And now a word on Whiskey

As I noted before, there’s been a bit of an explosion in the bourbon and American whiskey market in the last few years. As a consequence, there’s lots of bullshit on the shelves — bottles made by marketers, full of sourced juice, with utterly fictional histories and backgrounds, positioned in such a way as to ABSOLUTELY mislead customers.

This is shitty behavior.

Fortunately, the liquor world is one of the first places to have gotten actual truth-in-labeling laws, and so the words on a liquor bottle actually MEAN something if you know what to look for.

Probably the most egregious label bullshit is hiding the provenance of the whiskey. N.B. that the word “produced” really just means “bottled.” If the bottle doesn’t say where it was distilled, then the odds are the marketers don’t want you to know. Pick another bottle; good whiskey is proud of where it comes from.

The next thing to look for is what the bottle claims it contains. The truly shitty operations will sell things like “spirit whiskey,” which is basically grain alcohol with some flavorings designed to mimic actual aged whiskey. This stuff is bullshit, and you should not buy it. Look for things that actually claim to be bourbon whiskey or rye whiskey.

But that doesn’t solve much; the “bourbon” name doesn’t mean as much as you think it does (for example, it doesn’t have to be from Kentucky). To be called bourbon, according to the Feds:

  • Produced in the US
  • The mash bill (mix of grain) must be 51% or more corn
  • It must be distilled at less than 160 proof
  • It must be age at 125 proof or below
  • It must be aged in new, charred oak barrels

Note that there is no minimum aging required, nor is there anything about additives and flavorings. Adding shit to bourbon is completely legal, and shitty distillers and “producers” do it all the time.

The next step is what you need to look for: if it says “straight bourbon,” it can contain no additives and must be aged in those barrels for at least 2 years. Realistically, there’s no reason to buy something that isn’t straight.

A straight bourbon with no age statement on the bottle must be aged more than 4 years. (Oh, and the age statement must be the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle; blending is okay, and is done all the time to produce a consistent product.)

A bourbon labeled “blended” may have coloring, flavoring, and other spirits (i.e., grain alcohol) added, but at least 51% of the product must be straight bourbon.

“Bottled in Bond” is an even more serious distinction. You won’t find a lot of marketing whiskey done this way, but (hilariously) the 1897 Bottled in Bond act was passed to regulate unscrupulous whiskey sellers who used coloring and flavoring and whatnot to dupe customers. Sound familiar?

BIB bourbon must meet all the requirements of straight bourbon, plus:

  • It must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least 4 years
  • It must be bottled at 100 proof
  • It must clearly state the identity of the distillery and, if different, the bottling location
  • It must be the product of a single distilling season and one distiller at one distillery

Wisdom from Vonnegut

Found over at Merlin’s joint:

[When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.

Warning: The Criminal Justice System Will Eat You Alive

And they absolutely do not care if you’re guilty or not. In fact, they’ll work miracles to incarcerate you or kill you. And there will be, of course, no consequences for railroading anybody.

  • Consider the example of a man picked up for a minor drug possession charge who somehow managed to commit suicide with a gun undiscovered by two searches, and while his hands were cuffed behind is back!
  • Or about about the sad tale of Tyree Threatt, who is facing charges for a mugging committed in June 27. However, the state admits that on the day in question, he was in jail. Never mind the alibi; make bail or sit in jail some more, because the prosecutors would rather “work it out at trial.”

The real problem is that this is exactly what they SHOULD have done

The CBC is now warning Canadians that US law enforcement will pull them over and steal their cash.

They are absolutely right. Asset forfeiture is a major revenue source for LEOs nationwide, so there is little reason to expect a cop to do anything other than seize whatever they can get away with. They have the power to do so, even if no crime has been committed and no arrest made.

This is, of course, bullshit.

31.76 miles.

43-year-old Jens Voigt was successful in his Hour attempt, and blew the prior record of 49.700 kilometers out of the water with 51.115. That’s 31.761 miles.

