Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cold, alcohol, agave and life's water

las verdes matas...
originally uploaded by Garas.
Yesterday night, with temperatures of -28 C, which felt like -36C with the wind chill, my bike's lock froze and refused to open. Fortunately, a friend's bottle of Isopropyl alcohol (freezes around -89 C when it's highly concentrated) saved my night. No, I didn't drink it ... we just poured it into the lock's keyhole to ease the frozen pins inside. However, the occasion brought to me the memory of wanting to write some of mine and other's wonderings about alcoholic liquors. So here are these fragments of information... enjoy, and stay warm this season.

A note by Ryan Thomas about the differences between Tequila and Mezcal...

"Few understand the difference between tequila and mezcal, and many don’t even know there is a difference. While traditionally, all tequilas were known as a type of mezcal. Today, they are distinct products, differentiated by the production process and taste, much the same way rye whisky differs from Scotch whiskey. Most mezcal is made today in the state of Oaxaca, although some is also made in Guerrero and other states. Tequila comes from the northwestern state of Jalisco (and a few nearby areas). They both derive from varieties of the Agave plant, known to the natives as mexcalmetl. Tequila is made from only agave tequilana Weber, blue variety. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made from five different varieties of agave. Tequila is double distilled and a few brands even boast triple distillation. Mezcal is often only distilled once.

"To make mezcal, the sugar-rich heart of the agave called the piña, is baked in a rock-lined pit oven over charcoal, and covered with layers of palm-fiber mats and earth, giving mezcal a strong, smoky flavor. Tequila piñas are baked or steamed in aboveground ovens or autoclaves.

"Tequila and mezcal share a similar amount of alcohol in the bottle (around 38-40%), although mezcals tend to be a little stronger."

Some scattered notes about Whisky (Whiskey) from Wikipedia...

It is always Scotch and Canadian whisky (plural: whiskies), but Irish and American whiskey (whiskeys).

Different grains are used for different varieties, including barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and maize (corn).

Malting is a process applied to cereal grains, in which the grains are made to germinate by soaking in water and are then quickly halted from germinating further by drying/heating with hot air.

Malted grain is used to make beer, whisky, malted shakes, malt vinegar, and some baked goods, such as bagels. Malting grains develops the enzymes that are required to modify the grain's starches into sugars, including monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, etc.) and disaccharides (sucrose, etc.). It also develops other enzymes, such as proteases which break down the proteins in the grain into forms which can be utilized by yeast. Barley is the most commonly malted grain in part because of its high diastatic power or enzyme content.

Yeasts are eukaryotic microorganisms classified in the kingdom Fungi.

Barley (cebada in Spanish) (Hordeum vulgare) is an annual cereal grain, which serves as a major animal feed crop, with smaller amounts used for malting and in health food.

Rye (centeno in Spanish) (Secale cereale) is a grass grown extensively as a grain and forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe (Triticeae) and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskies, some vodkas, and animal fodder. It can also be eaten whole, either as boiled rye berries, or by being rolled, similar to rolled oats.

Notes aside:

Baker's yeast is the common name for the strains of yeast commonly used as a leavening agent in baking bread and related products, where it converts the fermentable sugars present in the dough into carbon dioxide and ethanol.

Vodka is a distilled beverage. It is a clear liquid which consists of mostly water and ethanol purified by distillation — often multiple distillation — from a fermented substance, such as grain (usually rye or wheat), potatoes or sugar beet molasses, and an insignificant amount of other substances such as flavorings or unintended impurities.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A bird's eye view of Canada

Flying from Toronto to Edmonton.

January 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008


"... the calculated, 'this is not the whole truth' part."

As G.H. Lewmer writes in his review of this very recommendable 57 minutes feature:

"Springer spent a year accessing live satellite feeds—raw feeds that are pumped directly to television networks and news channels before being packaged, processed, and regurgitated for your consumption—to create a funny and frightening look on how information is manipulated, suppressed and influenced by Big Media. ".... expressing that... "The footage is terrifying and telling because it presents all the off-camera comments, all the preening and maneuvering of the powers who are more concerned about protecting their interests than thorough reporting." Terrifying, without loosing the sense of humor and the good laugh that the discovering of how gullible one can be towards main stream media awakes.

Which makes me think, what is behind the words of those who I listen to...? =)

Monday, February 25, 2008

"It's less important to get a good answer than to get someone to listen to your question in the first place"

At least that seems to apply to millions of people on the Web as Jacob Leibenluft finds in his article:

A Librarian's Worst Nightmare. Yahoo! Answers, where 120 million users can be wrong.

Also worth to notice is his comparison with the Wikipedia model.

I made the above video clip from still pictures of the total lunar eclipse on February 20, 2008.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The “human network” needs to overcome language barriers

“Welcome to the human network”, the Cisco corporation’s tagline, should not come as a surprise in these times where the Web continues expanding and finding more applications. From a technical point of view, it is a slogan that makes sense coming from a networking and communications technology company. But, what do they mean with human? Do they only mean “English speaking humans”? Why the language barriers are impediments for a real human network? Find out more below…

If at home or work you use a Linksys router to connect to internet you are using one of Cisco’s products to be part of a network, a communications network. But these are also the times of Web 2.0 and Cisco and others are also talking of how we use the technological products. As their ad says, these are times where “people subscribe to people, not magazines”. If you use internet for something more than checking your email perhaps you have had a taste of Web 2.0 (like the one I am having) and therefore an impression of what they mean with "the human network".

