Monthly Archives: January 2012

Deep, elegant, and beautiful explanations of our world.

I just ran across’s Annual Question for 2012. Each year, they ask a number of intellectuals and public figures for their thoughts on a particular topic. This year’s question is “What is your favorite deep, elegant, and beautiful explanation?”.

I’ve read only a handful so far (picking out the contributors whom I routinely enjoy reading), and many of them are pretty interesting.

One that stood out for me, and is somewhat on-topic, is Richard Dawkins’ discussion of “Redundancy Reduction and Pattern Recognition”, and it briefly explains how our brain chooses which sensory signals to pay attention to and which to filter out.

You may also enjoy Vilayanur Ramachandran’s discussion of the question of consciousness and where it may arise. I’ve always found Dr. Ramachandran’s work fascinating, particularly his work on phantom limb pain and synesthesia (mixing of sensory signals in the brain; ie something tastes “brown”). You can find a bunch of his material on the internet, and he has done a couple TED Talks, too. Google it up!

More beer topics soon!

Beer Review: Firestone Walker 15th Anniv. Ale

So, that’s how it’s going to be, eh? A post every 2 or 3 months? Despicable.

What’s not despicable: a couple of the beers I had this weekend.

Friends visited the house this weekend and we had a wonderful time reveling in the bacchanalia. We had some lovely grilled London Broil, some garlic mashed potatoes, some salad, and beer. One of the beers we had was brought as a gift by my good friend. It was Firestone Walker’s 15th Anniversary Ale. We shared it between the two of us. Good thing, too, because this beer is enormous: 12.5% v/v. But I didn’t realize that when I poured it and began to experience it; I hadn’t yet looked at the label for any details so I didn’t really know what to expect. Turns out this beast is a blend of about 8 different barrel-aged beers.

Orthonasal aroma (front of nose, before tasting): fruity, figs, raisins, molasses, and a moderate alcohol aroma (certainly did not belie the true alcohol content in the aroma).

Retronasal aroma (back of nose, after tasting): the barrel aged character comes out, whiskey/bourbon-like, vanilla, slight burnt aftertaste.

Taste, etc: thick mouthfeel (syrupy), chocolate, significant alcohol burn, sweet. Not overly bitter or astringent.

This is not a beer that I could drink 22oz of, so if you have one it might be a good idea to share with 1 or 2 friends. Personally, I think an 8-10oz glass of this would be just about right. It’s a really big beer that you just shouldn’t overdo. A good beer if you like a lot of flavor, but the drinkability on this beer is very very low.

BONUS! Had an organic IPA from Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) as well this weekend – excellent beer! Great citrus hop aroma (orange and grapefruit) without being overly catty. I’m pretty sure I had this when I visted the brewery in November, but this bottled version stood out as a very fine beer. Clean, fairly drinkable (if you don’t mind bitterness), and a great hop aroma. I will seek this one out again.

DOUBLE-PLUS BONUS! A co-worker gave me a bottle of Anchor Steam’s 37th Christmas Ale. Didn’t really pay attention to some of the flavor characteristics, but this is a surprisingly smooth and drinkable beer, considering its fairly dark color. Very low bitterness, very clean flavor, no lingering issues. The balance of this beer is tipped in the malt direction, which is usually not where I prefer it, but there’s really nothing wrong with this beer. Pretty good!