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September 1, 2008

Fossil Fuels Beer — How about 45 million years ago, does that take you far enough back?


Long (ago) story short: "... Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. ... ferments a yeast strain ... found in a piece of Burmese amber dating from about 25 to 45 million years ago."

Here's the full Monty — Gabe Oppenheim's front page Style section story from today's Washington Post.

    The Beer That Takes You Back . . . Millions of Years

    Enterprising Scientist Finds New Use for Ancient Yeast

    Raul Cano is the real-life "Jurassic Park" scientist. Yes, there is one.

    A day before that movie opened in 1993, Cano announced that he had extracted DNA from an ancient Lebanese weevil entombed in amber, just as the fictional employees of InGen do with a mosquito to create their dino-amusement park. One newspaper account said the "achievement" refuted "the long-held view of many biologists that DNA of so great an age" couldn't be preserved.

    But Cano was less interested in extinct reptiles than in Homo sapiens now roaming the earth. He next revivified ancient bacteria from the gut of an amber-encased bee and hoped to turn the strains into new antibiotics. That didn't work, and Cano, who has a doctorate in medical mycology, put his 1,200-specimen organism collection on the back shelf and returned to more fruitful microbial endeavors, like assessment of petroleum-degrading diversity in sand dunes and the bioinformatics of Lactobacillus acidophilus.

    And then, last month, a breakthrough.

    The product?


    "I was going through my collection, going, 'Gee whiz — this is pretty nifty. Maybe we could use it to make beer,' " says Cano, 63, now the director of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

    The result is Fossil Fuels Brewing Co., which ferments a yeast strain Cano found in a piece of Burmese amber dating from about 25 million to 45 million years ago. The company — in which Cano is a partner, along with another scientist and a lawyer — introduced its pale ale and German wheat beer with a party last month at one of the two Bay Area pubs where Fossil Fuels is made and served.

    In April, at the World Beer Cup in San Diego, "we had one judge give us the highest marks, one just below and one who didn't like it," says Chip Lambert, 63, the company's other second microbiologist. "We learned that the issue was that in these competitions, you brew to match the traditional concept of the style, which these yeast just don't do."

    William Brand, the Oakland Tribune beer critic, says the ancient yeast provides the wheat beer with a distinctively "clove-y" taste and a "weird spiciness at the finish." (The Washington Post Style section's summer beer critic pronounced it "smooth and spicy, excellent with chicken strips.")

    Of the science behind the suds, Cano says, "It's just like the Rip Van Winkle effect. What they are doing, they are remaining dormant — the bacteria or the yeast and generally spores of some sort — and then when you take them out of the amber, they reawaken and continue to reproduce. So they are alive."

    You ask, of course, why men able to imbue life would do so ultimately for booze. And Cano drifts back to his childhood in Havana, to the thick air before the revolution. "My dad used to drink," he recalls, a lilt in his voice. "I remember when I was 10, 12 years old, I used to walk over to where he had a mini glass of beer and talk him out of 10 cents, so I could go to a movie and have a hamburger."

    At some point back then, Cano began sipping about two ounces a week (the volume would increase as his age did) of Hatuey, a famous Cuban brand that Hemingway mentions in "The Old Man and the Sea."

    "It was really refreshing and tasty," Cano recalls with relish. "Drinking two ounces a week in the warmth and the humidity — there's very little better than a cold beer. Nothing better than a cold beer."

    The memory of that taste spurred him to create Fossil Fuels even before his medical venture foundered; he figured he could coax a compelling taste out of a strange, primordial ingredient. The first version was made by a home brewer in 1997 and served at both the cast party for "The Lost World" (the second "Jurassic Park" movie) and Cano's daughter's wedding. But without a business plan, the company died out.

    In 2006, Cano revived his ancient yeast and his company, with the help of fellow biologist Lambert, whose duplication of Cano's experiments gained them widespread acceptance. Lambert had a refined taste for hooch from his days as a lab director in Saudi Arabia, where the prohibition against alcohol led him to smuggle and culture his own wine and beer yeasts.