Just by way of comparison, I’ll add a stat of my own. I am an enthusiastic amateur, nowhere nearly the fastest person I ride with, but I’ll put this out there: GarminConnect tracks a few metrics, and one of them is your best time over 40km, which is 24.85 miles.

My PR over that distance, set during the Katy Flatland ride in July, is 1:14:46, at an average speed of 19.9MPH. Voigt covered 40 kilometers today in a hair under 47 minutes.

Today, at noon, Jens Voigt will attempt something extraordinary

He’s going for the Hour.

The Hour record in cycling is simple: how far can you ride in a single hour on a track bike? It’s done inside, alone, on a velodrome, and is more than a little bananas. Eddy Merckx set a record in 1972 that stood for twelve years; the current record is 30.9 miles, set in 2005 by Ondrej Sosenka, is only about a fifth of a mile farther than Eddy.

The WSJ has a backgrounder, but the real fun is that there will be a livestream on the Trek site.

Velo News has more, including his playlist.

Tune in.

In which I am geeky about day length

Somehow, I made it 44 years without every really paying attention to the day to day differences in the time the sun sets. My agrarian ancestors would be horrified, I’m sure, but for most of my working life the only real question was “is it going to be light outside when I leave the office?”

In the summer, the answer is yes.

In the winter, the answer is no.

And for most of my life, that’s all I noticed.

But a couple months ago, I started riding with a group at West End on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the ride starts at 6:30, which is much earlier than the rides I’d done in the past. This summer has been great for my cycling; I’ve lost weight and gotten stronger, both of which have made me faster. The route to the ride doesn’t change, so I could gauge my progress by what time I pass certain points, and especially what time I get home.

The first thing I noticed was that my “great ride” finish time got closer and closer to 8:00; a couple times, I even got home BEFORE 8.

The second thing I noticed was that not only did I never turn on my headlight, but most of the riders I was with didn’t even bother to bring one. Sure, if you took breaks and didn’t plan to finish until the bottom half of the 8:00 hour, you’d need one, but if you mashed hard and kept moving you really didn’t need to bother at all in June (earliest sunset: 8:17, on the first), or in July (8:15, on the 31st)

Of course, after July 1, days start getting shorter again, and by mid-August I was using my headlight on the last parts of the ride even though I was finishing at the same time.

I started to wonder — never having bothered to care before — about the rate at which the day was getting shorter. I’d blithely assumed the change was linear at first, but there’s every reason for it not to be. It’s just that I never had cause to notice it before because I’d never been outside consistently during the time in question.

Being a giant nerd, I went looking for data. It wasn’t hard to find. This month the changes from Tuesday to Thursday, and especially from Thursday to the following Tuesday, have been especially pronounced; the table quantifies it, but in a way I didn’t anticipate.

The surprise was that yes, the acceleration IS there in the last half of the year — but it had already happened. Each day in September is about 1:45 shorter than the previous one; there’s almost no variance at all. The first was 1:44 shorter than the last day of August, and the 30th will be 1:46 shorter than the 29th.

The giant jumps happened two months ago. July first was only 22 seconds shorter than the last day of June, but by the end of the month the delta had ballooned to 1:17. The change in August wasn’t as huge, but it’s still much bigger than September: 1:19 on August 1 to 1:42 on the 31st.

I just didn’t NOTICE until September, because (a) the average day-to-day change in July is so much smaller and (b) if I’m honest, I admit that the need to use my headlight made me much more conscious of the rate of change.

But those big bites in September really do drive the point home. There’s only about a nine minute difference in daylight between July 1 and July 31, but those 1:45 changes add up quick in September. The 30th is more than half an hour shorter than the first.

My ride on the 11th had three and a half minutes less sunlight than my ride on the 9th, just two days before. My ride tonight will have nearly NINE minutes less sunlight than my ride Thursday.

tl;dr: Orbits and seasons, man.

Airport Mall Cops Attempt to Screen Passenger POST-FLIGHT

Christ, these goons are ridiculous.

The short version is that Minneapolis man has, for some reason (and there’s no reason to assume it’s a valid reason), been placed on the “extra scrutiny” list by the TSA — but they somehow managed to forget to give him the third degree before boarding. So, obviously, the logical thing to do is screen him after the flight.

