whiskey byproducts – pot ale and draff. Finally, a discovery worthy of a toast!

Read more: Scottish Researchers Turn Whiskey into Fuel

An' tis whisky in the CAR, then?

Monday, August 16, 2010

85-Year-Old Grandpa Arrested For Bringing Marijuana To Prison

No, really!
Via TokeOfTheTown dot com:
An 85-year-old grandfather faces seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine for allegedly bringing marijuana into the Warren County Correctional Institute in Ohio.

Richard J. Heritz of West Chester, Ohio, faces a felony charge for trying to bring drugs onto the grounds of the facility and possessing "criminal tools," reports WKRC Cincinnati.

Officers claimed they got a tip that Heritz would be trying to bring cannabis to his grandson, an inmate at Warren Correctional Institute, during a scheduled visit on Friday.

When Heritz arrived for his visit, troopers confronted him. He voluntarily surrendered one "large package" containing about 22 grams of suspected marijuana, reports WHIOTV.com.

Marijuana is estimated to be worth about $23 a gram in Ohio's correctional institutions, according to WKRC.

The 85-year-old is now behind bars at the Warren County Jail.
$23/gram? That's $650/oz; or $10,300 for a lb?
But that's the 'in jail' price, I guess.
Great mark-up, but the dangers of getting it INTO the joint (instead of just smoking a joint) are--as Gramps can attest--steep.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Everything You Need To Know About Being A Good Person..,.

You can learn from your dog!
If a dog were your teacher, you would learn stuff like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.

Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout… run right back and make friends.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Stop when you have had enough.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

And MOST of all… When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by
and nuzzle them gently.

Author Unknown

Courtesy of http://www.homeholidaysfamilyandfun.com

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Your "Awwww-some " Moment for the Day

Via LATimes:
We're suckers for animals that have a soft spot for babies.

So we were bound to love Karma, a pit bull described as a "bully ambassador" by owner nrc5878. "I am the proudest [pit bull] mom ever," nrc5878 wrote. With a gentle dog like Karma, we can see why!

Karma helps nrc5878 take care of foster animals like this kitten, who seems not to have heard any of the negative press about pit bulls.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Down!"? of "Off!"? Or A Little Click?

Now, normally this is not my cuppa. I can tell you exactly what you should do when your dog gets all jumpy right when you walk in the door, but I’m deplorably deficient in follow-through when it comes to my own. This is an especially big problem when the dog you need to train has more training evasion tricks up her sleeve than you have skills.

In case you haven’t been following my posts recently, this entry is about Pinky, my pit bull foster dog who has an I-have-more-energy-than-you-know-what-to-do-with flair that goes beyond most dogs I’ve ever met (save my mother’s 12-year-old Jack Russell, who still gets up every day with a squirrel-obsessed glaze about her).

The thing with Pinky is that if I don’t manage a three to four mile run in the early morning hours, the Miami summer heat means no serious workout for her for the rest of the day. And I’m hard-pressed to manage that kind of a run more than twice a week.

So what’s a not-so-capable trainer to do? Here’s what I’ve done:

Keep up the energy expending exercises, even if it’s only ball playing in the front yard and vigorous (if indoor) inter-dog play.
Redirect the dog to the floor with treats every time the urge to jump seems imminent (as when releasing her from her crate or coming in from the exciting out-of-doors).
Use the clicker when she gets her treat to help connect the clicker to the reward for easier training on other fronts.
Invite a high quality trainer to dinner once every other week or so. (It helps that she’s fun to hang around.) Having someone who knows how to train ME means better care for all of my pets (not just the dogs).
When all else fails, hand your guests the spray bottle, since they’re the ones most likely to be set upon by the intense, gravity defying bunny-hops.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anybody Who's Lived Among Ravens KNOWS How Smart They Are

One of those TED productions, which are always--ALWAYS--smart and entertaining because of it...
Hacker and writer Joshua Klein is fascinated by crows. (Notice the gleam of intelligence in their little black eyes?) After a long amateur study of corvid behavior, he's come up with an elegant machine that may form a new bond between animal and human. (2008)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dog Training and the Myth of Alpha-Male Dominance

Via Time Mag, on-line:

Dogs are descended from wolves. Wolves live in hierarchical packs in which the aggressive alpha male rules over everyone else. Therefore, humans need to dominate their pet dogs to get them to behave.
This logic has dominated the canine-rearing conversation for more than five years, thanks mostly to National Geographic's award-winning show, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.

