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Sam Adams factory tour Wed, Nov 26, 2008
A few weeks ago, I went on a tour of the Sam Adams factory in Boston.  Here's my review: 
  1. It's not in Boston.  Well, it is, sorta.  It's in the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, which, like all things in Boston, isn't really "in" Boston.
  2. Their beer isn't commercially brewed in Boston.  Sam Adams is brewed and bottled in factories in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.  The "factory" in "Boston" is actually more of a test lab where they make small batches of experimental beers and invite people in for tours.
  3. Our tour guide was an evangelist for Sam Adams beer.  She told us all about the high-quality ingredients, the tightly-controlled processes, and the countless awards won.  By the end of the tour, I was ready to invest my life savings in their company.
  4. During the tour, they passed around little samples of barley and hops for us to smell and taste.  Barley tastes like Grape Nuts cereal (dry, bland, gritty), and hops smell like sweaty feet.
  5. The tour ended in the sampling room, where several pitchers were passed around to visitors seated at long tables.  We were given pitchers of regular, Octoberfest, and pumpkin, which is an experimental flavor and as such isn't yet available commercially.  We were told how to properly taste beer, allowing certain parts of our tongue to pick up on certain flavors.
  6. I don't really like regular Sam Adams beer.  I'd like to like it, probably because of their attractive advertising and effective evangelism, but I just don't.  It's probably something I could develop a taste for, but it's hard to develop a taste for something if you just don't like it.  However, I was a fan of the Octoberfest and the pumpkin.
  7. This was all free.  Plus we were all given a little branded sampling glass as a souvenir.  Cha-ching!
  8. At the entrance to the factory, a few local guys set up a sandwich stand.  I don't know if there's anything better in all the world than a free tour, free beer, and a $5 pulled pork sandwich.
Despite not entirely liking the beer, I would totally do this again. #food

Third eye Wed, Nov 26, 2008
A parietal eye is an organ on the top of the head of some lizards, frogs, and fish that's sensitive to light, likely "regulating circadian rhythmicity and hormone production for thermoregulation."  Whoa.  Typical wilderness conversation: 
Bob the Lizard:  Even though I'm not facing you, I can still sort of see what you're doing, Jimmy. 
Jimmy the Frog:  Shut up Bob.  I'll poke your three eyes out.
#science

Broken windows and clean cars Tue, Nov 25, 2008
I came across a link yesterday that pointed to an article about the theory that areas that contain buildings with broken windows and graffiti tend to see an increase in crime (I first heard the idea in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point), and it made me think of the fact that one of the reasons I wash my car and generally keep it clean is that people (including me) tend to treat nicer objects with more care.  The opposite is also true:  People (including me) tend to treat old, dirty, or disused objects with less care.  Whenever I ride in my friend Bob's car, I'm encouraged to throw my trash on the floor, which I readily do.  Anyone who's driven in my car knows there are certain rules, and if said rules are broken, I'll turn this damn car around. #travel

Work email is work Tue, Nov 25, 2008
I remember a time when checking work email during working hours was considered a waste of time (or maybe it was just my employer at the time).  Now I pretend I'm checking work email to cover up the fact that I'm doing something entirely unrelated to work. #business

Sent from (7) Tue, Nov 25, 2008
Most cell phones that send email append a little line to the end that says something like, "Sent from my Blackberry," or "Sent from my iPhone."  Personally I hate this little "feature" and wish people would stop telling me where their emails are coming from.  (Although I'll admit it's sometimes useful to know whether a person is at their desk or not.) 

But just a few minutes ago, I saw a good one in response to an iPhone email:  "Sent from my Desktop Computer.  While sitting in a chair.  In a cubicle.  At work." #technology

Weight of muscle vs. fat Tue, Nov 25, 2008
Here's how pretty much every conversation about unwanted weight gain, gym memberships, and dieting has ever gone, for anyone, ever: 
Person 1:  I've been going to the gym and eating well, but the bathroom scale says I gained 10 pounds.
Person 2:  That's ok.  Muscle weighs more than fat, which means you probably gained muscle.
The simple answer:  It's true.  Muscle literally weighs more than fat. 

