February 2008

A while back I promised a second post on fizzes. If that seems quite a while back, it’s because it was. I’ve played around with a fair number since then, but there’s one that I’ve been quite pleased with, and thought I would use this opporunity to share. To the best of my knowledge it’s a new drink, though the variations of the Fizz are infinite and subtle.


This winter, I’ve been trying to eat seasonally. Instead of throwing together anemic tomatoes and lackluster lettuce to make a mediocre salad, I’ve been sautéing kale with bacon and pecans, braising leeks in butter and chicken stock, and mixing parsnips into my mashed potatoes. Folks, I’ve been eating like a king. How could I eat so wrongly every winter for a quarter-century?  That’s a lot of bad food.

I didn’t even know what a parsnip looked like until last year. In the local supermarket, they’re expensive and hidden in the back. To get decent vegetables, I’ve been going to the local coop. They’re worth the price. Listen up, you primitive screwheads: if you haven’t been eating seasonally, start now. Don’t do it for your health. Do it because good food is one of the most basic pleasures in life.

Lack of planning and foresight, along with a new work schedule, kept causabon and I from making a showing in this month’s Mixology Monday. It always seems like the most exciting months are the ones where I totally drop the ball.

While I was standing in the shower today, I was thinking about the on-demand water heaters that have been in use around the world for many years but are only now becoming popular in the U.S.. For those of you who haven’t seen one, it is just a small box (about 12″ x 18″ x 5″) with a lot of zigzag pipe and a blowtorch that runs on propane or natural gas. Rather than heating an entire tank full of water, and then keeping it hot, cold water simply runs through this box, the blowtorch comes on and blasts all those zigzag pipes, resulting in hot water out the other end of the box. It is a much more efficient system than tank heaters. The problem, or what will become the problem, is that there are no electricity-heated heaters of this variety, that I know of. Once propane and natural gas become scarce, how would you run one of these heaters? That is when the idea struck: hydrogen.

People in renewable energy have been talking about hydrogen for quite a while now. The problem with electricity is that it is a pain in the ass to move around and even harder to store. This is problem with generators like wind turbine or solar cells, which are not a constant supply. The electricity has to be stored for use when the generators are not working. One solution is that the electricity can be used on site to create hydrogen, which is easily piped around and stored in tanks. My thought is that it would be a relatively easy shift in current technology to use hydrogen instead of natural gas for use in tankless water heaters and residential or commercial heating units. What I don’t know is whether it is easier/more efficient to heat a house with electric heat (which is pretty inefficient), or to convert that electricity to hydrogen and then burn the hydrogen to heat the house.  Either way, I’m betting we’ll start hearing a lot more about hydrogen in the near future.

I have a question for all you Rush listeners out there. I understand that you think global warming is a hoax. I also get some of the evidence against it. I’m even cynical enough to believe it possible. I am confused, however, about motive.

Suppose that there is no global warming, that left-wing politicians and scientists are making the whole thing up, from Al Gore to Greenpeace and every other green non-profit in the world. My question is this: Why? What do those thousands of politicians and scientists and NGO’s stand to gain from making up a global crisis and then attempting to change industry standards to ‘correct’ it? What do all those people have in common that puts them on the same side of what would be the best con in history, and what payoff is worth that much effort?

I intended to go camping this weekend, but the forecast of -50° F windchill in Voyageurs National Park dissuaded me. Instead, I am frying up sourdough flapjacks and reading Robert Service poems in an attempt to conjure the spirit of the frozen north in the land of radiators and central heating. People who camp in the dead of winter fall into two broad categories: those who do it for pleasure and those that wish to experience nature red in tooth and claw. I fall into the comfort-seekers, but sometimes I wish I had a hardier soul.

My companions in this trip-that-never-happened certainly were made of stouter stuff. I saw a gleam appear in some of their eyes as the forecast got cold. Others, I think, were merely fool-hardy. Nonetheless, it fell to me to argue that 0° sleeping bags and three season tents (or even quiznees) would not withstand a blizzard from the North. “Remember the fellowship on Mt. Caradhas,” I argued. “Better than the mines of Moria,” they returned. In the end, the most I could do was persuade them to stay close enough to the Twin Cities to bail if conditions became too ferocious. Will they fly to civilization tonight, frostbitten and miserable, or will they return tomorrow with daring tales, like Shackleton? I should have gone with them.

I hope you will all be going out and casting a vote in the primaries, providing you’re in a Super Tuesday state. I will be going to the bar. The Bryant Lake Bowl is my caucus location. Further proof that the Minnesota DFL loves me and wants me to be happy.

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