Brew 8: Imperial IPA

When I read that Russian River brewmaster had shared his recipe for Pliny the Elder, I had to try! Pliny is consistently a top rated beer (currently #7 overall at BeerAdvocate). Picked up the recipe from Brewing Classic Styles, a must for home brewers.

It becomes readily apparent that this is a robust brew considering that it cost me nearly $90 in ingredients (and yes, I know I could have save money had I ordered stuff online).
$25 in malted grains
$10 in yeast
$55 in hops
To give a sense of how many more hops this recipe calls for, a typical non-hoppy 5-gallon batch of beer would likely call for 2 ounces of hops. This one uses 16 ounces.

As far as home brewing for economic reasons, this one still makes sense since the typical imperial IPA costs double other beer. Still pricy though.

6 ounces of hops in the boil for bittering:
2 oz Columbus (15% alpha acids) 90 min
2 oz Chinook (12%) 90 min
1 oz Simcoe (12%) 45 min
1 oz Columbus (15%) 30 min
This gives the beer a ridiculous measure of International Bitterness Units: 336 IBU. Alexander Keiths India Pale Ale has a 28 IBU. Lagunitas Maximus Imperial India Pale Ale is 78 IBU. Nelson's Full Nelson Imperial IPA is 90 IBU. I found a few beer with 100+ IBU, but that's all they state: 100+ IBU. Bushwakker Trephination Double IPA 100+ IBU and Alley Kat Dragon Series Green Dragon Double IPA 100+ IBU.

Then some hops are added at knockout, the moment the boil ends in order to take advantage of the aromatic oils that are released when hops are added. If they are added any earlier, the oils (which add aroma and flavour) are boiled away and only the acids remain (which only bitter as they are boiled - alpha and beta acids play different roles).
2.25 oz Centennial (strong citrus tones)
1.5 oz Simcoe (passion fruit, pine, earthy, and citrus tones)

Fermentation emitted the most amazing aromas and the initial froth seemed cleaner than all my other brews despite a hop bag bursting in the boil and a bunch of grain getting out of the mash tun.

Then, after the initial fermentation is over, more hops are added. This process is called dry hopping. This process continues to compound the aromatic and flavour profile of the ale. The first dry hopping will last 13 days until bottling. The second will be added 5 days before the end.
2.75 oz Columbus (citrusy and slightly woody)
1.5 oz Centennial
1.25 oz Simcoe
0.25 oz Columbus
0.25 oz Centennial
0.25 oz Simcoe

Hopefully the end result will vaguely resemble its Russian River inspiration. All about hops and balance.


ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships 2015

A couple weekends ago, Calgary hosted an international speed skating tournament. World class competitors - I think all of them were at Sochi 2014 - competed in 4 different races each and scored points. The champions were the ones with the least points. You can find the results here.

Blaise and I decided to attend to see what the sport was all about. It was hosted at the Olympic Oval on the University of Calgary campus where the 1988 Winter Games speed skating events were held. The facility still looks wonderful and there is a nice torch reminding visitors of the site's heritage.

We were late arriving, so we missed the opening women and men's races of 500 m. I heard from a coworker who was also there that these were the most exciting races. In fact, the Canadian athletes performed best in these. So we ended up watching all the long 3000 m women's races and the 5000 m men's races. While it was certainly fun to cheer on the athletes, see how they paced their various laps, and witness a couple athletes catch up to their single opponent - it wasn't too gripping to see people skate round and round in ovals.

I was particularly impressed with two things: skill and power.

Generally, we cheered. I took photos. We had a snack. Blaise and I sat in three different locations as there were lots of empty seats. Blaise remarked that we got to sit in some really good seats and that if it were the olympics we would have had to pay way more money! He's right. We only paid $25 total - olympic tickets could have been in the hundreds of dollars to see the same skaters skate.

The fans were often more interesting than the races. Not surprisingly the majority of the crowd was identifiably Dutch because of the blinding orange jackets, hats, scarves, dresses, pants, and jumpsuits. They were loud, but the old Norwegian men were way louder. These guys sported lovely traditionl knitted sweaters and funny caps covered in pins.

The one cultural group I thought was a bit odd were the quiet Russians. I thought how odd it was to be waving a Russian flag despite the current Russian aggression in Ukraine. But hey, there were a couple Americans there too. With flags.

24 men and 24 women raced in pairs in 4 rounds over 2 days.

We cheered on Canadians Denny Morrison (7th), Ted-Jan Bloemen (16th), Ivanie Blondin (6th), and Kali Crist (8th).