    It's been on tap for two years at Stumptown in Guerneville, Calif., where the brew pub's manager, Deanna DeLeon, called it "yummy," then added: "I don't know — I'm not a big beer connoisseur."

    "I was impressed with the flavor that the yeast brought out," said Orvil Kirby, a patron who tried the wheat beer at Kelley Bros. Brewery, where it's made. "My first taste of it, I thought they might've added some cloves to the beer."

    If Fossil Fuels enters the mainstream market, which it hopes to do soon, the beers won't carry funky names like other microbrews. The scientists went that route back in '97 with Stegosaurus Stout and Jurassic Amber Ale.

    But "one thing people are skeptical about," Lambert says, is whether they're "gonna grow long scales if they drink the beer. Tyrannosaurus Pale Ale — that was so intimidating and so dangerous as far as marketing that we decided to get rid of any association with 'Jurassic Park.' "

    So the real-life scientists are crafting a new legacy, in what may be the first "Jurassic Park" sequel you'll actually be able to swallow.


"Smooth and spicy, excellent with chicken strips" — I'll drink to that.

September 1, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: 'Man Attacks Own Arm at Denny's'


That's the headline over a one-paragraph item on page A4 of today's dead tree iteration of the Washington Post.

Turns out the man was not out of his mind or psychotic but reacting rationally to a perceived threat.

First, the news as it appears in the online version of the paper.

    Modesto man tries to amputate own arm

    Police say a man tried to cut off his own arm at a restaurant in Modesto, Calif., because he thought he had injected air into a vein while shooting cocaine and feared he would die unless he took drastic action.

    Authorities say 33-year-old Michael Lassiter rushed into the Denny's restaurant late Friday and started stabbing himself in one arm with a butter knife he grabbed from a table.

    They say that when that knife didn't work Lasiter took a butcher knife from the kitchen and dug it into his arm.

    Police Sgt. Brian Findlen says Lassiter told officers he thought he needed to amputate his arm to keep himself from dying from the cocaine injection.

    Lassiter was taken to a hospital for treatment of severe cuts.

    The Denny's closed for the night.


Here's the KNX 1070 (Los Angeles) news radio website's report.

    Modesto man tries to cut off his own arm inside Denny's

    Police in Modesto say a man tried to cut off his own arm because he thought he had injected air into a vein while shooting cocaine and feared he would die from an embolism.

    33-year-old Michael Lassiter rushed into a Denny's restaurant late Friday night and started stabbing himself in one arm with a butter knife he grabbed from a table.

    When that didn't work, he barged into the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife, and dug it into his arm.

    He ended up in a hospital with severe cuts telling officers he thought he needed to amputate his arm to save his life.


Now we'll go BehindTheMedspeak.

How much air injected IV does it take to kill a person?

Long answer short: 1 cc/kg, or about 75cc for a person weighing 165 pounds.

How much is 75cc?

The cube root of 75 is 4.2 — a volume of air 4.2cm (1.7 inches) on a side.

So a cubic volume of air 1.7 inches on a side is the LD50 (lethal dose in 50% of those who receive it).

That's a sizable amount of air when you're talking about inside the circulation.

I know these things because long ago and far away, in another century on the Left Coast during my anesthesiology residency, I used to notice small air bubbles in IV lines and wonder if they needed to be evacuated or not.

Most residents seemed pretty compulsive about clearing the lines but you know me — if it involves effort and I can do less, I'm all for it.

Anyway, I started reading the literature and that's where I found the figure on lethal air injection volume.

The mechanism of death is the formation of an "air lock" (top — yellow arrow) — the air gets trapped in the right side of the heart and blocks the flow of blood out to the lungs, resulting in insufficient flow back via the pulmonary veins to the left side of the heart and cardiac muscle hypoxia, which leads to cardiac arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation and ultimately cardiac arrest and death.

But in the OR, I wondered, how much air is worth worrying about?


