Ride Your Bike In Traffic and Live Longer

Summary: Your life expectancy is higher if you get in traffic on a bike instead of in a car.  Biking alongside cars might seem dangerous – and this misconception may deter potential cyclists or lead them to risky behavior like riding on the sidewalk – but the health benefits greatly exceed the dangers of crashes and other risks.

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Last week, The Ann (an Ann Arbor magazine) showcased a story by a local NPR station about bikes and cars co-existing on the road.  The Ann added their own more-provocative title: “Who owns the road: drivers or cyclists?”

Their framing succeeded in drumming up conflict-oriented comments from readers.  Reading the comments, I was struck by two things:

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How to Teach Yourself R

(Or, “how to teach professionals to teach themselves R”).

Background: I taught myself R in 2014 from public web resources, and since then have steered several cohorts of data analysts at my organization through various R curricula, adapting based on their feedback.

This is geared toward people teaching themselves R outside of graduate school (I perceive graduate students to have more built-in applications and more time for learning, though I don’t speak from experience).  I say “students” below but I am referring to professionals.  This advice assumes little or no programming experience in other languages, e.g., people making the shift from Excel to R (I maintain that Excel is one of R’s chief competitors).  If you already work in say, Stata, you may face fewer frustrations (and might consider DataCamp’s modules geared specifically to folks in your situation). 

I’ve tried combinations of Coursera’s Data Science Specialization, DataCamp’s R courses, and the “R for Data Science” textbook.  Here’s what I’ve learned about learning and teaching R and what I recommend.

I see three big things that will help you learn R:

  1. A problem you really want to solve
  2. A self-study resource
  3. A coach/community to help you

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Batch 73: Session Mild

This was simple: the second runnings from Batch 72.  The goal was two-fold:

  1. Have a light, approachable beer on tap for guests who drink “regular” beer
  2. A freebie: extra beer for little effort

Brewed March 24th, OG was ~1.036.  We threw in a partial ounce of random hops for bittering and used S-O4 dry yeast for low attenuation.

By April 7th the FG was 1.013 and I kegged it.  Roughly 3.0% ABV.

I served the beer from my cellar, at around 60 degrees, undercarbonated.  It was a little thin, though great for blending with other beers on tap.  For instance, blending it about 9:1 with my overly-sweet Belgian Dark Strong (~12%) on tap made for a highly drinkable session beer, leaving it slightly below 4% abv.

Like all of my second runnings beers, this keg blew way before the main batch – in this case, before the Imperial Stout was even packaged.

Batch 72: Frank’s Imperial Stout

Having my brother in town as a helper, we decided to brew a partigyle beer: 11 gallons of Imperial Stout and a 2nd-runnings Mild.  I used the same recipe I came up with for the first beer in the Knob Creek barrel.  That beer was outstanding after blending with 10 other people’s beer and barrel-aging; as I recall, mine was pretty good going into the barrel, too.

The recipe was a mix of a few credible recipes.

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Batch 71: Scio Pilsner

There’s a closet in my basement that hovers near 50 degrees in the winter.  So before spring arrives, I wanted to take advantage of my natural “temperature control” and brew a lager.  I don’t brew many lagers, but the provocative Brulosophy experiments on lager yeast fermentation temperature gave me peace of mind that if a warm spell comes through and the room gets a little warmer, it’ll be fine.

This was a convenience recipe in other regards.  I used dry yeast to avoid needing a massive starter and I used up half a bag of leftover pils malt.  And I ran off 5 gallons of wort before adding flame-out hops, to ferment with an ale yeast and use to top up the 53 gallon barrel at my house that is mostly full of funky dark saison.  It’s nice to get rid of the headspace in the barrel, and we wager no one will notice 10% of hoppy Belgian ale blended in.

This is one of my favorite parts of using a plate chiller: being able to split batches by running off and chilling part of the brew, then adding and boiling as needed for the remaining share.

Condensation: the price of drinking cold beer in the warm sun

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Batch 70: Eclipse Lodi Ranch 11 Cab

I’ve made country wine with Concord grapes, and wine from a kit that cost $2/bottle but tasted like $8/bottle.  But I’d rather drink beer than wine I can get for $8/bottle.  So I thought I’d try a kit that costs $6/bottle and see if it makes wine I actually want to drink.

In late 2016 I purchased  the Winexpert Eclipse Lodi Ranch 11 Cabernet Sauvignon kit.  Not sure what year that makes the grapes.  I’m not going to write much about ingredients or process since I followed the kit directions, unless otherwise noted.

2017-02-04: “Brewed” this with my 2 y/o son.  Despite the helper, kept good sanitation.  OG was around 1.093, though perhaps more sugars dissolved in from the grape skins.

Fermentation temperature bounced around from the minimum (72F) up to the mid-80s, as I crudely warmed it through a Michigan basement in winter.

I stirred the grape skin bag back down into the must, near-daily, for the first week.

2017-02-13 – 9 days: racked to a glass carboy.  Gravity is about .992!  Wine yeasts don’t play.

Batch 68: Zingibier V (Spiced Ginger Belgian-style ale)

As a beginning homebrewer, I got lucky and struck gold.  Literally: my improvised recipe for an imperial spiced witbier won a gold medal at the 2010 National Homebrew Competition.

This is my fifth rebrewing of that recipe, tinkering with it each time.  I don’t often repeat in my brewing schedule, but I enjoy learning from iterations of this recipe.

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Batch 67: Tart of Darkness clone sour stout with Black Raspberries and Cocoa Nibs

A friend came into a 53 gallon Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 year whiskey barrel that now lives in my basement and houses homebrew.  We’ve done a Russian Imperial Stout, a Scotch Ale, and an Oud Bruin.  The fresh barrel contributed a massive oak character, but over 3 batches and 1.5 years, the oak faded.  When the barrel naturally went sour during the Scotch Ale, we switched to intentionally soured beers and added 8 sachets of the Flemish Ale F4 blend from Blackman Yeast.

Next up is a sour stout, very low on hops (<10 IBUs), inspired by The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness.  The low IBUs are friendlier to souring microbes and also avoid the clashing of bitterness and acidity.

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Batch 64: Barrel Aged Strong Scotch Ale on Black Raspberries

The 2nd beer in the Knob Creek barrel collaboration.

I brewed two 5-gallon shares of this beer, in collaboration with a fellow barrel members.  Others used different recipes.  We brewed in summer 2015, then aged the beer in the barrel for about 6 months, pulling it January 2016.  It went naturally sour in the barrel, making the sour aspect of this lambic-esque in that it spontaneously soured from organisms present in the surrounding environment.

I aged my ~4.5 gallons on 1.5lbs of wild black raspberries for another 4 months in a secondary carboy. It took a while to carb up, the result of have aged for over a year.  I’ll add yeast at bottling for future barrel-aged sours.  But carbed up eventually, and it’s good.

Summer 2016: this beer placed 2nd in the American Wild Ale category at the 2016 Michigan Beer Cup.

March 2017: funny that I originally worried about whether this would carbonate; it has continued to ferment in the bottle and now gushes upon opening if not very cold.  Not coincidentally, it’s developing a more prominent Brett funk.  If I had a 4th slot for this year’s Nat’l Homebrew Competition, I might enter it – which also means it’s not one of my top 3 beers right now.  But it’s still quite nice.

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