Um, right.

Fortunately, the passenger simply refused to comply and walked away, since the TSA has no power to detain you. (They did threaten to call the Denver police and have him arrested, which is remarkable in and of itself, and entirely aside from the fact that it’s a completely empty threat.) And, of course, the DHS and TSA won’t actually discuss why this man is on the extra scrutiny list, even with the man himself, so there’s no way to resolve the situation.

Dept of Whiskey Dishonesty

We’ve been watching the bourbon boom for a while now, and enjoying it very much. The sudden growth of the market, though, has led to some very shady practices. Chief among them is the creation of “Potemkin” distilleries that exist only on shelves. What I mean by this is a whiskey brand that doesn’t actually make any of its own whiskey — they just buy juice from elsewhere and apply marketing. (This is distinct from distilleries like Yellow Rose that are using sourced whiskey (e.g., their rye) to secure brand identity and shelf space as they ramp up their production of actually no-shit distilled-in-Texas bourbon. YR isn’t too honest about the provenance of the rye, but they’re doing it in service of a properly labeled product, at least.)

Chuck Cowdery explores one such example from right here in Texas: the “1835 Bourbon” you may have seen around that, unbelievably, asserts right on the label that it’s made in Texas. It is not.

I’ve had it. It’s pretty good whiskey, and only a little overpriced for the quality. But it’s not by any stretch from Texas; it’s absolutely sourced juice from Indiana or Kentucky. The fact that the bottle doesn’t include a distillation site is the only piece of actual honesty on the label.

Moreover, it’s got no age statement, and omits the “straight” portion of the appellation, which is a confusing set of markers if you know how to read a whiskey bottle.

The lack of an age statement means, by law, the whiskey must be at least four years old. But the absence of “straight” usually means the produce is less than TWO years old, or fails to meet other rules regarding the term (additives, etc.).

Hey Chief Heathen! How about those new iPhones?

You know what i know at this point. It’s been 2 years; I’ll probably get one, but it’s not clear yet which. I’ll definitely get the 128GB model either way.

By the by, if you’re curious about how the sizes actually stack up, Ars Technica has this handy PDF template you can print out that’ll give you a sense for their sizes.

I was surprised to learn this, but despite all the chatter about how huge the 6 Plus is supposed to be, it turns out it’s about the size of two standard checkbooks stacked on top of each other (3×6 inches).

  • The iPhone 6 Plus is 6.22 x 3.06.
  • The regular iPhone 6 is 5.44 x 2.64.
  • An iPhone 5 is 4.87 x 2.31.

So, what do watch people think of the Apple Watch?

Glad you asked.

This analysis is really astute and spot on, I think. Some bits:

The overall level of design in the Apple Watch simply blows away anything – digital or analog – in the watch space at $350. There is nothing that comes close to the fluidity, attention to detail, or simple build quality found on the Apple Watch in this price bracket. The Sistem51, for example, is a very cool, inexpensive mechanical watch. But it feels like it costs $150 (for the record, I bought one and adore it). Then, for closer to the price of the Apple Watch, you could own this, which is, well, downright horrific in just about every conceivable metric. Seiko does offer some nice things at $349 or less, but again, they feel like they cost exactly what they do. The Apple Watch feels like a lot of thought went into it, and no doubt it did. It feels expensive.

[...]

The Apple Watch, in its own way, really pays great homage to traditional watchmaking and the environment in which horology was developed. We have to remember that the first timekeeping devices, things like sundials, were dictated by the sun and the stars, as is time to this day. The fact that Apple chose to develop two faces dedicated to the cosmos shows they are, at the very least, aware of the origins and importance of the earliest timekeeping machines, and the governing body of all time and space – the universe. (Sidenote: this “Astronomy” face will make it super easy to set the moonphase on your perpetual calendar. #watchnerdalert)

[...]

Apple paid great attention to detail with this new wrist-bound peripheral, and it shows the Swiss that it is possible to have great design at low costs. That is the most exciting thing about the Apple Watch for me – it will push the Swiss to take the sub-$1,000 mechanical watch category more seriously.