I took a new IV set with extension tubing attached, primed it with fluid, then took a 30cc syringe, filled it with air, and injected from the bag end until all the fluid was out and the tubing was filled with air.

Note to anxious readers: don't get your baggies in a twist, I did the experiment in the anesthesia workroom — not with a person attached to the business end of the IV tubing.



Guess how much air it took to fill the IV tubing?


Far less than the 75cc likely to cause a cardiac arrest in adults.

A little air bubble in the line or even an inch-long air segment is trivial and not worth bothering about.

And I never have since.

When other people get all worked up and turn stopcocks and get needles and syringes out to remove air from their lines, I never say anything.


Because it's not worth going through with them what I've just gone through with you, especially since they're doing the work.

Let it ride.

Now, back to our Denny's story.

Mr. Lassiter, not knowing that the minuscule amount of air he'd injected into himself was harmless, attempted to amputate his arm.

Logical response, especially if you've got IV cocaine helping you work through your decision tree.

Now, answer honestly: Aren't you glad you read bookofjoe?

I mean, where else are you gonna find this stuff — news you can really use?

September 1, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The O1 Coming Soon...


Dean Kaltsas wrote, "Have you seen this?"

Nope — at least, not until a few seconds ago....

Stop Press — this just in 10 minutes ago (2:59 p.m.) from reader Jessica:

"According to this site the whole thing is a sham."

Thank goodness for joehead Nation.

FunFact: My upcoming autobiography's working title is "Gullible's Travels."

September 1, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hola, España


I just noticed that over a third of my current readers are in Spain.

You could look up top.


What's up with that?


No matter.

Welcome, campers.

Or should I say, "la bienvenida a los campistas?"

Just because yo no hablo español is no reason to pass me by.

I have other talents....

September 1, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LiveNewsCameras.com — 'Watch live streaming news from the USA and the world'


Still in Beta but sure to be a smash once word gets out.


Sure hope their servers don't crash today, what with Gustav and all....

[via Dean Kaltsas]

September 1, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's crunchiest VW — Verdier Solar Power


It's a classic Volkswagen microbus tricked out with Montreal industrial designer Alexandre Verdier's Verdier Solar Power, a 32-mpg-rated gas/diesel hybrid with solar panels that track the sun via integrated GPS.


"As the original Westfalia was the symbol of the hippie culture, this new Verdier Solar Power is part of a new culture with its own rituals."


"It is based on green energy and the pleasure to be self-sufficient."




Get on the wait list for 2010 'cause the 2009 model is already sold out.


Scroll down to the very bottom of this page for a two-minute long video about the bus.


$69,000 (U.S.).


Inquiries: info@verdier.ca

September 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack



It is what it says.

All ramen, all the time.

Food writer Daniel Shumski's August 3, 2008 Washington Post Travel section story about a recent Tokyo ramen crawl is a nice introduction, and follows.

    Ramen Shops That'll Bowl You Over

    In Japan, ramen is more than just a quick meal. It's a phenomenon. There are ramen magazines, ramen Web sites, even ramen celebrities. Most important, there are the shops serving ramen — thousands of them in Tokyo alone.

    If the ramen you know comes in a foam cup, or from a disturbingly uniform brick of dry, wavy noodles, you have a whole new world of ramen to discover.

    Noodles and broth are constants, but variations abound. Noodles come in varying degrees of thickness and firmness. Broth styles include shio (clear broth), shoyu (darker broth with soy sauce), miso (broth with the fermented, salty paste of the same name) and tonkotsu (a slow-cooked pork broth). Shops typically charge between $6 and $8 for a bowl, with some offering lunch specials.

    For a crash course in ramen, head about an hour outside of Tokyo to the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum (2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku), where a pamphlet in English and a collection of displays provide history. But people don't come to the ramen museum as scholars; they come as diners, eager to eat at any of the eight ramen shops gathered under one roof. The eateries, like many across the country, operate on a ticket system. March up to the ticket machine, study the pictures next to the buttons and make your selection. The machine spits out a ticket to present to your server. (The pictures on the machine make ordering less intimidating, but the tiny photos can start to look alike.) The museum's pamphlet gives blurbs on each shop, but if you don't know Japanese, you might not know exactly what you're eating until the bowl is in front of you, and perhaps not even then.