But many experts say Millan's philosophy is based on now-debunked animal studies and that some of his techniques — most famously the alpha roll, in which he pins a dog on its back and holds it by the throat — are downright cruel. Rival trainer Victoria Stilwell has launched a competitive assault on Dog Whisperer by starring on Animal Planet's It's Me or the Dog and by spreading her system of positive-reinforcement training virtually and with troops on the ground: this June she launched a podcast (available on positively.com and iTunes) and franchised her methods to a first batch of 20 dog trainers in the U.S., the U.K., Italy and Greece. She uses positivity as a counterpoint to dominance theory and reserves her aggression for the poorly behaving humans.

The debate has its roots in 1940s studies of captive wolves gathered from various places that, when forced to live together, naturally competed for status. Acclaimed animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel dubbed the male and female who won out the alpha pair. As it turns out, this research was based on a faulty premise: wolves in the wild, says L. David Mech, founder of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center, actually live in nuclear families, not randomly assembled units, in which the mother and father are the pack leaders and their offspring's status is based on birth order. Mech, who used to ascribe to alpha-wolf theory but has reversed course in recent years, says the pack's hierarchy does not involve anyone fighting to the top of the group, because just like in a human family, the youngsters naturally follow their parents' lead.

Says Bonnie Beaver, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): "We are on record as opposing some of the things Cesar Millan does because they're wrong." Likewise, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) issued a position statement last year arguing against the aggressive-submissive dichotomy.

It is leadership by showing a good example, not dominance, that AVSAB says owners should strive for in relation to their dogs. The organization's statement, which does not explicitly name Millan but references his terminology and some of his controversial techniques, argues that dominant-submissive relationships that do occur in nature are a means to allocate resources — a problem that rarely exists between dogs and their owners. (Nor even, AVSAB notes, among feral dogs, which live in small, scavenging groups without alphas controlling access to food and mates.) House pets, on the contrary, bark too much, jump up on you, ignore your commands, growl and nip at you because they have been inadvertently rewarded for this behavior or because they have not been trained to act differently.

To be sure, Millan's approach to retraining is sometimes warm and fuzzy, and he has much common ground with positive-reinforcement trainers like Stilwell. Both trainers strive — as much as possible with a nonspeaking animal — to determine the psychological cause of a pup's misbehavior. Both encourage people to ignore dogs' annoying habits so as not to accidentally reward them with attention. Both agree that punishment is only effective during or within half a second after the offending behavior: yell at Butch for peeing in your kitchen after he's already walked away, and Butch will think he's in trouble for walking away. Both trainers obviously love animals.

But, AVSAB says, calling a dog's behavior aggressive, as Millan often does, should be reserved for the most violent animals, and some critics even dislike the quick smacks on the flank he gives to focus a dog's attention. "Discipline doesn't come in the form of screaming at your dog, hitting your dog or putting it into an alpha roll," says Stilwell. "When you do that, instinct tells the dog to shut down, which is mistaken for calming, but really you're making the dog more insecure."

Such insecurity can have unintended consequences. For one thing, rather than submit, your pets might lash out at you. "They may react with aggression, not because they are trying to be dominant but because the human threatening them makes them afraid," AVSAB says. For another, even if a dog looks subdued, you don't know what's going on inside. "Fear increases cortisol," says AVMA's Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Long-term fear increases it significantly and can lead to long-term health problems associated with stress" — a point that Stilwell, in her melodious British accent, likes to point out to her clients on TV.
Take the example of Atlanta couple Louie Newman and Judy Griffin, who already had two Lhasa apsos when they adopted a rescue poodle named Manny. Not only did Manny pick fights with the other dogs, he also would attack Newman whenever he went near his wife or even tried to hand her the remote control. Newman and Griffin thought Manny wanted to control everyone, but Stilwell told them he was just trying to figure out his status in the household. "She said he was always tense. He didn't ever blink. I would've never thought to check if my dog blinked," says Newman, a recording executive in Nashville, who learned to relax when approaching Manny and to court him with treats. "He was really insecure. Who would have thought that? He acted like he owned the house."