This guy won for the men: Dutch skater Sven Kramer. I guess he has some serious cred.


K-12 Integer Sequences

The K-12 Integer Sequences Conference was organized by my good friend Dr. Gordon Hamilton (Dr. Pickle) of MathPickle.com and Dr. Neil J. A. Sloane, the founder of the On-line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS). I was fortunate enough to attend as a math educator among other educators, math professors, and curriculum developers.

The goal of the conference was to identify 13 integer sequences that could be promoted for use in classrooms from K-12. The sequences would help students practice or learn level appropriate curricular goals, but they would also introduce the students to the wonderful world of mystery found in integer sequences. You can watch our large group sessions in these videos. Three sessions were spent in smaller groups - mine sought to identify sequences for grades 10-12.

The event was hosted by the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) at the Banff Centre which means they provided the hi-tech and comfortable conference facility (pictured behind me) and the lodging for the attendees. BIRS is dedicated to math research and collaboration.

Naturally, if you are still reading this, you are keen to learn which sequences will be promoted as a result. As with many collaborative conferences, there are still some **loose ends to tie up. I will feature a few here though.

Kindergarten: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, ...

A034326 This is the clock sequence. I think it's brilliant. You can have kids do some skip counting on it where they will be exposed to factors of 12 (when you skip by 4s, you will always land on the same 4 numbers, when you skip by 5s, you don't!). There is of course the excellent recursive nature of this sequence which mimics time.

Grade 3: 14, 7, 5, 3, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 24, 22, 11, 9, 18, 16, 32, 30, 15, ...

A254873 This sequence is a modified Recamán sequence developed by a 15-year old student. Starting at the seed number (14) the sequence continues by dividing, subtracting, adding or multiplying by the step number (2). Division gets precedence over subtraction which gets precedence over addition which gets precedence over multiplication. The new number must be a positive integer and not previously listed. The sequence terminates if this is impossible.

Grade 5: 4, 9, 7, 20, 6, 33, 13, 23, 16, ...

Starting with 1, on the first step add 1/n, and on subsequent steps either add 1/n or take the reciprocal. What is the smallest number of steps needed to return to 1? This number of steps is the nth term of the sequence. (Note: the n=0 and n=1 terms are not defined, so the sequence actually starts with the 2nd term.)
eg. let n=2: 1, 3/2, 2, 1/2, 1 therefore the number generated is 4 because it took 4 steps
eg. let n=3: 1, 4/3, 5/3, 2, 7/3, 8/3, 3, 1/3, 2/3, 1 took 9 steps
eg. let n=4: 1, 5/4, 3/2, 7/4, 2, 1/2, 3/4, 1 took 7 steps
This one is a lot of work, but I think it works to help students see that just because you work with increasing fractions, it doesn't necessarily mean it will require more steps. It really depends on the factors of n.

This time, I brought Amber along since I knew she would enjoy the tranquility, beauty and opportunity to relax in such surroundings.

My mom took the kids for most of the weekend, then Jasen for the last bit - we are very grateful.

Getting away to Banff now means being able to chow down and drink at the Banff Ave Brewing Company. Their beers are notable - especially their recent addition of an imperial IPA. Their food portions are ridiculously huge. I ate one burger for two meals.

The sequences have been determined in full! Here they are at the OEIS.org.


Bow Building (night)

A couple nights ago we ascended Calgary's tallest building, the Bow. It is situated on Centre Street and on the 5-6 Avenue block East. A friend of ours works there and he got us access passes so we could enjoy the privileged view.

What struck me most aside from the views is the Bow's commitment to design. As you enter from the south, a massive mesh sculpture of a head invites you to wonder. Each of the three floors we visited had remarkable interior design, grand staircases, plants, and of course massive windows and the criss-cross lattice for which the building is recognized.

The Bow was completed just over 2 years ago. It stands 58 stories tall and was considered one of the top ten design architectural projects of 2012 by Azure Magazine. In fact Calgary got 2 nods that year, the other being the lovely Peace Bridge. The wonder of the Bow is that it is shaped like a celery stalk prism.

Due South we look down on the Calgary Tower.

Looking NorthEast.

We would see the Rocky Mountains if it were day time.

Blaise's Teddy sports a guest badge.


Cellulitis and Me

I have been brought low by bacteria again. This time it's a little pathogen genus called staphylococcus. It erupted from a little cut in my ear. I woke up suddenly at 2:30 AM to striking pain on my right ear and neck. Because of where the infection set in, it is called cellulitis. Don't google images of cellulitis.