Now, do I want one? Only maybe. I’d have to see one first. But I suspect later iterations will be even more interesting, so it does seem likely that, eventually, I’ll pick one up even if it’s not in 2015.

Dept. of Hilarious Compliance

I can’t decide which of these stories is more awesome:

  • In this one, we learn of a mysterious casino in Las Vegas only open one day every two years. Why? Because of a quirk in casino licensing law, the license is tied to a location and remains valid as long as it’s in business one day in the previous two years. The new owners of one site tore down the old building, and haven’t gotten around to building a new one, but they keep the license good by bringing in a trailer full of slots at least every two years and opening THAT as their casino.

  • This one is even funnier. In Indiana, apparently, joints that sell booze by the drink must also have food service available at all times. The linked menu for the Bank Street Brewhouse in New Albany includes such delights as canned soup and microwaved hot dogs with no condiments, both at $10.

Doing the right thing has a time limit.

Sometimes, outcry produces the right outcome, but it only really happens BECAUSE of outcry.

When this happens, it’s not an example of moral leadership or even moral fiber. It’s the logical equivalent of expressing regret that you got caught, not that you did something wrong in the first place. And that’s exactly where the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens are today.

Sure, Ray Rice has been fired after TMZ (no link) released video that there is no way the NFL hadn’t already seen. Sure, the NFL has finally suspended Rice “indefinitely,” which probably means for at LEAST a year, or however long it takes for people to forget.

But they knew all the facts well before TMZ forced their hand with the video. Their actions now are because they couldn’t get away with the wrist slap anymore, not because they’re strong moral people.

Nobody gets pissed off like Olbermann, and so for this I’ll just direct you to his incendiary rant. (Doesn’t it sort of seem like “incendiary rant” is a term Keith just fucking OWNS now?)

As far as the NCAA is concerned, Reggie Bush was a bigger problem than Sandusky

That’s the inevitable takeaway from the NCAA’s announcement yesterday that Penn State is off probation.

USC got popped with a 2 year bowl ban and lost 30 scholarships after Reggie Bush took money as a student. Penn State’s ended up with the same bowl ban, but a loss of only 20 scholarships.

Fuck. That.

What IS it about football that makes people lose their goddamn minds?

A Dee-luxe Apartment in the Sky

Gulf carrier Etihad has a new class of service on some long haul flights: Residence. There’s one per A380. It’s a 125 square foot, three-room suite usable by one or two guests. Yes, it includes its own bathroom.

Residence on Abu Dhabi to London costs a cool $21,000 each way, but that’s a pretty short flight by comparison. For a real long haul — say, London to Sydney via Abu Dhabi — you’re looking at forty grand each way.

Click through. There’s video.

Dept. of Amusing Stats

Just a bit ago, my brother called to find out the amount we’d paid for taxes on our farm property this year. I didn’t know offhand, so I went to my bank to find out. Not recalling when I’d written that check, but knowing I probably wrote very few checks this year, I just asked it to give me a list of all the checks I’d written in 2014.

There were three. One to the AC guy, one to the tax guy, and one to the State of Mississippi.

(Where’s my IRS check, you wonder? Well, turns out, back in April I couldn’t find my checks, so Mrs. Heathen wrote that one.)

Sorta makes me wonder how my former employer is doing, but not really enough to check — though the fact that they don’t even have a site of their own is sort of telling.

I smell a lawsuit

The Air Force has, apparently, reinstated a regulation requiring personnel to swear an oath to God as part of re-enlistment.

Nonbeliever Air Force personnel are, needless to say, not terribly pleased by this. I’d love to know whose idea this was.

I love @SavedYouAClick

But apparently some whiney folks addicted to clickbaity headlines are all butthurt about the account “stealing experiences” in the wake of its tweet regarding the supposedly “big” story Vox ran this week supposedly containing David Chase’s final word on whether Tony Soprano lived or died in the finale. (Really? Seven years later?) The tweet?

