Saturday, October 17, 2009

The REAL Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

I have been re-reading the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams and am enjoying them immensely. In a moment of unquenchable curiosity, I decided to see if I could find a recipe for a "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster". To start, I have consulted the modern day equivalent of the Hitchhiker's Guide, commonly referred to as Wikipedia. Consider the similarity from this quote:
The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong.
Wikipedia kindly explains, "The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster was invented by Zaphod Beeblebrox, a major character in Douglas Adams' novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped 'round a large gold brick. It has also been described in the novel as the alcoholic equivalent to a mugging; expensive and bad for the head."

The Recipe given in the book is as follows:
Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit.
Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V.
Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost).
Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it.
Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qalactin Hypermint extract.
Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger.
Sprinkle Zamphuor.
Add an olive.
Drink . . . but . . . very carefully . . .
Wikipedia lists no fewer than six different concoctions that have been called Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters by various bars and clubs, but I believe all of these recipes are lazy. It is clear to me that Douglas Adams left plenty of good literary clues as to what the Earth equivalents of each of these ingredients are and it is my intention to create a REAL Pan Galactic Galactic Gargle Blaster.

First: "Ol' Janx Spirit". Janx is defined in the Urban Dictionary ( as follows: (1) junk, stuff, thing as in "hey, slob, can you unload all that janx from the dishwasher"; (2) everything in the freakin world as in "What the hell? Where's my janx?"; and (3) verb- to steal or to take from a bitch; to burgle as in "Dude, you janxed my chair." There is only one word in the English language that is synonymous with Janx as so defined and which can be used interchangeably in all three definitions. Coincidentally, it is also the common name for a popular form of Earth spirit: Jack. Also coincidentally, the word "Old" also appears on the label of this beverage, "Old No. 7". Clearly, almost obviously, "Ol' Janx Spirit" refers to Jack Daniel's Old No. 7.

Second: Water from the seas of Santraginus V. The book provides the following information about Santraginus V as summarized in Wikipedia: "Santraginus V is a planet known widely for its marble-sanded beaches. Seawater from the oceans adjoining those beaches, which contain extremely oblivious fish that apparently don't care where they're going, forms a key ingredient for the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. The drummer of rock band Disaster Area once stayed here while the rest of the band moved onto the next tour location (the planet Kakrafoon), and found a small pebble that he declared would be his friend." The first literary clue in this paragraph is the "oblivious fish." This is clearly reference to Einstein's famous quote, "What does a fish know about the water in which it swims all its life?" This is one of only two Einsteinisms involving fish that I am aware of. The other is the perplexing "Einstein Riddle" which he claimed was unsolvable by 98% of the world populations. The riddle goes like this:

1. In a street there are five houses, painted five different colours.
2. In each house lives a person of different nationality
3. These five homeowners each drink a different kind of beverage, smoke a different brand of cigar and keep a different pet.



1. The Brit lives in a red house.
2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
3. The Dane drinks tea.
4. The Green house is next to, and on the left of the White house.
5. The owner of the Green house drinks coffee.
6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
7. The owner of the Yellow house smokes Dunhill.
8. The man living in the centre house drinks milk.
9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
10. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
12. The man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
13. The German smokes Prince.
14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
15. The man who smokes Blends has a neighbour who drinks water.

The answer is like this:

I only know of one Green German liquor: It's Jaegermeister! "So, water from the seas of Santraginus V" is quite clearly Jaegermeister.

Third: Arcturan Mega-gin. The recipe says, "Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost)." This one is tricky. My first instinct was to look for gin as solid which could thus melt and "solid gin" turned up some promising possibilities. But what of the Benzene? Oh, Mr. Adams, you're a tricky one. Here's the key: U.S. Pat. No. 3,771,653, issued to J.P. Harnett, Nov. 13, 1973 describes a method for using the trash from a cotton gin to remove benzene and other contaminants from water. But here, we don't want the Benzene removed. Drinking water already contains benzyne from a number of sources. Accordingly, this ingredient is merely three ice cubes made from unfiltered tap water.