Foolishly, I went into school that morning (it's always easier to go in than call a sub). I was then sent home at noon as I was green, had the chills, was nauseous, and the right side of my head was bright red. I saw a doctor who prescribed some strong antibiotics (Cephalexin 500 mg) to take 4 times daily. I stayed home for the next two days.

When I went for my return visit to a doctor 48 hours later, she noted that things had not improved, so I was abruptly sent to emergency.

The infection had spread to a greater portion of my face and my ear became more chimplike and stiff, stiff, stiff. In the night I would completely drench my sheets and clothes with sweat. During the day, I was weak. I couldn't chew because of the pain in my jaw and I could only open my mouth about 1.5 cm.

At the hospital, I was given an IV (my first ever!) of the same antibiotic and referred to a clinic at the hospital which deals specifically in infectious diseases. I visited the clinic the next morning and was given a second IV, assessed and told that my improvement was imminent if I continued with the oral pills I was originally given.


Movie Season: Winter 2014-15

My favourite time of the year for films is the winter beginning just before Christmas and ending in March. Most of the Oscar hopefuls are released and I typically have time and Cineplex gift cards to go see them. So, with the big awards night coming on tonight, I had better comment on some films before the moment passes. Plus, my movie blog has stagnated.

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE): Easily the most enjoyable and unique film I've seen in a very long time. Cinematically. The unyielding dialogue. The twitchy acting. The incessant rhythm of the soundtrack. The tremendous grand theme of being loved vs. receiving recognition.

SELMA: The risk with portraying historical events is romanticizing one side and demonizing the other and I'm not sure this film accomplishes that, but I also think it is very difficult to do in this case. Dr. & Mrs. King, President Johnson, and the marchers all demonstrated hesitancy to varying degrees. The murderers, police wielding batons and releasing dogs are not the focus. What we get is a powerful display of the Gospel.

WHIPLASH: Character twists and turns and invigorating music simply clothe the majesty of this essentially 2 person play. Brilliant performances by both leads. You can't help leaving the film saturated with multisyllabic beats and questions about genius.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: Wes Anderson delivers another raucous cacophony of characters and milieus for a look at legacy, friendship, and eccentricity. I had no choice but to enjoy this.

WILD: Based on the book by the main character played by Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon drives the entire film with her both her strength and fragility. While it's not very plot driven, it does provide time into understanding the ache of loss and the Search.

FOXCATCHER: This is one of the most uncomfortable films I've watched in recent years. It is so rich in pathos and cringe factor. Steve Carrell plays a magnificent tyrant.

BOYHOOD: Yes, I appreciate that the film was shot over 12 years, but it would have been a great film if Richard Linklater had actually crafted a plot, dialogue, and more complex character development into his project. Amber and I were quite bored through most of the 2h45m film and did not find it inspiring, enlightening, or challenging.

GONE GIRL: I don't watch many movies of this genre anymore. The 90s were shock full of thrillers and I saw my fill back then. This one is original because it is very self-aware. David Fincher leaves the end open-ended enough to cause perpetual tension for the viewer.

IMITATION GAME: The heartbreaking and harrowing story of a mathematical genius. Much of the film - especially the role of Alan Turing - I loved, but some seemed forced and poorly written. Some lines we hear too many times to take seriously.

INTERSTELLAR: It's a fun ride and spectacular visually. The plot holes are huge and would take far too much energy to articulate, but they are irrelevant since the film is really there for entertainment.

Yet to be seen: Why I plan on seeing it?

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT: This is directed by the brothers who made L'enfant which won the Cannes prize 10 years ago. I think L'enfant is one of the greatest films I've seen, so I'm very keen to see what they are able to do with Marion Cotillard in focus.

MR. TURNER: Directed by one of my favourite directors: Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Secrets & Lies).

INHERENT VICE: Directed by on of my favourite directors: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood,  The Master, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love).

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING: It's nominated for a lot so I should probably take a look.

Also quite keen to see:
FORCE MAJEURE, UNBROKENBIG EYES, TIMBUKTU, & LEVIATHAN. And all the documentary features which I never get to see before the Oscars.

I'm not really interested in seeing the last of the best picture nominees, American Sniper. Just seems like a flag waver and since it's done so well at the box office, I'm even less inclined judging by who is likely going to see it. Plus, Clint Eastwood dropped several notches in my estimation when he did his little interview with Obama. I'll probably see it anyway though.

