Saturday, January 29, 2011

What will the Muslim population look like in 2030?

Krista Tippett, host of the popular public radio show On Being, cites a recent 20-year forecast of the size and distribution of the world's Muslim population.  The study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life presents some thought-provoking graphics. Notice the birthrates in Muslim countries (twice that of non-Muslim countries) and the corresponding low education levels afforded Muslim women. Read the article and see the graphics (HERE)

I particularly like the way the Pew study dovetails with Greg Mortenson's work. Mortenson, recently a Walden University commencement speaker, is director of the Central Asia Institute. His passion for building schools and supporting community-based education, especially for girls, in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan is documented in his books, "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools."

Helen Keller said, "The aim of education is tolerance." If so, then Mortenson may be on to something. Providing Muslim girls with an opportunity for education is a path to peace on Earth.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Brewers Association Announces 2011 Beer Style Guidelines

The new guide is  (HERE)

Sharing Lyle Brown's observations on some changes in the BA's new style guide.

Interesting to note several things here:

1. Leipzig Gose is now its own category
2. Smoked Porter is a stand-alone American style category
3. American Style Black Ale - a hoppy beer, aka Cascadian Dark or Black IPA
4. 2 different styles: American Imperial Porter and Baltic Porter
5. 2 different styles: Keller/Zwickel Lager and Ale
6. 4 smoke categories: Weizen (ale), Helles, Marzen and Bock
7. Distinct categories: Marzen and Wiesen (Meadow)

Interesting changes.


More and more, "American" is synonymous with "hops" and in particular, uniquely American citrusy hops.

Look at #3, the American Style Black Ale, so-called because the central difference that distinguishes it from other black ales is the abundance of Yakima valley hops. We're talking New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale vs Laughing Dog DogZilla Black IPA: both American made, but one a throw back to Europe, and the other a celebration of newness.

Look at #4, where American Imperial Porter is split out from Baltic Porter as a new style because of the prominence of American hops. As soon as Baltic Porters became popular, craft brewers started working on "American" versions.

I find this very interesting. If one prefers European hops, there are plenty of brewers making great British, German, or Czech style beer with Hallertau, Tettnanger, East Kent Golding, or Saaz hops. Brewers using Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, or Warrior hops are going for a different, American style profile.

With a tip o' the hat to fellow DC-Beerian Lyle Brown

L.I.N.K.S. that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate, Part 2

This being the second in a series of interesting links.

1. When’s the Best Time to Publish Blog Posts?  Answer is (HERE)

2. Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." A discussion of one of my favorite songs is (HERE)

3. New Zodiac Sign Dates: Ophiuchus The 13th Sign? Nothing new here, folks. Details (HERE)

4. Brewers Association Announces 2011 Beer Style Guidelines. Contains descriptions for 140 recognized styles. The same guide will be used by judges at both Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and the World Beer Cup (WBC). The new guide is  (HERE)

Is getting a PhD a waste of time?

An article entitled "The disposable academic" caught my eye. It appears in the Dec 16th edition of one of my all-time favorite magazines, The Economist. I recommend it to my fellow students and anyone interested in embarking on the Philosophical journey. The full article is (here).

The point of the article is that there's a glut of PhDs. Applying the basic law of supply and demand, too many PhDs makes the next marginal PhD less valuable. There are already more PhDs than there are jobs requiring the degree, says the author. Costs for obtaining the degree are going up and the return may be flat or going down.

Not mentioned in the article is the fact that many for-profit PhD-granting institutions (Phoenix, Capella, Argosy, and my own, Walden) are under intense scrutiny. The contention is that some schools allow under-performing students linger, collecting tuition from them while they rack up debt they cannot repay. A Washington Post article on that subject is (here)

Bottom line: I am already among the hundreds of thousands that start a PhD each year. I intend to be among the 64,000 who graduate each year. I am incurring huge debt, but I intend to make the investment worthwhile. Rather than get in line for an existing job, I intend to create new work that grows out of my degree and my passions in life.

Dream big dreams.

To all my fellow Scotsmen, Happy Rabbie Burns' Day!

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit. 

          --Scottish poet Robert Burns, 
            born 25 January 1759 

We're all Scottish on this, the birthday of The Bard of Ayrshire. Robert "Rabbie" Burns is perhaps best known for the song we all sing on New Years Eve, "Auld Lang Syne," but many of his other poems and songs remain well-known across the world.