Fourth: Fallian marsh gas. Okay, unfortunately, marsh gas, on Earth is methane, the main ingredient in farts. However, this little tidbit suggests Fallian marsh gas to be something far more pleasant than farts: "Four litres of Fallian marsh gas should be allowed to bubble through the drink 'in memory of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.' It can therefore be assumed that these gases are highly intoxicating, possibly even hallucinogenic." ( What lawfully obtainable intoxicating or hallucinogenic gas could be used to carbonate this drink? At 2%, carbon dioxide is mildly narcotic and causes increased blood pressure and pulse rate, and causes reduced hearing. So, I'm guessing that the marsh gas of Fallia is 2% carbon dioxide. Quinine is a muscle relaxer and pain killer. As such some combination of carbon dioxide and quinine would cause all those happy hikers to die of pleasure in the marshes. Where to get a mixture of carbon dioxide and quinine? It's tonic water.

Fifth: Qalactin Hypermint extract. Mint Extract is Mint Extract. Altoids peppermints claim to be "many times stronger" than regular peppermints. Their secret (according to Wikipedia) is real peppermint oil. I believe this is as close as we're going to get with Earth ingredients.

Sixth: Tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Tiger's Tooth in Malay is, "Bukit Takun". Bukit Takun is a mountain in Malaysia. And, gasp! It is made entirely of limestone! I have looked no further, the fifth ingredient is a wedge of lime. Curiously enough, I discovered that there is a certain lime-like fruit called a Rangpur. One more quick search: where can you find a Rangpur farm in the United States? Sit down for this: Angola, Indiana. Coincidence? I think not.

Seventh: Zamphuor. Zamphour is a place on Earth but it is spelled Zamfur or Zamfara and it is in Nigeria. Zamfara State is mainly populated by people of the Hausa and Fulani tribes and their main staple crop is sorghum. The Chinese have been fermenting Sorghum into an alcoholic drink called, "Baijiu" for centuries. According to Wikipedia, the taste of Baijiu has been compared in English to paint thinner, rubbing alcohol or diesel fuel. Based on this description, if you can't find Baijiu, I think a sprinkle of Italian Grappa might make a fair substitute.

Eighth: An Olive. I believe this to be an olive.

So, here's the REAL recipe with Earth ingredients:

  • Add one bottle of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7;
  • Pour into it one measure of Jaegermeister;
  • Add three tap water ice cubes;
  • Allow four litres of tonic water to bubble through it.
  • Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of pure peppermint extract.
  • Drop in a lime.
  • Sprinkle Baijiu or grappa.
  • Add an olive.

I'm off to experiment!
(Wish me luck!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why California is F***'ed

When my 7th grader announced that she had fifty-seven students in one of her classes, I decided to get to the bottom of the current economic fiasco and I discovered that the problem is very, very easy to find.

The same law that allows homeowners to pay property taxes based on the value of their home at the time of purchase also applies to corporate and business landowners. The most expensive real estate in the country is being taxed based on its value from over 20 years ago! So, where once the counties used to be able to contribute back to the State, the State now has to subsidize all of the counties!

Revenue has to come from somewhere, and our schools should be funded by property taxes, not by spend now-pay later bond issues. Every commercial owner of land should pay property taxes based on the present value of their land and improvements, not on the value assessed in the 1980's. This would not adversely effect the business climate in California, in fact it would give new businesses a fighting chance against the big, staid players who have helped ruin this state.

But, once again the Reaganite conservatives refuse to accept the fact that "trickle-down" economics was the root cause of the destruction of the entire American economy and refuse to make corporate America and the Super-Wealthy pay a slightly higher percentage of the income in taxes preferring rather to raise the sales tax and put the burden on those least capable of bearing it.