    Back in Tokyo, Ramen Jiro has multiple locations and serves a rich, fatty bowl not for the faint of heart. The Ikebukuro location of Jiro (2-27-17 South Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku) offers an intense ramen experience a few steps off the area's brightly lit main streets. The shop serves patrons on stools around a U-shape counter in sparsely decorated, tight quarters. The service is polite but streamlined: Your order is taken before you sit down, and once you grab a seat, the focus is on eating, not chatting. The firm noodles, slightly thicker than spaghetti, sit under a mound of bean sprouts and several thick slices of pork. The broth is a marriage of two styles: shoyu and tonkotsu, the latter providing the deep pork taste. As your chopsticks pluck noodles from the bowl, globules of fat bob up and down in the rich brown broth.

    Another ramen shop, Ippudo, is a livelier place that recently caused a splash by opening a branch in New York. The Ueno location (3-17-5 Ueno, Taito-ku) is about a 10-minute walk from the museums and shopping around the rail station and offers a friendly atmosphere with a long wooden bar and a few tables. A bowl with the spicy miso broth makes a satisfying meal. You can fine-tune your order by choosing from four levels of heat and five degrees of noodle firmness. A medium-low spice level gives the broth some zing without inflicting damage, and medium firmness gives the thin noodles a pleasant bit of chew. Served on the side are a half soft-boiled egg, two small pieces of pork and a mound of rice, which can be plopped into the broth once you've polished off the noodles. Top it all off by piling on spicy bean sprouts or crushing a clove of fresh garlic using the garlic press on the table.

    If you run out of noodles before you run out of broth here (as at many other ramen shops), you can request kaedama, another order of noodles.

    Most ramen shops are good destinations for those eating alone, but one shop makes solo dining its business. Up a flight of stairs from a convenience store called AM/PM is the Roppongi branch of Ichiran (4-11-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku). Here the focus is squarely on the ramen, and Ichiran has gone to extreme lengths to remove distractions. Wooden dividers at the counter create individual booths, and a curtain in front of you conceals the server and kitchen staff. Once seated, you're invited to customize your ramen by filling out an order sheet (available in English). The restaurant recommends ordering a broth of medium richness and strength on the first visit, to get an idea of its base-line ramen.

    With the sheet filled out, press the red button in the booth and slip the order through the narrow opening below the curtain. When the server returns with your food, he drops a second curtain, closing the small opening and leaving just you and your steaming bowl of ramen. The gimmick alone would probably draw customers, but fortunately Ichiran delivers on the food, too. Garnished with thin slices of green onions and a sprinkling of hot sauce, the slightly chewy noodles sit in a rich pork broth, served with two thin slabs of pork off to one side.

    As you reach for your chopsticks, ready to tackle the ramen, here's one more thing to enjoy: slurping the noodles. It's perfectly acceptable.

September 1, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Illuminated Messaging T-Shirt — Gives a whole new meaning to 'you light up my life'


From the website:

    T-Sketch T-Shirt

    Let your message or artwork shine — literally — with the T-Sketch.

    The ingenious new T-Sketch T-Shirt features an amazing new technological development — whatever you write or draw on it will be converted into an illuminated message or design.

    Anything that’s drawn on the wipe-clean panel activates a glowing light beneath so that it lights up.

    You can also change the flashing sequence to suit your preference — from a gentle glow right through to a pulsing strobe.

    This hugely innovative garment lets you send out your own message or display any logo or picture that you feel like drawing to make a truly individual statement.

    Perfect for nights-out clubbing, as well as being a great attention-grabber, you can also use it to write people’s telephone numbers on.


    • 100% Cotton T-shirt

    • Looks cool by day, stunning by night

    • Lightweight battery pack takes 2 AAA batteries (not included).



[via geekalerts and digimills]

September 1, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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