Tonight, I will be celebrating all things Rabbie with a wee dram of single malt and a bit of poetry.

You might enjoy this rendition of "A Man's A Man For A' That" (HERE). This poem is regarded as Burns' vision of humanity. He looked forward to a more egalitarian society. I wonder what he would say about the American Revolution, which occurred in his lifetime, if he could come back and see the results today.

And if you are feeling adventurous, a dramatic reading of Tam O'Shanter is (HERE). For your convenience, the poem is translated from Scottish to English (HERE).  Note the translations of John Barleycorn and Cutty Sark.

Happy birthday, Rabbie! Here's mud in your eye!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Phi Day 1.61803...

Mathematicians and architects will be familiar with the Golden Ratio, a very important ratio which occurs in nature (logarithmic spirals) and many man-made things (ancient Greek temples).  More information is (here). 

In a nutshell, a line divided by the Golden Ratio into two segments will have a long segment, a, and short segment, b. The ratio of a + b to a is the same as the ratio of a to b. Expressed as a decimal, that ratio is 1.61803.

So there already exists a special day for another magical mathematical number, Pi. Recall that Pi, the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius, is 3.141593. Some people like to celebrate Pi day on 3.14, or March 14th.

Well, using the same logic, Happy Phi Day, January 6th!

Not everyone agrees that today should be Phi Day. There are some who advocate for October 31st in the Northern Hemisphere. More information is (here). I follow the argument, but it requires too much explanation for my taste. I will stick with today, Jan 6th, at 1803, which is 6:03 pm in military time.

Happy Golden Ratio Day!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beer Town, Washington, DC

Six micro-brewers are vying to be the first locally-owned brewers in the Nation's Capitol since the old Christian Heurich Brewing Company, 1872-1956. The race is on!

  • Port City Brewing Co. 
  • Washingtonian's Brewing Co.
  • DC Brau Brewing
  • Chocolate City Beer
  • Lost Rhino Brewing Co.
  • 3 Stars Brewing Co.

We have our share of Brew Pub chains in the DC Metro Area: Hops, Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch, John Harvard, Sweetwater Tavern, and the wonderful Capitol City with 3 locations. New on the scene: Mad Fox Brew Pub in Virginia and 3 Dogfish Head Ale House outlets in VA and MD.

But as for breweries, we are thin. We have the Virginia-based Shenandoah Brewing Co. We still mourn the loss of Old Dominion after they were bought out by AB / Coastal and moved to Delaware. Next closest is Blue and Gray in Fredericksburg.

Here is the issue: when one goes to a tap house or pub in DC looking for a local beer, it's hard to find even a Shenandoah or Blue & Gray brew on tap! You can go to Churchkey or RFD Washington or other places and get 100s of different beers from around the world--we drink a lot of beer and we like variety.  But--there really isn't a local DC beer!

The net effect of big brewers moving out and chain brew pubs and multi-taps moving in is that we have no local brewing identity. We are, at the moment, a collection of transplants who for the most part drink other people's beer. I want a locally made beer, and when I go to Nationals Stadium or the Verizon Center I want to have a selection of local brews that I am proud of from which to choose.

Many brewers apparently saw the market opportunity at the same time and launched simultaneous attempts to produce a true local brew. Whether all 6 of these brewers will succeed remains to be seen, of course, but I am hopeful. Is DC becoming, if not Portland, the Seattle or San Diego of the East?

Read more in Greg Kitsock's article here: Six microbreweries race to open

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bypass trouble?

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I wouldn't pass it around. I wouldn't be doing anyone a favor. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it.... Meet it as a friend, for you'll see a lot of it and you had better be on speaking terms with it."

Contenders for the $30M Google Lunar X-Prize

Discovery has just published a slide show of 7 current entrants in the race to land a rover on the moon. Contestants have until Friday to register. X-Prize contenders

The idea of space tourism captures my imagination. That said, the suspension of disbelief requires a (much) better rendering than the one in slide 6 of 8. Shouldn't the shadows from the rocks on the lunar surface and the shadows from the Next Giant Leap lunar vehicle be cast from the same light source? Or is my training as an architect getting in the way of my interest in robotics and space travel?