Friday, October 3, 2014

Sister Brewmaster

The Atlantic:
Sister Doris Engelhard begins most days with mandatory choral prayer at 5:30 a.m., along with the other Franciscan sisters of Mallersdorf Abbey in Germany. But on Sundays she is excused, and instead rises at 3 a.m. to craft beer—nearly 80,000 gallons annually.
For 45 years, Sister Doris, 65, has dedicated her life to God and beer. She is now the last nun in Europe who is an active brewmaster, but she was not always alone in her profession. “There is one other sister who is also a master brewer in Ursberg, not far from Augsburg,” she says over email through a translator. That nun no longer runs a brewery, however. “She is a bit older,” says Sister Doris, “and this brewery now employs another master brewer.”
There was also a nun-run brewery in Schönbrunn, close to Dachau, but it closed down about 30 years ago. The sister who had been the brewmaster there, according to Sister Doris, now spends her days caring for the elderly.
Sister Doris started on her own path into the tiny sorority of brewmaster nuns when she came to Mallersdorf—a remote Bavarian village—in 1961 as a student in a school run by the abbey. Her mother was ill, and the nuns took care of her. “The sisters made a real impression on me. And I knew early on that I wanted a religious life,” she explains.
Mallersdorf has been a site for brewing beer since the 12th century. It was originally a monastery housing Benedictine monks, who began producing beer as a safe alternative to drinking unclean water for themselves and for the pilgrims who visited them. The monastery was converted to the current Franciscan convent in 1869, and brewing resumed in 1881.
The abbey now houses a modern brewery with two large copper boilers, cooling pans, and a storage cellar. Sister Doris began her apprenticeship in 1966, under the careful watch of another sister who had been brewing beer there since 1931. By 1969, Sister Doris had completed a course in brewing beer at a nearby vocational school. “I had become a master brewer,” she says. “Then I decided that I wanted to join the convent, and I took my vows.”
Brewing is her service to the convent—her assigned profession. “There are 490 sisters in the abbey,” she says, “and some work as teachers in schools, in children’s homes, nursing homes. We also have cooks and pig farmers and a baker. We do everything for ourselves.” Of her own job, Sister Doris says: “I love the work, and I love the smell when I’m making beer. And I love working with living things—with yeast, barley, and with the people who enjoy the beer.”
I got the link to this story off of Facebook, and it recommended two more stories that were related. First, the first Trappist brewery in America is being established at a monastery in Massachusetts, and also a brewery is planned for a monastery in Southern Indiana.  Sounds like it might be time for a pilgrimage. Prosit!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why Norway Won't Host the Olympics

This is awesome:
Oslo is dropping out of bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing as the only remaining cities seeking to host the event. Why? One reason is that people are starting to realize that spending mega-money to build sporting venues that may not ever be used again doesn't make economic sense. Another is that the International Olympic Committee is a notoriously ridiculous organization run by grifters and hereditary aristocrats. Norwegian citizens were particularly amused/outraged (amuseraged) by the IOC's diva-like demands for luxury treatment during the hypothetical Games. Here's a piece in the Norwegian media about the controversy, with translation provided by a generous Norwegian reader named Mats Silberg:

  • They demand to meet the king prior to the opening ceremony. Afterwards, there shall be a cocktail reception. Drinks shall be paid for by the Royal Palace or the local organizing committee.
  • Separate lanes should be created on all roads where IOC members will travel, which are not to be used by regular people or public transportation.
  • A welcome greeting from the local Olympic boss and the hotel manager should be presented in IOC members' rooms, along with fruit and cakes of the season. (Seasonal fruit in Oslo in February is a challenge...)
  • The hotel bar at their hotel should extend its hours "extra late" and the minibars must stock Coke products.
  • The IOC president shall be welcomed ceremoniously on the runway when he arrives.
  • The IOC members should have separate entrances and exits to and from the airport.
  • During the opening and closing ceremonies a fully stocked bar shall be available. During competition days, wine and beer will do at the stadium lounge.
  • IOC members shall be greeted with a smile when arriving at their hotel.
  • Meeting rooms shall be kept at exactly 20 degrees Celsius at all times.
  • The hot food offered in the lounges at venues should be replaced at regular intervals, as IOC members might "risk" having to eat several meals at the same lounge during the Olympics.
How can I get on the IOC?  Oh wait, that would probably require leaving western Ohio, wouldn't it?  Never mind.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NORWAY - A Time-Lapse Adventure

NORWAY - A Time-Lapse Adventure from Rustad Media on Vimeo.

First of October Links

A few pieces to browse this morning:

Many Strikeouts, Fewer as Pitchers Gain Upper Hand - New York Times

A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw - Slate.  Ned Kelly, of course.

A Doctor Unlocks Mysteries of the Brain by Talking and Watching - Morning Edition

Perovskite Offers Shot at Cheaper Solar Energy - Wall Street Journal

Fast Track to a Spill? - Pacific Standard

The Body Electric- Outside.  Surviving a lightning strike.  One man's story here.

Ohio Singled Out for Worst Fracking Waste Disposal Practices - EcoWatch

How One Man With a Lighter Crippled America's Air Travel System - NBC

The Age of Humans: Living in the Anthropocene - Smithsonian.  A large collection of stories of our impact on Earth.

