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Friday, February 17, 2012

"CHU Canada, Coordinated Universal Time, Twelve Hours, Eleven minutes..."

Ours looks much like this; more battered.
When I was young, quite young, I'd listen to my father set his watch. He set it by firing up a big, wooden Grunow tube set multiband receiver we had -- my grandfather's house radio -- on the shortwave setting, and tuning in CHU Canada, the Canadian government's time station. We'd listen to the beeps, waiting for the blank spot at 30 seconds, and then the taped announcements of the upcoming minute would come just before the minute hack, alternately in English (first on the even minutes) and French (odd minutes). CHU set their time by atomic clocks, and my father wanted all the clocks in the house to be as accurate as possible, and his watch was always set to CHU (he considered the time signal from KYW, the Philly news AM station, to be passably accurate, but really relied on CHU).

My father didn't have an external need for accurate time, no job or medical reason that things had to be done precisely. My dad was a mild OCD type, a recorder, and I didn't realize how much of one until after he died in 2010. I put a new battery in the kitchen clock for my mother a few weeks ago, and found, taped to the back, a list of all the times he'd re-set the clock, and how much it was off by...according to CHU, no doubt.

What's all this have to do with beer, or whiskey? Well, I was thinking about this today when I was checking the time for an interview appointment. Used to be I'd know which clock in the house was on, and I'd check that one, knowing that I'd set it to a reliable source (honestly, KYW was plenty accurate for me) relatively recently...but most of the rest of the clocks only got set when they were way off or when it was time to Spring Forward or Fall Back. Cathy keeps her clock at bedside 10 minutes fast to jolt her awake in half-asleep state (I don't know how that kind of self-delusion works, but it does for her). Not to mention, we still have some of the cheap battery-operated clocks Cathy and I accumulated as we were growing up, and the hands wobble, and they don't have numbers, and...they're intrinsically inaccurate.

But now? I just look down in the corner of my computer screen, or pop on my cell, and I've got fiendishly accurate time, checked against atomic clocks, and it's not only easy and available, it updates automatically. I can have accuracy my father only dreamed of at a glance, with no continuing effort at all.

Bought craft beer lately? Let me be an old fart. Back in the 1980s, when I started drinking out of the mainstream, this wasn't easy. We drank Guinness and Bass (usually old Guinness and Bass), we drank Heineken (usually skunked; my first draft Heineken was surprisingly good!): they were easier to get. When craft started to peek its head up, I would drive three hours to buy some. Truly, we did that. You kids today with your "I drove six hours to get Dark Lord!" We would drive two hours just to get a sixpack of porter. Plain old amber ale. I would drive two hours through traffic and over mountains -- literally -- to get to a brewpub that had three beers: gold, amber, and porter. And when I got home, I'd set my watch by CHU Canada.

Whiskey? Back in the 1980s, most American distilleries didn't bottle anything but standard stuff; no small batches, no single barrels no super-aged Pappy. Many Scottish distillers didn't do single malt bottlings, it all went to blends. If they did singles, they weren't available except in specialist stores. And no one knew a damned thing about them or how they were made. Same thing with beer, really.

Flick on the cellphone, tell me the time. I can hop on my bike, ride ten minutes to Manny Brown's, and get a glass of good craft beer. Ride ten minutes more, and even Store #0909 of the Stupid State Store System can offer me a selection of whisky that would make what I could find most places 25 years ago look sick.

Are the prices higher? Yeah, and you're paying for monthly cell service and your internet connection; CHU is free. Rather do that? There are places you can't get cell signal; okay, there are still places that have crap selections. It's not a perfect analogy!

But really? These ARE the good times. We not only have it so good, we have it so easy. The Web makes it ridiculously easy to find good drinks, and to share that knowledge. The Web also makes the spread of ticker snobology easier, but that's simply something to deal with. I'm just glad I got over that phase when I was still limited to a notebook with really tiny printing in the back.