The more detailed answer:  First, let's get some terminology and semantics out of the way.  If I ask which is heavier, a pound of muscle or a pound of fat, most people will quickly answer, "They weigh the same amount, jerk."  Correct.  An equal weight* of two different things will always weigh the same amount, by definition.  However, they won't take up the same amount of space (volume) if they have different densities.  Density is mass** (or weight [though they mean different things {damn the English language!}]) divided by volume.  The same mass of a more dense material will take up less volume than a less dense material.  Similarly, the same volume of a more dense material will weigh more than a less dense material***.  Wikipedia says the density of human muscle tissue is 1.06 g/ml, while the density of human adipose (fat) tissue is 0.92 g/ml, which means that muscle is 15% more dense than fat.  Therefore, it's possible for the human body to lose a certain volume of fat and replace it with an equal volume of muscle, with an overall increase in weight.  The problem is that it's difficult (if not impossible) to measure muscle and fat volume without cutting people open, so attributing weight gain to the addition of either muscle or fat is completely pointless. 

*Weight and mass are used interchangeably in the English language, but it should be noted that weight is a vector force, while mass is a scalar quantity.  More at Wikipedia. 

**This issue is further complicated by the idea put forth in weightlifting magazines and nutritional foods of "muscle mass," which refers to the size (volume) of muscles (e.g. "massive muscles"), when the term should really be "muscle volume." 

***A practical example:  If your overall weight stays constant but you increase your mass of muscle, your overall volume will decrease (i.e. you'll look thinner). #health

Stupid car Tue, Nov 25, 2008
In the parking lot at work, there's a white Toyota Rav-4 with a barbed wire sticker and a license plate cover that says, "Not conceited.  Confident."  Here's the problem: 
  1. The Toyota Rav-4 is not a cool vehicle.  Even though you think you own an SUV, you really just own a tall car.  I'm not saying I'm cooler because I own a Camry, but just realize that Rav-4's are not cool.
  2. It's white.  White cars are either girly or misleading.  And having a white mini-SUV is like painting a beard on a child.
  3. There's a barbed wire sticker surrounding the vehicle at door handle height.  What exactly does this prove?  That you own a rough-and-ready vehicle that can break through fences?  That you take your vehicle off-road, like all those SUV-owners with protective covers for their headlights?  Please.
  4. The license plate cover screams, "I'm a loser!"  I don't know what else to say about this.
#travel

Name addons Tue, Nov 25, 2008
I'm not a fan of name addons, i.e. the things people attach to or insert into their names for personal, professional, or other reasons.  Notable addons include: 
  • Sr., Jr., and numbers, e.g. John Smith, Jr., III.  Just come up with a new name.  There are plenty out there.
  • Middle initial, e.g. John A. Smith.  Way to sound like a jerk.
  • First initial, e.g. J. Ron Smith.  Way to sound like an even bigger jerk.
  • Three first names, e.g. John William Scott.  Prepare for a life of people being unsure of which of your names is your first name.
  • Incomprehensible letters, e.g. John Smith, MBNA, DDT, Esq.  Esq is "a title of respect for a member of the English gentry ranking just below a knight," idiot.
#sociology

Christian president Tue, Nov 25, 2008
As a Christian, I don't think the president of the country should be a Christian (similar to this).  But at the same time, I don't think he should be a hardcore atheist.  If anything, I would hope the president would be politely neutral, and to otherwise generally stay out of my business.  My opinion on this has changed in recent years, solely because of the current president.  When people hate the president (as many do at the moment), they hate what he stands for.  And while it's difficult to separate a man from his beliefs, I don't think it's fair that Christianity gets a bad name because people disagree with a Christian's politics. #religion

Correlation vs. causation Thu, Nov 20, 2008
One of the many interesting things Freakonomics talked about was the difference between correlation and causation.  Correlation means that two or more things are related; causation means that one thing caused another thing.  We humans tend to confuse the two and jump to faulty conclusions that cause lots of problems later on.  For example, let's say the headlines read, "People who eat chocolate daily are three times as likely to develop arthritis."  Our tendency is to assume that daily chocolate consumption causes arthritis.  However, if we actually looked at the data, we might find that people who eat chocolate daily have a tendency to overeat in general, whereby they gain excess weight, causing undue stress on their knees and ankles, causing arthritis.  So daily chocolate consumption and arthritis are correlatedWikipedia (as usual) has more. #science

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