Of course, letting Manny's whims rule the roost was one of the couple's big mistakes. The question is to what extent they, or any dog owner, should put him in his place. With Stilwell gearing up for her third American TV season and Millan in the middle of his sixth, the answer may be a lot simpler and less dramatic than producers would have us think. "All I have to be is one position higher than that dog," says Beaver. "I raise him to see me as a leader. Not an alpha, a leader."

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2007250,00.html#ixzz0vS3YNOMy

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dog Remains Found With Ancient Humans' Stuff

Somebody had this up on FB, regarding human/dog connections
A dog jaw bone fossil found in a Swiss cave may be the oldest evidence of human-canine companionship.
*A jaw fragment found in a Swiss cave dates between 14,100-14,600 years ago.
*Researchers claim it's the earliest evidence of a domesticated animal.
*Older fossils recently identified as dogs may have been wolves.
Every dog has its day, but that day took more than 14,000 years to dawn for one canine. A jaw fragment found in a Swiss cave comes from the earliest known dog, according to scientists who analyzed and radiocarbon-dated the fossil.

Dog origins remain poorly understood, however, and some researchers say that dog fossils much older than the Swiss find have already been excavated.

An upper-right jaw unearthed in 1873 in Kesslerloch Cave, located near Switzerland's northern border with Germany, shows that domestic dogs lived there between 14,100 and 14,600 years ago, say archaeology graduate student Hannes Napierala and archaeozoologist Hans-Peter Uerpmann, study co-authors at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

"The Kesslerloch find clearly supports the idea that the dog was an established domestic animal at that time in central Europe," Napierala says.

Researchers have also found roughly 14,000-year-old dog fossils among the remains of prehistoric people buried at Germany's Bonn-Oberkassel site.

Older fossil skulls recently identified by other teams as dogs were probably Ice Age wolves, Napierala and Uerpmann argue in a paper published online July 19 in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. That includes a 31,700-year-old specimen discovered more than a century ago in Belgium's Goyet Cave and reported in 2009 to be the oldest known dog.

Paleontologist Mietje Germonpré of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, who directed the analysis of the Goyet fossil, stands by his conclusions. "The Kesslerloch dog is not the oldest evidence of dog domestication," he says.

Numerous wolf fossils lie near alleged dog remains at Kesslerloch Cave and Goyet Cave, raising doubts about whether either site hosted completely domesticated animals, remarks archaeologist Susan Crockford of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She regards the Swiss jaw as an "incipient dog" in the early stages of domestication from wolves.

Scientists disagree about how and when dogs originated, other than that wolves provided the wild stock from which dogs were bred. One investigation of genetic diversity in modern dogs and wolves concluded that domestication occurred in southeastern Asia, whereas another placed canine origins in Eastern Europe or the Middle East (SN: 4/10/10, p. 12).

Napierala and Uerpmann suspect that, however the DNA studies pan out, they will show where wolves originated, not dogs. In their view, dogs were domesticated from local wolf populations in various parts of Europe, Asia and perhaps northern Africa sometime before 15,000 years ago.

The Kesslerloch dog jaw and its remaining teeth are considerably smaller than those of wolves recovered from the same site, the scientists say. A space between two of the fossil dog's teeth indicates that domestication must have reached an advanced phase at that time, they argue. During initial stages of domestication, jaws shrink in size faster than teeth, producing dental crowding. Later in the domestication process, teeth get small enough to leave spaces.

Canine fossils from Goyet and several other sites older than Kesslerloch Cave fall within the size ranges of modern and ancient wolves, Napierala adds. Relatively short, robust snouts on the older fossils, initially cited as evidence of domestication, may denote an adaptation of wolves to hunting large Ice Age game, he holds.

Ancient dogs had shorter, broader snouts, wider mouths and wider brain cases than wolves, responds Germonpré. Brain studies indicate that dogs' retinas became reorganized to focus on the central visual field, perhaps to assist in tracking human faces, at the same time that selective breeding produced shorter noses, he says.

Dogs older than the one at Kesslerloch Cave were relatively large, although not as large as wolves, Germonpré argues. Those dogs have been unearthed at sites that have yielded huge numbers of mammoth bones. People living in those areas may have used dogs to haul mammoth meat from kill areas and as sentinels, he proposes.