We've killed off half the world's animals since 1970 - Washington Post

"The Most Remarkable Chart I've Seen In Some Time": Rich Gain More Ground In Every U.S. Expansion - Naked Capitalism. Somebody is winning the class war.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

10 Seconds

10 Seconds from The Pressure on Vimeo.

Life In the Bakken

A reporter goes to North Dakota to work for a month at a truck stop and learn what life is like in an oil boom:
The men arrived in trucks loaded with sand and scoria, oil and water, their boots brown with dust and hands black with filth. It took 2,300 truckloads to service every oil well drilled through production here, so the men filed in at every hour. They loaded up on energy drinks, candy bars, cheeseburgers, beef jerky, and frozen meals (“I ain’t got nobody to cook for me,” as one derrickman explained). Everybody was in a hurry; the oilfield demanded it. Run the pipes. Run the water. Run the tools. North Dakota was now second in oil production only to Texas.
“There’s a reason it pays as much as it does,” said a man who trucked crude oil, standing bleary-eyed at my register. “It’s not hard work, just dangerous ... We don’t know half the stuff that we’re breathing in ... The fumes off the oil, there’s times it’s actually brought me to my knees.”
Standing there in their Carhartt uniforms and Sturgis motorcycle rally gear, the men told me this trucking job was going to pay off their mortgages. They told me the eco-friendly liberals needed to respect oilmen because they risked their lives so everyone else could drive a car. Some lived in the back of a truck in the Bison parking lot, but officially speaking, their addresses were in dying towns in West Virginia and Mississippi and Washington.
The wind blew so hard over the Bison that it sometimes hurt to breathe while walking through the parking lot; it could take two tries to open the door, where the heads of elk shot by the owners on a Northwest hunting trip were mounted on either side. Dust tracked in on the workers’ boots and swept through with the gales. The displays of Twizzlers and Starburst and chocolate candy bars, power chargers and bottles of coolant—they all needed regular wipe-downs. The camping fuel cans were so covered in dust that it looked like someone had already taken them to the woods.
The whole story is interesting.  I just can't get over the 2,300 truckloads of sand, water, pipe, etc. to complete a single well.  That is just crazy.

Mike the Headless Chicken

Scientific American gives a little weird history lesson:
Also known as Miracle Mike, Mike the Headless Chicken was a plump, five-year-old cockerel when he was unceremoniously beheaded on 10 September 1945. Farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita in Colorado did the deed because his wife Clara was having her mother over for dinner that night, and Olsen knew she’d always enjoyed a bit of roast chicken neck. With that in mind, Olsen tried to save most of Mike’s neck as he lopped his head off, but in doing so, he accidentally made his axe miss Mike’s jugular vein, plus one ear and most of his brain stem, and to his surprise, Mike didn’t die.
In fact, Mike stuck around for a good 18 months without his head.
Immediately after it happened, Mike reeled around like any headless chicken would, but soon settled down. He even started pecking at the ground for food with his newly minted stump, and made preening motions. His crows had become throaty gurglings. Olsen, bewildered, left him to it. The next morning, when Olsen found Mike asleep in the barn, having attempted to tuck his head under his wing as he always had, the farmer took it upon himself to figure out how to feed this unwitting monstrosity. Mike had earned that much.
All Olsen had to do was deposit food and water into Mike’s exposed oesophagus via a little eyedropper. He even got small grains of corn sometimes as a treat.
Mike’s unlikely survival has everything to do with how his skeleton was shaped, Wayne J. Kuenzel, a poultry physiologist and neurobiologist at the University of Arkansas, told Rebecca Katzman at Modern Farmer. Because a chicken’s skull includes two huge holes for holding its eyes in place, its brain fits snuggly into the remaining space at a 45-degree angle. This means you could slice the top bit of the brain off while still leaving a good portion – with the cerebellum and the brain stem – behind. “Because the brain is at that angle,” Kuenzel told Katzman, “you still have the functional part that’s so critical for survival intact.”
That Mike’s cerebellum was positioned below his massive eye holes and was spared by Olsen’s axe means he was still perfectly able to perform basic motor functions and breathe. He was just a little bit more clumsy now because, you know, he had no eyes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

NASA Photo of the Day

September 23:

Aurora and Volcanic Light Pillar
Image Credit & Copyright: Stéphane Vetter (Nuits sacrées)
Explanation: That's no sunset. And that thin red line just above it -- that's not a sun pillar. The red glow on the horizon originates from a volcanic eruption, and the red line is the eruption's reflection from fluttering atmospheric ice crystals. This unusual volcanic light pillar was captured over Iceland earlier this month. The featured scene looks north from Jökulsárlón toward the erupting volcano Bárðarbunga in the Holuhraun lava field. Even the foreground sky is picturesque, with textured grey clouds in the lower atmosphere, shimmering green aurora in the upper atmosphere, and bright stars far in the distance. Although the last eruption from Holuhraun was in 1797, the present volcanic activity continues.

The Alberta Tar Sands in Pictures

The Atlantic features photos of the tar sands operations outside Fort McMurray, Alberta.  Here's one of my favorites:

Giant dump trucks haul raw tar sands at the Suncor tar sands mining operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, on September 17, 2014. (Reuters/Todd Korol) #
The scale of that mess up there is just amazing.  It's pretty unbelievable what lengths we go to to feed our addiction to oil.