Book Review: Her Gates Will Never Be Shut (Brad Jersak)

I shall add this book to the small list of books* that has powerfully shaken my grip on my perceived reality only to give me a far greater appreciation for the love of God and His holding together all things.

Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell and the New Jerusalem by Bradley Jersak is an exhaustive study into the origins of the western doctrine of hell, the biblical understandings of hell, careful analysis of punishment vs. judgement, and finally an inspiring contemplative work on what the New Earth will look like.

Jersak does not only approach the topic of hell theologically. In the opening chapters of the book, he exhausts the historical understandings and uses of the Gehenna (Valley of Hinnom) by comparing Jesus and Jeremiah's prophetic use of the valley laying outside Jerusalem's walls to the presence of Gehenna in the writings in the Book of Enoch - an inter-testamental book of prophecy and history that is not included in either the Jewish or Christian canon. Bringing such light on a word that is often understood as referring to hell where the damned will suffer for eternity is vital - and in fact redeeming to the gospel.

There is also a great element of pastoral concern for Christians. Jersak writes as an evangelical to evangelicals knowing that any challenge to a deeply rooted doctrine concerning the character of God is going to raise some ire. What is remarkable is Jersak's gentleness and caution when drawing conclusions. From my perspective, with God's love in your heart and the call of Jesus to "love your enemies," it would be near impossible to reject the hopefulness, beauty, and life spring that is proclaimed in the final chapters of this book. It is also reckless to not heed the warnings associated with hating your brother or sister as the gaze of Christ is inevitable.

*The other four books are:
  • A New Kind of Christian (Brian McLaren)
  • Walking with the Poor (Bryant Myers)
  • Surprised by Hope (NT Wright)
  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Mark Noll)


Brew 7: Bock & Witbier

As a beer aficionado, so far I have tended towards the British, Belgian and American ales (india pale ales, abbey ales, stouts, browns, etc.). The only German exceptions to this has really been the hefeweizen which is very pleasant in the summer and the bock (or doppelbock) which I rarely buy, but always enjoy.

So, in order to expand my skills and taste, I attempt the witbier - a lighter, more floral ale and my first lager style - a traditional bock. Lagers are trickier because they require 4 weeks and a 10ºC atmosphere to ferment. Fortunately, I have such an atmosphere wherein to ferment: an empty, unused fridge in the laundry/furnace/brewing room. Alex has lent me his temperature controller:

I decided that since I plan to brew semi-regularly for the next few years, it is probably time I gathered my own equipment. There is something responsible about sharing equipment, but it's quite a hassle to drive across the city and borrow gear when Alex isn't using it. Amber and I went out one night last week and we picked up a 28.5L turkey fryer at Canadian Tire, copper tubing at RONA, and a 45L cooler at Target (which is liquidating their inventory - first time I ever went in there actually!). I picked up some incidental parts at RONA as I assembled things.

As a result I have a mash tun made of a cooler with a 1/2" hole cut at the base of one end where a copper pipe manifold fits into it from the outside and where a plastic hose fits on the outside. I couldn't manage to find the proper fittings for a valve, so I just use gravity to ensure I don't spill my wort. It barely leaks. ;)

My new turkey fryer serves as the kettle where I boil the sweet wort collected from my mash tun. I use a copper pipe coil as my wort chiller at the end of the boil to bring the temperature down quickly. One end connects to the garden hose tap outside and the other end drains into a bucket.

My chiller is pretty wimpy, but it still cools at a rate of 4-5ºC/min which is way better than filling the bathtub with ice and cold water and waiting 2-3 hours. Beyond that, I already had 1 primary fermenter, 2 carboys, and all the tubing, manual pump, bottling gear, stoppers, and airlocks.

Wyeast provides a great out for last minute / lazy brewers like me. I don't have time or spare wort to get a little yeast culture going the night before a brew.

My recipes came from Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew. Each brew session (I did one Sunday afternoon and another on Monday morning) takes about 4 hours, the most intensive parts are the cleaning before and after.

I wake up in the night after brewing and I just have to check to see if it has begun fermenting. My one primary fermenter holds my witbier which has a strong citrus aroma. I have an airlock (tube running to a bottle with water so the CO2 can escape without letting unsavory elements in) on my bock, so I have no idea how it smells. But it's doing the bloop bloop thing very nicely in the refrigerator.

I should be able to sample these in about 6 weeks - unlike my previous November brew which will not be ready until May.