No. RT @voxdotcom: Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos? David Chase finally reveals the answer— Saved You A Click (@SavedYouAClick) August 27, 2014

The money quote is at the end of the Observer article is delightful:

“I’m one person with a Twitter account,” [@SavedYouAClick account owner] Mr. Beckman said. “It’s indicative of a much bigger problem. If I can disrupt your content distribution strategy from my iPhone, then maybe something is wrong with your content distribution strategy.”

Books of 2014, #14: Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

Herein King succumbs to the decades-old temptation to answer the question “Whatever happened to Danny Torrence after the end of The Shining?”

Danny, as most everyone knows, escaped the Overlook Hotel with the help of Scatman Crothers and Olive Oyl, but as the book and film end (slightly differently) young Danny is still a child — and a child with some nontrivial baggage, too. He’s watched his father descend into madness and try to kill them before dying himself in a doomed and haunted hotel, and that’s completely aside from the other complicating factor: the Shining itself, which is what old Dick Hallorann called Danny’s special abilities. He’d seen that before, you see, which established way back then that Danny wasn’t alone in this gift.

So it’s a good question: what DOES happen to Danny? Doctor Sleep answers that for us, and I wish it were a better answer. By this I don’t mean that King dooms his hero — and disclosing that he doesn’t isn’t much of a spoiler, I don’t believe — but that the story detailing Danny’s later life isn’t as good as I wanted it to be. Everybody wants theirs to be Godfather II, but sometimes you end up with Godfather III instead.

The Stephen King who wrote The Shining is a very different man than the grandfatherly giant of American letters who penned Doctor Sleep, and it shows. The central horror of the earlier novel (as distinct from the Kubrick film) isn’t Jack Nicholson going nuts; it’s being inside the elder Torrence’s head as he loses his grip on reality, sobriety, and his own soul thanks to the evil and supernatural influences of the Overlook. Jack Torrence is a man with a drinking problem, and a man with other untreated issues (rage, impulse control, a chip on his shoulder), but not an irredeemable man, and certainly not a killer or true villain. On paper — as opposed to celluloid — Jack is as much a victim of the Overlook as anyone else; moreso, since he dies there while Dick, Wendy, and Danny escape. What I said in December stands, still: “The horror of the film is being trapped in a haunted hotel with a lunatic. The horror of the book is becoming the lunatic.”

This horror, we might guess, stems from the by-now well documented issues that King himself has had with alcohol and substance abuse, and his own horrors regarding mistreating his family and those around him. Jack takes the job at the Overlook precisely to put himself in a place where he CANNOT DRINK, remember; there’s no booze stored there during the offseason. Despite months of sobriety, he’s still trying to protect himself. And yet, despite these best intentions, the Overlook still claims him.

In Doctor Sleep, it’s no surprise to discover that Danny has inherited his father’s demons, but for a more tactical reason: the booze keeps the Shine away. Booze, a subtextual villain of The Shining, is out in front as a character in Sleep; when we meet Danny, he’s on his way to his own personal bottom well before he encounters the real bad guys of the story. That the arc also describes his recovery — complete with AA scenes and sponsors — is therefore not surprising.

But this isn’t the weak part of the story; King does this well, and like most of his stories he does a fine job of putting you in Danny’s skin as he wrestles with his alcoholism and the demands placed on him by the Shining. The weak part is the “by the numbers” tribe of King-baddies (“the True Knot”) haphazardly linked into the growing metastasizing continuity of the Greater King Universe. Yes, they’re awful. Yes, they torture and eat children. Yadda yadda yadda. It’s a little by the numbers, and I wanted more here. The earlier book’s strength stems from the fear that you could become the villain, under the right circumstances; here’s they’re just a supernatural Other to be battled and defeated, which is fundamentally less interesting than Danny’s own struggle with sobriety and the sort of “real life” he’s been avoiding for, at this point, decades.

The other weakness, and it’s one I’ve dinged King for previously, is length. You’d think they were paying him by the pound. I have no issue with a long story, but I want there to be enough story to justify the page count, and here (as with 11/22/63, though this is a much better book) there just isn’t. I mean, you rip through it quickly — King remains almost compulsively readable — but the story is thin when stretched out this far.

