The Oboe of the Home Brewing Orchestra

If you’re a home brewer, than you should probably be reading the Brülosophy blog.  They have great write ups on brewing methods, new ingredients, and experiments (what they call ex-Beer-iments).

Their experiments usually consist of changing one variable in the brewing process, while keeping the rest of the variables of the brewing process fixed.  Once the finished beers from the experiment are ready to consume, they perform a triangle test.  A triangle test is one in which you pour two of one of the beers and one of the other into opaque cups.  Then, a participant is asked to identify the one that is different.

If they can identify the one that is different, they give their perceptions of the two beers. Specifically, what they found different about the two and which one they prefer.

Say a group of 24 people participated.  If all of them just guessed at random, then you would expect around 8 of them to guess correctly (1/3 of the 24, since you have a 1/3 chance at guessing correctly).  Indeed, one can calculate the probability (using a binomial distribution) of several different outcomes.

Again, say that 24 people just selected at random.  The probabilities of

  • 8 or fewer people guessing correctly is 0.594,
  • 9 or fewer people guessing correctly is 0.746,
  • 10 or fewer people guessing correctly is 0.860,
  • 11 or fewer people guessing correctly is 0.932, and
  • 12 or fewer people guessing correctly is 0.972.

The last bullet point means that the probability of 13 or more people guessing correctly is 0.038.  Since this drops below that magical probability of .05, this is where results would become “significant.”  That means that the probability of that many people guessing correctly is so low, that we are more apt to believe that people aren’t just guessing, but actually can tell a difference.

Anyway (sorry that got long winded), Brülosophy‘s experiments very often come up insignificant to the surprise of many readers and home brewers. There are a lot of techniques and methods home brewers think of as “best practices” when it comes to home brewing that come up insignificant in the results.

Enter the oboe. Seth Godin wrote the following blog post called Does an orchestra need the oboe? on January 4, 2019:

For most pieces, for most audiences, most of the time, you wouldn’t miss it if it were gone.

But take away one more instrument, and then another, and pretty soon, we’ll stop listening.

The little fillips, the extraneous extras, the dispensable nice bits–they count for more than we know.

So, yes, take away a best practice of your home brewing, while maintaining all of the others, and it will go unmissed (insignificant in a triangle test).

But take away another, and another, and soon your beer won’t be easy drinking anymore. The Brülosophy experiments are very useful and informative, because it is nice to know which “best practices” can be individually ignored from time to time.  However, I would take much care in making several changes in your brewing based on these results.

Worst Case Scenarios are Sometimes Not That Bad

Ben Franklin edited a newspaper once. He was approached to publish something that he found “scurrilous and defamatory” which would have made him a nice sum of money. He decided to sleep on it in a very interesting way.

On his way home, he bought a cheap loaf of bread. That evening, his dinner was about half of it along with some water. He then slept on the floor. In the morning he had the other half of the loaf with some more water for breakfast.

Why did he do this to himself? To play out a worst case scenario: that he would make very little money on this newspaper by not publishing articles that were defamatory. Since he was able to survive the night and morning in such a low state, he decided “never to prostitute my press to the purposes of corruption and abuse of this kind for the sake of gaining a more comfortable subsistence.”

We fail to make specific choices in life that would ultimately be great because we think that going forward with it may

  • cost us our job
  • muddle a relationship
  • result in failure

So what? Perhaps specific choices will end in these things (but more likely not). Is that what you really feared? It is harder to see that by making the choice, in the long run

  • you will land in a better job
  • you will spark newer and more positive relationships while enhancing the positive ones you already have
  • the reward is much greater in absolute terms than the consequences of the short term failure

Experimenting through self-deprivation will help you gain the confidence necessary to make some difficult life choices. I encourage you to try one of these self experiments (or come up with one on your own):

  • Intermittent fasting, or fasting for an entire day or longer (please read about it first).
  • Giving the Whole30, Primal Blueprint, Paleo, or another type of diet a try for 30 days.
  • Plan and prepare every meal (no eating out) for 21 days.
  • Give up driving for a week. Walk, ride your bike, ride the bus, catch a cab or Uber.
  • Unplug the TV for a week.
  • Go camping for a week (perhaps while biking across a state)

During your state of abstinence, be sure to continuously ask yourself what Seneca suggests: “Is this the condition that I feared?”