I think we're going to get over the obsession phase, and soon. It's going to collapse under its own weight, or it may blow up into such a huge balloon that it will lift up and float away, leaving the rest of us at the bar, drinking good stuff, lots of good stuff, that you can get every day (or every season) for a reliable price. All within an easy distance, all with the ease of looking at a phone.

Coordinated Universal Drinks Time. It's here.


ReDave said...


This is why i stop by every day for a read, thanks for the memories!

Jack Curtin said...

That's a fine post, that is. Speaking of Heineken back when it was Heineken (and you were still a wee lad), I sailed to Europe on the Holland Amsterdam line and was shocked to a)find the draft Heineken available around the clock was so fresh and tasty and b)that it only cost $.15 pint. Can you still call it a session if you never leave?

Bill said...

"I think we're going to get over the obsession phase, and soon." We tend to forget that the vast bulk of craft beer/good booze drinkers have already done this, or never entered the obsession phase. For beer, the overwhelming amounts sold are the "old" stand-byes-- the one-day-only brews make up a miniscule fraction of one percent. The folks that dominate the forums (and to be fair, the bulk of media attention) go towards the rare, but what folks drink is the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, NB Fat Tire, etc. It's a case of what is talked about having little bearing on what folks actually drink.

Your captcha technology to post a comment is getting more and more offensive!

Lew Bryson said...

Bill, don't know what to tell you on the captcha. Sorry about the inconvenience, but I can't go unmoderated, too many jackasses and spammers out there. If you get a Google Mail account, you'll be in like Flynn, and never even have to use it for anything else; just a thought.

As for the obsession phase...believe me, I haven't forgotten. That's part of why you don't see me blogging about stuff like that very often.

Bill said...

I do have a Google Mail account, and whether I'm signed in or not (always signed in at home, signed in intermittently at work), it doesn't matter. No worries, except that apparently I can't read the captcha text. There are versions that ask you to type in the highest number or click the largest circle, but they probably don't work with blogger/blogspot.

Re: focusing on the new and trendy -- of course, I understand that what makes "news" is interruption of what normally is going on, and of course you've been fantastic in focusing on _everything_ a brewery or distiller does. Just noting that what the forums and most articles talk about isn't anywhere near the norm.

Bill in Hbg said...

And you can still hear CHU on 3.330, 7.850 and 14.670 Mhz.
I never thought I'd read a shortwave-related post on your blog but I love it; two of my favorite things: radio and beer!

Steven said...

"If you get a Google Mail account, you'll be in like Flynn,"

Yes and no, at work I use separate browsers for my G-mail and web-surfing, so I'm not always logged in.

And another thing I noticed yesterday (when trying to reply to this thread) is that the doggone code words have become very hard to read -- and no, it's not my prescription. I've found that if you rotate thru the code word options you can find a combo with better clarity.

To the post (and what I attempted to reply yesterday): "Back in the 1980s, when I started drinking out of the mainstream, this wasn't easy."

Sing it my friend!

Lew Bryson said...

Sorry about that; I noticed that the captcha was getting worse, and I apologize, but...
As for signing in with're signed in, and you STILL have to do it? Dunno what to say.

Lew Bryson said...

Jack -- I've been in a similar situation with you...remember Ceske Krumlov? And no, not the part where I was foundering like a walrus on the way up the hill, I mean the 35 cent half liters at Eggenberg. Thank God the bus was leaving, or we might be there still.

Steven said...

"you're signed in, and you STILL have to do it?"

Oh yeah, it's relentless! Sometimes I have to convince it and do it twice!

JW said...

There was (probably still is) also WWV out of Fort Collins, CO.

Anonymous said...

"you're signed in, and you STILL have to do it?"

Oh yeah, it's relentless! Sometimes I have to convince it and do it twice!

Yep -- even if I'm signed in, I still occasionally have to sign in again to post the comment, and then the first captcha no longer counts...

Bill, not bothering with signing in this time!

Lew Bryson said...

Wow, that IS a pain in the butt.