As a non-native English speaker, who has lived in English speaking countries, I know that watching their TV gives me an idea of what is their present culture and everyday life. Of course, I also know that this vision is biased by the filters that the broadcasters, the media and the governments apply to it. That's why the Web has come as a valuable space where individuals are writing, singing and speaking their thoughts. Their thoughts and lives are expressed in ways that we have the opportunity to see in sites as YouTube, Blogger, OpenDiary and Jamendo, to give a few examples.

I find the development of Web 2.0 fantastic but I also have noticed an important piece missing in the development of this human network: THE OVERCOMING OF THE LANGUAGE BARRIERS. My observation is based on my belief that you only can understand your neighbor if you understand their background. And it’s many times their language what shapes that complex thing which makes them be what they are and how they see you. For this network to be really human it needs to provide a way to overcome cultural and language limitations, of course, without annulling them.

More and more websites are taking one step to overcome the language barriers: the inclusion of their service in different languages. Take for example the popular social-networking site Facebook which now has been open to the Spanish language. Actions like this allow different groups of humans to have access to the same service. Nevertheless, the challenge of making these groups to interact and mix with each other remains.

Finally, let’s not forget that only a small percentage of the total population in the Earth has access to internet. The optimistic in me wants to believe that, as an inherent effect of the development of the human network, eventually more and more people could have access to it. We will see.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

You know it's bitter cold when... (II)

continues from part I...

I still have the image in my mind of my red hands. They felt like two gloves that are being inflated but, at the same time, crushed by an external invisible force. The feeling was a slightly painful immobility and lack of sensitivity to the touch.

Locking the bike looked futile with such a pair of hands (by the way, did I mention that the vapour from my breath had formed an icy layer in my eyeglasses that partially blocked my vision?) With a sense of urgency I reached for my backpack, searching for the pair of gloves that I usually wear convinced now that the new ones were useless under these conditions.

With the bicycle workshop closed my worry for my hands was stronger than the embarrassment of seeking refuge in the property next door, an Audiology clinic...

The answer to my introduction, "The chain of my bike just broke, would you mind if I take refuge here to warm up my hands" was amazing. They not only didn't mind me staying inside but asked if I needed to make a call and offered to prepare coffee for me, offer that I exchanged for plain hot water.

The fact that not only the receptionists were empathic with my situation, but also the understanding showed by a costumer waiting for his appointment, an old man born in Edmonton, made me realize how extreme was the weather that particular day. In part, I had underestimated what a difference of 70 degrees C with respect to the body temperature can do, but also, as it happens many times, my lack of experience was being replaced with painful lessons.

If my "balloon" hands were hurting while frozen (frostnip is the technical term) the slower recovery of my hands was many times more painful. Small needles were stinging with torturous slowness all around outside and inside my hands.

But the pain eventually subsided and it was time to attend my bike, which I had left leaning against the wall, at the entrance of the clinic. Resolved to lock the bike, the best place nearby was where I had failed before. Having left my backpack at the care of the receptionists in the clinic, now with "fresh" hands and clear eyeglasses, I was convinced that this time I would succeed in my attempt.

When I returned to the clinic I couldn't refrain myself to share with my kind hosts what just had happened saying: "There is no doubt that life is an adventure in Edmonton, if you don't die frozen trying to lock a bike, you die asphyxiated by the gases from the exhaust of a car besides in auto-start" We laughed at this as it was funny and odd that my second attempt to lock the bike had an unexpected extra difficulty. Yes, I succeeded this time and later at night I picked up the bike on my way back home, but why, why if it was difficult enough to deal with the 50cm of snow, the frozen lock and hurting hands, why a
car without a driver has to auto-start, delivering all its gases to my face in the middle of my struggle, why? =)

Days later after my little "adventure" the tips of my fingers are still "burned" and lacking sensitivity, with no chance of change while this winter lasts...and of course while I keep insisting on biking after I had the bike repaired one week later.

Now that you have followed this "chilling" story until this end, allow me to warm you up with a bit of humor from real life happenings in Edmonton during Winter...

You know it's bitter cold when...

...when you open the fridge in the kitchen and it feels warmer inside it. =)

When is bitter cold for you? Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section below... and keep yourself warm!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

You know it's bitter cold when...

In short, when you loose any feeling in your fingers... apart from a slowly appearing, hurting sensation that your hands are growing in size.

The more extended explanation goes like this: I was cycling from home to work at -33 C (lower than that with the wind chill). I did it the last day under the same conditions and though I used to say that the experience is like bike-skating now it looked more like bike-skiing. At each pedalling movement there was a drift sideways of the back of the bike =)

However, this time the accumulation of snow (about 15 cm. in the parts where I still could try to slowly cycle) made it harder resulting in the breaking of the chain. Bad luck I said and because I was not very far from home decided to go back there to leave the bike. But I changed my mind remembering a bicycle workshop nearby and on my way to work. I headed there...

While walking and pushing my bike I started feeling my hands colder than usual. Of course, with a metal handle this is a situation that I have experienced before, despite the plastic covers in the handle and gloves in my hands. But this time I was surprised that my hands were feeling cold so quickly. It seemed that the skiing gloves that I have decided to try this time were not as good as my usual combination of leather gloves under fingerless gloves with a mitten cover.

I found the workshop in 109 St. closed, not surprising after previous experiences but worrying given my cold hands (I was hoping to warm them inside). Ok, the plan was now to lock the bike to a signal post and go to work. It proved to be an ill-conceived plan. In the first place the lock was frozen so the key could not open it to insert the bar. Secondly I made the mistake of removing my gloves to handle the lock better. The metallic lock was damn cold!! Almost unbearable to touch it with bare hands and despite the plastic around it. Plus the snow around the post (something like 50 cm.) made difficult to handle the bike. Then is when the slowly appearing, hurting sensation that my hands were growing in size made me take another course of action.

To be continued...

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