The worst case isn’t that bad after all, and you will be a toughened and more hardened individual on the other side.

It is Too Late to Start Early

So you might as well start now.

Happy New Year!

Last week (that Yuletide week between Christmas and the new year) I often heard people talk about a few new year plans and goals that they would start in the new year. Because, after all, right now we’re still on holiday.

I had some similar thoughts and ideas about 2019. But I had another thought as well: why not start right now?

If I can get started on a goal or path right now, even if it has to be slow, it will be much easier to get the train moving faster when the new year finally arrives. Perhaps I’ll have a higher chance of sticking with it, too.

One of my 2019 goals will be to do 50000 push-ups. I decided to do this while we were visiting Québec City over the holidays. That’s when it hit me… why wait? Sure, the push-ups I was doing in 2018 will not count for 2019 push-ups. Who cares?

The goal isn’t about doing 50000 push-ups. The goal is to incorporate more push-ups in my life.

Stop waiting for those artificial start and due dates. Get started now.

Passion if and only if Travel

Happy Holidays!

While still in Canada and away from my computer, I’m forced to use my phone for today’s blog post. As a consequence, I’m going to make it short.

There are a few observations I’ve made before and while traveling.

  1. Our passions in life are what motivates us to travel.
  2. Our travels further stimulate our passions.

Erin and I use Duolingo a lot, and want to learn different languages. She studies French and knew a trip to Québec was much more affordable than Paris. What a cool way to practice and see a new city.

Our passion of language learning motivated us to book this trip! If you have a passion, then travel!

Once booked, planning what to do comes after. It is then we use our other passions in life as a guide.

  • Where are the breweries?
  • Where are the best places to eat?
  • Where can Erin get a run in?
  • Where can Jason train BJJ?
  • Is there hiking?
  • Is there skiing?
  • What can we learn here?

The weeklong trip becomes booked fast when you let your passions operate. Of course, it is good to experience novelty as well, because you never know what passion may be lurking deep in your soul.

If you are traveling, find and fuel your passions!

The Magical 1 and 42

I stumbled upon a really cool mathematical anomaly that is easy to understand and can be appreciated by almost anyone.

The game begins by starting with any whole number greater than zero. To illustrate, let’s choose my birth year of 1977.

Now, we will create a sequence from this number in the following way.

Add up the square of the digits of your number for the next number in the sequence.

Since 1^2+9^2+7^2+7^2 = 1+81+49+49=180, this is the next number in the sequence.  The next number?  Well, 1^2+8^2+0^2 = 1+64=65, so 65 is the next number in the sequence.  Here are the next several:

  • 6^2+5^2=36+25 = 61
  • 6^2+1^2 = 36+1=37
  • 3^2+7^2=9+49=58
  • 5^2+8^2=25+64=89
  • 8^2+9^2=64+81=145
  • 1^2+4^2+5^2=1+16+25=42

42!  I got to 42!

Can you believe that if you form sequences in this manner, every number will either end at 1 or at 42?  Indeed, about 14-15% of the whole numbers will end at 1, while the other 85-86% will end at 42.

Try it for yourself!

To be a little more precise, there is nothing special about 42.  You could name any of the following numbers that result from 42 coming back to itself:

  • 4^2+2^2=16+4=20
  • 2^2+0^2=4
  • 4^2 = 16
  • 1^2+6^2=1+36 = 37
  • 3^2+7^2=9+49=58
  • 5^2+8^2 = 25+64 = 89
  • 8^2+9^2=64+81=145
  • 1^2+4^2+5^2=1+16+25=42

About 85-86% of the whole numbers will get trapped in this loop.  But 42 is the coolest, since it is the answer to the great question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Perhaps we’ve stumbled upon the great question?

If you create a sequence beginning with any whole number greater than zero by adding up the squares of the digits of the number each time, what number other than 1 will the sequence converge to?

For a fun example of one that converges to 1, let’s go with my high school graduation year of 1995:

  • 1^2+9^2+9^2+5^2=1+81+81+25=188
  • 1^2+8^2+8^2=1+64+64=129
  • 1^2+2^2+9^2=1+4+81=86
  • 8^2+6^2=64+36=100
  • 1^2+0^2+0^2=1

Want to take this challenge to an extreme level? Try Problem 92 on Project Euler.