(By way of footnote, King also ends up repeating something that clanged loudly in the Kennedy book: (Highlight with mouse to read)Of course, when our hero succeeds in saving Kennedy, he returns home to an awful distopia because something something butterfly effect — a story trope that has been done absolutely TO DEATH in SF already, and which King should’ve stayed away from instead of telegraphing for hundreds of pages. Here, what ultimately helps Danny take down the bad guys — metahumans who feed on children who Shine — is the fucking measles. Herbie Wells called, Steve; he wants his deus ex machina back.)

More Dana Gould on Robin Williams

From this Rolling Stone piece, which you should read all of:

This is another lesson you need to learn if you desire to go beyond just coping, if actual happiness is one of your goals. In fact, not long ago, I was sitting in the kitchen of a fellow comedian where I saw a sign that brought that point home. It sat atop his cabinets, and read, “Forget What You Want, Look At What You Have.” I remember thinking that this man, who had a career like no one could ever hope to dream of, stand-up success, sitcom success, movie stardom, he’d even won an Oscar, and yet, he was humble, gracious, sincere, caring. He knew where happiness lay. He, who had so much, still knew what was important and what was not. “This guy,” I thought, “he’s really got it together.”

I miss him.

Chips in immunity?

Cops generally operate with impunity because they’re almost never indicted, and even if civil actiosn ensue they’re insulated by qualified immunity, but one court has ruled that overly aggressive and reckless tactics invalidate that protection.

Check it out:

A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that Connecticut police cannot claim immunity to quash lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages from a botched 2008 raid by a SWAT team that severely injured a homeowner and killed his friend.

The decision by the U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals in New York clears the way for a judge to decide whether five suburban Connecticut police departments violated the constitutional rights of homeowner Ronald Terebesi by using excessive force.

On May 18, 2008, a heavily armed SWAT – or special weapons and tactics – team unit knocked down Terebesi’s door, threw stun flash grenades into his Easton home and fatally shot 33-year-old Gonzalo Guizan of Norfolk as the two men watched television.

There’s more. Click through. As I’ve said a thousand times, shit like this won’t quit happening until there’s real accountability. This is a step in the right direction.

Hearing the smackdown with your own ears is delicious. Indulge yourself.

Bigots are losing their fight against same-sex marriage in nearly every court they visit, so that part isn’t news. What’s fun is that in this case, in the 7th Circuit, the jurist is Richard Posner, a brilliant man (and Reagan appointee), and there’s audio you can listen to of him dismantling the attempts by Wisconsin and Indiana to defend their anti-SSM measures.

Enjoy.

Cops lie? UNPOSSIBLE.

Thank God for dash cams:

Two cops from Bloomfield, NJ’s police department have been indicted, and another plead guilty after a suppressed dashcam video showed them beating a man who was facing years in prison for “resisting arrest” (the DA dropped his charges right away).

The video — shot from a second police car that crossed the highway median and rammed the victim’s vehicle — shows the cops screaming “stop resisting” and “stop going for my gun” while the victim, Marcus Jeter, held his hands in the air and one cop aimed a pistol and another aimed a shotgun at him. The Bloomfield PD’s internal investigations department found no evidence of any wrongdoing by the cops.

How many times does this happen without dashcam footage? How many people are in jail because of it?

Dear Internet Explorer: You’re not even trying, are you?

I just needed to share a customer VPN landing page URL with a co-worker.

I have that link saved in my favorites bar, so I flipped over and did a right-click, chose copy, and then hit paste in the chat window.

And I got this:

/tmp/VMwareDnD/5141f9ae/New Client VPN.url

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot. Under what fucking circumstances, Microsoft, would that EVER be something I wanted to share or copy? Any why would you decide NOT to have that action capture the underlying URL for the link?

I checked behavior in my other browsers; doing the right-click, copy thing with Safari and with Chrome yields the URL of the bookmark in question. Not so with Redmond, where apparently testing and polish remain utterly alien concepts.