Napierala and Germonpré agree that a resolution of this debate demands the dogged pursuit of additional canine fossils.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Oldest Stash In The World

Scientists Find 2,700-Year-Old Pot

Scientists have discovered two pounds of a dried plant that turned out to be the oldest marijuana in the world. Inside one of the Yanghai Tombs excavated in the Gobi Desert, a team of researchers found the cannabis packed into a wooden bowl resting inside a 2,700-year-old grave. It was placed near the head of a blue-eyed, 45-year-old shaman among other objects like bridles and a harp to be used in afterlife.

At first, the researchers thought the dried weed was coriander. Then they spent 10 months getting the cannabis from the tomb in China to a secret lab in England. Finally, the team put the stash through “microscopic botanical analysis” including carbon dating and genetic analysis, and discovered the stash was really pot.

The fact that the weed had a chemical known for psychoactive properties called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase, or THC, led scientists to believe the man and his community probably used it for medicinal and recreational purposes. According to professor Ethan Russo of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Botany, someone had picked out all the parts of the plant that are less psychoactive before placing it in the grave, therefore the dead man probably didn’t grow his hemp merely to make clothes.

If http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/marijuana.html aged like wine, pot users might now be in heaven. But the weed had decomposed over the years, so no one would feel any effects if they smoked the artifact today.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Another Type of Lead Pipe to Avoid
80beats: Smoke Weed and Keep Alzheimer’s Away
Reality Base: Man Denied Lifesaving Transplant Due to Marijuana Use

Image: flickr/ BodhiSativa Photography

Love a Dog (or Cat). It's Good for You

Pet Love Defends Against Depression
Those with beloved pets will tell you how much it picks them up at the end of a bad day to see that furry face waiting at the door.

Anything relaxing or enjoyable helps boost endorphins and other mood-boosting neurochemicals. It also lowers stress chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine that can interfere with sleep and create patterns of negative thinking and depression.

Studies have shown that pet owners with terminal diseases are less likely to suffer from depression. This is particularly true of those who have a close bond with their pets.

Pets Lower Incidence of Allergies and Asthma
Contrary to expectations, pet owners actually have less allergies and asthma than people who are not exposed to animal fur and dander. Research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that infants raised in a dog-owning house from birth had fewer allergies and eczema by the time they were a year old than newborns who came home to a pet-free household.

Infants who were exposed to dogs showed 19% incidence of allergies, while 33% of the pet-free children had allergies at one year of age. Infants with dogs also had higher levels of certain immune system chemicals.

Pets Improve Heart Health
A Queen's University (Belfast) study shows that heart attack patients who own dogs are 8.6% more likely to be alive a year after a heart attack than those who do not own a pet. Cat owners are statistically more likely to survive ten years after a heart attack than people who live without pets.

The same study says that pet owners are less likely to get ordinary sicknesses like the flu and tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Men who own pets, in particular, have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels – key indicators for heart disease – than men who don't have any pets.

Another study, done at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, reports that cat owners are 30% less likely to experience heart attack.

For heart failure patients, even a 12-minute visit with a dog noticeably improved heart and lung function.

Alzheimer's and Schizophrenia
Pets, particularly dogs, are often recommended for their therapeutic benefit to people suffering from schizophrenia. Studies have shown that pet-owning Alzheimer's patients "have fewer anxious outburts" (Davis).

Some insurance companies even ask elderly patients whether they have a pet – and lower their premiums if they do.

Pets and Exercise
Last, but not least, pets give their owner plenty of exercise. Since most modern diseases are linked to a combination of dietary factors and lack of exercise, a daily walk with Fido can be hugely significant in improving your health and lowering risks factors for almost every disease.

The health benefit of owning pets isn't a reason, in and of itself, to get one – if you're not prepared for the time and the financial responsibility of owning a pet, don't bother. But for those who already love and cherish animal friends, it's just one more reason to appreciate all they give.

Davis, Jeanie Lerche, "5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health," WebMD.com, accessed March 5, 2009.

Hodai, Beau, "Study: Dogs improve health of their human companions," NaturalNews.com, January 23, 2007.

Mundell, E.J., "Cats Help Shield Owners From Heart Attack," Health.USNews.com, February 21, 2008.

Of Further Interest:
Buying a Pet for an Elderly Person Means Extra Caregiver Duties
Giving an elderly person the gift of a pet is a thoughtful act. Consider what kind of pet would suit the older person and any extra work for the caregiver.

Read more at Suite101: Studies Show Pets Improve Your Health: Cats, Dogs, Other Animals Boost Owner's Immune System, Mood and More